Cosplay vs costume!

To most of us, we might use both these words interchangeably like they’re the same. Hey, even if I do sometimes. But if we’re being serious, there are some similarities and differences.

And in this post, I’ll show you those noticeable differences.

What is the difference between cosplay and costume?

It might seem that both cosplay and costume is pretty much the same thing. After all, both words talk about dressing up as a certain character. While it might not seem like cosplay and costume are similar (both involve dressing up), there are major differences between the two. The biggest difference is the lifestyle. While wearing a costume is only 1 day in the year (i.e. Halloween), cosplay is all-year around. Having a costume is only temporary for the most part, while cosplay is generally a long-term hobby.

In this post, I’ll go through the differences between cosplay vs costume. And I’ll also explain the similarities between the two as well.

Let’s get started! But before we begin…let’s clarify the definition of costume.

There can be many different interpretations of costume. But for the purpose of this article, I’ll define costume = Halloween costume. Because when people want to compare cosplay vs costume, they’re usually talking Halloween costumes vs the cosplay hobby. And that’s where we will start

Differences between Cosplay vs Costume

1. Cosplay is a hobby

For a lot of us, cosplaying is more than just dressing up. It’s a hobby as well!

This is by far the biggest difference between cosplay and costume. It’s very different going to a costume store in your area and buying an outfit to wear for October 31st, which is what costumes are usually all about. Costume-wearing is only a short time thing.

Cosplay on the other hand, is completely different. It may involve making the costume yourself. You might plan a get together with your other friends to make the cosplay at the same time. You might be sharing your progress online with your friends or followers. But in general, cosplaying is not just about the costume itself; cosplay is all about the hobby altogether.

Is one better than the other? Not really.

Maybe you just want to dress up once or twice a year. So buying an affordable costume at the Halloween store makes more sense for you.

On the other hand, if you enjoy making costumes or you want to hangout with Weebs and attend cosplay conventions throughout the year, then consider cosplay instead!

Speaking of yearly activities, that brings us to our next difference between cosplay vs costume…

2. Halloween is only 1 day. Cosplay is all-year round

The nice thing about cosplay is you get to do all-year round!

With most cosplayers, they are planning to cosplay throughout the entire year. Yes, that means in the cold winter as well! That’s how dedicated and passionate many cosplayers are.

Cosplayers are dressing up as their favorite characters throughout the year at conventions and on their own time, whereas wearing a costume may only involve wearing it during Halloween.

Like with the previous section, cosplay vs costume doesn’t imply that one is better than the other. While it might sound fun and awesome that you get to dress up and attend conventions all-year round as a cosplayer, the fact that it can be pretty expensive to do so. Cosplaying can be pretty pricey, not only for making the costume but attending conventions as well.

So who knows, wearing a costume only once a year for Halloween can save you a lot of money! You don’t have to travel to a convention, pay for registration or worry about making your own cosplay. If you’re just a costumer, you’ll be saving a lot of money over what cosplayers do.

With that said, let’s move onto the next difference…

3. The quality difference

Edelgard (Kitsu Cosplay)
You won’t find a costume like this at your typical Halloween store, that’s for sure. Cosplayer: kitsu_cosplay. Photo taken by j.a.vilches.

Generally speaking, cosplays will be MUCH better quality than the stuff at a Halloween store. Because Halloween is only once a year, the costumes are made of cheaper quality that’s not meant to last very long.

Not to say all Halloween costumes are bad, they serve its purpose to only be worn very infrequently and the lower cost reflects that. There’s no need for Halloween costumes to be made with super high quality materials. It’ll just drive up the cost and potentially have fewer buyers due to the more expensive price tag!

Cosplays on the other hand, will be much better quality than Halloween costumes because they’re meant to last much longer. You wouldn’t want a cosplay that falls apart on your first convention! Although to be fair, that does happen a lot with cosplays bought on eBay or Taobao (for more info on where to shop for cosplays, check out my article about best cosplay websites here).

But in general, you’ll find that cosplays not only are made with better materials, they also look better as well. For example, with Halloween costumes you’ll find that a lot of them are shiny. That’s because they use polyester, and while they’re great and cheap material that’s good for regular clothing, they look pretty tacky for a costume.

With cosplays, they’ll use better material such as spandex and cotton. It’s night and day when it comes to quality!

Okay, so those are the differences between cosplay vs costume. Like I said, one is not necessarily better than the other. Although us cosplayers like to think cosplay is better!

Let’s go through some of the similarities…

Similarities between Cosplay vs Costume

4. You can role-play for both

Mercedes Cosplay (cosplay vs costume)
Both costumers and cosplayers make for good actors sometimes. Cosplayer: ronantyche. Photo taken by Neha Mathur.

When it comes to defining cosplay vs costume, it’s common to say that with cosplay, you are supposed to role-play. Whereas with costumes…you don’t?

Not sure where that notion came from. But in my experience, I haven’t seen too many cosplayers who act like the character they’re dressing up as.  You don’t see all the Elsa cosplayers singing Let It Go. Or Jinx cosplayers acting all psychotic.

On the other hand, I’ve seen many Halloween cosplayers act the role they’re dressing up. Hungry zombies. Psycho serial killers. Sexy nurses.

So what I’m trying to say is, it doesn’t matter if you’re cosplaying or only dressing up as Halloween. You can decide if you want to role-play your character or not. I feel like the notion of role-play in cosplay has long passed.

5. Both can be cheap

Just like you can find cheap Halloween costumes, there are budget-friendly cosplays out there, such as closet cosplays. Cosplayer: rachasakawa. Photo taken by mayucosart. Edited by

I mentioned earlier that in general, cosplays tend to be better quality because they’re meant to last longer. But that doesn’t mean cosplay always has to be expensive. In fact, I wrote an entire article about how cosplay doesn’t have to be expensive (click here to read it).

There are many ways to save on cosplay, including: buying used cosplays, waiting for sales at fabric stores, reusing cosplay parts and accessories and more. So while cosplay won’t be as cheap as dressing up for Halloween, they both can be budget-friendly with a little planning ahead!

6. Both are fun!

Dressing up, whether in costume or in cosplay, is super fun! Cosplayer: luckyeliee.

Hey, who says you can’t be a cosplayer and someone who also celebrates Halloween?! Why pit one against another? They’re both awesome and fun!

With cosplay, you get to dress up all year round, feel the fulfillment when crafting your cosplay (even earning money in some cases), and get to attend of the coolest and wild cosplay conventions throughout the year. And with Halloween, you get to dress up as someone spooky, attend some Halloween parties, and even grab some trick or treats. All for cheap too.


To summarize, here are the 3 differences and similarities when it comes to cosplay vs costume:

  1. Cosplay is a hobby
  2. Halloween is only 1 day. Cosplay is all-year round
  3. The quality
  4. You can role-play for both
  5. Both can be cheap
  6. Both are fun!

And there you have it; a comprehensive post about cosplay vs costume.

I hope this helps you understand the differences and similarities between the two, and dispel any myths.

Do you prefer doing cosplay? Costumes? Or both? Let me know in the comments below!

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