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Closet cosplay: Everyday expressions of science fiction and fantasy fandom among women

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Some American science fiction and fantasy (SF&F) female fans participate in Cosplay or costume play, the global practice of dressing in costume and performing fictional characters from popular culture. Cosplay is typically only socially sanctioned at conventions and other fan events, leaving fans searching for new ways to express their fandom in everyday life. Closet cosplay is one solution in which everyday clothing and accessories can be worn to express fandom. The motivations for wearing everyday fan fashion have been only briefly mentioned by other authors or studied within limited social contexts. Therefore, the purpose of this research was to explore SF&F female fans' participation in closet cosplay as it is worn in everyday contexts. An exploratory qualitative study was conducted using a social interactionist perspective, and Sarah Thornton's concept of subcultural capital and Pierre Bourdieu's theory of cultural capital. Semi-structured, online interviews were conducted with sixteen participants who wore closet cosplay related to SF&F films and/or television series, which included Star Wars, Marvel Comics, DC Comics, Disney films, Harry Potter and anime fandoms like Sailor Moon (1995‐2000). The interview data were analysed using NVivo qualitative analysis software and the constant comparison method. Two themes emerged from the data: the definition of closet cosplay and motivations for wearing closet cosplay. Through examining these themes, it was evident that female SF&F fans used closet cosplay to express a salient fan identity, which enabled them to simultaneously gain subcultural capital and feminized cultural capital.
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Keywords: closet cosplay; cosplay; fandom; fandom dress; fangirl; sci-fi/fantasy

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: 0000000106637289 Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (VA Tech) 2: 0000000106627451 Louisiana State University

Publication date: January 1, 2020

More about this publication?
  • Fashion, Style & Popular Culture is a peer-reviewed journal specifically dedicated to the area of fashion scholarship and its interfacings with popular culture. It was established to provide an interdisciplinary environment for fashion academics and practitioners to publish innovative scholarship in all aspects of fashion and popular culture relating to design, textiles, production, promotion, consumption and appearance-related products and services. Articles related to history, manufacturing, aesthetics, sourcing, marketing, branding, merchandising, retailing, technology, psychological/sociological aspects of dress, style, body image, and cultural identities, as well as purchasing, shopping, and the ways and means consumers construct identity as associated to Fashion, Style & Popular Culture are welcomed. The journal offers a broad range of written and visual scholarship and includes works done through various methods of research. We welcome conceptual, theoretical and translational applied research in the areas of fashion, style and popular culture. This journal hopes to stimulate new discussions in the fashion disciplines and to push the envelope of scholarship by welcoming new and established scholars to submit their works.

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