Just Call Me Senpai: Only The Basics

Just Call Me Senpai: Only The Basics

written by Miss Marquin (@MissMarquin)

I remember the first time that I wanted to Cosplay.

I also remember that I had no idea where to start.

Starting your first costume can be exciting, but it can quickly become a daunting task if you have no idea to start. I wasn’t so lucky when I first started out. I had to stumble through the process, figuring out things as I went, without having a clue as to what I was doing. 

Sinking before you can swim is never a good feeling, so here I am to help you along. We’ll cover basics and tips and tricks, and even techniques and whatnot that I’ve learned over the years.

I want to share my wisdom, so you can hold your head above the waves and shine!

Getting Started

 Start off Easy

Anyone who knows me; knows that my Cosplay philosophy is ‘Go Big, or Go Home’.

This isn’t necessarily the mindset that someone new to the hobby should take, which brings me to the first point that I bring to light—Start of small, start of easy. This is the most important thing that any new cosplayer can take to heart. Unless you already know how to sew, then perhaps making your dream cosplay right off the bat isn’t the best idea.

my first cosplay

my first cosplay

My first cosplay was Seong Mina from Soul Calibur II. While it wasn’t anything that was crazy Final Fantasy-styled, it certainly held its challenges. I didn’t know how to run a sewing machine. I didn’t know how to pattern things. I didn’t know about prop work or wigs. Make-up was a foreign concept. I have a very go-get it personality, so I (in the words of Tim Gunn) ‘Made it Work’.


When picking your first cosplay, something inexpensive and non-complex is key. Think about thrifting and altering clothes. Pick something that involves an easy sewing project (like pants, or something). If you’re jumping in and using wigs, pick a character with minimal wig styling. Maybe skip having a prop the first time around.

Great examples are: Pokémon Characters/Trainers, Pokémon Gijinkas, Kigurumis, School/Harem Anime, etc. School Uniforms are rather easy to sew and pleated skirts aren’t too hard to figure out.

The easier you start out, the more confident you become when it turns out well.

References, Oh Myyy

The first thing I do when I even start thinking about a cosplay, is I start collecting references. I have a folder of references for costumes I don’t even plan on making for another year, or even two. If I can’t find references, I don’t make the costume. When you have a steady supply of things to look at, while you’re planning out everything, it makes it so much easier to stay focused.

When looking for references, you want something clean and clear. I cosplay mostly video game characters, so I try to find both concept art and in-game art and screen captures. You want pictures that showcase all sides of the costume, so you don’t have to ‘wing it’, when it comes to the backside of whatever you’re making.

photo credits: Aperture Ashley

References can also be hard to find. I love cosplaying Soul Calibur, but the hardest thing about it is finding proper references, that are consistent with other references. The in-game screen caps are different from the in game art, which are different from the concept art, which are different from the artbook art. At that point it just becomes a headache, and you have to pick and choose and then you have to wing it. Personally, if I can’t find at least a few good pictures, then I won’t bother. I’m good at making things that already exist—not making my own stuff up.

Plan of Action

I’ll admit it; I rarely plan my costumes in stages. Because of this, I’m always late (procrastination), I buy the same materials several times (spending extra money) and when it doesn’t work out, I get frustrated because I’m strapped on time (procrastination again). I’ve been trying to get better at this and what I’ve noticed is that when I have a proper plan of action, I’m less stressed. I have a direction and an idea as to what to do. I’m no longer sitting dead in the water.

With bigger costumes, I’ve come to learn that this stage is crucial. While making Sesshoumaru (Inuyasha), I had to keep a list of everything I had bought, because there was just so much to keep track of. I still ended up buying doubles of some things and wasting money. This will also help you stay on a budget, which is another crucial aspect of this hobby.

Cool as a cucumber indeed (photo credits: Firecloak

Be Cool as a Cucumber

This might seem like weird advice, but bear with me—Success in cosplay is all about your confidence. If you know you can do it, you can. This is the mindset that I’ve kept, especially when I’m trying to teach myself a new technique. We work with temperamental machines and tricky fabric. We burn our fingers on hot glue and heat guns. These trials can wear and tear us down, and if you get frustrated, it’s easy to lose your focus. When you’re frustrated, it’s not as easy to enjoy the hobby. So keep your cool and remember that it won’t always work right the first time! Try and try again~

Confidence is Key

I’ve worn cosplays that I wasn’t proud of. It shows. It shows so much. You can just look at my face and tell that I’m unhappy with what I’m wearing, for whatever reason. And it could look fine on me, but that’s not the point. If I don’t feel confident in it, I don’t feel good in it at all, and that can ruin the fun. This goes hand-in-hand with being cool as a cucumber. Be proud of what you’ve made. It doesn’t matter if your seams are unfinished, or the paint is cracking off in this tiny corner. How many wigs have I worn, that get tangled and twisted while in transit? If you show that you’re confident in what you’re wearing and are proud of wearing it, it shows, and that makes a world of difference. 

photo credits:  Ken AD

photo credits: Ken AD

photo credits: Ken AD

For a lot of people though, this is the one that they struggle with the most. Not everyone is born with it and many find it hard to be confident of themselves in a world where we’re pressured into being super skinny or dressing scantily clad. I was lucky. I love myself, so it came naturally. So this is always the most important rule: Love yourself, be confident and have shit tons of fun.

In Conclusion

These aren’t rules. These are ideas and tips. These are the things that I have personally learned over the years, through my own cosplay journey and through others. These key points will help kick start your cosplaying hobby into something that is fun and enjoyable!

One of my more advanced costumes, Sesshoumaru (photo credits: Ryan Barouque

That being said, this is only the tip of the iceberg! Throughout the weeks, we’ll dive deeper and go more in depth. I want to share with everyone what I’ve learned, and maybe learn from everyone as well! I want to share my tips and tricks, what I’ve learned with sewing. I want to answer questions and help everyone with my knowledge.

This is only the beginning-- I can’t wait for the journey that we’ll make together!

Just Call Me Senpai is an advice column paired with an article, in efforts to bring tips and tricks to new and old cosplayers alike. From the basics, all the way to advanced sewing techniques and prop making, the column will cover any and everything and answer all your questions! Ask me questions by either shooting us a message on the LG Facebook Page, send me an email at marquin@liftedgeek.com, or use the handy form below:


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SRGE 2014: We're All Stars Here... At The Game Show

SRGE 2014: We're All Stars Here... At The Game Show

cos(WED): Lara Croft by Anastasiya Rumega

cos(WED): Lara Croft by Anastasiya Rumega