Getting Started with Cosplay: 6 Steps for Creating Your First Costume

If you’ve decided to spread your wings (perhaps literally) and design your first cosplay outfit, let us just be the first to say: Congratulations! You’re taking your first step into a really awesome hobby that lets you unleash your creativity and participate in the fandoms you love at the same time.

The cosplay outfits that you see on parade at your favorite conventions often involve hours and hours of hard work, so it’s understandable to feel a little bit intimidated at first. But there’s no need to fear — everybody has to start somewhere, and we promise that one guy with the fully accurate Iron Man suit isn’t on his first costume.

We’ve got some easy tips for making sure you’re dressed to kill at the next convention. Our step-by-step process will help you assemble your costume, get the right cosplay tools and more.

1. Choose your character.

The character you choose to cosplay will have a big effect on how you create your costume, so put some thought into this decision. Many cosplayers prefer to get their feet wet by starting with characters that don’t require expensive accessories or massive levels of detail. If you do decide to take the plunge on, say, someone wearing a suit of armor, realize that you’ll be in for a more challenging process.

Once you’ve got a character in mind, start collecting images of their outfit. Get as many different angles as possible and note if you already have any clothing items or accessories that could work. Cosplay is for everybody, so don’t let anything hold you back from choosing the character you really want to portray.

2. Look online to see how other people have created similar costumes.

Chances are, someone has already cosplayed as your character before, so checking out other people’s costume builds online is a great way to get started. The Internet offers tons of good sources for learning about cosplay materials and designs, and many of them are free. YouTube is a particularly rich source of cosplay tips and tricks from expert costume makers.

Don’t feel obligated to copy anyone else’s version of a costume, of course. It’s a wonderful feeling to make the build your own, even if you use similar components as someone else. You’ll probably find that you end up with minor changes here and there anyway.

3. Come up with a basic plan for your costume, including sewing patterns.

Next, break down your costume into all of its components. Identify how you’re going to create each one, including any base items (such as a plain t-shirt or pair of leggings) that you might be using as a starting point. Look at some popular cosplay fabrics, and remember that heavier ones such as denim or canvas may require a sewing machine to sew effectively.

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Sewing patterns will save you a lot of time and effort if your costume includes made-from-scratch elements. Patterns for many popular character costumes are widely available online, and they provide you with a template for what base clothes and fabrics you need to purchase.

4. Assemble your materials.

The next step is to get the materials together that you need to make the costume. You’ll want to make sure that you have some basic tools and sewing supplies, such as a hobby knife, measuring tape and sewing kit. Your supply needs will be more or less complicated depending on the complexity of your costume. More elaborate costumes will require more specialized tools and materials.

Even if you have some sewing experience, remember that many standard cosplay materials like EVA foam have a bit of a learning curve to work with. If possible, always try making a small piece before you tackle something larger or more complex. Always buy slightly more of any material that you need to account for the mistakes that you’re going to make because they will happen.

5. Get to work!

Time to turn your plans into reality! If you’re following someone else’s design, load up the plans, images or YouTube videos to have available as you work and follow along. Go slowly and remember the old adage: Measure twice, cut once! And to drive it home one more time, remember that you are going to make mistakes, so keep going even if you hit some setbacks.

If you have friends who are experienced cosplayers, ask if they can lend a hand with assembling your costume. It can be a fun experience on both sides to help put together someone’s first costume! This is especially important if, for example, you need someone to help you learn to use a sewing machine.

6. Strut your stuff.

There are more places to show off your cosplay than ever today. See if there’s an anime, video game or other fan convention that welcomes cosplayers in your area. Better yet, see if you’ve got some cosplayer friends who will go with you, even if they cosplay in different fandoms. Rolling up with your squad of Naruto, Darth Vader, Tom Nook and Wonder Woman is more fun than you might imagine.

Another great thing about conventions is that they often offer lots of fun stuff for cosplayers to do, such as contests, dances and photo opportunities. If you encounter someone else cosplaying the same character as you (and it does happen!), be gracious, compliment their costume and don’t stress about it. It can actually be a pretty fun photo opportunity if you get several people cosplaying the same thing together!

Whether you decide to delve further into the hobby or make it a one-time thing, your first cosplay costume can always be a source of pride and fond memories. Above all, have fun with it!

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