We’ve all been there at some point. You need a costume for a last minute party invite, but don’t want to wear the same thing you wore for Halloween just a few months ago. Maybe a friend of a friend bailed on a convention outing, and now you have an unexpected 3-day pass and nothing to wear to celebrate your favorite fandom. Perhaps you are a new (or seasoned) cosplayer, and the piece you’ve been working on all year just won’t be finished in time—or worse, a vital prop broke days before the con, and there’s no time to repair it.
It can be surprisingly easy to scrape together a simple last-minute cosplay using only (or at least mostly) what you have in your home already. And for items you don’t have on hand, it can be fixed with a quick run to your local thrift or dollar store. To prove it, here is a breakdown of how I came up with a last minute costume to wear to work for Halloween last year: Wednesday Addams.
The Basics – Selecting a Character
When trying to piece together a convenient costume, there are some aspects to consider that can make your life a heck of a lot easier. I typically start by running through a list of shows/games/comics/etc. that I love and try to determine if there is a character I like, and if I can easily attempt to mimic them. I probably get off easier than many on this part; as a small white girl with short brown hair and glasses there is a surprising number of characters I can easily resemble enough to be recognizable at a con or other event. While choosing a character to create, I also try to keep my personal and existing costume wardrobes in mind, in case there is anything I reuse, alter, or use as a pattern for my potential cosplay choice.
Once I come up with a character, I evaluate the costume they wear to see how easy or difficult it should be to assemble; modern characters are generally much more convenient than period or other-wordly/timely-genred characters. Do I need any props; if so, what kind? Weapons, toys, an animal companion? Are their props easy to create; will it be a matter of repainting a toy knife from a dollar store, or do I need to construct a rifle out of craft foam and cardboard—construction that can be timely and ultimately more pricey than I am aiming for? Of course, if you’re a crafty person to start with you may have more resources readily available than some, but rest assured that I try to be as thrifty as possible when shopping for cosplay ingredients.
If the props seem reasonable and simple enough to replicate, then you just want to double check your timeline and make sure you have the time to get everything together. If you’ll need to make props, or order something online you don’t think you’ll be able to find easily in stores, make sure you have the time to get everything done!
In my case, Wednesday Addams was an easy choice since I’ve loved the character since I was a weird little Goth-wanna-be child, and I was excited to get to be her for a day. A majority of my wardrobe is black already, so I estimated it would just be a matter of finding the most conservative looking dress I owned, adding a white Peter Pan collar to it, and throwing on some black shoes. I have a pixie haircut, but fortunately I was pretty sure I had a wig I never ended up using for it’s original intent that would work. It should be a simple task to braid into pigtails. Then all I need to do is ditch my glasses for the day, put on some pallid makeup, and look apathetic. If I had time, I thought I’d try to sew a simple doll with no head to carry, but unfortunately that did not pan out (something to consider when I eventually revisit and improve this cosplay!)
The Execution- Creating Wednesday
First things first, I like to compile a list of every costume piece I need to have. I usually create two lists; necessary pieces, and pieces I’d like to include if I have the time (or can find a way to do that piece well if it requires a new technique or material). I’m using Wednesday as portrayed by Christina Ricci in the classic 1991 film as my model.
Wednesday is very simple, with an outfit consisting of:
- Black dress; either solid black, or with white dots (or perhaps small white flowers; 90’s images don’t really have the best quality these days). Must have long sleeves and a white Peter Pan collar
- Black tights or leggings
- Black boots
- Black hair, in long braided pigtails, preferably with a widow’s peak
- Optional creepy prop. Possibilities:
o The green dinosaur monster she’s holding in the poster
o Headless doll of herself, as seen in the film
o Headless generic doll, in keeping with her character
o Bottle of poison, alluding to the much loved Lemonade Stand Scene
I headed straight to my closet, certain I would find a suitable black dress. I knew I didn’t own any with long sleeves, but was willing to allow for some creative license due to the last minute nature of the costume if I couldn’t find something better at a few thrift stores (which I could not; you wouldn’t think it’s too hard to find a modest, black, long-sleeved dress but it is!). I ended up using this little number with a black tee shirt underneath it to create a higher neckline- with just the shirt underneath, it looks a little goofy very close up, but for someone standing conversational-distance from me the top looks like one solid piece.
Next, I used some white felt squares I had in my embroidery supplies to make the collar. I just used a 9”x12” piece of felt from Joann’s; you can find that in any craft store worth its salt, and possibly in some large convenience stores like CVS. If you have a white collared shirt that matches the sleeve length of your dress, you can layer that underneath and save a ton of time; I have no collared shirts, though.
I laid out the tee shirt and placed the edge of the felt along the collar, and traced the shape of one half of Wednesday’s collar. Then, I folded the felt to cut the tracing out- folding it when you cut creates two identical pieces, saving the trouble of having to trace the first and cut the second individually.
I placed the felt cut-outs on the shirt collar, positioning them until I was happy with how they looked. I pinned them down, and tried it on to make sure the stretch of the collar while wearing the shirt would be accounted for. Then I sewed the collar in place along the border. If you have a sewing machine, that will be the fastest and most secure way to get the collar on. I hand sewed mine because my machine was inaccessible, and hand sewing made it easier for me to remove the collar after I made the costume, so I could re-wear my tee shirt (as it’s one of my favorites).
Bam! The main bit of the costume is done. I already had a pair of black boots and black leggings handy, and I layered a cardigan over the dress to create longer sleeves and enhance my sulking, which I hoped reinforced Wednesday’s reclusive, anti-social aura. Next, I just braided this Bettie Page wig I had laying around from an old costume. When styling wigs, I’d recommend checking out a tutorial from a site like Arda; the best tips I can impart for this piece are to use a ton of hair spray and a wide-toothed comb, and to be gentle so you don’t destroy the wig.
Unfortunately, for Halloween I did not have the time to create any additional props, but I plan to revisit this costume at some point and will definitely be including something; most likely, Wednesday’s headless doll.
The Finale- The Completed Cosplay
In total, this costume took approximately two and a half hours to make, and it’s comprised entirely out of standard clothing and material. The only thing not everyone may have on hand is a wig, but if you plan a little ahead it’s easy to find one styled for this costume online or in costume stores.
I hope you enjoyed this first Closet Cosplay Challenge! I have some fun ideas to try out in the future, so make sure to check back for our next post. If you have a cosplay you want to see me try to make, I’d love to hear your suggestions in the comments below.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go re-watch The Addams Family and reminisce about my childhood.