Cosplaying is all fun and games until someone breaks the rules... Just kidding! While there aren't many actual "rules" for professional cosplaying, there are some unspoken community rules and plenty of etiquettes to discuss. Cosplaying comes with the idea of being in the public eye, which means that any kind of behavior -- good or bad -- is on display for tons of people to witness. This means that it's not only important to be kind and considerate but to also be mindful of one's own actions as well.
Conventions also have their own rules which all cosplayers must follow and respect, professional cosplayers included. While a professional might be sponsored, they're human just like the rest of us and aren't exempt from following common courtesies. There are pressures and boundaries that non-cosplayers might not even be aware of in regards to taking photos, being on breaks, and so much more.
Cosplay takes a legitimate amount of effort, time, and it can be very stressful. In order to maintain a safe and fun environment for everyone while respecting other cosplayers and fans, these rules are some of the things professionals are well-versed in. Without further ado, here are 25 rules and etiquette practices that all cosplayers -- professional and not -- are expected to follow in order to have a fun and fulfilling experience at conventions.
22 Biggest Rule: Cosplay Is Not License to Photograph Or Hug
This list is a combination of actual rules and community-recognized rules and this one happens to be both. While it's obviously against the law to assume, it's a common rule at conventions that despite the outfit, any type of physical interaction is prohibited. Unless a cosplayer has been asked and agrees, it's to be presumed that the most they'll allow are photographs. They're there to bring a character to life, not to be asked out or to do inappropriate things.
21 Etiquette: Don't Put Down Other Cosplayers Or Beginners
It should go without saying that those participating in the same craft should respect others who are doing the same. No cosplayer is superior to anyone else, there are only more experienced cosplayers and beginners. This doesn't make either one "good" or "bad" and it certainly isn't grounds to put someone down based on skill level or character choice. There are a vast number of things we don't know about each other or another person's situation, therefore it's best to remain silent if there's nothing positive to be said.
20 They Aren't Required To Do Photo Ops
Contrary to popular belief, a cosplayer does not need to stop and take a photo with a fan. It's a personal choice and while many don't mind it, some do, and both must be equally respected. Cosplayers also have the right to decide when and where they'll stop for photo ops. For the most part, they're doing this for their love of a character first and the fans second. Underneath is just a human being who might be new to this or just shy, but the rule is always the same: They dictate what they want as far as fan interaction.
19 Be Conscientious When Cosplaying Something Kid-Friendly
It's easy enough to fire off an expletive when something gets ripped or falls off a cosplay. The problem with this is that it's rare that a cosplayer won't have an audience. Depending on the character, it may very well be the case that there are plenty of kids around. One thing to always keep in mind is that not everyone hears the language that adults do. Dropping the f-bomb can be detrimental to both a cosplayer's reputation as well as lead to a dwindling audience.
18 Making A Scene Is Frowned Upon
A cosplay draws enough attraction on its own. The last thing anyone wants to do is start a scene, whether it's over a personal matter or over an issue with someone at an event. By making a public scene, a cosplayer's reputation will quickly be on the line and their name will be known -- and not in a good way. Remaining calm while cosplaying is a big part of being a good cosplayer and knowing when to get angry at something and when not to.
17 Not Blocking Walkways Or Causing Traffic Jams Is Encouraged
There's nothing more frustrating at a huge convention than when someone is stopped in the middle of an aisle just to take a photo. It's well-known amongst cosplayers that photos are encouraged, but only if done correctly. The proper course of action is to politely step off to the side and allow people to pass, find space off the beaten path, and then set up for a photo. Most fans know this, too -- if they don't realize it, simply tell them you'll meet them at a space that's out of the way.
16 Be Friendly To Everyone, Including Kids
It can be very easy to become frustrated and annoyed while in costume. It's often hot, makeup can run, outfits can get uncomfortable, and you're on your feet in strange shoes for hours. This is totally understandable. However, if someone doesn't realize that and displays obnoxious behavior anyway, it doesn't mean a cosplayer has the same right to fire back. Obviously, this is acceptable in certain instances -- but in the event that someone just doesn't realize or is too excited, the best thing to do is remain calm and excuse oneself.
15 Don't Judge Other Cosplayers Based On Their Appearance
Someone could be skint for money, may have been pressed for time, or just simply didn't have the skills to make a costume as "realistic" as we see it in film or games. It's a common rule of respect among cosplayers to appreciate the effort rather than the actual costume. Everyone in the cosplay community shares an equal love of paying tribute to their favorite characters and this is what stands over everything else. While some people simply can't help themselves, most of the community will praise each other on their choices and efforts.
14 Absolutely No Real Weapons Are Allowed
Obviously, weapons of any kind are never allowed into conventions or anywhere else around the general public. It doesn't matter how realistic a cosplay is, weapons must be props. Oftentimes, a cosplayer will not be admitted if they have anything that blatantly looks too realistic. This would not only cause unnecessary alarm to convention-goers but could introduce an actual risk if the prop was sharp, heavy, etc.
13 A Cosplay Is Not Equal To Having An Event Pass
Despite what some may think, just because a professional cosplay dresses up, it doesn't mean they gain admittance into any convention they want. They still need to purchase tickets just like everyone else. They may be sponsored by photographers or brands, but gaining entrance into special events is usually still a pedestrian right just as it is for everyone. They could be wearing the most stunning cosplay ever seen and still need to purchase tickets -- this isn't a negotiable term, even for professionals.
12 Con Rules Must Be Followed
If there are no outside food or drinks, cosplayers must follow that rule. If no backpacks are allowed, cosplayers must also follow that. Once inside a convention, cosplayers might be treated differently. However, before gaining entrance, they're just like everyone else waiting in line. It's rare that special requests are made for cosplayers unless previously agreed on, especially not before they've actually entered to the convention. It might be plausible to find cosplay-specific lounges, rest spots, etc., but that's about it.
11 Cosplaying At Concerts And Releases Varies Based On Venue
Similarly, the rules for cosplaying at a concert or a release party vary as well. Just because a cosplayer is a professional doesn't mean that they're allowed to bring their costumes wherever they go. Many concert halls will prohibit cosplaying in order to maintain security and the safety of everyone in attendance. Some places restrict cosplaying due to space issues. Cosplays can also be distracting, which is another reason some venue just simply won't allow it. Whether one is a professional or not, there's no bending the rules.
10 Carrying A Sewing Kit Is Tempting, But Not Always Allowed
Some conventions have their own rules such as gaming and anime conventions, who will often provide cosplayers with a bit of special treatment. It takes a lot of effort and courage to cosplay and convention owners are well aware of this. Rather than being allowed to bring a personal sewing kit, many conventions will offer cosplay "first-aid" where cosplayers can get help sewing or re-attaching details. This is very convenient because not only will cosplayers not need to worry about carrying extras around, but they'll have help at the ready.
9 Both Crafting And Buying Costumes Is Allowed, Judging Either One Isn't
There will occasionally be a debate about whether or not purchasing a ready-made costume is actually "cosplaying." It's a debate that doesn't hold water and is completely judgmental because, simply put, not everyone has the skill level to craft their entire costume. This should never prevent someone from trying, though, which is why purchased costumes are just as worthy of being worn for conventions. The idea is to represent a well-loved character, not to be cruel to someone who is doing their best.
8 Copyrights And Social Media
While there are no direct copyrights that prohibit cosplayers from creating a real-life representation of a character, there are copyrights surrounding re-posting. Re-posting, meaning using a photo or fanart of a character posed side-by-side with a cosplayer's real-life rendition of one. Everything must be credited, including any music used when videotaping cosplays at conventions. Nowadays, there are copyright laws for everything and it's easy to get called on them. With a simple credit notice in a social media post, this can be avoided.
7 Having A Personal Page For Promotion
Cosplayers are absolutely allowed to, and encouraged, to have personal pages for their cosplays and work. It is frowned upon, however, to encourage other things on their page that might be offensive. Professional cosplayers do need to be careful of those who troll pages on the lookout for things like this. They also need to be wary of getting into heated debates or arguments with people as their image is -- quite literally -- on the line. Just like any other professional service that's in the public eye, cosplaying is no different.
6 Using Game, Anime, Artwork, Etc. For Comparison
Going back to copyright laws, using any type of fanart from a game, anime, movie, show, etc., is frowned upon without crediting the artist(s). As artists themselves, cosplayers know what it feels like to have photos taken and reposted without permission. As such, they need to avoid doing this to other people, too. It's easy to grab a photo from the internet to use as a side-by-side, but it shouldn't be done without the proper credit going to the artist or person responsible for the artwork.
5 Tagging Commissions Is A Courtesy
Some cosplayers will have their costumes commissioned and there's absolutely nothing wrong with that. What is wrong, however, is not giving credit where credit is due. Cosplayers have a right to let the general public know where their costume and accessories came from if they have not crafted these themselves. The promotion goes both ways and it's a courtesy to reference someone else's work, especially if it's bring worn by a professional cosplayer. This is beneficial for photographers too, who can then also tag the appropriate parties in photos.
4 Referencing The Source Is Necessary
This is common sense and goes without saying but it's still a rule professional cosplayers need to follow. When cosplaying a character and taking photos and/or video, where that character is from must be referenced somewhere in the post. This is a copyright infringement but also for the benefit of the fans who follow them. Not all cosplays are self-explanatory and this is all part of sharing a love for a specific character, anime, movie, show, or game. It helps fans to find cosplayers, too.
3 If Photos Are Taken With Other Cosplayers, Tag Them
This is yet another courtesy that should go without saying but it often doesn't. The community of cosplayers isn't as wide and vast as many might think and people get very agitated when cosplayers are not given credit. If taking a photo with another cosplayer, there's no need to be nervous about asking for their info in order to tag or reference them later on. This is a great way to build connections but also give credit where credit is due. It's courtesy to promote others as they promote and support you.
2 Cosplay Group Etiquette
Additionally, when cosplaying in a group, it's important to understand the unspoken rules. First off, no one should be judged based on their skill level or ability to sew, paint, draw, sculpt, etc. If this is an issue, then cosplaying with those of similar skill level should be considered. It's also only fair to allow everyone to have the spotlight and to also give credit to everyone in the group. If it's a meetup, everyone's social media should be exchanged in order to find photos and media later on.
1 Even Outside A Con, Manners, And Consideration Still Count
This is a big one. Despite where a cosplayer might be -- whether it's in the break lounge or standing randomly outside -- consideration always counts. A general rule of thumb is that while a cosplayer is in costume, they're still representing the character they've chosen to dress up as. If someone is standing outside, it might mean they're on a break but they're still "in costume." It's easy to forget when one is out of the moment but as long as that costume is on, people are likely still watching.