The short answer? Yes. The long answer? With careful planning, imagination, and diligence, still yes.
Cosplay is an awesome way to express your love for a character and the world they come from, but it can be ridiculously expensive if you don’t keep a careful eye on your spending. Here are some tips I wish I had known before embarking on my quest for cosplay on a budget!
It’s important to know what you’re doing to a certain extent. However, if you’ve got the time and patience to try new methods or materials for the cosplay you’re creating, then it can save you some cash in the long run. A lot of the time it’s quicker and easier to buy the more expensive materials—the kind that come with a brand name and a usual guarantee of success, but it’s worth your while to be open to new approaches that won’t cost you an arm and a leg.
There are plenty of social media groups set up for cons that are filled with experienced cosplayers who have tried and tested many different methods in their time—make use of this. Don’t be afraid to ask them which wig shops they would recommend for good value or whether they would risk that slightly cheaper brand of clay you’ve been considering. Don’t be afraid to try new things with your cosplay. Never made a prop before? Give it a go! As long as you’re open to searching a little and asking people for help, you can experiment with your skills and still keep the costs down!
Some popular pages to keep an eye on:
Before I start any cosplay project, I make a detailed sketch of the components in a notebook (don’t worry, it doesn’t have to be a “good drawing”—just an effective diagram that you can understand). I plan out all of the possible solutions for making the piece, what I could use to start it, what would be the cheapest versus the most effective. Some first attempts will turn out better than I had ever hoped for and some will fail spectacularly; it’s all just part of the process. However, if you plan alternative routes around potential disasters before leaping into the vast unknown of cosplay crafting you can hopefully limit the cost these little “learning curves” will incur.
Watch tutorial videos if you need help with your techniques, and Google articles on how effective your chosen methods will be. Ask the people around you for their opinions. My biggest flaw, when it comes to crafting, is my reluctance to learn first and craft second. When I’ve spent time researching and planning my approach generally my cosplay works out, but there have been occasions where my pride/enthusiasm has stifled the potential my work had. In the end, that’s okay; there will always be another con and plenty more time to learn new techniques through trial and error, but the more you prepare the better off you will be.
Search around for the best bargains.
The internet can be a treasure trove of cheap materials, I won’t deny that. However, sometimes it’s easy to slip into a habit of searching only in the places you are familiar with when you find yourself in need of materials. Don’t count out local shops just because websites might seem cheaper—sometimes it’s better to be able to see what you’re buying before you commit, and you’ll usually find a great deal!
Seek out notoriously cheap stores (Fabricland, Pound stores, supermarkets). If you’re savvy you can often find a base for a prop or something worth tearing apart for the pieces.
Charity shops are also a great place to start. Whether you’re looking for particular clothing pieces or just cheap material for reuse, have a hunt around for any second hand stores that may help you towards your goal.
If cosplay is your hobby then try to remember it as that: there’s no obligation for you to finish a costume you started. Don’t worry too much if you can’t finish it by your original deadline—there will always be another con. The first time I attempted to cosplay an anime character, the whole experience ended with me abandoning the majority of my work the night before the convention. It was heart-breaking to watch the costume I had made go to waste, but it’s okay to give up on a project every now and then for the sake of your sanity.
Don’t be afraid of spending.
Obviously the goal of this post is you help you keep costs down when you cosplay, but sometimes it can be worth spending a little more than you had planned on something rather than having to buy the cheaper alternative multiple times. If you enjoy your hobby and find yourself able to, it’s worth investing in it. An official prop or a printed shirt won’t cost you too much in the long run, so remember to take your budget with a pinch of salt instead of beating yourself up over purchases.
These are the top five tips I have learned through trial and error, but the most important (and possibly obvious) one I can suggest is enjoy yourself. Even if everything goes wrong in the first attempt (which it certainly has done for me before), there will always be another opportunity to be your favourite character!