If you follow me on Twitter (@ParentingGeekly) you may have seen some of my “half-assed cosplay” posts last week.  See, I have this idea that homemade costumes are the best costumes.  I feel this way despite my lack of sewing skills and complete absence of attention to detail.  Every year I “half ass” it, and every year we get a bunch of compliments.  I am a crazy perfectionist, convinced that  everyone will mock my hot glue and hem tape efforts, and then surprised when they turn out okay-ish.
Anything has to be better than this, an actual costume I wore circa 1985.
Why am I sharing this humble-brag?  Because you can half-ass cosplay too!  It just takes an idea, a little creative thinking and a good attitude.  Seriously, half of the costumes I am going to share started when one of the kids had an idea, which I promptly shot down for being too hard or too complicated.  It was their insistence that kept my gears turning, which eventually led to successful costumes.

My tips:

  • Set a budget.  Once you get started it can be hard to reign it in.  Suddenly, *everything* in the craft store looks like it might work, and the next thing you know, you have spent $150 to be Mincecraft Steve.
  • Let go of perfectionism.  Half-assed cosplay is, by definition, half-assed.  It may not win an award at comicon, but it may just win your office Halloween party.  The average joe isn’t going to nitpick that your homemade NInja Turtle shell had 12 segments instead of 10.
  • Make it durable, to a point.  Half-assed cosplay is meant to be worn once or twice.  Ours usually involve a lot of hot glue and cardboard.  Some, like my Thor costume are mostly reusable, others, like my dirndl will not stand up to more than a few wearings.  The costumes need to last for your event though, so make sure if it’s going to rain little Timmy has something more long-lasting than a toilet paper mummy costume  for trick or treating.
  • Pinterest is your frenemy. Chances are, if you have an idea, someone has already made it. The problem is that the person who made it, and took the time to put a detailed tutorial on the internet, probably did not half-ass it.  Use the internet for inspiration, but be innovative! Don’t get too caught up in trying to do things the way those ladies from that cosplay reality show did it, because you will wind up disappointed.

Here are a few of our costumes and how I made them:

Sugar Skull and Voodoo Guy  (and my bestie’s Mermaid costume).
This one just required raiding my closet for some leftover clothing from my goth phase and a lot of practice with makeup.  I did this one in 2010, before it was popular (hipster!) and so I had to base the makeup on some Dia de los Muertos pin up art.  Super Dad invested in a Goodwill vest, a re-purposed alligator tooth necklace from an old  pirate costume and the face makeup from my costume. My friend Karen took a store bought mermaid costume and added her own wig, some jeweled decals from a nail art kit (applied with eyelash glue) and a quick trip to the drugstore for some makeup.

Tony Stark, Team Fortress 2 Sniper and Wonder Woman

Kit’s Wonder Woman costume was bought from the clearance department because it was missing all of its accessories.  I think my mother found it for about $3.  We made the tiara from gold cardstock, the bracelets from glittered foam sheets and the lasso from the same gold elastic cording that kept the tiara on her head.  The boots were bought from Goodwill, and built up with duct tape, spray painted blue, and then trimmed with more duct tape, in white.

Super-Dad’s Tony Stark Costume was created around an expensive t-shirt from ThinkGeek that lights up to look like the Arc Reactor is embedded in his chest.  He already owned the coat, and the goatee.  The only other accessory we had to get him were the sunglasses, which were purchased for 99 cents at a second hand store.

Nate is the Sniper from Team Fortress 2

The shirt and vest both came from the ladies’ department at the thrift store, the pants came from the boy’s department (and were a little short – let go of perfectionism)  I made his side pouch from felt and hot glue, and we modified an Indiana Jones hat by gluing the flap up.  The alligator tooth necklace makes its final appearance as hat trim.

Tony Stark(again), Pinkie Pie, and Aperture Scientist

We had to buy another pair of sunglasses for Super-Dad, but we were glad to get another wearing out of that expensive shirt.

Nathan has on a lab coat purchased from a Medical Uniform Shop for under $20.  We created the Aperture logo using Inkjet Iron on Paper, he also had a bigger aperture on the back.  He carried a clip board with a “Test Subject Questionnaire” that we created.

Kit’s Pinkie Pie costume was one I wasn’t sure I could pull off.  It came together when we decided to do something that was kind of inspired by Equestria Girls, but stayed true to the look of “regular” Pinkie Pie.  I hand stitched the Cutie Mark onto a store bought skirt, added leggings and leg warmers, made a felt Gummy the Crocodile with felt and glue.  With used silk flowers to suggest a curly mane/ears and sprayed her hair pink.


I have before and after pics for this one, because I knew that if I pulled it off it would be a pretty big transformation. This was created for an Oktoberfest party, and will be reworked into Little Red Riding Hood this Halloween. I started with a thrift store “Medieval Bar Wench Costume”.  I added the green ribbon lacing, some ribbon trim and some appliques. All hot glued on.  The apron had a frilly top, which I hacked off, and then added some matching ribbon to the waist.  I cut off most of  the clingy polyester red skirt that was attached to the bodice and wore a plain black skirt over it.  I borrowed Kitty’s flower headband and braided my hair into a crown to complete the look.

Luke Skywalker

This was my first attempt at making a costume.  He wore an all black outfit and some black costume gloves.  The cloak was an unhemmed piece of fleece cut to size and pinned on with a safety pin. We had the lightsaber.  Everyone thought he was Harry Potter.

Lady Thor

Probably my favorite costume ever.  We had the toy headpiece, I made the Power Discs out of silver cardstock and stuck them to a black dress I already had using double-sided tape.  The cape was unhemmed velour, cleverly pinned on using hidden safety pins.  I layered the whole thing over a  long sleeve blue t-shirt.  The cuffs are glittered foam sheets with fake leather lacing.

The Tenth Doctor

Nate won “Coolest Kid Costume” at Super-Dad’s office party with this one.  We bought the Sonic Screwdriver from the comic shop.  The trench was thrifted (once again from the ladies’ department) and we bought some cheap Keds knockoffs for under 10 dollars.

I hope you have found inspiration in this post!  Most of these were made at the last minute, you still have time to half-ass your own costume!  If you do, or if you have, please post a link to photo in the comments!