Four Tips for the Cosplay Beginner


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Groot (Guardians of the Galaxy) cosplay at San Diego Comic Con.

By Mlgagne

Cosplay has become a staple of comic conventions; at any given event; con-goers can expect to see many of their fellow attendees dressed as characters from popular culture. There is no one right or wrong way to cosplay – whether the costume is hand sewn yourself or you have bought pre-made parts for the outfit, the most important thing is to have fun. If you are just venturing out into the world of cosplay for the first time, here are four tips to help you make the most of your experience.

  1. Decide which character you’d like to cosplay as by considering many different factors.

The first step in creating the perfect cosplay is to decide whom you want to dress as. Choosing a character to portray can be tricky, especially if you have a lot of different fandoms. However, one easy way to narrow it down is to consider your budget. If you don’t want to spend a ton of money on your cosplay, opt for characters with simple outfits that can be easily created out of items that you already own – i.e. jeans, a t-shirt, etc.

Another way to narrow down which character to portray is to consider your level of comfort when cosplaying. Is being able to move easily a priority for you? Do you want to wear a Lycra suit or something that shows a lot of skin? Are you comfortable wearing an ensemble with full make-up and a wig, or is this something that you’d rather skip? These are all questions that you should ask yourself before zoning in on any cosplay. Considering your level of expertise and what techniques you are (and are not) willing to try out will go a long way in helping you choose who to dress as.

Finally, one last thing to consider before deciding on your cosplay is the weather at the location of the convention. After all, you probably wouldn’t want to wear Princess Leia’s bikini in zero-degree weather, nor Jon Snow’s heavy-duty cloak in the height of the summer. Make sure to research average temperatures in the area during the time of year in which you will be attending the con before finalizing any cosplay plans, because being too hot or too cold can definitely put a damper on your whole experience.

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A creative cosplay at San Diego Comic Con.
  1. If you are not savvy with sewing, use sites like Etsy or Amazon to help you to complete your look.

There are many talented cosplayers out there who make their own costumes and weapons. However, if you are like me and don’t have the sewing experience to make a full cosplay, there are many other resources that you can use.

If you want to get the look as accurate to the original as possible and are willing to splurge a bit of money on your cosplay endeavors, look to sites like Etsy. There are many small shops on there that specialize in creating cosplay clothing, wigs, and accessories, and some might have exactly what you need already in stock! Others can create a custom-made costume or even do full commissions for you; generally, you just need to message the shop’s owner to see what they do and do not offer (plus, by purchasing your items from an Etsy shop, you are supporting a small business, which is pretty cool!).

Another option you can look to is a cosplay site based in Asia, such as CosplaySky. While the quality of the costumes and props may not be as high as similar items on Etsy, they still tend to look screen-accurate and are generally more budget-friendly. Plus, sites like these usually offer a wide variety of cosplay options, and many will allow for minimal customization on certain products.

Finally, if you do not want to spend as much money on your cosplay and are not completely set on having your costume be as close to the original as possible, you can always buy items from sites like Amazon and put the outfit together yourself. This is also a great option for cosplayers who aren’t excellent at sewing but would still like to have the experience of developing the costume themselves, as it can be a very rewarding achievement once the convention rolls around.

As a quick reminder, if you will be using sites like these to complete your look, always be sure to check the costume weapons policy for the con you will be attending prior to purchasing any props. Most cons have very specific rules regarding cosplay weapons, and you don’t want to spend money on an item that won’t be allowed in the door. Reading up on this ahead of time can help you to choose props that fit con regulations, saving you time and money!

  1. Do a test run.

Before any convention, it is important to do a test run of your cosplay. This way, you can make sure that your clothing fits properly, perfect your make-up and hair (or wig), break in your footwear to ensure that your shoes can be worn comfortably for an entire day, and test out any weapons or accessories for functionality so that you don’t have to make adjustments on the day of the event. Testing out your cosplay allows for trial and error, meaning that if you don’t know exactly how to best secure your wig or how you want your make-up to look, you don’t waste time trying to figure it out once you arrive at the convention (because, as any regular con attendee knows, time is of the essence!). Pre-planning and testing everything out at home will save you a lot of stress and ensure that you look your best. Plus, it can definitely help you in deciding if any back-up items will be essential for the day (i.e. extra bobby pins, spare tights, etc.).

Mlgagne performing a test run of her female Negan (The Walking Dead) cosplay.

As a side note, once you have done your test run and are happy with the results, I would recommend that you NOT change anything once you arrive at the convention. For example, at San Diego Comic Con this past summer, I decided to use wig tape for my cosplay as Game of Thrones’ Cersei Lannister, as opposed to my previously tested method of pinning my wig into place. This turned out to be a HUGE no-no, as I ended up sweating so much that the wig would no longer stick to the tape and wouldn’t stay in place as a result. If I had stuck to pinning it in place instead, my day would have gone MUCH more smoothly, and it would have saved me a lot of embarrassment when looking through photos later on. In other words: always stick to the method that works best!

  1. Say “yes” to great opportunities that may arise…but don’t be afraid to say “no,” either.

Sometimes, your cosplay may generate enough attention that unique opportunities will present themselves to you. Many con goers may want to take photos with and/or of you and, more excitingly, news outlets may want to interview you or feature your photo in cosplay round-ups. For example, my Cersei cosplay was featured on a local San Diego news channel in 2015, as well as in a BuzzFeed article in 2016. If you happen to fall into opportunities such as these yourself and are comfortable having your cosplay showcased, say “yes” to them! They can be a lot of fun and, if you put the cosplay together yourself, it’s a great way to be recognized for all of your hard work.

However, there may be situations that arise that you are not completely comfortable with. Perhaps you are in a rush and cannot stop to take a photo, or you are feeling disheveled and don’t want to stop to take a photo. Maybe the news outlet that wants to interview you gives you a strange vibe, or maybe you are not comfortable talking to the media in general. In these cases, don’t be afraid to politely decline. After all, as a cosplayer, your own consent and comfort are always the number one priority!

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Cersei Lannister cosplay at the Game of Thrones Experience in San Diego.

In the end, taking your first few steps into the world of cosplay can be daunting, and running into a few problems with your first cosplay is to be expected. However, with time, you will become more and more comfortable with the process, and you will learn what works best for you.

Will you be cosplaying for the first time in 2017? Join the conversation on FoCC!


Melanie (Mlgagne) is a lover of pop culture and the entertainment industry. She is a passionate fan of various TV shows and films, including (but certainly not limited to) GAME OF THRONES, THE WALKING DEAD, PREACHER, OUTLANDER, and X-MEN. She is a regular attendee of San Diego Comic Con (SDCC) and New York Comic Con (NYCC), and she plans to add WonderCon, Con of Thrones, and Walker Stalker Con: Atlanta to her repertoire in 2017. When she is not watching/discussing her favorite fandoms or planning for her next con, she can likely be found sharing cute animal photos on various social media outlets. You can follow her on both Twitter and Instagram @mlgagne.