I've realized that I'm involved in a group cosplay about once a year, and it got me thinking, what are the pros and cons of group cosplay?
The most obvious advantage, I think, is that I get to enjoy my hobby with my friends, instead of by myself. Now, a majority of the time, I enjoy solitude/small groups, more people usually means more drama, but it can get lonely sometimes, so occasionally being with larger groups is really fun! We can sew (read: procrastinate) together, do photoshoots together, and we have an excuse to stick together during a convention. Sometimes it's hard to stay together with bigger groups at conventions because everyone wants to do different things, but if I'm cosplaying with someone, I tend to want to stick with them.
Another advantage is that I get recognized and photographed more! My hard work gets more attention and praise! Groups of people are easier to spot than a single person, and multiple characters together make everyone more recognizable. Also when a group is stopped for a picture, they take up more space and more people notice. In addition, it's more impressive to have a whole group for some reason. It definitely takes more work to get a group together than it does to make a cosplay by yourself.
Being in a group cosplay motivates me more to finish my project than just being by myself. I feel like I have to finish or I'll let other people down. I can live with myself if I don't meet my personal goals, because if I wasn't motivated to finish them, clearly they didn't mean that much to me in the first place, but I can't stand to let other people down. Plus, I definitely know what it's like to have cosplay group members bail, and I don't want to do that to anyone. As I mentioned earlier too, it's fun to work on things together, even if progress is usually slow, at least it's progress!
On the flip-side of things, getting a cosplay group is hard. In the past, I've tried multiple times and failed miserably to get groups together. Luckily, I have a good friend who somehow manages to keep groups together, and she's kind enough to include me in them. (She always seems to suggest really good characters for me too, but that's another story.)
To start, finding people to be in a group is hard. It's best to have people who live nearby so that you can get together to help each-other out and work on things, but cosplayers seem to be scattered pretty far apart. Then you have to keep everyone together. Some people run out of funds or time, some people lose interest, and before you know it, your group of ten has dwindled down to three, and then it just dies. Or at least that's what tended to happen to me.
When I would try to keep people on-track, I always felt like I was nagging, and things no longer became fun. Keeping track of everything and everyone felt like a chore, and I lost motivation quickly. I also ended up choosing people who needed a lot of help, which was fine, but we could never coordinate schedules, and I'm horrible at giving instructions, which resulted in me doing most of the work myself (through my own fault, really).
With a group, I feel like everyone's costume has to be made out of the same materials and in the same style so that it doesn't look like we all just ran into each-other and we look like we belong together. I find that it makes the whole group look cleaner and like it had more purpose. However, in a group, no matter how tightly-knit and skilled everyone is, there are always differing sewing and crafting styles and different ways of looking at things. For example, I choose fabrics based on what the garment is intended to be, like when I cosplayed Yoko, I chose bathing suit fabric for her top, because it's supposed to be a bathing suit. (I didn't always choose fabrics this way.) I have a friend that chooses fabrics based on the way the shine, fold, hang, and move. Both are completely valid ways to choose fabric, both are "correct", and both yield beautiful results, but put the two of us together, and we could probably argue about fabric for a good hour without any results.
Did I mention drama earlier? Because I definitely meant to. Any time you get any group together, there will be drama, cosplay-related or not, it just happens. There's really not much else to say on that.
Number-wise, the drawbacks of cosplaying in a group outweigh the advantages, but life isn't a numbers game, and whether or not cosplaying with a group is "worth it" is completely up to the individual. Personally, I enjoy it about once a year, that's frequent enough for me. The rest of the time, I enjoy cosplaying with my boyfriend, the two of us managing our costumes works out well, and I can get all of the sewing done easily. The times when I cosplay by myself are fun too, I have less to work on and less to worry about in general.
I think that everyone should give group cosplay a shot at least once, because you can't know if you don't like it if you don't try it! I don't mean start a group and then give up or drop out, I mean follow it all the way through to the event where you're wearing all of your costumes. I think it's totally worth it.