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Posted on July 22, 2015 at 6:00 am
With annual comicons like SpoCon, Lilac City Comicon, Kuronekocon, and Worldcon 2015 all being held in Spokane this summer, there are plenty of opportunities for cosplayers and costuming enthusiasts to share their interests and talent with others. Now I’m kind of a cosplay newbie, but I do enjoy creating costumes and exploring my geeky interests in ways that let the world know how big of a nerd I really am.
If you’ve never cosplayed before, it can be a little intimidating. When you see all these amazing costumes that people spent weeks and tons of money creating, it’s easy to think that there is no way you could do that. However, I found that there’s a wealth of information online for beginners and you don’t have to break the bank to get started. What I didn’t see was a basic list of all the things you need to create, assemble, and finish just about any costume. So I checked with a few cosplaying friends for some help in compiling a list.
Here’s a list of nine essential items any new cosplay or costumer should have in their arsenal:
I’m not talking about the cheap scissors you get in a 3-pack at Costco, but rather decent quality scissors in a few different styles. I cannot stress the importance of good scissors enough, especially when working with fabric. Honestly, I have seven pairs in my kit, but you probably only need three different pairs to get started: 1) pinking shears (use them to keep fabric from fraying uncontrollably); 2) fabric scissors (they’re very sharp for a clean, smooth cut); and 3) basic household scissors (for everything else). The key to keeping your scissors working well is to only use them for what they’re intended; that means don’t ever use your pinking shears or fabric scissors on paper!
A glue gun is practically mandatory for cosplaying beginners and pros. It’s fantastic for quickly adding small details and securing pieces, mending a rip or tear, and can even be used for simple clothing modification and construction. It also permanently fuses craft foam to itself, which makes it the perfect tool for that foam armor you’ve been planning to construct. Glue guns can get very hot; the highest temperature ones can even cause serious burns if you’re not careful. While some consider this a badge of honor, I just consider it painful, and prefer a low temp glue gun for most of my projects. Just steer clear of the ultra-low temp glue guns—those are best suited for paper and don’t work well for costuming.
When attaching costume pieces, whether gluing or sewing, pins can help keep fabric, foam, and even lightweight plastic in place. Straight pins are an essential tool when cutting out fabric using a pattern. Safety pins are also a go-to of mine for altering clothing without assistance. Unfortunately, I’ve yet to master straight pinning a seam while wearing my clothes (without stabbing myself a dozen times that is). Instead, I can safety-pin where I think a new seam should go before trying it on and then adjust as needed. In a pinch, they can also secure a ripped seam or hold a torn piece in place until you can make a permanent repair.
Masks, wings, and armor—oh my! I am still trying to find something that can’t be made with craft foam. It is such an inexpensive, versatile material that you can bend, paint, sew, and even carve into just about any shape you need. Basic craft foam can be found at your nearest craft store, usually in bright colors, while thicker sheets are available at many hardware stores. It is a paint sponge though, so if you’re planning on painting it make sure you seal it first with a coat of Mod Podge or some watered-down tacky glue.
One of my go-to items when testing a new project is a big roll of basic craft paper. This isn’t the colorful stuff you used as a kid to make big murals or artwork, but rather the boring old brown paper you might have seen stuffed inside shipping boxes. It’s usually inexpensive and easy to find. I get mine at the dollar store but have also seen it at office supply stores and even Walmart on occasion. While not suitable for building costumes out of, it is great for creating patterns, testing pieces and shapes, and even giving paint effects a try. I’m also a bit lazy, and lay out a whole bunch of it on top of whatever surface I’m using to make cleanup easier in the end.
You did read that right—that says irons, as in more than one. For a more polished, final look, you’re definitely going to want to iron many of your finished pieces. Unfortunately, a lot of the techniques you might try on your costumes can ruin an iron. One of the suggestions I received was to purchase one good iron for the outside of your costume and any parts that will be visible. They also recommended getting an old, battered one from your favorite thrift store to use on the inside of your costumes for doing modifications, melting/warping pieces, and setting paint. Since it’s already old and ruined, you probably wouldn’t want to use it on your regular clothes anyway.
Fusible webbing is a product that can bond two pieces of fabric together with heat (another reason having an iron is so important). This makes it really handy for creating appliques, making patches, and modifying clothing. It can fix just about any fabric and, depending on what you’re making, can be the difference between a floppy peasant’s coat and a firm, regal one. Check out Ashley’s Make It & Love It post about the different types and how to use them. If you’re still not sure what kind to buy, you can always ask the staff member running the cutting counter at your fabric store. They’re pretty knowledgeable about these things and can usually point you in the right direction with a few details about the project.
Cosplaying and making costumes can be a pretty expensive endeavor if you’re not careful. Do some coupon research, however, and your budget will go a lot further. Honestly, coupons are a necessity for me before I even consider buying something more than about $5. Lots of the local craft stores even accept competitors’ coupons and you can sometimes stack them with store sales to get some really inexpensive supplies. Make sure you check the store apps, websites, text and email offers, and print ads. Joann Fabrics is particularly notorious for offering different coupons in different places—you don’t want to miss out!
While you can do a lot with glue and fusible webbing, for those really wanting to get into cosplaying and creating costumes, you’ll eventually want to invest in a decent sewing machine. You can get a basic model from the fabric store for less than $100 (with coupons) or sometimes find a used one at your local thrift store; however, you may need to have it serviced to get it up and running properly. Once you’ve invested in a sewing machine, your options are a lot more varied and permanent. Many of the local fabric stores offer basic lessons as well, or you could always check out a book like The Complete Photo Guide to Sewing or The Sewing Machine Classroom to get up to speed.
I feel I should also mention that while it didn’t make the list, a cheap school supply caddie from the dollar store is the perfect thing to store a lot of your basics in. You can take it from kitchen table to living room floor and know that you’ve got everything you need within reach. Once you’ve rounded up your essential items, visit our Pinterest page to find a wealth of costuming and cosplay ideas!
If you’re a cosplayer or costumer, what are your essential items? Did I miss anything you can’t live without?