Kennen from League of Legends, a.k.a. the author's son

Kennen from League of Legends, a.k.a. the author’s son

My fifteen-year-old son cosplayed at Supanova in Melbourne this weekend. Looking at all the photos and vicariously feeling the excitement, I got a bit envious. When I was a teen in small-town New Zealand in the 1980’s, cosplay wasn’t even a thing (“back in my day”, we had something called “fancy dress”), but I would have been all over it if it was.

I got to thinking – if I decided to take up cosplay at the ripe old age of 46, what are my options? I know that the correct answer to that is, “Anything you damn well like.” But I’ve seen those vicious memes ridiculing plus-size cosplaying women, and I’ve no desire to become the age-discriminatory equivalent (plus I’m no size zero, so I run the risk of a double whammy – old AND fat.) Even Google thinks it’s a dodgy idea; I get as far as “Women over 40 cos” and the auto complete goes, “Nope, I’ve got nothing.” (Type in “too old to cosplay”, and it’s a different story. To the 23-year-olds who are questioning whether they’re too old to cosplay – stop it. You’re making me cry.)

So – let’s think about the middle-aged women in speculative fiction and popular culture. “Generic steampunk woman” seems to be a popular choice for cosplaying grandmas, probably because it demands a certain modesty (no thigh-high hem lengths or bare midriffs there) and allows for lots of intricate and aesthetically pleasing detail. “Generic zombie” is another easy option (easy, that is, if you have the skills for convincing special effects makeup). For a series primarily aimed at the young ‘uns, the world of Harry Potter abounds with distinctive older women – Professors McGonagall and Trelawny, Mrs Weasley, Belatrix Lestrange, Olympe Maxime (if you’re old and tall) – both heroes and villains. Star Trek gives us Captain Janeway. Doctor Who has River Song. George R.R. Martin’s Game of Thrones includes Cersei Baratheon, Catelyn Stark and Olenna Tyrell, although making a decent representation of these costumes would be challenging due to their famously detailed design.

Proto-cosplay, circa 1984

Proto-cosplay, circa 1984

Throwing the question open to the Facebook Hive Mind, I got several suggestions from the hitherto-unconsidered realm of horror movies – Ellen Ripley from Aliens, Dahlia Gillespie from Silent Hill, and Lila Crane from Psycho 2. Other ideas were Cruella de Ville, Oracle from The Matrix, and a significant rumble of approval from the menfolk for James Bond’s M.

Crossplay – cross gender cosplay – is becoming increasingly popular, so if I look to the world of male characters, my horizons expand considerably. Or I could always choose a costume that requires a mask (Planet of the Apes, anyone?) and voluminous robes, thus making my age and gender irrelevant.

When I first started thinking about it, my options seemed woefully limited. But now, it seems, I have little excuse for not cosplaying. Front-running ideas so far are River Song (I already have the hair), Professor Trelawny (put a brush through my curls, and I’ll have the hair), and Belatrix Lestrange (the hair is only a wig away, and the look appeals to my closet goth. Plus I’m a big fan of Helena Bonham Carter).

I’ll leave the penultimate word to Carol Holaday, a 56-year-old cosplayer from California. She writes on her blog Senior Cosplay:

“Okay, so maybe this year I was the oldest and saggiest Harley Quinn at the Con, but that was only on the outside. Underneath the lukewarm grandma exterior was a smokin’ hot 19-year-old playing a fabulous comic book character. As unrealistic as that may seem, it is how many of us internally think of ourselves as we get older.”

Well, if unrealistic thoughts are the key to senior cosplay, then this should be a cinch, because they’re my stock in trade.


  1. Janet says:

    I was Granny Weatherwax at the 2016 MCM London Comic Con. I was stopped about every few minutes for a photograph, and that didn’t include the ones who didn’t ask. It was great fun.

  2. Kim Kouski says:

    Hi Tracie! I’ve 51 and I still cosplay. I fell in love with it around 45 years old. I was at a Medieval faire and loved the costumes. So I made my own She elf gown and wore it the next year. I had a lot of compliments. The problem is the weather. Hot, Hot, Hot, Hot!! So I’m making a shorter dress to wear as a she elf Other Character. You can basically go as anything you want. Just make sure you like that character and that you know a lot about him/her. As long as you enjoy doing it, you should be fine. Don’t let the “I”m too old” nonsense hit you. It will hit you. But I will tell you, the younger folks do love seeing us older folks Dressed up. I’m not sure why, but they love it. So just have fun. And also remember, HOT FLASHES!! Yikes!! I dress cooley for the simple reason I get those hot flashes and I”m striping off the jackets.

    • Kim Kouski says:

      Oh and don’t compete with the 20 somethings, just be yourself. I love wearing gowns or looking girley girl fu-fu. I don’t care about sexy, I care about elegance. It is fun though to see some 20 something gals being a little envious. Us over 40 gals have the confidence and we don’t play games. We aren’t afraid or hesitate to do a contest, or take over a stage. YEap, that makes it worth it.

  3. Steph says:

    I am a 44 yr old mom who cosplays with my kids. Doctor Who has a lot more than just River Song! Missy, Mme Kovarian (which is who I play since I wear an eyepatch anyway), any of the Almost People, the prime minister, the mom from family of blood (if you are built like her…especially if you have a son who can play Baines), the scarecrows from family of blood, of course cybermen, daleks, the tech who moisturizes Cassandra, etc.

    I would love to go as Nova Prime from Guardians of the Galaxy, but not sure if I am going to go as her or as Mme Kovarian again (I have worn that several times) OR the Arbiter from Halo or a destiny character 🙂

  4. Lisa says:

    I started cosplaying while escorting my daughters and their frends. My first cosplay came when I remembered there were a lot of generic peasants in video games. “You can be a NPC!” the kids said. A Non Playable Character. So I wore my Ren Faire outfit, with success. (Note: I am working on upgrading it to Mother Earth). And that means I get more use out of my ren fair clothes 🙂

    Next was Kokiri, the mom in Kiki’s Delivery Service. An unexpected bonus was a lot of Kikis were happy to see their mom.

    My next was the fourth Doctor Who – the one I grew up with. My next version is a female one.

    Now I’m getting more into Steampunk – a whole new set of dressup!

  5. Melli says:

    Thank you for the giggle! You’re a brilliant writer & a cool Mom! I just adored this Article & will be in Artist Ally at NashiCon this weekend. Now, I want to dress up! Time to go shopping!
    Fantastic read!

    💚 ~ Melli ( founder of Zombeiz LLC )

  6. subWOW says:

    I found your post by searching Cosplay for older women. I love you. That’s all I got to say, for now. Off to Chicago comic con today sans costume. But if I ever get to the San Diego one? It’d be almost a crime against myself ( the 19 year old one) to not even give it a try, right?

    • San Diego Comic-Con – that’s like the Holy Grail to us Aussies.! 😉 Absolutely, it would be a crime not to cosplay for that one. Maybe we could put together a blog hop for the occasion…

  7. my daughter (16, as Giselle from Enchanted) and I (58, as Prof. Minerva McGonnagall) just did WonderCon.. It was fantastic, fun, exhausting, and we both had many, many pictures taken of us by both fans and professionals! I would highly recommend you give it a try. I wish I had gone to the cons in the 70’s, but was too shy. We met many new friends, and a number of family cosplayers. We kept our costs down by thrifting parts of the costumes, and sewing ourselves. I just made sure we both had comfortable shoes (not the 5″ stilletos some of the girls wore!). We are planning to go to Anime Expo next!

    • The rest of the family are pretty keen, so it’s highly likely we will give it a go. Lucky my son has done a few cosplays – he can give us tips on things we might not otherwise think about (like wearing comfortable shoes, and having a portable repair kit on hand for emergency costume repairs).

  8. nimslake says:

    I think you should do what you love. And if you can inspire while you are doing it, more power to the path.

    I remember ‘fancy dress’ and was quite envious of cosplay as it has come to be. Although I don’t have the drive for devotion to go out cosplay stow, I do for Halloween.

    I say “Go girl”! Do what you love.

    • Thanks for the encouragement! It does look like a major undertaking – costume pieces can be expensive if you’re not handy at making things, and then there’s the expense of the tickets, travelling to the venue, queueing to get in, walking around all day in what might turn out to be impractical garments for all-day wear (you never can tell for sure until you’ve road tested it…). Halloween, though, sounds like the perfect occasion to dip my toe into the cosplay waters.

      • nimslake says:

        Great way to ‘test drive’ outfits. Practicality and comfort!
        Well I did Elvira and nothing practical or comfortable but sure was sexy! 🙂

  9. Krista says:

    If you need moral support at the next Supanova or OzComicon, I am SO there! 😉

    • Thanks! How much would the girls love it if both families went and cosplayed? Armageddon is coming up later this year, apparently, and Declan is keen for us all to go – as long as we don’t stand next to him and look like we know him or anything.;-)

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