Where to buy cosplay!
If you’re new to cosplay or the cosplay community, you may be wondering where the heck to even get a costume. For example, what if you don’t know how to sew or craft? Then you’ll definitely be relying on where to buy cosplay.
The good news is that there are tons of places where you can buy a cosplay costume!
In this post, I’ll give you 9 different ways on where to buy cosplay. And not just cosplay websites, other ways as well.
Depending on your situation, some places are better than others and I will describe each type on whether it’ll work for you or not.
Without further ado, let’s get started!
1. Halloween stores (i.e. don’t recommend)
Let’s start with the option that appeals most to beginners when it come to where to buy cosplay; Halloween stores. If you live in a decent-sized city, you probably have a bunch of Halloween costume stores there. All of them sell casual costumes for mostly comic book characters, and sometimes even Anime and video game characters as well!
However…unless you’re really tight on money (and time), I don’t recommend buying your cosplay in Halloween stores. Why? The material quality is not as good, as Halloween costumes are meant to worn only a few times. Whereas a cosplayer, you want to wear your cosplay a bunch of times. Not only that, Halloween stores use material that isn’t flattering on camera (e.g. shiny polyester).
- +Lower cost
- +Easy to find comic book characters
- +If a convention is coming up soon, then you can +buy a last minute costume here
- -Lower material quality
- -Limited character options
- -Unflattering costumes that don’t look good on camera
So in general, avoid Halloween costume stores. You can do better!
2. Regular online cosplay websites
Of all the places on where to buy cosplay, regular online cosplay websites will likely be the place you buy your costumes. Not only do you have the most selection of characters from online cosplay stores, you also have the most reasonable prices for cosplays, because a lot of them are mass-produced.
Overall, regular cosplay websites are great! The only drawbacks I can think of, is the shipping and sizing. Unless you live in China, most of these stores originate from this country, so shipping to a Western country will take some time. And since the costume are made in bulk (unlike commissions where they make the costume for you specifically), the default sizes may or may not fit you properly.
- +Best place to buy costumes of popular characters, as these websites have the best prices
- +Quality is usually good and better than Halloween or wholesale websites like Taobao
- -Shipping can be a hassle and unpredictable
- -Most stores have set costume sizes, which may or may not fit you properly
If you want a complete guide on finding the best regular cosplay websites, and a list of credible cosplay stores, click here to read my article about that.
One of the most budget-friendly places to buy cosplay! 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, with EBay 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.
- +If you’re lucky, you can get some really good deals on costumes and wigs
- +eBay is pretty good in resolving disputes
- -Quality can be hit or miss
- -Would not recommend eBay for anything expensive
If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you’ll know that I’ve written about Taobao a lot. But if you don’t know, Taobao is a website where you can buy directly from the wholesaler (in case the costume maker). You can do this in China, but if you live elsewhere, you’ll need to use a third-party service such as Superbuy to get an agent to pick up and ship that costume to you.
To sum it up, I have mixed feelings with Taobao. On one hand, it’s a lot of hassle to use in order to save money, and the quality can be hit or miss. But on the other hand, you can save a TON of money. TLDR; if you have more time than money to navigate Taobao, then the process is worth it. But if you have more money than time, just save yourself the hassle and buy off of a regular cosplay website.
If you want learn more about using Taobao, click here to check out my full guide about it.
+You can save a LOT of money by buying off of Taobao
-It can be a huge hassle to use, especially if you cannot read Chinese.
5. Cosplay commissions
What is a cosplay commission? It’s when you ask a costume maker (whether it be a company or an individual person) to specially make a costume for you! I’ve personally done this myself and had some mixed results! On one hand, I’ve gotten some amazing cosplays made from the commissions I’ve paid for. But on the other hand, I felt like sometimes I spent far more money than I’d like.
Now to be fair, being a cosplay commissioner is not that lucrative. Because they have to buy the materials themselves, their profit margin will be super thin. So of course, the prices will be a lot more than buying one off a store.
In general, I recommend cosplay commissions for those characters that are complex and special to do. But if you just want to buy an Anime costume that’s readily available online, you’re better off buying it off a store.
- +You have total control over the costume and customizations
- +The quality will generally be better from commissioners than a mass-produced costume
- +Great for characters that are complex or specific
- -Will be more expensive than buying from a store
- -Not worth it for a popular character costume you can buy online
Etsy is a website that caters to individual artists and in this case, costume makers. It’s pretty much similar to cosplay commissions, but I had to include it in its own separate category because it’s such a popular website.
And much like cosplay commissions, the pros and cons are fairly similar. Although with Etsy, you do get some buyer protection.
- +Top quality costumes that are hand-made
- +Can customize the costume to your liking
- -Definitely not cheap
- -Unlike local cosplay commissioners, you will have to deal with shipping and handling
7. Buy/Sell/Trade (BST) groups
What does a cosplayer do they no longer have no use for a costume? They sell their costume on a local Buy/Sell/Trade group! That’s how they make back some of the money they spent making/buying it initially (e.g. If a costume was $100, they’ll sell it for $80). This is where buying secondhand comes in; you attempt to buy it when a cosplayer no longer needs it.
Buying a cosplay secondhand is by far the cheapest method to acquire a costume that doesn’t involve you building or making anything. The word “secondhand” is very important to emphasize, because you should only rely on this method as a SECOND method to get a new cosplay. It’s not a reliable method to get the costume you want; you don’t know who’s selling what, and if you’re looking for something specific, you might be looking for a long time! That being said, you can find great deals, so always be looking on Buy/Sell/Trade groups for sales.
- +Convenient – Most secondhand sales take place in local groups and you have the cosplay ready immediately after meeting up to buy it. No need for shipping! Usually comes with the full set – shoes, wig already styled, and accessories.
- +Environmentally friendly – No waste is created when you buy a costume already made.
- +Huge savings – Since the cosplayer is selling the costume at a reduced price, you’re always getting a better deal than buying it brand new.
- -Limited options – Tthere’s only so many characters available on the local market, usually also limited to popular and seasonal characters. You can’t be too picky when it comes to availability and size.
- -The condition may not be perfect -.Colours may be faded, certain parts may have fallen off, and you may need to put in a bit of tender loving care (TLC) to restoring the cosplay to decent shape.
- -High buy rate – Cosplayers love to penny-pinch and save money, so you must act quickly if you’re looking to buy a costume. Secondhand cosplays sell really fast!
P.S. Special shoutout to CosCove. It’s a secure marketplace for costumes, where you can buy and sell your cosplays!
8. Real brick-and-mortar cosplay stores
If you’re lucky enough to live in a place where there’s a physical cosplay store, then you’ll find that they’re totally awesome! Think of them like the regular online cosplay stores, but without needing to worry about shipping; you can buy or pick up the costume in-person!
With that said, they’re not easy to find because cosplay stores are incredibly rare. The selection of cosplay may be limited, unless you specifically order from them in advance. And the prices won’t be as cheap as buying online, probably because of the cost of running a physical store.
- +No need to worry about shipping
- +Can try on the right costume size in-person
- -Very hard to find because they’re uncommon
- -Prices won’t be as cheap as online
- -Costume selection won’t be as diverse
9. Closet cosplays
Have you ever seen a great cosplay and wondered if they just pulled clothing out of their closet? Well, that’s exactly what happened! Hence the term “closet cosplay.” In many cases, cosplays are just… clothes. So if your character has a relatively simple outfit, then why pay the 3-4x markup for the cosplay when you can just put it together yourself?
- +Availability – There are clothing stores everywhere. When you’re buying the pieces yourself, you have control over colour, quality and even price. E.g. Character wears a white shirt, but you find that off-white looks better on you? Go for that! Those black pants actually have subtle embellishments? Gives your outfit visual interest!
- +Can be very cheap if you know where to shop -Thrift stores having a 50% off sale on clothing? This can be a great way to find basic pieces that you can make some modifications to, to better suit your character.
- +You may even have some of this stuff lying around already! – That white blouse that you wore once for grad photos? Now it can be useful again! (Note: This works great for seifuku or uniform cosplays.)
- -Basics can be difficult to find – With so much emphasis on loud graphics and prints, finding basics like a solid colored shirt can be pretty difficult in most retail settings (*cough* FOREVER 21 *cough*).
- -It might not be 100% accurate, especially if you don’t modify it – This may not be a big deal to some people, but it may be to others. If you’re looking to create a closet cosplay without any crafting or sewing on your part, having to modify a thrift item may be a hassle for you.
- -Closet cosplays are NOT an option for every costume – Intricate cosplays involve wearing things that most people in real life wouldn’t. So it will be harder to piece together using just regular clothes. In short, attempting to closet cosplay can look VERY bad if you’re doing it for the wrong character.
- -Excessive thrift-shopping is very time-consuming and defeats the purpose of using your closet to build a cosplay. If you can’t find the clothing you’re looking for, you’re better off just buying it online or getting a commissioner to make it for you.
Make it yourself
For many, this is what the hobby is all about – making it a costume on your own! Although making a cosplay is time-consuming and usually stressful, it’s a fun-filled experience that many enjoy doing over and over. But once again, making a good costume will take (lots of) time, experience and patience. For some, it may not be worth the hassle.
- +Sense of accomplishment – There’s nothing that compares to the feeling of wearing something made from your blood, sweat, and tears.
- +Ability to take part in Masquerades/costume contests – Almost all competitions require most (if not all) of the costume to be made by you.
- +Fun – Making the costume itself is part of the cosplay experience, and nothing beats making finishing touches to your cosplay with a bunch of friends in the same situation the week before a convention.
- +Valuable skills learned – Sewing and crafting are very invaluable skills that can be applied in other areas of life. Clothes need altering? No problem! Something broke and needs fixing? Easy peasy. A variety of talents go into crafting a cosplay, so the learning is endless!
- +As you gain more experience creating cosplays on your own, you’ll know how to save money on fabric and other materials. In the long run, this will be cheaper than buying wholesale and definitely cheaper than a costume that was commissioned.
- -Steep learning curve – For a first timer, making a costume can be daunting and disheartening when your 50 hour project looks lackluster. It takes months, if not years, to become proficient in the art of costume making. Fortunately, there are plenty of free resources to learn from. But don’t expect to be a very skillful costume-maker overnight.
- -Cost of investment – Buying the tools (e.g. sewing machine for fabric, power tools for props) often exceeds the cost of the costume itself. But for a cosplayer who intends to make many costumes down the line, these tools will pay for themselves after your 4th or 5th project.
- -Time consuming – If you’re a full-time student working a part-time job with additional volunteer, research, and extracurricular or if you’re a medical resident working 80 hours a week, this may not be a viable option for you.
Side note: In the beginning, making your own costume was the most popular option. Before cosplay gained traction, there weren’t many places to buy a costume and commissioners were few and far between. Even today, many established cosplayers who have reached professional status make most of their stuff from scratch.
To summarize, here are the 9 places on where to buy cosplay:
- Halloween stores (i.e. don’t recommend)
- Regular online cosplay websites
- Cosplay commissions
- Buy Sell Trade (BST) groups
- Real brick-and-mortar cosplay stores
- Closet cosplays
And there you have it; 9 places on where to buy cosplay!
Depending on your financial situation, you’ll find that at least one of these places will suit you well.
Where do you plan on buying your cosplay? Let me know in the comments!