A Beginner’s Guide To Cosplay

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Nervous about cosplaying? Ease your worries with our beginner’s guide to your first cosplay! Here’s everything you need to know.

Choosing a Character to Cosplay

The difficulty of your cosplay depends on the character you choose. For example, cosplaying as Ryu from Street Fighter is fairly easy—just wear a sleeveless karate gi, a red ribbon around your head, and go barefoot. On the other hand, cosplaying as Lich King Arthas from World of Warcraft is a lot harder!

If you’re not too crafty (like myself), you’ll have an easier time cosplaying as characters that don’t wear suits of armor or have complicated, multi-layered outfits.

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Do You Have to Look Like Your Character?

You don’t have to even slightly resemble your character in order to cosplay as them—really, you don’t even need to be the same gender. The features that make you unique will also make your cosplay look unique (and that’s the best part).

It may be slightly easier to cosplay as a character that has the same eye color or hair color as you, but ultimately it doesn’t matter because you can always make yourself look like the character.

Wigs, colored contacts, and makeup can bring any cosplay to life. When purchasing a wig, choose one that’s high-quality; otherwise, your wig will get tangled easily and won’t look as natural.

And while you don’t necessarily need colored contacts, they can add a nice finishing touch to your cosplay (especially if you’re cosplaying a red-eyed character like Makoto Nijima from Persona 5).

And, of course, makeup is a great way to fake your character’s look. If you’re not sure how to approach your makeup, head to YouTube. Plenty of expert cosplayers have makeup tutorials for specific characters.

Should You Create Your Cosplay or Buy It?

There’s a huge debate between buying and making your own cosplay. Some say that buying a cosplay isn’t as valid as making one yourself; well, they’re wrong. Whether you buy or create your cosplay, it still counts as cosplaying.

Yeah, creating a cosplay from scratch can be super satisfying, but it comes with plenty of its own challenges. You need to own a sewing machine, know how to sew, know how to find the right fabrics and patterns, etc.

Making armor is even more difficult in some ways, unless you compromise with something like craft foam to construct faux-metal.

Where to Buy Cosplay Outfits

If you aren’t very hands-on, there’s no shame in buying your entire costume online—or depending on who you want to cosplay, the outfit might even be available at a local Halloween store or party shop.

There are plenty of sites online that offer pre-made outfits of characters from video games, anime, manga, superhero movies, and more. The costumes can be a bit pricey, but buying one will save you a lot of time.

And you’ll have more confidence! There’s nothing worse than making your own costume and feeling embarrassed while you wear it. You can even create a cosplay out of both bought materials and custom-made materials.

Don’t go fancy with the materials you buy—head to your nearest thrift shop and see if you can put together a makeshift outfit. The clothes might need some modification, and that’s where your craftiness comes in.

Keep the Weather in Mind

When you make your final decision about a character, always consider the weather during the time of the convention. If you choose to cosplay the Ice Climbers at a summer convention, you’ll instantly regret it.

Nothing’s worse than standing in a crowded, hot environment when you’re wearing heavy layers. The air conditioning inside the convention center usually doesn’t help—the crowds of people inside make it exceptionally warm.

Cosplaying a scantily-clad character in the dead of winter isn’t smart, either. How can you show off your cosplay when you’re wearing a jacket the entire time?

Yeah, you’ll see cosplayers defying the odds as they cosplay Halo’s Master Chief during the summer or Jade from Mortal Kombat during the winter… but although they look composed, they’re definitely feeling the temperature!

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Ask the Experts for Advice

See a cosplay you really like? Whether you spot an awesome cosplay online or at a convention, it isn’t wrong to ask the person behind the costume for helpful tips on how they achieved what they did or tricks they used to improve their look.

Maybe you can’t find the right sewing pattern or have trouble designing armor. An experienced cosplayer can give you some valuable advice and help you move forward. Each cosplayer has their own tips and tricks, so it doesn’t hurt to ask around!

Pack Extra Makeup

When you’re at a convention all day, your eye shadow will begin to fade and your mascara will start running. Make sure to pack a small bag with extra makeup.

You don’t have to lug your entire makeup studio with you, but you’ll likely need essential items like foundation, eye shadow, mascara, lipstick, and so on. If your friends notice your makeup fading, head to the bathroom and do some touch-ups.

Practice Your Poses

When you finally get the chance to show off all your hard work, someone will want to take a picture of you.

The first time I ever cosplayed at a convention, I went as Sephiroth from Final Fantasy VII. Since I didn’t think my cosplay turned out that great, I really didn’t expect anyone would actually want a photo of me—and while people were pulling their phones out, I just stood there and smiled like a dork until they took my picture.

I’ve since learned my lesson. When you cosplay, you must become your character. Cosplaying as Deadpool? Pose like a smart aleck. Maybe you decide to go as Spiderman, in which case you can pretend to shoot out webs. Quirky poses can really improve your cosplay game, and it’s fun!