The Asia Institute Tasmania supported the opening of the Fashioning Play: Cosplay, Costume and Recreation Exhibition by Dr Emerald King, Victoria University, New Zealand. The exhibition is currently on display in the Morris Miller Library, University of Tasmania.
Most scholarship on cosplay starts with a definition of the word (costume+play) and how it was coined by Nobu Takahasi in the 1980s, followed by a question as to whether or not the hobby is something Japanese, something made in America, or a little bit of both. It will focus on the cosplay practitioners, asking what they are seeking to escape from in their everyday lives, before adding a few noxious comparisons to Lolita and other Japanese street fashions.
One glaring absence though, is a discussion of the costumes made and worn by costume practitioners at anime and popular cultural events, meet ups, online chatrooms, and photoshoots.
Unlike costumes worn on stage and screen, a successful cosplay costume needs to be able to convey character and accuracy at first glance. The didactic character information and backstory revealed through words and pictures, must be done so through fabric and embellishment choices. These are then are displayed on a body that might be bound, tucked, plucked, and padded; an altered body for an altered reality.
This exhibition presents costumes made from 2007-2017 by one Australian cosplayer, who, after various twists and turns, has also become an MC, event organiser, cosplay judge, national cosplay champion (MNCC 2016), and publishing academic.
Some of the costumes and objects on display will be well known to members of the Tasmanian cosplay community (shoes of death!). While others, such as the collection of (badly drawn) sketches provide insight into the construction process.
The exhibition will be on display during October and November, 2017.
Emerald L King is a lecturer in Japanese at the Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand. She graduated from UTAS in 2012 and was the DigiVisiPop (now TasPop) treasurer for 2008-2009. She is currently a visiting scholar at UTAS and will take up a new position at LaTrobe University in February next year.
Find her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram @emeraldlking.