Have you tried cosplay shopping online but ended up being more confused and disappointed? Do you dread about a costume in the mail that doesn’t fit…or look like anything close to the photos? Does your wallet cry after you click that order button?
If so, then you’ve come to the right place!
This post is a complete guide on how to buy cosplay online, so you’ll know how to get the best quality cosplay costumes at lower prices! I myself have bought many cosplays over the years, so I’ll share my expertise and experience (both positive and negative).
Without further ado, let’s get started!
Step 1. Figure out your cosplay budget BEFORE you start buying.
Before you make your new cosplay a reality, you should decide you want (or can) spend on your next cosplay project. We rarely stop to think about how much doing a new cosplay will end up costing.
Your Facebook album of #cosplayideas will all have different costs!
For example, maybe you’re inspired to cosplay a character from both Pokemon Sword and RE: Zero because they both new sequels. But let me tell you; that dress from RE: Zero is going to cost way more than that casual outfit from Pokemon Sword! So you need to figure out if you can afford to make both, or just the Pokémon one.
I talk more about this in my Cosplay Budget Series: How Much Does a Cosplay Cost? This article will show you how much a cosplay should cost, based on materials used and complexity. But in short, don’t fall into the trap of overspending because the costume ends up being way more than you thought. Remember, you can always purchase a cheaper cosplay from the same series or a different series. So if you can’t afford to cosplay Rem from RE: Zero because of her expensive dress, then you can go for someone like Felt instead. Her character wears more casual clothing and will definitely be cheaper cosplay to do.
If you want to learn more about cosplay budgeting, check out these posts:
Once you decided on a new cosplay that fits your budget, move onto the next step!
Step 2. Have a list of all the online cosplay stores ready to go.
I highly recommend you save a list of all the big online cosplay shopping stores. Either you can bookmark them all in one folder on your main browser, or you can jot them down in a Word or notepad document? Why? So you can compare all the different prices that each store is offering.
And if you don’t have a list of cosplay stores yourself, I compiled one for you below. If I’ve bought from these sites, I’ve also shared my experiences as well.
Online Cosplay Stores as of 2021
AliExpress. The Chinese version of Amazon in my opinion. You can get some great cosplay products off this site at amazing prices. And the customer reviews are reliable. So as long as you’re not con crunching, then AliExpress is a great site if you want to save money!
Amazon. As of 2020, the cosplay selection is growing but still limited. But if you can find one, you’ll find the prices are pretty good and comes with Amazon’s fast shipping process!
CosplayMagic. Haven’t bought from them yet.
CosplaySky. Haven’t bought from them yet.
Cosrea. Haven’t bought from them yet.
CosplayShopper. Haven’t bought from them yet. However, they are notably based in the United States. So if you live in North America, that is a huge advantage in terms of shipping!
Cosplay Station. I personally have met the owner of the website and she’s wonderful! I’ve gotten some awesome costumes made from these guys, including my Marth cosplay. Their prices are a little higher because they’re using more expensive material. If you live in Toronto, you can pick up your order at their location, which saves the hassle of shipping.
eBay. Oh eBay! If you plan to buy a costume from this site, to me it’s like playing the lottery. Sometimes you’ll get lucky and save tons of money on cosplay products because of the lower price. However, there are a lot of questionable merchants with questionable costume quality on top of even more questionable return/shipping policies. In my experience, I’ve gotten some good deals and also have been burned as well. If you’re looking for a low budget or casual cosplay, then it’s okay to take the risk with eBay. But I’d stay away if you’re looking to buy an expensive cosplay; it’s not worth taking the chance.
Etsy. Etsy is all about local and independent manufacturers, artists and crafters. If you’re looking for a specific cosplay costume, prop or accessory, then Etsy is a good website to check out. However, because everything is handmade and made to order, the prices on Etsy are going to be understandably much higher than your typical cosplay shopping store. So if you want something specific or you’re willing to dish out a lot of money on an elaborate costume, check out Etsy. But if you want a more common and mass-produced costume (e.g. My Hero Academia, Demon Slayer), you’re better off saving your money elsewhere.
EZCosplay. One of my personal favorite cosplay shopping websites. The quality is really good and the prices are relatively cheaper and reasonable. They have a HUGE selection of cosplays and what’s nice is that they usually have the accessories/footwear to go with the costume, which saves me the hassle of having to find everything separately. Highly recommend!
FM-Anime. Haven’t bought from them yet.
LightInTheBox. This cosplay store has been around for so long, the amount of costumes you can find are enormous. However, the reviews for some of them are fairly old (over 5 years), so it’s hard to tell if the quality of the costume is still intact.
MicCostumes. Haven’t bought from them yet.
ProCosplay. Haven’t bought from them yet.
RoleCosplay. Haven’t bought from them yet. But when I was compiling my list of hot cosplay deals, this site by far has the best discounts out of all of them (including the popular K/DA cosplays for under $40: Ahri, Akali, Evelynn, Kaisa). The costume reviews are really good; most were positive and some were negative, which is a good sign that these reviews are honest and not shills.
Xcoser. Haven’t bought from them yet.
Tip: When you search for the costume, you can always do a Google search and click on the “Shopping” tab to see even more websites that sell the costume (screenshot a picture of it)
Now that you have a general idea which cosplay shopping websites you should be checking out, let’s move onto the next step!
What about using Taobao?
For this cosplay shopping guide, I will exclude Taobao because I have no experience using it. That said, I plan to make a future article about using Taobao by collaborating with someone who has!
Here’s what I’ve heard about Taobao:
Short answer: It’s a great way to save money, but more complicated than buying from a regular cosplay store. And it also requires knowing Chinese. Quality can be hit or miss.
Long answer: Taobao is a great way to save a ton of money. However, because the store is in Chinese only and you need an agent to actually collect the stuff you ordered, it takes some planning to use it. With this in mind, it’s better to buy in bulk or with a group so you only deal with an agent once per order.
Step 3. Browse through various cosplay stores and compare prices.
Online cosplay shopping is like going to the mall and trying to find the best pair of jeans to buy. Except you don’t have to spend hours walking around and looking for it; all you have to do is search for your costume and compare from all the websites I listed above, which takes only minutes to do!
Now do you have to search EVERY website to find the best offer for the cosplay you’re looking for? No, you don’t have to. But if you’re a cosplayer looking to save as much as cash, then it’s in your best interest to do your online window shopping first.
Here’s what I recommend you look for while browsing these sites:
Know how much your costume should generally cost.
As I mentioned earlier, some cosplays will be more expensive than others. For example don’t expect a World of Warcraft cosplay full of armor to be only $100, while a casual Steven Universe costume shouldn’t be breaking your wallet either.
On the flip side, if a costume is very cheap then you might want to question the quality. So if an Ochako gravity suit that usually goes for over $100 is selling for only $20, then it’s probably really bad quality!
Also keep in the mind the series or fandom will influence the price as well. Older series such as Ouran Host Club and Kill La Kill will be cheaper, while newer stuff like Fire Emblem: Three Houses is going to cost more due to popularity. Again, my budget post dives more into this if you want to learn more!
A picture is worth a thousand words.
A great way to decide where you should spend your cosplay money is by looking at the photos on the cosplay shopping websites. With the photos, you’ll have a better idea if the costume looks great or not, what materials are being used for it and how it looks in real life. So if you see blurry photos or less than 2 photos, then you should be skeptical and skip to another cosplay shopping store. But if you see lots of photos, front and back, with separate photos of the accessories, then you know it’s legit!
While some websites have great photos, you’ll also want to do this:
Do a Google reverse image test to see if the photos are real or fake.
That’s right; a lot of costume photos get stolen and uploaded to a different site! One way to detect if the store is using real or stolen photos is by doing a reverse image search on Google. It works wonders.
One time I found that a website was using stolen photos, and I ended up buying the costume from the website where the original photos were from. Had I bought from the place with the stolen photos, my costume would have been completely different from the pictures.
Be sure to check what’s included with the costume when you buy from cosplay stores.
This is super important but easily overlooked. Just because the photos show the entire cosplay, doesn’t mean you’ll get all the accessories with it.
Let’s say you want to buy a Sakura Haruno cosplay. You may get her top and her shorts, but you may not get the ninja headband or the wig with it. So don’t be fooled by the photos!
On almost every cosplay shopping website, they will list what you get when you order the costume. The more stuff that’s included with the cosplay order, the better the deal.
Check to see which type of fabrics is being used to make the costume.
When you’re checking out a costume on cosplay stores, look to see which fabrics are being used. Some fabrics will cost more than others, and some are better meant for specific characters.
Let’s say if you want to cosplay a Disney princess with an elegant dress. Then you’ll probably want a costume made out of silk, which is more expensive but nice and shiny with a soft texture! If the online cosplay shopping store is using a different material for a Disney dress such as cotton, then it should be cheaper. If not, then you’re getting ripped off!
On a side note, you should consider the weather when it comes to cosplaying specific characters. You probably don’t want to wear a full-fledged armored suit at a hot summer convention like YetiCon!
Read the reviews (if there are any)
Unfortunately, a lot of online cosplay shopping websites have little to no reviews of a specific cosplay costume. Or they’re just general reviews of the website, which doesn’t tell you anything about the specific costume you may want to buy.
I find only the most popular or bestselling costumes tend to have a decent amount of reviews (e.g. like this Nezuko Demon Slayer cosplay). So you got to make with what you got. If you see a lot of honest reviews and they’re mostly positive, then you know it’s a good order.
Step 4. Choose the right size!
Once you decided on one of the cosplay stores to buy your cosplay, it’s time to choose the right size. I made an entire section for this because I feel it’s so important. Having a cosplay that fits properly is essential!
Get your body measurements done and write them down for future cosplay shopping.
When it comes to clothing, how it FITS on you can make or break how it looks on you. “If it doesn’t fit (i.e. too small or too big), it’ll look like s***!” This definitely applies to cosplay as well. So having the right size for your costume is very important.
When you have the time, get someone to take the measurement of your body. Some of these include:
- Shoulder width
- Pants length
- Arm Length
Get these numbers either in inches or centimeters!
While you can get anyone to help you with these measurements, I highly recommend getting a seamstress or clothing designer to do it. They’ll know how to take the measurements properly.
A couple of years, I actually went to Cosplay Station’s office and got them to take my measurements for me and email me the numbers. That way, I have my measurements in front of me when I want to buy a new costume in the right size! Make sure the size is correct, you won’t get a refund or exchange if you get the size wrong.
If you’re buying from a cosplay shopping store based in Asia, pick one size up.
In my experience (and with so many other cosplayers), the size charts for online cosplay stores based in Asia tend to be smaller than Western sizes. For example, a Medium Size for us Westerners will probably be an Asian Large Size. This rule doesn’t apply if you have your measurements and the Asian size chart is exactly fits your size (e.g you’re clearly a Large Size and your measurements are far away from a Medium and Extra Large). But let’s say your measurements are in between medium and large, and you’re not sure which one to pick up. I’d say pick the larger size!
Some cosplay websites offer custom sizes for an extra $10-$20. Sometimes we have body measurements that throw off the size charts. For example, I have a large chest but small waist so I don’t always fit Medium or Large with some costumes! If you find yourself in this situation with a particular costume, it may be worth spending a little more to get a costume that fits perfectly on you.
Now that you found the best website for your costume and the right size, it’s time to order it!
Step 5. Keep tabs on your cosplay before AND after you receive it in the mail.
Now I don’t mean to constantly check on your order nonstop. We’re all busy people these days and we probably will forget about the order until it arrives to our homes. But once you order your cosplay, check the cosplay website maybe once a day to see how it’s going. You want to see whether the cosplay has been made and shipped, and if it’s close to arriving at your door.
Reason why I bring this up is because while most orders will go well and you’ll get the costume you want, sometimes it doesn’t go right. And many websites have a short time frame for you to resolve an order dispute. For example, AliExpress gives you 15 days to request a refund or dispute from the time they deem the order complete. So if something is wrong the costume, you need to report it as soon as possible so you don’t waste your money.
Here are some things that can (and for me, have) gone wrong:
- Wrong costume color. E.g. you order a white-colored jersey and they give you a dark-colored one. This happened to me. 🙁
- Costume never arrives or goes to the wrong address. This actually happened to me, where I never ended up getting my costume and I was unable to request a refund because it was too late to do. $100 down the drain for me.
- Costume damaged or missing materials. Maybe your costume had a rough journey coming from the other side of the world. If your costume comes damaged, you can ask for a refund or exchange.
- Wrong costume size. Unfortunately, if you order the wrong cosplay size then you probably won’t get a refund. They might let you re-buy the same costume at a reduced price. However, if THEY send you the wrong size, then you’re absolutely entitled to a refund/exchange.
This is why you need to keep an eye on your cosplay order, in case you need to get something resolved quickly. As mentioned earlier, the time window for a refund/exchange is short, so you need to respond as soon as you get your costume in the mail. We’re all busy people these days, so it’s easy to forget about that costume we ordered a month or two ago. So keep an eye on your order from time to time!
How to return or exchange a costume from an online cosplay shopping store.
For the most part, cosplay stores are very good when it comes to refunding or exchanging defective costumes. They’ll do their best to avoid a bad review, because that could easily hurt their reputation and sales. So if you do end up with a problem, just contact the store and they’ll work things out with you.
With my Bugs Bunny costume, they offered to send me the right-colored jersey while letting keep the wrong-colored one for free. I told them that I needed it by a specific deadline and when they couldn’t meet the deadline, they offered me a full refund in order to not leave a bad review. Out of the goodness of my heart, I decided to let it go and got my money back.
So it might be a bit of a hassle, but eventually you’ll get your costume or a full refund. As long as you act before the refund/exchange window is over!
To summarize this guide, here’s how to ensure you get the best cosplay when you’re shopping online:
- Step 1. Figure out your cosplay budget BEFORE you start buying.
- Step 2. Have a list of all the online cosplay stores ready to go. (list of cosplay stores as of 2021)
- Step 3. Browse through various cosplay stores and compare prices. (Know how much your costume should generally cost, a picture is worth a thousand words, do a Google reverse image test, Be sure to check what’s included with the costume when you buy from cosplay stores, check to see which type of fabrics is being used to make the costume, read the reviews)
- Step 4. Choose the right size! (Get your body measurements done, pick one size up if costume is from Asia)
- Step 5. Keep tabs on your cosplay before AND after you receive it in the mail.
If you want more tips regarding buying or making your cosplays, here are some useful posts for you:
- More info on how to obtain a cosplay (e.g. buying on websites, buying secondhand, getting it commissioned)
- How to buy used cosplays for sale (how to sell your cosplay once you’re done with it, so you can afford more newer cosplays)
- How to recycle and get rid of your old cosplays (P.S. if you love zombies, you’ll like this post)
If you want to find some awesome deals on costume, check out the hot cosplay deals and discounts page!
I hope you found this online cosplay shopping guide useful and helpful!
Have you bought any cosplay products from the various cosplay shopping websites I’ve mentioned? If so, let me know your experiences and thoughts in the comment section below!