So, you went to a convention recently and have a blast? You'd like to do like all those awesome cosplayers and make your own costume… but you don't know where to start?
No stress! Follow me, I'll help you see things a little more clearly.
First, if you're brand new to cosplay, I want you to know that you don't have to make your costume from scratch. It sure is awesome to make your own costumes. But if you're not comfortable and you don't have plenty experience yet, you have every right to buy a costume, have it made (by a friend or by a pro), or transformed purchased stuff. Your costume is in no way less legit if you didn't make it all by yourlself.
Having said that, it's really cool to make your own costumes. And if you talk to any cosplayer who has made their outfit themselves, they will tell you the same thing: "It makes really proud to wear what we made ourselves". So I strongly encourage you to give it a try.
Yes, it can be intimidating when you've never cosplayed. But the trick is just to be well prepared. Apparently the best way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time... it's the same for a cosplay. 😊
Psst! Also remember that we all start somewhere.
The very first cosplay of Ladyplier_cosplay, Maka Albarn from Soul Eater, in 2014, was simply created with purchased items. Over the years, she has developed her skills and now she can present her creations in masquerade. This year, she wore Inosuke Hashibira from Demon Slayer at Montreal ComicCon.
Choose your first project carefully
Obviously, the first step is the choice of cosplay. If you're here, you probably already have an idea in mind. Or maybe even a few. And you wonder how to make a good choice.
You may see experienced cosplayers embarking on super-big, super-complex projects. It looks cool. And it might even look relatively easy... But if it's your first project, and you don't have much experience in sewing, foam work or crafting in general, I recommend taking it easy.
It's okay to do something you've never done, to try techniques you don't know. I encourage you to do so, too! But keep in mind that a big project takes longer to complete. And working with certain materials for the first time means making mistakes, repeating steps and wasting a little (or a lot...) of time. All of that is really ok! But I just don't want you to lose your motivation before you even finish your first project...
So, to start, go with a fairly simple project. A relatively easy little project that's perfect for testing out the hobby. And if it goes well, you level up to a more intense project next time. Quite simply. 😉
Cartoon characters have relatively simplified outfits (usually). You can find good "beginner" projects there.
- Contemporary movies where the characters are more casually dressed are also a great source of "easier" cosplay (you can buy several ready-made items and make some modifications, if necessary).
MytisCosplay got off to a soft start in 2010 with a cosplay of Maya Fey from Ace Attorney.
Collect lots of pictures
Now that your cosplay is chosen, you need references. And you need lots of them.
You want to find as many pictures of the costume as possible. Front, back, close-up, with or without their jacket, etc. You want to know what their shoes look like, how their hair is styled, if they wears jewelry, makeup...
If it's a movie character, watch the movie and do lots of screenshoots. A video game character? Go in game to see the costume from as many angles as possible. Trust me, you can never have too many references.
Make a list
Now that you have plenty of reference photos, you can make a list of all the elements of the costume: clothes, accessories, and more. Be careful, it is important to take your time and observe your character carefully. In some cases, it's quite straightforward. But sometimes, there are lots of little details that are easy to forget. Hence the inportance of making a list.
Ask yourself as many questions as possible:
- Is it a dress or a bodice and skirt?
- How many pouches on the belt?
- Special hair? Will you need a wig?
Take the time to look carefully at your reference images to make sure you haven't forgotten anything.
Prepare your strategy
Now it's time to think about how you're going to recreate the look and each of the elements of the costume.
Do you plan to craft most of the items? Or do you want to try to find a fairly similar pant and modify it? Will you need to buy special boots? Or are you're thinking of covering shoes you already have? The blaster, do you want to build it in EVA foam, or 3D print it?
Take the time to really break down each element.
For the jacket you want to sew… what are your fabric needs? And the buttons, are they easy enough to find in stores? Or you think you may try to make them out of polymer clay? And the pattern, do you already have it?
For the hat you want to transform… what exactly are you planning? Paint it, cover it? With what? Do you have all the necessary tools?
A little thing I like to do at this stage is go see what other people have done. Search the character name + cosplay on Google or by hashtag on Instagram. It's always super interesting and inspiring to see other cosplayers who have already made the character you want to make. It gives ideas on materials to use and techniques that might be helpful. It gives a different point of view.
You can also make sketches of the elements to build, a color palette for makeup, etc.
The idea is to be able to have an overview of the project including everything you'll need and steps to take.
The first BizzCosplay cosplay was pretty simple. Mrs.Lovett, from Sweeney Todd, created in 2014, was made mostly of clothes bought from thrift stores, then modified. Since then, her projects have become more complex, she developed her techniques and she now makes her costumes
For small projects, it's fine to go at it fairly spontaneously, but if you're embarking on something a bit more intense, I highly recommend that you find yourself a good organization technique. If you're not organized, you risk losing your steps.
It's a good idea to list all the information of your project in one place: the list of accessories, your measurements, the reference photos, your sketches, fabric samples, name it!
You can even list the addresses of shops to visit to find your equipment, and a reference website for new techniques.
Some like to make a notebook, others prefer to write everything down on their phone. You can work as you want. The important thing is that you are comfortable with your method and that it is clear and easy to you.
If you like the paper format, I recommend a simple little notebook, not too big, so you can easily take it everywhere - from the workshop to the fabric store.
If you're more digital, you'll probably like the Cosplanner app. It is an app that's used precisely to keep track of the progress on your costume. You can add everything I told you about earlier (reference photos, shopping list, costume description, etc.) to follow up.
Personally, I work with Notion. This is my digital notebook. My clients are listed there, with their measurements, reference photos, deadlines, etc.
And I also have a notebook with samples, sketches and notes taken more spontaneously.
Find the way that works for you, and keep everything in one place. It's really easier that way. 🤓
FowlFusion started out pretty simple, with a Breaking Bad cosplay with his brother in 2014. Over the years, he's learned the 3D printing, foam work, and many other techniques that allow him, today, to make super impressive cosplays like Garrus from Mass Effect.
First, go at your own pace. Just because your favorite cosplayer makes a crazy costume in 1 week doesn't mean it's going to be fast for you too. So take your time. Do things the right way. Don't rush. And especially. Do. Not. Stress.
We all work at our own pace and it's important to respect our own speed.
If this is your first project, plan more time (you don't even have to give yourself a deadline).
Next, remember that we all start somewhere. The best tips I can give you at this level is:
- Practice again!
One of the first costumes I made was for my brother in 1997. Upcycled sweater, pants made in the most crapy way, weapon and accessories in duct tape (ah! the golden age of duct tape!), color spray in the hair (decent wigs, they didn't exist back then)...
Since then, I have developed a whole bunch of techniques, discovered materials, perfected my skills… and practiced! I'm still making costumes for my brother, and I'm still discovering new techniques and new materials.
Remember that it's a hobby and that the main purpose of cosplay is to have fun. When you're going to wear it, but ideally while doing it too. 🤓
while waiting... Keep on crafting!