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Beginner’s Cosplay Guide #4: Bringing It Together (Planning)

Cosplay is a crazy craft; cosplayers all begin somewhere and the question is where? How does someone start cosplaying comfortably? Who can cosplay? What are the etiquettes behind cosplay and what does a cosplayer need to know? Can someone with an unsteady hand become a cosplayer? Can someone who has never sewn-up a hole create stunning works of art? What do you need to get started? In a series of mini-guides, I hope to quell some of these questions and more.

GeekOut Media’s Cosplay Guide #4: Bringing It Together (Planning)

A very low quality image of me as Edward Elric from Kitacon 2014. My first big costume.

Part of the problem with cosplay is knowing what you need to do to bring it together. By this, I don’t just mean what can you use to bind two bits of material together. Instead, I’m talking more about the overall meaning of bringing a costume together and making it appear like you want it to. In today’s guide, we’re going to be looking at some of the techniques you can use to bring it together; some more practical than others.

Naturally, you may be wondering how many techniques there are out there. When I say to bring it all together, we want to actually focus on figuring out the what and the how. Along the way, you’re going to have to plan that costume studiously. You’ll need to then come up with a plan to get the right stuff. To begin with, let’s look at the research, then we’ll look at the various methods you’ll need to employ.

Research

An example collage I made to work on a costume. Draws inspiration from the character, shows different angles and also some inspiration from fellow cosplayers.

First on the list then is research, the most important part of making a costume. If you believe you can go into a costume blindly, then you’re sorely mistaken. What makes cosplay so unique is the attention to detail; but you don’t necessarily need to have said attention to detail. I’ll use an example of a cosplay I intend to do at some point – Lee Chaolan from the Tekken series. Throughout this section, I’ll refer to how I would research the character.

I’d begin by choose a design I’m going to go for. I could go for his traditional design, or one more akin to the modern version of Violet. I know that Lee likes nice, expensive things, however he doesn’t typically wear the most expensive stuff in his matches. Instead, he does have an incredibly distinctive jacket in Tekken 7, which is one of the pieces I would be designing. Let’s focus on the below image.

In the research element, you’ll need to produce several source materials of what you’re looking for. The joy of video games is having a 3D model, so if you’re able to get access to said model, you can examine it fully. If you’re doing such as an anime or manga character, you may need to get comics, or copies of episodes where you can get clear shots of the character. You’ll need at least an image of their front, their back and each side ideally. As well as this, examine whether or not the character has any props.

In my case, Lee Chaolan has this magnificent coat, which will need to be made from scratch. He has silver hair, which earned him the nickname ‘The Silver-Haired Demon’. Along with this, he wears fancy black gloves, a white shirt, with a purple tie and a white waistcoat. Couple this with his fancy white linen trousers and his dustry grey shoes, Lee is the epitome of being fashionable and excellent at the same time. I’d have written all of this down and either come up with actions needed to make the individual pieces, or, what I usually do, make a Trello board for the costume.

A little tip from me – Make a collage. Get it so you have said collage easily accessible. You’ll appreciate having as many different pieces of source material in one place as possible. Above, you’ll have seen the collage I made of Apollo Justice. This was to help me understand the character, the emotions and even things as basic as the hair and how he stands. You’ll want something similar, as it’ll help you plan your cosplays better in the long run.

Detailed Analysis

This makes it sound a lot more technical than it actually is, but you’re going to need to write down an analysis of your costume. This doesn’t need to be as in-depth as a 5,000 word essay; instead it can be as simple as a doodle, with some numbers and perhaps some labels on things to explain what you’re showing yourself. You can do what I do, which is use a Trello board (and don’t forget to read our in-depth Trello guide if you intend to utilise this!) You will need to create this referral point so you can go back and forth, editing and altering it to suit your needs.

One thing I’m going to tell you now: You will very unlikely be the same proportions of the character you’re trying to cosplay. It’s very unlikely. If you are, then that’s great! But you will very unlikely be exactly perfect to that character’s build. As an example, I had an Inuyasha costume, which I fully intend to revisit. Inuyasha in the anime stands approximately around 6 feet tall and I? I’m only 5’6″. He’s also slender, whereas I’m stocky, to say the least. I’m telling you this, because you will need to alter the costume to suit you – and do not think of that as a bad thing. The joy of cosplay is to create your personal homage; not an exact replica. Unless you’re willing to have some serious cosmetic surgery to turn yourself into a walking anime person; in which case don’t let me stop you! You do you!

Anyway, what I always recommend is figuring out the character height, so if they have any props, you can come up with the height of the props too. Once you’ve got the height, take into account their build and then go from there. If you’re either taller or shorter than the character, remember to change your measurements accordingly. I’ve seen a lot of people dive head in and not really think about the end-goal of making their costumes wearable… And then they wear them. It never really looks right.

… Oh, but I’m going to add this last quick section…

Alterations and Patterns

A short, last section to discuss is the ability to alter existing clothing. Sure, a lot of people want to make every piece of garnment from scratch in cosplay. In essense, that’s a great premise, as you get utmost control over every aspect of it. However, the problem with this is sometimes it’s just not feasible in terms of time, materials or money. So, if you can alter an existing piece, then why not do that? Alternatively, get patterns for something which is incredibly similar to what you’re making. Spend some time on websites like Coscraft and Burda to find some close-enough patterns which you can edit yourself.

Thanks for joining us for another issue of GeekOut Media’s Beginner’s Cosplay Guide. I hope that even one or two of you will see some practical use out of this series, even if it’s only for small bits of information, or just for links. As ever though, if you’ve got something you’d like to weigh in, leave us a comment below, or over on Facebook and Twitter. Don’t forget to check back next week, when we’ll be checking out the process of figuring out how to actually craft the costume and what skills you’ll need.

Previous Beginner’s Cosplay Guide Issues

Click here for Issue 1: Beginner’s Resources

Click here for Issue 2: Tools of the Trade

Click here for Issue 3: Basic Cosplay Materials

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