How I got started with cosplay (and how you can, too!)

I got started with cosplaying when I was 14 years old, with an original-design Lady Loki cosplay. It was mainly thrifted, with some added parts that I created from scratch, and though it wasn’t the best thing I’ve ever made, it got me into cosplay, so I love it for that. I later remade a lot of it.

Regrettably, I can’t remember how I even found out cosplay was a thing – maybe I saw it on the internet, heard about it from a friend, watched a Youtube video where someone mentioned it. I really don’t remember, which is a tad annoying.

‘But wait a minute,’ you must be thinking. ‘This blog post is supposed to tell me how you got started with cosplay, and now she’s saying she doesn’t even remember how she did start!’

Well, hold on just a second! Maybe I don’t remember exactly how I found out about cosplay, but I do remember getting started with it. I remember not knowing what I was doing, not knowing what cosplay even really was, and doing quite a lot of things wrong. I’m hoping that, with this post, I can help you avoid some of the mistakes I made, and give you a head start.

What IS Cosplay?

Cosplay is the act of dressing up as a fictional character, whether it be from a movie, TV show, comic, book, or even your imagination. A cosplayer is someone who cosplays, whether they make the costume from scratch, buy it pre-made, or anything in-between.

Cosplay isn’t just revealing and ‘sexy,’ and it isn’t just anime. I’ve never cosplayed an anime character, and I don’t do revealing cosplays. And I’m still a cosplayer! If you want to dress up as your favorite character, whoever that may be, then you can be a cosplayer! It’s that easy.

Some cosplayers purchase costumes pre-made, some put them together with thrifted garments or things from their cosplay, some make the entire costume from scratch, some do a combination of all three. All of these are cosplaying! It doesn’t matter whether you bought it, or made it from scratch. It’s all equally valid.

Common cosplayer materials

But how do cosplayers make their costumes, you may be wondering? How do they create a full suit of armor, or manage to look exactly like an anime character brought to life? There are a ton of different tools, materials, and techniques cosplayers and crafters use to create their costumes, but here are a couple of them:

EVA Foam (a cheap, versatile material a bit like foam floor mats, which can be used to make armor, props, and more)

Worbla (a rigid thermoplastic that can be heated up, and formed into different shapes, to make armor, props, and more)

Fabric (fabric comes in an endless variety of weaves, colors, and textures, and is used for all sorts of things)

Wigs (wigs are an essential aspect for many cosplays, being used to change a cosplayer’s hair color, length, and appearance. That being said, not every cosplay needs a wig)

Makeup (there is an endless assortment of makeup out there, and can be used for adding light highlights and contour on your face, to drastically changing your facial appearance)

These are just a couple of the materials and supplies out there that cosplayers use, and there are of course so many more! I’ve seen amazing cosplays made out of cardboard, or recycled materials.

It’s definitely worth being restated, though, that you don’t have to make your cosplay from scratch unless you want to. Doing it all yourself can seem a bit intimidating for a new cosplayer (which I hope you will become!), so do remember that you don’t have to make it all yourself.

How to get started

Believe it or not, it’s actually really easy to get started with cosplay! You don’t need to make it all, you don’t need to buy a complete cosplay, you don’t need a wig. One of my first cosplays was Scarlet Witch, for which I bought a couple things from thrift stores, and make some jewelry with the help of my sister. I braided my hair the night before to make it wavy, and painted my nails black. And that was it! I wore it to my first ever comic con (a gathering of nerds, geeks, and celebrities, where a lot of people wear cosplays), and I had a great time!

Even today, after having cosplayed for years, I still thrift a ton of aspects of different cosplays. Sometimes it just makes a lot more sense to buy something pre-made and alter it, then to make it from scratch.

So how can you get started with cosplay? It’s easy! First, pick your favorite character. Then look at their costume. What parts could you easily find? What parts might you need to make? Do you have enough money to buy everything that you would need for it?

Gathering supplies for your cosplay

After you’ve picked your character, and decided what things you’ll need for their costume, it’s time to start looking for supplies and costume components. Maybe you have a white shirt in your closet, but might need to buy or make the jacket. Maybe you could paint some shoes you already have to match the character’s.

Some parts you might have to make from scratch. It’s hard to find pre-made armor, or giant swords or other props. Though there are a lot of great armor patterns out there, as well as different weapon and prop templates that can help you with your build. If you want to learn how to make armor out of EVA foam (which is a super common, very cool and cheap martial), you might be interested in the class I created for it, which you can access for free with this affiliate link.

Same goes for fabric garments. You might not be able to find the perfect thrifted item, and your character might not be popular enough to have a pre-made costume available for sale. If that’s the case, you might have to make it from scratch. Sewing can be a bit of a learning curve (I should know, I still struggle with it), but it’s a very handy skill.

You can find an endless variety of commercial patterns online, or at Walmart or Johanns, and there a ton of sewing tutorials out there. Youtube, libraries, and Google Search are great places to start.

Completing the cosplay

If you decide you want to try out using makeup for cosplay, that can be a bit of an investment, and a learning curve as well, unless you’re already familiar with it. If you’re not, this tutorial might be helpful for you. Makeup can be a great way to complete a cosplay.

And what about wigs? They can really complete a cosplay, though, of course, you don’t have to use them. Some good places to look for wigs are Arda Wigs, L-Email Wigs, and Epic Cosplay. They can be a bit pricy, but it might be worth it to you.

Once you’ve gathered all your supplies, components, and materials, you can start bringing it all together. It’s important to keep in mind your budget and time frame when creating a cosplay, so you don’t end up running out of money or time. It can take me anywhere from a few weeks to six months to complete a cosplay, and costs can be just a couple dollars, or several hundred.

Budget cosplay is something that I do a lot, to the point where I wrote an entire book about it. I like to create cosplays for cheap, and I’ve done it a lot before. Despite popular belief, cosplay doesn’t have to be expensive!

After finishing a cosplay

So let’s say you’ve finished your cosplay. You have a great costume, you worked hard on it, and you can’t wait to wear it! Well… where do you wear a cosplay? Now what?

The number one answer is comic cons. Like I talked about earlier, comic conventions are a gathering of nerds, geeks, celebrities, artists, vendors, and, of course, cosplayers. They typically take place in a large venue, and can last several days. Attendance can range from a couple hundred to thousands and thousands.

It’s a great place to start cosplaying, because so many other people will be in costume. You can usually find a comic con nearby, though, if not, there’s a lot of online comic cons happening right now.

Plus, you can always take photos of your cosplay. Whether you go out and pay for a photoshoot, or just take some selfies with your phone, it’s a great idea to take pictures of your cosplay, to be able to look back on what you’ve made, and share it with others. Photoshoots are one of my favorite parts of cosplay, and I love to do them. It really makes me feel like the cosplay is complete.

Wrapping it up

I know I didn’t cover everything in this blog post, but I hope it helped introduce you to the amazing world of cosplay. It’s not just for adults, it’s not just for kids – it’s for everyone! Cosplay is an amazing, creative art, and I think you should absolutely try getting started with it.

If you want to learn more about the basics of cosplay, you might consider checking out some of my other blog posts, or even my Youtube channel, where I talk about a ton of different cosplay-related topics.

Welcome, reader, to the world of cosplay.

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