Mention the Chinese shopping site Taobao to any cosplayer, and it brings fond memories of cheap wigs, customized boots, and a veritable rainbow of contact lenses. It has become an indispensable tool for cosplayers who are dead-set on having a screen-accurate outfit, without having to break the bank.
On the other hand, there are people who see Taobao as a lazy man’s cosplay shop — a hellhole of stolen cosplayer photos, shoddy merchandise, and badly-constructed ready-to-wear costumes that probably costs more to ship than to make. Is Taobao encouraging laziness, and killing cosplay creativity?
Taobao is a great resource for cosplayers — let’s face it, not even the most dedicated cosplayers hand-make every part of their costume. You may be a brilliant seamstress — but that doesn’t mean you are also a serviceable cobbler. Why bother making a pair of pumps for your Queen Elsa cosplay from scratch, when there is a perfectly good pair available on the site? You can use the time and effort you saved buying the shoes, and pour it into making the perfect ice cape or practicing your make-up.
Unfortunately, human nature being what it is, when you give people an inch they will take a mile.
Some people see Taobao as a shortcut to fame and fortune by way of cosplay. They think that they can just grab their credit card, make a few clicks, and then wear a ready-made costume to a competition (and try to win!). Wearing a ready-made costume to attend an event or to hold a photoshoot is one thing, but the moment you try to con prize money from an event with a Taobao costume — that makes you a liar and a thief >.>
Personally, I have nothing against Taobao and people who source their cosplay materials from the site. I happen to think it’s a great tool to have today, since in the early days of cosplay people just had to make do with what they had. But don’t you think that is also a harmful in a way? Instead of pushing the boundaries of cosplay as a craft, most people would rather buy the premade stuff off the site instead.
TLDR Taobao is both a good thing and a bad thing — a tool that can either be used to benefit the art of cosplay, or to undermine cosplay craftsmanship and cheapen the hobby; it all depends on the person using it.