[Cosplay 101] Costuming Basics

Cosplay 101 - Costuming Basics
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Cosplay 101

So you’ve decided that you want to give cosplay a try. Whether you’ve been seeing photos of cosplayers online or in person at conventions, or your friends have convinced you to join them in doing a group, it seems like a fun thing to do. What comes next?

First of all, just what is cosplay? It’s essentially a mashup of the words ‘costume’ and ‘play’. In other words, it means you dress up as a character from a comic book/anime/movie/tv show/video game/etc. and pretend to be them. You can take this as seriously or as casually as you like. Some cosplayers try to be as true to the character as possible: wearing colored contacts, speaking with an accent, dying their hair or wearing a wig, and trying to act like that person as much as possible. Others approach it from a more easy-going direction and just enjoy wearing the clothes that person wears but not putting on the persona.

cos-101If you’re trying to figure out what to cosplay, there are a few ways to determine what you should choose. Do you have a favorite movie/tv show/comic book/video game? Is there a particular character that you really like or admire, or even see part of yourself in them? Is there a character who is the complete opposite of you, and you want to challenge yourself by seeing if you can emulate them? Is there a character that happens to look like you? Any of these are a good reason to choose a character to cosplay.

Once you’ve decided on a character to cosplay, you can finally start planning!


cosplay-1The first thing you need is pictures of your character wearing the outfit you will be wearing, commonly known as reference photos. It is usually fairly easy to do this using your preferred online search engine, or you can grab screencaps from the video game (if you are doing a video game character). You can begin to accumulate these in a bookmarked folder on your web browser, or start a board on sites like Pinterest.

The rule of thumb is that you can never have too many reference photos. You want to find reference photos for every angle if you can. Front and side views of the costume will be the easiest to find, but sometimes it can be difficult to find photos of the back of a costume. If other cosplayers have done this costume, you can see what they did, and you may be able to contact them if you have a question about how they made it.



planning1Something else that can help you plan your costume is accumulating all your information in one place. A phone app called Cosplanner is used by a lot of cosplayers to help them in planning, as it helps you chart your progress. You can upload reference photos, set start and end dates, list tasks to be completed, list items to make or buy, track your costs, save photos of your progress, and list events where you plan to wear this. Cosplanner is available in the App Store, as well as the Google Play Store. It’s free to download, but you do have the option of in-app purchases.

Another option that can be used on its own or in addition to the app is a physical planner. Here you can keep sketches of your costume, pin fabric samples, create a checklist, store craft and fabric store coupons, and so much more. It really comes down to possibly trying a few different methods and seeing what works best for you.


These are all things you need to consider before you start bringing your costume together. It can take however long you want it to, it just depends on how intricate or simple your costume is. Stay tuned to learn about how to start making your cosplay and more!

Now you just need to Put it All Together

About Tori Ann 554 Articles
Tori Ann is a Midwest cosplayer, and has been cosplaying since 2014. Her many interests include superheroes, Disney, and all kinds of fantasy. Her first claims to nerd-dom were the anime Sailor Moon and J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings. She is also an avid runner and has completed several half-marathons.