One of the biggest parts of cosplay, other then making and wearing the cosplay is the cost. Cost is huge when it comes to cosplay, because without the funds you can't actually cosplay. Sadly cosplay is an expensive hobby, whether you make or buy your costume. As with any hobbies it should never come before you real life, it's for enjoyment. But here's a breakdown into spending for cosplay, and I'll use myself as an example. I'll break down what I spend for a costume.
This is pretty basic, you need money to spend in this hobby. How do you get it? Having a job. Most cosplayers I know are still in school and work part time. The best advice I can give for that is just make sure you save just a little bit every time you do get a paycheck. If you want to spend the money on cosplay then you might not want to spend it on other things (obviously this doesn't apply to anything important like bills or payments). For myself I like to have a little bit set aside when I can. My bills and any other payments I need come first and then I set just a bit aside for cosplay.
Another way of getting a little extra cash is selling old costumes or wigs. Anytime I have an old costume or wig I know I'll never use or wear again I'll resell it. You'll probably never get exactly what you paid for it initially. But if it's something you don't plan on using again, why let it go to waist sitting in storage? Places I've sold before is the cosplay.com marketplace or possibly ebay. Sometimes selling a wig for me has basically been put and gone into another costume.
Making vs. Buying a costume
When it comes to buying a premade or used costume, you don't have to worry about getting all the supplies, setting aside the time to make the costume. What you do need to worry about is fit and cost. When you're buying a premade costume you're buying something that has very general sizes. While you can measure yourself and get a close size, it's probably not going to fit you perfectly. You might need to take the time to fit the costume to you. A used costume will be similar. The person who made it before made it to fit their own measurements, so the fit might be a bit awkward to your own. Buying a costume can get expensive depending the detail and where you go to buy a costume. Hellocosplay has many options for buying a costume at fairly reasonable prices.
The other side to that is instead of buying a premade you commission a costume. When you commission a costume you are hiring someone to make a costume specifically for you. That way they can make it fit your body perfectly. The downside to this is the cost. When you commission someone you are paying for more then just the materials and outfit, you're paying for the work that they put into it. Commissioning is probably going to be the most expensive route, but when it comes to buying, depending on the commissioner it'll be the best route for buying a costume. A example of a great commissioner is God Save the Queen Fashions. An amazing commissioner that does quality work.
Making the costume yourself has the potential of being the cheapest option. You can buy the materials yourself, you're not paying for shipping/commissioner, and you can find the cheapest options for yourself. The downside is skill set. You need to be able to make the costume for yourself. Some designs might be outside your skill set or even just impossible to make because of the design. You have to know what you can and can't do and go from there.
So you've decided to make the costume yourself, then it comes to actually going out and getting the materials for your costume. There are a ton of fabric options out there. One of the most known and easily accessible is Joann Fabrics, at least within the United States. Joann's is a large retail store that sells many general fabrics. Most of the fabrics they have there are good for most costumes and most of them are at a decent price, and Joanns are always having sales. Joann's also always has tons and tons of different coupons and they will allow you to combine coupons (as long as they have different barcodes). If you sign up for their email and mailer you'll get different coupons mailed and emailed to you. I'm not much of a coupon counter, but when it comes to fabric and cosplay, I do it for Joanns because the prices are worth it.
Other options you have is to look for any local fabric stores or districts. If you're lucky to live near a big city, like NYC or LA you might have a whole fabric district and many different options. In my area I have a few local fabric shops I can check out. Local shops might even be willing to bargain with you on prices (Be reasonable if you intend to bargain. They're not going to cut down the price so low they won't make a profit).
If you need something a little non conventional or a simple fabric, craft stores can be worth checking out. Many craft stores will have some really basic fabrics, and the different tools you might need to work on cosplay. A place like A.C.Moore will have things on sale or different coupons to get for cheep.
What I do
From reading the rest of this blog you can tell that I sew pretty much all of my cosplay. I find that sewing it is the cheapest option for myself. I get most of my fabrics from Joann's, and I haven't really run into anything I couldn't get at Joann's or online. A lot of extra stuff like different buttons I can order online.
My machine is a refurbished Janome. I got it online for around $60 and it's been good to me for almost 3 years now. It has several different stitch functions, allowing me to do about everything I need to for cosplay. To finish I use a zigzag stitch. It includes button hole stitches as well as a zipper foot.
Ebay is a huge source for me. Anything basic like shoes or simple shirts I find on ebay. Ebay is a cheep source, many people will undersell slightly used things for way cheaper then you can get in any store. With any online source make sure you buy with caution. Check sellers reviews and make sure you know what you're buying before you get it. I tend to use Ebay for shoes, accessories and wigs. If you're looking for a machine make sure you really search around. You can find some really good deals online used or refurbished. Look at the functions and determain what you need in a machine before you purchase one.
Ebay is my main source of wigs, but recently I stared buying wigs on Taobao. Taobao is basically a Chinese Ebay. Many of the prices are way, way cheaper then you could find in America, the catch is that most stores you need to find a shopping service. Lucaille is a store that doesn't require a shopping service and you can buy straight from the store. Remember that you are importing straight from China, so shipping may be a bit high. If you order in a group the shipping will be easier to handle.
Here's a cost rundown of my Karina costume that I made recently.
Fabric + Pattern: $34.29
Stockings + Sock Glue: $16.00
Some of the things that helped save me money...
- Joann's Coupons.
- The shoes were borrowed.
- Some of the notations I already had (like the zipper, and elastic for the arm parts)
Compared to the Karina costume on Hellocosplay which is $98. With this you just get the dress, vest, hat, arm parts, stocking and necklace. You do not get the shoe or the wig. So over all I managed to save money compared to what is sold online.
I hope this guide helped as to spending and what I do for spending on cosplay. I should have my links updated soon, it's been a while since I gathered tutorials and the link list needs to be updated as well.