So you’ve never touched a needle and thread before, but want to start making your own cosplay costumes. It can be really intimidating if you don’t even know where to start. But what I can say is taking the first step is the hardest part. Once you start making things, you’ll begin to understand the construction process and you’ll quickly be able to make much more complex clothing.
When I first got into cosplay, I had no idea what I was doing. I almost turned around and walked back out of the fabric store because I was so overwhelmed with the choices. When this happens to you (it will), I want to encourage you to just choose something and start. If you need a red fabric, find the cheapest red you can find and try to make something.
I recommend starting with something simple and then working your way up to creating a full costume. This may mean you only sew one piece of your next costume and purchase clothing that will work for the rest, or maybe you start with accessories and grow your skills from there. This is a list of some beginner-friendly garments and accessories that you can try to get started with.
As a note, you don’t need a sewing machine to start making your own costumes and accessories. I didn’t have a sewing machine for the first 5 years of making my costumes, so as long as you have a needle and thread you can create anything. However, it will take a lot more time. So if you don’t have a sewing machine, be prepared to have a lot of patience instead.
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1. Appliques and patches
If you are completely new to sewing and have never touched a needle and thread before, you can start by learning to sew patches onto your costume. This is great for badges and patches you might use for an Attack on Titan cosplay, for example.
2. Cat ears (or fox/wolf/etc.)
Cat ears are pretty simple since all you have to do is sew them in a triangle and attach the ears to clips or a headband. This can also teach you how to use other types of material, like faux fur. You can even attach the cat ears to a hood or hat, depending on what your costume requires.
3. A cape or cloak
A cloak was the very first thing that I ever sewed when I started cosplaying. This is an excellent project to tackle for beginners because not only is it fairly easy, but it also looks and feels really cool to wear, and can give you confidence going into your sewing journey.
It’s pretty simple because all you’re doing is cutting out a large semi-circle with a neck hole and then adding a hood. In general, you don’t need to worry about getting the measurements exactly correct, so even if you’re a little off, you’ll still end up with a functional cloak in the end.
4. A circle skirt
A circle skirt with an elastic waistband is another pretty simple project to get started on. All you need to do is create a full circle in fabric and cut a hole out of the middle for your waist. You then use elastic to get the skirt to stay up and easily take it on and off. If you want to level up, you can learn how to make a casing for your elastic waistband, or even use a zipper instead.
5. A big anime bow
If you’re cosplaying any kind of magical girl character, you’re probably going to come across large bows. Even if you’re not ready to sew the whole costume from scratch yet, you can test out your sewing skills by making these large bows.
This tutorial is also great for teaching you how to use interfacing. It’s a stiff type of material that you add to the back of fabrics to give them more structure. Learning how to use interfacing is great because it’s something you can use for creating those gravity-defying anime collars too.
6. A frilly apron
Many anime characters have cute, frilly aprons that they wear. These are another simple addition to a costume that you can easily learn how to make yourself. Giving your apron ruffles will also teach you the basics of gathering fabric, which can be used for costumes in so many different ways.
7. Half-finger gloves
Stretch gloves and half-finger gloves are cosplay staples. They are pretty simple to make by tracing your hand and can give you a custom fit that you won’t get from purchased gloves. It’s important to remember to use stretchy fabric for these since gloves made with non-stretch fabric require more advanced skills. Using stretch fabric also teaches you how to sew with it. You’ll need to learn how to make zigzag stitches (either by hand or on your sewing machine) so that the thread doesn’t snap when the fabric is stretched.
8. Loose pants
If you’re ready to start learning how to use a pattern, you can go for simple, flowy pants. This tutorial will also teach you how to make a waistband casing for elastic.
Any kind of garment that is meant to be tight or form-fitting will also be more difficult to sew correctly. This isn’t necessarily because the sewing process is more difficult, but because there is less leeway in the fit of the garment. So if you’re just getting started, I recommend going for loose or flowing clothes before trying your hand at something that is more tight-fit.
9. A vest
Vests are used all the time in a variety of character costumes, especially gentleman characters or old-timey character designs. Overall the shape is quite simple, especially if you don’t need a tight fit. You can also learn how to add buttons and create button holes in your costume pieces.
This particular tutorial also includes steps for how to add a lining to the vest. This is a useful step that you can follow to make any of your garments look a little more finished and put-together.
10. A simple dress
Are you ready to try making something just a little more complicated? Making a simple dress can teach you how to sew darts into a bodice and how to add a zipper. These are both basic skills in sewing but can seem a little intimidating until you do it for the first time. Starting with a basic dress with step-by-step instructions will give you a good start and teach you a lot about garment construction as a whole.
Bonus: Learn-to-sew patterns to help you get started
When looking for sewing patterns that are beginner friendly, you can try to find those that are labeled easy or beginner. You do want to be a little careful with these ratings, however, since they generally refer to the sewing process, not the fitting process. Always keep in mind that tight-fit clothing will be more difficult than looser clothing even if the rating on the pattern is easy.
McCalls also has specific patterns that are made for learning to sew (such as this one). These patterns will include more explanation in the instructions so that beginners can follow them and learn more easily.