Geek conventions are filled to the brim with impressive, overwhelming cosplay. And you’re wearing a t-shirt and a hoodie. If you buy the right pieces, and put in a little effort, that can be a costume, too.
The concept of making a costume out of pieces you already own—or inexpensive pieces you can buy quickly—is called “closet cosplay.” It caught on in no small part because, well, making screen-accurate costumes is difficult and expensive. There are a number of angles you can take to pull off a good closet cosplay, and all of them can make you stand out in a crowd.
Case Study: Dr. Algernop Krieger
If you want to wear something that looks just like a character, but don’t want to build some crazy armor, split the difference on a character that...just wears normal clothes. My first cosplay was Dr. Krieger from Archer. Conveniently, his costume consists of a yellow dress shirt, brown pants, a brown tie, and a lab coat. Even if (like me) you didn’t have some pieces for this costume at home, the entire ensemble costs around $75 and you could still wear most of it to a job interview later. Just maybe leave the lab coat at home.
Case Study: Hulk
Someone out there has a dead-on, screen-accurate Hulk costume, complete with his awesome armor from Thor: Ragnarok. Maybe that’s a little outside your price range. If you want something a little more low-key, you can put together an inexpensive outfit that fits the style, if not necessarily the look. A pair of purple pants and a green long-sleeve shirt makes for a simple Hulk look for under $40. If you want your costume to smash a little harder, you could always throw in a pair of Hulk Hands.
Case Study: Captain Marvel
Sometimes, merchandise companies do most of your work for you. Making a full head-to-toe Captain Marvel costume might be hard to put together, but a printed hoodie and pair of leggings gives you the overall look for less than $50.
Case Study: Katniss Everdeen
Wear a leather jacket, a black shirt, and some brown pants to a con and you’ll look pretty badass, but not like anyone in particular. Carry a bow around, on the other hand, and suddenly you’re Katniss Everdeen. Or Hawkeye. Or Kate Bishop. Or Green Arrow. Or a lot of characters, really. A $35 bow (plus around $80 if you’re buying the rest of the outfit new) can turn your normal clothes into an inexpensive cosplay.
These are all examples, but the principles can apply to any number of costumes. Take a look at what you already have, find a few pieces you can use to complete the look, and you could have a last-minute cosplay ready in no time.