I’ve been a cosplayer and cosplaying since 2005. I remember my first time very well. I wore this terrible Itachi Uchiha outfit from Naruto. It was a mess, but I had such a fun time! The year prior my mother had taken me to my first convention after reading about it in our local newspaper. It was something I had never known about. I had always loved dressing up for Halloween, and here I discovered a whole new world of people, people who liked what I liked and wore beautiful costumes. I wanted to be like them. I wanted to be a part of that world.
I have never been good at sewing. I took a class and just found it rather difficult. I could make small things, and simple outfits, but I always wanted to wear beautiful and grand costumes. So I considered looking elsewhere for my costumes and looked into hiring a seamstress.
So there I was in 2014, I had been cosplaying for nearly 10 years, the whole time I had only made a few outfits myself. There had always been talk in the community about how you weren’t a ‘real’ cosplayer if you didn’t make everything yourself. That was part of the hobby and that was what a cosplayer was. There had been a trend of accusing cosplayers of not making their own outfits, or shaming those who did admit they had someone make their outfit.
I felt bad I didn’t have the skills to make the beautiful outfits I wanted to cosplay, I let those things get me down, but this had been something I had loved for a very long time and I wasn’t going to give it up because I couldn’t make ornate costumes all myself.
In 2014 I met my now good friend Tia, a very talented seamstress and owner of Serenity Costumes. She was accepting commissions and I had gotten a good look at her portfolio. I was impressed and after talking we decided to work together to create my costumes. That was the beginning of something wonderful. Tia is a very talented seamstress and artist, and has made some of my cosplay dreams come true.
Now, perhaps in this point of the article you are wondering how you too can find a seamstress to work with, or what to expect when working with one. Well you are in luck because that is something I can help out with! Here are some tips I have found useful for commissioning cosplays and finding the right seamstress for you.
1. Look at Portfolios and reviews for potential seamstresses. It is important to make sure the person you are working with is professional and has the skills they say they do. Talk to other people who have worked with them, ask questions, and look at their work. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and do your research. You are potentially about to make a major investment, it is always a good idea to be sure before jumping into something.
2. Have good reference pictures for your seamstress. Your seamstress might not be familiar with the character you want to do. Make sure to have good pictures from as many angles as you can.
COMMUNICATE!! Communication is key! Talk to your seamstress about exactly what you want what materials you want to use, and make sure you meet for proper fittings. This is important, avoid being vague, be as detailed as possible about what you want.
3. Don’t be blown away by the price. It is true, seamstresses will charge more then ebay sellers or online cosplay sites, but you are getting a quality, well fitted garment. Take for example some of my cosplays. My first cosplay, besides Itachi, was Roy Mustang from Full Metal Alchemist. I purchased it from a cosplay site and noticed right away the fit wasn’t perfect and pieces would fall off. Now, an outfit like Melisandre that Tia made is different. Well constructed, made with quality materials, and fits me like a glove.
4. Support a small business. A lot of seamstresses are their own small business and artists who live off their craft. I personally always like supporting artists and helping be able to keep creativity alive. It feels more like working with members of our community rather than just buying a costume from a faceless cosplay site.
5. Credit!!! It is so important and a problem that has been happening recently in the community. If you work with a seamstress, make sure you give them the proper credit. That includes not entering masquerades with a commissioned outfit, or posting a photo without crediting who made the garment. It’s very important; make sure their work is recognized.
6. Don’t stop learning for yourself! It is more than commission cosplays, but I highly encourage people to keep learning. See if you can make small pieces for your costumes while your seamstress makes the bulk of it or the harder part. Don’t stop learning and experimenting with pieces of your costume.
And last but not least,
7. Don’t be ashamed. This is so important! You are not any less of a cosplayer because you don’t make your outfit! Cosplaying is, first and foremost, having fun dressing up as your favorite character.
These are just some personal stories and tip I have had when it comes to working with seamstresses and commissioners. Do your research, and have fun! Happy cosplaying!