What NOT to say to cosplayers

When I first started cosplaying in 2011, I never expected the cosplay scene to become this hype across the globe. Now, cosplaying is a profession making up to $200K a year. With the popularity of TikTok and Twitter, cosplay is now a household term instead of a niche`. With all of the newcomers experiencing a convention for their first time, some might be asking: What do I NOT say to cosplayers?

“Whatever your passion is, keep doing it. Don’t waste time chasing after success or comparing yourself to others. Every flower blooms at a different pace.”

Suzy Kassem
“Cuba” from Hetalia by ChocolateDenmark
with ErrantKnight Photography

“Your Cosplay is Wrong!”

Your cosplay is not wrong. Race, sexuality, gender, height, weight, and disabilities to not define a cosplay. Characters are drawn and created, they are not real human beings with humanity and life. People have humanity and life. Do not mix the two. Your husbando or waifu do not exist in real life and you should not expect others to meet your unrealistic expectations– no one owes you anything. Cosplay is for everyone. Period. P.S., It doesn’t matter if the character doesn’t wear glasses– people need to be able to have vision whether it’s canon or not!

“Do you even know what you’re cosplaying?

The derogatory connotation here indicates that the cosplayer is not worthy of their cosplay for a various number of possible reasons; that they are not smart enough to understand the series, not knowledgeable enough in the series to cosplay, or simply the person saying this phrase is trying to be a bully.

“Original Character” by PolterGhoul cosplay with
photographer Bonnie Allison

“Your cosplay is better than mine.”

This is not a compliment, I promise. It is demeaning to put yourself down, and then it’s a double whammy because it makes the other cosplayer feel uneasy about interacting with you because you’re basing their worth on their cosplay. Try instead, “I really like your cosplay! I would like to look up to you for inspiration,” because it turns a negative phrase into a positive interaction. You uplift the cosplayer and do not demean yourself.

“Mantis” and “Starlord” from Guardians of the Galaxy by Ann and Brian Phillips. Photographer Unknown.

“Who are you suppose to be?”

The communication above is negative and portrays a context that the person behind the cosplay does not matter. A better way of asking this question is: “I’m so interested in your cosplay. May I ask who you’re cosplaying?” if you truly do not know what series or character they are from.

“You’re cosplaying []? [] did it so much better.”

This is one of the most atrocious things someone can say to another. It reminds me of Keeping Up with the Jones, where you are always competing with one another about how you look in cosplay. Some people are beginners, some people are experts; nevertheless, do not ever compare cosplayers for the sake of putting someone down.

“England” and “France” from Hetalia by Snow Cosplay and
Eyelashmcgee with photographer Save_aang

“Oh, you’re cosplaying? I would have never known since it looks like it’s from your closet.”

If we can’t buy the cosplay or make the cosplay, most turn to a closet cosplay– whether it be a casual version of a character, a swimsuit version of a character, or even just an original character, cosplayers can easily make outfits from their current closet or simple clothing. Do not comment on someone’s cosplay in a derogatory manner involving their own closet.

“I hate that character, but your cosplay is great!”

The most back-handed compliment ever to exist is speaking about how you hate the character but you like someone’s cosplay. Whoever has put their time, effort, and money into a cosplay to be told one of their favorite characters is hated? Despicable. It’s best to keep your negative opinions to yourself in this case and not insult the cosplayer or create unwarranted tension.

“Hagrid” from Harry Potter by Jordan Pfluger with photographer Erin Penland

“Oh, you have to cosplay someone different from me! We can’t cosplay the same character!”

One of my biggest pet peeves of the century is that phrase above. Picture this: you and your mutual friend want to cosplay the same character and they get upset and try to claim that character as their own. Ultimately? This is a costume that we pour our hard work into and I would recommend that you both cosplay who you want– even if it is the same character. No one owns rights to that character except the creator!

“You’re never going to make it in the cosplay world.”

This is a hobby for some people and a job for other people. Do not intermix the two and always encourage others to do their best! Do not put people down because you feel like it.

“11th Doctor” from Doctor Who. Cosplayer and Photographer is Maria Henderson.

“I can’t believe you would cosplay []!”

Sometimes there are real life events that happen we cannot control. For example, if a voice actor goes to jail over something unethical, yet you already are known for cosplaying a character they voice… Do you still cosplay that character? Of course. There is a difference in the voice actor, the character design, and the actual cosplayer. You are not the voice actor that committed something unethical. Ultimately, it is your choice if you decide to no longer cosplay that character; however, do not put down others in that series just because they want to cosplay from that series. Cosplay is for everyone. Do not demean others because you feel mightier than them for not cosplaying that series anymore.


It is my hope that this article has not only been a teaching tool to new cosplayers, but also can solidify hope with experienced cosplayers that there are people who care deeply about your well-being and respect your boundaries. Cosplayers are creative folk who embody the spirit of community in a unique and wonderful way. Let’s keep cheering each other on and inspiring others through positive comments, helpful critique when asked for it, and wholesome humanity.

“Aside from giving me the opportunity to find the love of my life, cosplay was also the first place where I made lifelong friends. The value in going to cons and dressing up with them always outweighed the drama.“


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