Cosplay can be an intimidating hobby to get into. You’ll see all these amazing and intricate costumes and wonder how people manage to create it all! While you may not be able to make an Iron Man suit from scratch for your first costume, starting cosplay does not have to be as complicated as it seems.
To start cosplaying, the best thing to do is choose a character and break the costume down into pieces. The basic parts of every costume include clothing, wig, shoes, and props.
This article will walk you through the process of creating a new costume so you can get an idea of how to approach your new hobby. Most of this will become second nature as you get more experience cosplaying and going to conventions, but if this is your first time putting yourself out there in costume, you might not even know where to start.
Step 1: What are your timeline and budget?
Before you even think about the character you’ll be cosplaying, you need to determine how much time you have to complete it and what you can afford. You won’t be able to create an elaborate costume with just one week to go, and your choice of clothing and materials can differ dramatically depending on your budget.
Generally, your timeline will be determined by the convention you plan on attending. If you still have a few months until the next anime or comic convention, then you will probably have time to make a costume from scratch or order it online. However, if the convention is next week, you’ll probably have to put a costume together from the clothes available in the back of your closet to make a last-minute cosplay.
Step 2: Choose a character to cosplay
Now that you have a basic idea of what you can afford and how much time you have to complete it, it’s time to choose a character. For your first cosplay, it’s best not to pick a character that has a very complicated costume, but honestly, there are no limits to who you can choose.
It doesn’t matter if the character you love doesn’t look like you. It doesn’t even matter if they’re a completely different gender. If you’re running on a very short timeline, you do probably want to choose a very simple costume. However, if you have time to purchase a costume or learn new skills don’t worry too much about the appearance of your character, just find someone you want to cosplay.
Find as many reference pictures of your character as you can. Try to find images that show their outfit from all different angles. Figure out what their hair looks like, and find images of their shoes and any props you want to make. This will be essential to recreating your character’s look and putting your costume together. After finding reference images, list out all the pieces of the costume that you’ll need to buy or create.
Step 3: Break the costume down into pieces
You have the character you want to cosplay picked out and you have a bunch of reference pictures to use. Look at the pictures you found and make a list of every single part of your character’s costume. The list should include the layers of the costume as well as the props and accessories that you need.
Be as detailed as you need to be for your costume so that you’ll know exactly what you’ll need to purchase or make. Even if you plan on purchasing a whole costume from an online cosplay shop, it’s helpful to make this list. Oftentimes, these costumes come without shoes, wigs, jewelry, socks, and other miscellaneous pieces that you’ll need to purchase on your own.
It’s important to remember that the costume does not have to be 100% accurate. While this is the goal for many cosplayers, you can make a recognizable cosplay without some of the small details being exactly on-point. So don’t worry if the shoes end up a little different from the character, or you can’t find the perfect color fabric.
Step 4: Decide which pieces to buy and which to make
Now that you have your whole list written out, it’s time to decide how you are going to get each part of the costume. You’ll want to go through each piece of your cosplay and decide how you’re going to get it.
Some costume parts will already be in your closet. For example, you might already have a button-up shirt you can use. Other objects will be easiest to buy. Basic red shoes and basic jewelry are often found easily in stores.
If you have some sewing skills already, you can easily pick some pieces to make from scratch. But, don’t feel like you only have to work with your current skill level. There are plenty of tutorials you can watch online to learn how to make your first shirt or style your first wig. Challenge yourself to learn one or two basic skills with each new costume you make!
You don’t need to make any part of your costume if you don’t want to. You can buy the costume and accompanying pieces or have them commissioned for you. In fact, sometimes it is cheaper to purchase a costume than it is to make it from scratch. It’s perfectly acceptable to find the costume in an online shop and purchase it that way. However, make sure to check the shipping time. These costumes are usually made to order, so it takes a couple of months for them to arrive.
Step 5: Wigs, makeup, and contacts
Wigs, makeup, and contacts are extras that you don’t have to include with every cosplay, but they can make the whole outfit come together. Contacts are the least important of the three. Some characters have unique eyes, but wearing contacts incorrectly can permanently damage your eye. You should always get a prescription from an eye doctor before purchasing or wearing colored contacts.
Wigs are not always necessary because you can always style and dye your real hair. However, they make life much easier since you don’t have to worry about creating the perfect hairstyle on the morning of a convention.
Makeup is highly recommended for all cosplayers (unless you’re wearing a full-face mask). It’s technically not necessary so you can go without, but makeup creates a more finessed look that will make your cosplay look better in photographs. Even just using a basic foundation with a matte finishing powder will help you look so much better while in cosplay.
Step 6: Do you want any props?
Props are not a necessary part of any costume, but they can look pretty impressive. Making props can be intimidating, but pretty fun (in my opinion).
Some props are easy to include with your costume. For example, if you’re cosplaying a mage, you can cover a book to make it look like a magic tome. You could also carry around a stuffed animal if your character has a cute animal sidekick.
Even if you want to make a more complicated prop, you can start with something simple and slowly gain new skills with every new costume you create. If you want to create a sword, start by making it out of cardboard and learning how to cut straight lines and paint something metallic. You can level up your next prop using EVA foam, Worbla, or many other types of materials.
Challenge yourself to try something new for every costume you make. Eventually, you’ll look back and be shocked at the number of new skills you’ve developed in the process. And above all else, have fun!