strange like that

On “Stealing” or “Copying” Cosplay Ideas

Cosplayers can be a very territorial bunch at times. Let’s face it: it sometimes feels like there’s no costumes that have been left undone. So much so that I sometimes see cosplayers creating outfits in advance of them being fully released, like creating a costume from a movie preview before the film is out. (Serious props to those who can analyze a costume so fully off of such little data.) The bottom line is that when someone does something unique, or that is perceived as unique (e.g. it’s been done, but some people haven’t seen it before), there can be this huge sense of ownership, and I suppose I can understand though I don’t agree with the mentality. It can lead to nasty places, and I’ve even seen accusations that go as far as to label those with similar costumes as “stealing” ideas.

This topic has been on my mind lately because of two SDCC 2013 images that keep getting sent to me:




I’ve been getting these because last year I did:





Similarities? Sure. Possibility that my costumes were influential? Maybe. (There is no way for me to verify, unless you are one of the cosplayers above, in which case, contact me!) Am I upset? Hell no.

As I said, I cannot verify, without talking to these fine cosplayers personally, whether or not my outfits influenced theirs in any way. But even if they did, shouldn’t I be proud instead of angry? The idea that something I created for myself was cool enough that someone else wanted to give it a try is pretty epic. Imitation being the sincerest form of flattery and all that jazz. It doesn’t change the fact that the cosplays I made are still uniquely mine in many ways. And it also doesn’t change the fact that none of these are original characters that we created. Data belongs to the Star Trek franchise. Poison Ivy belongs to DC Comics. We only took those ideas and built upon them. I can’t even claim to be the first Steampunk Poison Ivy and I honestly don’t know what can be said about my Data, though I may have been the first woman to do a First Contact version. I’m not sure.

What I do know is that when I come across another cosplayer on the floor doing the same costume or character as me, I holler at them to come take a photo. It’s nice to know other people fan-girl and/or boy over the same things I do. That they too put time and effort into expressing that fandom on their bodies.

Triple the fishnets, triple the fun. (Also featuring the crazy talented Roxanna Meta.)

Triple the fishnets, triple the fun. (Also featuring the crazy talented Roxanna Meta.)

There are times when I see a cosplay on someone else that is so amazingly epic that I wouldn’t even want to try it. My good friend Rahne does a KILLER Wolfsbane cosplay. For me, that is all her. Maybe someday I’ll do a costume from a different time in Wolfsbane’s continuity, but I also know that she wouldn’t be pissed at me if I were to do the same one because it’s a character we both love.

So rad!

So rad!

My other friend, Carrie, does the Carrie Kelley cosplay to end all Carrie Kelley cosplay. It’s epic, it’s different, but if I gave it a try she wouldn’t attempt to tear my face off over it.

Amazing, right?

Amazing, right?

We need to start treating cosplay like a sandbox we can all play in. Unfortunately, like sandboxes, you’ll find a few turds that ruin things for everyone. So start scooping those out and…I’ve taken this metaphor way too far and I apologize. Look, just take a moment to chill, live and let live. If you did something with a quirky twist, and you find yourself with imitators, be fucking proud, and realize that at the end of the day it’s not a “who wore it best” contest. As far as I’m personally concerned, if you cosplay a character I love, even if it’s one I cosplay myself, you are awesome.

*Okay, quick funny cosplay story about my First Contact variant of Data. The day that I was going to wear that cosplay to the convention (WonderCon 2012) one of my yellow contacts ripped. I thought I was screwed and was going to have to scrap my plans when my brilliant hubby suggested the half human face look from First Contact. I rushed to my makeup and made some magic happen. While the makeup came out pretty great, it also meant that my uniform was wrong to the continuity, and despite updating my insignia, people felt the need to point it out a lot. So extra kudos to the Data cosplayer above because he went into it specifically as First Contact Data and has the costume to prove it.

UPDATE: I was contacted by the cosplayer that created the Data costume! It was actually the woman accompanying him as the Borg Queen. She created both outfits and it was her first time building costumes. What’s more is I received the real scoop and my cosplay did not influence hers. In fact, she saw it after coming across this post. So there’s proof positive that you should think real hard before crying that someone has copied you. For those who want to find her, her Facebook is here:

What an awesome group!

What an awesome group!

9 Responses to “On “Stealing” or “Copying” Cosplay Ideas”

  1. Nicole says:

    I really like the fact that you covered this. Nice work. But I am one of those people who will be angry at others. So I cosplay original characters. (even though it was my very first cosplay) Congrats to all your friends.Those cosplays are amazing.

  2. Sean says:

    Why is this even an issue?

    That Data costume in particular isn’t an original idea. It was from the movie. People have seen First Contact right…And steampunk/different takes on batman characters are not an original idea either. I see plenty of different versions of Ivy floating around…

    No one has the right to be mad about someone cosplaying the same character as them unless it was an original costume, and they copied it EXACTLY.

    No one owns the rights to a costume a character…This is what makes me sad in this hobby that its being taken to such insane levels.

  3. Kathleen says:

    I have some characters that are all me My creations not in a world that any one else can claim. If someone were to seal these I’d be upset. Then there are characters that are derived from shared worlds things that are out their for the public. Star trek, Amazons (in general), Fierfly, Farscape, and Steampunk being some of my favorite shared worlds to play in. I see another steam punk mechanic I think cool beans someone who likes what I do. I see another mad scientist like mine we have an issue I worked hard coming up with a funny character and back-story something that I can have fun with at cons. My mad scientist costume is evolving but her character is the same and so me.

  4. Kathleen says:

    Correction Steal not seal

  5. Mac Beauvais says:

    Were someone to replicate an original costume piece by piece, I think it would be a somewhat different matter and warrant some measure of irritation. As it is, I haven’t seen a lot of that being a problem, but I suppose it could happen.

  6. hawk says:

    They say that impersonation is the most sincere form of flattery…

  7. My Bub Fett (mandalorian/Wolverine) cosplay was inspired by Ken the Elvis Trooper, and in return I have inspired a Batman-mandalorian. It’s all in fun

  8. Thomas Hanks says:

    Good Topic. Never understood that, imitation is the best form of flattery, Hello!!! You Cosplay!!! You are copying in some sense, weather it’s an entire look or just a logo that gives away your intentions. Come on people, I have a TARDIS motorcycle that I know im the first one turned my R1 or any motorcycle into a TARDIS. It’s amazing and how would I feel if anyone ever did the same to their motorcycle??? AWESOME!!! I inspired someone to make something cool…

  9. Ellenore says:

    No idea is original really, great minds think alike, people can have similar ideas inspired by the same or wildly varying themes.
    I’m always coming out with a great idea that my friend thinks of at the same time and we feed off each other and adapt and develop it.
    We don’t live in a vacuum and have so much fun being who and what we are, hate and anger is really not worth it unless you really come up with a completely original idea…and that’s really hard to do.

Leave a Reply