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Beginner’s Cosplay Guide #5: Bringing It Together (Craft Time)

Cosplay is a crazy craft; cosplayers all begin somewhere and the question is where? How does someone start cosplaying comfortably? Who can cosplay? What are the etiquettes behind cosplay and what does a cosplayer need to know? Can someone with an unsteady hand become a cosplayer? Can someone who has never sewn-up a hole create stunning works of art? What do you need to get started? In a series of mini-guides, I hope to quell some of these questions and more.

GeekOut Media’s Cosplay Guide #5: Bringing It Together (Crafting)

One of my favourite things about cosplay, in fact arguably the best bit about it, is the crafting stage. Naturally there is no set blueprint to how you must craft a cosplay costume, but there are some useful little tidbits I can give you, so that you’re fully prepared. Remember that as we’ve previously discussed, cosplay is two elements: Costume and Role Play. Today’s article focuses on figuring out how to bring it all together.

If you’re looking for a discussion on how to get to the stage to bring it together, then you might want to check out last week’s article, where I discuss the merits of planning (and different techniques). In this article, we’re looking at what you can use from last week’s planning article, in order to actually start crafting. I won’t go into detail about sewing, or heating thermoplastics, but think of this as a way to get your costume started.

Putting Plans To Practice

Okay, so you’ve made your killer collage for reference – Good job! You’ve gone through 2,000 images from Google*, so you’ve found out everything about the character, right down to their underwear… Uh, okay, maybe a bit too far (unless that’s their costume), but hey – Great stuff! You know every little thing about them, from how their hair sits, to how baggy (or tight) their clothes are. Now, you’ve got to bring it together.

When we discussed the planning stage, I made mention that you’re going to need to measure things out. Remember that your body, whatever dimensions, is unique to you. You will not be an exact replica of the character you are trying to cosplay, so don’t worry. Instead, use this to your advantage and turn the character into your interpretation. You’ll make a greater costume, if you allow yourself to remember that you’re not an anime character; you are human.

Settle on a design you’d like to go for; so if the character has an iconic outfit, that’s likely going to be your choice. I’ve seen people turn characters into genderbent variations, or just alter the costume to attend a cosplay ball, or hey – Just make specific bits of a costume, to then put them in other clothes. Whatever you do, make sure you have your design either doodled, or at least written out, so you’ve got reference.

Beginning The Costume

Whilst I can’t tell you if you’ll need to sew a costume, or if you’ll need to glue it all together, I can give you hints ‘n tips for beginning the costume itself. You’re going to want to learn how to prioritise properly, as well as get an understanding for how long each step can take. You’ll see many cosplayers posting just weeks before a convention, doing what we refer to as panic cosplaying, which can be good for some people, but many people struggle with this.

Let’s take our Lee Chaolan example from last week:

Let’s dissect what’s in this image. We’re going to need a silver wig, some black gloves, fancy shoes, a gold watch and a tie with a pin through it – Those are our smaller bits. We’re going to also need some grey trousers, a white shirt and a white waistcoat, with a button holding it in place – These are our larger bits. Finally, we have one large piece for this costume, his default costume coat.

If we’re the type of person to buy costume pieces, then I’d be looking to find as many things that are as close to the costume as possible. I’d look for a white waistcoat, which may need some alteration. I’d also look for a large purple coat, but this may be tricky – It’s a completely bespoke looking coat to Lee, so finding something similar might be hard. Instead, if we’re going to buy pieces to alter, we may also need to look into dying a coat.


If we’re the type of person to make it all from scratch, figure out how long everything would take. A coat like that could take literal days to make, especially with the detailing of the unicorn on the back. Meanwhile, making a wig is relatively complex, requiring a lot of skill and timing to stylise it. Making gloves is simple enough, but even this can take more than a day. Ultimately, time will never be on your side.

So, consider this – When is the event you wish to debut your new costume? Is it coming soon, or is it really far away? If it’s far away, you may wish to spend the extra time to make it completely from scratch. But, no matter what, make sure you write down how long you reckon everything is going to take. This’ll help you plan to build your cosplay over a better timescale – It’ll also stop you getting into that previously mentioned panic cosplay mode.

In the previous article, we discussed how to actually break it all down. We discussed measuring and we discussed the merits of having a plan, which is hugely underappreciated. I’ve seen whole works of art be doing without the planning phase; but conversely, I’ve seen other would-be incredible pieces turned to ruin, just because they didn’t have a solid plan in place. Once you’ve got a plan, stick to it as thoroughly as you can. You’ll regret not doing so, otherwise.

That’s it for this week, as I didn’t want to bang on for too long about how you go about making your costume. Once you’ve got your plan and you’ve set out what each costume piece is made out of, then you’re on your way. You’ll need to make sure to be ready to do lots of research, as well as lots of using resources such as Cosplay Tutorial. Not sure how to stick things together? Check out This to That. Next week, we’ll look at props and some little tips and tricks for making and detailing them. If you’ve got a specific prop you’d like to make and you’d like my input, share it in the comments – Perhaps I’ll choose your prop to be the one I focus on in the article? As ever, share your thoughts below, or over on Facebook and Twitter and we’ll see you next week.

*Yes, okay, 2,000 images from Google may be a bit of a stretch – No, you are not really required to find that many images.

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