Why do grown-ups dress up? Cosplay at New York Comic Con

Ever wonder what is wrong with those people who dress up as their favorite movie, television, or comic book character? Ever think to yourself, are you freakin’ serious? You’re a grown man in a tutu. Get a life.

Yeah, well me too.

And like any good scholar, I decided I needed to try it out.

Why not?

I typically think this about most of the things I do. If you know me, you know I’ll try almost anything at least once.

Cosplay or Costume play is perceived as a fringe activity to most sensible, reasonable stuffy adults. While I don’t consider myself to be stuffy, I can get pretty serious. I’m learning to lighten up. It’s a process. And like any good process we need to reflect. Part of this process is learning not to take myself or other people so seriously.

This year I dressed up for New York Comic Con. I went as the Queen of Hearts from Alice In Wonderland. Why this character? My college students who joined me this year thought I would make a great Queen of Hearts (a grump old woman who yells “off with his head”). So like any sensible adult, I said sure.


Here’s what I learned:

  1. Attention Getting. Walking through the streets of New York in a costume actually does draw attention. A lot. People will stop, stare, gawk and then ask to take a picture with you. This happened. A lot. It was fun.
  2. Wigs itch but are necessary. My costume without my wig was lackluster. My son said, “Without the wig it doesn’t look like you’re trying”. As much as I hate to admit it he was right. I had two wigs. Both itched. As a side note: the orange/pink undertones of the wig really didn’t work with my skin tone. This probably irked me more than the itching.
  3. Because You Can. Dressing up as a character is one of those things to do because you can. It doesn’t hurt anyone (except maybe your pride) and really forces you to just relax. I mean how serious can anyone take you while you’re dressed like cartoon character?

Beside what I mentioned, I still can’t say I know with any certainty why grown ups cosplay. It was a futile experiment in ridiculousness.

Of course, I will try it again next year. This time I’m picking my own costume.  Harley Quinn, my new favorite comic book character, is on the top of the list.

If you’re interested, I interviewed the editor of Cosplay Magazine, Paul Gambino. He might have the answer to the question I asked but you’ll have to watch.

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Dr. Gina Marcello is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Communication, Graphic Design & Multimedia at Georgian Court University in Lakewood, NJ.

2 thoughts on “Why do grown-ups dress up? Cosplay at New York Comic Con

  1. Dressing up still remains one of my favorite things in the world to do! I have teenagers come back to me saying they will never forget how I dressed up as a different woman each week for Women’s History month in their kindergarten class. I wish I could do Comic Con!!!