Tuesday, 10 April 2012

A Quick Guide to Buying Costumes

A lot of real (and I use this term loosely as to not offend anyone) costumers and cosplayers will tell you that if you’re not making your costume, then you’re doing it wrong. I, however, think it is important to keep and open mind about these things. We all lead busy lives these days and while it may be easier for some people to find the time to practice ninja-like sewing skills, some of us simply may not have the time.

For example my life is a little chaotic right now! In the last month I have been finishing up my labwork for my PhD (which requires very long shifts in the lab) I have moved house twice, and am due for a third and final move next weekend, I had my birthday last weekend, I have prep work for my wedding, keeping on top of comics for Den of Geek… oh and my leaving party – which of course, is fancy dress!

I’m sure you can forgive me if I didn’t have time to work on making anything too fancy for this event, so I turned to the costumers back up plan – the bought costume.

I have had a fair amount of success with bought costumes to date:
My Sally costume from a Halloween past was a great licensed costume, it even included the wig, but some extra tights to make my arms and legs blue and some extra facepaint really made it stand out. For my birthday last year I dressed a Jessica Rabbit using a bought dress and a wig, and of course my Harley Quinn costume was bought from eBay many moons ago.

I wont tell you what my new outfit is yet, only that the party is USA icon themed and my outfit will be very appropriate for this! The costume was very kindly provided for me to wear by the folks at:

Who sell a wide range of licensed costumes - and with some very minor adjustments using a needle and thread I think this will be a really fun costume to wear, and with this in mind I thought I’d give a few of my top tips on maximising success when buying costumes.

Choose carefully and work with what you have
Its worth taking a bit of time to consider the theme, and chose an outfit that works with your colouring and body type. Choosing someone or something with the right colour hair is just one less thing to worry about after all. It also helps to think about skin tone, make-up style, shoes etc. anything that you already have will make the costume that bit more authentic and reduce the number of things you need to find or buy.

Think about longevity or re-sale value
This is a sort of bonus really, but still worth thinking about, if you are taking the time to buy items for a costume you really should pay attention whether an item will be usefull for another costume. The more you can wear it the better! For example my black catsuit has been worn four times as three separate costumes, Selene, Black Cat and Catwoman with more potential for a fourth soon hopefully – its more than paid for its original cost of £18. I think it is important to think about the life of clothing items, even for something as frivolous as fancy dress, and if items can be reworn or resold then it makes them even more appealing.

Look for licensed
This may or may not be obvious - but costumes come in many forms, especially those based on movies, celebrities, pop culture and superheroes. So it is worth taking the time to track down what products are licensed or official as they are more likely to be accurate representations of the costume. Once you have an idea of brands and prices you can shop around.

Be prepared to adjust the fit
One of the biggest problems with bought costumes is the age old S, M or L problem. Bought costumes are made with an even more generic fit in mind than the high street so it is usually a good idea to try and set a little time aside for sewing in order to adjust the fit.

...and finally...

Last but not least - once you have your costume it is important to add, make, paint, alter any components that are missing or aren’t quite right, for example, add gloves, sew on a trim, buy face paint, shoes, tights… the list is endless and it is these items that make the most difference to the overall effect of the costume. It is important not to overlook the details.

I hope that gives you some advice on where to start if you are ever pushed for time and need to buy a costume. I'll have a post on that leaving do next weekend hopefully, until then...


  1. My big problem when buying costumes is that S M L ... the fit always gives them away. I tend to go for accessories built around an item I own (like a catsuit for example) so the fit is right. Luckily as I usually choose literary characters there's no official licenced version so provided the key elements are there I can improvise.

    1. Its so very true... I feel that no matter how 'complete' a packaged costume claims it is, it will always need a little sewing and adjusting.
      Also, EVERYONE should own a catsuit :)

  2. Hi! Your blog is awesome! I have found it so so helpful!

    I was just wondering if you could link a similar cat suit to the one you own in these pictures. I have looked on Ebay myself however they seem more shiny than the one your wearing. Would be great if someone who already owns one could point out a great one to buy!
    Thanks so much,

    Meg :) x


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