Cosplay Shopping: A brief guide to buying your cosplay
As far as cosplay how-tos go there always is a focus on crafting when cosplay shopping or buying your cosplay fully or in part is just as legitimate a choice. After all, the combination of costume and play into cosplay means just that you get into your outfit and pretend to be your character of choice. There is no inherent obligation to create anything.
Like sewing and crafting, of course, buying your cosplays comes with its own challenges. As the hobby’s popularity keeps growing, so does the number of businesses offering ready-made or commissioned cosplays. Beyond pricing, prospective buyers will have to compare processing times, materials and reviews to name just a few.
For those looking to purchase all or part of their cosplays here are a few tips to help you navigate the jungle of offers and find the outfit that fits both you and your budget.
Cosplay Shopping locally
If you have friends who make their own cosplays you might be able to commission your dream costume without ever having to brave the jungle of online offers. Or you might be able to buy a second-hand cosplay relatively cheap (and without the wait!) Likewise, a local seamstress or tailor of your trust might be willing to embark on a cosplay project with you.
If you have a local option available, you’ll get a much closer insight into the process than you would buying online. You’ll likely get a say on fabrics and other technicalities and will be able to attend fittings, which is a distinct advantage over online shopping.
If your budget is super-tight, fret not pick a character whose outfit doesn’t involve heavy fantasy armour or expansive dresses and hunt at your local second-hand shop. Or, even simpler: venture through your own wardrobe you’ll be surprised at what treasures you may come across!
Trusting a fellow cosplayer with your project is no doubt the priciest option, but you’ll also end up with the highest standard and most detailed product. The buying options in this section are usually found on sites like Etsy, but you’ll come across them on social media, too, be it as a recommendation or on a Facebook page. You’re going to be spending three figures or more here for a set that’s been hand-crafted with love and attention to detail. And your money will stay within the community- usually, vendors are also fans and hold the same appreciation for the character you’re cosplaying.
Offline, you’ll also come across these sellers often at conventions where they’re advertising commissions and displaying previously crafted props.
When commissioning a cosplay or a prop from scratch the vendor will usually disclose the fabrics and materials used, and buyers may get to give input on possible changes. As these cosplays are made from scratch by a single person or a small team, vendors will give a completion timeframe which you’ll have to factor into your convention or photo plans.
Sometimes these offers involve a previously worn cosplay (even award-winning creations), in which case it’s important to check measurements and arrange for any alterations as necessary.
Cosplay Shopping affordable options
Let’s not fool ourselves here- you’re still likely to pay a three-figure sum, albeit a lower one, when going as mass-market as cosplay shopping gets.
The cosplays we’re discussing here tend to be found on marketplaces like Ebay, AliExpress or sites such as cosplayhouse.com or ezcosplay.com. The majority of these items is manufactured in and shipped from China. Differences versus the more expensive category will become obvious once you compare materials will be cheaper, often including satin and other inexpensive fabrics; the cosplay will be less detailed and accessories and props may not be as elaborate (for example you’ll get shoe covers rather than matching boots).
While cosplays from popular franchises may be in stock and ready to ship, in the majority of cases you’re still going to commission a made-to-measure cosplay. When choosing where to buy, pay attention to how the seller advertises: Especially on marketplaces you’ll often find several cheaper cosplay sellers using the same image of an outfit, sometimes with their respective watermark. There have even been cases of vendors using pictures of cosplayers without their permission. All these are indicators that the respective vendor has not made or sold this particular cosplay yet, so you won’t be able to judge the quality or likeness.
Some larger sellers with their own website such as cosplayhouse.com will use a screenshot of the character if they haven’t made the outfit yet and disclose as much.
This category of a vendor is the largest so do your research and compare your options thoroughly. Check reviews, ask friends for their opinions, engage the vendor in a conversation until all your questions have been answered.
General Tips and Considerations
Always measure yourself according to the merchant’s guidelines. If they don’t have any instructions or diagrams on their site, ask. The same goes when buying a ready-made cosplay- check which measurements are listed for each size offered. Particularly with cosplays made in Asia you may find you’re a Large rather than your usual Medium.
Even if you’re “just” buying, gathering all elements to a cosplay (outfit, wig, makeup, prop) is still a project. Always keep the vendor’s manufacturing and shipping timelines in mind and give yourself an extra week or two as a buffer- you never do know what may happen.
Always, always check the reviews! Look them up on third-party sites and see what experiences other buyers had with the vendor you’re considering. Most sellers will charge you upfront so make sure you’re happy leaving your money with them.
Use of your cosplay
Be clear on the purpose of your cosplay and what materials will be most suitable. Do you want to be LARPing it all day and need a sturdy and comfortable build? Or are you looking to shine in photos without a flimsy polyester dress out-shining you? Consider your needs and consult your vendor.
You may have found someone who’ll make your Sailor Mercury dress for cheap money (as far as cosplays go). But you’re not done until you have all necessary accessories, shoes, props and a wig. If money is tight, consider workarounds: Can you make some of the accessories yourself? Do you perhaps own a similar prop which you could alter, or can you borrow one?
As with so many things in life, communication is key. No matter where you’re buying from, you’re paying someone a chunk of money to make your costume. If you have any questions or doubts whatsoever, rather ask one question too many than too few.