Four Essential Cosplay Tips for Beginners

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What is cosplay? Although there are many niches and styles, cosplay is short for costume play. In today’s culture, it’s most often showcased at pop culture conventions, where fans attend disguised as their favorite characters. Some costumes are identical to the character’s onscreen representation, and others may provide a unique take on the character by swapping the gender, culture, era, etc.

Tackling your first cosplay can be intimidating, especially if you don’t already have friends in the community to guide you. Just because it’s intimidating doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try, though! You can do it, and these tips can help you do it with less drama, frustration, and NC-17 language.

Budget for Your FULL Cosplay

The first – and greatest – mistake anyone makes when planning a cosplay is bad budgeting. Even if you’re well off, you probably know how much you are willing to pay for a costume (or, at least, the first iteration of a costume). Your look will grow and refine itself as you attend more events, get more practice, and swap out pieces for higher-quality garb. A budget ensures you have the bones of your costume together for your first public appearance.

But why is a budget so important? Can’t you just figure out how much you’ll pay for fabric and notions, or how much commission you’ll pay for someone to sew your dress/pants/garb? Actually, no – because cosplay is all about the accessories. In addition to, say, a dress or robe, you’ll need at least a few of the following:

  • Shoes
  • Wig
  • Makeup
  • Prosthetics
  • Jewelry
  • Prop weapons
  • Belts and bandoleers
  • Hat
  • Gloves
  • Fun “surprises” like candy to offer as No-Face or little bags of tea from the Mad Hatter

A budget lets you shop with confidence. Once you figure out how much your main pieces cost, you have a roadmap. This also helps you prioritize what to buy or make first. Remember, you can always add to your cosplay later. We all start somewhere.

Start Early

You have mad crafting skills, and you’re sure you can throw together that Sailor Moon costume in a week. Maybe you can, but any cosplayer who has stayed up all night before a con will tell you – you have less time than you think.

Sewing projects always come with surprises, and they usually aren’t the fun kind. The same goes for props, elaborate headpieces, and simple little things that really, really ought to work but just won’t cooperate. Give yourself time to do your best work. Begin as early as humanly possible. You’ll thank yourself later.

Don’t Be Afraid of “Creative” Solutions

We all dream of perfect seams that flow in straight lines that definitely won’t fall apart when someone tugs on them, that are definitely held together with thread and not duct tape. That said, a ton of the best cosplays you see on the convention floor carry many sneaky secrets.

Even pro cosplayers frequently resort to not just double-sided tape, but actual staples. Hot glue has a million and one uses. It works on nearly everything, dries in a flash, and holds masterpieces together – at least for the weekend.

Remember, this isn’t “cheating.” What is cosplay if not an opportunity to fudge the lines between reality and fiction? Do you really think all the armor you see is real? Cosplayers use PVC, foam, and household goods to finish their looks all the time. There is nothing shameful about a little hot glue and double-sided tape.

Keep an Emergency Repair Kit

Bad things happen to good people. Even if you play by the rules and link every seam with a proper finishing stitch, things may still fall apart – literally – at the last minute. An emergency repair kit is every cosplayer’s best friend. They’re easy to make, and they’ll save you a lot of heartache. A basic repair kit should include:

  • Needle and thread
  • Scissors
  • Glue (hot and/or super)
  • Leftover notions (buttons, gems, beads)
  • Peel and stick Velcro
  • Double-sided tape

Some of these are obvious, like needle, thread, and scissors. The notions and trim, though, often get left behind. You can pop a button or lose a rhinestone at any time throughout the weekend, so keep the extras with you. If possible, keep the double-sided tape on your person when you’re out and about. It fixes nearly everything!

Are you ready to bring your favorite character to life? Make it the best it can be, and be patient with yourself. Start work early, follow your budget, and be ready for surprises. Ultimately, the best tip anyone will ever give you is this: have fun!