by Willow Enright
Starting a new cosplay or Halloween outfit is fun. Drafting ideas, looking at inspirational photos on Etsy and Pintrest, rifling through drawers that you haven’t looked at for months, can breathe life into your everyday and make you feel like you have a purpose. Then the questions and doubt start to set in. What if I can’t pull off the character on time? What if I don’t have enough money? Should I have a realistic looking pulse rifle, or a toy nerf gun? I’d have to have to buy so many items.
Creating a great cosplay costume doesn’t have to mean all or nothing. True, if you plan to cosplay as Master Chief, you have to go big or go broke, but not every cosplay has to be that grand. It is possible to create awesome characters piece by piece. The trick is to choose your character with that in mind. A good option is something in the dystopian or post-apocalyptic verse. Often times these characters have multiple versions of their outfits, or have interchangeable bits and pieces to add or subtract easily. Mad Max, Hunger Games, Book of Eli, Terminator (after Judgement Day), The 100, The Walking Dead, Borderlands, and Fallout are a few examples of these types of universes.
Once you pick your character, research them and find out what you can about them. What are their outfits usually made with? What type of footwear do they usually sport? Do they have weapons or props that can be used? Do you have some of the items your character might wear or use already? If you do, all the better. If not, that’s okay. You are going to plan this cosplay for the long haul so you’ll have time to find or make what you need, plus some of it will be improvised while you are creating and perfecting the character.
You’ll want to decide how much of your cosplay will be found objects, and how much of it you will want to make. Your time table and budget will both influence your choices, so figure out which event will be your first debut, and how much in the way of funds you’ll need to plan to put into your cosplay. Also, look into last year’s rules for the event before you plan any weapons your character might use as regulations can change for entrance into that event. Then choose what items will cost the most verses those you already have or can acquire for relatively cheap at second hand stores.
I like to divide my cosplay items between easiest pieces and iconic pieces. Identify the top three iconic items for the character and then the three easiest pieces. Determine whether you already have the iconic item, or if you know where to buy it within budget, or if you can make it yourself? For the first version of your character, focus on one iconic piece accompanied by as many of the easy pieces as possible. Your pocketbook will thank you. Once you have your one iconic item and the many easy pieces, and you’re still within your timeframe and budget. Then you can choose to add another iconic piece to increase your character’s recognition, but pacing is the name of the game. If you’re having a hard time choosing what iconic piece to pick, always go for the weapon. What’s Luke without a lightsaber? Cloud without his gigantic sword? Or Daryl without his crossbow?
For an example of how to improvise as you create, let’s talk pants. Say your character wears grey pants but all you have are black pants. You can swap the grey for black until you can find or afford the perfect grey pair. Or you can attempt to alter the black pants to appear more grey with sun weathering, rubbing baby powder into them, or aging the material with excessive wear and tear like rubbing them along rocks or beating them with chains. Make sure to protect any zippers you have on the item with some masking or duct tape. A sticky zipper is better than no zipper.
If your character wears metal armor, you don’t want to pick some flimsy material to replace the metal with. Choose an equally sturdy material to emulate metal. Leather, foam, or worbla would work, and there are various tutorials online for how to make these materials look like metal. Unless you’re a professional costumer, don’t use fabrics that look like metal, they never look like metal.
To wrap it up, you want to first look at what you own, then determine what you need to buy. Again Iconic item first, followed by a few easy items, only to be followed by more iconic items, until you are satisfied or until something falls apart. Modifying, making, and finding are the easiest and cheapest way to finish a character, but might take longer than buying. So follow your heart and your budget and have a great time planning your Steampunk Flash outfit.
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.