What is Cosplay?
According to my good friend Google, Cosplay is: "the practice of dressing up as a character from a movie, book, or video game (especially one from the Japanese genres of manga and anime)." That last bit, shows where the practice of cosplay came from: Japan (obviously). But it's definitely become a popular thing recently for people across the world and beyond anime and manga. Events like Comic Con have made it more acceptable to go out in costume and have fun.
Personally, I think being a fangirl wouldn't be complete without the fun of cosplay, whether you actually take part or simply drool over pictures you've seen and daydream about having the guts and glory to do so. It's fun to dress up and step into the shoes of your favorite character, and taking pictures is half the fun as well.
However, I've drooled over those pictures of crazy exactly-to-the-detail costume and bugged out about the cost of such costumes. How in the world do people cosplay so many different ones when they cost hundreds of dollars? I for one would never be able to afford such a costume, yet I've cosplayed many times over the past few years and I doubt I've spend more than $20.
Sky and I are here to give you some advice with the hopes that you will find the courage in your heart to step out into cosplay and also not to spend a lot of money doing so. Cosplay shouldn't be something that's "weird" or expensive: it should be fun and adventurous! Here are our tips for cost-efficient cosplaying.
Tip #1: Raid Your Closet
Sky and I both have discussed our cosplaying strategies and our first thoughts were to look in our own closets. Most of the things you could use for a cosplay costume can be found within the contents of what you already own. Carefully searching for shirts, pants, socks, and shoes that can match or almost match a character's costume is efficient and effective in saying yourself money (just be careful not to fall too fall into the closet and find Narnia. Unless of course, you'd like to cosplaying as a king or queen for a few decades).
|This is my friend Jacob as the 10th Doctor (Doctor Who). He used a blue button-down shirt as a suit jacket and completed his look with a trench coat and spiked up hair. He owned everything he used ahead of time. Looks pretty good, right?|
|My friend Emily and myself as Zombie Patients! :D|
Sky here! Last year, I did an impromptu cosplay of Stiles Stilinski from Teen Wolf. My inspiration was based on what a female Stiles would probably look like. It was 3 am, so what else was I to do but ransack my closet? Stiles wears a lot of plaids, so I found a plaid shirt. I wore my hair in a ponytail, picked earrings I thought Stiles would wear, and then took some photos. (If you feel like you are a character, then you are that character. That's my #1 cosplay rule.) I felt fantastic about it, and the most important thing: it was extremely fun. It led to this follow-up Stiles cosplay, and it taught me that you can cosplay right out of your own house. It's like playing dress up, only way better. Fangirl life is so cool.
Tip #2: Ransack Someone Else's Closet
On numerous occasions, I've asked other people for clothing items. My mom or dad usually have something that works, or even a few of my friends. I dressed as the Raggedy Eleventh Doctor one year for Halloween and I borrowed a tie from my dad. It wasn't a perfect match but it looked similar and it worked. My mom usually is helpful in helping me design pieces to mix and match to make it work, or we borrow costumes from my church's stash.
|Becca (my sister), Phil (my dad) Jacob (friend), myself, and William (beau) as Doctor Who character: River Song, Fourth Doctor, Tenth Doctor, Eleventh Doctor, Captain Jack Harkness|
For Tolkien Reading Day this year, my friend Anna and I dressed as two hobbits. Neither of us have actual hobbit outfits, but she had a pair of pants and two jackets for me to wear and she borrowed on of my shirts. She got most of the pieces from her parents' closets. While my character (Merry) was supposed to have a green jacket and yellow vest, I had a brown jacket and a yellow jacket underneath to look like a vest. It worked out well and nobody even knew I was wearing two jackets. I'd call that success.
|Meriodic Brandybuck, at your service.|
Nothing is better than finding gems among thousands of recycled clothes. Whether you head to the Salvation Army, Goodwill, or local thrift stops and secondhand clothing shops, you'll sure to find something interesting and for a cheap price. Need black pants, a plain colored shirt, maybe even a vest or a hat: these are the places to look. I found an old brown jacket that matched the Indiana Jones style quite well. It didn't cost nearly as much as buying it new.
|Myself as Mikasa from Attack on Titan (minus the cape). I got a cheap, brown jacket from Goodwill and added the Survey Corps Logo with paper and pins.|
|My church had a western-themed VBS, so I found a cheap plaid shirt to wear, added a handkerchief, used my Indiana Jones hat, and added a fake mustache to seal the deal. I'm ready for Woody's Round-Up any day!|
While I know not everybody can sew or design a entire costume on their own (I know I can't), you might be able to make something small toward your outfit by thinking creatively. Fabric can be pricey, but if you're looking for a decent cosplay and you're willing to spend the money for a perfect fit, you might want to think about making something from scratch. You might also want to look around your house and stash to see if there's any fabrics or other items you've already collected that could be useful. In addition, if you can make something that you can use multiple times it's even better. I made a green cape for an Attack on Titan costume, but since then I've dressed as an elf and a hobbit and used it. There's a lot of possibilities for multiple uses of costume pieces.
|Picture One: Myself as Mikasa from Attack on Titan. Picture Two: Myself as an Elf and my friend Anna as a hobbit.|
I used the same cape and the same pair of boots! :)
I took a leather jacket and taped tin foil to it, then cut a red star out of a solo cup. While it fell apart rather quickly towards the end of the night, it worked well for the moment, and I felt totally cool. Everyone should dress up as an assassin at least once in their life.
Tip #5: Buy Something
Now I know we're going for cost-efficiency here, but sometimes you might just have to spend a little bit of money. There might be certain items or details you can't make no matter how hard you try. That's okay. Spending a little money--as long as you try your best to be efficient with most of the costume--is okay.
|Obviously Peter Pan, complete with a shadow and pixie dust sparkles! :)|
Tip #6: Location, Poses, and Props
Cosplaying in costume is great fun, but in addition, you might want to add a little something to make it feel truly magical. You can always add a few props to help you along. When I dressed as the Eleventh Doctor, I made a fake sonic screwdriver by covering up a flashlight with paper and a toilet paper roll. It took me maybe ten minutes tops to create it by drawing and coloring (later I did end up getting a plastic one that lights up). When I was a hobbit, I carried around a tankard-like mug (with Sleeping Beauty on it). It gave the impression that I had just come from the Green Dragon or I was drinking an Ent-draught. Props and other small accesories like hats, badges, and scarfs can help seal the deal on your cosplay.
|My friend Anna and myself as hobbits (Pippin and Merry to be exact). She has her pipe and bag of Old Toby (really tea leaves) and I have homemade lebmas bread and my (Sleeping Beauty) tankard.|
Tip #7: Have Fun
Cosplay doesn't if work you don't have fun doing it. Be confident and bold in your decision to dress up and nobody will make you feel "weird" for doing so. If you're having fun whether your outfit was thrown together on the spot or is a mismatch of crazy pieces or an authentic-just-like-the-real-thing replica, it'll work all the same.
|As you can probably tell, I cosplayed Doctor Who a lot during the 50th anniversary year in 2013. Here are some the people I dragged with me. :)|
|This is my (late) puppy dressed as four Doctor Who characters for the 50th Anniversary: Eleven, Captain Jack Harkness, Gas Mask Child, and the Fourth Doctor. I don't think he appreciated it as much as I had hoped, but he looks pretty rad.|
We want to see your cosplay photos! Send them to us at our Facebook page or via the Twitter hashtag #TFIcosplay.