Changing of the ‘Guard

Aka: The rift between old guard ‘Costumers’ and us goddamn millenials Cosplayers?


Image thanks to H Morton

I’ve been watching an interesting discussion happen on Facebook and saved the best tidbits that I’ll be talking about here…


I… I don’t know either bunny.

I saw a lot of misinformation and resistance to the ‘new’ influx of cosplayers into the whole… costuming-and-costume-wearing-thing. I’ve rewritten the introduction to this post a half dozen times and it doesn’t get any less rude or grouchy so I’m just going to go with it.

It’s time for a changing of the guard.

Ready for a truth bomb? Guards change. It is the nature of having a watch: Shifts. Rotate. If you have only one shift guarding a chest of gold for a week, and they’re expected to be on duty the whole time, they’ll either go crazy and kill each other or fall asleep due to sleep deprivation.

Guards change, it’s a cycle. Sharing the load. SHARE. Hell. Up here in northland we have a whole event every day during the summer for tourists to watch about changing guards.


Image (c)

Passing the Costuming baton back and forth benefits everyone. So why are people so adamant about nomenclature and pretend rules about playing dress-up?

But First Some Definitions

Cosplay: The act of wearing a costume. Can also be used to describe a costume. Usually, but not limited to, refers to a reproduction costume from visual media.

Costuming: The act of making a costume.


PS: from a Cosplayer Millenial (aka Satan) you can add paragraphs in facebook comments.
It’s Shift+Enter.

Since Orange-Person in the quote above mentioned Venn Diagrams. I made a few Venn Diagrams for People that Are Confused.



Cosplay != Millenials, We Just Really Like to Cosplay

Years ago I wrote an article on how I felt attending World Con in San Antonio. A lot has changed since then. And unfortunately a lot HASN’T. I’m not against going to another WorldCon but let me be clear it would be as a writer. I saw the costumes at WorldCon and it’s… honestly not worth the effort to compete in a competition that wouldn’t be a) fun, b) challenging.

BUT. I do plan on attending more and more Costume Cons, and by God I will drag each side of the Costumer/Cosplayer rift towards each other until people who blossomed at Anime Cons no longer feel out of place at Costume Con, and maybe -just maybe- this will translate into World Con being more youth friendly.

But Calamity, why bother becoming more Youth/Cosplayer Friendly?

The people who don’t actually know me might ask. A Few reasons:

  • There is an untapped market of cosplayers who want to learn more techniques, and want to get into historical and other diverse forms of costuming.
  • Older SFF con goers are literally dying as the population ages. With no ‘New Blood’, traditional SFF cons will follow
  • Cosplayers have a wealth of knowledge that can be shared to more traditional Costumers like:
    • Thermoplastics
    • Community Outreach
      • Oh sorry did you think that our social networks popped into existence without any work?
      • Or that Companies magically decided we were the generation to create patterns for?
      • Or that Society just decided to be like ‘nah this is cool now’ without people going out and advocating the hobby?
    • Technology
      • 3D Printing , wearable tech
      • Let’s be honest, SFF cons are often far less organised, less optimized with respect to funds, and attendance is significantly lower
      • SFF websites are TERRIBLE. It drives away more con-goers than you think
  • Not to be exclusionary and misguided elitist jerks

 The Main Divide: History, Respect & Appropriation

This… is not going to go where you want it to, Old-‘Skool’ Costumers.

Costuming has a long history going back as far as clothing. You can try to tell me that the first bands of Homo Sapiens never put on the elder’s cloak, made faces and talked in the elder’s voice while pretending to scold others, but I won’t believe you.

We wear costumes for many reasons. Halloween, Fancy Dress parties, recreating historical events or for entertaining others. Fan Specific costumes are newer to our society, but no less worth studying.

History is important, just as it’s important to learn from our history and grow from it. I’ll repeat that last bit for the people in the back. (ahem)

IT IS IMPORTANT TO GROW FROM OUR HISTORY. Stagnation is bad, it leads to cholera and mosquitoes.

Then we have people like this.


I’m just.

I’m just going to take a moment.


To breathe.

So I don’t get angry.

While, by technical definition, cultural appropriation can be applied to the Costumer-Cosplay divide, let me make one thing absolutely clear.




Discrimination and cultural appropriation is a very real and very impactful issue in our society right now, and it affects cosplayers as I’ve discussed before. But. Cosplayers wanting to join and talk about a hobby are not a threat to your way of life. Cosplayers who want to learn new techniques from you are not stealing your culture. We want to share.

And frankly, it’s comments like this, and the demand for ‘deference’ that turns us away, not the fact that we ‘don’t know the history’.

respect me

We do not owe you respect beyond being a person and human rights.

We do not owe you deference because you have been playing dress up for longer than we have.

[You have NO IDEA how hard it was not to put a picture of Cartman here. NO. IDEA.]

Respect is earned. And let me tell you about my generation and my culture of cosplay:

  • Respect is based on your actions within the community.
  • Respect is based on your accomplishments within the community
  • Respect is based on your contributions
  • Respect is based on your skill and abilities
  • Respect is not based on age.
  • Respect is not based on a self-chosen title of ‘costumer’ or ‘Smof’
  • Reaching out with one hand and demanding deference with the other is an easy way to alienate us. We get enough of that in the media and workplace, thanks.

But Calamity, I don’t like the ‘Play’ connotation Cosplay has!

So… you don’t like fun? That’s… that’s really depressing.

But Calamity, Cosplay is just copying other designs!

Calamity - Masq photos by Eleventh Photograph

Um. That’s… that’s news to me.

Apparently also news to Costume Con 32, where my COSPLAY of an original design got two Master level awards.


Does this mean I need to return my ribbons? ;_; But I LIKE my ribbons.

How do we resolve this?

This post has gotten a lot more negative than I like my blog to be, so I’m going to end on a constructive note. This issue is trivial. It can be fixed. And if Costumers choose not to, … frankly… we’ll just wait until you die out and continue having fun on our side of the imaginary line you’ve drawn in the sand.

zodiac #selfie

Step 1: Kill the Term ‘SMOF’

I hate the term SMOF. Secret Masters of Fandom. I haaaaate it, because it excludes anyone who is not part of the secret club. It is not an inclusionary term like ‘Con-runners’ or ‘Con Organizers’, it specifically says that these Smoffers are better than the rest of fandom (Masters? WTF guys) and it’s secret.


Drop it.

Step 2: Drop the Attitude of Superiority

Cosplay and Costuming can continue to co-exist in a creepy twin-existence with little problem so long as people stop putting down the other side as ‘less creative’ or ‘less difficult’. There are challenges to historical recreation just as there are to designing a mashup of a pokemon that remains true to the original design but is innovative and exciting.

We are all people that love creating. We are all constantly learning. Stop shitting on others for doing things differently, or having different aesthetic preferences.

Step 3: Stop Cosplaining

You don’t want to be called a Cosplayer? Alright, just politely correct anyone who gets it wrong. But do not tell me that I am only a cosplayer if I’m in character all the time. I’ve met maybe five of those people in my decade plus of cosplay, and half them were steampunk fans.

When we as Cosplayers tell you that we are just people that wear costumes for fun, don’t correct us automatically with an incorrect definition of role playing or ONLY doing reproduction costumes.


Now Ciri, remember. We aren’t allowed to have fun. Or define ourselves.

We know who we are, thanks. Mansplaining is an issue, so is Cosplaining

NOTE: I reserve the right to make portmanteaus about Cosplans, Cosnews, Cosplaining because I’m a writer and I like words. You don’t need to use them. But I plan to continue doing so. If my friends can’t stop me from making puns, you sure as shit won’t stop me from making new words.

Step 4: Include instead of Gatekeeping

If people are interested in your con, please don’t start talking down to them. If they ask questions, answer them. If they look lost, ask if they’re managing okay or if they have any questions to help them out with.

Hobbies and fandom is more fun when everyone feels welcome. How else will we share advice and horror stories and make new friends?

Step 5: Accept that both Hobby names are valid

And Frankly, unless this is your main income, why do you care if we call our costumes cosplays? I can guarantee you that we are just as passionate and excited about making costumes to play dress up. We do it for fun, same as you. We bleed on our fabric, same as you. We stay up later than we should puzzling out pattern pieces, same as you.

There’s a lot more similarities than differences. We’re not here to pick fights over nomenclature of hobbies. We’re not here to steal your culture. Language changes over time, English especially. Accept it.

We’re here to have fun.

And we’ll keep having fun with, or without you. So why don’t you come join us, we have beer and patterns.

xox a fighty-Calamity

6 thoughts on “Changing of the ‘Guard

  1. Gen-Xer here.. Sorry to hear about this generational (?) conflict. (Love the Trump analogy.) I’ve been to a few cosplay and costuming events — Nine Worlds and some Ren/medieval reenactment things in the ’90s. I wonder whether conservatives and hierarchical policing are like some inherent vice in subcultures.. But as you suggest, smart ones know they need new blood!

    1. It’s actually less of a generational divide than it’s made out to be, and much more of a seniority issue. The Costumers who’ve been at this for 40 years or so are frustrated that what was their niche is now become (in their eyes) widespread and mainstream, with no recognition their way. Mind you, it’s actually a bit closer to convergent evolution, since both communities developed on their own into a similar hobby. But yes, new blood is important, and not just to mosquitoes.

  2. I agree and don’t understand why everyone is getting so bent out of shit I mean shape over it. Everybody thinks the people younger than them are ruining the world. Except the young people. They know the older people DID ruin it. LOL.

  3. Woah girl. So much sturm and dross over the “old guard” not wanting to be relabelled cosplayers. We reserve the right to self identify. Too be sure, you have it wrong. Cosplay developed out of the old guard costuming, and there are magazine articles of that era to prove it. As a costumer, I have only seen this much fire and brimstone over a hobby we all love from the new blood. All the conventions I know are eager to have those that identify as cosplayers attending their cons. You even post proof of this in your own article by way of your numerous awards from a convention that was started by one of us “old guard” costumers expressly for costumers (Because there was no such thing as “cosplay” at the time–just the freshly coined word), so that we could learn from each other and have more opportunities to show our work. In fact, I know they have been actively trying to get more of you to attend. Imagine that! That old guard costumer still holds the rights to the convention, BTW. And yet you wish death on us? Woah girl. THAT is beyond the pale. Might this sort of attitude be affecting your interactions costumers? Knowing you wish for my death does not make me want to hold a conversation with you.

    1. Hi Wendy.

      I don’t wish death on you. Please do not put such horrid words into my mouth. I said we will continue to have fun on our own.

      That taken care of:

      Please take a moment to read the article again. The point of it is that cosplayers and costumers have a great number of similarities, but that much of the attitude about cosplayers is that we do not take costume making as seriously or must remain in character. In fact I list the ways that the communities can learn from each other.

      Cosplay has grown and learned from costuming but it arose independent of costume con and world con. I’ve spoken to a number of costumers and even MC’d the historical masquerade at Costume con last March. I love costuming and Cosplay of all kinds. I do not love the ageism and manufactured divide created by elitist cosplayers such as those I have quoted anonymously in the article.

      I approved this comment in the interest of transparency but won’t be approving any further that contain allegations that I’m levelling threats. Libel is a very real thing with real consequences and I gently suggest looking into libel law before claiming I wish anyone dead in the future.

      You intimated this on your original blog post but claiming it on my space in far more explicit language is unacceptable and will not be tolerated.

  4. I remember some folks on the Replica Prop forum getting extremely salty over the idea of being called cosplayers. Some of them felt that cosplayers didn’t take their craft seriously, that cosplay=little better than Halloween costumes, while real costuming=quality work. Others took extreme umbrage at the “play” part of the word, considering it an insult.
    I got sick of it and said something to the following effect:

    There’s a lot of people outside of our hobby who for whatever reason just don’t “Get” us. Some think we’re too old to “play dress-up”, and can’t comprehend why an adult would wear a costume unless it was for a job. Some of the really narrow minded ones even think that we shouldn’t celebrate Halloween, or that there’s something genuinely wrong with those of us who wear costumes for fun.
    To outsiders, they draw no distinction between costumer and cosplayer, and if anything, throwing a conniption fit because somebody calls you by the “wrong” term would be seen as even more evidence that we’re weird, strange, or just pathetic. When you get right down to it, the difference is mostly semantic. We’re all just geeks in costume, regardless of the label. Some of us take our crafting skills very seriously, others aren’t as picky as long as they get to become their favorite character. To some, the journey of making a costume is as much a part of the experience as wearing it, others wouldn’t care if they made it, bought/commissioned it, or even found it on the side of the road, it’s becoming the character for a day that matters most, and that’s okay too. (As long as they don’t enter that purchased/commissioned outfit into a workmanship contest under false pretense)

    There is one thing from old school costuming and cons/masquerades that I DO heartily wish would make a comeback though, and that is the treatment of originals aka OCs. OCs used to be celebrated and admired, these days they tend to be ignored by most con-goers, and some masquerades and contests won’t even let them enter, on grounds that they can’t be judged for accuracy. At a con last year I even had another con-goer scream in my face that OCs were not cosplay. This said to me while I was wearing one of my own designs, inspired by a skyscraper I’m fond of. (The kicker is that the person who said this was wearing an outfit that turned out to be their own redesign of a Pixar movie character). Some people don’t even think that OCs count as cosplay any more, even though con costuming/cosplay started with a couple dressed as OCs. (Inspired by the movie “Things to Come”, but different enough in both looks and mannerisms that I’d feel comfortable calling them OCs)