Costume parties are great fun, but they are supposed to be cheap. If you do them right, they can be a lot of fun without costing much at all.
A cheap costume can be much more fun than a fancy one, because you don’t have to worry about ruining it. None of the bad stuff happens in the cheap costume. You can just have fun being someone else.
Let’s say a superhero, that is to say an imaginative job that people will pay you to do. You can go to costume parties as a hero or as a villain. It doesn’t matter which, as long as you don’t let the character become an obsession.
You can start with something cheap or even free. If you want to make art, you don’t need expensive materials; if you want to make beauty, you don’t need expensive tools; if you want to explore your body, you don’t need expensive equipment; if you want to explore your mind, there are no expensive drugs or hospitals or experts to consult; and if you want to explore your emotions, it’s better not to aim for the perfection of writing in perfect French.
If I were starting out today, I’d start with a cheap costume. It’s not so much what people would expect me to look like but how they would react. I’ve already seen several people wearing costumes this year that did exactly what they were meant to do. If I wanted any kind of freedom at all, I’d have started by dressing up.
When I first started working in cosplay, I went to a store called Party City. They had all kinds of cheap, flimsy-looking costumes for sale, but nothing that really worked well. People would walk up to me and say, “Do you have a Harley Quinn costume?” And I would say, “Not really.” But now things are different.
The secret is starting with the cheap. If you start with the good stuff, it will be expensive by the time you have to replace it. You have to go for cheap and cheerful. So I bought a cheap Harley Quinn costume at Party City, and then used rubberbands to make the boots work without buckles or zippers or anything else that might break or come apart. I then bought a cheap wig that worked well with the hair already on my head.
Once you own something you can try different things with it. I put velcro around the left arm of the jacket so that if my right arm got tired I could take off one glove and let it rest while still holding onto the other arm. It was not possible before; now it is easy to switch hands without taking off any part of the costume.
Costumes are the same as many other things that are made for children: inexpensive, easily made, and subject to frequent change. Kids like to play dress-up, and adults like to pretend to be kids: who wouldn’t like to get dressed up and go out?
If you start with a simple costume, perhaps a sheet with a head hole cut out and some hands sewn on, you can make it last year’s costume without spending much money.
That’s good because the main purpose of the party is not to dress up; it is to enjoy dressing up. And since you don’t have much money anyway, why spend more than you need?
But there is one thing you should spend money on: makeup. If your makeup is too heavy you will look like a corpse; if it’s too light you won’t look like anyone: people will still know it’s you but they won’t know who. You want your face and your costume and your body so similar that no one will notice which is which.
Costume design, for example, is one of those rare art forms that doesn’t depend on being good. It depends only on being better than the competition.
That means you can spend literally next to nothing on a costume idea and still have a good chance of becoming famous. It’s not the best way to become famous, but it works.
In our example I am going to be Harley Quinn. That’s a female supervillain from the Batman comics, so it’s sure to be well known. But I have no real skills for this kind of work. I have no special training, no special talents economically valuable in this kind of work. If I want to make a lot of money I will have to start out as a cheap costume and work up from there.
Consider harley quinn. If you have no money at all, you can buy a pink puffy shirt over a black bathing suit, glue some black foam rubber around your hips and breasts, glue some black foam rubber around your neck so it looks like you have a giant collarbone sprouting out of your neck, paint some goggles on your face, put some brown hair spray where you normally have hair, fill your hands with fake claws, then hold them up against the ceiling and say “Hi!” And if someone recognizes you from TV or films or comics or whatever it’s unlikely they will be shocked by your appearance.
The Harley Quinn costume is pretty simple: a black wig, a skintight red and green and blue bodysuit (made of spandex), and a pair of red high heels. But there’s nothing to make it look like anything special.
How do you make it look like something special? You start with the simplest parts, the wig and the shoes. The wig is just a big sheet of black plastic that fits your head (it looks like a cap). The shoes are just regular high heels with the tops cut off.
If you’re going to use this costume as your Halloween costume, you don’t have to spend much money on it at all.
If you’re going to wear it for fun, say for Halloween or Comic-Con, then you can spend more money on it. This doesn’t have to be too much more money; just enough so that no one would think they were seeing less than 100 percent of the costume.