Opinion: Tips for Cosplay on the Cheap

Costuming

From Geek to Geek, Tips for Putting Together a Good Costume

A hobby I adopted a little over a year ago was that of putting together and collecting costumes and, while I’ve only put one full costume together (a Little Tramp costume), I feel like I learned a lot in the year it took me to put together the costume. So I have decided to pass on some words of advice to the people out there who like to cosplay or just like to dress up every now and then.

Chaplin - hatFirst off, become good friends with a local Goodwill or Salvation Army or just some sort of local thrift store. If the store is of any good quality it will become your best friend.

Don’t think you have to spend a lot of money to get quality clothes and clothing accessories (like ties, belts, and so on). One thing that has always dumbfounded me is the attitude by some friends and family that they have to go to places like Target or Walmart or whatever to get good quality clothes. You can get perfectly good clothes at thrift stores for a mere fraction of the cost that you would get them at a chain store. For instance you can get a pair of jeans for five dollars instead of twenty-five, a pinstripe jacket for four bucks or so, and a tie for a dollar. So I’m telling you right now GET STUFF AT THRIFT STORES. It’s going to save you so much money in the long run. Now yes, some things at thrift stores won’t be in the best of shape. Some clothes might have stains on them or be a bit worn and ripped (although worn clothes can work quite well depending on the costume). For the most part, though, I find a lot of good quality merchandise at thrift stores. You won’t be able to find everything at thrift stores, however. For some stuff you’re just going to have to look online.

One of my Internet buddies for costume shopping ended up being Ebay. It was where I actually was able to find a couple key items for not bad prices. Ebay, too, though will not have everything you’re looking for. A lot of google searches may be required to find what you want.

Chaplin glue for moustacheThat’s another thing, if you want to make accurate, good quality costumes then it’s sometimes going to require a lot of patience because, let’s face it, some things (depending on what your costume is) are going to be hard to find. I can’t tell you how many hours I spent scouring google and typing every combination of words I could think of to find certain items. I’m picky about costumes and so those many hours were required. That’s not to say that everything is going to be hard to find. Certain things will be easy as pie to get

Another thing I feel I must warn about, don’t just buy the first thing you see. Try it on first (if you can) if it doesn’t fit you right (and you or someone you know can’t adjust it) or it just isn’t right for the costume then don’t get it. Also, even if you’ve spent months looking for a part for your costume and you finally see it for sale on Ebay don’t buy it if it’s not exactly to your likes or if it cost more than you’re willing to pay. It can be hard sometimes (believe me I know) but it’s worth it. There were a few times I almost gave in and paid more than I was willing to pay or almost bought an item that wasn’t quite up to my specifications but in the end I resisted (or just lost the auction on Ebay, haha) because the details weren’t right. And it’s all in the details people. Be very particular about that. If you are, your costume will benefit from it.

Chaplin moustacheEventually you might have to settle on a few things (I had to settle on the shoes to my Little Tramp costume) but don’t do so until you’ve fought a very long and hard battle. So if after many, many, MANY months (or longer) have gone by and you truthfully, from all the research and looking you’ve done on the item, can’t find it, then you alter your specifications a little but still look for good quality (but yet still cheap) stuff.

That point reminds me of something. Do your research. For some older items, and even newer items as well, research can be done to find out what the piece of clothing is actually called (which can help so very much when trying to find it), or where you might find it, or how rare the item is. I did a lot of this with the Tramp outfit and it helped a lot. Read anything that you can from online articles, to things other people post on message boards, to maybe even books that have information on the piece you’re looking for.

Finally, if possible, look at photos and possibly even videos of someone wearing the costume in question. Photos and videos can be very helpful in spotting certain details about the costume and can help a great deal. Pick apart these photos and/or videos for every pit of visual information that you can.

So, to recap:

    Chaplin - shoes
  1. Visit thrift stores (repeatedly, if they don’t have what you need one day go back another day and keep on trying).
  2. Don’t think cheap products are bad products.
  3. Look online at places like Ebay and do many searches on Google.
  4. Be patient.
  5. Don’t always buy the first thing you see.
  6. Be picky and pay attention to the details.
  7. Sometimes you have to settle.
  8. Do you’re research.
  9. Look at photos and/or videos of your costume if any are available.

I hope this helps my fellow geeks out there who like to dress up (for whatever the reason). I’m not the end all be all on this subject and maybe you have methods that work better for you, but these are things I’ve learned from my experience and that have helped me in my costume searching. I hope they can be of help to you too. Happy hunting.

P.S. Incase anybody is wondering, the current costume that I’m putting together is an Eleventh Doctor (Doctor Who) costume. So far I have the Sonic Screw Driver and the pair of red suspenders for the costume is on its way.

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