Amber Love 07-JUNE-2012 As someone who has been creating her own costumes since 2006, I’m hypercritical of my own creations. I find flaws everywhere in my own work. Yet, when I see people in the Rubies brand or whathaveyou, mass produced superstore costumes, I am still far more proud of my homemade costumes with mistakes than cheap versions made in Taiwan’s sweatshops. Making this comparison is not meant to be elitist. Let’s just put that out there right away. People in cosplay put in a ton of hours learning a craft and making costumes.

Not all storebought costumes are terrible, but most are. I’ve actually been pretty impressed by certain versions of Catwoman, Batman and Darth Vader. The June issue of PREVIEWS catalog has the ordering information for customers and retailers who want Marvel’s AVENGERS costumes. Because it’s hot and buzzworthy, yes, I’m using Avengers as my focus although I have been speechless at the sight of amazing Warcraft and Dawn costumes.


In the solicitation four of the main characters have a “deluxe” version ($56-63), four have “muscle” versions ($74-82), and four have “theatrical” versions ($155-315). The reason it’s important to me to let you know the prices is because I get asked for quotes often and rarely hear back. If you are willing to pay $315 for a costume out of a plastic package, you should understand very clearly that in the home crafting world that amount might cover just your props. The PREVIEWS descriptions don’t even specify which accessories are included but the models are shown in wigs, boots, and tactical gear.


Take the BLACK WIDOW examples above: the first two in the collage are in the PREVIEWS catalog. The “theatrical” version retails for $155 and the second one, “deluxe” retails for a mere $56. Costume designer and cosplayer Tally shown in the last of the collage images, designed her pattern and made everything except the guns and boots. The boots shown here at Wonder Con were from Hot Topic which she modified but later replaced with custom made ones. Tally has received a lot of acclaim for her Black Widow and took First Place at a contest. Her investment, not including the boots, was $350 so the packaged “theatrical” version at $155 perfectly illustrates the difference.


When it comes to LOKI, brother of Thor and god of chaos, it seems women can get enough of him. In the comics, Loki even had some time being a seductive woman too hot for mere mortal words. Since the THOR movie, Loki has had a costume update in AVENGERS. Each version of him is just as fine and desirable as the next. Costumer Toby aka SithCamaro, has been involved in the costume and comics community for years. He made his entire Loki outfit including the difficult armor, headpiece and staff.


Just like his onscreen counterpart, Toby updated his wardrobe for Wizard World Philly and took home First Prize in the contest. Usually he doesn’t even enter them (which gives the rest of the attendees some kind of chance) so it was a rare event that he took stage. Sans headpiece, Toby is the spitting image of Tom Hiddleston. *Take a moment to breathe deeply then resume reading. Go on. The pics can be enlarged.”

You can see the “deluxe” Loki costume in the image showing the PREVIEWS pages at the top. Loki is on the right side page, bottom left corner. It retails for $59 for an XL and $63 for XXL. It’s not bad for a Halloween party but I wouldn’t recommend entering a costume contest with a store bought costume like this. It’ll be popular and everyone will know you didn’t make one stitch of it.

Which brings me to a controversy (of course, this is me). There are cosplayers out there who do not make their own costumes which in itself is completely fine. If you have the money to get custom commissions that’s great for you. The problem comes when those people won’t directly answer the question, “Who made your costume?” I think a con floor could be a fun fashion experience like the red carpet. “Who are you wearing?” could be answered with: A Brian Parsley, 4th Wall Designs, Dale Morton Studios, etc. Instead there are people that evade the question completely. If you bought your Catwoman from Walmart just say so! I feel that when it comes to costume contests there should be different competitions for people that make 80% of what they’re wearing.

Typically in my etsy shop’s selection of costumes, you’ll only see the listings for the suit or dress, no props or accessories unless noted. That’s because when it comes to my own costumes, I sacrifice accuracy for practicality. If I can own one pair of boots and use them for two or more characters, I will; it won’t bother me that they don’t have the flaps or zippers or strappy things for accents. I also don’t believe in buying someone else shoes then shipping them. That’s just weird and unnecessary. I’ve had someone ship boots to me that he knew fit him and I made modifications and mailed back. I also believe I suck at props. I did pretty well with my Harley Quinn stuff but it was stored in my trunk due to lack of storage anywhere else and everything was ruined.

You have about a month until San Diego and just around 80 days until Dragon*Con so if you haven’t started your designs yet, you’ll be caught wearing last year’s costume or worse.


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2 Comments on Comparing Store Bought Costumes and Independently Crafted

  1. This is a nice blog entry and I think you’re spot on – with most of it, until the end.

    Here’s my problem with the 80% rule – it is simply not possible on some costumes. Take a Star Wars costume like a Clonetrooper. If someone purchases armor and then trims it, paints it and assembles it does that count as making you own costume or not? Very few people actually sculpt molds and vac-u-form their own armor. You order the armor from one place, the helmet from another, then you source things like weapons, knees, shoes, greeblies, and attachments from other makers. All of these parts require assembly and painting to various degrees.

    It is simply not possible to meet the 80% rule under these conditions. How many 501st Darth Vaders do you think molded their own ABS pieces? Made their own helmets? What about Batman? If someone didn’t sculpt their own molds for the urethane pieces but assembled the costume by attaching them to the undersuit – they would not meet the 80% rule.

    The advancement of the costuming hobby has been significant in the last decade. Look at where the hobby was ten years ago vs. today. Many very talented craftsmen (and women) have shown us that we CAN look like we walked right off a movie set. But as the technology and the techniques grow more advanced and more complicated, it becomes increasingly difficult, nigh impossible, for one person to be able to create 80% or more of many costumes. Why should they be excluded from consideration for costume contests? How could you possibly enforce or manage such a thing?

    If someone asks a clonetrooper where he got his costume, answering fully is a five minute operation. It’s sometimes easier to just say “I assembled it from parts acquired from several makers.” It’s not an attempt to deceive, just an attempt to get on to the food court quicker. Or to the masquerade.

    • A) It was merely a suggestion.
      B) I’ve seen 14 years make anime costumes or Warcraft costumes out of cardboard and foam so yes it can be done.

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