I’ve seen this one pop up on forums across the internet. Outside of dedicated cosplay sites, anywhere you get geeky or nerdy people there will be posts from people who want to get involved, but they say it’s too expensive, or they don’t have any money. But is this really a barrier?
If you literally have no source of income, then yes, this is a barrier. There still might be options (see below), but nobody will think any less of you for staying a fan rather than a participant. Also, if you do have an income, but you’ve decided that paying the bills, putting food on the table, and keeping a roof over your head is more important, then thank you for getting your priorities straight. If however you do have an income, but think it’s too little, keep reading.
If you’ve prioritised the latest Modern Warfare game or going clubbing at the weekend, over cosplay, you might just want to think about what’s more important to you though!
Still here? Great. But I need to let you into a secret – Cosplay is expensive. But it doesn’t have to be financial expense.
Commissioning a cosplay artist to make you a costume is expensive because you are paying for their skills and time, as well as the materials – it’s worth it though if you can afford it! Buying from e-bay is cheaper because the costume will be made in a Chinese sweatshop, or be something another cosplay no longer needs. But this still might be out of your price range, so you’ll need to pay with something else – time and effort.
If you have the skills (or have a kindly relative with a sewing machine that you want to spend more time with) making a costume is always an option. Patterns and materials cost money, but some patterns and tutorials can often be found online if you know where you are looking, And if you don’t know where to look, try asking on a cosplay forum!
Materials don’t have to be expensive either. Local markets are a good place to try, as are online retaillers. Think carefully about what you buy though. That lining polyester may seem like a bargain, but a poorly chosen fabric will make your costume look awful, and be a waste of money in the long run. If you are unsure about fabrics, ask! The staff in a fabric shop or haberdashers maybe be able to advise you (and will probably be interested to hear what you are making), and there’s always someone on a forum ready to lend a hand. When sourcing materials, don’t rule out charity shops either. These often get offcuts of materials, and things like bed linen, which can be pressed into service for less demanding costumes.
Don’t know anyone with needle skills? Can your costume be made from regular clothes? Again charity shops are a great source of cheap clothes, and even regular shops during sales, or the big supermarkets carry reasonably priced clothing. You just need to spend time looking! Also talk to your friends, they might have cast-offs, or be willing to look in places you can’t easily get to.
If you’ve exhausted all those suggestions, and still can’t find something, its time to get creative! If you have friends that cosplay, they might be willing to lend you a costume for an event. If you are owed a favour by a cosplayer or a dramatic arts student, or a seamstress you might be able to call them in. Alternatively cosnider the skills and resources you have that might be of use to cosplayers. If you are a welder, or are skilled with fibre-glass, or have access to a laser cutter or an industrial embroidery machine, you might be able to work out a trade with someone who can make you a costume.
As you can see, there are a lot of options that won’t leave you bankrupt. If you find yourself thinking cosplay is beyond your means, think it over a little, you might surprise yourself!