Does cosplay have to be accurate? While it’s not a question that comes up on many people’s minds, I’m sure it gatekeeps a lot of potential cosplayers from trying their luck with costume-making. Think about it: if you’re a beginner cosplay who sees all these beautiful cosplays on Facebook and Instagram (and at conventions, pre-pandemic), you start to wonder and doubt how you can ever measure up to those standards.
Isn’t cosplay just for fun? Do we really need to cosplay characters with precise accuracy? That’s what this post is about, so let’s talk about it!
But let’s answer the question first. Does cosplay have to be accurate? It’s really up to you! Having an accurate-looking costume can make you stand out. On top of that, there’s a lot of fun and passion doing an accurate cosplay that’s challenging. On the flip side, some fictional characters are impossible to replicate 100% in the real world. Also, your own unique physical traits and originality can make a cosplay look amazing, even if it’s totally inaccurate!
In this article, I’ll help you decide whether you should go for accurate cosplays, depending on what your preferences are. Let’s go!
Why you would want an accurate cosplay – the thrill of the challenge
Let’s get a stereotype out of the way: I want to point out that wanting an accurate cosplay does not make you elitist. Not at all! Cosplay can be whatever you want it to be, and that includes making accurate-looking cosplay.
The main reason why a lot of cosplayers love doing accurate cosplays is simply because it’s fun. Yes, there is a lot of fun to be had when challenging yourself to replicate how a character looks like in the Anime/video game/movie etc.
It’s like playing a video game with different difficulty settings. Sure, you can play Easy Mode for a while but eventually, you’ll probably get bored. You’ll want to try a harder difficulty because it challenges and excites you.
Well, doing an accurate cosplay is the exact same feeling! Instead of just buying a costume (which is okay) or creating a casual cosplay, maybe you want to challenge yourself to make a cosplay that involves doing an entire dress! For some, making a dress would be incredibly frustrating. But for others, it would be totally fun adding in the embroidery and little details.
Does cosplay have to be accurate? If you love the challenge and thrill or the excitement of doing small steps of making something amazing, then the answer is YES for you!
Accurate cosplays bring you happiness at conventions
Another reason why you’d want to do an accurate cosplay is that satisfying feeling at the convention; when an attendee validates your costume crafting skills! It’s one thing to buy a costume and have someone ask for your photo. But it’s a TOTALLY different feeling when you handmade an accurate cosplay yourself and someone recognizes you and wants your photo. It’s a truly satisfying feeling, like you’ve accomplished something big! When someone is marveling how beautiful and accurate your cosplay is, there’s no better feeling than that.
What if you don’t want an accurate cosplay?
Alright, we’ve covered why you’d want to do an accurate cosplay. But what if doing a challenging character doesn’t excite you? Or you’re more of a creative type and like to do things your own way? Then here’s why you wouldn’t want to do accurate cosplay.
Another stereotype to debunk:
I want to emphasize that non-accurate cosplay does NOT mean your cosplay is bad. Your costume can totally be different from the source material and still look great.
It’s way more fun/less stressful doing what you want and not worrying about cosplay accuracy
While it’s definitely fun doing an accurate cosplay, you still have to follow the source material and not deviate from that. What if you’re missing a small piece of material that’s hard to find? Or you’re just not able to completely replicate a certain engravement on the dress? These are some of the things you gotta worry about when going for cosplay accuracy.
But when you’re not going for accuracy, you can do whatever you want! It’s like playing an open world RPG. You can choose to do the main quests and go forward with the story. Or you can just relax and just do the side quests. That’s how it feels when you don’t care about accuracy; not doing the main quests and going at your own pace.
It’s not always possible to completely replicate a character in real life
Remember that most fictional characters are 2D, so it may be impossible to accurately portray your character in cosplay. A good example are the Saiyans from Dragon Ball Z. They all have insanely big and spiky hair, and perfect 20 pack abs. Not everyone is going to be jacked like that, so don’t worry if you’re not as well. If you love the character so much but don’t have the exact physical attributes as them, forget about cosplay accuracy; don’t let that stop you from cosplaying them!
Using your unique physical traits and cosplay skill can make the costume look even better
I wrote about this in my article about whether you can cosplay without a wig. Using your own unique physical and personality traits can make a costume look even better than if you just did a boring accurate version. For example, I cosplayed Roy Mustang without a wig; I used my real hair. And I also didn’t wear the military jacket properly; I placed it on my shoulders. Even though I did an inaccurate cosplay, it’s one of my most popular cosplays!
Once I knew a cosplayer who is a professional belly dancer and she would do belly dance versions of characters that looked incredibly amazing, probably better than an original cosplay! So you can definitely use your own day-to-day life and unique body traits to shake things up with your costume.
You’ll still have fun at conventions
Even if your cosplay isn’t magnificent or jaw-dropping, you’ll still have fun at conventions. Some of my cosplays were pretty “plain” or “boring,” but I still had a good time and met people from the same fandom I was cosplaying from.
In fact, I noticed that when I don’t do an accurate cosplay, I sometimes get a more interesting reaction from attendees, where they are more like “that’s so cool!” It’s definitely a different feeling when you just do an accurate cosplay. You feel…smart and original!
Hopefully this article has helped you decide whether you should do an accurate cosplay or not.
If you love the challenge of costume-making and the satisfaction of creating a beautifully-accurate costume, then you should go for it.
But if you prefer to do things your own way and like an easier time with costume-making, then you don’t have to be completely accurate with your cosplay.
Which do you prefer? Do you like going for cosplays that are very accurate and right down to the source material? Or do you like to keep things casual and flexible? Let me know in the comments!
My name is Roger Senpai. I’m a cosplayer that’s been in the community for well over a decade now. I’ve traveled all over the world to Anime and Comic conventions and hosted my own cosplay events. Now I’m writing articles for new and experienced cosplayers like you to help inspire, save you money and improve your cosplays!