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An idiot's guide to Cosplay - Part 1, planning and research - Tech Altar

Starting a Cosplay Project.

So, Dear Reader, you want to Cosplay but you don’t know where to start? I’m here to help. As well as a little insight into the wonderful world of Anime, I’m here to offer my insight into the wonderful world of Cosplay too.

Now, the obvious place to start is to choose a character. Let me start off by saying that there are no right or wrong choices here. You can choose a character that you feel that you personally identify with, one that has a special significance to you or one that you just think is cool and you love their outfit. As long as you’ve chosen a character that you like and that you’re going to have fun with then it’s the right choice for you. While the Cosplay community, like any other group out there, has its share of trolls and naysayers the majority of people involved are usually friendly and supportive. After all, at the end of the day we’re all just nerds in funny clothes just having fun. But before all that there are a few things you need to think about. For example, are you planning to buy or make your costume?

 

Buying vs making

While I’ve personally never bought a costume for Cosplay I have seen some really good ones. Buying can be a good choice if you aren’t confident in your own ability to make something or if you have limited time or resources. While a lot of costumes can be bought on sites like eBay or more specialist cosplay websites my advice here would be to do your homework before committing to buy. Many of these are based in China which can affect the length of time it takes to get to you, and many overseas sites may be using different sizing to what you’re used to. Read reviews, find feedback from other customers and make sure to check the sellers refunds and returns policy before hitting that buy button.

Another option if you’re looking to buy a costume are buy and sell groups like the ones on Facebook. These are groups of Cosplayers who are looking to sell old costumes to either raise funds (usually for more costumes) or to clear out space. While this can be a good way to go you are limited by what is available. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve seen something I’ve loved on groups like this only for it to be the wrong size or even worse, already sold.

 

Planning

So you’ve chosen a character, and decided that you’d rather get hands on and make your own costume. But where do you start? For me, the first thing to do is to collect as many reference photos as possible. You want as many different views and angles as possible. The more guesswork you can take out of it, the easier it will be in the long run.

For the purpose of this article, I’m going to be looking at a character that I am in the process of planning a cosplay for. I’ve already done the but have yet to buy anything or begin any real work.

The first and most obvious place to start for any project, be it bought or made, is to find as many reference photos of the character as possible, with as many different angles as you can get. This reference image of Ruby Rose from Rooster Teeth’s phenomenal show RWBY is the kind of thing I’m talking about. I should point out that the creators of RWBY love their fans, so it took me approximately one google search to find the kind of reference photo that a cosplayer’s dreams are made of.

Source: https://www.reddit.com/r/RWBY/comments/4qtqlb/quick_screencaps_of_the_team_rwby_redesigns/?st=iz3xa86l&sh=9eab1c0a

 

It doesn’t get better than this. You’ve got full front and side views, including one with Ruby’s cape removed so you can see the back of her clothes. As well as this there’s a handy breakdown of outfit pieces and accessories.

But what about when the creators aren’t as generous? The more photos you can get the better. This next picture of the character I’m working on is a little more typical.

source: https://uk.pinterest.com/seodiana000/servamp/

 

This is Kuro from the anime series Servamp, and at first glance this looks pretty good, there are different angles and a good detailed front view. But if you compare it to the picture of Ruby there’s a lot missing. There’s no view of the back of the character and while the shots of his head are good they don’t answer any questions you may have about Kuro’s hair/hood combination. Also the bell around his neck is so tiny you may miss it, and it’s an important detail. While I’d feel 100% confident about working from Ruby’s picture I’d need to find more pictures of Kuro before I’d feel ready to start.

So let’s start with the back. Googling images is the easiest place to start, ideally looking for still images from the anime itself.

 

Not only has this given us a good idea of what the back of the jacket looks like, there’s a part at the back which matches the pattern on the pockets on the front. We’ve also found a detail that the first image completely missed. That black patch on Kuro’s left shoulder was completely absent in the first image.

Another place to look is official artwork from the original artists. In the case of my example (and also true of the majority of anime-based stuff), there was an original Manga which became the source for the show, so let’s see what this shows us.

source: https://es.pinterest.com/pin/248120260699443019/

 

This is an image from an official Servamp calendar by Strike Tanaka, and we can clearly see that the black fluffy part is the trim of the hood, not part of the hair at all.

source: http://servamp.wikia.com/wiki/Sleepy_Ash

And finally, checking the manga artwork has given us a really clear picture of both that black shoulder patch and the bell. This is the kind of detail that it would be far too easy to miss going off just the first picture.

Now that we’ve got a clear idea of what we’re aiming for it’s time to move onto phase two! How are we going to make these costumes? First off, let’s look at you and your level of ability. Do you feel that you could make an outfit from scratch? If the answer to that question is no, then fret not because there are other ways. Modifying existing pieces of clothing is how many cosplayers started out. Let’s look at Ruby again

source: http://imgur.com/gallery/vJ03I

 

I admit my first instinct would be to make this one myself, but skirts are easy to make and I have experience in making simple corsets so I don’t consider this outside of my ability level. If we break it down, we have either a black and red mini skirt, or a black skirt with a red underskirt (This would be my choice), a black corset/bustier with a red panel at the front. There’s a Victorian Style blouse which will be difficult to find, however a peasant style top with billowy sleeves would work in a pinch if you didn’t mind the collar not being accurate. Plus, the red cape covers that anyway. Add to this combat boots, stockings with a rose motif and a few belts. The ammo belt she wears, as well as the leather bracers and her signature rose broach will need a little basic DIY, but it is entirely possible to put something together that while not screen accurate would read ‘Ruby’.

If anything, I think Kuro will be the easier of the two. At least planning wise. Going from my reference pics I know I will need

  • A pair of knee high black boots
  • A pair of white or light colored pants
  • A plain undershirt. I’ve seen both black and white in my pictures but since this isn’t a huge focus I’m not going to stress too much
  • A blue wig
  • Red contact lenses
  • A nice big cat bell, and something to attach it to
  • and that big blue coat.

Now, just by going through my wardrobe I can cross half of this list off. Being able to scavenge things from your own home is going to save you money in the long run so don’t be afraid to get creative. Old clothes may suit a character, or maybe you have things in the house that can be easily modified into what you need. I already have a light blue wig and the red lenses from an existing cosplay, and I’d be happy to get as much use out of these as possible. I also have a pair of boots and a plain black t shirt that will work too. While the reference art seemed to fuss over the shirt color (the manga made it white and the anime made it black) neither is wrong. I will need to buy the pants; however, these are not hard to find. And I will need to buy a bell too. The difficult part here is going to be the coat. I will need to make that myself.

 

Budgeting

I’ll admit I’m not the best at this. The approach I’ve taken is to begin planning months in advance and gradually buy the things I need over a long period of time. But this is where that list we made before comes in handy. It’s a simple matter of finding what you need to check off your list and deciding how much you’re willing to spend or if there’s a cheaper option. It should go without saying that you should always put things like bills and food ahead of cosplay. Being able to afford to live is slightly more important than having a screen accurate Suicide Squad Harley Quinn outfit after all.

Well, that about wraps up the planning part. The next stage is finding your materials and then the fun part begins! But that’s for another article. For now, I’ll leave you to your planning. I have Cosplays of my own to finish and my impressions of the Winter 2017 anime season to write up. Till then, happy Cosplaying!