As a kid, we “dressed up” for Halloween and costume parties. A few of us were lucky enough to have parents who would help us make awesome homemade costumes. Most of us, though, we bought something pre-fashioned from the store. As an adult, dressing up – especially when dressing up as a character from our favorite franchise or fandom – is called cosplaying.

Cosplaying, in spite of what you might see on the web, does not have to be complicated or expensive. Yes, there are people who put hours and hours and tons of money into their cosplay but that isn’t the rule. You can cosplay by simply adding a superhero cape to your favorite fandom shirt (it helps if the fandom features caped characters but it’s not a requirement).

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If you do want to get into the cosplay scene, though, here are some tips that will help you get started.

The beginner’s cosplay guide


cosplay guide

Obviously, the first step is to choose which character you want to be. Once you have made that decision, says Courtney Sangis of Odyssey, you need to find some reference photos:

Search the internet for pictures of them in the outfit that you like best. These come in handy regardless of which “method” of putting together your cosplay that you choose…Make sure that the pictures you choose have enough detail on them so that you can see things like their shoes and any accessories. Close-ups of their faces and hair are also useful.”


Remember: you do not have to recreate the character exactly. If details are your thing, that’s fine. Before you commit to replicating every last pixel, consider your budget. Do you have enough money to pay for the materials you’ll need to create all of the detail work involved? There are lots of ways to save money on cosplay (we’ll talk about that in a minute), but before you can start looking for them, it’s good to have a set budget in mind for this project.

Saving Money

beginner cosplay guide

Once you have a budget in mind for what you can afford to spend on your cosplay, you can start looking for ways to stretch that budget. The best way to do this is to take stock of what you already own. For instance, if your character wears dark jeans and a black shirt, you likely already have those things in your wardrobe. Even if you don’t have an exact match, do you own anything that can pass for what you need? You don’t have to match shades exactly.

Plan Your Time

Not everybody has the time or the skill to make their cosplay from scratch. That’s fine! If you’re short on time, it is absolutely fine to buy pre-made cosplay outfits and props. If you have a lot of time for planning and fixing any potential mistakes, you can save a lot of money by making your own items from scratch using repurposed and craft/fabric store materials.

Join a Group!

cosplay guide

Cosplaying all by yourself can be intimidating. Consider getting your friends involved and cosplaying as a group of characters from your favorite fandom. If none of your friends are interested, don’t fret! The cosplay community is incredibly vast and supportive. There are likely at least one or two local cosplay groups in your town. Reach out to them and ask for their advice and insight for your first time out. Even if you don’t travel with the pack, you’ll have people looking for you at the event and you’ll have resources when you have questions.

Now for the Serious Stuff

Cosplaying can be incredibly fun but it can also make you vulnerable, especially if you identify as female (or are cosplaying a female character). Event attendees are still learning that “cosplay is not consent.” This is slowly changing but it is important that you understand the risk of unwanted personal contact before you hit the floor. Many events have anti-harassment policies and staff to help prevent problems. If you’re worried, though, it’s good to have a partner/guard who can help deter those whose manners might not be very good.

Cosplaying is really fun and can be a great way to find new friends and make events more exciting. Use these tips to get started!

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