Cosplay Tutorials

Cutting Corners on Cosplay

Today’s article is on how to do cosplay without spending a ton of money and time. (Time may be more scarce than money at Cornell.) It’s also got useful stuff for people just learning the art of sewing.

1) Figure out exactly what the costume is.

Make a list of items that you need, and get some pictures or screenshots to help you remember what they look like, even if you know the show really well. You probably also want to get colors of the items. A trick my friend recommended is tracing the seam lines in dark ink on a screenshot; or possibly tracing and/or drawing a line drawing of the costume with the seams, to get an idea of what it looks like without irrelevant details distracting you. If you’re sewing something, check and recheck the measurements, and unless you’re really comfortable with sewing, you probably want some sort of pattern. And my personal tip; always give your self wiggle room with the fabric, either by making it slightly too big or having very large amounts of material at hems and seams. It’s a lot easier to make something smaller than make it bigger.

2) Salvation Army is friend.

As are flea markets, as are thrift stores. If you can find clothing similar to what your character wears for a decent price, it’s almost always worth it, even if you have to do some alterations. It’s likely cheaper than sewing the item, and it’s far faster. Note: just make sure the item of clothing will work before you pull apart the seams; it’s hard to return after you’ve destroyed it. For example, in my Edward Elric cosplay, the only thing I made from scratch was his coat. His boots, undershirt, pants, shirt and belt were all bought, and only that shirt even needed altering. Make sure your pieces match though, and sometimes the simplest costumes are the hardest. L from Death Note does require a little bit more effort than scavenging at Wal-Mart.

3) Coats, cloaks, and robes are surprisingly useful.

If you’re cosplay has a large, encompassing outerwear, you can probably get away with a high quality outerwera and lower quality in the layers of clothing below that. Good examples of this are Edward Elric’s coat, Genjo Sanzo’s robes, Kamiya Karou’s outer kimono, Kino’s coat. Of course, some cosplay’s aren’t suited to this, but its a useful cheat when you can use it.

4) Ignore all the accessories you can.

Now keep in mind, I’m telling you how to cut corners. Given the chance, go all out with accessories; they’re fun! But if you’re Ed Elric wearing gloves and a long shirt, you don’t need to make his metal arm. However, there are some accesories that you have to make if you’re doing cosplay, such as Wolfwood’s cross-punisher. Use your best judgement as to which type is which.

5) Hair.

Getting your hair to match your character’s is always a pain. As far as I can tell, there are a couple different ways to deal with it. First, you could buy a wig. If the hair is really important to the character, you paln on reusing the costume or you’re really precise, it might be worth buying a wig. I’ve never done so, because I’ve heard they’re expensive, finiky, difficult to maintain and can still look rather fake. (Keeping in mind I’ve never bought a wig) You can also decide on a cosplay based on the hair’s suitability, and then gel and/or dye your own hair. This might also work. The biggest problem is if you plan to reuse the cosplay and you want to change your hairstyle (for example, my hair has grown a foot since I made my Sanzo costume). Finally, what I usually do, is take it with a grain of salt. Pin your hair and gel it and dye it (temporarily) within an inch of its life, but don’t worry overmuch if it’s too long, or too short, or curly instead of straight. You’re just having fun; any one who starts to bug you about your costume really needs a life of their own. A tip: if you’re spray dying your hair, do it before you put on your costume. I didn’t, and the back of my Kenshin costume is now red on top of blue. And while it’ll likely wash out, you’ll still be spending the day with part of your wonderful cosplay the wrong color. The spray in dye also sometimes leeches onto clothing just by being in contact with it, so be careful. And make sure to give yourself lots of time to do hair, cause you’re never gonna get it just right the first time.

6) Go cosplaying in a group.

Oddly enough, this helps. It doesn’t improve the quality of your costume, obviously, but being with a group of friends that are just as oddly dressed as I am always makes me less self-concious.

So there you go! 6 Tips for cutting corners on cosplay. Note: there is an art to producing a brilliant cosplay in anything from 24 hours to 30 minutes. That’s a different skill set entirely, usually requiring many many years of cosplay experience (and leftovers), and I’ve not yet mastered it.

3 replies on “Cutting Corners on Cosplay”

Re: Salvation Army

Cosplay snobs will disagree with you there. I suggested this once to someone–that simple items could be obtained 2nd hand–and got to sit through a diatribe about how I clearly understood *nothing* about cosplay and was ruining it, just *ruining* it, for everyone who did.

Re: Salvation Army Snobs
Ness says “Hi!”

I’ve heard that armor could be made out of cardboard and that it could look quite good, but I do not have any first hand experience dealing with cardboard armor. Does anyone care to elaborate on this?


A good way to go with cardboard armor is to make the basic form from the cardboard and then cover it with a second material. If you’re going for leather armor, for example, you could cover it in pleather, while metallic armor could be spray painted, covered in aluminum tape, or even covered in a metallic lame. Making the form of the armor itself is pretty much just the same as working with a stiff fabric in terms of technique. In fact, in the West, tailored clothing is a direct descendant of armor making. Look online for information on close-tailoring for an idea of how to seam western armor. Japanese armor, on the other hand, tends to be made out of narrow strips held together with cord. Again, check on line for resources on this subject and just substitute the cardboard for your material.

Sorry for the rambling, but since your question was a little vague I tried to hit on a bunch of points. Hope they were helpful!

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