There are two types of people: those who think that dressing up in costume is for one day a year and those who think it’s for all 365. But on Halloween, these two types meet in an amazing, macabre free-for-all. But just because so many people dress up for Halloween, that doesn’t mean cosplay is normalized or that Halloween costuming is even considered cosplay. We went to our cosplayers to ask them what they thought:
Would you consider dressing up for Halloween as cosplay?
Some felt that the Halloween is most definitely a form of cosplay:
Kanri said, “Sure! I think anyone dressing up as a character they admire is considered cosplay!”
Koh agreed that “dressing up for Halloween can be considered cosplay!”
Mel broke it down further, saying, “Cosplaying is when one dresses up for Halloween. The word cosplay breaks down to costume and play. So I want to say dressing up and having fun is cosplay to me. So Halloween is just another day to dress up, maybe without judgment lol.”
Anna added, “I think dressing up as any character to any extent can be considered cosplay, if you choose to consider it so,” which kind of moved this question toward those who felt there definitely some differences.
The trio behind Pocketsize Cosplay explained, “While we think you can cosplay for Halloween, we don’t necessarily think all Halloween costumes are cosplay.”
Fadeworks went further into detail: “That’s a tough one—I would say yes because a lot of people put a lot of time and effort into their Halloween costumes and do try to act like their characters. I think the difference is that you may not always be a ‘specific’ character but rather a ‘witch’ or ‘ghost’ which don’t necessarily have a specific personality but rather what you want it to be!”
And for Zizi, the idea is wrapped into a personal experience and expression. “When it comes to Halloween, I would like to consider this a free for all. Normally cosplay is subjugated to its corner for convention time, but it can easily leak into Halloween. In fact, my baby steps into attempting cosplay were given to me through Halloween—asking mom for the materials I needed to pull off a character, not found at stock store like Party City. Everyone understands this excuse and enjoys the excitement of a project. Most of our Halloween icons we dress as are cosplays.”
But some edged toward the two really being quite different, like Kyle, who said, “Generally I’d say no, but you COULD cosplay for Halloween. I’d say the difference comes down to the fact I’ve never cosplayed a taco, but I’ve considered a taco Halloween costume lol.”
But Kyle wasn’t alone in considering differences between the two, which begged this question:
What separates cosplay from dressing up for Halloween?
The Pocketsize girls see the two as separate in that “Cosplaying is dressing as your favorite character and sometimes even taking on the role! You don’t really see people portraying their character roles on Halloween. People also put a lot more time and effort into cosplaying because it is an art, community, and hobby! I would consider Halloween enthusiasts to be in another category of art.”
Anna also picked up on the idea of role: “I think that for most cosplayers, there’s a goal to be as accurate to the character as possible and I think that accuracy aspect is less important when it comes to Halloween costumes.”
Koh echoes the same idea: “I think what separates costuming from cosplay is that with cosplay you want to dress up as a specific person or character. But with costumes its more generic, like an occupation.”
Kanri, though, hit on some other distinctions:
I think its just the stigma associated with cosplay. Cosplay is very much considered a “nerd” hobby. You have to be able to take criticism. People, for whatever reason, expect more from you. Halloween isn’t something you can necessarily make a career of, but cosplay is. The same concept, both for enjoyment, but the game changes when there’s money potentially involved. Also, Halloween is something nationally recognized. People find more reason to go out for holidays and events. Anime Expo, no matter your feelings, is not a national holiday, and so less people are willing to justify the money spent on dressing up.
And then a couple of cosplayers hit on the most important difference. Jimmy said, “To each their own, but for me personally, Halloween is more of a relaxed cosplay, one where I’m not looking to have a photo shoot—I’m looking for a spacious waist line for all the candy I’m going to be eating.”
And Ally was thinking the same: “Both are pretty similar cause you’re able to be recognized and can get many compliments on your costume, but the major difference is getting candy. I would love to get candy at cons for having a good costume lol.”
In all seriousness though, I think Ally and Jimmy hit on something there. The celebration on Halloween is far different from convention events. Both can be memorable experiences, and both involve costumes, but many cosplayers approach their craft differently from the typical trick-or-treater, as both art and a lifestyle. And in that way, perhaps cosplay is better compared to hardcore Halloween costumers or special effects artists, while casual cosplay is like regular Halloween dress-up. Either way, there’s plenty of room for common ground and maybe even some understanding between the regular guy on the street on the cosplaying otaku at the con.
Featured illustration by Rain Lan (reprinted w/permission)