What is cosplay. The forms of cosplay and definition.
There are many misundestandings on cosplay. Even on Wikipedia there is some incomplete and wrong information on the subject. So lets start with what cosplay really is.
Cosplay is derived from Costume Play. Literally this is nothing more than dressing up and play. Unlike what some claim, you can cosplay any character you like and not just a Japanese anime or manga character.
No, cosplay is more general. Any character can be an inspiration. If you love fantasy, you can dress up as an elf or an orc. Do you like a certain time in history or do you admire an historical figure, do not mind to look up the clothing and costumes of the era and play it.
It does not matter if you want to be a Gothic vampire, a Lord of the Rings character or a robot, since it is all cosplay. Some play one character and stick to that. Some use different costumes according to the occasion. But all do spend a lot of time and/or money to have the finest, most authentic costume possible.
Of course, those who love manga and anime more likely dress up as an anime or manga character.
So all is possible and on most Renaissance Faires and Science Fiction Conventions, a lot is allowed. Yes, there might be restrictions. Some Faires only allow historic or fantasy subjects and are not into Sci-Fi. An Example is the Dutch Castlefest: on this occasion dressing up as a Jedi from Star Wars might be not be recommended, but on Elf Fantasy Faire, you see fairies and Storm Troopers escorting princess Leia together.
Of course you will also have specific anime conventions, for those who only dress up anime and still think cosplay is exclusive for them.
Some Conventions might also be more into Science Fiction and many participants might be dressed up as characters from Sci-Fi series or movies.
Another kind of cosplay, is LARP, or Live Action Role Play. This is a role play like Dungeons and Dragons, in which you do not play with your characters on a board, but you dress up like the characters and play them yourself, so you are not just playing the game, but you are in the game.
So it is a myth that cosplay can only be done with anime and manga characters. Fact is cosplay can be any type of dress-up event. Sending your kids out to trick and treat on Halloween can already be a form of cosplay.
Kids do in naturally by dressing up to play a princess, a cow boy or an Indian. If you ever did that, you already cosplayed. But some people do not grow out of it and there is no maximum age to attend events that allow cosplay.
So it is not only a hobby, but for many also a way of life. You save and work up to that one specific event, this one moment you can be whoever or whatever you like to be.
Many spend long hours or lots of money to make or buy the best possible costume for their character on the event. And when it is over, you dream of the next one.