Four Cosplay Tips and a Shoddy One

♪ I’ll paint over you, I know I will,
I’ll pretend this coat is dryyying.
And I’ll tell myself, this will look fine,
‘Cause I’m the Queen of Winging Cosplay. ♪

Like many other cosplayers, I found it very difficult to write about my own process, especially considering how hammy mine is. However, my editor urged me to finish something since I was procrastinating a new costume anyway, and he figured that (despite my shoddy methods) people could use the advice, whether they are entering the cosplay scene or looking for a different way of going about a piece. I would love to be a beacon of advice, but be warned that a lot of the techniques I use are arguably unwise. They can really help, just don’t give these things a go on stuff that is expensive or limited. I do have decent tips, but I will point out the risky ones throughout this article. I will not get to all of them here, but rest assured I will detail all of them in good time.

Decent Tip #1: Sketch your cosplay

Before doing anything, I like to sketch the pieces I need, and sketch the character a few times. I have many sketchbooks in which a concentrated few pages are nothing but sketches of the character I plan to cosplay, and sketches of their outfit. For Tiki, my sketches are on a bunch of Post-It notes that are scattered throughout notebooks at work (they don’t mind, Unrelated Tip #1: sketching helps some people take in verbal information better and helps with fidgeting).

For me, when I sketch out a character enough, it’s easier to remember the parts I need to make when I’m in the mess of it. It also reminds me that there are a lot of intricate details that I need to keep references around for.

Decent Tip #2: Print your reference images

For those that aren’t inclined towards drawing, for references it doesn’t hurt to print off some images. I only started doing this when I made Tiki and it is so helpful. There are a few decent reference images of her, but I needed really specific ones as I decided I had enough time to do her detailed version (I did not). Since there are a few things on my phone that are quite distracting (I’m still heavy into Fire Emblem: Heroes), this helps stay focused. When I need to check the reference, rather than going to my phone and possibly getting distracted, I can just look up and it is Blu-Tacked to the wall.

It might help to print two of one ref and cross out parts that are done. That generally helps getting back into the swing of things when you’ve had a week of doing other things.

Working on the Advisors together

Decent Tip #3: Craft with your pals

Depending on our schedules, sometimes I craft with other cosplaying friends, which has its benefits, but is certainly distracting. Working with friends a week before the con tends to be less distracting and more about helping each other desperately putting everything together. So, this might be a handy tip, but be wary.

The main reason this isn’t a shoddy tip is that when you are working on a project alone, you tend to only have one point of view. In my industry as well as any other, it is always good to get a second opinion. You may think what you are doing is okay, but sometimes you need a friend to tell you straight up, “Maybe don’t hot-glue that to yourself, Mei.”

Plus, your specialty and theirs are probably different. Getting a different perspective can help put the pieces together in a way you haven’t considered.

Decent Tip #4: Plan ahead and buy during sales

Cosplay can be cheap, but in most cases when you’re making your own, you’ll need to spend a bit. The fabrics aren’t necessarily the bulk of a costume, and even then you need to account for equipment and the chance that you might mess things up. If you have the chance and know what you want to cosplay several months before the event, keep a lookout for sales.

In terms of fabric, several times a year both Spotlight and Lincraft will mark down their supplies majorly. At the moment there is a sale for 50% off all fabric at Lincraft and 40% off all fabric at Spotlight. The catch is that you need to be buying by the metre, but it is the best time to stock up on supplies. Until these sales are on, I go to East Coast Fabrics for a lot of my fabric, mainly the Spandex. At Spotlight and Lincraft you’ll generally find their spandex going for $29.99/m while at East Coast Fabrics it goes for $17.99 last checked (it used to be $14.99/m and a lot closer to me than either Spotlight or Lincraft).

Shoddy Tip #1: Don’t buy patterns

TF2’s RED Medic – My first cosplay at my first convention

I include these tips because this is the way I do things and it hasn’t affected me badly yet, but this might not be for you. The only cosplay I have used a pattern for was my first one, back when the only thing I’d sewn previously was a pencil case for home economics (I didn’t continue that class because I thought I was bad at sewing). I bought the materials and a pattern, then I had help from a friend to make it. The problem was mostly with us, as we didn’t fit the pattern to my body, and instead we just expected me to fit into it. The coat was large and was more of a tailcoat than a doctor’s coat, but we did our best. When I made my second costume and realised how odd it was, I realised I would never find a pattern for it, or that I would have to Dr. Frankenstein a bunch of patterns together to make it, and I did not have the funds for that.

I realised something as I was planning to make DC’s Cheshire, with the odd asymmetry and weird shapes: my clothes can be patterns!

In order to get the pattern that I needed, to fit me the way it needed to, I realised that I could use clothes of similar materials. Using tissue paper or newspaper, I would lay out clothes and trace around each panel in order to 

DC’s Cheshire, my second cosplay

get pieces for the patterns I found it hard to find. Ever since I’ve been using this technique with everything I’ve made.

With clothes I don’t have (like a cape similar to Tiki’s), I look up the patterns in Google Images to get an idea of how the piece should work and then draw my own. I ended up making the cape with two huge semi-circles that I sewed together, leaving a gap, then flipping the entire thing inside out. If I unpick the small bit I hand sewed together, the cape can literally be turned into a bean bag.

Next month I will be heading to my first SMASH! Sydney Manga and Anime Show so I’ll be writing another article about what everyone is missing if they can’t make it. In another cosplay quiet month, there are plenty more decent and shoddy tips still to come. Stay tuned.

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