How to Sew Cosplay Costumes: A Beginner’s Guide

The amount of time and money that goes into creating costumes makes cosplay an expensive hobby. You have to take into consideration many different pieces, such as the costume, wigs, shoes, props and even specialized makeup. You are paying for the skills of the person who made the costume if you buy or commission one. All of these costs can add up quickly, making it hard to stick to a budget.

Cosplay can cost anywhere from $100 for a simple costume up to $1000+ for complex designs. If you plan to wear a cosplay at an event, you will also have to consider the cost of conventions and travel.

When I conducted an informal survey with regular cosplayers I found that the average cost to create a costume ranged from $200-$400. No one spent less than $150. There are ways to reduce the cost of cosplay despite these high prices. You can still meet your budget by choosing cheaper materials, or opting for simpler costumes (or even closet cosplay).

Why is cosplay so expensive?

Cosplay is expensive because it involves many parts and layers, as well as the skills required to put them all together. You are paying someone to perfect their craft if you commission a costume. You will need to buy all the supplies and tools yourself if you want to make something. This can add up faster than you think.

  • Materials cost: A cosplay is made up of many parts. You’ll also need a wig and the fabric for the costume. There are also materials for accessories and props.
  • Costumes that have many layers: A complex costume will have many layers. One costume may include two skirts and a shirt. It could also have a corset, capes, custom boots, horns and a hair piece.
  • A costume is a good investment. It takes time and practice to create high-quality cosplay. It is a skill you will need to learn over time.
  • You will only wear them for a few occasions: The majority of clothes are designed to be worn multiple times. Even if you buy more expensive and durable clothes, the price per wear will be reasonable. Cosplay costumes are made to be worn a few times at conventions.
  • Cosplay has become popular. Cosplay is becoming more popular. The merchants can raise their prices because they know that the demand for their costumes has increased. Cosplay costumes have become more expensive over the last 1-2 decades due to the simple principle of supply and demand.
  • Conventions can be expensive. Since most people only dress up for conventions in cosplay, it’s important that you also consider the costs of travel, hotel stays, and the event. These costs can be reduced through carpooling or staying with friends. However, they still add to the cost of the hobby.

Handmade cosplays may not be cheaper

Making it yourself is a great way to save money on most creative projects. This can happen with cosplay, particularly when comparing a homemade costume to a commissioned high-end cosplay. It’s not uncommon for you to spend more on a costume that you make yourself.

  • You might have to redo some parts: if you have never sewn a costume or made armor before, you can expect to make mistakes. It’s perfectly normal and you shouldn’t feel ashamed, but you will need to buy extra materials to try it again. These mistakes will increase the price of the finished costume.
  • You may not have all of the necessary tools. A lot of basic tools can be expensive when you make a costume from scratch. Sewing machines, heat gun, cutting mats and dress forms as well as all the small tools like scissors, pins glue, paint etc. can be expensive. Add up. These tools are available to professionals, but they can be expensive for someone who is just getting started in cosplay.
  • Perfection costs a lot: When making your own costume, the final product is a high-quality investment. You will spend more time and money to make your cosplay perfect.
  • The costumes are already designed by cosplay shops. They can offer cheaper prices as they already have the costume designed.
  • It takes a long time to make them. You should also consider how much time it takes to create a cosplay. Even though it may be cheaper over time, sometimes the value of your time is greater than that of money. Your time is better spent elsewhere if you don’t enjoy the cosplay process.

How to cosplay on a budget

You can still make a costume within your budget, even though there are many factors which increase the cost of cosplay. When I was a student and worked part-time in a bookstore, I used these tips to afford costumes. You may not get the best quality costumes, but you will be surprised how well you can look with a small budget.

  • Closet Cosplays: You can use clothes that you have in your closet, or buy cheaply at a store to create a costume. This is a cheaper alternative than creating specialized costumes for each character. This works best for characters with simple costumes or those who wear plain clothes in a few episodes.
  • Use real hair: Wigs of high quality can be expensive. I’ve reduced the cost of wigs because I dyed my hair to match the hairstyles of characters. You can also be creative and change the character’s design to fit your hair. I’ve seen one sailor-moon cosplayer who used her natural hair instead of the pigtails in the anime to create Afro-puffs.
  • Don’t worry about accuracy too much: Most people won’t notice if the details are off. Don’t worry if your shoes are generic boots or you can’t find the right skirt color at a low enough price.
  • Reuse Cosplay Pieces: You may reuse simple wigs or white undershirts from different school uniforms. These basic costume items can be reused again and again, making future cosplays cheaper.
  • Choose cosplays that fit your budget. No matter how much you want to do the more complex or armored designs, they will be more expensive. If you are on a tight budget, choose simpler characters.
  • Learn how to alter clothing. With a few simple alterations, you can transform many articles of clothing into costume pieces. You can find shirts and dresses that are similar to the one you need in a thrift shop. Just add a different collar or cuffs or tighten the waist to make them work for your costume.
  • Buy used costumes: You may also search Etsy Storenvy eBay and the Facebook marketplace to find people who are selling their used costumes. You can get complete costumes for as little as $20. Double-check your measurements to ensure that the outfit you buy will fit.
  • Buy cheap costume: There’s nothing wrong with wearing a cheap costume that you found online. You may not have the best costume, but you can still enjoy cosplaying as your favorite character.

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