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Cosplay on a Budget

August 10th 2014
Cosplay is an expensive hobby, the costumes alone are usually pricey before you factor in wigs, shoes and accessories. Not to mention the con itself takes a bite out of your wallet! Though there are many tips for you to save yourself a bit of money when it comes to cosplaying, and this guide will go through some of them.

Choosing a costume

The most important part of cosplaying is actually choosing the costume since there are so many characters to choose from. This is also the defining moment of price. You can generally figure out how much you will spend on a costume by looking at it: do you need to buy a wig? Is this very simple or are there tons of details? How much material is this going to take? Is the material you expect to use expensive? Just by looking you can tell a schoolgirl uniform will cost far less than one of clamp's extremely detailed dresses. So make sure you choose something within your budget.

Make! Don't buy (If Possible)

If you have the ability to sew, or have someone who can help you make it then you will usually save money. The cost of a pre-made or custom made costume is the price of material and supplies, the cost of shipping, and the time it took to make that cosplay piece. Combined, this can add up to more than if you just made it yourself!

There are also other benefits to making the costume, rather than buying. Commissioners don't always include every single detail you might include, they also might take up more time then you have (especially if they are busy), and there are situations where the costume doesn't fit. Commissioners are not bad to buy from, but you don't know exactly what you are getting until you receive it.

Though if you are not willing/able to sew then you can always try and make parts of the costume! You may buy the full outfit online, but you can always make an accessory. If you want to make, or already have, a larger part of the costume you can always see if you can exclude it when you buy or commission the outfit to save a bit there too.

Planning Ahead

Choosing your costume ahead of time is always a good thing, because it gives you more time to work on it and get things done. It also allows you to lessen the burden on your wallet! You can wait, and plan to buy your costume materials when the fabric store has a sale. You can also use the amount of time to save money and spend it slowly You can buy the wig the first month, buy material the next month and then buy anything needed during random intervals. You might end up spending $200 on the costume but it is easier to spend a bit here and there than the whole $200 at one time.

Cards, Sales & Discounts

Fabric stores often have sales, so always be on the lookout when it comes time to buy your fabric. Though there are many other ways you can get cosplay materials and supplies cheap. Be on the lookout for coupons or membership cards offered by your favourite fabric store. Fabricland offers a membership card that gives you 25% off on all products, even during sales! Some stores offer stamp cards, where you get $10 off a purchase if you spend so much money in the store. Looking for sales, using coupons and using membership cards can all save you money that can be put towards other aspects of the costume, or just to have some extra con money.

Using What is Around the House

The biggest money drain is actually spending the money, so to keep costs low stick to what is available at home. Cardboard is up for grabs when someone finishes a box of cereal, old clothes you plan to throw out? Easily used for details on a costume. Even leftover spools of thread and broken Halloween decorations have potential uses. This is especially useful for props, because most of the time props just need a good base shape and then the paint makes the difference. So why pay for something you don't need for a prop that can be made with stuff from around the home? There are tons of items that are in your home that may be perfect for a cosplay so look around at home before you go looking at the stores.

Tsuki Sune-ku's progress on Wolfwood's Cross

Saving Material

You often have some leftover scraps of material after a costume is completed, and you might want to throw them away but don't! Keep any scraps that are a decent size, you never know what you can make with it. I've used leftover scraps to make plushies, add details to costumes, and even make entirely new outfits! You don't just have to save the material either, any leftover ribbon, bias tape, lace, elastic, interfacing or whatever else can be saved and re-used for something else.

Reusing patterns

Sewing patterns can come cheap but they can also get expensive, and they definitely add on to the price of the costume, so why use them once? Save old patterns and re-use them multiple times, because you can! McCall's 4745 is a favourite pattern of mine because it can be re-used so much. Military uniform, male school uniform, dress pants, jacket, collared tunic .... those make up tons of costumes already. A great pattern

Thrift Stores

Not overly great at sewing, but still want to make it rather than buy? A lot of costumes have regular clothes at the base so you can usually buy part of your costume pre-made, and you can alter it as needed. Thrift stores are amazing for finding cheap clothes, especially if you plan to cut them up! It is also a really good place to buy cheap boots/shoes, beltsand hats if your costume requires some of those too.

Take from the Old

Old costumes are a great resource because you probably won't wear them again, or at the very least you won't be wearing it at the same time as your new costume. Why is this good? Because you can save yourself the trouble of making a new piece of clothes if you already own a part .... already cosplayed a schoolgirl and you still have a dress shirt? Then you can use that dress shirt again in another cosplay! If you don't plan to wear that old costume again you can even go the extra mile and harvest material from it, or alter it to make something new. The best thing about old costumes are the wigs. Wigs can get pricey and might be one of the more expensive parts of a costume, so if you can re-use old wigs then you get more use out of it and can save a bundle!

Skimp Where Needed

Not every part of a cosplay has to be made yourself, and not every part has to be expensive. So I say: Skimp where needed. If there are 100 gems on a costume you don't need to shell out and make every last gem yourself since you can buy glass or plastic gems for cheap. If a character has normal eye colours then you don't need to pay for contacts because they wont really be noticed. Props don't have to be made of wonderflex or expensive materials since there are cheaper alternatives and you don't need the highest quality material, just something that looks good. Remember that cosplay is always about how it looks when it is finished and most people won't be judging what they can't see. Do a good job on your costume, but remember that there are parts that you can skimp on.

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