Learn the Interesting History of Cosplay

Cosplay refers to the act of dressing up in a costume to recreate the look of a character from a work of fiction. Some of the most popular forms of cosplay include dressing up in the outfit of popular anime, comic books, or video game characters. But it is not limited to this because people can also include non-character-specific costumes, such as school uniforms and maid uniforms. 

A lot of cosplayers are creative, and they make their own costumes by sewing clothes, crafting armor and props from different materials. There are also some who choose to buy costumes that are ready-made from retailers that also specializes in cosplay. Cosplay is a worldwide phenomenon that many people of all ages are into. It usually happens at conventions and events that are geared towards comics, anime, games, and other sci-fi interests. 

Sometimes, you will also see cosplayers out in the streets. For example, in Los Angeles, there is a place called Little Tokyo, which is usually frequented by people in cosplay during weekends. In Japan, particularly in Akihabara, businesses often hire cosplayers to hand out promotional items and flyers. You can also find Cosplay Cafes in different places in Asia, where staff dresses up in costumes to make the dine-in experience more enjoyable for customers. 

Cosplay is very popular in many parts of the world, but have you ever wondered where it came from or how it started? If you are also curious, you’re in the right place. Read on as we’re giving you more information about the interesting history of cosplay. 

Cosplay Etymology

woman cosplaying

The term “cosplay” is a Japanese combination of the English terms costume and play. The term was created by Nobuyuki Takahashi of Studio Hard when he attended the 1984 World Science Fiction Convention or Worldcon in Los Angeles, where he saw fans in costumes. Later on, he decided to write an article about it for the Japanese magazine My Anime. He then decided to create a new word rather than use the existing translation of the English term “masquerade” as it translates into Japanese as “an aristocratic costume,” which did not match what he saw from the Worldcon.

The term he created reflects a common Japanese method of abbreviation wherein the first two moras of a pair of words is used to create an independent compound. Therefore, costume becomes kosu, and play becomes pure. 

The History of Cosplay

cosplayers in a convention

As early as 1975, when the Rocky Horror Picture Show was released, audience members began to dress up as characters from the movie and role-playing in usually highly accurate costumes. In January 1983, Costume-Con was first held. It was a convention dedicated to costuming. After the third Costume-Con around 1985, the International Costumers Guild or originally known as the Greater Columbia Fantasy Costumer’s Guild was launched. It was a parent organization to support costuming.

Costuming has been a fan activity in Japan since the 1970s, and it has become more popular after Takahashi’s article in the My Anime magazine. The new term he created did not catch on immediately, but after a year or two when the article was published before it was in common use among fans at conventions. When the 1990s came, after some exposure on television and magazines, the term and practice of cosplaying became common knowledge in Japan. 

In the late 1990s, the first cosplay cafes appeared in the Akihabara area of Tokyo. There was a temporary maid café that was made at the Tokyo Character Collection event in August 1998 to promote a video game called Welcome to Pia Carrot 2, which was released in 1997. With this, an occasional Pia Carrot Restaurant was held at the shop Gamers in Akihabara until 2000. The very first permanent establishment opened in March 2001, which is the Cure Maid Café. 

On October 12, 2003, the foremost World Cosplay Summit was held at the Rose Court Hotel in Nagoya, Japan. It included five cosplayers that were invited from countries such as France, Italy, and Germany. There was no cosplay contest back then until 2005 when the World Cosplay Championship started. The very first cosplay winners were the Italian team of Emilia Fata Livia, Giorgia Vecchini, and Francesca Dani. 

Back in the 1980s, the Worldcon Masquerade was very popular in the United States. However, it started to fall thereafter. But the trend was reversed when cosplay was brought from Japan. At the present time, there are many different conventions being held in many parts of the world for cosplayers. 

woman in a pretty costume


It is amazing to know that cosplaying, which many people enjoy these days, was being practiced many years ago. At the present time, cosplay has become more popular in many parts of the world outside Japan and the United States. There are various competitions and events that are made to showcase the talents of many people when it comes to cosplaying. It has become a huge community for the fans of anime, video games, comics, and the likes to express their fandom. We hope this helped you learn more about the history of cosplay.