Three students here at Liberty share a unique hobby that they're passionate about.


Corissa Gavin poses in front of the convention center for a group of photographers and other cosplayers.

Everybody has a hobby, and for some students walking through the hallways here at Liberty, that hobby includes becoming somebody else for a few hours out of the week. No, I don’t mean we have a few Hannah Montanas walking around the school and living the best of both worlds, but we do have students who dedicate time and money to creating costumes that express who they are in a unique and inspired way.

Cosplay (or costume play) is an art form that includes skills in sewing, makeup, and sometimes photography. The real star is the costume, which can be hand-made, commissioned, or ordered online. While cosplay is not a Halloween costume, this is an easy comparison that a stranger to cosplay might use to understand the idea. Halloween costumes are usually much cheaper to make and are made for only one use, while cosplay is meant to last for as long as possible. 

The recipe for good cosplay calls for dedication and patience, as well as great work ethic and the desire to acquire new skills or build upon existing ones. This doesn’t necessarily mean building everything up from scratch, but it is easier to earn respect as a cosplayer if the costume is at least partly homemade. 

In the cosplay community, the more pieces of a costume that are hand-made or at least put together by the cosplayer, the better. This is because the show of dedication is more apparent when elements of the costume are reimagined with visible time and effort put into the piece. Many teens who start out with closet cosplay -picking items out of one’s closet to assemble into an oftentimes hard-to-recognize costume- end up sticking with the hobby into adulthood, where their skills only continue to grow. 

A close up of the antlers that Corissa Gavin made for her cosplay of a character from Critical Role, a webcomic about a roleplaying game called Dungeons and Dragons.

Corissa Gavin, senior, patterns and sews her own dresses for many characters that she cosplays. She chooses these costumes based on her opinion of the character and whether she likes the overall design. If the design is more complicated or requires her to build a skill, she’s more likely to choose that character. 

“Usually I’ll just go to Joanne’s and look through the pattern books to find something similar [to what I’m going for] and then I’ll alter it if I need to,” said Gavin.

Not all of Gavin’s cosplays are built from the ground up. For some of them, she puts together using different pieces of clothing and crafting supplies. For a character from Critical Role, a web series about Dungeons and Dragons -a roleplaying board game-, she created the headpiece from pipe cleaners wrapped in aluminum foil and scotch tape and an old headband. She also hand-painted some fake flowers and used gold wire to get as close to accurate as possible. 

Not everyone can create all of the different elements of their cosplay, though, so they purchase pieces from sites like Amazon or shops that focus specifically on cosplay. Some people in the cosplay community believe that those who purchase most of the parts of their cosplay or don’t have enough money to justify buying high-quality pieces don’t put forth enough effort. Piper Schoon, junior, disagrees. 

Piper Schoon poses as a character from a popular video game, Doki Doki Literature Club.

Cosplay is all up to your interpretation. It doesn’t have to be remotely accurate. As long as you are enjoying what you are doing and wearing, it’s good,” said Schoon.

But how does one pay for all of the unavoidable expense that comes with cosplay? Many adults with stable jobs have more time and money on their hands, so their costumes are bound to come out looking more refined and thought-out. A high schooler might have a job, but it isn’t likely that they would be able to support their hobby with a part-time gig. 

“A small budget only stops you if you aren’t determined. I have very supportive parents who love to help me achieve anything I want to positively put my mind to, so it is easier for me to spend money to get the items I need for the cosplay,” said Schoon.

The draw of cosplay is the costume of course, but the process of picking a character isn’t always simple. Lots of factors contribute to choosing just the right character to become. 

Elaine Brustkern poses in full cosplay at the Hyvee Hall convention center in Des Moines.

“It’s not about the popularity or budget. It’s mostly about if I like the character design a lot. But usually, it’s mostly about [how impactful the character is]. I usually connect to characters I can relate to hard-core and that I think are really cool,” said Elaine Brustkern, junior.  

Brustkern, who went to her first convention -a social gathering for people who enjoy cosplay and the media that influences it- last year, began with buying pieces of her cosplays and then later moved to create pieces for her costumes like Gavin. Along with the creative draw to cosplay, Brustkern also explained that what got her really into cosplay was the important role it plays in improving her mental health. 

“It pulls me through dark times. Sometimes I’ll be in a depressive mood and usually cosplay gets me out of that because I sort of become a character,” Brustkern said. 

This kind of mental escape is helpful to people who need a hobby that will help distract them from reality for a while because essentially, a cosplayer chooses a character they can identify best with or who they wish they could be and they fill that character’s shoes. 

One thing is for sure: cosplay has a profound effect on those who partake in it, whether it develops a skill, creates new friendships, or helps treat personal issues. Even if it seems alien or a bit odd to some, cosplay is a vital creative outlet for people all over the world. As Schoon said, “being ‘normal’ is no fun. If I want to dress up as an anime character because it makes me happy, who is going to stop me?”