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Closet Cosplay Is the Cheap Way to Go to a Con As Your Favorite Character

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.

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Find a Costume Made Entirely Out of Clothes

Graphic: Eric Ravenscraft

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.

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Go For a Themed Wardrobe

Graphic: Eric Ravenscraft

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.

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Use Printed Clothes For a Comfortable Look

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.

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Complete the Look With a Prop

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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.

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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.


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About the author

Eric Ravenscraft

Freelance writer for The Inventory.