Buying vs. Making a Cosplay

A question that pops up a lot on cosplay forums is “should I make or buy this costume?” and the answers are really divided. The truth is, there is no one answer for this question. It’s not always cheaper to make your own costume, and it isn’t always easier to buy it! Whether you should make or buy a costume really depends on a bunch of factors including time, budget and sewing ability. So I’m going to compare buying a costume to making one, hopefully I’ll be able to dispel some myths and help people decide.

Buying a Costume

Intro

Buying a costume has been the savior of those who can’t sew. You go online and find a commissioner or a store and they do all the work. However there is always a risk when buying online, you never know what you are going to get or if you will even get it. There are a lot of positives and negatives of online buying, and I’m going to go through them.

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Price

The price of a bought costume is generally calculated with this formula:

Labor/Time costs +  Fabric/Material Costs  +  Shipping Costs  +  Bonus*

(*Sometimes a small bonus is added, this could be to prevent against the seller loosing out on what they make from material prices going up, or they may add it in because of special situations like rush orders. This all depends on the seller)

People argue that buying a costume costs more than making because you are paying for their labor and time. I disagree. I believe shipping is what makes it cost more since it is something you would not experience when making the outfit yourself.

Cosplay Stores

Cosplay stores generally mass produce costumes and sell them at a lower price. They usually have a set group of costumes they will make, but have a variety of sizes. These stores have a set price for their outfits, and it comes as is – they won’t make any specific modifications (ex. changing the type of fabric.)  Buying from a cosplay store is usually cheaper than buying from  a commissioner because they buy fabric in bulk (therefore fabric/material costs are lower) and mass produce costumes (so labor/time costs are lower).  Costumes tend to start around $80 but can go above $300 depending on the costume’s details.

You should be careful about pricing when buying from a cosplay store, because sometimes the prices are  much higher than something may be worth.It is always good to compare prices with other sites before committing.The price may also reflect the quality, so if it is a very detailed costume but is much lower than other websites, then it is most likely made with poor quality fabrics.

(Below) Namine has a very simple dress made of relatively cheap material, I really think $135.00 is a ridiculous price for it. The second is far more reasonable, but may be lacking in quality

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Commissioners

Commissioners are usually cosplayers themselves, looking to make some extra money (or even support themselves) with their hobby. Costumes are custom-made for the person who orders and so you can request specific changes, such as a longer skirt or different colored ribbon. While they may be more accurate, the process takes longer and generally costs more because fabric is bought for the project – not in bulk.

Prices from commissioners tend to range depending on their skill, how many other projects they have, how fast they can work, how cheap they can get the material. To find out how much a costume costs you need to ask for a quote from the commissioner. Just like with cosplay stores, you should shop around and ask multiple commissioners to compare prices.

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Time

When buying a costume you save yourself a lot of time since you don’t have to sit there making it. Even if a costume is simple and might only take a day to do, that is still a lot of time that some people don’t have! The only time you invest is searching around for a good place to buy from.

However if you need a costume quickly, then it may not arrive on time. Since costumes may take awhile to make if they are being custom-made, and they also take a while to ship (while some places it takes 5-10 business days it may take 10-20 days when shipping overseas!) unless you pay for faster shipping. So if you are planning to buy, make sure you do it early so that your costume can be made, shipped and arrive on time! Always check a seller’s shipping times, and if you have a specific date when you need it – let your commissioner know.

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Ability

Can’t sew, cast, use tools? No problem! Buying a costume means you can cosplay without any ability to make a costume whatsoever, since you are essentially paying someone to make it for you.  So no ability is required.

Please note, that many cons have costume contests based on craftmanship. So if you buy your costume, then you won’t be able to enter these contests. If you make a certain percent of your costume (it varies, so check you con’s website for details) and commission the rest (such as make the costume, commission a wig) then you may still be able to compete.

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Accuracy / Quality

The accuracy and quality of a costume varies from store to store and commissioner to commissioner. Usually lower priced costumes are less accurate and lower quality, but this is not always the case.

Cosplay Stores

Cosplay stores are a hit and miss, they may sell amazing, detailed, good quality costumes but at the same time have a low quality, inaccurate costume in the same store.  Remember these are mass-produced for the most part, so they want to make as much as possible, quickly and cheaply.

Cosplay stores usually have these low quality costumes because people will buy them just because of the low price, and usually the buyer does not know much about good material or is quick to act and doesn’t think about accuracy.

Satin (below) is a huge offender when it comes to poor quality costumes. It looks good in some lighting but generally looks cheap. It is also easy to fray and the seams tend to bunch up. Generally it’s referred to as “satin = satan” because of how bad it is.

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There are good costume sold by stores, you just need to do some searching for them. When looking for a good quality costume from a store you should always have a reference picture of the costume available to compare. You should also look at up close views of the outfit if possible, to see what the fabric and stitches look like. If it looks sloppy  – such as hanging threads, inaccurate, or it just looks bad overall then do some searching for a different costume.

Commissioners

Commissioners are making the costume from scratch so you can tell them how accurate you want the costume to be. Since they are usually cosplayers themselves they usually know what fabric to avoid and how to do all the little details. This is not always the case! Always check through a commissioner’s portfolio or photo gallery to see what other stuff they have made for themselves and others. I have seen commissioners who make stuff with satin and paint, with messy sewing and hanging threads.

Accuracy and quality is a gamble, unless you are able to see and feel it in person (such as buying a costume at a con) but since most commissions and stores are online, you usually have to risk it. If you are uncertain you can always ask for additional photos from a store, or information on the fabric used. You can ask a commissioner for progress pictures and information on the fabric they use. Remember, you are the one who ends up with the result, so if you have questions … ask them!

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Risks

Buying online always has its risks since you can’t see the actual item until it arrives. Sometimes eBay sellers steal cosplayer photos and use them to advertise their costumes, so what you see is not always what you get. Commissioners may have a great gallery but may not put in the same effort on your costume. There is also the risk that it will get lost in the mail, arrive late, or never arrive at all.

Before buying  from a  seller you should do some research to determine if they are good. I suggest checking out these threads: The commissioner review thread and   The merchant review thread. A quick google search of a seller’s name might bring up reviews as well, specifically if they have been a bad seller.

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Buying: Positives and Negatives

Positives

– Can find good prices

– Great for if you can’t sew

– Great for if you have no time to work on a costume

– Usually good quality (Many costumes sewn with a serger!)

–  Can be found online (eBay, commissioners) and offline (cons, anime stores, costume shops)

– Commissioners allow for you to request variations

– Less stress! (Making costume can be stressful)

– Less mess! (Making a costume can be messy)

Negatives

– May not arrive on time for con

– High Risk (no control over result)

– Price may be higher than reasonable

– Possibly poor quality

– Possibly inaccurate

– May be hard to keep in contact with seller (ex. not responding to emails)

– May not always fit properly

Buying – Who should buy?

People who can’t sew (or make the costume/prop),  don’t have a lot of time, or don’t want to make their own costume should commission or buy a costume. While you may not be able to enter craftsmanship contests, you can still look good and enjoy the convention!

And just a side tip, if you buy your costume then give it a quick iron before wearing it to the con. Costumes usually end up with folds because of how it is shipped, and that never looks good!


Making a Cosplay:

Intro

Making a costume can be stressful at times and it can become pretty difficult to make props, style wigs, and sew a costume (or build a costume) by yourself! It is also very rewarding, you can say you made it if people ask and you can enter the craftsmanship contests. If you have the ability and time to make your own costume I highly sugguest it, it’s great to have complete control over your costume’s outcome.

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Price

Price varies depending on the costume you make, how cheap you can get the materials, and how many mistakes you make (if you make many mistakes you might have to get more fabric and re-do the whole thing!). It also depends on what the costume is too, a simple costume could easily be under $100 where a full-out mech suit is definitely over $100.  I’ve seen people make costumes for as low as $10 and as high as over $2000 (in fact, Volpin’s Big Daddy Bioshock Cosplay sold for $2,000 USD on eBay). My personal range has been between $50 CND and $500 CND.

So is it cheaper to make it yourself? Most of the time it is, just because you don’t have to pay for additional costs like shipping, or pay for the labor since you provide it yourself.  However, unlike when buying from a commissioner or a store, you don’t get an up front price. You can estimate it at being a cost of $100 but the little things add up along the way, it might be $100 to start but you could easily spend more because you needed more of a certain thing, forgot about a piece, or something failed.

However, since these costs are over time it is less strain on your wallet. If you plan ahead you could put $10 a week toward a cosplay and within a couple months have enough for everything! This is one of the reasons it is good to plan ahead!

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Time

Making a costume is definately a time waster! You should plan ahead for every costume because you have to go out and buy the materials, take the time to cut, pin, sew, paint, style, build, etc. While it is possible to make a costume in a day depending on how simple it is, some costumes may take months to put together! For someone with a busy schedule and a want for a detailed costume, making the cosplay might not be an option because of the amount of time it takes.

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Ability

Making a costume requires you to have some ability sewing, building, or crafting. Most costumes can be made by altering sewing patterns, which give you instructions on how to make it, but some patterns are difficult and might be difficult for an inexperienced sewer with nobody to help them. Additionally, some things are much more difficult than just sewing and may require additional tools to do. For example, working with wood for a prop usually requires tools and the ability to use those tools. These skills all can be learned, you can take sewing or construction classes, or you can read tutorials on using fiberglass and wig styling.

If you have no costume making abilities and want to cosplay right away, it is probably better to commission it. But if you have the time and want to make your costume then the resources are out there and many cosplayers are willing to share tips!

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Risks

There are risks in making a cosplay, even if you don’t think it is dangerous. For one, some materials are hazardous to your health (resin, spray paint) but there are also dangers of burning yourself with an iron or stabbing yourself with a pin. Though, it isn’t likely that any of these injuries will be severe! Just remember to read safety information when trying new things, and be cautious around tools and hot irons.

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Making: Postives and Negatives

Positives

– Can enter contests and claim you made it

– Learn many new skills

– Possibly a lower price than buying

– It can fit you exactly

– Can be higher quality than bought costumes

– Can be altered however you wish (ex. different length of skirt)

– No added shipping costs, or waiting time

– Low risk of getting scammed

Negatives

– If you can’t sew, then it may turn out poor quality

– High stress

– May be disappointed with results

– Much more work involved then buying

– Can take a long time to make

– Possibly get injured (sewing pricks, small burns)

Making – Who should make their costume?

Anyone who is interested in making their own costume! You can always learn the skills required, just make sure you have the time to do so.


Overall:

Choosing a cosplay is usually the easier path, it’s a lot less work on your end and if you do your research you can end up with a great commissioner who prices well! However, nothing beats the satisfaction of making a costume yourself, being able to compete and show it off as something you created!  There is nothign wrong with buying a cosplay but if you can make it yourself then I sugguest going for it!


10 Things Every Cosplayer Should Have

There are tons of things that cosplayers may end up gathering for various costumes, but there are things that every cosplayer should have – whether for emergencies or just to make your life easier. These are the ten things I think every cosplayer should have:

1. Safety Pins
Where would cosplayers be without these amazing things! During construction you can use them to hold things together when you are trying it on so you don’t get stabbed with a straight pin. When packing you can use it to hold pieces together so they don’t go missing in your suitcase. When you wear the costume they can be used to prevent your bra from poking out or parts from falling down. And if your costume ends up ripping or falling apart at the con these will hold it together until you can fix it! These are definitely worth having around your house, and bring a couple of various sizes if you are going to a con!

2. Glue Gun (and a large pack of glue sticks)
The glue gun is also very useful for many aspects of cosplay!  You can glue parts of props together, you can use it to add raised details, hot glue can even be used to cast gems! If you are a thrift store cosplayer you may even use hot glue to attach pieces to your costume, especially if you don’t know how to sew.

3. (Hand) Sewing Needles
Sewing with a machine is great, it can be quicker than sewing by hand and depending on the machine you can do stronger stitches, basting, and even embroidery, and of course serging is good too. But sometimes you come across things that can’t be machine sewn, or it would just look better if it was hand sewn … so having a couple of sewing needles around is always useful.

4. Hook and Eyes
These clasps are great for closing the flaps above zippers, and you most likely will run into a zipper on something, since you need to get in and out of your costume somehow! They are also good for keeping a belt end down flat, acting as a hidden button, closing corsets, or closing necklaces.

5. Measuring Tape and Ruler
No matter what you are making, you need these! Making armor? You need to measure your body. Making a sword? Need to measure for accuracy. Making pants? You need it for the hem. Measurement is crucial to a good cosplay because you don’t want it to be too tight and uncomfortable, or too loose that it hangs off you. Good measurement also helps avoid random bumps or weirdness!

6. An Iron
If you are making your costume you are going to want to iron your seams flat, you may also have to work out some wrinkes or creases in the fabric, or even do some appliques. If you are buying your costume you’ll want to iron it too, a lot of store-bought costumes end up looking bad because people wear them right out of the box – but they still have creases and folds from when they were packed! Even hotels have irons available in the rooms so make use of it – it will definately improve the overall look of your costume.

7. Tide to Go (or another quick cleaner)
It is pretty easy to get a costume dirty, whether you drop something while eating or someone with messy hands glomps you … tide to go or shout wipes are great ways to get out stains quickly.  If you don’t have that at a con, you can always run to the bathroom for a quick cleanup, but you’ll have to wait for your costume to dry the slow way.

8. Tailor’s Chalk, Fabric Pencils or  Watercolor Pencils.
At some point you may need to make a marking on your fabric, especially if you are altering a pattern or noting where to baste stitch. Tailors chalk and fabric pencils are made specifically for this and wipe off the close easily. Watercolor pencils are also good for marking on most fabrics because they easily wash off. They also come in a variety of colors so you can get one that is close to the color of your fabric if you are marking on the outside, or contrasts with the fabric if you are working on the inside.

9. Veclro
I have a huge chunk of velcro in my house because I find so many uses for it!  It’s a very simple way to attach stuff to your costume that you want to be detachable for getting in an out of it,  especially for stuff that doesnt have straps – like armor! it is also a good clasp, for belts with no buckle, scarves that you want to stay a certain way. Or for closing things like jackets when you don’t want to add a zipper and there are no visible buttons.

10. A friend! (or handler)
I’ve gone off from my group of friends and something will go wonky with my costume, and nobody is around to tell me!  It’s always good to have a friend somewhere at the con who will tell you when your wig is crooked or there is dirt on the back of your leg. Friends are also useful for helping get on a crazy costume, holding your stuff when you pose, helping you walk while in a bulky costume,  and fixing things without you noticing.  If you don’t have any friends going with you to the convention, you can always ask people around you for help, or check a washroom mirror to see if anything is up with your costume.


Saber from Fate/Stay Night Armor

So I was on gaia and came across a post from someone looking for how they could make Saber’s armor from Fate/Stay Night. I made a post going over a variety of methods of armor making, which could apply to just about any costume that involves armor. I decided to share it here too since it is pretty useful and contains a variety of tutorial links, organised by method:

Starting Specific

This tutorial for samurai plate armor is made with a cut up plastic bucket, you can make your gauntlets the same way, and possibly the panels on the skirt. You would want foil, or mettalic bristol board for covering it to give it an actual metal look.

This is an armor edging tutorial. Edging creates the raised edge around certain armors, there isn’t much on the armor but there is a bit on the gauntlet.

Some Cheap and Easy Methods …

Paper mache is an option, you will want a solid base such as layed craft foam or cardboard. Then you papermache over it to give it some strength. This is one of the cheaper methods and won’t be very durable unless you do many many layers of papermache. For a nice smoothe finish you will want to cover it with gesso, bondo, spackle or another primer and sand the primed surface down. Then use a metallic spraypaint to paint it. Here is a guide to papermache basics.
cardboard and papermache shoulder armor

also there is the option of paperclay, it’s clay made from ash and is very lightweight. It works well over papermached pieces
http://www.jiajem.com/armor.html

Craft foam armor is a very popular way of making armor for cosplay. It is cheap and lightweight and looks really nice when it is done. Craft foam can be bought in small sheets for around $1.00 at craft stores, some offer bulk packages. You can also find craft foam in a variety of thicknesses depending on your needs. Some craft foam armor tutorials:
http://entropyhouse.com/penwiper/costumes/helmsdeep.html
http://gaogaygar.fc2web.com/EnglishMake01.htm

Cardboard is an option, while I do not have a cardboard armor tutorial I have a couple tutorials for certain parts of armor, it can be applied in the same way. This method is cheap, since you can get boxes for free from stores and buildings if you ask for them, if you don’t want to say it is for cosplay you can always claim you need it for storage. The challenge with this is getting the cardboard to do what you want, because cardboard isn’t very flexable – so you’ll need to do many small pieces to make up a curve shape.
Cardboard helmet tutorial
cardboard samurai armor

Going up in price …

Wonderflex is a very nice armor material. Wonderflex is a plastic that becomes bendable when you heat it up with something like a hairdryer. You can bend it to any shape you want, unbend it, and it sticks to itself. So you don’t need anything extra for the construction such as a hot glue gun that you amy need for other methods.
Wonderflex chest armor tutorial
wonderflex tutorial

Fiberglass will give you very high quality results. However this method requires you to work outside (toxic fumes) and it is more advanced than the other methods. If you think you would like to do this method, make sure to read through the tutorials so you can do it properly and safely!
Fiberglass armor creation
Fiberglass armor construction
Fiberglass over insulation foam


Misa Cosplay Guide

@GloryZorrilla asked my the other day how to make this misa cosplay, so I decided to write this up:

The Wig:
The wig is fairly simple, you will just want a long blonde wig that goes mid-back. You can make the small pigtails by taking some of the hair on each side and using small elastics to put it in place. Use a wig head to help you see if the pigtails are straight, or measure it while it is on your head!

The front sides are shorter than the rest of the hair, so make sure you trim it accurately.

Some useful tutorials on cutting bangs:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AK9_-sLF5M0
http://www.amphigory.com/wig_how_to_cut_bangs.html
http://tristencitrine.com/tutorials/wigbangs.html

Collar:
Honestly, you can pick a collar like this at costume and party stores around halloween, or at some goth-y stores like hot topic during the rest of the year. It is definately less work than making one!

To make one yourself you will need to create a neckband, you can do this with pleather to imitate ones sold in stores, or just some stiff black fabric if you like something softer or cheaper.
/For thick pleather, you can usually get away with leaving it one layer. Measure the circumference of your neck and add on a little bit for where the clasp will go. Cut to size.  Add on a clasp to the end (carried at craft or fabric stores) or veclro or another way of closing it, and test it on your neck. Finally, add studs (sold at fabric and craft stores).

/ For other fabrics you may want to cut two pieces and a piece of interfacing to make it stiffer. Sew along the top and side edges and flip inside out so the interfacing is on the inside. Trim the interfacing so it is a bit shorter than the edges of the fabric. Fold the rough edges into the tube and sew along the edge, this will close your necklace tube. Iron it flat. Now you can add a clasp to the ends and then add the studs.
Shirt
Once again, this is something you can find at a thrift store ot the local mall! I sugguest a stretchy fabric shirt, if it has sleeves you can always take them off and hem the edges. Then you just need to sew on some zippers as-is, zippers are available at fabric and sewing stores.

If you would like to make it yourself then look for a similar sewing pattern, it is very simple so it should be a good project for someone new to cosplaying. M5977 is a good pattern if you not include the front ruffle. Once complete, you just need to sew on some zippers, which can be found at a fabric or sewing store.

Necklaces
For the smaller necklaces you could look at a craft store for charms and some necklace chains. Just add the charm to the chain and the smaller ones are complete. Or you can create your on charms with sculpty.

For the large necklace you can create the cross with paper clay, since it is easy to form things and is very lightweight. Another option is sculpty, however you will want to form it over a tinfoil base so that it doesn’t become too heavy. Other options inclode papermache over cardboard or foam.

The Arms
One of the most stand-out pieces of this costume are the blade bracelets attached to misa’s arms. Before we get into them though…

Under her gagets she has fingerless gloves, you can either buy some online, at goth/punk-y type stores, stores like clairs that carry gloves and accessories, or you can make your own. If you can’t find any gloves that are fingerless, you can always buy gloves with fingers and cut the ends off, just make sure to hem any fabric that may fray

The base of her blades are leather straps, you can make your own by buying pleather and cutting to shape and then adding snaps. You can sew 2-3 layers of pleather on top of eachother to give it thickness and strength  just make sure you sew the snaps to your bottom layer first. You can also buy straps at stores that sell accessories, punkyy/goth type clothing and accessory stores, and online.

The blades themselves are relatively simple. You can make them by putting a piece of thick card inbetween two pieces of craft foam and cuttin it to shape, cut the blade end on an angle to give it a sharper look. Next, prime your pieces with gesso or another primer. Sand down the layer and paint black, a black spraypaint would work well for this project. Finslly, you can highlight the blade edges a bit by drybrushing a very small amount of silver so it looks like the metal was chipping. You can then use brass fasteners as screws to allow the blades to move and also look nice.

other methods include making the blades out of wood, foamcore, brass fasteners, wonderflex.

Belts
Another thing you can most likely buy at goth-y punk stores or at party and costume stores around halloween. Though if you want it to be accurate, the best way is to make it yourself.

First off here is a belt making tutorial to make the base:
http://diyfashion.about.com/od/diyaccessories/ss/Make_A_Belt.htm
and a second
http://creativelittledaisy.typepad.com/creative_little_daisy/2006/08/belt_tutorial.html

Now you just need to add the studs. For the regular studded belt you can pick up studs at a craft or sewing store, they may come in a kit that explains how to add them. For the rounded studs, you can look at the same stores and they may carry them, or you may have to order them online. If you can’t find any you could make some with craft foam, by cutting a circle and taking a snip down to the middle of the circle then gluing it back together so it is now a raised cone shape rather than a flat circle. Paint it nicely and then hot glue it to the belt.