London Gaymers recently confirmed that we will be marching in the Pride in London parade again this July, and like last year we are hoping to get as many people cosplaying during it as we can. To help the people that have never cosplayed before I’ve decided to start writing articles helping them get those costumes ready for the parade or whatever con they have their eye on (maybe MCM London in May which London Gaymers will also be at *wink*).
In my experience, choosing your first cosplay is often the trickiest bit as you want to choose a character you have a connection with but the things you can realistically make at this point are fairly limited so in this article I am going to focus on things I thought about to help make my first cosplay a success. For reference, I made my first cosplay (Scarecrow from Batman: Arkham Asylum) in 2014 in about 3 weeks for about £50. I went into it having absolutely no idea how to sew or anything like that but I still think it looked good in the end (even if I would never wear it now).
Finally, before I dive in I feel this can never be stated enough: YOU DO NOT HAVE TO LOOK REMOTELY LIKE A CHARACTER TO COSPLAY AS THEM. DO NOT LET THE FACT THAT THEY HAVE A DIFFERENT BODY TYPE OR SKIN COLOUR OR WHATEVER DISSUADE YOU FROM COSPLAYING THEM.
Ok now that that’s out of the way, the first thing you should think deeply about is what level of crafting you are comfortable with. If you just want to cosplay so you can dress up for an event and have fun with friends then it may be a better use of your time and money to just buy a premade costume online. This is still a perfectly valid way to cosplay and there is nothing wrong with doing it. That being said, I have always made my cosplays and so I can’t offer much advice to you other than to properly do your research before you buy as I’ve been told the quality can vary massively between vendors.
If you’re not super confident in your ability to make things and want to start off smaller then a good way to do so is take premade clothes and alter them to create your costume. For example, maybe you want to cosplay Mario and Luigi, but instead of going through the effort of making the shirt, hat and overalls from scratch, you buy all the pieces and then sew the finishing touches, such as the letters on the hat, on. This way you can familiarise yourself with the basics of sewing while still being happy that your costume isn’t going to fall apart (which is a frequent fear of mine).
The final option is to do and jump in at the deep end and make a full costume from scratch. This is obviously the most difficult option and, if I’m being perfectly honest, will probably end up looking the worst of the three in the end. The benefits though are the sense of pride and accomplishment you get from having made something completely from scratch and you can apply the things you’ve learned in your next costume to make it even better. This is the route I took and I’m so proud of my progress because my latest cosplay (Oracle from Dota 2) is pretty damn cool if I do say so myself.
Once you’ve decided what level of crafting you’re comfortable with then you can start looking for characters that catch your eye and are doable with your limitations and budget. For buying cosplay, you’ll be limited to more popular characters and series and so if you’re looking to cosplay something very niche then you might struggle. If you’re altering clothes then you likely wont be able to make the flashiest, most elaborate cosplays as you’ll struggle to find a base to build them from.
If you’re still keen on making your costume from scratch, here are some things I’d recommend you do so that you’re not overwhelming yourself straight away.
- Stick to a small number of fabric types: Each type of fabric has to be handled differently when you’re sewing it and so limiting the number of types you work with should help you understand them better (while also keeping costs down usually).
- Choose a character with simple clothes: You need to get a good understanding of the basics of sewing first and so choosing an outfit that doesn’t have lots of more complex elements like gathering is important. Additionally, many of these structures are difficult to near impossible to make without a sewing machine (which I’m assuming you lack) and so your costume will likely never look as good as you want it to.
- Focus on one medium: By this I mean don’t choose a character with heavy amounts of sewing and non-sewing elements (such as armour) because you’re then trying to learn 2 quite different skillsets at once and so you’re going to have a tougher time. By all means though feel free to choose a costume utilising a small amount of the other medium (perhaps as a bit of detail on the costume or a small weapon) so that you can start exposing yourself to it though.
- Choose a character with imperfect clothes: If you choose someone who naturally looks a bit raggedy then any mistakes you make will likely not be as noticeable or detrimental to the overall look of the outfit in the end. This was a big reason that I chose to cosplay Scarecrow as opposed to some of the other characters I was considering.
I have one last tip for you before I go and it’s probably the most important. Choose a character you love because it’ll make it easier to persevere when things start getting difficult (and they will). I have started several cosplays that I chose because I thought they would challenge me but I just didn’t care enough about the character to finish them in the end and focused on the characters I did like instead.
Ok that’s all from me for now. I hope you’ve got an idea of the things you should be thinking about now and can start planning your amazing outfits. Next time, I think I’ll talk about things to consider when choosing a costume for the parade specifically as there as many costumes that quickly become a bad idea when you can’t sit down for hours. See you all then.