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So, You Want to Cosplay? A Beginner’s Guide

So, You Want to Cosplay? A Beginner’s Guide

It’s likely you have attended comic or anime conventions, where you saw people dressed up as their favorite characters. You may even want to dress up yourself and join them, but don’t know how. You’re in luck, because today’s blog post covers all things cosplay!

First of all, let’s discuss what cosplay is. The word cosplay is a portmanteau of costume and play. It refers to fans who dress as characters from any fictional world. Some of the most popular types of cosplay are anime characters, Star Wars characters, and superheroes, but you can cosplay as whoever you choose. There are even cosplayers who dress as characters from their favorite books using their own unique designs. The hobby serves as a way to express yourself creatively, meet other fans, and show off your love for your favorite character.


Now that you know a little more about what cosplay is, it’s time to think about your costume. You can choose any costume you like, but as a cosplayer myself I recommend picking a character you connect with. Although having a cool-looking outfit is definitely one of the more exciting elements of cosplay, you should be a fan of the character you’re choosing to dress as. However, you should also consider your budget and skill levels, in order to select a costume that you can either create yourself or have someone help you with. 


Some may think that you have to already know how to sew or work with craft materials to cosplay. This is not entirely the case; there are lots of tutorials online, especially on YouTube, about how to make costumes, props, and accessories, and a lot of them are beginner-friendly. You may also be able to find a Facebook group or an online forum that discusses the costume you want to build, which is a great place to ask questions and get tips from veteran cosplayers. If you’re still worried about not having the skills to make the costume of your dreams, you can find a friend who knows how to sew, check out what’s available on Etsy, or ask around in cosplay commission groups on Facebook.


If you do want to make your own costume, you’ll need supplies. Patterns and fabric can be found at stores such as your local Jo-Ann Fabrics or any of the various fabric websites online. You may also want to make props or accessories for your costume, which can be created out of materials like craft foam or Worbla—a sheet of plastic that can be shaped into your desired form once it is heated. More advanced cosplayers may even own 3D printers, which create three-dimensional objects out of thin layers of plastic that can then be painted to match the original prop.


Wonder Woman Cosplay


No matter how you decide to create your costume, it’s important to have good reference photos. This is so you (or the person making the costume for you) can see the character from multiple angles and can get the finished product to look accurate to the movie, show, game, or comic book the character is from. Speaking from personal experience, I don’t feel comfortable enough with making my own costumes, so I spend a lot of time researching to find the best possible reference materials to ensure the sewing or crafting process goes smoothly for whoever is doing the actual construction of the costume.


Your character may have interesting or unusual hair, and that usually means you’ll need a wig. There are no rules in cosplay, so don’t think you have to wear a wig if you find them uncomfortable, but a good-quality wig can elevate the look of the entire costume. Cosplay wigs are generally not overly expensive if you plan to style them yourself. A good resource for wigs is the Arda Wigs website, where you can not only purchase wigs but also find tutorials to help you learn to achieve your desired hairstyle. If your costume requires makeup, there are thousands of makeup tutorials on YouTube that could be helpful. Some of them may even be tutorials for the specific character’s makeup look that you’re going for!


Now that you have a costume, you may be wondering what to do with it. The most popular answer would be to wear it to a comic, sci-fi, or anime convention, but you can also wear it for a photoshoot at an appropriate location, for Free Comic Book Day at your favorite comic shop, or even a Halloween party. For more advanced costume-makers, if you have a movie-accurate Star Wars costume, you can apply to join the 501st Legion or Rebel Legion costuming groups and participate in events with them. There are also similar costuming organizations for fans of franchises such as Ghostbusters and Star Trek. Other cosplay events may even turn up in the most unlikely of places—one of the first times I ever cosplayed was at a small convention held by the local library!


At the end of the day, cosplay is all about having fun. You may find it stressful to put the costume together, but it will be worth it in the end when you wear the completed outfit for the first time and become your favorite character. It’s also a way to meet other people with similar interests. You may even want to form a cosplay group with your new friends, where each person portrays a different character! The possibilities are practically endless. It’s a great hobby for anyone, regardless of skill level or how long you’ve been a fan of a franchise. Hopefully after reading this, you now feel inspired to get out into the cosplay universe. In the words of Obi-Wan Kenobi: “You’ve taken your first step into a larger world.”




Annie Coben is a writer, singer, cosplayer, and all-around geek girl from New Jersey. When she isn’t at a comic con, you can find her playing guitar, working on her manuscript, or watching Star Trek: The Next Generation. Her all-time favorite genre is sci-fi. As a self-described “part-time space princess,” she is a member of the Star Wars costuming group, the Rebel Legion, where she dresses up as Princess Leia. For more from Annie, check out her cosplay-themed Instagram account, @anniedroid_cosplay


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