cos·play/ˈkäzˌplā,ˈkäsˌplāthe practice of dressing up as a character from a movie, book, or video game
Cosplay is used as a form of expression. Expressing creativity, appreciation of a favorite character, confidence and so much more. I enjoy cosplaying because it’s a hobby my friends and I like doing together, and we have so much fun when we do it! As part of my CW spotlight month, I wanted to put together a “Beginner’s Guide to Cosplay” filled with tips and information from my experience as a cosplayer as well as other cosplayers. Just to clarify- I’m not trying to sell this as the Bible of cosplay information for beginners, but I do hope that the information I include in this ‘guide’ can be found helpful to beginning and aspiring cosplayers out there!
For this blog, I used my cosplay Instagram platform to ask other cosplayers tips and information about cosplay including things they would like to have learned in the beginning of their cosplay journey. So that’s what you’ll find here and I’m so excited to share some of the great feedback I received on this topic! Click on any of the cosplayer handles mentioned hereafter to visit their Instagram pages.
I want to start out with this: Quite possibly, the most repetitive response I got was that cosplay is for everyone- and that is true! Cosplay knows no bounds when it comes to gender, age, size, skin color etc. Cosplay is meant to be fun!
Getting Started & Creating a Cosplay
Cosplayers all start somewhere. If you aspire to be a cosplayer than you probably have an idea of what type of cosplays you’d like to create. Before you dive in to getting your supplies you should definitely make a plan. My friend, @jps_fx_creations (who makes some awesome armor and cosplay props), suggests to make a pattern for everything, and as someone who considers my methods “sew as I go”, I have wasted a lot of materials because I didn’t physically create a plan or pattern so I agree with this. I’m great at visualizing what I want to do in my head that I get excited and jump too quickly into a project and often end up mismeasuring or not having enough supplies. @bustamover also agrees that creating a plan is helpful before beginning your cosplay project. She suggests to draw or sketch out your cosplay and to write out all the supplies you need as well as the supplies you already have. This will help you get a better visual and will also keep you organized! Here’s a fun tip: Keep these sketches so you can reference them in the future if you decide to remake a piece, use it for another project or to look back on and see how you’ve progressed! I keep my sketches with the materials and supplies I used for that specific project, like trim and beads. I organize this way because if I want to reference the sketch or use items for a different project I know exactly where everything is! When it comes to creating your own cosplay, some aspects of this process can be intimidating, like sewing a costume from scratch. @cosplay.cbeau and @thattallprincess both suggest altering thrifted items or already made pieces if you’re on a budget or if you find sewing to be difficult. Using a preexisting base can also help save some time and avoid additional stress if you don’t have a lot of experience making things.
Connecting With Other Cosplayers
In the cosplay community, I think it’s important to join online cosplay groups and connect with other cosplayers. My friends, @trayleesi and @anewdayprincessparties, suggests joining cosplay Facebook groups and points out that a lot of beginners don’t think to do that- and they are totally right. I didn’t think to join groups on Facebook until a few years into my cosplay journey. Joining groups of individuals who have the same interest as you can provide you with all sorts of resources and inspiration. In the Facebook groups you can ask questions, find support and even just show off your cosplays or works in progress! I personally enjoy having my cosplay Instagram because I’m able to follow other cosplayers for inspiration and Instagram has also provides me the opportunity to create friendships with and even meet some of my cosplay friends! @makeitupkj encourages to look for inspiration everywhere! You can certainly find inspiration on Instagram, Facebook and other online cosplay resources like forums to provide you with helpful information. On Facebook, try searching for a specific cosplay group. I primarily cosplay Disney princesses and other Disney characters so I became part of a cosplay Facebook group called ‘Disney Cosplayers‘. Whether you also cosplay Disney princesses, Harry Potter characters or anime characters, I’m sure there is a Facebook group out there that is geared more specifically to your cosplay niche.
One of my favorite way of connecting with other cosplayers is attending my local cons and renaissance faires. There are two cons local to me that I try to go to every year. No matter the size of the con I encourage you to attend because you have the opportunity to try out new cosplays or wear a cosplay that you don’t get to take out often. My favorite thing about visiting cons is connecting and photographing with local cosplay/fantasy photograohers. I also enjoy browsing the artist’s booths, I try to find at least one piece from each con to take home and have as a keepsake. Renaissance faires have been my new favorite thing. In my area there are more ren faires than there are cons so I use this as an opportunity to create a medieval take on cosplays I already have in my repertoire. For cons I prefer to go for a more character accurate approach, whereas at ren faire’s I like to throw on a pair of lace up boots, bustle up a skirt and swap out my normal bodice for a fancy corset to create a renaissance version of the character I’ve chosen to be. So far I’ve done a pirate Ariel, renaissance Aurora and saloon style Drizelle (Cinderella’s evil step sister). I have so much fun creating and wearing these cosplays! Re-referencing @makeitupkj’s comment again to find inspiration everywhere! I also like to browse through fan art online and try to recreate some of the looks. In the past I have done Belle/Regina George with a Disney princess Mean Girl’s group and a friend and I have also recreated Disney princess/Mickey Mouse fan art by @esteesdave. As a bonus, the artist of the Disney princess/Mickey Mouse fan art liked our cosplays so much he shared our photos on his art account!
Finding cosplay resources such as quality costumes and wigs, accessory sellers and character makeup tutorials can seem difficult, but I promise it’s not as hard as you think to find what you’re looking for. @princess_alyvia_cosplay says that she wishes she had access to quality makeup tutorials. The makeup artistry standard has certainly improved just in the last few years and you can find just about any type of makeup tutorial on YouTube nowadays. If you are portraying a character who has a deep smokey eye, you could likely find a few tutorials of artists who complete smokey eye makeup looks and use those to create a look on your own. Applying a specific makeup look might not turn out great the first time you do it, I suggest practicing to see what colors and techniques work for you! Even if your cosplay character requires body paint, researching good paint and watching tutorials on application as well as practicing before debuting your character can also be helpful.
When sourcing costumes and wigs you should definitely research more than one option and also read the description and reviews thoroughly before making any final decisions. Amazon Prime is a wonderful resource that allows free returns on most items but you may have to sacrifice quality as most of the items Amazon sells are considered inexpensive ‘starter’ options- but I have found some great items on Amazon so don’t discredit it before taking a look! If you’re having trouble researching items for your cosplay, reach out to fellow cosplayers to see if they are willing to share a source or tips for finding what you’re looking for. Keep in mind, some cosplayers like to keep their sources to themselves so if you choose to reach out to someone for help, asking “Do you mind sharing where you got xyz from?” rather than “Where did you get your xyz?” is a better approach and you will likely be offered a lead to what you’re looking for. But don’t be offended if someone doesn’t want to share something with you, it might have taken them a lot of time and research to find their items so it wouldn’t hurt you to put it a little more effort to continue looking. Personally, I find it more rewarding to do most of the heavy lifting on my own!
If you’re anything like me and want to embody your character when in cosplay, such as responding as that character to a compliment at a con or striking the perfect pose for photos, definitely spend some time studying the character. Watching their show or movie a few times to focus on different aspects of the character can help you bring them to life more while in cosplay. Learning their mannerisms, the way they walk and respond in different conversation situations, you can truly provide the individuals you interact with a fun experience. If you’re cosplaying someone’s favorite character and you put on a show when they acknowledge you, you might get a little giggle from them. Short story: When I was cosplaying Lucy Ricardo from “I Love Lucy” for a cosplay photo shoot, a woman riding a bike passed by and called out my name, instead of just waving I yelled out one of Lucy’s well known phrases and she came to me to tell me that made her day and asked for a photo. It was nice to know my cosplay brightened up someone’s day! Lucy is a character that Universal Studios offers for meet and greets so I have researched and found some great reference videos of their performers portraying her which helps me learn how to interact with guests and respond to modern questions. I also find great Disney princess meet & greet videos to study for when I’m cosplaying one of my favorite princesses. The internet is filled with a ton of helpful information for cosplayers, just search a few key words and if you don’t find what you’re looking for at first try a different search, and if all else fails, ask a cosplay friend for help.
@jorielyn17 wants to remind cosplayers out there not to compare yourself to the “master class” or “professional” cosplayers. Cosplay is meant to be fun, so do your best, and if you think it will make you happy to upgrade or add new cosplays work on creating a budget and widening your skill set so that you’re able to get to a point that you’re more satisfied. In the beginning, I wasn’t able to afford pricey commissioners, so I created a budget, made a list of things I wanted to buy and I kept practicing skills I wasn’t that great at. Improvement comes with time and practice!
To close out this blog I want to reiterate a few things: Cosplay is for everyone and should be fun! Do some research to find the resources you’re looking for. And connect with other cosplayers in the community, local or online. I hope you found some of these tips helpful. A huge thank you to those that participated on my Instagram question sticker when I asked for cosplay tip feedback! If you want to participate in future blog research, follow my Instagram!
Here is my sketch when I started my Marilyn Monroe Project:
Here is my DIY duct tape corset and circle skirt pattern:
Here are some photos from my fan art cosplays:
Here are my past renaissance faire cosplays:
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Instagram: @hermajestykat / @hermajestykatcaraway