Although adults and children alike have been dressing up like their favorite superheroes, mythical figures and even villains for centuries, the rise of the modern cosplay movement has its roots in the manga and anime universe of Japan. Nobuyuki Takahashi, a Japanese reporter, coined the term after a trip to Worldcon in Los Angeles in 1984. The rest, as they say, is history. Short for ‘costume play,’ cosplay has become a global juggernaut that encompasses everything from video games and comic books to popular TV shows and movies. All this costume play culminates in yearly pilgrimages to conventions like San Diego’s annual Comic-Con, where you’re bound to see characters adorned in all sorts of glorious cosplay fabric!
The Nuts and Bolts of DIY Materials and Cosplay Fabric for Your Needs
The simultaneous rise of the DIY and craft movement in recent years has created a perfect storm of unlimited resources for cosplayers and makers around the world to find the costume supplies, fabrics and embellishments they need for any event, anywhere in the world. Whether you are a Khaleesi, Wonder Woman or Buffy heading to San Diego in July or to D.C. in December for Anime USA, finding the right materials for each look is half the battle.
As veteran cosplayers know, there are several factors to consider when putting together a look, like weather and location of the event, whether you’re going to an international convention in a major city or an underground party in a small town, your personal budget, and the skill level and materials required to bring your vision to life.
If you’re new to cosplay or just need a few ideas, playing with fabric and embellishments to get some ideas of what is possible is a good place to start.
The Most Common Cosplay Themes
A quick overview of the 10 most famous cosplayers in the world reveals a few common themes in the making of the best costumes. Whether you already have a blueprint in a specific character or are more interested in improvising your costume around a general theme or archetype, most of the best male and female cosplay looks share a few basic elements.
Wings are probably one of the most versatile elements for cosplay. Fairies, dragons, superheroes, bird men … you get the idea. The end result definitely relies on your personal crafting skill level, interest, timeline, and motivation. Costume wings can be really intricate and detailed, or as simple as gluing and sewing a few pieces of fabric and wire together. Start with a wing making tutorial that fits your budget and skill level. Then search for unique cosplay fabric and materials that will bring the wings to life.
- Sheer organza ribbon
- Round box wire wreath frames
- Glue and adhesives
- Random mesh wired ribbon
Depending on the look you’re going for, the wings can be the focal point of your costume, so get creative and let your freak flag fly!
Like wings, armor is another staple of many cosplay looks. Whether you need an armor helmet, breastplate, cuffs, boots (or all!), the easiest way to go about making armor is to start with a structured piece like a hat or a corset and personalize it with fabric and embellishments, or follow a simple step by step guide to designing your own cosplay armor.
- Decorative tape
- Gold rough grain metallic ribbon
- Chainmail silver metallic wired ribbon
- Gold w/silver flat metallic trim
- Embossed floral foil
- Gold or silver lamé fabric
- Silver metallic mesh
(Pro tip: When you’ve tried everything and your armor is still missing a little something, a few jars of glitter can solve anything!)
Are you kicking it old school as Princess Leia? Are you attending a convention? Maybe you’re channeling your inner wood nymph at a Ren Faire? Robes and capes are also standard attire when it comes to cosplay fabric looks. Get yourself started with a basic cloak and cape pattern and personalize it according to your skill level and specific costume. Be sure to keep the environment in mind when choosing fabric for a cape. Choose a lighter woven fabric like linen that flows and breathes well for outdoor events in warmer weather. Do you really want to be in a latex bodysuit in 90-degree humidity? If you’re going to a winter event, choose a heavier fabric. This will keep you warm and move well in a crowded indoor venue.
Are you short on time? Don’t feel overwhelmed by the prospect of making an entire cape by hand. You can buy a plain version and embellish it to give it a personal touch!
Cosplay is nothing if not the marriage between costume and performance art. Like with any work of art, sometimes it’s the small details that can take a look to the next level and make it stand out. Create a custom headpiece or halo, a punk rock tutu, a twist on a specific character or a custom design of your own. Ignore what Coco Chanel said about taking off the last thing you put on! Throw in a few extra embellishments for the final touch.
Paper Mart offers a versatile and budget-friendly range of DIY cosplay fabric and embellishments for your next Comic-Con, Festival, Renaissance Faire or Meetup!