[Guest Article] Cosplay Commissioning 101

Topic started by Guest_Author on March 10, 2010. Last post by GodLen 4 years, 8 months ago.
Post by Guest_Author (0 posts) See mini bio Level 7
Staff
Anime Vice mod supreme Lan contributed this awesome article about commissioning your own cosplay-- something I've done, as those of you who've been hanging around for a while, but not extensively! I bet most of you are like me and can't sew worth a damn, but you may still be interested in putting together your own costume-- here's how to do it!  Thanks Lan! - g 
 
  Guest posts are intended to encourage diversity of thought; the opinions represented within are not necessarily those of Anime Vice or its staff. 

Cosplay Commissioning 101

Many of us love to cosplay, but it often seems our favorite characters wear outfits requiring sewing/special skills beyond our knowledge. Commissioning offers cosplayers who have limited skills and/or time needed to sew or build a costume the opportunity to dress up as one of their favorite characters. Commissioners are often cosplayers themselves and familiar with the unusual costume styles found in anime/manga. By commissioning a cosplay, you will be able to get a quality and accurate cosplay. However, commissioning a cosplay comes with higher stakes than creating a cosplay yourself. Usually, you are paying a large sum of money to someone you do not know to make the costume of your dreams. Many cosplayers are taken advantage of because they lack knowledge. There’s plenty advice on cosplay.com’s forums. Nevertheless, you can easily become overwhelmed and scared by all the horror stories. It’s my intent to provide a detailed, comprehensive guide for fellow AnimeVice cosplayers, so you all can feel confident about commissioning a cosplay.
 

Budget

The first and most important thing about commissioning is setting a budget. Know exactly how much you are willing and can afford to pay; from what I’ve seen, a good cosplay generally costs around $150-200. Keep in mind you are paying for materials and labor. Be reasonable, think about the complexity of the costume; a Card Captor Sakura cosplay is not going to cost the same as a Naruto cosplay. You’re not going to get an awesome Gundam suit for under $100. 
 
You should thoroughly research your costume. Start by breaking it down into parts: boots, shirt, coat, hat, dress, cloak, etc. Next note all the details: crests, belts, corset backing, colors, length, etc. Consider unseen pieces like corsets, hoopskirts, and petticoats. These are needed to help create a proper shape for the costume and can add to the cost. However, they are basic pieces you can reuse for other cosplays. Think about what the fabrics and materials make up your costume. Consider your character’s status and the location he/she is wearing the outfit you’ve chosen; also, consider your budget. Look at other cosplays and ask the cosplayers questions about the materials; cosplay panels and cosplay.com’s forums are great sources of information. I recommend doing a search of the latter because there is a vast number of topics and posts. By asking questions, you can learn about the variety of cosplay materials and their costs.  

Let’s take for example an Utena Rose Bride dress. This dress is very formal looking, and the fabric that first comes to mind is satin.  
There are different types of satin such
as: duchess, baroque, casa, and matte. Casa and matte are best for cosplays--they’re easiest to work with and are not excessively shiny. Check the prices at your local fabric store--casa satin costs $7.99/yard at Jo-Ann’s Fabric Store. Cotton sateen is a less expensive option--costing $5.99/yard at Jo-Ann’s. Cotton Sateen has the sheen of satin and is very durable. Baroque satin is $4.99/yard, but terrible to work with. It has that awful 80s prom dress shininess and is prone to fraying. Purchasing expensive fabric is not required to have a great cosplay; note this does not mean, you should purchase the cheapest fabric available. Always discuss your options with your commissioner. 

Most commissioners have a set rate of about $8-10/hour. Feel free to ask for quotes from different commissioners; asking for a quote does not mean you have to commit to buying. Do some estimation: for example, you want a regular Sailor Moon cosplay. If materials are $50, the seamstress charges $8/hour, and the costume takes 20 hours to make, that’s $210. Then you have shipping to take into account. Always purchase insurance and tracking when having your costume shipped. 

Warning:

Do not under any circumstances, choose a commissioner from China or Hong Kong off Ebay! It’s very tempting because the prices are so cheap, but these are nine times out of ten scams many people have fallen for. It does not matter how high the ratings are. This also applies to tons of cheap, generic cosplay shops found on the internet. The quality of costumes is poor, there’s little to no communication, shipping is slow/delayed--not to mention overpriced, the costumes don’t look like the pictures--in some cases, these people steal the pictures belonging to professional cosplay commissioners. In the rare case a costume does arrive in time and in decent shape, there will be a notable lack in details. You get what you pay for. You cannot expect a Rozen Maiden or Al from Full Metal Alchemist costume for $30-50.

Contact

The easiest place to find a commissioner is cosplay.com’s marketplace. There are many cosplay professionals advertising their services. Try to find a commissioner who lives in your area, so you can meet him/her, have in-person fittings, and confront him/her in case problems arise. Look through a commissioner’s cosplay portfolio. Check how long he/she has been cosplaying and working on commissions. See if a commissioner specializes in anything like leather work, armor making, corsets, poofy princess dresses. Look in the commissioner reviewthread in the cosplay.com forum; the reviews are very detailed and usually include photos. There’s also a list of sellers not to buy from. 

Always ask for references. Ask for the name, email, and/or phone number of at least two people who can account for the commissioner’s skill and business practices. No professional will refuse to provide you with references. When talking to the references, ask plenty of detailed questions. What costume was made? How long did it take to create? What was the quality like? What materials were used? How was communication? Did the commissioner send you updates with photos on a regular basis? If you made changes or suggestions to the original design, did the commissioner take them into account? Do you think the final product justified the cost? Would you recommend this commissioner 100%? Use good judgement; if something strikes you as off or suspicious about the references, don’t commission the person. Again, make use of cosplay.com’s commissioner review thread. 

Contract

Once you have chosen your commissioner, you should first obtain all contact information including: full name, phone number, and mailing address.

 You should check to see if the phone number is working and address is current. Next you must draw up some form of a contract. I found a formal contract posted on cosplay.com for public use (certain details and names need); you can print this off sign it, mail it to the commissioner, and ask them to mail it back with their signature. Another option is to write down everything in email, state all the necessary information (costume, materials, deadline, costs, payment schedule, update/photo schedule, compensation for delays or rush) and make clear that the email is a contract to be agreed upon. Use reason when deciding the cost and deadline. Make sure you provide the commissioner with a fair amount of time to create your costume, or be willing to compensate him/her for rush work. Once more, think about what your costume looks like; a Bleach squad captain uniform will take less time than a sailor fuku. Set your deadlines at least a month before you plan to wear the costume. This way you can receive the costume, try it on, and send it back in case of any problems. You should not have to pay extra for any problems with the costume.  

Be specific about the look you want. Costume makers are not psychic, and cosplay designs are subject to personal interpretation. It’s your costume; you and the commissioner are partners in its creation. Certain characters look differently in manga, anime, movie, OVA, live action, stage production and games. Think of Cloud Strife--there are three different versions: Final Fantasy VII, Kingdom Hearts, and Advent Children. These differences will affect the type of materials and the amounts used. Also consider how the costume will look in real life. An anime character may wear a mini-skirt barely covering her lady parts, but are you comfortable with exposing that much of your body in public. On this note, be honest about your measurements. Furthermore, consider fastenings: velcro, snap buttons, zippers. Look at images of your costume taken from the manga or anime. Artbooks contain some of the best quality images, and I highly recommend purchasing/using them. Examine photos of cosplayers with the same costume; look to see what details you like and don’t like. Make sure to send plenty of images to the commissioner from different views (front, back, side, close up). 

The commissioner will always ask for half the payment up front. This provides for the cost of materials and part of the labor; most commissioners will let you pay in installments. Do not finish paying until you have seen photos of the entire costume completed. Furthermore, if you commission a rush order, expect to pay more. There are different payment methods. In my opinion PayPal is the best and safest option. Make sure your commissioner confirms he/she has received your first payment. If you receive no contact from your commissioner after making your down payment, contact them by email and phone. If your commissioner disappears or makes a lame excuse, cancel the order and contact PayPal about getting your money back.  

Your commissioner should maintain contact with you throughout the process. Record and save all correspondence.
  Considering how long the costume takes to make and how busy the commissioner is, updates may vary from biweekly to monthly. Your commissioner should inform you upfront if there is any time when he/she will not be available for contact (i.e. vacation, moving, at a con). Don’t email your commissioner every day asking if your costume is finished. This does nothing to speed up the process and only serves to irritate the commissioner. However, there are key moments when your commissioner should contact you: when the materials are purchased, patterns are drawn, fabric is cut, fabric is draped, costume is half finished, costume is finished, and costume is shipped. If you are not receiving regular progress updates or communication, you need to contact your commissioner. Remind him/her of the contract which states when updates and photos are expected. If your commissioner remains unwilling to provide you with important updates, continually makes excuses, or does not reply to you within a reasonable amount of time you should likely cancel the commission. 

Once your cosplay is completed, promptly pay the remaining balance. A large reason people do not receive their cosplays on time is because they do not make their payments on time. Make sure your commissioner gets insurance and tracking. He/she should provide you with a tracking number, if not, ask for it. When you receive your cosplay try it on to make sure it fits. If there are any issues, photo them, email the photos and politely explain the problem. Your commissioner should be more than willing to fix any errors free of charge. 
 

Etiquette & Final Notes

When everything is in order, put on your cosplay and strike a pose! Send a photo to your commissioner and thank him/her for his/her excellent work. Most of all, plug for your commissioner! Let all your friends know, write a positive review of him/her on cosplay.com, and if someone asks for a recommendation give the person your commissioner’s name and email. 

Don’t pass the costume off as your own by entering a Cosplay Craftsmanship contest. Many commissioners have rules about entering their costumes in competitions. I suggest asking your commissioner if you can enter in a skit contest or fashion show. Check the masquerade competition rules of your con as well. 

Have fun! Enjoy your awesome costume and don’t forget to pose for the cameras! There is nothing wrong with wearing a commissioned cosplay. It saves you time and stress. The majority of the people are not going to know much less care. All they’re interested in is taking your photo.  
 
“So don’t just stand there, let’s get to it. Strike a pose there’s nothing to it!” 

Post by HSaabedra (136 posts) See mini bio Level 4
Great job on this article, Lan. I'm looking to start cosplaying myself in the near future after a suggestion from a friend and this is the perfect reference on how to go about things.
Post by N15PCA (611 posts) See mini bio Level 13

Anyways can the Guess Article person tell me how to get the cosplayer on the right in the last picture in this article. ;)  Just kidding.  I think. :)
Post by HeeroYuy (1,210 posts) See mini bio Level 12
Speaking from experience, the cost of materials alone for a good Gundam costume will run you at least $200, probably closer to $300 if you're serious.
Post by GodLen (877 posts) See mini bio Level 10
Staff
This is the only way i'm going to cosplay, if someone else makes me the outfit. 
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