To date, I’ve successfully completed four cosplays. One of these was bought from AliExpress (ALO Asuna Yuuki or otherwise known as Undine Asuna), the other three were closet cosplays from fan art of Asuna from Sword Art Online and the 9th Doctor that I created with what I had in my closet or was bought relatively cheap. I’m no expert so take these steps as you like to make them fit your needs. If this is your first time cosplaying, I recommend reading this quick post. If this is your first convention, I’d recommend checking out this post as well!
Where do I start?
Pick a Convention and Date OR Deadline
First things first: plan the convention you’re going to attend in your cosplay. You don’t have to actually go to a convention in your cosplay but usually cosplayers will give themselves deadlines on a cosplay that they want to premiere at a certain convention. This step is totally up to you, but it would give you motivation to complete your cosplay if you have a set deadline.
Do a quick Google search to find any conventions near you. You can also check out Facebook groups in your city that may post convention information. What are the dates? How much time would you have to get your cosplay together? How much would it cost for the badge, the hotel stay, food, and spending money? Write all this information down as it’ll help you make your decision. Take into account the time of year that your schedule is open as well as appropriate clothing for the weather.
Give yourself plenty of time!
Pick a Character
Cosplayers pick characters for any number of reasons. They can be your favorite character, one you look like, one you can relate to, one that your friends are doing a group cosplay of, one you just like how they look, etc. You don’t even HAVE to have a reason for the character you picked. It’s all about fun, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise!
The one thing you should take into account when picking a character is your skill. Can you sew? If not, and you’re not willing to spend a pretty penny for a complex, detailed commission, it might be best to pick a different character. Start simple, especially if this is your first cosplay!
For the sake of an example, let’s say I picked Starfire from Picolo-kun’s drawing. This is most likely something I could not buy. I could, however, get it commissioned from a reputable commissioner. Another option would be making it myself if I have the time, money, and skill. The last option would be a “closet cosplay” in which I may have some of the pieces and can buy the rest at a store.
On the flip side, let’s say I picked Megara from Hercules (shout out to Nippy13 for this image). This cosplay is definitely something I could buy already made or get commissioned. I could also make it myself. This cosplay may not be a good candidate for the closet cosplay strategy.
Gather as many reference images that you can. Look around on Google and Pinterest. Try to find turnarounds of your character so you can see the front, side, and back of the character. Most likely, you can even find cosplayers who have already done this cosplay and can look at their progress pictures.
Research every piece of your cosplay. That includes from the wig to the contacts down to the shoes. This not only helps you figure out exactly what you need, but how much you’re looking at spending. Use this opportunity to search thrift stores, online stores, Amazon, other cosplayers’ pages who have done the same cosplay, and reach out to commissioners for a quote. If you can sew, look for fabrics and patterns.
I’ll break this step down into the two cosplays I used as examples to let you see how I approach it as I have almost zero sewing ability. If you can sew, and can sew well, you have more opportunities to save!
For Starfire per the artwork: We know Starfire has flaming red hair (Nina SILKY in Scarlet: $35). She has green eyes (ColourVue 3 Tones Green: $19.90). She is wearing a Letterman’s jacket (Letterman Jacket via Amazon: $28.90) with Robin’s signature R on it (R logo: $6) with a striped shirt (Striped Ribbed Tee: $9.90), jean shorts (Cuffed High-waisted Denim Shorts: $17.90) and a messenger bag (Casual Laptop Bag: $19.61) with graphics (UFO: $5.49 and Trees: $9.95) and lettering (I WANT TO BELIEVE: $5). She has a tattoo on her left thigh of a UFO and some stars (Get in Loser: $14). We can’t see her shoes so we’ll say she’s wearing sneakers (Canvas Sneakers: $10).
Potential Total: $181.65*
For Megara per the movie Hercules: She has big, curly, auburn/brown hair swooped into a ponytail with a red band (Custom Wig: $120). She has purple eyes (Princess Pinky Cloudy Violet: $28.90). She wears a Greek inspired lavender and dark purple dress with two swirly tokens at the straps (Costume: $158.30). She wears brown gladiator style sandals (Knee High Gladiator Sandals: $16.99).
Potential Total: $324.19*
*Not including taxes, shipping costs, make up, etc.! Disclaimer that of course you might already have some/most of these items in your closet or can make this, or you don’t wear contacts or wigs for whatever reason so these cost estimates do not take these kind of things into account!
Set a Budget
How much do you want to spend?
Now that you have researched the cosplay and have a cost breakdown, does it fit within how much you would like to spend? Where can you save? Where can you cut costs? This step may require more research depending on where your budget is and the cost of the cosplay you’ve already researched.
To reference back to my examples…
For Starfire, let’s say we want to ideally stay at $80: We need the correct wig and I did not find anyone selling this wig as pre-owned so I have to purchase new (Nina SILKY in Scarlet: $35). She has green eyes but I don’t like contacts so we will cut the contacts. She is wearing a Letterman’s jacket and I found a similar jacket at the thrift store for $10; Robin’s signature R (R logo: $6). Striped shirt (I own a striped shirt that will work). Jean shorts (I also own jean shorts that will work). A messenger bag (I found one at the same thrift store for $5 that needed some cleaning) with graphics that I will hand paint with fabric paint costing $10. She has a tattoo on her left thigh of a UFO and some stars (Get in Loser: $14). We can’t see her shoes so we’ll say she’s wearing sneakers (I own a pair of sneakers that will work).
Potential Total: $80*
For Megara, let’s say we have a healthy $200 budget: She has big, curly, auburn/brown hair swooped into a ponytail with a red band (I can get this pre-owned on Facebook in a cosplay group for $80). She has purple eyes but I don’t like contacts so we will save money by not purchasing those. She wears a Greek inspired lavender and dark purple dress with two swirly tokens at the straps that we happily get commissioned for $100. She wears brown gladiator style sandals (Knee High Gladiator Sandals: $16.99).
Potential Total: $196.99*
Wig: Take the time to style the wig and make sure it fits comfortably on your head. Most wigs have clasps that allow you to take it out or take it in depending on the size of your head. You can also take your wig to a stylist for cutting if you’re afraid to cut the bangs yourself. Here’s a YouTube video for how to cut a wig’s bangs. Check out more of Arda’s tutorials to find out more.
Make-up: If you aren’t sure how to do make up or are still a beginner, check out this tutorial for a natural, basic cosplay look. Here’s another you can try if the first one wasn’t what you were looking for. If you’re experienced with every day make up, check out this tutorial to take it up a notch.
Contacts: I do not wear contacts myself, but Elite Cosplay did a wonderful post on them. If you are thinking of purchasing contacts, check out Pinky Paradise or Honey Color. Just make sure to see your eye doctor first!
Shoes: Nothing is worse than standing and walking in terrible shoes all day in your amazing cosplay. Pick out comfortable base shoes if you’re DIY’ing your character’s footwear. Buy insoles, arch supports, or heel grips for flats, boots, and heels.
Bras: Make sure you are wearing the right size bra. The right size bra can give you the support and look you’re going for. For bra sizing and other tips, check out this link from Fuller Figure Fuller Bust. FFFB is a great blogger and model for any and all bra related things.
Chest Binders: Please, please, please be safe using chest binders! I’m not familiar with these myself, but I’ve taken the time to do some research for you. Zeus Pro was kind enough to break down chest binders, do’s and don’t, and where to buy them. Here is a great list of methods from cosplay.com. Please feel free to keep researching until you find what you are looking for! Be safe in whichever method you choose.
Shape-wear/Corsets: If you need or want shape-wear for your cosplay, do your research, try it on, make sure you are comfortable, and can breathe. Safety first! I’m plugging another FFFB link because she is just that amazing. Some brands for you to look into: SPANX, LipoInABox, Maidenform, Rosie Red Corsetry, Vollers Corsets, and What Katie Did. Take your time with picking out a good corset or comfortable shape-wear.
Thigh Bands: Chub rub? Thigh chafing? There’s a solution (and I’m wearing them right now!) called Bandalettes. These are a gift from God. That’s right. I said it. You can find several designs and colors on their website. I recommend the unisex style as lace has a way of tearing on me.
Dance Tights: The secret to smooth legs under any cosplay? Dance tights. I actually asked a cosplayer myself how her legs looked so magnificent in a cosplay and she let me in on the secret. She wears Capezio under most of her “leggy” cosplays, but you can find other brands and sites to buy a few packs for all your show-stopping-leg needs.
Props: Check your convention’s guidelines before you start on any prop. These rules are in place for a reason, and you don’t want to spend a lot of time on a prop that won’t be allowed into the convention. If you make your own props, choose lightweight materials. You can find several tutorials to make just about any kind of prop.
Referring back to your research, pay attention to your character’s mannerisms and how they carry themselves. Pick two to three different poses to use for photos at the convention. Pay attention to models and look at posing guides to help. Try out poses in a full length mirror to find your angles and what would translate best in a photograph.You want to bring this character to life so try your best!
Now that you have all your pieces for your cosplay, try it all on and do a test run! Go all out and properly style your wig, apply make up, and put on all the pieces of clothing. How does it look? How do you feel? Are you comfortable? Is it too tight, too loose, too hot, too cool? Your cosplay make take some tweaking to get just right. Now you’re so close to the finish line!
Take some test photos and selfies to double-check your wig and make up. Natural light is best! Also check your cosplay for any undone stitches, loose threads, wrinkles, etc that might need to be addressed before its big debut! Ask a friend for help with pictures and looking over your cosplay.
Last Minute Essentials
- Sewing Kit
- Duct Tape
- Safety Pins
- First Aid Kit
Now that it’s all done, it’s time to go out there and cosplay! It doesn’t have to be at a convention or a show. It can be in your backyard or a friend’s house. Cosplay is about you and about how it makes you feel. Hopefully this guide helped you along the way to making your first/beginner’s cosplay!
Special Mentions: Header image by http://www.DMacstudios.com; Starfire art by picolo-kun.deviantart.com; Megara art by nippy13.deviantart.com; Arda Wigs; Pinky Paradise Contact Lenses; MangoSirene; Night Eyes Cosplay; Iwasaka Miyuki; Elite Cosplay; Honey Color Contact Lenses; Firecloak Cosplay; Fuller Figure Fuller Bust; Zeus Pro; Cosplay.com