Almost everyone who cosplays must do so within a budget, but some budgets are far smaller than others, especially for youth on an allowance. Depending on the size of your allowance and the costume you want to make, it may seem like your budget will never stretch enough to make your costume come true. However, with some creativity, a lot of YouTube videos and Pinterest pages, and some patience, you can make some amazing costumes.
The first and most important step is to have a clear idea of what you want to make. You might have a character in mind, and even a photo or illustration driving your costume dreams, but a 2D image doesn’t compare to the level of difficulty of the costume unless you start to consider the practical applications.
Second, determine which portions of the character’s costume are absolutely necessary, and which portions you can fudge if you can’t find the absolutely perfect match.
Ex. My daughter is cosplaying the “Bob” version of Lapis Lazuli from Steven
Universe. While some parts of her costume were easy (and inexpensive) to find online like the hat and a raglan shirt (which required minor modification), the blue socks with white band simply couldn’t be found. So, we found something close to use instead.
Third, make use of what you have on hand. My daughter already has white shoes, to which she’s adding blue craft tape, and utilizing an old bat. I use pants or boots or other items I already own to wear as part of several of my cosplays, primarily where those portions aren’t necessary to the overall look of the character. You can also look on Freecycle or Buy Nothing groups for items that might work with your intended costume.
Fourth, make whatever pieces you can. This means saving scraps of materials including cardboard (Amazon boxes, other shipping boxes, cereal boxes, etc.), newsprint, fabric remnants, etc. Some of the most frequently used cosplay materials are cardboard, papier-mâché (it’s versatile, cheap, and lightweight), thin wire and wire cutters, and foam. With enough practice at sewing and engineering costumes, you’ll develop strong skills that will look better than made-in-sweatshop store bought pieces.
When it’s time to spend your allowance, start with quality tools for the parts you can handmake, and then hit rummage sales, used clothing stores, and garage sales. Fabric is expensive, so if you can find used linens, skirts, or other items from which you can reclaim the fabric and utilize, do so whenever possible.
If you must buy new fabric, plan ahead and shop the sales. Be ready to accept that the exact fabric you want might not be there. If it’s a specialty fabric, you’ll find it easier online. Look for discounts.
The majority of your budget should go to high quality items that will last you a long time, and those that cannot be handmade, borrowed, rummaged, or otherwise procured. This is especially true if you intend to cosplay the same character multiple times. High quality pieces will last you a long while, and be less expensive in the long term. Purchasing cheaply made goods might seem ok with a tight budget, but you’ll have to keep replacing them when they break or fall apart. I know, sometimes you don’t have any other options than the cheap ones, and that’s ok. You’re doing your best to show your love and passion for your fandom.
Whenever possible, keep your costumes simple. It’ll be kinder to your budget and your stress levels. Of course, if you’re obsessed with building a complex costume and are willing to put your time and dedication into it, go for it!
The absolute best way to building astounding cosplays is to collaborate with other cosplayers. If you’re good at sewing and your friend is good at engineering, help each other out by working together to make your costumes even better. Borrow ideas from each other and go have loads of fun!
Cosplaying on a Budget Tumblr Blog full of tips and ideas on building different types of costume pieces.
My Cosplay board on Pinterest