1. Choosing a Costume
Finally, choosing an appropriate character can be important to some people. Some people prefer to cosplay characters they look like, which can make the experience a bit easier (not needing to buy a wig, for instance). However, this is far less important than simply loving the character. You don’t need to be 5’11” and busty to pull off an amazing Wonder Woman costume as long as you have the passion and attitude to make the character your own. Don’t let the naysayers get you down just because you don’t have the same body type or face shape. You can rock any costume with the right attitude!
2. Gathering References
If images of your costume are difficult to find, you may need to watch the movie, play the game, or open a comic and take the images yourself. You could even help the next person to come looking by putting your references online. Either way, be as thorough as possible; it could save you a lot of grief later on.
3. Finding Patterns and Tutorials
Once you have found some resources that tell you how to make some of your costume pieces, you may still need to find patterns for the rest. There are tons of websites that sell sewing patterns, as will your neighborhood sewing store. Chances are, you won’t find an exact match to the costume piece you need, so you should look for patterns with details that would be difficult for you to make without the pattern. So if you aren’t confident in your ability to make and attach a sailor collar, but you do think you can alter the skirt of the dress to look right, look for a pattern with the right collar rather than the right skirt. The closer you can get, the better.
4. Gathering Materials
Finally, don’t forget that you will need thread (in every color in your costume), scissors, needles, and pins, at the very least. You will also probably need buttons, snaps, zippers, Velcro, trim, bias tape, and a bunch of other things that the patterns and tutorials you chose should have listed. If you have access to a sewing machine, use it. You will be saved a lot of time and effort over trying to hand-sew everything.
If you are making an armor-based cosplay rather than a sewing-based one, you’ll probably want to buy your materials online. Closed-cell foam, Wonderflex, Worbla, and most other standard armor-making materials are not usually sold in craft stores. Don’t forget to research the best kinds of glues, sealers, primers, and paints for your build.
5. Making a Mock-Up
Cut the pieces out and sew them together according to the pattern instructions (all of this applies equally for tutorials), only you don’t have to worry as much about finishing edges and zigzag stitching seams because you are probably going to have to make adjustments, anyway. Now put it on and look in a mirror. This is the point when you decide whether you want to change anything. You can pretty much make the changes on yourself (though it would be easier to use a duct-tape mannequin, which is easy to make with the help of a friend) with pins and then sew up the line you made with the pins.
Once you are happy with the adjustments you made, you will need to take the whole thing apart again. This is your new pattern.
The same applies for an armor build, only you’ll be better off using paper or cardboard for your mock-up since it’s more rigid. Use small cuts to make it bend over curved areas of the body so you get a more accurate picture of what the end result will look like.
If you’ve made a mock-up, this step should be fairly easy. Just repeat the steps you took to make the mock-up, using it as a pattern, but make sure you finish all the edges and stabilize seams so the garment doesn’t fall apart. Any non-functional details you may have left out on the mock-up (patches, bows, etc.) should be included here.
The same goes for building armor. Just follow the pattern you made and the tutorials you found online, and be careful with your materials. Some of the glues and paints can be harmful so be sure to work in a well-ventilated area.
7. Cry/Break Things/Give Up
If the store is out of something you need, try to look elsewhere. If you can’t find it elsewhere, see if you can use something else that is similar. At the end of the day, you can almost always find whatever it is you need online. You may have to wait for it to arrive, but you can always work on something else in the meantime. Don’t be afraid of asking for help if you need it. The cosplay community is very supportive, and people will always be willing to help you solve your problem.
The bottom line is don’t give up. Finding a way to work around obstacles will only make you a better cosplayer. You will be that much more experienced, and have that much more knowledge for the next costume you make. Plus, you’ll be that much prouder of the costume once it’s finally finished.
8. The Finishing Touches
Most cosplays will require you to wear makeup. Even if the character doesn’t wear makeup, it’s a good idea for men and women alike to put on some foundation, eyeliner, and mascara so you don’t look flat and washed-out in pictures. For more elaborate costumes, try doing the makeup several times before the day of the convention or photo shoot so you’re not rushing to get it perfect the morning of.
It’s also good to have a friend around to help you get into costume, even if it’s a fairly simple one. They will be able to help with difficult costume pieces, fix your hair once you have your elaborate armor on and can’t reach it, and tell you if anything looks awry. Besides, you’ll probably need a bit of help throughout the day, depending on how complex your costume is.
9. The Convention
It’s also good to have a friend who is willing to hold your belongings while you are being photographed, or help you when you need to go to the bathroom.
Remember, the most important part of the whole process is this: have fun. You just created something awesome, and now you it’s time to celebrate both your success and your passion for the character! Enjoy the convention, the photo shoot, and whatever else you do in-costume. That’s what cosplay is for, after all.