Do Cosplayers Always Make Their Own Costumes?

the benefits of handmade cosplay

If you’ve been to an anime or comic convention and seen all the amazing costumes people wear, you might wonder where people are getting these costumes. Maybe everyone has high-level sewing skills that they use. Is it not really cosplay unless you make your own costumes?

It is not a requirement to make your own costume when cosplaying. While many people enjoy developing the skills involved in constructing costumes, you can also choose to buy one from an online cosplay store or commission a costume for your favorite character.

Even though it’s not necessary, making your own costume can be a lot of fun. It’s a way of gaining practical skills in sewing and problem solving that can be applied to other areas of life. Creating your costumes also allows for a greater level of creativity and a more unique cosplay.

Beatrice from FFIX cosplayer
If you want to cosplay a lesser-known character, such as Beatrice from Final Fantasy IX, you will have to make the costume yourself.

Do cosplayers make their costumes?

Many cosplayers make their own costumes. In fact, it’s likely that some of the most intricate and realistic outfits you see at conventions have actually been made by hand over the course of many months. You also get people who hand-make some parts of their costume but purchase the rest. For example, I started styling my wigs and creating my props before I started sewing costumes.

It’s common for people to start by purchasing their costumes. However, as they get more into the hobby, they see beautiful and complex costumes that others make. Or maybe there’s a costume they want to wear, but cannot find anywhere online. These are incentives to try learning some sewing skills and creating a handmade cosplay. As people get better at the craft of sewing costumes, designing armor, and constructing props, they can also try new and more intricate ideas.

On the other hand, there are also many cosplayers at conventions who have never touched a needle and thread. They always purchase their costumes and have just as much fun cosplaying. 

Other ways cosplayers get their costumes

If you don’t make your own costumes, you can usually find a wide selection available online. Many online cosplay stores have catalogs of costumes that have been popular over the years. You may not be able to find new characters or characters from shows that are not popular, but in many cases, you can find what you’re looking for without having to make it by hand.

The other option is to commission a costume. You can find people within the cosplay community who have a lot of experience making costumes. People who want to make a little extra money or gain more costume-making experience will go into business making custom costumes for other people. This can be a great way to get a special character made for you that you cannot find anywhere else.

Does it matter whether you make or buy your costume?

Whether you make or buy your costume comes down to preference. I find creating costumes from scratch to be a very satisfying endeavor. However, if I’m short on time then I will have no problem purchasing or commissioning a costume as well. In the end, there is no right or wrong way to cosplay.

Kyoshi Warrior cosplayer
When making your own costume you can add as many intricate and creative details as you want. This is one of the most unique Kyoshi warrior costumes that I’ve seen, and it’s obvious it required a lot of skill to create.

Why do cosplayers choose to make their costumes?

Unless you’ve had some experience with sewing growing up, it can be intimidating to choose to start constructing your own cosplay. There is a lot of time and effort that goes into making costumes, and it’s not always that much cheaper than buying one. So, why do so many people eventually start to make their costumes?

They can’t find the costume they’re looking for

The most common reason to start sewing your own costumes is when you simply can’t find the cosplay you want to wear in any online shop. If you absolutely love a character, you’ll find a way to wear the costume anyway even if it means making it yourself.

At this point, you’ll start going through online tutorials, and asking friends and family members how to read a pattern and adjust it for your cosplay. There is definitely a learning curve, but it’s a process that many people go through once they realize the only way to cosplay as their favorite character is by learning to sew. (and thankfully we have the entirety of the internet as a resource).

It can be cheaper

If you are on a tight budget, sometimes buying a whole costume isn’t an option. Making an intricate costume is never going to be cheap. However, if all you need is a basic dress, you can learn to make it yourself. 

Alternatively, you might start by purchasing pieces from a thrift store and altering them to work for your cosplay. This is a way to ease into creating a handmade costume without constructing it completely from scratch and spend a lot less money on the final product.

They can learn new skills

Personally, I love that every new cosplay I make helps me to learn a new skill too. You learn how to sew, construct props using various materials, make shoe covers and hats, style wigs, design jewelry. There is so much opportunity to learn!

Of course, this isn’t for everyone. But I know many people who cosplay as a hobby genuinely enjoy the process of constructing costumes. Even if you get frustrated part way through because you can’t figure something out, it’s incredibly satisfying when you finally complete the project.

It makes cosplay more interesting

Without a doubt, dressing up and cosplaying at conventions is fun. That’s how most of us get started with cosplaying since we want to walk around as our favorite characters. However, at this point, that’s probably the least interesting part of cosplaying for me. 

Eventually, cosplaying at conventions starts to feel like the same thing over and over again. So, creating your own costumes helps to keep you interested in the hobby overall since it adds an extra layer of challenge to every costume that you make.

You can make whatever you want

As you gain more skills in costume construction, you’ll start to realize that there are no limits to what you can make. Not only does this mean you can make intricate and unique cosplays, but you can also utilize these skills for ‘real life’ clothing. You can sew pockets into your dress, make your own gowns when going out, or easily alter old clothing to make them new again. 

The skills you learn from cosplaying allow you to have creative freedom both in the costumes you wear and in other areas of life.

Emily Joice

My name is Emily, and I have been cosplaying since my very first convention in 2008. Over the years, I've experimented with all different kinds of cosplay costumes, especially loving the process of creating props and styling wigs. I also delved into cosplay photography, and love exploring how to optimize costumes so they look excellent in photos. Most of the photos you find on this site were taken by me over my years at anime conventions.

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