Six Rules for Homemade CosPlay Costume Designing

Another PAX East gaming convention has come and gone, and now that the caffeine and sugar has filtered out of the system, it’s time to start looking ahead to next year. Or better yet, Halloween which is much closer! One of the fun, unique elements to PAX are the cosplay costumes that attendees wear. It’s a chance to embrace a favorite character and have fun with others who share your interests. But cosplay can quickly get expensive.

Not everyone can afford to spend $300-1,000 on a costume, but that doesn’t mean you should miss out on the fun. Homemade costumes offer a more cost-effective alternative without compromising originality. Before you get overwhelmed, it’s important to keep a few rules in mind:

1.  Break down the costume’s design into manageable parts.

This is key to not feeling overwhelmed during creation. Rather than looking at the costume as a whole, look at is a grouping of multiple parts. Then take the parts, one at a time, and construct them at your own pace. I like to use my sketchbook to help work through ideas. If a costume requires a tunic and gloves, I’ll sketch a design out on separate pages. It becomes more manageable this way, and then I’m less likely to feel overwhelmed. Always try to avoid this feeling, because feeling overwhelmed is closely linked to self-doubt, and that’s definitely not an emotion you want to feel.

2.  Don’t get hung up on perfection.

Unless you’re already employed as a painter, designer, or a tailor, don’t get hung up on perfection. This can easily become another enemy that leads to self-doubt. Use the skills you do have, and improve on them, but don’t beat yourself up if your stitches aren’t in a perfect straight line or the paint you’ve mixed isn’t the same exact shade of blue. Chances are, what may be a glaring error to you will go completely unnoticed by others. Cut yourself some slack, pat yourself on the back for working your creative muscles, and continue without the self-depcriating thoughts. You’ll be glad you did when it all comes together.

3.  Allow yourself time to be creative.

Starting an elaborate costume the weekend before an event might not be the smartest decision. In order to avoid undue stress or panic, give yourself time to chip away at your costume, rather than rushing to get it done. It’ll give you a better chance to focus on your ideas and bring them to fruition.

4.  Improvise and disguise.

Masters of any craft are not the ones who perform the task perfectly, but are rather the most adept at correcting or hiding their mistakes. So you forgot to buy enough fabric to make that cross-body strap? The back of the costume will be obscured by a cape anyway, so make the front look how you envisioned, and skimp on the fabric’s criss-cross on the back. It creates the illusion of completion, without waste or requiring another trip to the store. Your costume requires blue boots with a large white cuff? I haven’t seen those in the stores lately, and I’m certainly not a cobbler; but I have access to a sewing machine, leftover blue cotton fabric, and white felt makes a solid cuff. With a little improvisation, those boots became a reality

5.  “Shop” the house to use what you have.

It’s trendy to shop the house for new accent pieces to reinvent the living room’s design; so why not apply that same philosophy to your crafting? If I had to buy all the tools to make a costume, then it would become very expensive. But since I’ve been crafting for years, I’ve amassed a collection of paints, tools, and other general supplies that make this easier. Excess materials from past projects or are never wasted, so with some key organization and an eye for up-cycling you can reduce the costs of buying buttons, fabric, black leggings… I even found a gold belt loop in my button box – which was a great time and money saver! Also, I don’t own my own sewing machine, but I have several family members and friends who are more than happy to let me use theirs. Repurposing and borrowing helps keep your overall costs down, so try to look for easy ways to do this wherever you can.

6.  Have fun.

Never forget the reason why you started crafting in the first place. Creating a costume should be just as much fun as wearing, if not more. And if you’re creating the costume for someone else, keep in mind that they’re going to think it’s awesome not matter how “professional” it looks. To that person, you are the costume designer, so be confident and enjoy every moment.

In future posts, I’m going to provide DIY instructions on how to make your own cosplay costumes. I’ll show you what I’ve designed, mistakes I’ve learned from, and how I’ve applied all six of these rules. In the meantime, remember there’s only six more months until Halloween!

Happy crafting!

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