Every summer, thousands upon thousands of people pack their suitcases to head to San Diego, California, for Comic-Con.
Sometimes that's a challenge: Many of those suitcases contain a costume packed underneath their daytime clothing (or, perhaps the costume IS their daytime clothing).
Convention costumes can be an all-year endeavor - some attendees have a different costume for every day of the con. And even as cosplayers walk the show floor, they may already be thinking of how to assemble the fantastic costumes they will wear next year.
Why do people cosplay? Well, it's simple. Everyone needs a hobby. And yet, it seems like there can be so many other explanations. Like, it's fun (and yes, it is). Or, there's the theory that cosplayers are just attention junkies (and yes, sometimes, we are). But just like every other human habit, there's something a bit more complex beneath the surface.
It's my experience that when a cosplayer puts on a costume, we capture a moment. In costume, we are all children again. We are joyful, open, excited, able to let go of responsibility. We also wear what makes us happy. By becoming a character that we love for a day, we transcend our own reality and enter one that we often dream of inhabiting.
Yes, it's wish fulfillment, real-life role play. We lose and find ourselves in those costumes. We stand in a sea of other people who are drawn to the same things that we are. We fit in, and at the same time, we don't. But we want to.
Underneath our costumes, we dare to reveal ourselves to the world, bit by bit. By wearing a mask, we reveal who we really are.