The Best Ways to Save Money on Cosplay Costumes

 In Cosplay

Cosplaying is a favorite hobby of many people. I enjoy making costumes myself very much. Unfortunately, it can get pretty expensive. Fortunately there are ways to save money on cosplay costumes. Here are my recommendations for keeping your wallet as happy as possible!

1. Don’t Build from Scratch

Not every part of a costume has to be hand-built from scratch. Some cosplayers feel this way, but there’s zero shame in repurposing, reusing, or recycling things already in existence. Thrift stores are great for this reason. No only can you find clothing items that can be transformed into the perfect cosplay piece with a few minor tweaks, but you can also find great fabric at even better prices -old prom dresses anyone?!
Don’t forget all the odds, ends, and knickknacks that can be turned into fantastic prop pieces or decorative accents for your outfit. Old broom handles make great bases for staffs and other weapons. Also, don’t be afraid (with permission of course) to raid the attic and your parent’s closets too. Never know what gems you’ll find.


1B. Recycle/Repurpose

 I wanted to highlight and expand upon this part of idea 1. I already talked about reusing items found at thrift stores, but also -dollar stores! They carry the most random but useful items when it comes to cosplaying. Heck, I built an entire squirtle costume once using nothing but $5 in dollar store materials!! (Think table clothes, hand towels, and hanging flower baskets.) Their fake toy jewelry can be great accent pieces and their laundry bags can equate to 2 yards of fabric for only $1.
Also, garage sales for the win! One person’s trash is another person’s treasure. Looking for leather? You can often find old suitcases and rip the leather off…or salvage an old piece of leather furniture that’s still in acceptable condition. It’s a genius way to get real leather for next to nothing.


2.Build it Yourself

Wait…didn’t you just tell me to not build cosplay from scratch?! Yes I did. But the honest answer is -it depends! This is where you need to be diligent and actually do your homework. Figure out what you’ll need for a cosplay costume. If you build it from scratch, what materials will you need? If you don’t build it from scratch, what items could you tweak or repurpose? Time to research. Know what you need and research what it’ll cost (time & money) to get to the final stage.


3. Plan Ahead

While most people get consumed by a single costume at at time, planning ahead can really help your wallet out. Think about cosplay options 2-3 outfits in advance. By knowing who you want to dress as, you’ll know what materials you’ll need for the outfit.
This not only allows you to keep your eyes open when hitting up the thrift store or garage sales, but it also allows you to buy items out of season -when they tend to be cheaper. Certain fabrics and colors do tend to come and go with the seasons. If you know what you’ll need for a future cosplay can you purchase them when they’re being clearanced off to make room for the next season’s items. Additionally, having extra time to work with allows you to wait for that 40% coupon code to come back around.
Finally -the week after Halloween is the perfect time to pick up lots of costume goodies for cheap!


4. Build a Base Wardrobe

Consider “basic” costume pieces that are often seen in many character outfits. These types of items could include fitted white gloves, black leggings, a classic pair of brown boots, a school girl skirt, etc. Don’t be afraid to pick characters that have overlapping outfit pieces to cut down on budgetary requirements by being able to reuse cosplay items you’ve used in other outfits. Further, many of these types of items can be worn in everyday outfits, making their overall cost/wear even better. Again, there’s no shame in being thrifty and smart about your outfits. In fact, more power to you!


5. Know When to Splurge

Hey…aren’t we trying to save money here?! Yes we are! But we’ve also got to keep the long term in mind. Let’s say we know we’ll use item X for more than 1 costume -maybe it’s our pair of classic brown riding boots again. Buying one, good quality pair of boots for $120 is cheaper than having to buy 3 pairs of $50 boots because they keep wearing out or breaking down. Additionally, your feet will likely thank you for the better support and breath-ability -comfort is a huge thing when it comes to wearing a costume all day at a convention.
Wigs are another example if you plan on using them more than once or twice. You generally want to go with quality to ensure they fit well, don’t shed, can be styled, and easily maintained between cons or different outfits. Now these are only two examples, but you get the idea/point, right?


6. Odds & Ends

1. A recap of good locations to shop and browse: thrift/vintage stores, salvage yards, garage sales, Walmart (I know, I know…but they have a cheap craft section, cheap fabric section, and often a $1 bin), Ebay, Claire’s/Icing (wait for after prom sales), fabric stores (like Hobby Lobby or Joann’s -sign up for their email coupon list), fabric districts (if you’re lucky enough to live in a city with one)

2. Don’t underestimate the power of hot glue, E6000 glue, cardboard, paper mache, and duct tape.

3. Build costumes that will use up scrap materials from prior outfits. Also, buy in bulk to save on costs, especially when it comes to shipping expenses (worbla anyone??).

4. To help with patterning use newspaper, paper shopping bags, or dollar store tissue paper. Make mockups using cheap muslin or old bed sheets before using your more expensive fabric.

5. Packrat (within reason of course). If you think it could become part of a future cosplay costume, don’t be afraid to save it. One great example is the extra buttons that tend to come with clothes nowadays.

Do you have any tips for saving money on cosplay that I forgot to mention? Please share in the comments below!

how to make cosplay on a budget





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Showing 4 comments
  • Mariah Kaercher

    I love thrifting! I got my Luigi costume with my best friend for super cheap because I thrifted shoes, overalls and a t-shirt.

    • Jessica (aka The Nifty Nerd)

      I love the feeling when you find something for your costume when thrifting!

  • Danielle @ From Girlie to Nerdy

    Excellent tips – i love reusing things for cosplay purposes 🙂

    • Jessica (aka The Nifty Nerd)

      It’s probably good I currently live in a tiny apartment…I can be the queen of pack ratting -my current space doesn’t allow for that though. Haha

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