The first thing you need to know about cosplay is it’s exhilarating, fun and a great way to connect with other fans, but it’s not easy. A cosplayer can devote massive amounts of time and money to a project, but in the end, it’s worth it for the pictures people can’t help but take at the con.
It’s always a good time to start building a cosplay so that it’s ready for whatever convention pops up in your area, like any of the many cons organized online. But before all that, first, you need to choose a character, build the cosplay and apply the finishing touches the big day.
Choosing a Character
Deciding who you want to portray will mostly depend on the gender you’re interested in dressing as, whether you want to be recognized and the time you have to make the cosplay. Some cosplayers strictly choose characters that match their height, weight, body type and hair, but the point of a cosplay is not to be the direct personification of the character; it’s to have fun and maybe LARP a little as your favorite fictional badass.
One way to narrow down a character is to determine what gender you’re willing to cosplay as. If you under no circumstances want to cosplay a girl, you probably shouldn’t pick a character from Sailor Moon; just like if you do not want to cosplay a man, Supernatural is probably out.
However, if you’re not averse to cosplay gender-bending, non-gendered character is outside your scope. You can be a female Goku or a male Lara Croft if you want because it’s cosplay and cosplay has no rules.
Next, if your goal is to be recognized, then you’ll probably want to pick the most or second most iconic character of a series. Even if the character is iconic to you, those who don’t know the series well won’t recognize you.
Also, you’ll need to take into account the popularity of the series itself and how well you resemble the character. Even if you’re super into vampire chicks, only fans of Rosario Vampire will recognize the series’ token male, even though he is the main character, especially if you’re blonde and sporting a sweet lumberjack beard.
On the other hand, if recognition is not important to you, then you, again, can pick whichever character you want. However, also remember that nobody looks like Ryan Reynolds but Ryan Reynolds, which is why Deadpool costumes are so popular.
Designing and Building the Costume
Unless you’re willing to shell out a load of dough to buy a good cosplay online, you’ll have to build your own. Buying a low budget cosplay meant for Halloween parties may put you in the running in the worst cosplay contest at the con, but it probably won’t be something you’re proud of. Instead, you’ll have to spend a lot of time on Pinterest and the thrift store and get a little crafty.
Once you know what character you want to cosplay, it’s time to focus on design: a process that will evolve a lot as you gain experience. A cosplay is called a build because you have to construct it as much as anything that’s traditionally built; it’s a multimedia conglomeration that often includes fabric, felt, modeling clay, paint, wood, metal and foam, among any number of other media, whatever it takes to create a character’s likeness.
These materials might come from around your house, and by the end of your build, you’ll have a cosplay made of items like toilet paper rolls, yarn and sunglasses frames with the lenses busted out, all held together with hot glue and safety pins.
When building a cosplay, your budget can quickly run out if you rely on new materials from the crafting store, so, the first step of your build is find out what you generally want to create, sometimes sourcing ideas online through Pinterest, and then look around your home to see what you have. That could mean old bike tires, broken umbrellas or any other miscellaneous items.
Once you’ve inventoried what you have on hand, it’s time to shop the sales at thrift stores. Of course you probably won’t have three yards of sequined red fabric at home, but getting lucky at a thrift store and hand sewing that material can cut down on your costs.
Thrift stores hold an impressive amount of cheap trench coats, wacky shoes and clothes that you can cut up and sew back together into a killer cosplay. Plus, around Halloween, thrift stores tend to have good deals on costuming gear that’s hard to get most of the year, so October can be a great time to stock up on liquid latex, fake blood and cheap wigs.
Props and Extras
The costume is the most important aspect of your cosplay, but every character has one or two accessories that can make or break the performance: to tell Agent Smith from Will Smith in “Men in Black,” you would need Jay’s mind-erasing neutralizer.
Most characters have a signature weapon or some kind of jewelry or headgear, so you should invest in that item in an online shop if you can’t make it yourself, even if it might cost more than other aspects of your cosplay.
Once you’ve put together the build, you may want to do contour makeup, especially if your character canonically sports facial hair or a facial structure that you don’t, and you also may want to try open chest binding.
However, if you try the latter, do not use duct tape because your skin could easily react badly and the harsh tape could tear off the skin. Then, after all that prep work, all you have to do is find some geeks to go to the convention with you, and you successfully have made your first cosplay, you massive nerd.