Monday Minute: Panel Notes From All-Con

So several attendees of my panels this past weekend asked for copies of my notes, so I'm going to post them right here...  also, some of the bullet points were glossed over due to time, but remember you can comment/email me with questions..  For those who haven't been to one of my panels, this is a short lecture mapping out the steps I work through when making costumes for cosplay.

Not the ultimate costuming authority.  These is my way of doing things, but it’s not the only way.

What is Cosplay?
Short for “costume play.  A type of performance art in which people wear costumes to represent specific characters or ideas--often those of manga, anime, comics, sci-fi, and fantasy.

It’s not just putting on the costume of a character, it’s embodying or "Playing" that character. 

Step One: Choosing a costume
A few considerations...

Skill level
  • Stay within your level but challenge yourself a little so you grow.
  • Seek help from others or YouTube, college, home ec.
  • Start with simple costumes like street clothes looks or by modifying bought pieces.
  • Where will you be and what will you be doing.  Think about the weather and space/crowds at the con.


  • Not necessary but highly recommended.
  • Play your body's strengths. It’ll only enhance your costume.
  • Use tailoring and foundation garments to change your silhouette
  • Use garments like Padded bras, briefs, body slimmers, etc.

Step Two:  Finding references
All angles, All details.
Avoid fanart and other cosplays because they're copies of originals.
Put them all in a folder on your desktop

Step Three: Sketches
Break down the costume into pieces. 
Animators just draw cool stuff--there’s no regard to practicality.  We as costumers have to make the unpractical practical.

Step Four:  Patterning
Draping or drafting from scratch
  • Very time consuming but sometimes necessary -- Avoid it if you can
Modifying Commercial patterns
  • Find patterns as close to your garment needs cause less modification means less work
  • Simplify patterns if they’re too hard (like omitting pockets)
  • Don’t be deterred by gender specific patterns
  • May need to combine multiple patterns
  • Watch for pattern sales because they are awesome
Important tip!!!
Never take anything at face value when planning out costumes. Sometime a stroll through the hardware or kitchenwares section of Wal-Mart will offer a solution to a prop or costume piece. 

Sidenote: Buying vs. Building.Don’t just consider the cost of materials, Consider also the cost of time.  For example, gloves cost very little in terms of buying the fabric to make them... but they take a LONG time to make.  Sometimes it's better to use store bought gloves.

Step Five:  The Mock-up
Cheap practice/test run
Use it for fittings
Use it to determine amount of fabric to buy
Remember to match fabric types. Knits for knits, wovens for wovens.
Can use muslin, old fabric, bed sheets, scrap fabric
Not necessary to sew it perfectly.  Just sew what you need.

Step Six:  Fabric Selection
Ask yourself these questions.
  • Is this fabric right for the garment?
  • Is this fabric right my character’s rank, station, and era?
  • Does this fit my character’s personality.

Avoid the newbie trinity -- Satin, Vinyl, Broadcloth.
  • Mix different fabric types/textures for a more polished look.  The more diverse your fabrics, the more visually interesting your costume will be.

Don’t buy cheap fabric, buy fabric cheap!!!!
  • Mailing lists, coupons, clearance, etc.

Step Seven:  Built it--Part Two.
Nothing really to say here except take your time and really focus on great execution.

Step Eight:  Details, Details, Details!

IMO, the most important aspect of cosplay.
  • Buttons, trims, embroidery, jewelry, accessories, piping, etc.
  • Functional props are my favorite thing! Ex. Pokemon backpack, Hughes’ pics of Alicia
  • A drawstring/belt pouch made from scrap fabric that matches your costume
  • Affect your walk and how you move, ergo they affect your character--very important if you're into the "playing" part of cosplay.
  • Order early and practice walking in them -- this also breaks them in which is something you don't want to do at a con.
  • If you can’t find/afford a perfect match, find something close or something in keeping with your character.
  • Leather ballet flats for “bare feet”
Step Nine:  Make-up and Hair
  • I don’t have a lot of exp. In wigs, but I will say its so much easier to have a wig for a character rather than trying to cut or color your hair or style it to match a character. 
  • LOTS more options are becoming available
  • If the style isn’t to complex, ask local salons to cut/style it for you--just make sure the stylist has exp doing so.
  • Got2B hair spiking glue is awesome for spiky anime styles
  • Like shoes, try to capture the essence of your character in your choice.
  • I’d avoid spray on color because it stains everything--including your hair--and gets everywhere!!!
  • Everyone should wear it if you want good pictures.
  • Also anime characters have perfect skin--makeup can help you achieve that look.
  • Basic foundation, powder, some eyeliner, and a little lip and cheek color for a light natural look for both girls and guys!
  • You can also use makeup to change the appearance of your facial features like making your eyes look bigger.
  • Circle Lenses or colored contacts

Step Ten:  To the Con.!!!
  • Make yourself an itemized checklist for each of your costumes.  Include everything such as jewelry, shoes and even socks and undergarments if necessary.
  • Also a list for your makeup.
  • Or buy a garment bag for each costume and write the list on the bag. 
  • Jewelry can be stored in Ziploc bags or small boxes
  • Or make a master list with your costumes and all of your con essentials. 
  • Don’t forget your Emergency repair kit. (thread, superglue, safety pins, scissors, fusible hem tape, needles, extra closures) You'll need it.


"The World of Wigcraft" Katie Bair

"How to Use, Adapt, and Design Sewing Patterns" Lee Hollahan

"How to Cosplay Volume 1"  Graphic-Sha

"Make Your Own Japanese Clothes" John Marshall

Makeup Techniques:
You'll find everything you can think of on YouTube.

Some of my Favorite YouTubers but there are hundreds of others.
Kandee Johnson


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