With Wellington’s Armageddon coming up this Easter weekend, the nerdiest of us have already sorted our outfits. That said if you’re just starting out in the world of cosplay then there are a few pieces of advice to give you a hand getting started.
Do your recon
Off the bat you are going to need to figure out who you want to be. If you’re thinking about cosplay and going ahead with it, then chances are you’ve already thought of a character you really like and would be keen to dress up as. Depending on your background there are a bunch of skills that you’re going to need to work up to, or pay someone a lot to sort for you, so jumping straight into a character that needs full body paint isn’t a great idea.
If you’re starting off the best piece of advice is to go with a character who you look a little like. Same general hair colour and length, is always a great place to start. You’re going to need to do a lot of homework, so starting with a well known character is also going to be very helpful. Below is a costume that worked easily for me as it only required finding the correct clothes, and getting some 3-D claws printed.
Pick your outfit, and then recon again
Once you’ve settled on a character, the next step is your recon for that specific beauty. Google is your best friend. Take a look at all the different outfits your character wears. Figure out if people will know who you are if you go subtle, and if you do decide if are you OK not being recognised despite the work you put in? Do you want to do a different take on a well-known character?
If you’re going for a truly iconic character then the world is your oyster so long as you keep the main design elements. If you’re staying true to the original, or revamped style in the case of some characters, then you need to be as screen accurate as possible. Doing your recon is very important for achieving either, as you are going to refer to your reference pictures a lot throughout. Make sure the photos are saved on your phone as well, because when shopping while out and about you will definitely want to refer to these.
For outfits like the below, my World War II Wonder Woman costume fell easily into the former category – but sticking with the corset and bracelets meant it was still easy to tell who I was. Whereas my friend Kathy stuck with the original Furiosa look and went for an effective screen accurate look. Both are ultimately effective choices.
Plan, plan A LOT
You’ve picked your character, you’ve decided on a look for that character, and you’re ready to get started. With your reference photos, you are going to need to plan exactly how it is that you are going to achieve your look.
For the most part this point is pretty self-explanatory. Break your outfit down into each of the components you are going to need, and how it is that you want them to come together to finish your look. If there is any part of your outfit that is going to require a makeup skill you will need to plan for this well in advance because trust me when I say if you do not know the appropriate technique for applying face paint, it is a right bitch. In the photo below I was not aware of this, and it took me two and a half hours to get the white face paint thick enough, even though the type was top notch.
As well as this do yourself a favour and have backup plans in case something goes wrong with sourcing an item, so that it doesn’t compromise your whole look. A cosplay ‘mini kit’ is also a great idea – a bunch of bobby pins, saftety pins, and a glue gun is a solid idea from the get-go.
Buy what you can, and personalise if needed
Cosplay is expensive as fuck when you start getting into more detailed areas. When collecting your pieces places like Amazon and Etsy are solid choices because they have buyer protection schemes, and ratings mean you can see how an item holds up. The photos in Amazon reviews are a true godsend, and now that services like Youshop exist you can get anything sent to NZ for a price.
When possible you should source as much of an outfit as you can from your local area. In NZ good option is Trade Me for costume, or second-hand items. If you can’t find exactly what you need then see if you can make it, because there’s almost always an Instructables or Youtube clip of someone who’s been a character before you – and luckily cosplay is an area where people are happy to knowledge share.
From all of the outfits featured in this article I either sourced an item second hand locally, or made it. The true key to cosplay is how creative you can be with what you have. Picking a character like Wonder Woman when you have a $50 budget can be done if you have a red shirt and blue pants already, but you aren’t going to have the proper corset. Whereas picking someone like Carl from Up means that all you really need to do is dress like an old guy, make a house if you can be bothered, and attach some balloons to a walking stick.
Ultimately though the key to a good cosplay is picking a character you love. When you start out, unless you’re dropping a lot of money, you aren’t going to be at the level that some of the others at your Con will be. Ultimately your aim should be to just have fun with it. Also, if you have a friend who can sew you 100% rope them into doing favours for you.