Cosplayers make intricate, screen-accurate costumes. What funding methods have worked best for them?
There is nothing like seeing a cosplayer at a comic convention—it’s like seeing your favourite character come to life. We know that cosplayers spend a lot of time and energy creating their costumes and props, but how do they pay for it?
I met with professional cosplayers Dee Rich, Ivy Doomkitty, MCubed, Nadyasonika, Onyxeia, King Tide, and Karli Woods at Fan Expo Canada to ask them this pressing question on everyone’s minds. This is what they had to say.
“I have an account specifically for Dee Rich—I never spend my personal money. You need to be really careful. Because you’ll get sucked in. You’ll go: ‘this is fine. I’m just gonna do this one thing.’ And all of a sudden, you’ve spent $300 on your stuff.”
“I reach out to a lot of wig companies and things like that. Sometimes they’ll send you some to test and that really helps cut your costs down, because wigs are really expensive.”
“I also do a lot of thrifted versions of cosplay. So, your local Goodwill is your best friend! I have a lot of costumes that are made from things from Goodwill.”
“It really depends on the costume, on what it takes to go into it. I’ve made costumes that have cost me as little as $30-$40, which is my Star Trek red shirt. I made the costume, but my fabric, the wig, and the boots, was about $45. So, that was a very economical costume.”
“So is my Velma. I bought my sweater from eBay and I made my skirt from what I had at home.”
“But I’ve also made really intricate costumes, that I’ve either made or have commissioned out and some pieces of it can go into like a couple thousand dollars. So, just depends on what you want to do.”
“And there’s really no wrong way of doing it. You can make something for cheap, and not break the bank. And it will still look amazing and great. Or just as good as someone who has spent $1000-$2,000. It depends on each person. Honestly, I would rather spend less than spend more.”
“And Goodwill. Goodwill is awesome!”
“You need to have a budget. Most of my costumes are screen accurate, but I try to stay within a certain budget. For the easier costumes, which are like normal clothes, I’ll go to thrift stores. I use thrift stores a lot for fabrics, and shirt patterns and stuff, because you can just cut stuff apart.”
“Just be aware of your budget. Because it can get expensive, and it is addicting. You want to always do more!”
“Now it is easier, because cosplay is bigger now. If you’re responsible and you keep posting on your social media and you always have content, there are a lot of stores that can sponsor you and that way you save some money.”
“For example, you can get a wig sponsor, so you don’t have to be worrying about buying the wig. Instead, you can focus on buying fabrics and all the accessories, shoes, and paint, and everything else you need. Some cosplay stores now sponsor cosplayers.”
“Those are the things you can get if you post on your page constantly, and your work is good.”
“If not, I had, for a very long time, a full-time job. I didn’t have so many costumes at the same time. You choose the ones that you like the most. You basically spend all your money on that cosplay. You save some more money, and then you wait a little bit. Now you make the next one.”
“And that’s just the best way. Because, you know what? Cosplayers are very creative. And sometimes we start buying the wig and then we bought the shoes from another costume. And then we bought the fabrics from another costume and we don’t have anything at the end!”
“It’s better to just think of one that you really like, and then you get all the stuff that you need for that one and then finish it. And when you finish it, you can start the new one. That’s the best way.”
“A lot of cosplayers have Patreon and Kofi, where people donate money and stuff, which is really nice. And we sell prints as well, and that helps go to the next costume.”
“Well, I try to make everything myself. I make everything from scratch, so I limit costs.”
“Well, there’s different ways to fund cosplay, depending on whether you want to make it your job. Some people do it just for fun. And then some people do it professionally.”
“There’s different sites like Twitch—you can live stream making your costumes. Then there’s donations. You can use Patreon as well, which is a platform where creators can generate revenue—there are podcasts on Patreon, cosplayers, anybody that’s creating something can be on Patreon.”
“There’s brand deals that you can do on Instagram, Facebook, event appearances.”
“There are so many different ways that you can generate revenue, especially if you’re a content creator, you have to create a brand. You have to be an entrepreneur, eventually.”
Cosplaying can be addictive and expensive, but you need to budget for it according to the costume you want to make. Avoid spending too much—instead, head to your local thrift store to gather costumes and supplies.
You can also look for brands to sponsor parts of your costume, like wigs and accessories, which can be expensive. But you need to post regular content to be attractive to brands.
Aim to start small and put together what you can from the sources available and you can eventually make more professional-looking costumes.