[title type=”h2″]Mission (Mostly) Possible[/title]
Welcome to the wonderful world of cosplay! Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to come up with a cosplay that suits your personality, will stay comfortable for the several hours you’ll be at a con, and hold up to the character’s integrity while still maintaining whatever creative flair you choose to toss in for fun (if any).

If you read this message before it self-destructs, you’ll have taken away the following:

• Selecting a character to cosplay!

• Strategizing to get your cosplay finished before the convention!

• The items you’ll want to carry on your person to survive the con!

Mission Impossible

It’s up to you how much time and effort you want to spend. Just know that the better you want your costume to look, the more time and effort you’re gonna need. Plan ahead! If, like me, you know yourself to be a procrastinator, take note of that and write yourself a rigorous schedule.

If you’re reading this days, even weeks before your con… shit. Let’s get you prepped. But be warned, this won’t be an easy feat; at one of my first cons I made the mistake of attempting to make a cosplay the night before. It was a simple one — or so I thought; I would be a scientist from the Half-Life games and just paint their lambda logo onto an old lab coat. That sounds easy enough, right? This turned into an all-night venture that lasted from the prior afternoon right up until 10 AM the next day when my group had to drive up to Baltimore for Otakon.

 That’s me in the middle. You can barely see the logo and yet it took hours and hours to put the whole cosplay together. Don’t do what I did. Be better. Be smarter.

That’s me in the middle. You can barely see the logo and yet it took hours and hours to put the whole cosplay together. Don’t do what I did. Be better. Be smarter.

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[title type=”h2″]Select Your Character[/title]
At a con, you can be anyone or anything you want to be. Pick someone you like! I can’t emphasize that enough. Conventions can be very stressful and Murphy’s Law is constantly in motion. Why add to the chaos by having to hear your least favorite character’s name shouted at you throughout the entire day? Additionally, it’s best to cosplay a character you are familiar with. Be prepared for some mild to moderate public nerd shaming if you are unable to respond to simple trivia or acknowledge a catch phrase.


With so many awesome characters out there, it can be tough to narrow down your choices. One of my favorite ways to tackle this is to look at pictures of all of your characters to see if you have any props or clothing lying around that could contribute to a cosplay, and then eliminating characters you don’t feel that you could portray as accurately as you’d like. Looking at pictures of your characters from different angles can help give you an idea of what you can pull from your own wardrobe and what items you’ll need to either make or find. Some cosplays are easier than others; anyone can be the Old Spice Guy with just body wash and a towel, but it takes some serious dedication and time to attempt the more challenging and intricate handmade cosplays.

Beginner Cosplay 2

Cowboy Bebop’s Ed above (portrayed by BNP Staff Writer Monica Hunasikatti) only took tights, a tank top, sunglasses, a wig, and a stuffed Ein that Monica got from the con, whereas The Journey cosplay was sewn together by hand over the course of several months.

The same Journey cosplay from the back. Dope, right?
The same Journey cosplay from the back. Dope, right?

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The best thing about cosplay is that you can make your portrayal of a character as unique and fun as you want. Want to put a new spin on a classic character?

Hipster Pocahontas and Hipster Kida.
Hipster Pocahontas and Hipster Kida.

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Want to gender bend?

Poe Dameron? More like, oh goddameron.
Poe Dameron? More like, oh goddameron.

You want to be 2D?

2DeezNuts (Got ‘em!)
2DeezNuts (Got ‘em!)

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[title type=”h2″]Get It Together[/title]

Make a list of shit you need. Then decide if all of the shit you wrote down is actually shit you need, or just shit you would really like to have. If you don’t have the sewing chops (I for sure don’t), the less you have to make by yourself the better. A good way to stay organized is to plan out exactly where you’re gonna nab each item so that you can plan to get everything you need from each location in one stop.

Most things cost more than the price I want to pay, which is $0. Start in your own closet. It’s best to buy the least amount of stuff possible, so if you’re between a couple of character’s a good deciding factor is starting on the character you already have the most stuff for. For example, I picked Storm because I already owned a black leather jacket, black pants, and black boots.

Beginner Cosplay 7

I made the X-Men wrist band and an X-Men belt buckle (hidden under the jacket) out of items I found: an old watch, cardboard, and black and silver tape. This video, though a little long-winded, helped me get started on figuring out how to DIY both the wrist band and the belt buckle. YouTube is your friend! So is Pinterest, Reddit, Tumblr, even WikiHow. Use the Internet and use it well, friends.

Once you’ve picked through your closet and snagged every piece you already have on hand, set a budget for yourself for the remaining costume pieces. This might take some Googling to estimate a cost for costume pieces and/or materials to make them.

It is crucial to set a schedule for buying/creating/assembling your cosplay. The goal is to make your one big cosplay project (or several big cosplay projects, for the extra ambitious) into manageable, bite-sized cosplay projects that span over a couple of months until the Big Day. Doing the work in chunks will make it less frustrating overall. I can’t stress this enough: the sooner you plan all of this shit out, the better!

Some characters require a specific, hard-to-find prop or costume piece, and perhaps you’re hard-pressed to make it yourself. If that’s you, the last day of a con is your time to strike. Many dealers and artists slash their prices on the last day so that there’s less for them to pack up. If you see a costume piece or accessory you like that’s just out of your budget, try waiting to see if you can get it on the last day for a steal. If you can afford to support the artist at full price, then by all means, go for it!

You could be this guy for the price of one human-sized body pillow!
You could be this guy for the price of one human-sized body pillow!

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Researching the convention space itself is critical as well; some conventions prohibit guests from bringing certain objects like, for example, anything with a sharp blade. Make sure that your cosplay is up to code by modifying props so that they fit within the guidelines of the convention venue. You may also want to look into the list of panels at your convention. While it is 100% feasible to go in without a plan and still have a kickass time, it never hurts to at least skim through the list of panels at a convention because most have cosplay panels that can be helpful for anyone wanting to hone their skills.

Or for inspiration for future cosplays… check out this panelist’s Miley Cyrus
Or for inspiration for future cosplays… check out this panelist’s Miley Cyrus

[title type=”h2″]Hindsight is 20/20[/title]
I’ve done so many cosplay don’ts… just call me Rosemary “Hindsight is 20/20” Palack. I picked the worst shoes for my first cosplay at my first con—they were tight and narrow, a couple inches too high, and they rubbed the backs of my heels raw. Sure, they looked fun and made my legs seem infinite, but after even just a couple of hours my ankles were calling it quits.

I’ve felt this way about whole cosplays, too. You’ll be walking for hours on end at a convention. There will maybe be some periods of sitting, but definitely a hell of a lot of walking in between. Any costume piece and any prop, no matter how light, can be the most cumbersome item you carry after several hours of lugging it around or accidentally knocking it into people. If you know that you tire easily or if your prop doesn’t have a convenient storage place (like a sheathe for a sword or a holster for a gun), you may be in for a long con. It’s doable for sure, but it’s up to you to determine if you’re willing. If you’re in great pain while in cosplay, however, it’s probably time to re-think your execution.

Beginner Cosplay 10

This the result of me giving up after barely a couple of hours of full cosplay; I was sick of having my hair in my face, my tights felt too clingy, and the corset I usually wear was poking into my body in all the worst ways. It’s totally cool to lighten up or adjust your cosplay if needed. If anything, it’s kind of more fun! Side note: If you’re wearing body paint, make sure to use a sealer on your hands and face to keep the paint from rubbing off so quickly. I have made the mistake of forgetting on many an occasion.

Anything can happen at any time to anyone, ever, and there’s no way to be 100% on top of all of that shit 24/7. For that reason, careful preparation is critical so if worst comes to worst, you have what you need to fix it. Whether you are keeping your cosplay gear in a hotel room, your car, or at your distant home, if you want to change halfway through the day or remove your cosplay altogether, make sure you have the means to do so! This takes a little something I’ve mentioned a couple times already: PLANNING AHEAD. Do it. Plan ahead. Please.

At most cons I’ve seen a Costume Repair Person who has all the essentials and more—glitter of all colors, buttons of all sizes, scissors, glue — you name it. It’s not, however, safe to place all your cosplay disaster eggs into that Costume Repair basket; cons are huge and you might not run into a friendly savior who will help you fix your broken and torn cosplay pieces. Having some kind of backpack or purse (or even just super deep pockets) that fit with your character’s style will definitely help take some of the load off. It will be the perfect place to keep your phone and an emergency “cosplay kit” with some essentials in case your cosplay starts to kind of fall apart. This kit will vary based on your cosplay, but generally kits will include things like bobby pins, cosmetics, and maybe a pocket sewing kit if you’re savvy with it.

Let’s say you are caught without your essentials. If you find yourself in dire straits, fear not! People are generally kind and awesome to one another at cons. I had ½ of Cosmo and Wanda from Fairly Odd Parents tie my tie and a couple of random con-goers help seal my green paint for Poison Ivy. Ask and you shall most likely receive!

Beginner Cosplay 11

Food at cons can be pricey, and some cons have water provided throughout the premises, but it’s nice to have your own for when the public water sources are depleted. You may want space to store snacks, water, convention map and guide, and your badge if you’re sick of having it draped around your neck.

[title type=”h2″]Say Cheese![/title]
The cool thing about cosplay is that it’s sometimes like walking through Disney world or a Halloween party and flipping out when you see your favorite character. Most people (myself included) feel obligated to flag people down for pics. While it’s sometimes fun to get the celeb treatment, you are by no means obligated to pose for pics! If you happen to be down for photos, it’s good to come up with a few poses and practice them in a mirror beforehand so that you’re not awkwardly trying to figure out what to do with your hands when the camera flashes.

What am I doing with my hands?? And my face?! And Jesus H. C., that paint job…
What am I doing with my hands?? And my face?! And Jesus H. C., that paint job…

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It makes sense to try on your cosplay a couple of times prior to the con not only to make sure it looks and fits right, but to make sure it won’t fall apart at the slightest provocation. Additionally, you’ll want to make sure that you can pee in your costume if needed (bodysuit-wearers beware!), or adjust for any calamities. Practicing walking amongst people in your cosplay will help, too — avoiding smacking people in the face with your wings, silly hats, and/or assortment of props is a really great way to get your cosplay battered and broken. The practice phase of cosplay is also a good time to check that your cape and wig won’t get snagged, that sweat will be an easy mess to clean, and that your shoes and costume won’t degrade your body over time.

[title type=”h2″]So, to Recap…[/title]
• Pick a character you like and know enough about!

• Plan ahead by setting a budget and a schedule for cosplay completion!

• Figure out what you have as well as how to get what you need!

• If something hurts after a while of wearing it, maybe re-think your outfit so that you can cosplay comfortably!

• Try to keep cosplay and convention essentials on your person at all times!

• Practice posing, walking, sitting, and figure out your restroom sitch beforehand!

But overall, have fun! Even if things go slightly awry, just take it as something to consider when you plan your next con. Enjoy your experience to the fullest. You did all this work to create a cosplay, so go! Take that con by storm. You deserve it!

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  • Show Comments

  • Kairi

    There is a GREAT app called Cosplanning that help do ALL of these things! (Except pick your favorite character. That’s up to you!)
    I just started using it for my last costume and it helps SO MUCH!!!

  • Monica Hunasikatti

    I LOVE THIS! 😀 😀 😀

  • Finest Hour Cosplay

    Awesome article but as one of the people who made that body pillow costume – it’s not just buying a body pillow and cutting a hole in the face (my husband would never fit inside a body pillow – they are way too small – and way too small for most people).
    We actually sewed that pillow from scratch with batting in the front to give a puffy look and velcro up the back to get in and out. He painstakingly attached the image in multiple letter sized sheets and we had to rig up a contraption that attached to his belt to keep the corners up and to keep the pillow from flopping down.
    I’m flattered, however, that anyone for a second might have thought that was professionally made!

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