Have you ever wanted to cosplay as some of your favorite characters but didn’t have what you needed to create an exact replica of their looks from scratch? Friend, you are not alone!
Cosplaying is pretty cool stuff, a magnificent beast of an industry of its own! But some of us just don’t have the resources, time, and money to go all out on looks made from high-quality materials, re-creating a perfect copy of our beloved characters. Professional cosplayers are excellent at this, but cosplaying need not be solely accessible to them.
Everyone can dress up as their faves with a little imagination, a sharp eye, an abundance of patience, and lots of heart!
So if you’re like me and you’d like to cosplay but your budget isn’t too big, allow me to guide you in this endeavor with a few tips. Soon you’ll be able to create your own cosplay looks in a way that won’t break the bank, while still honoring the characters you adore and want to emulate.
Just follow these easy steps!
1. Choose Your Character
You might already have one in mind that you’ve always wanted to cosplay or you may have several faves to choose from. Just select the one you’re vibing with right now that you’d like to immortalize in your own unique way.
I primarily create cosplay based on Star Trek’s Dr. Beverly Crusher so I’ll show you how I created one of her looks.
2. Pick Your Look
Some characters have just one look so that will be easy enough. But others might have a closet full of outfits to choose from. Select one that resonates with you. You’ll know which one it is.
For my version of Dr. Crusher, we’ll go with one of my absolute favorite looks — her Captain’s uniform!
3. Make It Your Own
Remember, you’re on a budget here so you’re not necessarily going for a carbon copy look but one that is easily recognizable and resembles the original with your own special twist. Bring your full self to the character! You are part of them and they are part of you. So join with your character in harmony and envision for yourself a look that will obviously pay homage to them while staying true to your authentic self.
For instance, Dr. Crusher is white. I, as a Guyanese of South Asian descent, am not. My cultural identity is an aspect of myself that’s very important to me, so I wanted to create a look that visually resembles Crusher’s red uniform while remaining true to myself and my Indian heritage.
I asked myself “What would Crusher wear if she were Indian?” and envisioned using clothing items that reflected my heritage and cultural aesthetic, but which still captured the overall look of the uniform.
Sketching out what you’re imagining in your mind’s eye can also help bring your vision to life! Here’s what I initially imagined:
Sketches are not permanent and they can change as you go along! You’ll see this is the case with mine here.
4. Raid Your Closet
With the look you’re going for in mind, consider select items that would lend itself to the vision you have for the final look. You never know, you may already own something that will be perfect for it. This is an easy way to save money and use the resources already available to you. Maybe you’ll have a few things that might work and can give you a range of options. You can even borrow stuff from someone you know if they’ll let you.
Based on my sketch, I initially envisioned red pants for the look to emphasize the significance of the red. However, I decided on black to stay true to Crusher’s captain uniform. Thankfully, I already had several black slacks on hand to select from and set those aside to come back to later.
5. Hunt Your Favorite Stores
If you’re willing to spend some money, think about your go-to places to shop for clothes and search through them on their website or in person (wear a mask when you go!). Since you’ll be spending some cash here, it’s helpful to look for pieces that you would easily wear multiple times in your everyday life when not in costume. That way you’re not wasting precious dollars on items that are only for one-time use.
It takes a bit of time to look through everything but the effort is worth it because when you see something that will enhance your look, it’s pure magic! Take your time, there’s no rush!
These were some affordable purchases I made for this look:
Some looks need accessories to complete them so you’ll want to look for what will complement the overall costume. These are shoes, jewelry, makeup, trinkets, props, and whatever else you think you will need to finish up your cosplay and perhaps add an extra special touch that makes it uniquely yours. Again, look through what you already have or if you don’t find anything in your possession that will work and need to purchase a few affordable pieces, then go right ahead and do so if you don’t mind getting some new accessories to add to your collection.
My accessories consisted of these items and a pair of black flats I already owned. The only thing purchased was the badge for a few dollars on eBay.
7. Bring It All Together
Now that you have your pieces, put them together! You’re in the role of designer, stylist, model, etc. Breathe life into your cosplay! Try on the pieces, experiment with what works and what doesn’t. Edit and rework your costume until you settle on a final cosplay that looks and feels right to you.
8. Et Voilà! Your Cosplay is Ready for Its Debut!
Rock your look like the star you are! Here’s how my look turned out:
Simple but I think it captures the essence of Captain Crusher, subtly showcases my own heritage, and celebrates my Brownness.
Each of my other Trek cosplays employed this DIY method using items I already owned or purchased at reasonable prices and I think they turned out pretty well.
And you can do this with almost any look you’re trying to accomplish!
Here are a few more examples of my low-budget cosplays.
Not bad, right? If I can do it, you can too! So go forth, friend! Dream up all the cosplay looks you’ve always wanted to create and bring them to life! The sky’s the limit!