Creating a Fantasy Costume
Welcome to October! It’s the month of autumnal weather, cozy warm drinks, and one of our favourite holidays—Halloween! This means many of you join the players of Sorry Not Sorry in costume mode! Of course, you can buy a costume that’s ready made, but what if you want to build a costume from scratch? Whether it’s for a renfaire, cosplay, or a Halloween costume, we’ve compiled a list of tips for putting together a fantasy inspired costume!
Why Build, Not Buy?
Don’t get us wrong—there are some gorgeous costumes out there. You can buy cool costumes off the rack, and absolutely gorgeous custom-made costumes. If it’s in your budget to get a fancy bespoke costume, we encourage you to find a local artist who takes commissions and live out your costume dreams!
However, there are loads of reasons to try making your own costume:
You can keep it affordable. You can often pull costume pieces from your very own closet (more on that below).
You can customize it! You can add details and special touches that no one else’s costume will have.
To Learn new skills. Learning costuming techniques can be a fun and rewarding experience. Embroidery, foam crafting, makeup artistry, wig styling, and sewing are all things SNS players have taken up after discovering they love it while building a costume.
Most importantly – it’s fun! Who knows? Maybe you’ll find a new hobby!
Let’s dive into some costume creation pointers.
Find Your References
Consider the type of costume you want to wear. Are you bringing one of your Dungeons & Dragons player characters to life? Do you want to dress as an established character from your favourite video game, book, or movie?
Start by finding reference images. This can be done physically (elementary-school, cut-up-a-magazine style), or online (through a pinterest board or something similar). When creating original character costumes, it helps to start with aesthetic images, colour palettes, and inspiring ideas. Trying to dress as an established character? Try finding as many shots of their costumes from different angles as possible. This way you can see plenty of details will help you build an accurate costume.
Now that you’ve done your basic research and know what sort of look you're going for, it’s time to get that base costume together.
Shop Your Closet (Or Local Secondhand Store)
You might be surprised how many costume pieces are lying in wait in your own closet. Leggings, a long sleeve shirt or dress, and a pair of leather boots have made a solid base for many a fantasy-inspired character. Try layering multiple items together, or using pieces in ways they weren’t necessarily intended. This can create a fun fantasy effect.
Searching through a thrift store can also provide you with affordable gems that you may not already own, or offers you the option to buy something you’re willing to try altering permanently.
You don’t have to stop at your own closet, either—and NO, we’re not recommending stealing from your housemates. Organise a clothing swap with some friends so clothing you no longer wear can be repurposed or donated.
Once you’ve gotten together a nice base for your costume, it’s time to get into those details!
Focus on Accessories
When it comes to fantasy costumes, accessories make a huge difference. Gloves, belts, bags, and jewellery can level up a costume quickly. This may also be the place to spend a bit of coin on those things you might not have on hand at home. A nice looking wig, a pair of silicone elf ears, horns, or a corset tip an outfit into the realm of fantasy. Specialty stores like Edmonton’s Theatre Garage often have these on hand year round.
We at Sorry Not Sorry are also big fans of foam weaponry. To quote Cole B, from our drag king advice podcast, All the King’s Men: “Buy. A. Sword.”
Customize Your Creation
This section may be the craftiest we’re going to get, but fear not! You don’t have to be a seasoned sewist to make some material magic.
Some customization materials that might come in handy include:
Scissors. Take these babies to the centre of a long sweater and chop off those arms and voila – you’ve got a vest.
String, twine, or ribbon. You can use these to add lacing to a shirt, trim to a pair of boots, or as simple accessories.
Paint. Soles of your shoes need a colour swap? Purse wants a pattern? Paint em. We’ve even used acrylic paint diluted water as a fast clothing dye, in a pinch.
Glue or Tape. Oh duct tape! Did you know you are very strong?
Safety Pins. Sometimes, something just needs to get attached in a pinch. (The player writing this would like to formally apologize to the improvisors who stabbed their fingers backstage at this year’s Fringe festival while helping her with costumes.)
Remember! There’s no shame in the hot glue game.
Make-Up Makes the Mug
You don’t have to go full body paint to have an impact (though we do recommend trying it out once, even if just to empathise with our company members who have played primary hue painted characters on stage). Dabbing on mascara stubble, lip liner scars, eyeshadow powder bruises, eyeliner tattoos, or even a bold shade of lipstick can punch up your look.
One of the best tips we can give? Try out any new or different makeup techniques before your costume’s debut. Give the look a go before washing your face at the end of the night for some low-stakes practice. It’s not worth adding the stress of trying something brand new the day of the event.
Have Fun & Share Your Look
The single most important tip we can give you is to have a good time. Building a costume and getting decked out in it with your friends is fun! Let loose and enjoy wearing the masterpiece you’ve created!
If this was useful to you, please tag us in a photo of the costume you put together. Or, better yet, come to one of our shows in your costume! We love to see audience members getting into the vibe. Good luck, costume adventurers, and Happy Halloween!