Given how ornate some cosplay costumes are, making your first one be a bit scary. Don't worry, you won't need to sew a new dress or cut foam with a bandsaw. Kirstie Good, author of the new book "Epic Cosplay Costumes: A Step-by-Step Guide to Making and Sewing Your Own Costume Designs" offers ideas to make a costume that won't take weeks to build. Smart choices still make the difference for an outstanding day at Comic-con or just about any con you'll attend.
Start with a project you're passionate about! I feel the backbone of cosplay is displaying your love for the media and characters that are out there, and the more you want to cosplay that character, the more motivated you'll be to figure it out, regardless of skill level. On the technical side, if you're not sure what kind of costume to start with, I'd suggest beginning with a character that has a simply designed outfit. Usually these characters will sport bold colors, not many tiny details, basic garment shapes (things you can find patterns for in the "costume" category that fall on the easier side or basic tutorials like what's in "Epic Cosplay Costumes" and the like). If you're lucky, their clothing will be similar to regular clothing you can find at the local thrift shop!
Some characters are a little easier for beginners.
Princess Peach: Using McCalls 6420, using pink colors you can easily create her costume. Add a blonde wig and you can make a crown out of either board, craft foam, or sometimes they are purchasable, then get some long costume gloves and you're ready to go.
Mario/Luigi: Since Mario and Luigi wear overalls as their basic outfit, you can actually thrift a pair of blue jean overalls, and add a red or green shirt. Oftentimes you can also find the character hats either in costume shops or online. If you're feeling crafty, you can make one!
Link (Legend of Zelda): There's a couple of ways to make a Link costume quickly. First, you can thrift store purchase really big T-shirts and use an old belt to create a "tunic" for your outfit. Pair with khaki pants and you can quickly make a cone-shaped floppy hat out of felt in a pinch. Another way to make this outfit, is to create your own tunic (there's a basic tunic pattern in "Epic Cosplay Costumes," or you can modify an existing pattern as well), and a belt and some khaki pants and create that floppy hat and you'll be good to go! For extra details, pick up some elf ear prosthetics at your local theater shop or Halloween store.
For something "impressive," you're trying to draw looks from the crowd, regardless of what outfit you're wearing. To get that effect out of any costume, a lot of that has to do with how it's sewn or put together, and the type of fabrics used. Try to having clean seam lines and well-fitting garments made with a sturdy fabric. Fabrics can include, but are not limited to: bottomweights/sportswear (twill, cottons, poplin), denims, canvas, matte satin (casa satin) and the like! By using these fabrics your costume will have a much sturdier appearance — they are also easier to clean and iron as well. Couple that with a well-fitting garment (keep it from hanging funny, or falling down accidentally and such), and you'll be the hit in the crowd! Also your costume will most likely be washable, and last for many wearings.
For those interested in slightly "easier" cosplay (if you're not as confident in your sewing), I always suggest finding a character who tends to wear modern clothing. You can easily get a lot of garments from your local thrift stores that can be used to create a whole host of outfits! Think along the lines of some of your favorite television characters. Top it off with a character wig, and you'll be good to go!
For a fun take on a costume, a poodle skirt can help. Make a poodle skirt out of felt — just a big circle skirt — in the main color of the character you're going to be. Then draw, paint, or glue on a design or emblem near the bottom of the skirt that represents something about that character. For example, Link would have a Triforce design, Sailor Moon a crescent moon and Captain America a shield design. Pair the skirt with a plain colored shirt, a neck scarf in a coordinating color, and toss on a character wig and you're ready to go. It's comfy and fun! You can always do an interpretation of a character, such as a "modern day version" (make it out of clothing you can find in thrift stores in the character's colors) or zombie version (tear up/wear out your garments and maybe add some fake blood).
Are there a few good cosplay hacks you recommend to create a memorable style?
1) Never make a bowtie you have to re-tie all the time! There are ways to make big and small bowties that look just right by using simple rectangles, and there's no tying involved. Just sew them to your costume, and you're ready to go! (there's a great tutorial in Epic Cosplay Costumes that covers this very process in-depth!)
2) Don't reinvent the wheel — you don't have to make everything! Use regular, every day garment pieces to accent your costumes. Things like socks, T-shirts, dress shirts, jeans, and the like. Reuse parts for multiple costumes!
3) Fabric Paint — by mixing $2 craft paint with Textile/Fabric Medium — all found in the craft paint areas at craft stores — you can make an inexpensive, but durable paint that sticks to fabric to help you make the details you want!