My love of costumes feels like it’s always been a part of me. I have this picture of me when I was three and dressed as a clown with a full face of makeup that I requested because clowns have makeup and I wanted to be accurate. This was at three, folks! I even started cosplaying at a fairly young age. I still remember being 6 or 7 and hyper focused on making screen accurate costumes for Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz or Tinkerbell from Peter Pan. I didn’t really understand at the time that this was what people call cosplay and instead just felt a calling to do my very best to really embody a character. That love of cosplay continued through my teens and into my 20s. Disney characters, sci-fi characters, Star Wars characters, original characters. It was always so much fun to work on even the smallest details.
the practice of dressing up as a character from a movie, book, or video game.
Fast forward to 2008 or so and my focus shifted quite a bit. I started caring more about representing my love of these characters within my everyday fashion. Additionally, as an avid convention goer, it was so much more comfortable to do what I called “Casual Cosplay”. Why not represent my favorite characters but in a more casual way? It made sense, too, since the spirit of the character was always what drew me in. This way, I could take my love of fashion and combine it with my personal style and create my own interpretation of the character. It’s funny, because you’d think that this style of cosplay was easier but in some ways, it was harder. Instead of copying something existing, you create something brand new. There was wit and nuance and your own personal narrative woven into this outfit. It became so much more personal in a way.
the practice of putting together an everyday outfit that is inspired by a favorite character. The outfit is meant to be reminiscent of the character and not an exact replica. Can also be called “bounding”.
I was five the first time I went to Disney World in Florida. And I was hooked. It was this magical place where everything felt like it was made for me and the ketchup was served in pretty bowls (that’s a story for another day). That’s also when I fell in love with photography. There is something about the immersive experience of theme parks that really works for my hyperactive imagination.
My mom and some of my other relatives would eventually work at Disney which would make frequent visits much more possible. With my love of casual cosplay, it only made sense that would extend to park hopping, too. Back then, we didn’t really have a name for going to the parks in an everyday outfit inspired by your favorite character. Now, we call it Disneybounding.
the practice of wearing an outfit that evokes your favorite Disney character. These styles are not cosplays, but instead are “everyday” clothes, combined in such a way as to make you look like a fashionable version of your favorite character, theme, ride or even snack.
Disneybounding combines so many things I absolutely love: casual cosplay, fashion, individual expression, photography, and Disney. Over the years, as Disneybounding has grown in popularity, my outfits have become easier to recognize, too. In part because I think I push to really lean into “casual cosplay” a bit more so that it’s not just color-blocking, but pieces you feel like these characters would wear if they went to Disney. And also, people have grown to expect it a bit more, too.
I honestly can’t imagine a trip to Disney where I am in civilian clothing now. I don’t know that it would feel right to me. What about you? Have you tried Disneybounding? Add a comment with your thoughts on this Disney-specific casual cosplay.