Cosplayers and Observers: A Guide to Basic Etiquette at Conventions

(This post is one of a few projects made for the Nova Southeastern University class WRIT 5400.)

Conventions are wonderful events where dedicated geeks/nerds and casual fans alike can come together to see all sorts of cool things. There are (usually) awesome actors signing autographs, mountains of merchandise that make your money disappear, and thousands of people of all shapes and sizes. If a convention is done right, everyone will have a good time, leaving with lots of fond memories and sweet con swag. However, there are certain rules of decency you must abide by if you are hoping to have a good time at a convention and not put others in a bad mood.

Today’s topic of discussion revolves around 2 particular types of people: Cosplayers (those who come to conventions dressed in a costume based on their favorite character) and Observers (basically everyone besides those whom are cosplaying at a convention). This will by no means be an extensive list regarding every single possible situation regarding the previously mentioned two types of people. It is limited to my knowledge and experiences I have had personally. Still, these are some basic rules to follow if you would like to come off as a decent human being at a convention.

First, we shall address the Observers.

If you would like to take a picture of the cosplayer, DO ask the cosplayer politely. In my experience, most cosplayers are very happy to pose for a picture. However, if the cosplayer looks busy in some way (such as eating, talking with a booth operator, is on the phone, etc.), it’s probably best to leave them alone until they are finished with their task. Nobody likes being interrupted. If you simply must ask them for a picture while they’re doing something, ask them if they mind posing for it when they are done. However, if they say no, DO NOT keep pestering them about it. Simply compliment their outfit and walk away. Sometimes they simply are not in the mood to take a picture.

        Some examples of things you can say:

        “I love your costume! Mind if I get a picture of it?”

        “Can I get a picture posing with you?”

DO be polite in general when talking to a cosplayer. If you wish to compliment their costume in some way, do so in a respectful manner. It is also fine to ask them questions about their costume if you’re confused about either who they are or how they put certain parts of it together.

        Some examples of things you can say:

        “Wow, did you put that together yourself? You look great!”

        “Are you supposed to be [insert character from movie/tv

         show/anime/book/whatever  here]? Awesome!”

        “Hey, I like your costume! How were you able to put that together?”

DON’T be a jerk to the cosplayer. It is important to remember that, no matter what they are wearing, they are still HUMANS. If you don’t like their costume, there’s no need to tell them. As the saying goes, if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.

        Some examples of things to avoid saying:

        “Ugh, you SO don’t look like [insert character here]. You’re MUCH too

        [insert insult here].”

        “If that’s supposed to be [insert character here], your costume sucks because I hate

         [insert title of work where character comes from].”

        “Your costume really sucks and you should feel bad for making something stupid.”

DON’T be creepy when talking to a cosplayer. At a convention, flirting may or may not be appropriate depending on the situation. However, it is important to NOT make the other person feel uncomfortable or disturbed. There may be times where the cosplayer you wish to compliment is underage or is significantly younger than you.  If this is the case, this rule should be enforced twice as hard.  Remember: COSPLAY IS NOT AND WILL NOT EVER BE CONSENT.

        Some examples of things you should avoid saying:

        “I bet that costume would look better on my bedroom floor.”

        “Is that [insert character here]? I totally wanted to

        [insert inappropriate sexual fantasy here].”

        “That costume makes you look like a [slut/skank/whore/other inappropriate words]!”

DON’T poke, prod, grab, snatch, grip, jab, nudge, hit, or otherwise touch the cosplayer or their costume in any way without consent. First of all, it is a heavy invasion of their personal space. Secondly, some costumes may be very fragile if touched in the wrong way. Trust me, you do not want to be the reason something breaks that someone put a lot of thought and effort into making. Again: COSPLAY IS NOT CONSENT.

Observers, if there’s one thing you should always remember when going to cons, it is this: COSPLAY IS NOT NOR WILL IT EVER BE AUTOMATIC CONSENT FROM THE COSPLAYER. Keep this in mind at all times and you should be fine!


Now, we shall address those Cosplayers out there going to a convention.

Most of these are tips rather than rules of etiquette, but they are still important to note:

Wear something comfortable and easy to transport. Remember, conventions often get crowded with people who are all trying to get from one place to another at all times. Conventions can get hot and tiring. At the end (or sometimes in the middle) of a long day of convention fun, you may want to change into street clothes. Therefore, you may want to make sure that your costume and props are easy to carry in a bag.

When at the convention, be aware of your surroundings. Sometimes, cosplayers like to wear costumes that are big, clunky, and hard to move around in. If you’re not aware of the dimensions of your costume, you may find yourself often bumping into people and things that you didn’t notice before.

If an Observer asks you for a picture politely and you do not wish to take a picture at the moment, be polite about it. Some people may be impressed by the efforts you have put into your costume. In fact, many people may be impressed if it’s a particularly good costume. You may find yourself posing for pictures quite a lot throughout the day. Understandably, you may get frustrated with the process. It is important NOT to get frustrated with the Casual Observer as it may lead to an awkward situation. Instead, politely decline. Remember: It IS okay to say “no.”

        Some examples of things you can say:

        “I’m sorry but I’m running late for a panel.”

        “If it’s alright, I’m a bit tired and would rather not take a picture right now.”

If an Observer compliments your costume in a polite way, be polite back to them. If they ask you questions about your costume because they don’t understand something about it, it’s important not to get frustrated. Simply try to answer their questions as best as you can.

        Some examples of things you can say:

        “Thank you! I worked really hard on this costume.”

        “This is my favorite character from [insert title here].”

        “How did I make the wings? Well, they’re made from [insert process here].”

Follow the rules for the Observers as well. As a cosplayer, you will also run into other cosplayers at the con. Thus, you will become both a Cosplayer and a Observer to another Cosplayer. Simply follow the rules for Observer etiquette listed above.


One thought on “Cosplayers and Observers: A Guide to Basic Etiquette at Conventions

  1. Pingback: Project Reflections | Richard's Weekly Journal

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