The Newbie’s Guide to Charity Cosplay, Part 2: Suit Up

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Note: This is the second entry in a four-part series about entering the world of charity cosplay. Check out part one, part three, and part four!

Last week, I detailed the first step in entering the world of charity cosplay: Choosing your character(s). It’s an important decision, because you need the right ‘fit’ to best portray a child’s hero. The thought and research spent picking a hero (or villain) was the easy part, though. If you don’t have your chosen costume already, there is much time and money to be spent ahead. I promise though, it will be worth it.

“Heroes aren’t born, they’re built.”

If you’re not already into the cosplay hobby, this may be the most daunting part of the process. Getting started with costuming is a much deeper topic than anything I can cover in one post, or even ten. If you want to create your costume, search for tutorials in things like sewing, armor construction, or prop making. It feels that much more satisfying to know you crafted a costume that the kids love, and it’s the start of an addicting hobby in itself.

iron man charity cosplay marvel avengers civil war
This is pretty much what it feels like.

My crafting skills are far from where I want them to be, so I picked the brains of some of my fellow charity cosplayers:

“I make pretty much everything for my cosplays. I use lots of various materials including Lycra, sewing materials, ABS and PET plastic, smooth-on smooth cast 325 liquid plastic, EVA, neoprene, rubber, magnets, window tint films, worbla, kung fu shoes…the list goes on and on for me. I get most of my materials on Amazon, Michael’s, home depot, Jerry’s Artarama, Joann Fabrics, hobby lobby, or various websites.”—Spider-Man of North Carolina

“When you’re choosing materials and figuring out how to construct your costume, think about how you can make it durable enough for interacting with kids, especially if you plan to be that character often/on a regular basis. I learned that lesson the hard way with Bucky (Winter Soldier)… I give a lot of metal high fives and fist bumps, and kids like to play with the metal arm, but my first arm wasn’t strong enough to handle that level of wear and tear. It required lots of touching up after every con and fell apart after only six uses. So when I started doing charity cosplay, I learned from my mistakes and rebuilt it to be a lot sturdier. It’s been through five charity events & 4 cons so far and is still going strong! If you’re just getting started or still learning, other cosplayers and people who work at fabric/craft stores can give you pointers on durable materials and construction techniques.”—G.C. Kinsey Cosplay

“My biggest piece of advice to new cosplayers is to give yourself plenty of time. It’s not realistic to make a costume from scratch with no previous costuming experience in two weeks. Give yourself time to mess up. Also make mock ups out of cheaper fabric before cutting your actual material.”—Chiki Cosplay

“For someone starting out I’d say start small and easy. Look at things that make you think “I could do that” then do it. Once you’ve completed a few projects it will start to come natural. Also, huge piece of advice. Do not let little or even big screw ups discourage you. Unless you’re watching a tutorial, crafting takes a lot of trial and error. Don’t give up just because you experience a failure. You never fail until you give up.”—StarkZilla Industries

“It’s the same advice I’d give someone starting out, save up for it, make sure it’s a pretty decent cosplay for that to add to the realism of the character.”—Miss Faye’s Cosplay Closet

Retail It Like It Is

If you don’t have the time but do have the money, there is no shame in buying your costume. I like crafting my costumes for conventions, but I stick to things I purchased for charity events. Prices vary depending on costume type and quality (a Deadpool morphsuit will cost much less than Stormtrooper armor), but with some searching, you can find reasonably-priced costumes that are better than Party City Halloween costume-quality.

For superhero and video game character costumes, XCoser is a good place to start for the lower end of the pricing scale. ZentaiZone sells reasonably priced spandex costumes, particularly if you’re interested in Spider-Man characters. A quick jaunt around AliExpress can yield reasonably priced costumes for just about any popular character as well. One note about all three of these sellers though is that they are based in China, so be prepared to wait at least two weeks for shipping unless you drop $10-20 more for expedited shipping.

charity cosplay
Just remember: You get what you pay for.

On the higher end of the price scale, you can never go wrong with RPC Studios. They’re best known for their Spider-Man costumes and face shells, but they also sell costumes of other Marvel and DC heroes. Be prepared to drop over $300 if you plan to buy from them, but many of their customers will tell you it’s worth it. The Replica Prop Forum always has a diverse assortment of props and costumes from individual sellers, but these tend to be the most expensive option. Independent sellers, especially better-known ones, tend to get a huge backlog of commissions, so be prepared to wait for a few months.

charity cosplay prop replica
You also run into this.

Shameless plug moment: I mentioned him previously, but Spider-Man of North Carolina also does a wide range of quality Spider-Man costume pieces and props. If you check out his page and like what you see, shoot him a message. His commission slots fill up quickly, so act fast.

As for princess costumes, my princess cosplayer friends highly recommend Angel Secret. Their shipping is prompt, communication is thorough, and the dresses are simultaneously beautiful and durable. If you have other recommendations for places to buy these princess costumes, please let me know. I’m thoroughly ignorant of this side of the cosplay world.

One last recommendation I’ll share for superheroes, princesses, Star Wars, and just about any other characters is to search for costumes, props, and accessories on Etsy. Most highly-rated sellers have good communication and stick to the timetables stated in item descriptions. Plus, it’s easy to find reviews to determine which stores you should actually buy from. The caveat here is that independent sellers usually charge more for costume pieces than the larger companies, but that buys you higher-quality goods in return. Pick your metaphorical poison.

charity cosplay empty wallet
Be prepared for this either way.

I got my fancy Underoos, now what?

Getting into costuming is an endeavor, especially if you are a newcomer to the hobby. That’s part of the beauty. High quality character costumes aren’t something most people, kids included, see in their everyday lives. Sometimes I grumble when I stop to think about how much I have spent on costumes (especially my most recent Superman costume), but that all melts away when a child’s eyes light up as I enter their hospital room. You’re well on your way to becoming someone’s superhero. The next step in your journey? Find (or assemble!) a team of heroes for your charity endeavors. Stay tuned.

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