Heather from North-East England have been cosplaying since 2005, making my own costumes since 2009. She love making costumes and accessories. She have made over 80 costumes for myself and still have a lot to learn.
You will learn a lot by trying on your costume. Sometimes it’s great first time, but sometimes it’s not quite right. Trying it on before attending an event or wearing it “properly” gives you time to see what you like, dislike, ask for opinions and see what you can do to improve it.
There’s nothing worse than getting your costume, going to an event and finding out on the morning that it doesn’t fit properly. A little bit of prep goes a long way.
2. Iron Your Costumes
Your character doesn’t look like a creased mess so neither should you!
If you’re away from home, most hotels and hostels will have ironing facilities or an ironing room available. If you’re short on time, you can hang your costumes in the bathroom and steam them by running the shower which will also help reduce wrinkles!
You can also use products like wrinkle remover and spray starch which help make your costumes stand better when they’re ironed; depending on what you’re wearing, there’s a lot an iron can help with, so do some research, see what works and make sure you look your best!
3. Do Makeup Tests
The best way to learn about cosplay makeup is to try it out, and that means lots and lots of makeup tests!
Get your wig & makeup bag and see what works. Try using different colours and manipulating the shape of your face, eyes, nose and mouth. Take selfies and see how it appears on camera, asking for opinions to improve as you go. It gets easier every time you try.
If you’re stuck, check YouTube and Instagram for guides and examples. Many cosplayers will post their own makeup tests and tutorials with tips on how to achieve the same look, often with product lists and advice. If you can’t find any cosplay-related advice, regular makeup advice is really helpful too!
The most eye-catching part of any person is their face, especially in cosplay. Put some effort in and your whole costume will look better for it.
4. Style Your Wigs
Style your wigs. Thank me later!
When you buy wigs, even character wigs, they are rarely “styled”. Most wigs will need a little bit of styling, whether it’s trimming in a fringe or adding some spikes; practice makes perfect and your wig will look much better than wearing it straight out of the bag. If you’re new to styling, look for tutorials, guides and examples of the same character wigs; you can learn a lot just by browsing!
Buy a wig head and hair scissors! Having a head makes styling much easier. Dedicated hair scissors will make trimming much easier instead of using blunt household scissors. Best of all, you only have to buy them once and you can reuse them over and over again!
The staple hairspray of choice for cosplay wigs is Got2B Glued. When using hairspray, you can set your styling with heat from a hairdryer; it helps to “glue” the fibres in place. Most normal hair products like gels and wax won’t work on wigs, so do some research and see what is recommended by others before you commit and buy products.
When wearing wigs, always wear a wig cap and secure it with lots of hairpins or slides. Wigs can slip easily, and it’s usually because the wig cap underneath is moving; secure that down and your wig is less likely to budge!
5. Plan Your Underwear
Underwear! Lots of it! Pants, bras, binders, tights, shapewear, cinchers, petticoats and socks!
These are the pieces that give your costume a silhouette to work on top of – if the shape underneath doesn’t fit, what’s on top won’t either. Some costumes are made up of unconventional shapes, and you can’t wear regular underwear without it being visible. It’s important to make sure you feel comfortable and covered no matter what!
If your legs are on show, wear dance tights. They’re smooth, matte, comfortable and make your legs look great. They’re very opaque so they hide discolouration and marks on your legs for an airbrushed look. I often tuck shirts or tops into my dance tights to keep the rest of my costume smooth, reducing unwanted movement.
If you’re wearing something short, wear your own underwear, dance tights and then modesty underwear on top – a pair of cute shorts that will hide any embarrassment.
Petticoats come in lots of different shapes and sizes. If you’re wearing a fluffy dress, wear an appropriate petticoat and it will help hold the shape of your costume.
If you already have your costume, try it on and look in the mirror. Consider what you’re unhappy with and which underwear might help you. Honestly, it makes a huge difference.
6. Plan Your Shoes
Many cosplayers put effort into their wig, makeup, costume.. and then wear any old shoes. No!
Always try to match your footwear as best as you can. Even if they’re not accurate, try to wear something that looks appropriate with your costume. Bad or mismatched shoes will distract from everything else that’s good about your costume.
Different types of shoes will adjust your posture and make your body look different. For example, wearing shoes with a slight heel will help straighten your back, adjust how your hips rise and how your costume sits.
If you want to adjust your posture without having a visible heel, check out heel lifts! They’re cheap, reusable and won’t affect the look of your shoes on the outside, but will still add a little bit of height if you need it.
If you are wearing a costume that has uncomfortable footwear, pack a spare pair of shoes. You can make them match if you want, but more importantly, don’t hurt yourself for the sake of a costume. Always have a comfortable alternative handy!
The best way to learn about what looks good and what doesn’t is to try it yourself. Bring out your costumes, grab all your shoes, see what works and what doesn’t. There isn’t one rule for everyone; it’s all down to personal preference and how comfortable you feel.
7. Wash Your Costumes
Nobody wants to smell 4 convention’s worth of sweat walking around. Wash your costumes!
If you’re not sure how to wash it, ask others for advice. Even if you can’t wash your full costume, try your best to wash the armpits with gentle soap or Febreze. Most importantly, make sure you’re clean when you put your costume on; don’t rub day old sweat into your costumes! Have a shower first!
If you make your own costumes, do some research and do some wash tests. Learn about which fabrics are susceptible to bleeding before you buy. Wash snippets of your bought fabric together with some colour catchers and see if they bleed before you start sewing. Little bits of preparation like this will help you avoid disasters when putting costumes in a washing machine.
If you buy your costumes, check with the sellers and commissioners for care instructions! Many sites offer basic advice for washing & taking care of your costumes.
If you can machine wash your costumes, I recommend using the hand wash setting then leaving them to air dry. Unless your costume is stained, the gentler the wash the better – all it needs is a little refresh before the next con.
8. Check Your Lighting
Want that perfect selfie? Check your lighting first!
Lighting is so important. You want to look your best, and good lighting can hide a multitude of sins! There are tons of guides online about finding the best lighting for photography – all of these apply to cosplay too and will make your photos clearer, brighter and more flattering.
Figure out where the light is coming from. When taking selfies I do a “spin test” where I stand in one spot and rotate until I find the most flattering light on the camera. If it isn’t flattering, I wander off and find somewhere else where it is.
Take lots and lots of photos. It’s better to have too many to choose from than not enough!
Pay attention to the background of your photos. Try not to take photos with dirty clothing in the background or any distractions.. you’re meant to be the focus, not what’s going on around you. Somewhere neutral or with complimentary details will make your photos look great.
Check your angles. See which angles work for you, but also which angles are flattering on others! Experiment with expressions, hand gestures and your surroundings!
The online cosplay community is fuelled by photos, so pay extra attention to how you look. If your collar isn’t sitting right, fix it. If you’re wig is too far back, fix it. Taking selfies or photos with friends is a great way to understand your costume and see what needs adjusting and fixing for next time.
9. Make A List, Check It Twice
I say “make a list”.. what I actually mean is “make lots of lists”
Make a list of what you need to pack and make a list of what you need. Make a list of what order you need to get dressed in and if you need any help!
Whether it’s a physical list, a note in your phone or something you keep in the back of your mind – make sure you have everything figured out. It becomes much easier to plan once you’ve tried everything on and got yourself into a routine.
You don’t need to go crazy labeling everything, just have an understanding of what you need to prepare. It saves a lot of last minute panic. I also prepare travel kits for my cosmetics, toiletries and wig supplies, so I can grab and go which saves a lot of time!
10. Don’t Worry, Be Happy
Never forget that cosplay is a hobby and it should be fun!
Sometimes it’s easy to become wound up by how stressful it can be to finish things for a deadline, how pieces haven’t arrived yet, or how self conscious you might feel.
Panicking over cosplay is rarely worth it. If you don’t wear your costume for this event, you can always wear it next time! If you weren’t happy with how you looked, you can improve it for next time! There are plenty of events and opportunities to cosplay.
Don’t forget you can always take a step back and wear something else. You don’t need to have a new costume for every single event. Make the most of it and enjoy what you do!
Looking at other people’s makeup is one of my top guilty pleasures, so.. here’s mine! I pack a lot of makeup for cosplay – let’s see What’s In My Makeup Bag!
If you are unfamiliar with makeup, I recommend reading my dedicated post on Cosplay Makeup first! This entry is to show which products I like to use myself and take with me for events rather than as a guide.
None of the products mentioned here are sponsored. Everything I have listed was bought by myself, I have not been paid to recommend anything! If you are interested in anything listed here, I recommend you do some research on the products first and see what works for you!
My Makeup Bag
This is my staple makeup bag, a Tokidoki x JuJuBe Be Ready in the print Sea Punk. The JuJuBe brand does a lot of colourful, fun prints!
This bag is sturdy and spacious, with elasticated pockets to help keep everything nice and organised! It has a zipper closure and inside the lid has an elasticated strip which is ideal for storing thin items like brushes, mascara, etc. On the back there is a small plastic sleeve where I keep one of my cosplay cards with my contact details.
As far as makeup bags go they’re a little expensive, but I highly recommend them. They’re machine washable and amazing quality!
My makeup bag is packed full of products ready for Mikuru, Kurumiand Leon, so there’s plenty inside! Let’s take a look..
BAM. Yeah uh, there’s a lot in here. I pack the bag as neatly and tightly as possible to avoid things rolling around and getting damaged, so it’s a bit intense to look at!
Moisturiser & Primer
Benefit • Total Moisture Facial Cream NYX • Hydratouch Primer NYX • Studio Perfect Photo-Loving Primer “Clear”
Concealer & Foundation
Revolution • Fast Base Concealer “C0.5” Beauty Bakerie • Flour Setting Powder “Yellow”
Revolution • Conceal & Define Foundation “F3” Stila • Illuminating Powder Foundation “10 Watts”
I pack to compliment the wigs I will be wearing for my costumes. People with dark hair suit different colours from people with fair hair, and it’s even trickier with unnatural colours! I try to do makeup tests before packing to be sure everything I am bringing will compliment my character well, as well as some neutral favourites for everyday wear.
Most of my makeup routine is the same for each character until I add blush, bronzer, eyebrow and lip colours. I have very sensitive eyes so I don’t take contacts and I rarely use eyeshadow – instead I use a little bit of highlighter on my eyes and let my eyeliner do the rest.
I use a mix of brands, as you can see. For cosplay it comes down to what looks best on camera rather than sticking with your favourite brands!
I hope you enjoyed this sneak peek into my makeup bag!
Hello! Welcome to my blog about cosplay! If you’re new to this hobby, cosplay is when people dress up as characters from your favourite comics, movies, games and more!
As far as hobbies go, cosplay is very diverse and has a lot of amazing aspects to it. It’s definitely one of those hobbies where you do you; it can be as casual or as serious as you want it to be. You’re totally in control of how you make the most of it and enjoy it.
Whether you’re a newbie, a curious parent or a seasoned cosplayer, this post aims to highlight some of the basics of cosplay and how to get involved!
These are the topics covered in this post – you can keep scrolling to read it all, or click on the links below to jump to each section!
Cosplay is made up of the words “costume” and “play”. It’s a hobby where you dress up as your favourite characters and roleplay as them while in costume!
The name cosplay was coined in Japan, but the term is popular worldwide and covers all different origins, not just Japanese ones.
There are lots of ways to get a costume! You can make them yourself, modify existing clothes or buy them. Lots of people start off buying costumes, moving on to crafting their own – I started out with costumes my mum and sister made for me before learning to make them myself.
Remember, it is cosplay – some people like to dress up for a while and keep it casual without much roleplay involved, but some people love to embody their characters and will act all day! It’s all about personal preference.
The best thing is there is no right or wrong way to do it, and cosplay can suit any age, skill level or budget!
So.. now we know what cosplay is, why would you do it?
Be Social Cosplay is a great way to meet new people and have fun with new friends! Whether it’s at local events or fan meetups, it’s a great way to meet like-minded people with the same interests with lots of great ways to get involved in new groups via social media. As with any situation, you should always be careful when meeting new people, but know that there are some great new friends out there!
Learn New Skills This wasn’t something I ever considered when I began cosplaying.. but it’s true! Whether you wear costumes at events, exclusively for photoshoots or via social groups online – there are lots of great new skills to learn. I categorise these into three types of skills;
CREATIVE e.g. sewing, painting, sculpting, foamsmithing, hairdressing VISUAL e.g. makeup, posing, photography, editing, social media LIFE SKILLS e.g. budgeting, time management, planning, patience
Editing selfies, posing in the mirror, making lists of materials; little by little, everything you do helps grow new skills!
Share Your Passion Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, YouTube; there are so many ways to cosplay without going to events! Lots of cosplayers have active social media presences with dedicated profiles to share their work and again – it’s a great way to connect with people and to find inspiration for your own work. I use a lot of social media profiles myself and frequently look through tags on Instagram to get inspiration for makeup or which materials to use!
Personally, I just love making things – when I was younger, I used to draw a lot of fanart which progressed into cosplay. Expressing creativity through cosplay is really fulfilling, where you can really bring characters to life!
Deciding to Cosplay
Once you’ve decided to cosplay, it’s time to figure out.. why are you doing it? Let that be your motivation! Then you can move on to the exciting part – deciding who to be!
Choosing A Character Nobody can tell you who to be. You can always ask for suggestions, but ultimately the choice is yours! Do you want to be someone you look like? Maybe a character you adore? The options are endless. Lots of characters are popular for a reason and you can choose whoever you’d like to be!
Research The first thing I advise is do some research. This sounds very serious, but it doesn’t have to be! Take a look at what the character is wearing and figure out what you need – are you going to make it yourself or buy it, and if so, where from? Do you need a wig? How about shoes? Do they have a prop? Make a list first, it makes it much easier!
If your character has accessories, think about how you’re going to get them. If they’re simple you may be able to find something suitable in a shop, otherwise, are you going to make it yourself? If you want to buy them, where will you get them from? Consider things like these before committing to a costume incase it becomes too complicated.
Know Your Limits On that note, cosplay can be expensive. Know your limits! It’s a hobby, don’t let it become a financial strain. Some costumes will cost much more than others, and attending events can be pricey too. Be responsible and choose something within your budget – or if you want to do a bigger project, plan it over a longer period of time and only attend events you can afford!
I’d advise against starting with something over-ambitious. Consider what your current skills are and how much time you are willing to dedicate to your costume – there’s nothing wrong with starting small!
There are lots of options if you decide to buy a costume and it’s easier than ever thanks to lots of online sellers!
Finding A Costume The two main ways to buy costumes is either as a pre-made costume or as a custom commission. Pre-made costumes are easily available online and are made to default fittings, while commissions are made to your exact measurements and are made as one of a kind pieces. Whichever you decide to use, make sure you know which character you want first!
Pre-made Costumes These can be bought from online stores or second hand from sales groups. They’re great for casual cosplayers, beginners and to have matching groups; nobody has to worry about making their own costume, and everyone is guaranteed to match if you order from the same place! Depending on the design, it can also be cheaper than making it yourself!
Commissioned Costumes These are custom pieces made for you! Can’t find the character you want to be premade? A commissioner will be able to make it for you!
They are more expensive because you are paying for the commissioner’s time and skills, so keep that in mind! In my experience it’s best to browse for commissioners, explore their portfolio and message them privately if you want something custom made to get a quote first. If you have specific materials in mind this is the best way to guarantee you will get what you want.
Plan In Advance Most pre-made costume stores have at least a 1 month wait, and commissioners will depend on their personal availability. I recommend browsing for costumes at least 3 months in advance of an event to make sure everything arrives on time and you have time to make adjustments if needed.
Lots of costumes can be made up from store-bought clothing, which you can cut up and modify! A lot of my early costumes were made by modifying clothes from stores or charity shops to match a character.
Understanding Clothes The first thing I recommend is looking at clothes you already have to understand how they “work” – where do the lines meet? What shapes make up the clothes you wear every day? Once you have a basic understanding of how clothes go together, it’s much easier to adjust pieces to match a character design.
Make Lists Look at your costume and understand what you will need to recreate it first. Some costumes are really easy to make from store bought clothes – characters like Lara Croft (Tomb Raider) are easily made from bought tank tops, cargo pants and a little bit of dirt, and characters like The Joker (Batman) can be modified from second hand suits and a bit of paint. Breaking down their costumes and understanding what you will need first makes browsing for suitable clothes much faster.
Look Locally Look in physical stores to see what you can find – places like supermarkets and Primark are ideal when looking for basic pieces to adjust for costumes, and charity shops are cheap and accessible too! They also sell basic shoes and accessories you might need to complete your costume.
Research Others As with any costume, it’s worth looking at how other people have made the same costume and taking inspiration from good ideas people have or clothes they may have adapted to work. There are often guides and examples of what to buy for individual characters available on Tumblr or Instagram.
It’s impossible to teach someone how to make costumes through a single blog post, but rest assured: it’s not as scary as it seems!
Which Skills? Depending on what you want to make, think about how you’d need to make it. Is it a dress? Then it’s time to learn to sew. Is it armour? DIY skills will come in handy then. Does it have accessories or jewellery? There are lots of skills – figure out what you need to learn first and then plan how you’re going to learn it and what you might need to get started.
Ask For Help It’s always worth asking if anyone you know already knows the basics of what you want, who is willing to show you how to get started. I learned the basics of sewing from my mum. If you don’t know anyone who can help you, there are lots of other options; you can take specialised classes, find online tutorials, watch video guides or find local hobby groups that may be able to teach you the basics.
Never underestimate the power of Google. If there is something you’re not sure about, do some searches and see what comes up – whether it’s technical or not, it’s best to be prepared! There’s no such thing as a silly question and chances are, plenty of people have asked the same ones you might have.
Give It A Go! You can always just give it a go and see what happens! Most of what I’ve learned is from trial and error, just giving it a shot and seeing if it works. It’s not the most efficient method but it sure is effective! I started making costumes by tracing around my own clothes with a pen and seeing what worked. If that didn’t work, I looked at buying patterns or asking friends for advice and help and adjusted what I’d already made from there.
Cosplay Guides There are lots of companies now which produce helpful guides to get cosplayers started; most commercial sewing pattern companies have dedicated “costume” patterns (some are officially endorsed!), and you can find custom patterns and guides available via Etsy or Instagram too with recommendations on materials.
Makeup & Wigs
Once you have a costume ready, don’t forget about the extras that really make it shine: makeup and wigs!
I recommend at least learning the basics of makeup and wig styling to anyone interested in cosplay – it makes a huge difference when you wear your costumes, and makes you feel much more confident when wearing it too! There are a lot of amazing resources available online that even beginners can learn, if you have no experience with makeup or hairstyling outside of cosplay.
Makeup Cosplay makeup is as important as any other piece of your costume. It helps polish the overall look of your costume, makes your skin look smoother (or grittier, depending on who you’re cosplaying!) and it will make wigs look more natural. Cameras don’t lie, but makeup does and you will look much better in photographs!
If you are interested in learning more about cosplay makeup, please check out my dedicated post here: Cosplay Makeup!
Wigs Wigs are great! You can wear them more than once, style them permanently and choose to sell them once you’re done with them! They come in a massive range of colours and are easy to style, with lots of great tutorials available online.
Invest in decent wigs. There are some fantastic sellers including Coscraft (UK-based) which sell excellent quality wigs in a great range of styles, catered to cosplayers! Cheap wigs look cheap and won’t last as long.
Lots of cosplayers have dedicated social media profiles and pages for their costumes! Social media adds a new dimension to cosplay, where you can cosplay whenever you want – not just at organised events!
The most common social media profiles people have are Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. It’s easy to share photos, selfies and progress with people with easy updates and hashtags. Some cosplayers branch out into using livestreaming and video services like Twitch, TikTok and YouTube – if you are interested in roleplaying, they’re quick and easy ways to share your costumes online!
Networking Most cosplayers (myself included) use social media for contact. I value my privacy, so having a public page I can direct people to is much easier than handling requests from strangers on my personal profile. It’s also nice to have a dedicated place to upload progress, selfies and photos where anyone can see it!
It’s also handy to have social profiles to let people know what you’re working on and which events you will be attending next!
Galleries Some cosplayers like to use social media to display galleries of their costumes, and there are multiple social media websites built for this. The main one I use is CosplayIsland, a UK based cosplay website where you can post costumes, progress and finished photographs of your work for people to browse. Some of us have dedicated websites too (like this one)!
Taking photos of your costume and sharing them online is a big part of cosplay culture. Many cosplayers do dedicated photo shoots with friends and photographers, looking their very best!
Cosplay Anytime! I love cosplaying at events and seeing people, but social media means that it doesn’t have to be exclusive to events – any time you feel like testing out a costume, putting on some makeup or trying a new wig, you can! You can share that with people any time you want instead of a handful of days in the year.
Cosplay competitions are a great way to improve your skills and get valuable feedback on your projects! It’s also a great way to meet others with the same passion for cosplay as yourself.
Competing is a step that takes it from a fun, lighthearted hobby to something much more involved – some competitions are simple walk ons, while some require detailed pre-planning and stage performances.. and some will take you across the world to compete in international finals!
I usually divide competitions into three categories; local, national & international. Each category has different standards, prizes and target audiences – so if you’re interested in competing, there’s something for everyone no matter your skill level.
Admittedly competing isn’t for everyone, and that’s fine – even if you don’t want to take part, you can enjoy watching them instead!
Local Competitions Local events often have a masquerade and competition where you can sign up on the day. Any skill level is welcome. Some will allow any costume to enter, not just handmade ones (but it’s best to check with the organisers first). When on stage, you can pose or do a short performance to show off your costume!
Most don’t have dedicated slots to speak to judges for local competitions. Instead you are judged from afar by how you appear on stage, so make it count!
Prizes for local competitions vary; some may give small cash prizes, but most give prizes supplied by sponsors. Local competitions are a fun, easy way to get involved if you’re new to competing.
National Competitions National competitions are bigger and better! Many national competitions offer cash or vouchers and shiny trophies for winners. Most are hosted at larger expo-style events and the competition is integrated into the cosplay masquerade.
To compete, you usually have to sign up in advance explaining who you are and what you are entering with. Your costume must be handmade to enter (typically, at least 75% of your costume has to be handmade to be eligible, but this can vary; always check the rules first).
Most will give you a time slot to speak to the judges where you can explain your costume and provide progress photos. Some competitions request that you submit progress photos – these help prove that your costume is handmade, so if you’re planning to compete don’t forget to take photos as you go!
Even if you don’t win anything, it’s worth asking the judges for feedback once the competition is over – their comments will help you understand what worked, what didn’t, and how you can improve your next competitive project!
Some national events will also expect you to do a stage performance as part of your entry – always check the rules so you don’t miss out on any important info or submission deadlines!
International Competitions Now for the big guns! International competitions are just that – competitions that allow you to travel internationally, compete and represent cosplay for your country!
Most competitions will have a dedicated qualifier in your country, if your country is eligible. If you attend and compete in the qualifier and win, you become the representative for that year! The process is very similar to how national competitions run, with a thorough judging process and stage performance to determine who wins the qualifier.
The big examples of international competitions are World Cosplay Summit, European Cosplay Gathering, EuroCosplay, Clara Cow’s Cosplay Cup, Cosplay World Masters, International Cosplay League, CICAF & C2E2. Phew!
As you can see, there are quite a few competitions around and they all have different audiences, criteria, rules and expectations; many of the competitions listed above have options for group entries as well as solo, too. If you are interested in competing..
Outside of cosplay my life pretty much fell to bits this year, which in turn impacted my enthusiasm and productivity. But that’s how life goes isn’t it? The optimist in me thinks, “it wouldn’t be interesting if things went smoothly all the time!”, while the cynic thinks.. well, stuff I’d rather not repeat here. Hah!
Despite a rocky year, here are some of my cosplay highlights!
I attended less events than I usually do. I appeared at Anime Go! and Rai-Con Spring as a guest and attended EXP-0, SunnyCon and AmeCon for the fun of it!
Anime Go!, a lovely local library event reached its third year running! There were some hiccups behind the scenes, but it was a great success as always. Right now it’s unclear whether it will be running in 2019, but I’m hopeful it will return!
SunnyCon runs very close to home so I pop by every year. Despite some of my previous comments, it’s a great event and I always look forward to it! This year I entered their Masters Competition and won 1st Place – I’ve competed internationally and won different qualifiers before, but SunnyCon was the first time I’d actually won 1st Place overall in an competition which was pretty awesome!
AmeCon was my designated “enjoy yourself” convention. No big stressful commitments, just a nice weekend to kick back with friends! I did a shoot with Emzone Photography on Friday as Eleanor, but that’s about as serious as it got.
I turned down most guest spots I was offered this year. Don’t get me wrong – I absolutely love being a guest and judge, it’s a huge compliment to be asked and it’s the reason I attend most events – but this year, at times so much was stacked against me (scheduling, short notice, distance, finances..), it became impossible to commit. I’m aiming to get back into the swing of things soon!
I didn’t make many new costumes this year; most of my efforts went into upgrading older costumes this time! Sometimes it’s better to take an older project and work on polishing the bits you didn’t like to get a better result than to churn out new things for the sake of it, to be disappointed.
I wore Elize to EXP-0 locally and won a Judge’s Choice award in their contest! It was a really nice gaming-centric event at a local university, I hope it returns next year.
Prince Sakurawas revamped to wear with PopcornKuma as Princess Syaoran for a long overdue photo shoot.. we made these in 2016 and didn’t have any photos together! I redid most of the hat (at least.. as best as I could with limited materials), repainted the sword and adjusted some of the fitting on the costume.
Eleanorwas pretty much entirely remade, the only original piece left is the jacket! I got most of her ready in time for Anime Go, then finished her props and boots in time for SunnyCon ready for the contest. All that hard work paid off!
I only made two brand new costumes this year: Mikuru Asahina and Charles Boyle (Brooklyn 99). Both of which were made specifically to party and get drunk in! Even though it was a silly project, I’m really proud of how Mikuru turned out and I hope to wear her a lot more in future!
This year I also had a huge clear out of some of my older costumes and wigs that I hadn’t worn in years. I normally hold on to things because I’m very sentimental, but I’m happy that so many costumes I have neglected now have a new lease of life with people who will actually wear them once in a while! It’s nice to have extra space, too!
Because I attended less events, I had less pressure to make things if they were unlikely to be worn. I usually spend so much time stressing over details, deadlines and commitments, it was nice to take a step back for a while.
Who knows what 2019 will bring? I have a lot of unfinished projects from this year that will hopefully be completed, and a few new ones in planning too. In the UK there is no “big summer convention” in 2019, so I’m at a bit of a loss as to what events I’ll be attending next year. Only time will tell!
In the meantime, I hope you have a wonderful holiday and an excellent 2019!
If we haven’t met before, my name is Exelia and this is a little corner of the internet where I like to talk about Cosplay! This website is finally back with a nice shiny update and lots of new content – I hope you enjoy exploring and reading everything I have to share!
My Profile is much more streamlined and the Costume Gallery has been completely overhauled. Each costume has a gallery to browse, with detailed Construction Notes & Construction Galleries explaining material choices, techniques, personal critique and progress images. It’s not a complete portfolio of my work, but it’s a lot of it!
This Blog has also been updated! A lot of my older entries have been removed to tidy things up, so it’s looking a little empty right now. There will be lots of dedicated articles and advice coming soon – the kind I share at events during talks or panels, but in a handy permanent format to refer back to!
Event entries are retired. Costume Roundup entries have also been removed from the blog, as they have a new home in the Costume Gallery as Construction Notes!
If you have any feedback on the updates, please don’t hesitate to let me know! I’m always looking to improve my content and share my experiences in the best ways possible!
I’ve used applique on costumes for years now, it’s one of my favourite techniques and it’s really satisfying to look at! Even though it’s time consuming I find it much easier than patterning and top-stitching bias for complex designs like those in the Tales of series. It’s easy to sew and when it’s done well it looks really clean, avoiding any fraying or uneven edges.
All of my sewing is self taught; that means if I can learn to do it, you can too! Applique isn’t hard, it just takes practice and patience. Hopefully this tutorial will help you get started!
Satin Stitch Applique
Applique is a technique that uses different stitches to “apply” one piece of fabric to another. With cosplay, it’s a great way to add fiddly details to a costume without using paint or embroidery.
For this guide I will be using satin stitch, a close stitch around the edge of a design. In basic terms, it’s a close zigzag in a thin width that finishes the edge. Most sewing machines have a zigzag stitch you can adjust so it’s very accessible too – no fancy features or modes here! You can use it on any size design, on basic shapes or on complex patterns – the only limit is your imagination!
All three costumes shown above have had applique used for contrast detail, all in varying shapes and sizes! And as you can see Tales of costumes have a lot of trims and details so for this guide I will be using my Elize jacket from Tales of Xillia. The design has a complex front and back, finished with a trim around the edge. Fun times with the sewing machine ahead!
Things you will need:
Iron & ironing board
LOTS of matching thread
Iron-on interfacing (optional)
STEP ONE Pattern your garment and cut it out. Depending on wherever your applique is going (front, back, sleeves, etc), cut a copy in your contrast fabric. This will help the applique fit more accurately. If your applique is small, you might not need a full copy, but it can help you make sure it fits properly!
For this costume the trim follows all the way around the jacket, so I cut an exact copy of the front and back. I also cut a copy for the lining.
STEP TWO Pattern your applique design. Make it roughly the size you want it to be – but keep in mind once sewn it might grow around the edge by 1-2mm. My shapes are symmetrical so I made patterns from folded paper first. There are designs on the front and back, so they were made and cut separately.
STEP THREE IRON YOUR FABRIC. Make sure your fabric is clean and ironed before you do anything else! You’ll need your contrast fabric for this part. Creases or folds will affect how the applique sits. Once ironed, iron your bondaweb where you will need it on the fabric. For this jacket, the front and back panels was needed and around the bottom edge, so I added bondaweb in parts to reduce waste.
Once your bondaweb is ironed on, transfer your design onto your bondaweb! The great thing about bondaweb is that you can draw on the removable side before you cut it out! Cut out your design and apply the bondaweb pattern to your garment. Remove the backing slowly, make sure it is smooth and iron it on!
STEP FOUR Sew around the edge with a straight stitch. Bondaweb is great stuff, but it’s not always super secure, so sew it down first! I use a 2mm stitch to sew around the edge because it makes it easier to maneuver the fabric. But you can use a longer stitch if you want to. Don’t worry about it being totally neat – your applique will cover this stitch.
Depending on your design, you can either use an identical colour thread for a subtle edge or a contrast thread to make the trim stand out. Make sure you have LOTS of thread – Elize’s design used over 300m of thread (3 100m spools of Gutermann)! I would also recommend using the same thread for the top and bottom stitches – this makes the colour more solid around the edge.
Once sewn, IRON YOUR FABRIC. Now the contrast fabric is glued and sewn down, iron it and make sure it is all smooth. Any creases/wrinkles at this stage can be disguised a little by the applique to come!
STEP FIVE Time to start your applique! Satin stitch the edges! This can take 5 minutes or 5 hours depending on your design. Elize’s jacket took me around 3 hours to complete. When sewing Elize I used a 3mm zigzag width and 0.1mm length. You can use a thinner or thicker stitch if you want, but I find 3mm usually looks tidy and covers all stitching/edges underneath comfortably!
ALWAYS test your stitch first, and make sure your machine can still feed the fabric when sewing rather than jamming – if the stitch length is too short sometimes it can chew the fabric or thread underneath.
TIPS WHEN SEWING:
Make sure you take it SLOWLY and are precise with your sewing – it is a lot to unpick and redo and might damage your fabric if you make mistakes.
Start from the “bottom” or “inside” edge when sewing – it makes any visible starting points much less distracting.
When sewing corners, lift the foot and position the needle manually. This way it won’t look jaggy and misaligned. Take your time and move the needle back and forth if needed. Also, if your design is symmetrical, try and mirror your sewing to give it a cleaner finish.
When sewing curves, turn the fabric gradually and lightly pull it as it turns. The foot might not always sit straight but it will make the curve smoother when sewing. It’s worth practicing curves on a separate piece of fabric if you’re new to applique – it’s tricky and practice definitely helps!
STEP SIX IRON YOUR FABRIC. Your design will look really wiggly and ugly right now. Iron it carefully and smooth out any wrinkles or wiggles and it will look MUCH better! If you added some interfacing for stability, you can remove it now.
Now your applique is finished, all that’s left is to finish the rest of the garment off!
STEP SEVEN Admire your work! Applique is time consuming and tiring but YOU DID IT!! All that effort really shows. Practice makes perfect!
Cosplay is a huge, creative hobby, and cosplay makeup is something I’m really passionate about! Recently I’ve been able to dabble with some more interesting makeup, and figuring out how to style it for different characters is one of my favourite parts of putting a costume together.
I encourage everyone within the cosplay community to learn the basics of makeup – so here’s a short introduction about how it works and why it’s important to use it! All you need is a bit of patience, some basic products and the want to learn!
Getting Started with Cosplay Makeup
Cosplay makeup is as important as any other part of a costume; we all spend so much time and effort on our costumes, the last thing you want to let you down is your face! Put as much effort into how your face looks as everything else and you will be much happier with the result.
Looking fine When you put your costume together, you don’t want blotchy skin or spots to let you down. People are naturally drawn to look at your face first – a quick bit of makeup will make your whole costume look better!
Don’t blend in Wearing wigs and costumes washes people out – especially with unnatural colours! If you add a bit of makeup and some colour to your skin you will stand out against your costume and it will look much more flattering.
Photography Cameras don’t lie, but makeup does! Cameras pick up imperfections and redness in skin easily, but wearing makeup covers that up.
Effort A little bit of effort goes a long way! It makes you look better and it shows dedication to all aspects of your costume, not just what they’re physically wearing!
Pictures aren’t people Most of the time you’re cosplaying from drawn artwork – so chances are, you’re not going to look exactly like the character you’re doing. Thankfully with makeup you can change how you look to match your character! Practice with different colours, contouring and eyeliner to change the shape of your features.
Confidence Seeing bad photos of yourself can really bring down your confidence. Having a nice face of makeup will disguise how tired you might be after all nighters before the con! It’s a great confidence booster, whether it’s in the mirror or in pictures – it’s also nice to be complimented on how great you look!
Each of the products listed above have different purposes. Some of them might not be necessary for your costumes, but most of them will come in handy one way or another so it’s worth investing in what you can. Makeup can be expensive, but it doesn’t have to break the bank – a lot of cheaper brands are still great quality, and most of them offer testers you can try first. For a full makeup bag with all of the products listed above, you should expect to pay roughly £20-£30 using budget brands.
Don’t rush out and grab the first thing you find, though – take some time and do a little research to see what each product does. If you’re unfamiliar with makeup, it will help to take some time to ask questions, do some googling or watch some videos on YouTube to understand what does what and how you can use it!
I highly recommend investing in a set of brushes or sponges to apply your makeup, too. Using your hands might be easier but you get a better finish with brushes or sponges than with fingers, and a good set of brushes will last you a long time! They’re also a lot more versatile and precise than a clumsy finger! Make sure you clean your brushes and sponges regularly for the best possible application!
Makeup Tips & Tricks
Finally, I want to give some basic advice on cosplay makeup. It’s slightly different from regular makeup, and needs to be applied in different ways! If you’re getting started, here are some things to consider;
Learn how to use your face This sounds dumb, but check yourself in a mirror a lot, move your cheeks, mouth, etc and see where you need to apply your makeup. If you’re not sure what shape your face or eyes are, google it and find out. When pulling different expressions, see how your face moves and what you want to emphasise – experiment first!
Make it flattering Find something that is suitable and flattering for your character. Make sure you consider your character’s look and personality; what works for one might not work for another. Some characters have rosier cheeks, some have wide eyes – play around with the products you have and see what works!
Use a primer Your makeup will go on smoother and last much longer! It makes a noticeable difference when you do or don’t wear it, and if you’re attending an event in a big, hot hall, you don’t want to have your makeup melting off early. You can also use a setting spray to fix your makeup in place.
Start simple Make your face look plain with foundation and concealers first, then build on top of that. I recommend using a medium-full coverage foundation to make things nice and smooth first. Once your face looks totally blank, you can add colour to it!
Use blush & bronzer to add colour, contour and definition This will help make your face softer for girls, and more angular for men. There are some excellent contouring tutorials available online – experiment with them and see what works for you! Familiarise yourself with what works and what doesn’t. It is also worth mentioning that different colours work with different skin tones and hair colours; try to compliment your wig as much as possible so it will look more natural.
Colour your lips Lipsticks come in all shapes, sizes, colours and finishes! No matter who your character is, you will be able to find something to compliment their look. If your character has plain lips, invest in a nice natural nude colour rather than actually leaving your lips plain.
Do lots of makeup tests Always try to do a makeup test with your wig first! It’s the best way to see what works and what doesn’t, and it will also teach you what you need to improve. If you’re stuck, have a look at how others do their makeup for the same character; flicking through character and cosplay tags on Instagram might give you the inspiration you need!
Take selfies Take photos with different light conditions to see how your makeup looks indoors, outdoors, with flash, etc. Ask friends for advice on how it looks and see what works! If you’re happy with your makeup, it’s worth taking photos of the products and colours you have used for each look for when you wear them again too!
The great thing about makeup is that there are no limits to it. There is no right or wrong, there are no rules. If you’re curious, give it a try and see what you create!
World Cosplay Summit 2014 starts this weekend in Japan, and most teams will be flying out mid week! It’s a terrifying and exciting time if you’re taking part in the competition, so I figured I’d put together some last-minute advice for anyone taking part and is having a bit of a panic.
When I arrived last year there were a lot of things we were missing and locating them in Japan is tricky, so it’s easiest to make sure you’re well prepared!
Omotenashi Student Corp
With Haruno of Omotenashi
One of the best things about WCS is the Omotenashi Student Corp, who are happy to help you out while you’re in Japan. So if you have forgotten anything ask someone for help! Most of the students are locals to Nagoya and will be able to help you easily, no matter what your request might be. The hotel where WCS is hosted is surrounded by useful stores, and the students are happy to show you around.
In any case, here are a few of the things we learned before and during our stay in Japan. We made these mistakes so you don’t have to!
Packing & Preparing Costumes
So many bags!
Checklists! Even if all your costume is made up of is a wig, top, pants and shoes, write it down! It’s important to be able to pack easily know everything is accounted for. Run through your costumes head to toe and keep it tidy. Write down what makeup or accessories you might need if you have time, too.
If you’re worried, include a note in your luggage Most airports do secure bag checks, so seeing something that looks like a sword or giant screws randomly dotted around your bag might raise some eyebrows. If you have “questionable props” it’s worth including a polite note with a diagram explaining it is for a costume and what you are doing. The last thing you want is to find a major part of your costume has been confiscated or damaged by security.
Pack your finals costumes first WCS is fun throughout, but ultimately you’re there for the finals. If you can, keep everything for your finals costumes within your hand luggage so you know everything is safe. Myself and Yuka managed this for Kefka and Terra with the exception of my shoes – it does wonders for your peace of mind, and means your most important costumes are accounted for.
Don’t separate costumes between cases Last year one of Team Spain’s luggage bags went missing and so did half of the pieces for their costumes so none of them could be worn! So if you can, pack everything for each costume together and if a bag does go missing, you will still have other complete costumes ready to be worn. They might not be your first choice, but at least you have something!
Organise your costumes It’s easy to get to the hotel and veg for a day but most importantly you need to know what you’re doing each day so lay out your costumes and accessories and make sure they’re easy to access. The last thing you want is a panic every morning trying to find the last pieces for your costumes. If you’ve made checklists this should be easy.
You need lots of ‘real clothes’ Japan is hot and sticky and cosplaying in that heat is hard for people to adjust to, so pack lots of spare clothes to change into. Make sure they are small enough to pack easily into a bag to take with you to events too – it’s best to take a change of clothes. You will have a lot of downtime and cosplaying in the streets isn’t socially accepted or comfortable, so make sure you’re prepared!
If you need an iron, PACK AN IRON Most Japanese hotels do not provide ironing facilities so take a travel iron with you with adjustable voltage if possible! Failing that, you could ask fellow teams if they plan to take one and ask to share once you arrive.
CHECK YOUR VOLTAGE Myself and Yuka learned the hard way that British 230V electronics, even with a converter, do nothing in Japan as their voltage is only 120V. Our hairdryer was a feeble blow and our glue gun didn’t even get warm. If you are taking electronics, make sure you check if they’re actually going to be useful first, otherwise they’re going to be a heavy, bulky disappointment in your case.
Take Care Of Yourself!
Don’t forget to eat!
Make sure your costumes are easy to get on and off As pictured above, eating can be hard with gloves and a white apron so when it comes to meals it’s best to have parts that are easy to remove. It’s also smart to plan costumes that are easy to get on and off by yourself for quick changes or for going to the bathroom. Never tell your team mate “don’t drop any ketchup!” … it will happen.
Don’t forget sunscreen The sun in Japan won’t burn you easily but it is HOT so prepare your skin well. Just because you don’t burn doesn’t mean you don’t need it! You can often pick up sunscreen cheap in Japan, but it doesn’t hurt to come prepared.
Take talc/baby powder Heat rash sucks and trying to find some in a Japanese pharmacy is surprisingly hard! Even if you don’t need it, someone else might.
Take multivitamins You might not have the time to eat proper meals while taking part, so multivitamins will help take care of you while you don’t have time. You will get food provided to help sustain energy and salt levels but multivitamins are a great boost too.
Take more of everything than you need Makeup, hairspray, toothpaste, toiletries, wipes, craft supplies .. whatever you need, take extras! If you don’t need it after you can always throw it out to lighten your case or offer it to other teams.
Don’t rely on “I’ll buy it there” If you need an accessory, a wig or pieces to complete your costume, don’t rely on being able to find it in a store. The stores nearby will have a lot on offer but when WCS begins you won’t have much time for shopping so it’s best to be fully prepared.
Carry drinks & snacks everywhere you go If you have an organiser or helper with you, request that they carry it for you to keep your hands free and costumes clean. Always travel prepared. Bring snacks from your own country to keep in your room, especially if you’re a picky eater – Japanese food and snacks have a higher salt content and can cause muscle ache if you’re not used to it.
Don’t be afraid to say no While you’re in Japan for WCS you’ll be in the spotlight a lot, but you shouldn’t feel obligated to do everything. Not everything is mandatory, and staff will let you know if there are optional extras you can participate in.
If a film crew wants to follow you, you can say no. If people want to interview you, you can say no. If you’re requested to attend events outside of WCS, you can say no – it is up to you as a team if you are comfortable doing extra activities. That said, I would always recommend that you do as much as possible for WCS but if you are tired or uncomfortable, don’t be afraid to say no.
Stay active WCS is very intensive and you will be on your feet for most of the time you’re out there, but stay active in your downtime if you can. Lots of small things can contribute to exhaustion that you might not consider – jetlag, the heat, a change in diet, decreased water intake, etc – so stay smart and stay active!
The Fun Stuff!
With Yurai of WCS Spain
PURI-KURA It’s kind of taboo to be out in costume, but if you really want to do Puri-Kura when in Japan with friends there is an arcade across the street at the end of the block around the corner from the big Daily combini. It’s a short run in costume if you want to take some fun photos!
Praise Tokyu-Hands There is a Tokyu-Hands about 20 minutes walk from the hotel with a whole floor dedicated to craft, so if you’ve forgotten something chances are you can get it there! It’s like an Aladdin’s Cave of cosplay goodies, silicone, beads, thread, accessories etc and it’s reasonably priced too. If you ever make it to Japan – WCS or otherwise – it’s worth checking out!
Make mealtimes fun and share it with teams Don’t be lame and stay in your room. The time you spend with the other teams is the time you’ll miss the most, so enjoy your free time while it lasts! There’s a huge range of restaurants close by.
Take lots of pictures together! Even though you’re there for 10 days, time flies by so quickly. There will be thousands of photos online after your adventure has ended but the times that really matter are the ones with your new friends. Take lots of photos and make lots of new memories!
So there we have it. My thinly-veiled “we were a bit dumb last year” advice for you to behold! Above all, WCS is an incredible experience, so make the most of the time you have and enjoy it for what it is. It will feel so tiring and you’ll miss home a lot, but it’s worth every moment!
Finally, good luck to all of the teams participating this year!
I finished my progress book for Madoka Kaname yesterday and while I was getting critique, one of international cosplay friends commented that they had never seen one before. In the UK they’re quite common now to go with competitions; most major competitions (including both European Cosplay Gathering and World Cosplay Summit qualifiers) now require progress books, and many local competitions encourage you to submit one too.
I think they’re a great little momento for cosplayers to make and keep, especially for bigger costume projects! Most events will give you your books back so it’s a nice keepsake and chronicle of how you made your costume and they’re great if you want to share them and show your construction to others.
My first progress book was for Eiko Carol, which was very well received by the judges. It was a lot of fun designing it to match my costume.
Cosplay Progress Books
So… what are they? They’re basically cosplay scrapbooks to show how you made your costume, the standard of construction, what sort of considerations you made, which techniques were used, etc. They’re also used as proof to show you made the costume yourself rather than buying something and cheating in competitions (which is more common than you’d think, sadly).
What are they used for? Progress books normally go with competition costumes. In the UK you usually have at between 2-5 minutes to explain your costume to the judges,and you usually have access to your book throughout that time. If you have your book in front of you, you can reference it when speaking and point out progress images to help explain your costume better. It also helps if you forget to mention something or don’t have time that everything is already written down, which is a huge bonus if you’re a nervous speaker.
What should I include in one? Well, anything you want really, as long as it’s relevant and doesn’t drag. Judges don’t have a long time to browse books, so keep it concise.
Things to Consider
I’ve made a few now and I have judged many, so here is some advice I can give from both a cosplayer and a judges’ point of view. People get progress books either very right or very wrong, so here’s a few things to consider before making yours;
When working, photograph everything I can’t emphasise this enough. Photograph everything. Photograph patterning, fabric choices, shoes, everything! You won’t use it all but it will come in very handy when you put your book together to have too much choice than not enough.
Make something unique If your progress book looks interesting, it stands out from the crowd. See if you can customise the look of the book to match your costume somehow, like a diary or handbook. A little extra effort makes a big difference and it shows you have dedicated enough time to do it “properly”.
Make it short and sweet Judges have very little time to read books thoroughly so you need to cram as much information in as little space as possible. I usually keep my work per costume piece to no more than two A5 pages and no more than 30 images total. It’s very handy to organise things as pictorials or in order where possible so it’s easier for judges to understand on first glance.
Make it easy to read Everyone loves cramming books with details but lots of these competitions are international and English might not be the judges first language, so you need to consider that. Short, simple sentences will explain your work much better than huge paragraphs. You can always explain key parts in more detail in person – use the book as a prompt!
Make it yourself Try and make your own book or use a folder instead of using a bought notebook if possible. Empty pages make the content you have included look much less impressive. It takes no time to sew some pages together or to grab a stapler!
Don’t rush Progress books are important, so don’t rush them. Take your time and choose what you’re putting in carefully. The book itself won’t be judged and will not influence your scores, but they are very helpful for judges to see what sort of effort you put into your work and they can definitely add or deduct points when evaluating your costume.
Don’t sweat the small stuff You don’t need to cram your book full of every little detail. Include blurbs and photos of the details that are most important and that you’re most proud of and they’ll stand out. Ignore the parts that are inaccurate or caused you problems – don’t mention them and judges are less likely to focus on them.
Don’t rely on your progress book You need to know your costume inside out when presenting to the judges, and judges might not have time to go over everything in your book. Reference your book as much as you like but make sure you explain your costume first and foremost. The book is there to help, not do the work for you!
I could go on and on, but I think that’s the basics covered! Take your time and enjoy putting your progress together. A progress book is a summary of your costume’s journey from start to finish – it’s nice to go back over every little detail and see the effort you’ve put in!
Some books I have seen have been incredible handcrafted pieces just as impressive as the costumes themselves – stained pages, leather binding, plush covers to match costumes – you can do so much with progress books, all it takes is a little creativity!