• Dollar stores and thrift stores (secondhand shops) are a goldmine! Costume jewelry, mixing cups and sticks, costume shoes, werewolf flannels, toy props and Nerf weapons just needing a nice paint job…
  • Give thrift store clothes the sniff test before buying. Sometimes items get donated because the cat got mad, and that smell never washes out.
  • “Too nice” garments can be weathered or distressed to look old and tattered…it’s fun! Belt sander, bleach, spray paint and so forth.
  • Costume hacks have no genderit’s okay to look in The Other Department. If it fits and works as part of your outfit, it’s fair game. That “ladies” faux-fur vest could be part of a Viking getup. That “mens” motorcycle jacket looks good for a cyborg.
  • Check if there’s a Daiso Japan store near you. Have a friend hold your wallet…unless they’re a cosplayer too (now you’re both broke).
  • Buy all of the fabric for a project from the same bolt. It might go out of stock…and if it returns, might come from a different dye lot that isn’t an exact match.
  • Check materials side-by-side for visual consistency before buying. Even basic colors like white and black have subtle tints…two fabrics of the “same color” can actually clash!
  • Lycra®, spandex and elastane are different names for the exact same thing. They’re not distinct materials.
  • Counterintuitively, fabric described as 2-way stretch really stretches only one way: widthwise. 4-way stretches width- and length-wise.
  • If a costume requires belts or straps for armor, wings, a tail, etc., use the widest straps the costume can discreetly accommodate. Narrow straps dig in and are uncomfortable for extended wear.
  • But flimsy wide straps can roll up and be just as uncomfortable. 2-inch scuba webbing is thick and roll-proof, if the costume design can accommodate it…and if your sewing machine is up to the task.
  • Velcro® can be very strong on the shear axis, weak on the pull axis. Neodymium magnets are strong on the pull axis, weak on the shear axis. Each is better suited to different applications. One peels off, the other slides off.
  • If using a store-bought “costume in a bag” for all or part of a cosplay (perfectly valid, everyone has a personal level of commitment), take a little time to spruce it up to fix that straight-from-package look. Iron out the creases (using a suitably low temperature; economy costumes are often molecule-thin polyester), distress with a bit of paint or sanding, or add embellishments with fabric glue. Just a little effort yields a big improvement!
  • Similarly, whether purchased or made from a pattern, a little tailoring goes a long way! (I’m especially looking at you, Star Trek cosplayers.)

If it’s an off-the-rack shirt, maybe that means bringing up the cuffs or tapering the midriff. If made from a pattern…sure it’s no fun making the same thing two or three times…but a couple quick unfinished prototypes in muslin or dollar clearance fabric can help you really dial in the shape!

Covering up in a potato sack is unbecoming of the role. Regardless of your body type, a well-fitted garment exudes confidence!

  • The threaded neck and cap from a plastic soda bottle can be used to build props that break down for storage and transport.
  • Contact glues such as Barge and rubber cement should be joined when dry, not wet! Apply a thin layer to both surfaces, let dry, then press together. Hold is instant, there are no do-overs.
  • Many specialty glues — Barge, E6000, etc. — spoil quickly once opened. Buy bulk packs of mini-tubes rather than one giant economy tube. It’s less economical per ounce, but more ounces get fully utilized.
  • For two-part epoxy in a double-plunger dispenser: snip away the plastic piece that joins the two plungers for finer control over each side.

This guide was first published on Sep 06, 2022. It was last updated on Mar 08, 2024.

This page (Materials) was last updated on Mar 08, 2024.

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