Arts & Entertainment

Prepare for convention season with tips and tricks from pro cosplayers

Pros share tips for finishing cosplays within a busy schedule and tight budget, including making use of UWT’s Makerspace.

The new year brings a massive restart to many things, one of those being the national convention season, kicking off with Anime Los Angeles in early January. Washington’s first convention was the medium sized pop-culture convention, Anime Washington, at the Tacoma Convention Center on January 27 and 28. Don’t panic if you miss it because Washington has more pop-culture conventions coming around the corner. Luckily, you have time to make a costume, known as cosplay, for the upcoming big conventions for the first massive one is Emerald City Comic Con in early March.   

But even with the big window we have till then, college student cosplayers like me find it hard to work on these elaborate costumes due to our intense class workload consuming most of our free time. The fact we’re on a tight budget due to high academic costs doesn’t help our case much either.  

I have been cosplaying since 2016 and still haven’t cracked the code in making time to work on cosplay while being suffocated by school and financial barriers. The only time I find time to work on cosplay is during breaks, like this past winter break.  

UWT student Veronica Faison also used winter break to work on her “Cardcaptor Sakura” cosplay for Sakura-Con in late March. She told the Ledger that it’s less stressful to work on cosplay during break since she doesn’t need to juggle school and cosplay projects at the same time.  

UWT student Veronica shows her work progress on her cosplay during winter break. Photo by Karla Pastrana.

Even though cosplayers like Faison and me use breaks to work on cosplay, we still find it hard to tackle it due to our jobs consuming the extra time gained. It’s not like we can work less hours over break or get a vacation off work. First, we need money to help sustain ourselves during the school year and pay our student fees. Secondly, cosplay is an expensive hobby like any other. The high price becomes another hurdle for student cosplayers to jump over.  

UWT Alumnus of Class of 2022 Gabby Nunez experienced such financial hurdles when she was a student cosplayer.  

“It’s definitely a real-world struggle of the cosplay community,” said Nunez. “It’s a form of expression and people do their best of their abilities to participate in it. Even when I never had a budget, I still tried to make the most of a cosplay.” 

This is a sentiment I share with Nunez, for there are times I find myself with barely enough money to buy materials to create a prop or to patch a hole in a cosplay. This leads me to find alternatives to fabric like duct tape and plastic bags for a photoshoot or event.  

Seeing how common this crisis is for student cosplayers, I sought out advice from my favorite pro Pacific Northwest (PNW) cosplayers for some tricks and tips they discovered while they were students. Additionally, explore UWT’s creators’ space to see what it holds and how it can help cosplayers.  

Starting off with time management practices, PNW cosplayer Stitch, who is known as Onestitchfromhell on many social media platforms has been cosplaying ever since 2012. Starting her practice thanks to YouTube and attending small anime conventions at the age of 14, Stitch continued to cosplay through undergrad and grad school. Although Stitch found herself trapped in schoolwork during her college years, she was able to find a balance to help her continue the hobby. She found that working in small blocks of time during the week or in larger blocks like weekends or breaks helps one learn time management skills that are transferable to everyday life.  

Stitch told the Ledger that she highly recommends student cosplayers first obtain a reference image of the cosplay they wish to make. Next, break it down into smaller parts to make the costume through actionable steps that are easy to follow through.   

“For example, if you’re sewing a shirt, the task for a single evening might be to cut out the paper patterns so that the next night you can cut out the fabric,” said Stitch. “And if that’s too big of a step, maybe one night will just be going over the pattern instructions to mentally prepare myself for the task.” 

“You can accomplish a surprising amount if you just connect to hobby in little ways instead of telling yourself that you have no time,” Stitch said. “The smaller the better. You can break down any task until it’s doable on a tight schedule.” 

As a cosplayer and librarian, Stitch also encourages UWT students to investigate UWT’s Makerspace, located on the first floor of the Snoqualmie Building. As the Makerspace’s website states, the space has everything a cosplayer needs, like a 3D printer, a sewing machine, knitting gear and even donated fabric.  

UWT student and Makerspace employee Cole Martin tells student cosplayers that all workshop staff are happy to teach you one-on-one how to use the equipment. The Makerspace even has workshops every quarter where staff teach students how to make crafts with specific equipment. Currently there is a sewing class Makerspace will be hosting on February 6 at 12:30 p.m. If you can’t make it to a workshop, don’t fret; Cole and their coworkers are also trained to teach the basics of certain crafts like sewing.  

The Makerspace is open weekdays 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. for all students and the general public, no appointment required. All products like the donated fabric are free to use. If you wish to donate some old fabric or other craft and art products, the Makerspace is happy to take them. This resource is truly a dream come true for cosplayers like me who are too broke at times to buy fabric, or have too much fabric left over and don’t know what to do with it. Most importantly, it’s a place right on campus that has all the materials and equipment a cosplayer needs to create their cosplay free of charge.  

The Makerspace’s sewing machine surrounded by sewing supplies and tools for students to have at hand. Photo by Cameron Berrens.

Fellow PNW cosplayer Ev Key, also known as Yourguidingx on Instagram, also agrees with Stitch on not overloading yourself with cosplay. Graduating from UW in 2019, Ev’s college days were a part of her seven years in cosplay.  

“For me working one or two [cosplays] at a time was most optimal without getting overloaded,” Ev said. “Creating a check list for each cosplay is also fun to check-off as you progress.” 

But what if even breaking down your cosplay into smaller bits and having a check list to help you stay on track doesn’t work, thanks to the workload of your specific major? Never fear, for PNW cosplayer and current college student D, also known as Toastywasteland on Instagram and Toastertopia on Tik Tok, reminds us that cosplaying less frequently doesn’t make anyone less of a cosplayer. 

Before entering college, D was able to cosplay every week, making a new cosplay every month. Now, they are not capable of such tasks thanks to school, work and life. But D has found a way to continue their hobby that fits perfectly in their tight schedule, a method that fits perfectly into fellow college students’ tight budgets. D has been reusing old cosplays and being more mindful in making new cosplays by considering the longevity and comfort of the outfit. In other words, D thinks about sustainability.  

D reminds us that reusing cosplays doesn’t make you less of a cosplayer, it shows how much you love a character and series, along with the great quality of the costume.  

“Some people even become well known for recurring cosplays too!” D said. 

“Keeping sustainability in mind when it comes to cosplays definitely helps in the long run finically,” D said. “For example: if I made an outfit that has some decoration, like a patch, and hot glue onto it, I take away the ability to wash the garment. Yes, it’s easier and faster to hot glue, but if I spill something on it or trip into mud, all the supplies and time sunk into that garment is down the garbage. But if I take a little bit of extra time to sew the patches or make them removable with snaps or Velcro, I can wash and rewear that garment as much as I want!” 

Key added that another way to save money is by visiting local thrift stores. Luckily UWT is surrounded by many thrift stores and second-hand stores, such as Tinkertopia on Pacific Avenue. It is through second-hand stores that Key has found heavily discounted craft supplies and garments that are easily modified, rather than buying a brand-new garment from a major store. This could be considered upcycling, as Professor Kucher’s TEST 332 sustainability lecture discusses.

Similarly, Stitch encourages using knowledge and skills of past classes for cosplay, like art, graphic design, photography and even sustainability hacks, as well as utilizing campus resources such as the Makerspace.     

Good luck with your cosplays, and I hope to see many of you on the convention floor!