The rapid growth in the number of people cosplaying since the 1990s has made the phenomenon a significant portion of pop culture in most places across the world. Cosplay events have outgrown being parts in other conventions and now it even has dedicated local and international competitions. But cosplay is most popular in Japan and other places in Asia. And if you don't believe me, a new Twitter trend should prove it to you. The Japanese hashtag #レイヤーのオンとオフ (which roughly translates to "with and without the layer") has people sharing before-and-after pics of their best transformations and it's crazy how good some of them are.
According to an article by the Artifice, the origins of cosplay in North America start around the 1930s. Initially dubbed as 'costuming,' it didn't require participants to mimic the appearance of a particular character. Rather, they simply were expected to dress appropriately for the genre, which is what Forrest J. Ackerman did in his futuristic costume when he attended a sci-fi convention.
Reportedly, he was the first attendee to show up in costume, so in the following years, similar conventions began to look like masquerade balls. They eventually even started giving out prizes to whoever had the 'best costume.'
The term 'cosplay' is said to have been invented in 1984. Combining the words 'costume' and 'play,' Japanese reporter Nobuyuki Takahashi is credited for its first use after he attended Worldcon in Los Angeles. When translating the word 'masquerade' to the Japanese audience, he thought that the word sounded 'too old-fashioned' and used 'cosplay' to describe the concept.
Now, although many cosplayers participate just for fun, there are some who do it to earn a living. For example, one of the cosplay celebrities, Jessica Nigri, became popular when her 'Sexy Pikachu' costume was posted on the Internet and she has been appeared in conventions as the official cosplay model for numerous characters since. These include Connor Kenway (Assassin's Creed III), Vivienne Squall (KILLER IS DEAD), and the female version of Captain Edward Kenway (Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag). Her fandom has grown exponentially, as she has Facebook fan pages, Tumblrs, and a subreddit dedicated entirely to her work. Social media platforms have provided cosplayers like Jessice even more opportunities to monetize their transformations.