How to cosplay without buying anything!
Is it possible?
We always hear about how cosplayers spend so money either making their own costume. Or buying one online (PS, if you want to learn more about the best cosplay websites, click here to check out my guide for it). With that said, you don’t have to actually buy anything in order to cosplay. By using things you already have, while using methods to obtain cosplay for free (which I’ll talk about more in this post), you can cosplay without buying anything.
So in this post, I’ll give you 9 ways you can cosplay without buying anything. Yes, without having to spend a single dollar! Again, these ideas range simply from using stuff you have in your home, to making good connections with people.
The criteria for these ideas mainly resolve:
- Not spending any money on anything
- Using only the things you already have
Therefore, doing awesome stuff such as buying from the best cosplay websites or buying used cosplays won’t apply in this article, because those involve spending money. But if you wanted to learn more about them, click on these articles to read about them: best cosplay websites and used cosplay guide.
Without further ado, let’s get started yo!
1. Closet cosplay
By far the most efficient way to get a decent cosplay without buying anything is going for a closet cosplay. If you don’t know, closet cosplay is mainly using clothing already in your closet, such as dress pants, dress shirts, skirts, boots, etc. Normally, you would likely need to buy one or two things such as a wig to complete your closet cosplay. But since we’re not trying to spend any money, you technically still can pull it off. Just do a cosplay without a wig and you’re good! (More info on cosplaying without a wig here).
Buy anyways, if you have a lot of clothing in your closet already (which I’m sure you do), then you’ll be surprised with how many cosplays you can pull off with just your regular clothing!
- Jirou from My Hero Academia
- Ash Ketchum from Pokémon
- Android 17 and 18 from Dragon Ball Z
2. Borrow and exchange cosplays with a friend
This is an awesome way to utilize cosplays and save money. Maybe you’re bored of cosplaying Evelynn from League of Legends, but perhaps your friend always wanted to be a KDA member…what better way than to borrow and exchange costumes with each other? You’ll both have a new cosplay to wear at the next convention, and you’ll also have some new cosplay photos to share on social media! And how much will it cost to do this? 0 dollars!
With that said, you and your friend will need to be a similar size and height. Therefore, if you’re a smol bean and your friend has bigger curves, your costumes probably won’t fit each other.
However, you don’t need to be EXACTLY the same size. I know when I exchanged costumes with my friend, I’m quite taller than him and he is a bit bigger than I am. But our costumes fit perfectly fine on each other. At the very least, you can always try it on and see.
Also, you want to be sure to keep your friend’s costume in good condition while it’s in your care. It’s one thing to wreck your own cosplay, but another to ruin your friend’s costume! Hence, be extra careful with it.
3. Casual cosplay
A casual cosplay can work if you’re looking how to cosplay without buying anything.
You might think that casual cosplay is the same as closet cosplay, but there are differences. Casual cosplay is taking it down a notch and only having 1-2 cosplay items and calling it a character. If you can do closet cosplays, I would recommend it over just a casual cosplay. Because if you don’t pull off a casual cosplay properly, it can either look lazy or tacky. But if you do it properly, a casual cosplay can look pretty decent.
Some potential examples of casual cosplay:
- A Pikachu cosplay wearing a Pikachu onesie you already own
- Alphonse Elric cosplay with just the t-shirt and jeans
- Deku cosplay with normal clothing, but you’re wearing his signature green wig and freckles makeup
4. Reusing parts from cosplays you already own
Did you know that cosplayers use the same wig and clothing for many different cosplays? Yes it’s true. You can reuse the same coloured wig for different characters. Or using the same footwear such as boots for multiple characters. Or going along the lines of closet cosplays, using your same pants and shirts that can be for different characters.
- I’ve used the same pair of boots I got from Goodwill for multiple cosplays: Marth from Fire Emblem, Kaeya from Genshin Impact, Roy Mustang from Fullmetal Alchemist
- I’ve worn a regular white dress shirt for Sebastian Michaelis from Black Butler and Kyoya from Ouran Host Club
- My friend used the same blue/purple wig for her Lucina and Hinata cosplays
This is another technique on how to cosplay without buying anything. Not only is this method cost-effective, but you’re also being environmentally friendly as well by reusing cosplay materials.
5. Swimsuit summer editions
Summer or swimsuit cosplays are great. One, they make you super-hot! Secondly, it doesn’t require you to buy any new material. Chances are, you have a swimsuit sitting in your closet somewhere. So all you really have to do is wear the right wig for your character, slap on a swimsuit and you’re good to go! In terms of how to cosplay without buying anything, swimsuit summer cosplays are the perfect way to do this.
If you’re an influential cosplayer online and have a lot of followers and engagement, you can try applying for a sponsorship deal with a cosplay store! An example is Miccostumes. In exchange for promoting their costumes and/or wigs, you get to wear and keep those cosplays for free! Ain’t that an awesome deal? One unique of getting cosplays for free. Of course, you need to have a sizable following in order to usually qualify. However, I’m sure if you go for smaller or newer cosplay websites, you’ll have an easier time being accepted into sponsorship agreements.
7. Making use of everyday materials
You likely have a bunch of items and materials lying around in your home. These things can include cardboard, fabric from clothing, bed sheets. It may not be the coolest-looking cosplay, but you can definitely make a lot of interesting cosplays from using everyday materials.
- Casual Gundam cosplay using the cardboard at home
- Angry Video Game Nerd costume from cardboard
- I’ve seen once a Yu-Gi-Oh cosplay made entirely out of Yu-Gi-Oh cards!
8. Original cosplays
Remember that there is a category of cosplay called original cosplay. In general, original cosplays are whatever you want it to mean. Whether your idea was inspired by a DeviantArt creation, or your own imagination, the sky is the limit when it comes to original cosplay ideas. And in this case, you might as well use the stuff you already have to make your own original cosplay. That way, you don’t have to buy anything.
9. Costume reviews
If you run a website or group with a lot of viewers (similar to what I’m doing), you can contact cosplay stores to ask to review their cosplays. So in exchange for giving you the cosplay, you have to give a thorough review of the costume such as the material quality, how it fits and of course, how it looks on you.
To be fair to your readers, you should specify to the company that you have to give an honest review, no matter how good or bad it turns out.
I myself have reached out to cosplay-related websites and a lot of them are more than happy to send out products for free, in exchange for exposure! One example is PinkyParadise, a store that sells contact lenses and a store that I’m always grateful for their generosity.
PinkyParadise sent me a bunch of contact lenses for free for my cosplay group to try out, and all of them loved the contact lenses they provided. All of them posted on their social media about the lenses and how great they were. So it was a win-win for everyone!
To summarize, here are the 9 ways on how to cosplay without buying anything:
- Closet cosplay
- Borrow and exchange cosplays with a friend
- Casual cosplay
- Reusing parts from cosplays you already own
- Swimsuit summer editions
- Making use of everyday materials
- Original cosplays
- Costume reviews
I want to be clear; you don’t want to completely depend on these methods to do cosplaying long-term. You’ll be missing out on so many potentially great cosplays that you simply can’t do without buying new materials or new costumes online. Think of this as a temporary phase while you eventually save up money for new cosplay projects. Read these posts if you want to figure out how to get more money for cosplay: how to make money as a cosplayer and 10 tips on having more money for cosplay.
And there you have it; 9 ways on how to cosplay without buying anything!
Which method will you try? Let me know in the comments below.
My name is Roger Senpai. I’m a cosplayer that’s been in the community for well over a decade now. I’ve traveled all over the world to Anime and Comic conventions and hosted my own cosplay events. Now I’m writing articles for new and experienced cosplayers like you to help inspire, save you money and improve your cosplays!