I won't surprise you if I tell you that I have a weakness for handmade costumes.
Even if it's not made by a super professional, a handmade costume has a little something you won't find elsewhere.
That being said, if you're not comfortable enough to start creating a complete costume on your own. Or you don't have time. Or the budget… You can opt for a store-bought costume. And that's totally ok. The important thing is above all that you have fun in this adventure, right?
So if you prefer to buy your costume, no problem. But maybe you're gonna need to give it some love.
Depending on the price you invest, the quality of your costume will (obviously) not be the same. But you should know that, even with an ultra cheap costume, there is a way to do something a little more personalized.
So if you want your store-bought costume to have a little more style, I have some tips and tricks for you.
Psst! I even took the time to chat with a cosplayer who does exactly that. Valky Design makes many of her costumes, but she buys them quite often too.
“Sometimes I prefer to build the costume because I think it will be a great challenge.
But sometimes I'll buy a costume because I love the character, and I just can't wait to get it. If I make the cosplay myself, it will take me 4 months. But the costume…I want it now!”
- Valky Design
So here are our tips and tricks to transform a purchased cosplay and give it a little edge.
1. Iron your costume
That's the base. If you really don't have any time to pimp your costume, at least take the time to iron it. A costume bought in store or online is often packed in a very small bag, and is generally pretty cramped in it. Take the time to remove the creases. It can't hurt.
Be careful though, entry-level costumes, factory-made, are often made of polyester and tend to be rather sensitive to heat... That means:
- Set your iron to an appropriate temperature* so as not to melt your costume;
- Use a wet-cloth** to protect your fabrics.
* Uhh… the appropriate temperature? It's usually written on your iron. With a small indicator according to the type of fiber. But if not, go to the lowest level and do a test on a corner of your costume that we don't see much.
** What's a wet-cloth? It is simply a cotton cloth that is used to protect your fabric when you iron. It can be wet or not to help remove creases.
“Take the time to iron your costume. It's not long. And if you're not sure it can be ironed, put a cloth over it to protect your fabric. That's all! »
- Valky Design
An ironed suit will have more elegance than a fully pleated suit.
2. Check the finishes
Mass production costumes are done quickly. And when it's done quickly, there may be small mishaps... So take the time to do a check up:
- cut the little bits of thread
- redo an undone seam
- check that there is no missing button
Also take the time to solidify certain elements if necessary, such as the buttons, before they start to fall. But you can also do a few stitches by hand to fix things that aren't holding as well as they should (like the big buckle on the back of your dress, or the lapels of your jacket).
A well-finished suit that stands up will look more professional.
3. Adjust and alter your costume
Okay, if you don't sew much, you might find it's a lot of work, but there are surely some small things you can do (or have done) even if you're a newbie.
The fitting :
Store-bought cosplay don't always come in a huge variety of sizes… I've even seen one-size-fits-all (in the case of very low-end costumes). And we know all that one-size-fits-all doesn't really look good on anyone...
Valky recommends, if you are not sure which size to choose, to go for a larger size. It's easier to make a costume smaller than trying to make it bigger, right?
“I make adjustments almost all the time. Costumes are made with generic measurements. I will make adjustments so that it fits better. »
- Valky Design
So, if your sewing knowledge allows it, take the time to add darts where there are none, adjust the width of the leg if necessary, etc.
It is possible that there are certain elements of the costume that hold with elastics. Pants or a skirt with an stretch waist… But maybe also removable sleeves, elements attached to the thigh, etc.
Make sure the elastics are the right size. More often than not, they are going to be too tight. And that's not only uncomfortable, but it's not super classy either (hello arm or thigh bulges!).
Take the time to change the elastic for something a little bigger if needed.
The lining and the interlining:
Purchased costumes do not always have a lining. It's obviously not necessary to lined your costume at all times, but sometimes it's worth it.
For example, if your costume is made of rather thin fabrics, and in addition these fabrics are light color, they risk being transparent... you may prefer to line certain sections in that case.
The interlining can also help give more body to a section of the costume. For example, if your collar doesn't hold up enough for your taste... you could slip an interlining (it could simply be a piece of craft foam) inside to give it more hold.
The attachment system:
You can even go so far as to change the attachment system. There, I'm thinking, among other things, of the really low-end jumpsuit that closes with little cords in the back... a bit like a hospital gown. If you're comfortable enough, change it to a zipper. It'll have a cleaner look. But if you're afraid to put on a zipper, go with snaps (the ones you sew on by hand), or a Velcro (anything will be better than a hospital gown back that removes a lot of panache to a superhero…).
Changing the fastening system, can also means changing ribbons that feel a bit cheap which ties your bodice for beautiful satin ribbons. Or put snaps that hold better (or put more of them so that it closes better).
Valky clarifies that on the costumes she buys, she usually changes the zipper.
“I hate side zippers. It's always cheap invisible zippers. And in addition, there are so many layers of fabric, that you really have difficulty closing your costume»
- Valky Design
She recommends just changing the zip to something discreet without necessarily being invisible. It's not so bad that we see a bit of your zipper, if it allows you to close your costume without a fight. 😉
A well-fitting suit will give you more confidence.
4. Adds depth
When I say adding depth, it could mean adding volume or texture, depending on your costume.
There are really plenty of options for stuff to add depending on the style:
- Put a crinoline under your princess costume to give the dress a real nice volume.
- Or add a few layers of tulle or sheer over a skirt to give it a little more fluff.
- Add a bit of stuffing to the bow of an obi to give it more body.
- Or change the applied leatherette elements for 3D pieces (printed, or foam) to create texture on your costume.
"For Yae, the majority of the elements that should be in 3 dimensions were patches... So, I took the time to get 3D files and print them, to add them to my costume »
- Valky Design
A costume with more depth also gives your character more depth.
6. Weather your costume
What's the weather have to do with cosplay? Actually, weathering is altering a piece to give the impression it has been worn by long exposure to the atmosphere. It means giving your costume more life.
The purchased costumes (especially entry-level ones) are not only made with fabrics that sometimes lack texture, but they also scream "I'm straight out of my shipping bag!". You can remedy the situation by giving your costume some life.
It doesn't apply to all costumes, but in some cases, it can be really interesting to dirty the outfit a little (or a lot), to add shadows and lights, or to bring out certain details with a bit of paint.
A weathered costume will have more life than a costume fresh out of the bag.
7.Don't forget your props
Having an accessory like a wand, a staff, a cane or a blaster (depending on your costume, of course) can really add a little something more to your look
Try to put your character in context to find an element that would complement your costume well. It's not necessary for all costumes, but in some cases it can really make the outfit more stylish.
And if you already have something, make sure it looks good.
Store-bought accessories are often like costumes, if you didn't pay a lot, it's possible that you need to give it a little
Strengthen your accessory:
Make sure all the ends of your props hold up well and aren't too flimsy. In doubt, a few small dots of hot glue (discreet please!) can really do wonders.
Repaint his accessory:
I've often seen props with a not too bad shape... but Gods they were not painted with love. In this case, it's up to you to give it some. It could be just a few touch ups. Or you can decide that you start over. In this case, I strongly recommend that you apply a coat of primer in spray for plastic. Because I assume that your prop is made of plastic, and you would like your paint to hold up well… The
Pimp his accessory:
In addition to repainting part or all of your accessory, there may be other details that you can change.
- Wrap real fabric around the handle of your katana instead of the embossed shape that clumsily tries to replicate that effect.
- Add real wiring to your Ghostbuster backpack…
It's the kind of stuff that will give a lot more style to a basic prop.
Carrying your accessory:
Of course, if you're a mage and you have a staff, you'll just drag your staff wherever you go…
But if you chose to have a fan, a gun or a stuffed animal to complete your costume, make sure you have something to free your hands if necessary.
- A strap to hold your fan on your wrist, or a case on your belt.
- A holster for your revolver.
- A Velcro system to put your stuffed monkey on your shoulder...
Whatever you choose, the idea is to make sure you can free your hands easily. Plus, it'll probably add an element that makes your costume even more stylish. 🤓
A costume with props is a more complete costume.
Voilà! With these few tips, you should be able to give a nice unique touch to your next costume. Even if you don't make it from scratch.
* Big thanks to Valky Design for sharing her advice and photos for this article.