The fan tradition of dressing up has a long history, dating back to American science fiction conventions in the 1960s and 1970s at which fans wore outfits from series such as Star Trek or Star Wars. Another subtype of fan costumes in Western culture is inspired by the tradition of Renaissance fairs and historical reenactment, as well as later practices such as live-action role-playing, in which enthusiasts base costumes on certain historical periods or genres and combine them with performances. The term cosplaying was coined in the 1980s by the game designer Takahashi Nobuyuki when he encountered the costuming practices of American fans on a visit to the United States (Bruno 2002; Winge 2006, 66–67). In Japan, cosplay has become very prominent. Many Western fans nowadays learn about costuming not through science fiction or fantasy genres, but through Japanese fiction. As a fan practice, cosplay is associated with Japanese fans of anime (cartoons), manga (comics), and games, who are called otaku (Hills 2002; Kinsella 1998). Fans usually wear their costumes in specific settings, such as during particular events at conventions (e.g., competitions, fashion shows), or as props for fan videos. In contrast to definitions that argue that cosplay involves outfits inspired by Japanese fiction, I do not exclude the more Western variants that flourish in science fiction and fantasy fan communities.

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