If you've recently gone to a comic or pop culture convention, you've noticed that more and more people dress up in costumes and participate in cosplay. If you haven't yet taken up cosplay, maybe because you're afraid it's too expensive, never fear: there are a lot of ways you can cosplay with a limited budget. Of course, most of the elaborate costumes you see from those professional cosplayers probably cost a lot of money to make or commission, but you can get the same look for less. Believe it or not, many cosplayers make an art out of budget cosplay. All you need is some imagination and a little creativity. Here are some tips to help you out.
How to Cosplay Cheaply
Pick a costume. Decide what you want to cosplay. Will you be doing a character that often wears street clothes? Or do you want a superhero with a custom costume? At this point, don't think about your budget, because even more elaborate costumes have their cheats that can save you money.
Set a budget with that costume in mind. Now that you know what you want to create, set a budget. Look at what you need to create that costume and try to keep the cost within a set limit. If one material for the costume is too expensive, use your imagination to find other alternatives that cost less. Don't go over your budget. Figure out what everything costs and make it work with how much you're willing to spend.
Make your own costume. Sure, you can commission someone to make a costume for you, or buy one that's already made, but unless you're willing to spend hundreds of dollars, you're better off making it yourself. This gives you full control over how much you spend on materials for the costume, allowing you to stay within your budget. You also have full control over how the costume fits, as well as what details you want included with it.
Use coupons, sales, and discounts. Shop around for the necessary materials you need to make your costume. For fabric, check every fabric shop you can and compare prices. Be sure to look at the discount bins at fabric stores for great deals. Don't forget coupons. Most major crafts and fabrics stores have apps and mailing lists that always provide coupons.
Use materials around your house. Let's say you need a prop made, perhaps a weapon of some kind. More than likely, you have exactly what you need just lying around the house. From soda cans to shipping tubes to wooden dowels, you probably have a lot of what you need. Repurpose anything and everything. Those cardboard boxes you've collected can also be used for your costume some way or another!
Craft foam. For those interested in creating armor, there is nothing less expensive than craft foam. There are also a lot of great tutorials online that shows you exactly how you can take cheap craft foam and make yourself look like an armored knight (or Brienne, from Game of Thrones, if you wish). Craft foam is versatile enough for all sorts of armor, too; you can make it look like almost anything else, including leather and steel.
Hunt through your closet. If you're cosplaying something that requires street clothes, you might have everything you need in your closet. Maybe you want to be Clara from Doctor Who; if you have similar attire, you can quickly pull together a costume that works. If it's not exact, it doesn't matter. Cosplay is for fun! Focus on one or two details that make the costume identifiable to others and you're good to go.
Buy used costumes from other cosplayers. Use Ebay. When it comes to finding things like wigs, shoes, and other accessories for cosplay, eBay is your best friend. You can get great quality wigs for as little as $10, as well as shoes, jewelry, and anything else you might need. You can also occasionally buy cheap sewing patterns on eBay. Before purchasing, make sure that the seller has good reviews.
Ask other cosplayers how they create their cosplays. Sometimes, you can get your best ideas on how to cosplay cheaply by talking to other cosplayers. You can do this at conventions, or even online at various cosplay communities. Ask how they constructed their costume and what materials they used. Ask for tips. You'll find that many in the cosplay community are more than happy to help out a newcomer.
Don't be afraid of paint and dyes. Let's say you can't find the materials you need, but you've found good materials in other colors. Buy those materials and paint or dye them. Keep in mind that some fabrics and materials take color better than others, so be sure to pay attention to that. Fabrics that are mostly cotton take dye better than synthetic fabrics. The key to cosplaying on a limited budget is to use your imagination: sometimes you have to imagine using something you wouldn't normally think of using in your costuming efforts. Think outside the box and when you're out shopping, always keep in mind that something you pick up for $1 could get future use as part of one of your costuming projects.