A guide to budget cosplay in the UK

Cosplay can be an expensive hobby what with the convention costs, accommodation and travel, let alone the actual costumes. Sometimes budgeting is necessary! But does that mean you have to sacrifice your accuracy, your detail and your big ideals of that ‘dream cosplay’?

Hell no!

There are plenty of ways to shave some of the cost off of your costumes and here are some tried and tested methods of doing so in the UK.

What if I want to make my cosplay?

Fabric shops are always a good first stop and many will give you discounts dependant on how much fabric you buy. Alternatively if you only need small pieces or upholstery fabric, charity shops often carry unwanted curtains which can be perfect for cosplays requiring brocade or jacquard patterns.

If it’s armour you’re going for, foam can be found in hobby shops or you can even raid toy stores for children’s playmats which often have the same density as craft store foam.

Worbla is a tricky one because thermoplastics tend to fetch a higher asking price but recently Coscraft have started stocking different colours on their website at a very reasonable cost.

Captured by Toneagraphy at Birmingham MCM October 2018

What if I want to just modify some pieces?

I stress this now, charity shops, charity shops, charity shops! Oh and eBay too.

It may take a while to find the exact thing you want or the exact colour but for the base portions of some cosplays, it works wonders. I’ve managed to find a complete Ramona Flowers just from searching my local Barnardos or British Heart Foundation shop and it only cost me about £18 total.

What if I just want to buy my cosplay?

There are many great sites popping up all the time that are doing reasonable full fledged cosplays. So let’s break it down into specifics.

Superhero outfits tend to lean towards spandex and you can find patterned suits and basic ones on sites like herostime.com and zentai-zentai.com ranging between about £30-70. Also, and it’s sometimes a mixed bag with sizing as it doesn’t offer custom measurement options, but Wish.com has quite a few superhero zentai suits on it right now and I managed to get a Captain Marvel patterned suit from the upcoming movie for around £25 all in.

Anime costumes are a little trickier due to some of the intricacies but miccostumes.com tends to offer a lot of discounts regularly. Aliexpress is also a good site to use and tends to have a wider range of anime items.

TV, videogame and film costumes are amongst some of the hardest to find on the cheap. Again, miccostumes has a few as does aliexpress but these would be the ones I’d recommend either getting pieces from eBay or charity shops or making them yourselves. Remember, it does not have to be silver screen quality to have fun.

Captured by Toneagraphy at Birmingham MCM October 2018

But now I need a wig to pull it together

I tend to divide wigs into two categories, character and lace front.

Character wigs can be easily found on sites like Coscraft and Lush Wigs because they contain unique styles or made to colour orders and none of them break the bank at £25 and under on average.

Lace fronts generally go for more but you can find very decent quality ones on eBay from between £25-40 and they look incredibly realistic.

In addition, if you’re in a bind and need a wig quickly for a con deadline, Annabelle’s Wigs does next day delivery and they’re very reasonably priced.

Do I need some contacts too?

The UK contacts market has gone a little quiet lately with a few old favourite sites shutting down but BlueBanana.com is good in a pinch, stocking everything from tri-colour blends to blind contacts to mini scleras.

In the international market, Honeycolor.com and QueenContacts.com both do a rewards point system that you can use towards getting discounts and free contacts and the plain old regular cost isn’t that high either. They’ll often send a free carry case too.

And what about paints? I need to spray paint my props/armour

Wilko has quite a large stock of spray paints even in metals, glitters, chalkboard and glow in the dark colours. None of them tend to be above £10 and the own brand is more around the under £5 mark and they all work beautifully.

My Lagertha shield was done with Wilko’s own brand teal and brown and then their own brand sealer over the top. This brought the cost of painting it down to around £17 all in whereas Hobbycraft would’ve been much more expensive.

Pound shops are also a good place to buy acrylics for general painting.

So now you have your costume, wig, contacts and paints, you’re good to go! Cosplay doesn’t have to break the bank and  it can be a fun adventure creating it.

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Helen Dolan hails from manchester and is a cosplayer and model. all the view on this article are her and her’s alone why not check out her social media and give her a follow

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One thought on “A guide to budget cosplay in the UK

  1. Also look out at Aldi/Lidl as they also have spray paints available from time to time as well as useful tools (Dremel equivalents) for crafting. You can also get packs of 10mm foam squares from Halfords for around £10.

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