“She should really wear something more flattering to her size….”

“Cosplay is for everyone!”

“Some people just shouldn’t cosplay…”

“Be whatever character you want to be!”

“That cosplay would be so much better if they were taller/thinner/bustier…”

I feel like I am beating a dead horse here, but the cosplay community is full of double standards. One minute you are told to cosplay a character because you love them. You choose your idol. You choose a character that means something to you. You choose a character that you see aspects of yourself in or that you wish you had more aspects of. And right as you debut your tribute to an art form that you have connected with in some way, people start to break it down as to why you are not allowed to be /that/ character. All of the sudden you are not thin enough to be Sailor Moon. You are not a boy so you are not able to be Naruto. You don’t have a big enough bust to be Yoko. It is suddenly a game to be the correct appearance for other people and they make you very aware that you are not good enough.

I struggle a lot with body image. Many of us in the cosplay community do. My self-doubt extends much further back than my cosplaying days though. I spent my entire freshman year in baggy oversized sweatshirts, loose jeans, and ill-fitting shoes. And why? Because I felt that if I hid my shape, people couldn’t judge me. The problem with that thinking, however, is the notion that you can somehow control what other people will think of you. It’s as if by some small action of your own that you can control the actions of others. Unfortunately, life does not work this way. I wore baggy sweatshirts and people called me fat. I wore loose jeans and I was ridiculed for not showing off a feminine physique. My choices to cover up my body didn’t stop their opinions or their judgements. The same reality affects cosplay. I know cosplayers that will only dress as certain characters because they believe that is the only way they will be accepted as cosplayers. And the thing is, it’s true; people still judge them and have their own opinions about them. That is a fact your actions cannot change.

I discovered anime mid-way through my high school years. I started cosplaying right after that. It was a big transition from hiding myself away from the world. Suddenly I was in a Fruits Basket schoolgirl outfit and parading myself around as a bouncy bubbly character. It was freeing. But as I continued to cosplay, my old habits returned. I began to listen to other people again. They would say that only busty girls should cosplay busty characters. Only built guys could cosplay built characters. I began to panic and rethink how I was going to cosplay. I didn’t want to do something /wrong/. I never wanted people to say those mean things about me.

So what do you do?

Listen carefully and adjust. Questions shifted from “Which character do I love in this anime?!” to “Which flat chested character in this anime can I pull off?” I have had projects that I have had to stop because I was doing them for the wrong reasons. I was told I would be a great (insert character name here). People said I had the perfect body and face for them. So I bought materials, spent hours in creation, and produced a cosplay I felt was only, well, blah. I didn’t love this character. I had no connection with this character. I didn’t even know much about this character. I just wasted time and money on this character… all because I wanted to fit someone else’s opinion. I felt that — somehow — if I met their standard and judgement, I would be happy. It is no big surprise I wasn’t. It was only after this, I realized that I wanted to cosplay because I love becoming characters that /I/ love. Right then and there I realized that there is not a thing in the world that I can do to stop people’s opinions or their judgements. So why can’t I at least be happy? The one and only factor my actions can change is how I feel about myself. And I choose to make myself happy.

I had to switch my focus. Why did I even start cosplaying? I asked myself this question a lot over the last year. It took me a while, but I finally remembered. I loved bring my favorite characters in real life. I loved bringing impossible, gravity and physics defying, outfits and props into reality. I loved being the characters that meant so much to me. What could possibly let me justify spending money, time, and considerable effort to do these cosplays? The feeling of accomplishment while wearing them. The feeling that my hard work and quality were to my satisfaction and that I am better than the last cosplay I made. It became about increasing my skills and creating characters I love.

“Wow! How did you make that?”

“I would have never thought of using craft foam that way…”

“You have a beautiful cosplay!”

These are some of the best comments I get. And none of them have to deal with my looks. They are all about the cosplay I brought to the table. As a community, I believe this is a big growth spot. Everyone cosplays for different reasons. But the one thing I can safely guarantee is that no one cosplays for others to degrade them. If you see a cosplay you love, tell that person that they did an amazing job. If you want to cosplay a character you love, then cosplay that character to the best of your ability. And understand that we all have something nice to say.[/fusion_text]