Cosplaying is quickly becoming nerdy America’s favorite pastime (not to mention its global popularity), but for some people it can seem too costly or intimidating to take up. This list contains some items that can be used over and over for several cosplays, so people who don’t have enough time, money, and/or experience can still enjoy the fun of dressing up as a favorite character for a convention or photo shoot!
This might be just me, but I like to pick characters that are physically similar to me when I cosplay. This often means that the characters are somewhat similar to each other, as well. I, for instance, tend to choose shorter characters with short, red hair. Even if you don’t do this, you would be surprised by how many cosplays you can do with a single good wig.
As in the above photo, a blonde wig that is fairly long and wavy can be used for Legolas, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Daenerys Targeryen, and Supergirl. Add some styling, and the possibilities grow even more! Of course, one wig will only get you so far, but I would suggest starting your collection with something as versatile as possible. Think of how many characters have long, straight black hair, or curly brown hair!
Goggles are the trademark of any post-apocalyptic, steampunk, or gothic character these days. Though the style of goggles often changes, one fairly plain pair can be embellished to fit almost any style. Whether you are cosplaying Matt from Death Note, Tank Girl, or half the cast of Borderlands, goggles are a must-have.
Not only are goggles great for characters who wear them, but they can be really helpful in turning a regular character into a steampunk or cyberpunk character. Want to make a cool steampunk superhero? Get a corset and pants in the proper colors, grab some leather belts and a modded Nerf blaster, and don your goggles. Done!
No cosplay collection can be complete without a good makeup kit. Even if you are dressing up as someone who doesn’t wear much makeup, it’s still good to use foundation and mascara at the very least (especially if you plan on taking pictures). This goes for the guys, too. Some people even like to play around with contouring to make their faces look more like the actor who plays their favorite character.
Of course, on the more extreme end of the spectrum, there are many characters that require the entire body to be a different color, like many characters from Homestuck. If you wanted to go for a zombie or something similar, the makeup would likely be even more of an undertaking. Having a good kit that matches your skin tone and comes with several different colors of crème makeup to work with is a good place to start.
There are many characters who wear black gloves. Whether you go with elegant and elbow-length, thick and leather, or decorative and fingerless is up to you. Each is appropriate for a different group of characters, and each will work for a surprising number of canon characters, as well as your own version of a character (fingerless gloves for a cyberpunk character?) or a character type (black leather gloves for an assassin?).
Elbow length black gloves are great for a number of characters, many of them superheroines, and can also be great for making a fancy version of your favorite masked character. Fancy Samus Aran, anyone?
This one is especially important for the ladies, though it also applies to some men. There are a lot of characters in the media who wear skimpy, revealing outfits. Of course, they deserve love, too, but it can be uncomfortable to show that much skin, and certainly if you are wearing a costume that shows off a lot of your body, it can be beneficial to wear nude tights. For some people it is about modesty, for others it is to make your skin look more uniform, and for others still it is a matter of keeping everything in place. No matter what your reasons are, it’s always good to have a few pairs in reserve for those cosplays that are a bit more risqué.
On the other hand, if you feel comfortable in your skin and you think you can rock the cosplay without the extra help, more power to you!
These days there aren’t that many superheroes who have never worn a cape. They come in all shapes and sizes, but a few types are fairly common across the board. With a simple black cape you can cosplay Batman, Zatanna from DC Comics, Lelouch from Code Geass, or Dracula from Castlevania.
Add to that any number of other superheroes and villains, many evil anime characters, and almost any vampire (save those from Buffy and Twilight), and you have an incredibly adaptable accessory.
Here is one primarily for the men, though of course there are plenty of female characters who wear suits, too (Scully from X-Files and President Roslin from Battlestar Galactica come to mind). A black suit is by far the most versatile, but grey and navy blue are both pretty common, too. Whether you are going for Slenderman, Death the Kid from Soul Eater, an Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D., or fancy Iron Man, a suit will always come in handy.
Again, the key here is to accessorize appropriately. The right shoes, hairstyle, and weapon will be the difference between being mistaken for security and being asked for a picture.
This one is primarily for the ladies, but there are definitely also some male characters that rock corsets, as well. Black, brown, white, red, and navy blue are all fairly safe bets that can be used for canon versions of costumes (Lulu from FFX, Elizabeth from Bioschock Infinite), or to add your own steampunk, cyberpunk, or fanciful spin. While corsets seem like they might be confined to princesses and historical characters, a lot of action hero-type ladies wear them, too. For instance, Vi from League of Legends wears one in her default skin, as well as some more modern versions of Harley Quinn.
Another reason to own a corset is that it serves as an undergarment for costumes that might require more cleavage or a smaller waist than you naturally have (or in a lot of cases, than you could possibly have). Sometimes the confidence boost and extra support can be nice.
You don’t need a new pair of shoes for every cosplay. Repeat: you don’t need a new pair of shoes for every cosplay! Shoes can be expensive, especially those that will last you more than two conventions. A lot of the time, it is easier to buy a pair or two of comfortable, well-made shoes and make boot covers for characters with interesting shoes. In any case, do you really want to be plodding around the convention floor in boots made out of craft foam? This goes for armor as well.
Instead, invest in one or two pairs of good shoes that fit well, and modify them for each costume. This doesn’t work all the time, but for any character with boots or armor, it will often serve you better than trying to make new shoes or find the right ones in the store. Plus, you’ll need the comfort with all the walking, waiting in line, and posing for pictures you’ll be doing at the convention.
A Black Bodysuit
A black bodysuit is one of the most versatile costume pieces you can own. It is invaluable as the base for a costume that requires armor, like Commander Shepard or a Stormtrooper. It is a fairly comfortable base that the armor pieces can be attached to via Velcro, stitching, etc. that will make the armor more wearable and will make it easier to put on and take off. It can also be built upon and painted to give the semblance of chain link or dragon scales. Depending on what kind you get, it can also be the base for a nonhuman character that needs to be built up around you.
Many characters also have costumes that are essentially just a black bodysuit with some embellishments, like Venom, Black Widow, or Catwoman. Just be sure you are buying a variety that fits well and can be easily modified to look how you want it to.
Countless anime series feature schoolboys and –girls, and they all tend to wear fairly standard uniforms. Of course, they all vary at least somewhat, but a grey, navy blue, or black blazer and matching skirt/pants will get you pretty far. Ouran High School Host Club, School Days, and Negima! are just a few examples. Get one with a sailor fuku (the sailor-style collar) for even more options!
Once you have the base uniform, it’s not too difficult to mix and match the accessories to make it look right. A different color undershirt, stockings, and the right shoes can make all the difference.