[ScarletExplains] Cosplay Can Be Thrifty, but Time is Not


As a way to (maybe) pay off my student loan debt, I decided to take on cosplay commissions. I can get things done efficiently and I also know how to hustle for supplies in the ravenous LA Fashion district. It seemed liked a good idea from the get go. I love sewing and I do like making things for others. A while back, someone asked me how much it would cost them for me to commission a well known costume from The iDolm@ster – Forever Star. For a custom and quality version for Forever Star, I quoted nothing below $500. It was not so much the supplies that made up the cost of the costume, it’s easy to find discounts and sales at JoAnn’s. The sash and lining were from older projects from my stash. The time it takes to custom pattern draft a bodice with spokes to your measurements, custom make the bias trim for the skirt, add the horsehair braid, washing the fabric so it doesn’t shrink, etc…time is a valuable thing.

Photo by iM Photography

Photo by iM Photography

When I was at Anime Vegas at an anime production / translation panel, when it comes to licensing an anime for a US release, you’re given two choices out of three options – 1) time, 2) cost, 3) quality. One of the the three needs to be cut to satisfy the customer. I’m almost hesitant to accept rush jobs before a con and at times, I feel like I have to charge extra because the time it takes to make something does bite into my free time. I always like to guarantee quality – at times I feel competition from TaoBao sellers because a potential client will tell me, “I can find it for $65 on ebay!” I looked up Forever Star on ebay – what you’re not paying for is quality and guaranteed fit. Not to mention, the accuracy is questionable at best. When you’re commissioning someone, you’re also supporting your local artists and fellow fan, not some unmarked sweatshop.

Cosplay can be cheap? Show me the ways!

While I do agree that cosplay can be cost-effective – most of my main poly poplin materials cost $1.99 per yard and I like to wait on sales for wigs. I usually don’t calculate the cost of a cosplay – I’ve refurbished a ton of found items to create accessories and odds and ends. It helps to have a supply of paint, craft foam, and random things you think you could use for a project. I keep a bin of scrap fabric. I’ve actually made some projects from extra fabric lying around – that’s the story behind my Yuuki Anju – I spent no dollar on Yuuki. It was all scraps from my bins. No gold buttons? Okay, we’ll paint some! Wig? Okay, let’s use this Dollight wig from Goth Lolita Wigs! You can ask around – there’s plenty of life hacks for cosplay wherein you can still get a quality cosplay that you’ll love.

Yuuki Anju - all that scrap!

Yuuki Anju – all that scrap made in the same time as the Fate / Zero series

So, keep an eye out on sales, stock up on some JoAnn’s coupons, find out what are some fabric sore that have wicked sales, stock up on some art supplies from Michael’s – you don’t have to shell big bucks to get a cosplay that you’ll love and cherish. Pick characters wisely as you will be with this crafting project for a while!

And there’s always finding things at Forever 21 and H&M on sale (or even Goodwill…poppin’ tags!) to find items for casual cosplay! Even though these take time, it’s a part of the fun. Don’t let the price of high profile cosplayers post scare you into that it’s an expensive hobby. A time consuming hobby? Yes. One that can be done if shopping smart? Hell yeah! However, if you expect someone to do all that work for you, expect to pay for their time as their time is money.


Photo from Alex Halcyon

Saving up for con travel…now that’s another story!

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