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Creative Process: Your Cosplay is Gonna Be Plus Ultra!

Ohayo! If you thought I was done with the cosplay posts you’re straight up wrong! But that’s ok! So far I’ve ranted about the negativity in cosplay, discussed finding motivation in creative slumps and detailed the importance of cosplaying the way you want to. This time around I’m going to be discussing my organizational process of both creating and buying cosplay.
First of all, let’s push the idea aside that “you’re not a real cosplayer if you buy your cosplay.” That’s trash and it doesn’t matter. Second of all; and to reiterate a point, if your homemade cosplay isn’t considered amazing by everyone else’s standards - it doesn’t matter. You need to like it/love it for yourself! That’s hugely important to being a “good” cosplayer.

HALT! WHO goes there?

First things first, you should decide who you want to be. Below is a screenshot of one of my many spreadsheets (thanks Google Sheets!). It’s a list of every character I’ve considered being, the version of them and their series. It goes on to detail what’s needed for the costume and whether or not it’s a group project. It helps me out a lot because I can add to it from my phone app whenever I’m struck with inspiration!

 I personally choose my characters based on who leaves an impression on me, who’s well rounded as a character and whose costume I would LOVE to make! (BNHA is very difficult for me because I’m in love with the series, I’ll be using Ragdoll as an example for this process). 
You can choose your character for whatever reason you want. You can BE whoever you want. Because they’re badass, pretty, have a crazy costume, have almost no costume - whatever you want. 

Making vs. Buying

Now, when it comes to deciding that last column, I personally take a few things into consideration:

  • Is it complicated?

    • Why is it complicated?

    • Do I have the skills?

  • How often will I wear it?

  • Will I be competing?

  • What is my deadline?

  • How badly do I want it? (I’ll usually buy if it’s not something I’m crazy about)

  • What’s the more affordable option? (See below in “Money, Money Money!)

  • he BIG one: Do I have the TIME??

I don’t have a lot of time or money. Sometimes it’s motivation I lack. So I decide to buy a cosplay every now and then and enjoy the simple joy of buying it, getting it and wearing it. I buy new and second hand, though I usually get the latter since there’s a lot of good deals for almost brand new cosplay for discounted prices. Cost can play a huge factor in whether you make or buy your cosplay. For example, I bought a LoveLive! Cosplay for Cafe Maid Eli Ayase for about $40 second hand and it’s originally around $120. A breakdown of that costume would have cost me closer to $70 once I chose nice fabrics, lace trims and the small details. I often add new details to bought costumes anyway to bring them up to my own standards; though at a very discounted cost. 

I love to make my own cosplay though because it goes from being something I picked up to something I put my hard work into. I work very slowly, so what takes me 3 months may take someone else a month or less. But it’s very satisfying to spend time making something and then showing it off to the cosplay world! You should enjoy cosplaying in whatever you wear, whether it’s handmade or not. You shouldn’t feel pressured to make your cosplay just because someone says that’s what is needed. Make the choice that’s right for you! 

Choosing to make or buy a cosplay is totally up to you - there’s benefits and downsides to both. Making one isn’t always cheaper though, as you’ll see below. If you want to know my process for MAKING a cosplay, continue below! If you want to see my process for a purchased cosplay, go to Fixing up a Purchased Costume. 

Break it Down Y’all (RAGDOLL!)

  • Is it complicated? Not really

  • Do I have the skills? Yep!

  • How often will I wear it? FOREVER

  • Will I be competing? Maybe? Probably not.

  • What is my deadline? When I damn well please.

  • How badly do I want it? BADLY!

  • What’s the more affordable option? It’s not really for sale anywhere, but it’s affordable for one of my big cosplays of the year.

  • The BIG one: Do I have the TIME?? I do! Plan early and start early!

Once I’ve decided to make a cosplay, I breakdown the elements of it. This happens in two parts, simply because I like to be plus Ultra organized! First I map out what pieces I need and the materials I’ll be using to make that piece. This just helps me see what needs to be made and will help later on when I’m deciding what part to make first. I’ll be using my planning for Ragdoll from Boku no Hero Academia as my example!

Before I can start pricing cosplay, I need to know what fabric I want and what the most beneficial deal will be. I tend to stick to a group of websites and local fabric stores as my primary sources because I’ve had good quality and customer service from each of them. If you can spare some extra money for fabric samples, DO IT. The last thing you want is to buy 4 yards of fabric and find out it’s not the shade you thought it was. 

Fabric.com
Onlinefabricstore.com
factorydirectcraft.com
Joann Fabric
Hobby Lobby

Once that part is done, I get to the nitty gritty of Money, Money, Money! I work full time, rent an apartment with my boyfriend and have other constant expenses. So blowing cash on a costume isn’t something I can just do. Otherwise I’d be making expensive costumes and not be able to afford the cons! Even my bought cosplays were afforded by rebudgeting my money to suit my desires.

Here’s my budget sheet for Ragdoll. As you can see, I did my best to include every small detail that would cost money. Small amounts add up fast and you can save money by only buying as much as you need; ie. 1/4yd instead of a full yard. The prices below are all based off the prorated amount of the original price. So a ½ yd of $15 fabric will cost me $7.50. This still doesn’t include sale prices and coupons; so I’m likely to save money when I go buy my materials! Also, some pieces come in a pack, but I only need one. The jingle bells come in a pack of 2 for $2.99, so even though the ‘cost’ is $1.50, I have no choice but to buy both. (However, this comes in handy if anyone I know wants to make a similar cosplay!)  In cases where you need a lot of small things, I’d suggest going through a website like FactoryWholesaleDirect.com to buy the individual items you need for a good price and save yourself more money.  

My spreadsheets are a labor of love and a lot of time spent researching various websites. Ragdoll will be beneficial for me to use my local Joann’s though, since the fabrics are very commonly found there and I only need small amounts of most of the fabric. Plus I usually have a handful of coupons for 20-60% off! If you’re buying online, be wary of minimum yardage. $8.00/yd for the white mink is a great deal; but Fabric.com requires a 2yd minimum and wouldn’t benefit my budget since I only need a ½ yard. If you’re planning a group cosplay then buying online with the minimums may be better for your budget!
If spreadsheets aren’t your thing, find something that works for you! There’s an app called Cosplanner which is helpful and what I was using when I started budgeting out my costumes. This is really the best way for me to manage my money since I have adult things like bills and rent and furniture to pay for. If I need to be extra cautious, I’ll create a second budget using cheaper materials.

Below is a cheaper version of Ragdoll, using different fabric types and a cheaper wig. The difference is significant. Using high quality materials isn’t an absolute must, and she can look just as good with the second batch of options.

Budget Tips

Include shipping cost! Buying 4 yards of fabric may be cheaper online, but if you’re paying an extra $10 for shipping on top of that, is it really a ‘good‘ deal? (ie. $8/yd vs. $5/yd +shipping cost). I usually bundle large orders together to avoid this issue. If I can, I try to buy all the fabric for a cosplay from the same source to make the most of my order, and I usually end up at the free shipping threshold! The same goes for wigs! Arda doesn’t offer free shipping, so my $40 wig is actually $48 - unless I buy enough to get free shipping. 

Buy over time. Buy things when you see them on sale, if your financial situation allows. If you planned for fabric to cost you $18, and it’s on sale for 40% off, take advantage right then to save yourself a couple dollars! 

Coupons! USE THEM. Hobby Lobby, Michael’s and Joann’s almost always have a 40% off a regular price item. Use it on something expensive and if you want, go back a couple times a week to use the coupon on each piece you need to buy. I’ve saved loads of money by buying my resin casting kits, sewing notions and other things this way.

Keep Track. You’ll see I have a budgeted cost and actual cost in my spreadsheets. This way I can see how much I saved from my original budget. This helps a lot with calculating how much your cosplay cost you, which can help you determine your budgets for future cosplays. 

Buy for a group: If you and your friends are all cosplaying similar outfits, pitch in together to buy what you need! If you need a total of 21 yards of lace trim for idol cosplays, but only actually need 3yards each - split the cost and use a coupon! 

Take advantage: Places like Joann and Hobby Lobby often have fabric remnants for sale 50% off the original and sale price. This means you can find 1/2yd of $15 fur fabric for $5 or less! I’ve found full yards of $20 vinyl for $5 before; so look through those sales to see if there’s anything you can use!

Once everything is budgeted, it’s time to buy! Once my materials are in hand it’s time to begin!

The Next Puzzle Piece

My cosplay breakdown helps me a lot here! This is where the creative process thrives. I rarely have a particular order of what gets done first, it usually just depends on my mood. But, the breakdown outlines what I need to do for each piece. See below for my Ragdoll breakdown!

I try my best to stay patient, and I like to either watch anime or listen to music while I work. For Ragdoll, I’ll probably start with the extra details before moving on to the bulk of her costume. So I’ll probably create her as follows:

Headband
Paws
Tail
Belt w/pouches
Boots
Top
Skirt

She’s looks simple, but there are intricate details to be done for each of these! Some of it will be trial and error - I’ve never made paws or a tail before so that will be a new learning experience! I know it seems like a lot, but if you find a character that you’re excited for and truly want to be then it is worthwhile!

Fixing up a Purchased Costume

As already stated - buying a cosplay does NOT make you any less of a cosplayer. I’ve bought several of mine because I’ve found them for a great price and still in decent shape! So, let’s get started!

Buying

First things, you buy your cosplay! I’ve bought from EzCosplay.com for a brand new cosplay, and I would certainly recommend them! They have a wide variety of costumes available, offer custom sizing and mostly have great prices! My BNHA uniform came from an Amazon seller and it’s also decent quality for the price ($45)!

If you’re blessed with a decent amount of money to spend on cosplay, you can always commission as well! You can find many commissioners on Facebook groups dedicated to cosplay sales and commissions - you can also look into your favorite cosplayers to see if they offer them! Social media is a wonderful tool for connecting with cosplayers and commissioners!

Personally, I buy most of my purchased costumes second-hand. Facebook groups are an incredible resource for finding used cosplay in good condition! Both my Cheongsam Eli and Cafe Maid Eli have been bought online for $35! The original prices for those are $65 and $120 respectively. The only issue with buying online - used or new - is that you will probably need/want to make adjustments to suit your tastes. I’ll be using Cafe Maid Eli as an example, since I haven’t worn her yet!

Breakdown

My Eli update breakdown is below!

This cosplay did come in great condition, however there were some pieces that I simply didn’t like. The top and gloves are made from a sparkly (itchy!) stretch fabric and is ill fitting for my body type. So instead, I’ll be using stretch charmeuse to remake the top and gloves - this way they still match the original design but are also more comfortable and fitting to me.

You’ll see that the middle section of the top is a non-stretch fabric - which is also frustrating. Another reason why I like to update where I can! When I remake the top, I’ll be able to pull off the gold trim and buttons and reuse them for my new version of the top, along with the small beads that are in various places on this cosplay. The same goes for the gloves (not pictured), I can just make or even buy new gloves and sew the attachments to them. 

The previous owner wore this cosplay somewhat often, and the elastic on the stockings has stretched out, so I’ll be sewing in fresh elastic as well. The tie is nice, but I’m going to redo the designs on it to achieve a cleaner look. I already fixed the hat by putting stuffing into the center; it got flattened during shipping and wasn’t looking the way I wanted. 

For this cosplay, the only thing I won’t be altering is the skirt! It’s well made and fits well too. The giant bow is a good proportion - I just need to pin it in places so it doesn’t droop too much. 

All in all, I’m estimating the updates will cost about $20. So a total of $55 for a well made, well fitted costume with minor adjustments! Always be wary of your budget, costume standards and desire for a particular costume.

I often see cosplays for sale stating they were “Worn once for a photoshoot then never again.” I personally couldn’t make or buy a cosplay (especially an expensive one) and sell it after wearing it for a couple hours! To each their own, but you lose out on money that way depending on how much it sells for.Remember that you get to cosplay the way yOU want to - always. Regardless of how much or how little clothing you’re wearing (within con restrictions), how great or fresh your skills are and whether or not you make or purchase - YOU are a good cosplayer. YOU are passionate about something that you want to share with the word. YOU are incredible.

Take a dumb idea, and make it awesome!

If you have any questions about my process, feel free to hit me up!

She's So Sweet She'll Make Your Teeth Wiggle

She's So Sweet She'll Make Your Teeth Wiggle

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