Cosplaying is a pastime for millions of geeks, but there’s a big difference between an award-winning costume and something you threw together last-minute. If you’ve spent time trying to improve your appearance, rendering your cosplay to be more franchise-accurate or just upping the aesthetic appeal, you may have encountered a plateau—a point where you aren’t sure what you could be doing differently to improve your overall image.
If you find yourself in this position, or if you’re just looking for a way to steal the show at your next convention, there are a handful of strategies you can use to take your cosplay to the next level.
Get a Custom Fit
Everything looks better when it’s custom fitted to your body. Choosing a size that’s somewhere near your actual proportions is suitable for most everyday environments, but if you want to look exceptional at a convention, you need to tailor your clothes and accessories to fit you perfectly. For example, you could choose a selection of clothing from thrift stores and take them to a tailor to have them perfectly fitted to your frame, or you could order custom gold grillz that fit the unique arrangement of your teeth.
This can be challenging if you’re working with a tight budget, but you can always learn how to tailor your own apparel. And if you’re making complex accessories from scratch anyway, like pieces of armor or weapons, it should only take a small amount of additional effort to make sure it appropriately fits your body type.
Look for Little Details Others Might Miss
Most characters have a handful of prominent identifying features, but there are usually subtler accents that other people might miss. For example, you might instantly recognize an anime character based on their hair, clothes, and signature accessory (like a watch), but do people usually notice that they also have a birthmark on their left knee? Or that they keep long fingernails? These little details can pass beneath your notice if you’re just trying to get recognized, but they can take any cosplay to another level.
Adjust Your Posture and Gait
If you’re trying to truly embody the spirit of the character, you can enhance your cosplay by mimicking the posture and gait of your intended character. For example, does this character usually carry themselves with a slight slouch, or do they stand tall with their chest out and their shoulders back? Do they walk delicately, with a kind of grace, or do they aggressively stomp around? Most people simply put on the costume and consider their work done, but these extra physical touches can make a big difference in how people receive you.
If you’re cosplaying a character who wears lots of makeup, makeup is a no-brainer. But it might be a good idea to wear makeup no matter what kind of character you’re cosplaying. With the right touches, you can accentuate key features of your face to replicate the look or personality of the character. For example, you might use extra shading to exaggerate your cheekbones or make your jawline more prominent, or you might blend your features to give yourself a rounder, softer feel. You could also take the art to the extreme, and attempt to completely reshape the look of your face.
Pay Attention to Textures
Most cosplayers pay attention to common details of their chosen look; they prioritize the shape, fit, and color of their apparel. But you can greatly improve the realistic nature of your costume by also acknowledging and adjusting your textures. For example, instead of simply wearing shiny metallic armor, you can add a more unpolished look to it by weathering it. Instead of choosing polyester for your cape, you could choose something with a different look and feel, like cotton. Small bits of extra texture, like feathers, could also go a long way.
Iron and Perfect Your Clothes
Before attending the convention or gathering, give your entire outfit a once-over, correcting any flaws you encounter and adding a final polish. For example, you could iron any pieces of clothing you have to remove any wrinkles, or use a lint roller to get rid of any additional lint (or fur, if you have pets that shed). If you have shiny metallic pieces, you can give them an extra polish, and try everything on to make sure it fits the way you intend. Give yourself plenty of time, so you aren’t rushed.
These tactics aren’t especially expensive or complicated, but they do require commitment. Not every cosplay has to be groundbreaking or perfectly accurate, but if you consider this an art, and you want to take it seriously, dedication is an absolute must.