Tips for cosplay on a budget

If you follow my Facebook page, you may have already seen that I’m taking a little step back from cosplay for a while so I can budget and save for big, real life things. This doesn’t mean I’ll stop cosplaying altogether; I think it’s a good opportunity to re-wear and make adjustments to some older costumes.


When I was sorting through my costumes and deciding which to keep and which to sell, I realised that I’ve always been a bit of a budget cosplayer and that some of the costumes that I’ve been the happiest with have been the cheapest to make. I know money is always a concern with costuming, so I thought I’d do a bit of a run down with some tips for building a more budget cosplay.

1. Shop your wardrobe 

Possibly my most popular and accurate costume was Ygritte from Game of Thrones.

I started with the coat, and this is where my biggest piece of advice comes in — shop your own wardrobe. The base coat was one I’d bought a few years earlier to take overseas. It was army green with orange lining that once fit my tomboy aesthetic perfectly, but didn’t really pair with my pinup style. The photo below shows tomboy Mickey wearing it on my very first overseas trip. Back when it suited my style:

I tried to sell it on eBay a few times, and when it didn’t move, I put it in my Vinnie’s pile… until I started cosplaying. Layers and layers of paint gave the weathered look and was by far the most expensive part of this costume (mostly because of the sheer volume used). The pants were a hideous pair of grey track pants bought from the Rivers sale rack and the boots are $5 Kmart fake Ugg boots. Most of the attachments like the strapping around my feet, was just packages of different looking trims and ropes from Daiso. The fur on the jacket and pants also could have been expensive as it was the fur used to make teddy bears (teddy skin!). I bought a small piece and weathered it, and it was enough to go a long way.


Looks different as a cosplay, right?!


2. Kmart is great

Most of us know Kmart Australia is pretty good. It’s particularly good for costuming, because you can get base pieces or inexpensive shoes that can be weathered or reconstructed without worrying too much about ruining expensive things or doing too much sewing yourself. And it’s not just Kmart, utilise Big W, the Reject Shop and Daiso for cosplay too.

I put my Apocalypse Elsa together really quickly using pieces from my wardrobe and costume cupboard, which is my optimal aim when putting together a conceptual costume that I wouldn’t necessarily re-wear after the shoot. The only two pieces I bought especially was a $5 blue t-shirt and $15 boots, both from Kmart. Some of the pieces, like my snowflake necklace, came from my existing wardrobe, but I replaced the chain it usually hangs on with some leather string from Daiso. I’m pretty sure my fake blood for this costume came from Daiso at Halloween too (stock up EVERY year!).

3. Spend on the things you can reuse

When I made my Sail dress Ariel (also a budget costume), I left it too late to look for a wig. I bought a cheap one which was ok, but it soon became pretty obvious that if I wanted to do any more Ariel costumes (yes), then I was going to have to invest in a decent wig.

When I made Ariel in Eric’s costume (based on this artwork by Godohelp on Deviant Art), and the finished outfit came in at about $30 in total, I decided it was time to finally upgrade the wig. This one came from Wig is Fashion and was $66USD and I am BEYOND happy with how beautiful it is. I just want to put it on and wear it all the time.

And if you’re curious about how I did the rest of the costume so cheaply:

  • Coat:  $5 from Big W (was a cheap costume doctor’s coat that I cut and resewed)
  • Gold ribbon (jacket detailing): 3 spools of thin gold ribbon and one of thick from Daiso (honestly though, I need one more packet to finish properly) $2.80 each
  • Blue ribbon (around sleeve cuffs and for hair): $5 for two metres from Spotlight
  • Gold buttons (three large to close the jacket, and one smaller on each sleeve): I can’t remember exactly how much, but these were the most expensive at around $15 in total for three packs of buttons. And I did search for cheaper ones.

Everything else such as thread and glue to fix the details came from my fairly well-stocked craft cupboard. My boots and leggings were ‘shopping’ my wardrobe, but the Kmart boots will need replacing this year (but they’ve had a good innings, I bought them for my first Black Widow costume back in 2012).

What about you guys: Do you budget cosplay? What are your best tips? What things will you spend money on and what will you try and save on?

Photos credits for this post:

Ygritte by Billy C Photography
Apocalypse Elsa by Senergy Photography
Ariel as Eric by Pandom Images


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