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The Phases of Cosplay 3: Acquire

J. Tanooki as Gogo Tomago
This next phase is where the cosplay finally starts to become a reality.

Now you’re starting to invest real dollars into your project, and the budget you’ve laid out for yourself will be crucial to keeping you on track and not going overboard. Depending on the supplies you need for your particular cosplay, there are plenty of places to look to in order to start building your hoard of supplies. And yes, your piles of supplies and the space in which you need to build some components will start to take up a large amount of valuable real estate in your home. Try to keep it organized and, if you can, restrict it to an area you don’t plan to use or be seen for a while. It will look like a small tornado touched down inside your home and localized itself exclusively in your workspace.

But, I’m getting ahead of myself here. Let’s get back to some places you can start your hunt for your supplies without breaking the bank.

Hardware and Automotive Stores
These types of stores generally offer some of the best retail prices within the city for some of the supplies used for building armor and props. You can find wood, PVC piping, foam floor tiles, also known as EVA foam, and almost everything you might need to build and do finishing treatments like adhesives, silicones, sand paper, body filler, spray paint. You can also get metal components as well, but if you plan to bring your props or armor to a convention, be sure to review their guidelines on materials. A lot of conventions will only allow foam, plastic, or wood with some size restrictions.

Arts and Crafts Stores
I use these terms loosely as they can encompass art supplies, crafting supplies, fabric, and jewelry making. When it comes to fabric, I personally like to shop around at all the fabric stores in my city to compare stock and prices. Only if I can’t find what I’m looking for do I start to source elsewhere and I try to get swatches whenever I can. Fabric stores can also be a source for upholstery foam which is stiff, but soft and squishy. Upholstery foam can be great for prop making as well as any parts of your cosplay that need to look thicker while still being very flexible. You may also be lucky and have a local arts supply store, like I do, that carries thermoplastic sheeting like Wonderflex and Worbla. These materials have become synonymous with cosplay and is widely used for armor and prop building, to jewelry and detail work, to masks and custom shoe redesigning. It’s a relatively easy material to use and finish with a variety of different textures making the possibilities nearly endless.

Second Hand Stores and Local Classifieds
Take advantage of the various resources where people are getting rid of their extra clutter. This can be valuable for finding clothing you can use as a base to add on to or redesign, plus an inexpensive source for belts, bags, sporting equipment and shoes.These can also be great options if you’re hoping to find leather or fur. You may even get lucky and find some power tools which come in very handy for prop and armor building. Really get creative, think outside the box, like the helmet I got for my Gogo Tomago cosplay.

J. Tanooki as Gogo Tomago

Traditional Retail and Specialty Stores
Having some trouble finding exactly what you’re looking for? You can always hit the mall for the perfect shoe style to work with your cosplay or look into specialty stores for different kinds of materials or items, like a certain thickness of leather or foam. This can also include theatrical stores if you require body paint or prosthetics.

The internet, by far, offered the widest variety of supply sources and usually at a better price than retail. You can not only buy the items you need online, but you can also network with local and non-local cosplay makers willing to take on commissions for any or all of your cosplay. You can also find those hard-to-find items on your list. But my best advice is to always look at reviews for the supplier online, order samples or swatches whenever you can to be sure it’s exactly what you want, shop around for the best price, and overestimate the approximate shipping time.

Let me know in the comments if there’s other sources for supplies you think are important to know about. Have you ever had any trouble trying to find something you needed for a cosplay project?

Next week comes Phase 4: Basic Construction.

J. Tanooki is a Contributor for She has been a lover of cosplay for over 10 years and regularly works on new and exciting cosplay projects. She actively posts about her cosplay plans, progress, and random shenanigans on her Facebook page, Twitter, and Instagram. Her opinion is her own. 

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