Cosplay 101: So You Want to Be a Cosplayer?

Cosplay, short for “costume play,” refers to the costumed portrayal of a character from a book, film or television series. Cosplay is a great way to showcase your craftsmanship and interact with other members of your fandom, but crafting the perfect cosplay is not as easy as it looks. Here are a few do’s and don’ts for a beginner cosplayer to keep in mind.


Research thoroughly

As soon as you decide what character you’re cosplaying, start gathering reference pictures, preferably from original sources. For instance, when planning a cosplay of Loki from the Avengers, look for stills from the film or production photos of the character. It’s also a good idea to see what others’ past cosplays of that character have looked like.

Budget your money

In general, making a cosplay from scratch will be less costly than purchasing it. Materials aren’t cheap, though, particularly if you’re looking to use more heavy-duty or fancier fabrics such as velvet or brocade. Shop around. Keep an eye out for sales, and check stores’ websites and newspaper ads for coupons. Online distributors often sell items like buttons in bulk, much cheaper than buying them individually at a fabric store. Most beginners are unfamiliar with sewing or prop construction and choose instead to buy a professionally made cosplay. Keep in mind, however, that even a low-quality cosplay will typically cost between $50 and $100 (not including wigs, shoes and accessories).

…and your time

Serious cosplayers begin planning their costumes months in advance. It may seem excessive to start working on a costume three months before the convention, but you never know what could – and will – go wrong. Most cosplays purchased online are manufactured in China, Hong Kong or Japan, which means shipping could (and often does) take over a week. If the manufacturer offers resizing or other customizing services, expect to wait even longer. If you’re making the cosplay yourself, don’t try to whip the whole thing up a week before the convention. Most cosplays require several weeks to fully construct, barring any major fabric- or sewing machine-related crises.

DON'T: afraid to ask for help

When first starting out, beginners are faced with questions about everything from where to find the right wig to how to sew a French seam. No matter what problem you’re facing, chances are there’s another cosplayer out there who’s dealt with it before. Online forums are a great resource for beginners looking for advice and feedback. Checking others’ ratings of online sellers is especially helpful. You don’t want to get scammed by a seller who takes your money and never sends your cosplay, or waste $50 on a wig someone found for $20.

...worry if it’s not “perfect”

A first-time cosplay is rarely perfect. Don’t fret if your shoes don’t have the right number of buckles, or if your seams are a little crooked. Cosplay is about having fun, and as long as you’re recognizable as the character you’re portraying, your cosplay is a success.

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