Before you get started
By this point you’ll have:
- Picked out characters that speak to you (or at the very least their costume design does) that you would be okay with cosplaying
- Organized your cosplays by some criteria, recommend organizing by traits that can drastically change how you end up executing the cosplay. For me it’s easy, difficult, and competitive.
- The cosplays are prioritized based on characteristics that define what makes that cosplay important to you. For me it’s comfort and how the character fits in in terms of recognition and how likely that cosplay is to be worn by someone else at the same con.
Now you need to figure out WHEN you’re going to work on all these….
Step 1: Figure out what your cosplay needs are for the next year
Why a year?
Because it works for me. I’ve found that if I try to figure out what cosplays I will be wearing in 2 years, 3 years, or as little as 18 months, I always end up switching before I get to making them. Rather than worry about locking myself in to a cosplay that I might not want to do in a year or constantly flip-flopping, I just schedule as I need to.
Also, since any particular con only happens once a year, you can figure out how many and what type of cosplay you’ll need for the conventions.
This does not include costumes that might take multiple years to make. That’s an entirely different box of threads that I’ll write about another time.
So what are cosplay needs?
Figure out which cons you’re going to and what photoshoots or events that you’ll be attending (if they’re scheduled). Then list all of the cosplays you’ll need for those events. For example, let’s take a look at my 2012-2013 needs.
I generally scope my year from spring to spring because the main convention I attend is Anime Boston. These were my cosplay needs for spring 2012 through spring 2013:
- 1 Halloween costume
- 1 competitive outfit for Hall Cosplay
- 1 costume for my husband for the weekend of AB 13
- 1 costume for me for the weekend of AB 13
- 2 costumes for cosplay games at AB 13
You might need multiple costumes for multiple conventions, but the same principles listed below will apply.
Step 2: Refine your cosplay needs with any restrictions
For each costume, determine if there are any restrictions on what the outfit can be. If you’re going as part of a group to an event, make sure to take that into consideration. Also make a note of the time of year your conventions are. If you’re going to a summer con, it may not be the best idea to make that giant ballgown, so keep that in mind.
- Halloween costume - needs to be work appropriate and somewhat resilient to New England fall weather
- Competitive cosplay outfit - this year I’m going as a group, so my costume will need to be from the same series as the rest of the group members, plus it must be a competitive outfit
- Husband AB 13 outfit - this can be difficult or easy, but needs to be solid enough that he can rock it on is own
- My AB 13 outfit - can be easy because I’m already making a competitive outfit for AB 13
- 2 outfits for cosplay games -should try to fit the theme of AB 2013 (“Tales of Youkai”)
Step 3: Figure out what you already have and can reuse
To those of us with little time on our hands to make cosplays, taking an existing outfit and making some minor changes/repairs can save time, money, and sanity. As much as I would love to make a new costume for each outfit I needed, I don’t have that kind of time and money.
In this case, the outfits for the cosplay games can be found in my closet since I’ve already done pair cosplays with my husband of demon characters. I just need to make a note if anything needs to be repaired.
- Cosplay game outfits: Re-use Jin and Touya, but allow time for new wig(s) and minor prop/accessory fixes
Everything else can be new creations!
Step 4: Figure out what you CAN make
Real life can be annoying, but it always takes precedence over cosplay. As much as you might want to make 10 new cosplays, you need to be realistic. Do you have time to do that while working a full time job? Do you have money to make all those outfits if you’re still in school?
Do not put yourself into a position where you do not have money to live your regular life and where you let your enthusiasm for cosplay affect your work or school performance. Only you can determine what your bandwidth is, but be smart about it.
In this case, I generally find that 1 competitive, 1-2 difficult, and 1 easy costume are what I can handle. (Although I am getting faster and getting better work compensation, so those numbers might increase). Luckily, that matches up quite nicely with my cosplay needs (well, not entirely luckily, I do base my cosplay needs somewhat around what my bandwidth is).
If you find yourself without the time or money to make all of the outfits that you as ‘new creations’ in Step 3, you may want to revisit Step 3. See what you have in your closet that you can fix up or even re-purpose. You might be able to wash and re-use a wig. You might have props that can be repainted to look good as new. Leverage what you have to meet your cosplay needs without going broke/insane.
Step 5: Start matching up costumes from your prioritized lists
The first ones that I look at are always the competitive outfits, because those are the easiest to clear out the way (it’s for a single event, it has the most requirements to meet, and tends to be the most expensive because I want to get things right).
So for 2012-2013, I was going to be a part of a Magic Knight Rayearth group (where it had previously been decided that I would do Emeraude if the group ever came to pass). The other girls in the group were hoping to compete and so I agreed to lead the group and compete with them (which I didn’t have to).
This is why I organize my groups separately; when a group decides that it’s actually going to happen, you know what costume you’re doing for the group and so there’s not much to decide.
Next, I looked at potential pair cosplays for me and my husband to wear at AB 13. Generally I pick pair cosplays that feature characters that he loves because I have other opportunities (Halloween, competition) to make characters that I love. Hisoka from Hunter x Hunter happened to be on the top of the ‘easy’ prioritized list, so we decided to go with that. The pairing for that was Machi.
Finally, the last outfit to pick was for Halloween. I had a costume on the top of my list for Hakuouki, but hadn’t decided which Chizuru outfit to make yet. I decided to go with Chizuru, but I would figure out whether to do her Japanese, western, or geisha outfit a bit closer to Halloween.
Step 6: Breaking Ties
If you have two costumes that could work for a particular event, but you’re not sure which one to go with, there are three ways I use to break ties:
- Which one is higher priority on your board? You marked it as a higher priority for a reason, follow your prioritization or take another look at your list to see if you need to re-prioritize.
- Which one is cheaper? Why not save money?
- Imagine yourself walking around the con (or event) in both outfits. Do you get a better reaction for either? That will usually help you figure out where your heart truly lies.
Hopefully this helped you figure out how to wrestle with scheduling from a list of 20+ cosplays. Next time I’ll cover how to start planning a cosplay before you put needle to fabric.
If you’re still not sure, don’t worry about it! As long as you leave yourself enough time and money to make the outfits, you can delay making a decision until you’re a little closer to the event.