CORALVILLE, Iowa - The lobby of the Coralville Marriott Hotel and Conference Center this past weekend was filled with visitors, which is not an unexpected sight. The unusual came in the manner that many of those guests had chosen to adorn themselves.
There were wigs of nearly every color, fuzzy ears and even fuzzier tails, full-length dresses, capes, masks and props of all shapes and sizes.
This was the scene at the AnimeIowa 2014 convention, which opened it’s doors for the 18th year to more than 3000 participants, many of whom chose to Cosplay at the three day event.
“What draws people to Cosplay is nothing new. It’s the expression of fandom,” said Sean Eike in an email, who is organizing Iowa Cosplay for the Wizard World Comic Con tour coming to Des Moines in 2015. “Some people wear sports jerseys, some people only buy Prada and then some people dress up like their favorite super heroes or cartoon character.”
Cosplay is short for costume play. Participants “cosplaying” dress up as characters from animé, comic books, movies or even television shows. Such costumes can either be as accurate as possible to the original character, or the cosplayed can add their own variations.
“The most important thing to remember is that Cosplay is for everyone,” said Kathy Jessen, head of the Cosplay department for AnimeIowa. Jessen was dressed as Misty from the popular Pokemon media franchise. “It’s fun to be someone else for a few hours.”
Though Eike wasn’t sure if the interest in Cosplay was growing within the state of Iowa, many Cosplayers at this weekend’s event, as well as Jessen, felt that it is. Whether or not the trend itself is growing, they all agree that the trend is becoming more accepted by the public.
“I do feel that the general public is becoming more comfortable and accepting of people who want to wear costumes for fictional characters that they like outside of Halloween or the conventional costume party setting,” said Eike.
Cosplayers put a range of money, and time, into creating their outfits, which can include weapons, though weapons must be cleared by the weapons inspections area before entering the convention. Jessen explained that participants at such conventions range from “elitists” who are sticklers for accuracy in character portrayals, to “normies” who choose not to Cosplay but still enjoy attending the convention.
“It’s an escape from reality. You get to pretend you’re someone else for the day,” said Chance Johnson, who was attending AnimeIowa for the first time dressed as a Victorian gentleman from the steam punk genre. “It’s very interesting. I am definitely going to come back next year.”
Another Cosplayer, James Malerich, had created an entire suit with the help of friends to become a Thousand Sons Chaos Space Marine from the game Warhammer 40,000. It took them two months to mold children’s foam play mats and paint them to create the nearly 7 foot tall costume for the convention.
“I think Cosplay is just going to keep growing,” said Jessen, who suggests that those new to Cosplay start at a smaller convention with a low entry price. “Just experience the con. If nothing else, stay in the lobby and look at everyone else.”
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