I'm sure you've seen plenty of people who are fans of video games, anime, cult classic TV shows and movies dress up as their favorite characters either on the internet or in person. That, is the art form better known as cosplay. While getting into cosplay can be overwhelming, here are some steps you can follow to get started!
1. Pick a Character
First, you need to pick a character. When choosing a character, do not hesitate to pick your favorite character because you don't have the same skin tone, body type, facial structure, eye/hair color, height/weight, or even sex or gender. Because cosplay is an art, there is a great deal of artistic license involved and the physical manifestation of these characters through you are an interpretation. Everyone's interpretation can be different depending on their individual physical appearance, and that is truly part of the beauty of cosplay. So, pick whoever you want to without fear!
2. Look for Reference Photos
After you have determined which character you would like to cosplay, search the internet for pictures of them in the outfit that you like best. These come in handy regardless of which "method" of putting together your cosplay that you choose. These methods will be addressed later in the list. Make sure that the pictures you choose have enough detail on them so that you can see things like their shoes and any accessories. Close-ups of their faces and hair are also useful.
3. What Do You Need?
When you have determined what outfit of theirs you want to cosplay, make a list of all the things that go into this cosplay so that you can see what it is you need to procur. Make sure you include all the details in this list as well. Shoes, hair, accessories, even socks are important to put on this list. Because cosplay is an art form, even the smallest of details can make a difference.
4. Research Methods/Decide Which Method Is For You
Once you see what you need to complete your outfit, think about your temporal and financial budget. Whichever way you decide to go, make sure you are planning your cosplay plenty of time in advance of when you want to wear it because good cosplays do not happen overnight. There are several main ways that you could go about putting your cosplay together, and they all have their own pros and cons. Depending on your experience with cosplay, and the skills you may or may not already have, some methods may be better than others to start with.
5. Homemade Cosplay
Homemade cosplay is when you make almost all parts of the cosplay from scratch. If you have experience with making your own clothes, this is probably a good option for you! You can save money if you already own a lot of the necessary equipment, and you will be able to save time making it since you know what you're doing, or at least have an idea of what you're doing. However, if you don't have experience with making your own clothes, but would like to try, more power to you! Be aware that things almost never come out how you think they should the first time, and this method probably requires the most time commitment out of any of these methods for cosplay. If you don't have a sewing machine, you will need to get one, but there are plenty of ways to find one that is affordable. In the event that you decide making clothes is not your forte, you can simply return or resell it. Craft and fabric stores are great places to start looking for materials, and YouTube always provides a plethora of advice and tutorials for anyone who may just be starting out with making their own cosplays.
6. Store Bought Cosplay
There is nothing wrong with store bought cosplay. Let me say it again. There is nothing wrong with store bought cosplay. There are some people in the cosplay communities that seem to think that homemade cosplay is the only real form of cosplay, but that simply isn't true. Not having certain skills or the amount of time it takes to make a cosplay from scratch should not be determining factors in whether you can cosplay or not. Plenty of people partake in store bought cosplay because they simply don't have the time in their lives to sit down and try to make their entire outfit from scratch. Store bought cosplay can be very convenient, but it can be expensive and it can take awhile. A lot of cosplay is made in China, so shipping can be anywhere from two to six weeks! Ordering with plenty of time is important so you don't need to spend an arm, a leg, and a piece of your soul on shipping alone. Researching, comparing, and reading reviews is extremely important to this method. If you're not careful, you could spend a decent amount of money and get something that looks worse than something you could have done yourself. For this method, I would recommend that you get the cosplay customized for your specific measurements, if it's offered with the company you're purchasing from. However, if you decide you don't want to, it's too expensive, or they simply don't offer that, then getting the size closest to your measurements should be fine. If this is the case, be prepared to have to make some slight alterations like for pant leg length or busts on dresses, and plan your time accordingly. One thing I have learned is that while most parts of a cosplay can be bought and found at good quality, comfortable and well fitting shoes are the hardest thing to come by. I would suggest looking into other methods aside from buying the shoes that the character wears exactly. My method for shoes fits better into the next method. Googling "[your character's name] cosplay" can turn up numerous results and websites that are dedicated to cosplay, but if you aren't sure where to start, eBay and Amazon often have plenty to offer.
7. "Composite" Cosplay
This is my personal favorite cosplay method. I don't know if there was already a term for this or if this is really what it's called, but this method basically breaks the cosplay down into individual items rather than a whole unit, and looks for pre-made, usually less expensive items that may or may not require small amounts of modification. Remember that list you made before? That will be especially important here since you aren't buying everything at once like with store bought cosplay. With this method, you will need more time, but it can be less expensive than buying the entire thing and you may be able to make everything fit better without the wait. Plus, if you can find some of the things you need in store, or something close and you can modify it to fit your needs, you won't have to pay for shipping either. I find shoes are one thing that composite cosplay really helps with. Going to a discount shoe store, like Payless or something similar can help you find a cheap, basic shoe, that you can probably modify to fit what you need but will be comfortable and fit your foot properly. Remember, most convention days will be long and full of walking! If your shoes are uncomfortable, you will be miserable the entire day. Any number of stores like Target, Walmart, Burlington Coat Factory, Sears, or Goodwill can all offer things that may be of use to you or could at least get some of your cosplay tacked down. The only downside to this method is that for any particularly peculiar pieces of clothing, you will most likely need to order or to handcraft some of them. But for the most part, this method is solid in itself.
Wigs are an important aspect of cosplay that can really make a difference in your cosplay's quality and ease to do again. Using your actual hair can be an option, but because hair grows and dye fades, when you want to do a specific cosplay again, it can be very difficult to use your own hair. You would need to keep it the same length and style and re-dye it as well if necessary. Not only can frequently re-dying your hair damage it, but that also gets expensive and time consuming. It is so much easier to buy a good quality wig and some gel or other hair product that you can use not only for that one cosplay, but maybe for others, and of course you can wear it if you just feel like it too. There are some companies on Amazon that offer pretty solid quality wigs for decent prices and some of them come cut and styled already, which is a time saver. However, if you don't mind going with a wig that you will probably have to both cut a little and style, Arda Wigs makes fantastic wigs and they are U.S. based so their shipping is considerably faster than many of the Chinese based companies on Amazon or eBay. There is also always the worry with online companies that the color won't be what you thought it was. WIth Arda, this is minimized because if you aren't sure about a certain color, you can order a color sample to see if it matches your expectations. Once you choose your wig and you have it, taking it out and trying it on to see how much you need to cut and style is important. Even if you don't order your wig from Arda, I would still recommend going to their website to watch some of their cutting and styling tutorial videos. Getting a foam head to put your wig on as you cut and style it is also helpful. When you store your wigs, make sure to flip them inside out so that damage caused by time and wear in minimized. Wig caps also greatly enhance the experience and ease of wearing a wig, so if your wig doesn't come with one, you should get one separately.
Contacts are one of those "icing on the cake" sort of details. They won't make or break your cosplay usually, but they can make your cosplay stand out from others who may be cosplaying the same character you are at a convention. If you need prescription glasses, colored contacts can be a bit harder to get than if you don't need prescription lenses, but it is possible. Along with your usual contacts manufacturers who make colored contacts, Pinky Paradise is also a solid place to find colored contacts. Three great things about that particular website are that they don't require you to send your prescription first because they aren't a U.S. company, they use mostly brown-eyed, Asian models so you can see how the colors will look on darker colored eyes, and they offer a huge variety of colors and styles. You can find prescription and plano lenses on this website and they are constantly expanding their inventory to accommodate a wider variety of prescription lens users. If the character you are looking to cosplay for your first time around has a different color than white around their eyes, you might be looking into sclera lenses. Pinky Paradise also offers these, but they are considerably bigger and more difficult to deal with than normal sized contacts. Scleras are very cool and definitely would make you stand out, but they don't come in prescriptions from what I've seen and they also are very expensive. If that does not purturb you, then keep in mind if you're wearing them, because they cover your entire eye, they deprive your eyes of oxygen that they need. So, maximum recommended wearing time is about 4 hours. Make sure you give your eyes plenty of breathing time in between wears if you're planning to be at the convention all day the same day you're wearing them. In the event that you are uncomfortable with contacts or don't have the time or money for the, fear not! Glasses are totally acceptable to wear with your cosplay and you can just take them off for pictures if you want to. But, who knows, maybe your character looks good with glasses and people will want you to keep them on!
Make-up, especially in the cosplay world, is gender neutral. Make-up is appropriate whether you have a male body or a female body and whether you are cosplaying a male or female bodied character. Particuarly if you're interested in taking pictures, make-up really helps put a finishing touch on your cosplay. Most of the make-up used in cosplay is pretty simple, but can get extravagant in the event that your character does not look human. For human-looking characters, you basically just want to cover all the flaws on your face and even out your skin tone. If you are cosplaying a character that does not have the same sex body that you do, you will probably also need certain degrees of contouring in different areas depending on which body you have and which body you are trying to emulate.The eye make-up can also differ depending on what character you are cosplaying. Watch some tutorials to get some ideas on the best ways for you to get the style of eyes you want. For non-human characters or characters that require large amounts of movie make-up, this may require body paint and lots of it. There are various ways to get body paint to stick to your skin effectively and to set so that it doesn't rub off on anyone or anything during the day. Hairspray or baby powder can be effective methods for this. If you need to make it stick to your skin better, watch some tutorials for different methods and see which one works best with your skin type. When you get back after a long convention day, always make sure you wash your face very well because you will be wearing a lot of make-up for a few days and if your skin isn't used to that, it could mean break outs and ironically, more make-up!
When you go to conventions in cosplay, you will most likely be asked by random people for pictures! If you are uncomfortable with taking pictures, it is totally ok to turn them down. If you are ok with pictures, having a pose or a couple in mind when people ask you for pictures will make taking them much easier for you, and you will also look and feel better if you look like your character's personality too.
Props are one thing that can help enormously with picture poses if you are at a loss for what to do. Making or buying props can also be expensive and time consuming, so make sure you also account for how much time this will require if your character has a prop that you want to bring. Some props are simple while others can be much larger and more difficult. There are a plethora of tutorials all over the internet on how to make whatever prop you want if you need help, especially when it comes to armor or weapons. Be sure that when you're planning on bringing a weapon prop or something that is rather large, that you make it according to the convention's weapon policy and that it will pass peace bonding when you get there. It would be terrible to spend a lot of money and time on a prop that came out beatifully only to have it confiscated by the peace bonding security table because it didn't pass their regulations.
Cos-testing is when you wear your entire cosplay somewhere for awhile-accessories, props and all-before the convention so that you can find anything that needs to be fixed, things that are not working as well as you had thought they would, and spot anything that has the potential to go wrong at the convention. This is the time to adjust anything, because it will be much harder or maybe impossible to do so while at the convention. Cos-testing is not necessary, but it is recommended and can give you added peace of mind while at the convention or getting ready to go in the morning when you know you've worn it altogether once and you know how it looks already.
14. Convention Time!
Now that your cosplay is complete, have fun showing it off at the next convention you attend! Have fun, make new friends, and be safe! Remember! The Golden Rule of Cosplay is as follows: Cosplay is NOT consent! That means even if someone is wearing something revealing or they are cosplaying a character with a proclivity for certain behaviors, do not touch them without asking, do not verbally or sexually harass them. This may be a convention, but that is still a crime. Do not ruin the fun for anyone by being the creepy person at a convention who thinks it's ok to follow or chase, hug, or otherwise touch cosplayers without their permission. We are all real people, we are not the characters that you see us as. Please respect us as such. If you are the person who is being harassed by someone, please tell convention staff about it as soon as you possibly can. That being said, have fun parading around and showing off your hard work all weekend at the con!