So you have a kid who wants to cosplay. Or maybe they just want a really cool Halloween costume. Or maybe they just like to play dress-up as their favorite characters. Whatever the reason, they’re looking to you (as the coolest parent on the planet clearly) to make it happen. But…what if you’ve never made a costume before? The idea can be intimidating. Especially if you’ve been to a Comic Con, or its like, and seen some of the amaaazing costumes people show up in.
Lucky for you, though, it doesn’t have to be intimidating, painful, or frustrating. It doesn’t matter that you’re not a costuming professional (and if you are, I’m sorry, I can’t help you, but I may have a few questions, actually). You don’t have to be Martha Stewart. You’re not required to have sewing/hot gluing/foraging skills on par with a zombie apocalypse survivor. You’re just a parent, standing in front of a child, begging them not to choose Mystique (but if they do, you can do this. I believe in you, Tinkerbell). Last year, my now seven year old son chose Groot for his Halloween costume:Since I couldn’t find anything for him in a store or online (he’s the size of a peanut), I decided to make it. By hand. It was a difficult time in my life, and…I’d prefer not to speak about it. I’m still recovering. But I did it. This year, he was more considerate of his mother’s fragile nerves and chose Finn from Adventure Time.
Yippee! The best part about this costume is that I bought 50% of it. That’s how you, as a non-costuming pro, will manage cosplay in a fairly painless way. You buy what you can, then make the rest. Or buy the base product and change it to fit your needs. It’s not cheating, it’s efficient! Work smarter, not harder, bub.
To start, I bought a blue tee shirt at Michael’s Craft Store, though you can probably find one just about anywhere. The blue shorts were already in my son’s drawer, but same as before, you can buy those in most clothing stores. Now, the white knee high socks were a little harder to find, since they mostly went out of style for kids in the early 80s. I bought Ladies socks instead and folded them down. Hey, whatever works.
That’s half the costume, done.
Now onto the more difficult bits: Finn’s iconic white hat, yellow long sword, and two-toned green, round backpack.
Finn’s hat— I knew this would be the hardest for me. I’ve never made a hat before, or anything close to being that complicated. I sew, but simple things, because I never learned how to thread my machine properly. (You shut up.) Curtains. Pillow cases. Pillows. You see a theme? BASIC. If I someday learn to thread that Singer, I could conquer the world, I just know it.
Anyway… a hat needs to be sturdy enough to wear, to be pulled on and off. The idea of creating something like was intimidating at first, so I went online and researched it. The multitude of posts I found on it, explaining the process in easy, simple terms was a big relief. Here’s a link to the pattern I used. I won’t lie, it did take me four hours and a couple of prolonged cussing sessions, but I’m pretty proud of what I accomplished!
Flush with victory, I moved on to the two-toned, green backpack next. But because I’d just spent hours hunched over the hat, I wasn’t interested in creating a working backpack. I do have some links (here and here) to some tutorials that will show you how to make a true backpack if that’s what you dig. But I just wanted something that looked like Finn’s backpack and wasn’t heavy. Remember, my kid’s a little dude. There’s only so much weight he can drag around all Halloween night/all day at a con! Otherwise, guess who winds up carrying it.
No, really, just guess.
Anyway, here are some pictures to show you how I created the backpack from felt.
I used both stiff pieces (for the back) and soft pieces, plus a giant button. All procured from my local craft store. Even though I stuffed it with a few paper towels, so it wasn’t completely flat, it’s still a very lightweight accessory.
Since I haven’t said it before not, in case you are truly a sewing novice, always use thread as close to the color of the material you’re working on. If you can’t find matching thread, go a shade darker.
Darker is always harder to detect than lighter thread. Also, try use decent thread from a fabric/craft store, not the cheap dollar store stuff. Nothing more frustrating than having thread break before you can tie it off properly, undoing an entire section of work.
Not that I’d know or anything. *ahem*
With the hat and the backpack finished, I only had one accessory left to create: Finn’s mega awesome, totally lethal, yellow long sword! This was a buy/convert item, as you can see:
The original sword (I failed to get pictures, I’m sorry, I was just so excited to be almost done) had a grey blade with a red hilt and guard. It’s a foam sword, bought at a craft store for about $3.00, so I didn’t stress over buying two small cans of spray paint to change the colors into what I needed.
In total, I think the costume cost me about $40.00 or so. Not exactly cheap, but not out of line with some of the costumes for sale in the stores. A lot of the smaller costs added up, like new green and white thread, and I bought extra felt and hat material because I didn’t want to have to run out to the store in the middle of the project if I messed up.
Really, you can do a costume for as cheap or as expensive as you want. It depends on how much work you want to put in, how much time and money you have to spend on it. I still plan to go online and buy a small Jake doll and attach him to the top of the backpack. That will probably cost me another $10.00 to $15.00.
Costume creation can be frustrating, I’ve learned, but it can also be so much fun! I had a great time figuring out how to put this costume, and last year’s Groot costume, together. (Here’s my Finn Cosplay Pinterest board.) Being able to look at the entire ensemble afterward, and know I made that, is surprisingly rewarding.
I mean, look at that happy face. How can that not make up for all the pin pricks, dropped stitches, and probably a permanent hunched back? NO CONTEST, OBVIOUSLY.
All you need is a little ingenuity, some craft store coupons, the willingness to give up a few hours of your free time, and a really good bottle of wine. Don’t be afraid to mess up. Or try things a few different ways before they work. And don’t let anyone tell you cosplay isn’t authentic unless you make 100% of it. There’s room for all of us, in every way we play, costume, and geek.
So go forth and be great, my darlings.
Oh, and send pictures.
If you enjoyed this post, watch for my upcoming write-up on creating a Hunter from the video game Destiny costume for my nine year old.