We all remember the joy of dressing up on Halloween– although maybe some of us had better costumes than others. If your getup made you the belle of the local trick-or-treating circuit, there’s good news: cosplay can bring that feeling back. For those not familiar with the hobby, cosplay (a delightfully intuitive contraction of costume’ and play’) is the practice of creating and wearing a costume with the goal of personifying a character from a book, comic, movie, video game or television show. Cosplay takes role-playing to a more refined level, and the costumes used are limitlessly creative and elaborate. Some of the most impressive and convincing cosplay outfits cannot be bought at a store.
However, making your own costume is an experience unto itself, and you’re sure to learn a lot along the way. When tackling the production of a cosplay costume, it’s important to begin by selecting high-quality materials and getting to know the materials and tools that you plan on using, depending on who/what you want to cosplay as, of course.
And no, cosplay is NOT just for kids and teens. It’s for everybody who wants to tap into their inner geek.
Getting Started with the World of Cosplay Communities
If you are very new to cosplaying, I would highly recommend that you consulate with someone in your local cosplay community on sites like Reddit, Facebook, and Meetup.com and check out any resources that you would find at online before you even attempt to use a sewing machine for cosplay.
Best sewing machines for cosplay
Getting Started with your Own Cosplay Creations
How to decide who to cosplay as?
When deciding who to cosplay as, it can be quite overwhelming considering how many characters there are. However, these tips will make your starting point easier.
First you need to decide if you’ll go solo, as a duo, or as a group. If you go solo, you can often use what is around your house to craft either that perfect zombie apocalypse survivor outfit or Steven Universe outfit.
However, if you want to either go as a duo or as a group, chances are, you may have to put in a little more effort into your cosplay, depending on what the occasion may be.
Suppose that you want to cosplay solo as Steven from the ever so- popular, superhero gem-themed, North American cartoon, Steven Universe. You can paint on a plain red/pink t-shirt that you have stored in the comfort of your own bedroom closet. While waiting for the paint to dry, you can check to see if you own a pair of blue jeans and open-toed brown sandals. Just be sure to check to see if your cosplay parts have any wears and tears to them, unless if you plan on going as zombie apocalypse themed Steven Universe, of course. More info in fabric section.
Speaking of which, if you want to cosplay as a zombie apocalypse survivor, you can search through either your own dresser and/or your parents’ and destroy whatever articles of clothing that you find. Just be sure to check with the person whom you wish to steal/”borrow” clothes from beforehand.
Let’s suppose that you want to dress up as Usagi Tsukino(aka. Sailor Moon) from one of the most popular shoujo 90s animes ever made, Sailor Moon, and you want to do a group cosplay with all of the other sailor scouts in the con. In addition to white cotton/spandex/polyester fabric and red cotton fabric, you would also want to purchase dark blue cotton/polyester fabric to go with your red gloves, red boots, gold tiara, and many other accessories that you wish to pair with your cosplay. It would also be a good idea to purchase a fabric marker/chalk so you would know where to cut the fabric.
As you cut and sew the fabric together with a sewing machine, be sure to remember to turn your creation(s) inside-out once you have finished sewing them so your finished cosplay looks nice. More info in sewing section.
Of course, if you’re on a time crunch, you can use a plain old white, spandex t-shirt to go with your handmade pleated skirt, seifuku collar, and many other cosplay accessories. Just check with your partner(s) to see if your last minute cosplay ideas would fly, especially during cosplay contest time.
Side note: Often times, cosplayers want to go as a complete cast and have cosplay holes you can fill, which is an easy way to get started.
Where should I go to get my cosplay items and accessories?
Good question! Before you begin to purchase some of your cosplay/cosplay making items, first, make a list of all the items that you would need to make your cosplay.
Next, take a look as to what’s inside your own home. Check your own closet even. You never know as to what kinds of fabric paints and cotton made materials you may have stored after all of these years.
After that, ask any friends and/or family members if you can borrow some of their items. It would save you a lot of time and money in the long run.
Depending on how many cosplay items and materials that you have managed to find, you can either go to your favorite hobby/craft stores such as Hobby Lobby and G Street Fabrics to put the finishing touches on your cosplay and/or second hand stores like Goodwill for that perfect red shirt to paint your Steven Universe star on.
If you have the time and money, you can purchase some of your cosplay items, outfits, and/or accessories on sites like Etsy and Storenvy ahead of time. Otherwise, you are better off searching as to what is already inside your own home.
Worst case, you can purchase your items from local vendors at anime/comic conventions. At least that you are showing your support to your local cosplay community.
Side note:Don’t worry if the cosplay that you created isn’t 100% made by you. As long as you put your own special twist on a particular cosplay, nobody would care if your beloved seifuku outfit was made by somebody else so long as you give credit to the original cosplay creator.
Choosing the Right Type(s) of Fabric(s)
Depending on how many years of experience that you have making cosplay costumes, as well as who you want to cosplay as, you may or may not want to consider what types of fabric that you would want to use.
If however, you are interested in making your cosplay stand out as best as it could, here are some things that you may want to consider beforehand:
If you are an amateur seamstress or tailor, stick with non-stretchy materials such as pure cotton, wool, and linen. Elasticity in your fabric will create bunching along seams and puckering that requires more advanced stitching techniques to eliminate. If you’re set on stretchy or knit fabrics, make sure you’re well acquainted with your sewing machine, the types of needles you’re using, and the stitches best-suited for your goal. For example, a ball-point needle will work far better than a standard needle if you’re using a knit fabric. If you’re sewing a seam in stretchy fabric, use a zig-zag stitch which can expand like an accordion as far as it is well known ever.
Side Note:When purchasing fabric, be sure to avoid purchasing costume fabric, as well as many other types of cheap, shiny fabric. These types of fabrics not only wear and tear the moment that you put them inside the washing machine, they also can make your cosplay photo look not-so awesome, especially if the photographer decides to use the flash during your time at a convention.
Sewing and Sewing Machine Tips
Understandably, not everyone can be an expert at sewing. However, when designing your own cosplay, it is important that you at least take the time to learn how to use a sewing machine properly, especially when you’re dealing with con crunch.
With that being said, here are some helpful tips as to how you can sew your own cosplay better, as well as figuring out what type of sewing machine you should buy:
Regardless as to what kind of cosplay you plan on making, it is important that you always keep your stitches small (usually, no more than “1/4” wide). Otherwise, your cosplay may not look as nice, especially if you were to accidently forget to turn your latest sailor fukucollar inside out after sewing it.
According to Youtuber Evelyn Wood, as you hold onto your thread tails while sewing, make sure that you also keep your thread tails long and never sew the very edges of your cosplay item. Otherwise, you may accidently create ugly knots and tears while sewing together your cosplay. This is especially bad when you are dealing with con crunch.
Making your own cosplay costume, of course, requires a sewing machine. If you don’t have one and aren’t sure which one to choose, don’t worry: by considering a few key features you can choose the right machine for your needs. First, decide on your budget. While sewing machines vary hugely in price and quality, you should expect to pay at least $150 for a decent-quality buy (that said, there are some very affordable options that fulfill the needs of most cosplayers). Next, consider the stitches you’ll need for your costume. As mentioned previously, tidy stitching of knit or stretchy fabric can be accomplished with a simple zig-zag stitch. However, a much less challenging and time-consuming method is a machine that features an overlock stitch, which creates a stretchy seam automatically.
Finally, think about what other features might help your costume creation. One relatively new addition to the world of sewing is the modernization of sewing-machine interfaces.
Machines featuring computerized controls allow for easy experimentation with machine speed, stitch length and width, and stitch pattern.
If all of this sounds intimidating and expensive, don’t be discouraged– as a first-time cosplay creator, your primary goal should be to have a great time, and there are plenty of sewing machines that can help you do just that at a very reasonable price. Brother’s CS6000i, which I consider the best sewing machine for cosplay, possesses all of the features highlighted above and comes for just $159. While more expensive options might seem appealing, remember that you’re likely to spend a lot of trial-and-error time on your first costume, and that’s just part of the fun! Creating a truly unique and customized cosplay outfit is one of the best ways to get in touch with your inner hero, villain, or sidekick.