Character Creations: Cosplay provides escape from reality through fictional media


Matt Petres

Ariadne Merchant, now a senior, selects characters from her favorite media but tries to choose characters with the same eye and hair color. For example, she cosplayed Strawberry Shortcake and Daphne Blake from “Scooby-Doo” because they are both redheads.

Audrey Park, Managing Editor

In eighth grade, Ariadne Merchant was scrolling through social media when she came across a cosplay of the character an artist she followed drew. The picture sparked an interest, and ever since, Ariadne has been inspired to dress up and embody some of her own favorite characters. 

Audrey Park

Cosplay is a type of performance art where participants represent fictional characters or concepts from different media like comic books, video games or anime. “Kosupure” or “costume play” was invented in Japan in 1984 and rose in popularity in the West during the late 2000s.

For students, cosplay allows for self-expression and serves as a fun hobby to pursue more intricate interests like sewing.

Junior Alex Fogel’s father introduced them to the concept as an infant. He hand-sewed Halloween costumes for Alex.

“As soon as I had enough consciousness to understand what the costumes actually were, I immediately wanted to start working on them, too,” Alex said.

Alex enjoys putting a lot of effort into their cosplays and seeing the cosplays come to fruition. 

“I love when people ask for photos because it lets me know all the effort I put into a cosplay paid off,” they said. “It is just lovely to make things and be proud of them and look cool.”

 Their interest in designing Halloween costumes developed into cosplaying for cosplay conventions. Alex attended their first convention in fourth grade and most frequently attends the Chicago Comic and Entertainment Expo convention. 

 “It is really cool to see how much time and effort people put into these creations,” Alex said. “You can bond over that, and there are many cool comic creators, voice actors and more.”

Similarly, senior Martin Oliver also enjoys attending C2E2 and has sporadically for the past five years. Martin said some cosplay creators put more effort into their work than others. 

 “Some people might wear a T-shirt with armor drawings, whereas others might go as far as to 3D print theirs. I am somewhere in the middle,” they said. “I make my cosplay by hand. I don’t tend to spend much money on my cosplays, but others do. It is more of a fun thing I do when cons are in town.”

For sophomore cosplayer Ace Ma, the design of a character’s outfit contributes to who they choose to cosplay. Ace said their Maki Zenin cosplay from the anime “Jujutsu Kaisen” was inspired by the weapon the character uses. 

“I usually make props and weaponry. Like once I made a really cool dynamite apron for one of the cosplays I wore to C2E2,” they said. “There are some very advanced cosplayers who style costumes in a creative way.”

Alex hand-makes most components of their cosplays with a sewing machine. The wings from their cosplay Crowley from the TV series “Good Omens” took two months to make.

“We used a pulley and lever system with rope and blocks of wood and EVA foam and lots and lots of hot glue,” they said.

Ariadne tends to buy and make her cosplays. At first, she bought most of her cosplays, but now she tends to make them because she said it makes them more personalized. 

STYLING SHENHE. Sophomore Ace Ma cosplays Shenhe, a video game character from Genshin Impact, for a Comic Con in San Diego. (Chloe Ma)

“It gives your own artistic touch to your cosplay,” she said, “so it looks different from everyone else’s, which typically tends to be store-bought. That’s what I did for my Strawberry Shortcake outfit.”

Ariadne said this connection is what distinguishes cosplay from a Halloween costume.

“The component that makes cosplay different from just being a costume at a party is that it includes roleplay most of the time,” Ariadne said. “So, you might want to embody the character, respect the character and the creator.”

Alex said she feels very connected to some of the characters she cosplays. 

“When I’m walking around, I’ll usually strut like the character and embody them. I feel very connected in that sense,” she said.

Alex receives a lot of positive feedback from people about her cosplays and said some look forward to their Halloween costumes every year. However, they said some people are more judgmental.

“In the past, some people would make fun of me,” they said. “They were like, ‘You do so much for Halloween. Why do you care so much?’”

Martin said some people do not understand cosplay and regard it as weird.

They said, “What people don’t understand is that it is just a fun hobby we like to do, we just have an appreciation for a certain movie character or creator, and cosplay is one of the ways to show that.”   

For Ariadne, cosplay serves as a way to incorporate her love for theater and passion for art into one art form — one where she can meet like-minded people and her favorite artists, customize and personalize her own iterations of characters, and further express her adoration for a piece of work and art. 

“Cosplay is not just the costume. It really is a cosplay for the character you’re doing,” she said. “You want to do them justice. You want to do right by the character and get into the character. You take the time to put in the effort in the outfit, the makeup and everything else. The whole process really is just so much fun.”