Shannon as genderbent Howl from "Howl's Moving Castle"

The Comfort of Closet Cosplay

In the realm of cosplay, there are three main methods in which one can participate: you can craft your own cosplay from various materials, you can buy your cosplay online, or you can use what you have available to you from clothing and items you already own—also known as “closet cosplay.”

All three methods of cosplay are valid and fun in their own ways, but usually the cheapest and most comfortable method of cosplay is closet cosplay.

Is Closet Cosplay for me?

If you aren’t big into sewing, or cannot find enough money to purchase a cosplay, closet cosplay is for you! Honestly, it’s incredibly affordable and fun to toss what you already own together into a cosplay. As with most cosplay methods, you have a further tier system of what exactly counts as closet cosplay: using what you already own to look as accurate as possible, using what you already own to create a look that a character may sport if faced with your closet choices, or creating a look that is inspired by a character that you love. Again, all of these are valid in the cosplay world! But let’s focus on that last one for a minute: creating a look that is inspired by a character you love.

Let’s say that you gone through your closet and drawers a thousand times and nothing you own or wear regularly screams a particular character at you. Let’s use Sailor Moon as our example. Most people know what Sailor Moon looks like, and many will know her signature fuku or even her school uniform. But what if you don’t own a talking cat who has given you a transformation wand? What if you don’t even own a cute white blouse or a long navy blue skirt that could pass as a school uniform? You really want to cosplay Sailor Moon, and you only have $20 to spend, so what do you do?

Disney Bounding Inspiration

Search “Disney Bounding”

Do me a favor and open a new tab. In this new tab, go to your favorite image search engine—Google, Bing, Pinterest, etc. Type in the phrase “Disney Bounding” and hit search. Disney Bounding has been popular for a few years now and it’s a fun loophole to get around of strict rule of “no character costumes allowed on the premises” that Disney has for each of its parks and resorts*.

Disney only allows paid cast members to dress up, which ensures that every guest has a pleasant experience when visiting their favorite characters. Disney doesn’t want to risk any of their characters seeming “out-of-character” when children and families meet them, so they make sure that no one outside of the cast is allowed to dress up.

*The only exception to this rule is during Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party, which is held around the time of Halloween. The parks then welcome all costumes in, provided a few rules are followed along the way. This year, Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party will be held from August 16-November 1, 2019 at Disney World.

My Snow White closet cosplay

Disney Bounding is the ability to wear an outfit that is heavily inspired by a Disney character, but with the added ease of walking the Disney parks without being asked to leave because of cosplay. For example I love Snow White. I’ve worn about three or four different versions of her look. If I simply wear a yellow skirt and a blue top, maybe toss a red bow into my hair, then I can walk around anywhere and blend in with the crowd. I’m not dressed to look like Snow White herself, rather I’m dressed as someone inspired with Snow White’s color scheme.

Back to Sailor Moon closet cosplay

Let’s go back to Sailor Moon for a moment. You have $20 to spend, which isn’t nearly enough to buy a perfect fuku, nor a full school uniform. But, you can look through your closet and drawers and see if you have anything that matches Usagi’s classic looks. Do you have a white blouse? Maybe you own a cute blue skirt. Have a red bow handy? How about red shoes or boots? If you have an item of each of these things you can toss them together to create a fun, comfortable look that is inspired by Sailor Moon. If you are missing a piece that you feel is essential for your look, head to your local thrift shop and see what you can find there—I promise you’ll have a Sailor Moon-inspired cosplay in no time!

Image Search Engines Are Amazing!

If you need some inspiration on how you can dress up to represent your favorite character without breaking the bank, go back to your friend–the image search engine—and type in the name of the character followed by the words “inspired outfits.”

If we use my Sailor Moon example, I would type in “Sailor Moon inspired outfits” and suddenly I have a huge collection of looks that feel like Sailor Moon, but won’t break the bank to put together. It’s wonderful!

Look at fan art too

Another one of my favorite ways to get some really great inspired looks of my favorite characters to cosplay, is to look at fan art. A lot of artists out there are constantly making amazing art of our favorite characters, and sometimes they’ll add a modern twist, or put them into outfits that the artist themselves feels suits the character. Doing a quick image search for “Sailor Moon inspired fan art” brought up everything from hand-drawn, to digital, to even cosplay related looks that are all inspired by the soul of the Sailor Moon series itself.

Two important things to remember if you pull from a look that an artist created for a character—always ask the artist first if it’s okay for you to recreate their art as a wearable look; and always credit the artist when you post work in progress or finalized photos of your look. Most artists would be thrilled to see their art come to life, but if they say no please respect their decision.

Nana Osaki closet cosplay
Jeannette ChinoChinako as Nana Osaki / Photo credit: Infinite-Angles

I’ll be honest and say that I’ve only created one look from my closet of clothing and it was to create a comfortable (and accurate) Nana Osaki cosplay from the series NANA. It was a lot of fun to just use my own clothing and make or purchase only the accessories to complete the look. I saved so much money, and the costume was comfortable and super easy to pack. It was a lot of “wins” for a cosplay, and you can’t get much better than that! Now, I have a growing list of character-inspired looks I can toss together to wear to conventions (for that half-day Sunday) or to just wear out and about for more local photo shoots. Being comfortable in cosplay gives me a boost of self-confidence and that is mega important to me. I know I’m not alone with this feeling so I strongly believe that closet cosplay should be admired and supported in more ways than one!

Nana Osaki closet cosplay selfie
Photo credit: Jeannette ChinoChinako

Some Looks For You To Try

Here are some looks I tossed together for you to try yourself! Maybe you’ll surprise yourself and find that you already own items like these right in your own closet. Maybe a friend has some of these and they’d be willing to let you borrow and wear them. Maybe you’ll find something similar at your local thrift shop for super cheap.

Sailor Moon

Sailor Moon closet cosplay look / Image credit: Jeannette ChinoChinako

Naruto

Naruto closet cosplay look / Image credit: Jeannette ChinoChinako

Sora

Sora from “Kingdom Hearts III” closet cosplay look / Image credit: Jeannette ChinoChinako

Deku

Deku from “Hero Suit” closet cosplay / Image credit: Jeannette ChinoChinako

No matter how your closet cosplay look comes together, I hope you’ll share it with me at @ChinoChinako on social media, or with the whole team @GeekGals! I’m looking forward to seeing what looks you create.

Featured image credit: Julia Hankins/Geek Gals

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