Final Fantasy XIV Fanfest is getting the cosplay gears rumbling in my head. One of the cool things about events like this is they attract really passionate people and really cool costumes. But the best thing? Events like this often inspire people to build their first costumes ever, and the passion and commitment put into it is mind boggling.
I’ve had a couple of folks on twitter approach me asking for some beginner tips, and while my go to advice is “don’t do what I do and you’ll be fine, no, really”, I thought about it and compiled a short list of beginners tips for anyone thinking about tackling their very first cosplay projects!
Pick a project you’re passionate about
You’re going to be spending tens, sometimes hundreds of hours on this project, so it better be something you really like. Different design aspects are appealing to different people: maybe you really love the design of a certain armor set, or this one character is your favorite, but whatever it is make sure you love it.
It’s the only thing that’ll get you through late nights of blood, sweat, tears and questioning your life choice of getting into this hobby in the first place.
…But make sure that it’s reasonable!
There’s this thing in cosplay we like to call “the holy trinity”: finish in a timely fashion, quality, and didn’t break the bank (money). Whenever you pick a cosplay, you can pick two of those. Take armor for example. You can finish a set of quality worbla armor relatively quickly, but it’ll cost quite a bit. On the other hand, you can build the same set out of craft foam for much cheaper, but achieving the look and durability you want will take quite a bit of extra work. It’s important to strike the right balance that fits for you/your schedule/your budget. MMO costumes tend to be pretty detailed and complicated, so be sure to keep that in mind when picking your project!
Speaking of reasonable, also make sure you set reasonable expectations for yourself. If you’re not up to living and breathing a project for months or you have a very tight deadline, maybe don’t go for a huge armor project/giant ball gown for your first costume. It’s okay to start small and work your way up, and it’s okay to take your time. If you do decide to start big, that’s fine too! Just make sure to give yourself plenty of time in case any mistakes happen while learning new techniques.
Research is your friend
BACK IN MYYYYY DAY….
*Ahem* Okay but no really. When I started cosplaying some ten or so years ago, not many resources existed except for the occasional craft foam tutorial here and there and scouring the cosplay.com forums for useful posts.
These days you can find information, tutorials and videos on almost any technique you can think of. You can even find full tutorials on specific characters. For Final Fantasy XIV costumes specifically, you may want to take a look at the World of Warcraft costuming community for tutorials and tips; they’re experts in constructing complicated, detail oriented costumes from grainy MMO quality texture screenshots.
Pattern pattern pattern (aka, test everything)
It’s time consuming, but I always take the time to pattern/test out any major pieces of my costumes out of cheap fabric or material before moving on to the final version with the good stuff. Not only does this allow you to gauge the size & fit on the piece you’re making, it saves you from the cosplay nightmare of finishing an entire piece of a costume, only to realize it doesn’t fit you quite right and you have to start all over again from scratch.
If you’re working on a sewn costume like a jacket or dress, you can pick up some cheap fabric (as close as possible in weight to your final fabric) and sew a mock up of your garment for test fitting. If you’re working on armor, newspaper & craftfoam are perfect for cheap, quick mockups.
Don’t be afraid to try again
I can’t think of a single costume I’ve made that hasn’t required touch ups or improvements after the first time I’ve worn them, and that’s ok. You’re not going to get everything perfect on the first go, so don’t stress too much if there’s something that doesn’t go quite right and you decide to remake it. Every costume piece is a learning process.
But most importantly… have fun!
Cosplay is a crazy, often stressful hobby. But at the end of the day, it should be fun. If working on your cosplay stops being fun for whatever reason, don’t be afraid to put it down and take a break: go outside, play some video games, clear your mind. You costume will still be there when you get back.
And on the days you can’t find motivation, no matter what? Just remember how much darn fun you’re going to have at the con, in this costume, meeting fellow fans and getting a chance to show off all your hard work.
~ Eva ☕