by Willow Enright
I often hear from folks that leather presents entirely way too many obstacles to overcome, especially when it comes to cosplay. I hear that leather is expensive, that it requires special tools, it takes too long to work with, and wearing leather is simply uncomfortable. I’ve been working with leather for over four years, some of these complaints are more true than others.
“Leather is expensive.” This is often true. Unfortunately, budgeting is a tricky business, but like most intensive passions or hobbies, we have to plan a budget for them. If this is your first time working with leather, you don’t know what it’s going to cost, so know your upper limit on spending and have a backup costume ready. If you are the kind of person that seeks the cheapest avenue regardless of the costume, then cosplaying in leather is likely not for you.
“Leather requires special tools.” That’s simply not true. When I first started I used regular household scissors, various screwdrivers, a hammer, and whatever knife I had handy. If you want some basic tools because you plan to do more than the simple basics, then I recommend these to start: swivel knife, a hole punch set of various sizes, a decent mallet (rawhide or marble, both are a bit spendy but worth it, NOT wood) rivet/snap setter set, an 18” metal ruler, cutting board or self healing mat, and a scrap piece of granite or marble (Look for a place that makes granite counters/table tops and see if they have a free scrap bin. This is where I acquired all three of mine.) If you want to try tooling fancy designs then get a Tandy six piece craftool basic stamp set. If you usually buy your costumes and don’t enjoy making them, then making it out of leather will be more of a challenge.
“Leather takes too long to work with.” There’s never enough time. Mostly because you want everything to be so awesome. I’m right there with you on this one, however we all have our time frames and limits when it comes to getting a cosplay costume done on time, and really the only way around that is to plan like the devil. If you know that you absolutely have to be that new character coming out, then plan like mad to make sure that the timing can happen for you. I can understand that some people will always want to be the newest, most awesome character which will clearly limit your desire to make multiple complex leather cosplays that will last a long time. If that’s the case for you, then leather may not be the best medium for you to use. However, if you like leather and would use the item again for other events then investing in something that will last you is never a bad idea.
“Leather is uncomfortable.” Agree to disagree. My advice here is to know your own personal limits. If walking around all day in five inch heels isn’t a thing you already do then you probably don’t want to plan a cosplay where your character wears badass five inch heeled boots. My Mord-Sith cosplay technically should have five inched boots, however I have some messed up ankles from various sports injuries making high heels impossible for me, so I made mine flat boots. No one seems to care. The most important piece of advice is to test out your costume before you actually plan to wear it, this way you can make adjustments as needed. If you find out that your costume is too hot, then you should invest in a set of Under Armor clothes for underneath. These are special clothing garments that help to keep you cooler and usually run about $40-60 a piece. They are a bit spendy but they are an amazing investment and worth every single penny, plus they last a long time.
Whether you make your costume out of leather or not, is not my main concern. I really just want to help people who are curious about leather, and if you have read this far you are one of those few that are, and to you I say, “go for it!” If you are still under the assumption that leather presents too many obstacles to overcome then leather cosplay is not for you. Hopefully you can still vicariously enjoy it through others.
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I started crafting out of leather in 2011, and now I am making it my life's work. I am writing this blog to help myself remember some of the small steps in past projects, sharing my triumphs and failures, as well as my love of leather.