What to Wear at Your First Comic Con: The Ultimate Cosplay Guide

Every year, upwards of 130,000 people attend the original San Diego Comic-Con. And with many more comic cons happening across the country, chances are good there’s a con near you this year.

Want to join the masses and experience a comic con for yourself? These unique events bring together everything you love about comic books, as well as many other elements of pop culture. You’ll find great merch, new artists, comics of all sorts, and so much more at a con.

For many people, one of the best parts of comic con is the costumes. Some first-timers might choose just to observe. The more daring ones, though, dress up as their favorite characters. And if you want to go in costume, you should probably have a cosplay guide to help you out.

Cosplay is a great way to get the full comic con experience. However, it can be hard to know where to start with making your costume. We’ve put together this cosplay guide just for you — read on to learn how to dress up for your first con!

What Does Cosplay Stand For?

First, if you’re brand new to comic book conventions, you might not even know what cosplay is. No worries — we can help.

Cosplay stands for “costume play.” What cosplay specifically means, though, is dressing up as a favorite character from a comic book, T.V. show, or other media source.

With cosplay, the goal is often to get as close to looking like the character as you can. Some people spend hundreds or thousands on their costumes. However, you can also make an impressive costume with inexpensive materials and some creativity — more on that below.

Cosplay Ideas for Beginners

Once you’ve decided to do cosplay for a comic con, you face a difficult question: what or who should you dress up as?

Let’s take a look at some source material for great, comic-con-friendly costumes.

Superhero and Indie Comic Costumes

Comic books offer the most obvious fodder for cosplay ideas. After all, you are going to a comic con.

However, even within comic books, you have many different costume options. If you love superheroes, you can choose from countless characters between the Marvel and D.C. worlds. You can also draw inspiration from comic book movies.

But if superheroes aren’t your style, check out the independent comic publishers for different sources of inspiration. Image Comics and other indie comic sources offer lots of cool, popular characters that veer from the superhero norms.

Sci-Fi Costumes

Science fiction factors into many comic books, and also plays an important role at comic cons today.

Your favorite sci-fi movies, books, or shows are all fair game for cosplay. You can opt for a recognizable classic, like a Star Wars character, or go for something more niche. Chances are, someone there will still recognize your character!

Fantasy Costumes

Comic cons today revolve around all things nerdy, not just comic books. This means fantasy characters also work perfectly well for cosplay. Plus, this is the perfect excuse to sport the wings, horns, or hooves you always wanted to have.

Video Game Costumes

Do you love video games? Lots of gamers are sure to be at comic con, so why not make your favorite video game characters part of your costume?

From classics like Zelda to newer and lesser-known games, video game costumes can be easy and fun to put together for a comic con.

Anime Costumes

While anime has its own conventions, many anime lovers also flock to comic cons. If you opt for an anime-inspired costume, you certainly won’t be alone.

Gender-Swapped Costumes

Finally, a great way to make any costume even more fun for cosplay is to swap the gender.

Are you a woman who would love to cosplay as the Joker? Are you a man who feels inspired to dress as Princess Leia? Don’t hesitate to go for it! Gender-swapped costumes are a popular cosplay trend that you’re sure to see at any comic con.

The Cosplay Materials You’ll Need

Now that you’ve chosen your costume, the hard part begins: making your vision a reality.

However, you can cosplay on just about any budget, and any time constraints. Just keep in mind that the shorter your timeframe and the smaller your budget, the more creative you’ll need to be.

How you create your costume is totally up to you. But for your first cosplay ever, we recommend going simple and inexpensive. Keep in mind that there will be lots of things you’ll want to spend money on at the con!

Start with a rough outline of items you’ll need for your costume. Jot down the essential items that will make your character recognizable. This could include clothing, wigs, makeup, and other elements.

Then, start by hitting up the thrift store to search for the items you’ll need. Of course, you can also splurge on a brand-new costume. But many people appreciate a creative costume even more than a store-bought one, making the thrift store option more appealing.

With a few secondhand pieces on hand, you can then fill in the gaps by shopping online or at costume retailers for the hard-to-find items. If you’re friends with a cosplayer, you may also want to ask them for help. They might have something useful you can borrow.

Finally, do a test run of your costume before the comic con date. You’ll want to make sure it’s comfortable, functional, and not too hot before you arrive at the comic con.

Ready to Use This Cosplay Guide?

With this cosplay guide in hand, you’re now ready to plan a great costume for your first comic con.

Most of all, remember to have fun and don’t worry about making it perfect. You’ll learn from this experience, and you can apply what you learned to your next con.

Many people get stuck on deciding what to be for their first cosplay. However, inspiration is never too far away, if you know where to look. If you’re drawing a blank on ideas, make sure to check out our Entertainment section for some cosplay inspiration!

About RJ Frometa

Head Honcho, Editor in Chief and writer here on VENTS. I don't like walking on the beach, but I love playing the guitar and geeking out about music. I am also a movie maniac and 6 hours sleeper.

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