From the Archives: On Cosplay and Criticism

Beatrice (Umineko no Naku Koro ni) cosplayed by me Photographby by Eurobeat Kasumi (I once got some unwarranted criticism on this costume – which was very much a first draft – and I think that’s what inspired this blog post.)


Originally posted on Tumblr on March 17, 2012.

I know it probably seems pointless for me to plead this case – criticism is unavoidable, especially on the Internet. It’s always hard when someone criticizes your work, no matter what your craft is. Rarely are those criticisms constructive, it seems, at least online where people feel safe behind their monitors. On the rare case where constructive criticism is given, it’s an opportunity for us to reflect and learn from it.

This may hold true with any kind of art – I can’t really say; I can’t draw and I haven’t published any writing in quite some time, so I can’t account for how artists of other mediums might feel. But I feel that criticizing someone’s cosplay is an even touchier subject.

I know this is true for myself – and I’m sure it’s true for every cosplayer – but if something’s wrong with our costume, we know it. Something doesn’t fit right? Wig’s not the exact color? A detail is missing? We know it. We already know it. We spend hours studying our characters, noting the details and trying to figure out how best to bring them to life. Personally, I can sit down with every single one of my costumes and tell you everything that’s wrong with them, and I’m sure I can list off things that you probably didn’t even notice. That’s why I get uppity when I get criticism – especially when I never asked for a critique – because I already know what’s wrong with it. I don’t need you to point it out.

The other reason I have a distaste for cosplay criticism is because shit happens. Wigs don’t come in the mail on time. Seams bust open, props fall apart. Or maybe you’re like me and you’re still finishing your costumes when it’s already Friday morning. Those things that you say are wrong with my costume? Nine times out of ten it’s because shit happens. Cosplay is such an experimental art, things don’t always go as you hoped or planned, and it’s unfair to criticize someone for that. Your costume may not be as perfect as you wanted it to be when the con gets here, but it’s at least wearable, so why not wear it? Very rarely is a costume perfect when a photography opportunity arrives, but are you going to say no to a great photographer just because you might be missing something? I highly doubt it. Beautiful cosplay photos can be hard to come by.

I believe every cosplayer tries their best. This is why I keep any criticisms I have to myself unless someone wants my opinion. If that person is perfectly happy with their costume, especially if they can admit to the fact that some things are missing and felt like posting a picture anyway, then back off unless they ask for advice or a critique. And if they do ask for it, be constructive – tell them honestly what’s good and what needs work, and give them advice. And if you receive good criticism, take the time to listen and appreciate it. And grow from it.

I hope this makes sense, good lord I’m tired… three costumes to finish before next weekend…