The Process of Cosplay

I have only been to an anime convention once before. I did not intend on cosplaying, so I wore a corset. I learned fairly quickly that going to a con in street clothing will make you stand out much more than going in full costume. When I bought my ticket for Anime Central this spring, I immediately started preparing a cosplay. The cosplay I had in mind was fairly simple, so I thought it wouldn’t be difficult.

First lesson learned: there is no such thing as a simple cosplay. Little did I know, I was in for a wild ride.

The items I needed for my cosplay were a school uniform, uniform style shoes, fake glasses and a wig. All of these are fairly typical items to be used for cosplay and there are plenty of companies specifically market to cosplayers, so I assumed it would not be too difficult. At first, my hopes were confirmed.

I found shoes that met the criteria at a Salvation Army for approximately $5. I know from more experienced cosplayers that thrift shops are the best place to shop on a budget, and I was grateful to have my existing knowledge confirmed. I was able to find the style of glasses I wanted for $1.50 on eBay, as well as a reasonable quality version of the wig I wanted for under $20. All in all, I was feeling pretty good.

Then we got to the uniform. Pre-made cosplay does exist, but only for characters in popular fandoms and requires financial means far beyond what a college student can typically afford.

Fortunately, many Japanese-style school uniforms are available for a relatively low price on eBay. I found a set that matched my specifications and assumed I would be done.

Several hours of Google searching and at least a small bucket of tears later, all I have to say is I was unaware of how many items of clothing simply did not exist until I intended to buy them for cosplay. If there is an algorithm for determining which items are stock and which are specialty, I certainly don’t know it.

Changes as simple as adding a mere two or three inches to a skirt or changing the color of an item can jack up the price as much as 150%. Save for the glasses, there is not a single article of clothing that I did not end up purchasing twice due to issues with the product not matching the description or my own inaccuracy in determining what material I would need.

Although I was prepared to do some work constructing my own clothing, I did not have any reason to think I would need to make any complicated modifications or jump through too many hoops. I cannot imagine how much more difficult the process of finding clothes must be for people who are not conventionally thin or people who do not have access to sewing materials. And this is considered an “easy” cosplay.

I will have spent a significant chunk of my pay for this term and at least twelve hours of emotional and physical labor on a costume I will wear for two days and likely never even look at again after the con. And I can’t even guarantee it will look good.

Not only is cosplay difficult and expensive, but the reputation that cosplayers have for being self-loathing and masochistic is definitely earned. I am only about halfway done creating my costume and so far the amount of stress that this project has created for me has definitely outweighed the benefits.

That being said, I am fairly certain I will do it again. I guess some people just never learn.