Cosplay and its History

Cosplay is a performance art in which people either buy or make costumes of characters from videos, movies, books, or games. They wear these costumes and act as though they are the characters – bringing the characters to life in a spectacular way that is amazingly unique to each person.

It is a culture that people can pour their hearts and souls into and have tones of fun; all while showing off their talents and possibly opening up opportunities for themselves with cosplay competitions which are becoming increasingly popular.

Cosplay’s relevance in history

Many of us recognise cosplay as the fun, imaginative, and somewhat competitive culture it proves to be. Its involvement in the modern geek conventions we look forward to every year has us positively giddy with anticipation. Looking at history, costumes actually go back to the 15th century when masquerade balls became involved in extravagant allegorical ceremonies among aristocratic societies.

It has similarly been said that cosplaying for Halloween in Scotland also dates back to the 15th century, though this may be pre-dated slightly as the only references to the custom refer to the 18th and 19th centuries; still proving, however, that costumes go way back.

Cosplay and its History

The first official Cosplay

The beginning of cosplay as we know it today started at the 1st World Science Fiction Convention in 1939. Science fiction’s greatest fan and master of Cinema – Forrest James Ackerman, with his fellow fanzine publisher and girlfriend at the time, Myrtle R Douglas, more commonly known as Morojo, attended the convention wearing the “futuristiccostumes” she designed and made for the event.

They wore two different sets of costumes, one set consisted of a green cape and breeches inspired by the pulp magazine artwork of Frank R. Paul, and the other set had large outward shoulder pieces and was based on the 1936 film ‘Things to Come’.

Morojo and Ackerman Costumes

After this event, cosplay started to grow in popularity, not just in America, but around the world, from Rio de Janeiro’s costumes at carnival in the early 19th century, to the Ashinocon fan event that took place in Japan in 1978; this is when cosplay was first introduced to Japan by future science fiction critic, Mari Kotani.

In the Name of Cosplay

This act was referred to as “costuming” until 1984 when Japanese reporter and manga publisher, Takahashi Nobuyuki of Studio Hard attended the 42nd Worldcon and fashioned the name “cosplay”.

It is generally said that “cosplay” is a portmanteau of “costume play”, which is not wrong, but is also not entirely correct. Takahashi Nobuyuki used the term “コスプレ” (kosupure), when he wrote an article for the magazine “My Anime”.

The word “kosupure” is the Japanese translation of costume play, so whether you are wanting to say that “cosplay” is based off of “kosupure” or “costume play”, both are correct, but if you are wanting to be 100% accurate, then it is based off of the Japanese word “kosupure” (Cosplay is also phonetically closer to Kosupure than it is to Costume Play).

Nobuyuki Takahashi

Contemporary Cosplay

The first ever cosplay competition was held at the 1st World Cosplay Summit to which 5 cosplayers were invited from Germany, France and Italy; the convention was held at the Rose court hotel in Japan on the 12th of October 2003.

World Cosplay Summit

Since then cosplay competitions and conventions have started showing up all over the world, giving many the exhilarating opportunity to experience this young and wonderful culture.

Nowadays cosplay, both as a casual activity and as a competition full of talent and opportunities, is a loved culture worldwide, and we hope to see it grow immensely forever more.


Janelle Rickhoff

Associate Editor

Her fixation on coffee and cats can only be rivalled by her passion for anime and cosplay! A die-hard fanatic of anything Japanese, Janelle lives to explore, learn, and educate others on these captivating cultures. She can generally be found snuggled in her comfy PJs watching anime while making cosplay costumes and drinking coffee.