Tips for a Thrifty Cosplay Experience (Episode I)

9:41 pm HelenLJohnson 0 Comments

Cosplay, like many hobbies can become very expensive, very quickly! Whether that be a whole costume bought from a commissioner or a costume made from scratch, you will find that your fantastic new hobby can make you bank account weep.

We don't want that do we?

However if you think ahead a little, cosplay can be much more affordable as you continue to grow your new skill set. This list will predominately feature tips that involve making your own costume, as often this will be the cheapest way to cosplay. Actually there is tip number one!

Tip #1: Make rather than buy your cosplay

I would advice if you have the skills and time available to sew a costume and/or make your own props, then certainly do that. Not only is this very rewarding when everything comes together, but it also saves a lot of money and doubts on online ordering. It might mean quite a bit of googling and a few scraps of fabric/foamboard/make up et cetra going to waste as you try things out, but you will be learning skills that could help you save money on later cosplays. This is especially true in regards to props as a lot of time and effort goes into commissioned prop work. 

However if you really don't have the time or available skill set to make your desired cosplay, then prioritise elements of the costume and research how much each would be to buy. List up what you may be able to make in time and buy pieces to compliment it. This may mean buying a dress to modify and then buying a hand crafted sword from a commissioner. Leading on nicely to my next money savvy cosplay tip...

Tip #2: Choose your character carefully

Take a step back and breath. A nice deep, long gulp of air. Done? Now think, who do I want to cosplay? Who would I like to transform into, whose personality do I admire? Hell, whose outfit do I bloody adore? This is your starting point. If you invest on a personal level in a character then you are much more likely to continue your cosplay even if things get tough; and you are much more likely to wear it multiple times. So even if you do spend quite a bit of money making it, you will end up saving money in the long term rather than making a new costume for each convention. It wouldn't be thrown together, instead it would truly represent your interests on your newly hemmed sleeve.

What if your dream cosplay is, lets say Carmilla from Vampire Hunter D: Blood Lust?
Cosplayer: Yaya Han

 Perhaps out the realms of many beginner and novice cosplayers (and I am including myself in that!), you shouldn't see this as a 'never-to-be' cosplay because of the amount of time, skill and money it would take to make. It is an 'aim-to-be' cosplay; again it is thinking long-term rather than short-term to save money. If you know that the character you want to create has a horrendously complicated outfit that would cost hundreds in materials, then you can either:

a) Make the cosplay over a long period of time if you are confident in your skills. Broken over the course of a year or 18 months, a costume such as Carmilla is much easier on the both the financial and time bank.This is a particularly good idea if you have been cosplaying for a while as you can rely on older costumes to wear while making your 'big one'. You maybe even fall back in love with some forgotten ones from a simpler time!

b) Break the costume down and think of other characters that have something similar that you could practice your technique to avoid wasting materials on the 'aim-to-be' cosplay. For example you could start with trying out a basic Lolita dress:
Then move on to a Disney Princess:
Cosplayer: Ryoko

These could be sold on to replenish some funds. Even if it is only enough to buy another wig; it is better than starting right back at the beginning. Great sites for doing this is etsy, eBay, and a new site called Costrader ( which is rather like eBay for cosplay! You could also try convention pages on facebook as often people will sell old costumes on there knowing that there is a guaranteed target audience.
Finally for this episode, tip number three...
Tip #3: Don't be afraid of the closet or Primark cosplay
Now I understand that readers from outside the UK and Europe may not know what Primark is. Basically it is a low cost clothing retailer that is fantastic for picking up cheap basics. For my Tomb Raider 2013 cosplay, I bought my vest tops from there because they were plain, cheap and nothing fancy. At a grand total of £5, I had a good quarter of costume and were perfect for trashing up. I dyed them, tea-stained them, ripped them, poured coffee on them, covered them in acrylic paint blood, fake blood and fake dirt. You know, all the fun stuff in life! 

Some characters are perfect for this off the rail style cosplay because their clothing are intrinsically simple in regards to design; such as San from Princess Mononoke and Joel and Ellie from The Last of Us.
This costume could easily be made from a plain navy blue dress (£3 in Primark) and a long white teeshirt (£3) that is maybe two sizes up from your own to get that baggy appearance. Faux fur can be quite expensive, on average £14 per metre, however you could scourer charity shops and eBay for an old coat and cut as needed. I've seen a faux fur coat being sold in a charity shop for as little as £7 and you would get much more fabric for your money.

The arm and head bands can easily be made with either elastic or scraps of fabric and the necklace could be made out of fimo clay with some cotton cord. For the boots, you could wear some slipper boots (yes Primark has them!) or even socks! 

Make up wise, you could use red lipstick for the facial decoration and simple make up for the rest. No SFX needed! Even if you have long hair and don't want to buy a wig, you could roll your hair up using the false bob technique. 

For the dagger, this can easily be made from foamboard. I paid £2.50 for an A3 sheet at my local art store, so this would leave plenty of room for trial and error. The whole costume could be put together for as little as £20-£25.

 Something like The Last of Us is a perfect for a closet cosplay. You may already have a red teeshirt in the back of your wardrobe that you could paint a pattern on and distress; and almost everyone has a pair of jeans!

Same goes for Joel's outfit. Very simple, but when put together with some care it can be just as effective on the con floor as on your bank balance.

So that is it for this first episode in Thrifty Cosplay, next time we will move onto shopping. Where, when and how to buy. Hopefully you'll have found something interesting and join me again in another post :).