Cosplay 101

cosplayOur annual Librari*Con is just around the corner.  Celebrate geek culture at the library by dressing up as part of your favorite fandom. Enter our cosplay contest!

What is Cosplay?

The term “cosplay” originally comes from Japan and often refers to wearing costumes based on anime or manga characters, but these days it can mean just about any character.  Whether the outfit comes from live-action movies, television series, superhero comics, Disney, literature, or whatever else you can think of, it counts as cosplay.  You can even create your own unique cosplay inspired by a genre, like steampunk.  Anyone can cosplay; the most important thing is to be creative!

Cosplayers approach costume making in different ways, from closet cosplay—modifying found or store-bought items to make an outfit—to making everything from scratch, right down to the links in their chain mail armor.  Don’t worry, you don’t have to build your own forge just yet.  Let’s start with the basics.

Step 1: Plan and gather supplies

Find or draw some images of the outfit you want to make.  Sometimes you can find all the images you need in art books, fan guides or on the Internet, but sometimes you’ll have to draw some sketches of your own for the side and back views of outfits.  Some basic knowledge of fashion design can be helpful here, or simply look up existing sewing patterns for ideas.  With your model images in hand, it’s time to go shopping.  Besides clothing, fabric and craft stores, you can often find what you need at thrift stores, especially if you’re going to modify a pre-made garment.  Just make sure whatever you buy both looks good and feels good… you don’t want to be walking around for hours at a con in 100% wool!

Step 2: Sew

While it’s very convenient to have a friend or family member help you learn to sew (and lend you their sewing machine…) here are some books on sewing and modifying clothes to further help you make your vision into a reality.  Many forums and tutorial sites online also have great examples and step-by-step guides for different projects.

Step 3: Finishing touches

Don’t forget makeup and accessories, if your character wears any.  Paying attention to these details really gives you an edge.  After all, who would Sailor Moon be without her star brooch and floor-length pigtails?  You can make jewelry and armor with a variety of craft materials, and while I highly recommend wigs for wilder colors and hairstyles, you can also use temporary color dyes and extensions on your normal hair to complete your look.


With planning, patience, and creativity, you can make a cosplay that will turn heads and maybe even win prizes at Librari*Con!  Good luck, and most importantly, have fun!

You might also enjoy

Librari*Con Cosplay Contest

Level Up with These Books for Gamers

Booklovers Podcast: Stranger Things Readalikes

Written by Emily Didion from our Technical Services department.