Cosplay Closet Essentials: What’s Old Is New Again

So, are you interested in cosplay? Want to start out, but not sure how? You ever see a cosplayer with an amazing cosplay and wonder how much it cost to make or how it was made? I’m sure you’re often left wondering how many countless hours were spent on the stunningly detailed costumes making their way through the con crowds. And if you haven’t cosplayed before and don’t know any cosplayers, you might be left with the impression that it takes a lot of time, money, and skill to cosplay. Then again, when a lot of people think “cosplay” they think of the elaborate, larger-than-life cosplays that more often than not do take a lot of time, money, and skill.

What if I told you that anybody could cosplay, regardless of tight budgets or non-existent sewing skills? Sounds crazy, right?

Okay, so I’ll admit, not every cosplay can be done on the cheap with little to no garment/prop construction experience. That doesn’t mean that you can’t cosplay without pouring over dozens of Pinterest and YouTube tutorials and practically become a costume designer slash engineer slash rocket scientist. You just have to think outside the box. Outside the fabric retailers, outside the department stores, outside the home improvement warehouse. Think bigger, but smaller.

Think thrift.


That’s right, for my first installment of this “reboot” of the Cosplay Closet Essentials series (because everything’s getting rebooted these days, and who am I to fight the trend?), the cosplay essential I’m going to discuss is thrifting.

“But AJ, how can someone’s old crap turn into a badass cosplay?” Well, I’ll tell you how. By opening your eyes–and your mind–to the potential that each thrift store or yard sale piece has. See that old denim jacket? I bet if you gave it just a little bit of thought you could easily come up with half a dozen cosplays it would work with. Okay, so the coat might not “fit” the character’s look 100%…so what? Can you pair it up with a pair of old jeans, some ratty gloves with the fingers cut off, a flannel shirt, and some used combat boots and be recognizable as John Bender from The Breakfast Club? You sure can. Bam. Cosplay on the cheap.

With thrifting and yard sales, you can find great cosplay pieces for nearly literally pennies on the dollar. You might not get all the parts you want at once, and it may take some digging through disorganized stacks and miscellaneous tchotchkes, but you can do it.

Thrifting is also an excellent way to ease into cosplaying. You don’t have to build a seven-foot suit of armor for your first cosplay. Start slow if you have to, and learn as you go. For my first cosplay, I wasn’t hip to thrifting; I purchased all of my stuff brand spanking new, and probably spent two or three times as much on clothing as I would have if I had just gone to any of the numerous thrift stores in my area and done some down and dirty hunting. Heck, probably more than three times as much. Granted, the wig I bought (I honestly have like zero hairstyling skills) was kind of expensive for as simple as my cosplay was, but even with no sewing experience and no knowledge of props I made a recognizable cosplay–and had a lot of fun with it!



Look! I made my first con buddy! Here I am as River Song. No, the jacket’s not exactly the same as the one she wore in “The Impossible Astronaut” episode of Doctor Who. No, I don’t have the gun belt or the holster or, er, the gun. But my buddy instantly knew which character I was cosplaying. Heck, even a little eight-year-old recognized me! It was a great first cosplaying experience, and I didn’t have to learn how to sew or build anything to do it.

Even if you already have some sewing or building/fabrication experience, you can still use thrifting to your cosplay advantage. Old bridesmaids’ dresses, for example, can be deconstructed or harvested for fabric and remade into just what you were looking for. All it takes is looking at the thrift or yard sale goods through different eyes. Try to see what that piece of clothing, that knickknack, that old busted-up piece of furniture could potentially become, not the sad remnant of what it once was.

So there you have it: thrifting can definitely be considered a cosplay essential, even if you don’t see it at first. Seek out that diamond in the rough, and have fun polishing it into a shining cosplay.

What cosplay essential would you like to see featured next? Leave a comment or throw us a tweet and let us know what cosplay material, skill, technique, etc. you’d liked to hear more about. I’ll do my best to give real-life reviews and experiences with these “essentials,” and if I don’t personally know (because there’s a lot I admittedly don’t know), I’ll hunt down a more experienced cosplayer who can shed some light on the need-to-knows.

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