As far as altering other items during the course of designing a costume for a cosplay, you should treat it like make up on a women: less is more. The less alterations to something, like a shirt, you have to do, the better off you’ll be overall. Too many times have I ruined a perfectly good shirt for one cosplay only to realize after the fact how many other cosplays I could have used that shirt for. Ray Lundgren from GunXSword is my ‘paragon’ to this blunder; ruined a perfectly good long-sleeved black shirt, which was/is the basis for all my cosplays.
Also, when it comes to cutting corners with cosplays (without ruing the integrity & quality of the overall cosplay), being able to make your costume in such a way that you have a little bit of wiggle room, as it were, is also a great skill to master/learn. The amount of time, work, effort, & even money it may take to get the exact approximations of your size to make your costume may be a little bit too much than what you have time, patience, & money for, so learning how to make costumes in such a way where you have room to adjust, to me, is much more preferable than the more tedious route of getting exact measurements. Of course, when you go the route of having your costume custom made by a seamstress/friend, then exact measurements are paramount, however, a majority of my advice is going to be geared towards DIY & not having someone else do it for you, so yeah… In either case, learning how to make costumes that can, essentially, be adjustable can be far easier & more ‘doable’ in the long run vs. precision measurements, at least in my opinion ~.~
So, to ‘keep things simple stupid’ (which I’m also going to do another article about), here are 2 things that are always a ‘cosplayer’s best friend’ when it comes to making costumes…
Duct tape & Velcro.
Duct Tape –
With duct tape, short term alterations to an item, namely shirts, pants, & the like, become way easier to do & possible to accomplish than what they normally would be, &, of course, far less damaging to the item you’re altering. For example, my Rin Tohsaka (Fate/Stay Night) cosplay involved a red turtle neck long-sleeved shirt that needed to be altered to; a) have points in the back & front; b) a cross design in the chest area of the shirt…
…So, instead of painting the white cross design & cutting the shirt to have the points, permanently ruining a pretty snazzy turtle neck in the process, I simply folded in some parts of the bottom of the shirt & taped them, bought me one of those duct tape sheets you can get at Michaels or A.C. Moores, and cut out the cross design & stuck it on the shirt…
…I did this for Otakon 2012 & didn’t have any problems for the rest of the con with the shirt, the thigh highs, on the other hand…>.> (pro tip: garter belts are your friend ~.~) Besides easy temporary alterations, it can be easier to use duct tape to attain certain textures, create certain cosplay pieces (like armor or certain types of props), create certain designs, & the list goes on. In my case, I made some of my best props –for my Emiya Kiritsugu (Fate/Zero) cosplay- using almost exclusively duct tape (& aluminum foil for the base shape, which is great for creating the basic shapes for any prop), & they turned out awesomely.
So, to sum everything up, duct tape’s great to use for almost all aspects of your cosplay, readily available, fairly cheap, comes in a variety of colors, relatively easy to work with, & a great substitute for painting when you don’t have the time &/or space to spray paint or any other type of paint for that matter. Definite must have/recommend for any of your cosplay needs.
Something that’s perfect for making approximate measurements, Velcro. Like duct tape, it’s readily available as well as fairly inexpensive, & it’s very easy to use & easy to attach to almost any part of your cosplay. Whenever you don’t feel like getting exact measurements & you need enough room for adjustment, Velcro’s the way to go. Definitely a more efficient way than just tying knots with certain pieces & hoping you’ll be unable to undo it later, like with certain bows with a particular style & the like. It’s also a great option for using to connect certain parts of your costume vs. using buttons, zippers (that are supposed to be functional), & clasps, since you don’t necessarily need the preciseness you would with attaching buttons or clasps or have to deal with the tediousness of attaching the zippers to whatever part of your costume you need them on. It’s also great for things like belts & armor pieces where you need the ability to be able to adjust, granted, elastic can be just as good in those cases.
In all, Velcro’s just a great option to any cosplayer who needs to make a costume w/o approximate measurements & still have the cosplay look awesome & not half-a$$ed.
So, always remember, Velcro & duct tape are your best friends when making nice budget cosplays w/o sacrificing on the quality of the cosplay.