Friday 28th November 2014,
Comic Booked

Holiday Gift Guide: Cosplay Edition

Aidan Vitti 12/19/2013 Reviews

Maybe you’re not a cosplayer, but your friend is. Your significant other is. Your little sister, or maybe your nephew.

Whoever it is, sometimes it’s hard to find gifts for people you care about. I find it especially difficult when someone you care about has parallel interests but express enjoyment of them differently. Your Batgirl-cosplaying sister might love Batman just as much as you do, but she probably doesn’t want a trade paperback of The Long Halloween as much as she’d love a new utility belt.

You can’t get her that new utility belt, maybe, but you do have the ability to get her something that might help her get it for herself. It’s hard to know where to start when you’re walking unfamiliar territory, but I have some suggestions that might help you out.

The Beginning Cosplayer

Your sister is just starting. Maybe she’s made a few costumes but it’s not something she’s decided to be serious about yet, she’s just having a good time. There are a lot of things that you can buy for her to help her create her costume better!

1. Better Scissors

Ginghers come in a metal box with red velvet inside, like a musical instrument.

Ginghers come in a metal box with red velvet inside, like a musical instrument.

There are a lot of scissors out there and they’re not all bad. But chances are your beginner friend has scissors from a sewing kit set and those work far better than a pair of paper-cutting scissors, but they’re nothing compared to a heavy, solid metal pair like Ginghers.
where to buy: Amazon, JoAnn Fabrics, Gingher website.

2.  Storage

Multi-purpose tackle boxes.

Multi-purpose tackle boxes.

Tackleboxes and jewelry boxes are common enough, but they’re typically on the bottom of the supplies list when there are more important things to purchase – like a sewing machine, scissors, fabric – that are actually necessary to make a costume.
where to buy: Amazon, craft stores like JoAnn Fabrics, hardware store like Home Depot, or a sporting goods store like Cabela’s

The Armor Cosplayer

You’ve got a friend that makes all sorts of costumes. He doesn’t need the sewing basics because his costumes are more armor-based than fabric. So, you can’t get him new scissors or tackle boxes, but there are some improvements you could make to his tool box.

1. Heat Gun

Heat guns are made by various companies and look a bit different, but do the same thing regardless.

Heat guns are made by various companies and look a bit different, but do the same thing regardless.

Many methods for making faux armor involves applying heat to materials like craft foam. Hair dryers are more common in a household than a heat gun, but they don’t work as evenly or as effectively. They definitely don’t get as hot and if your cosplay friend ever decides to work with more expensive materials, he will need a heat gun.
where to buy: Wal-Mart, hardware store like Home Depot

2. Leather Punch Tool

Leather punch tools vary on number of widths but are, for the most part, the same.

Leather punch tools vary on number of widths but are, for the most part, the same.

The name itself sounds pretty inclusive, but the fact of the matter is a leather puncher is one of those items that are useful beyond leatherwork.  It’s basically a giant, powerful hole puncher with a lot of different hole sizes on a dial. It cuts through leather, so it’ll also cut through paper, fabric, foam, etc. They’re also great for adding holes into belts just where you need them to be!
where to buy: Amazon, craft stores like JoAnn Fabrics, leather shops like Tandy Leather (online as well).

3. Dremel

Dremel kits range from all sizes, so do your research to find the best one for your price range.

Dremel kits range from all sizes, so do your research to find the best one for your price range.

Man, there’s so many great things Dremels can do. They are one of the most versatile tools to own. Even better, they are the kind of gift that you can improve on year after year. Buy the drill now, and then additional heads and sets later on; there’s an unlimited amount of accessories you can snag that’ll help your cosplay friend with all sorts of processes.
where to buy: Amazon, hardware stores like Home Depot

4. X-acto set

Like Dremel sets, there are many x-acto sets to choose from, too.

Like Dremel sets, there are many x-acto sets to choose from, too.

If your friend is into making armor, he’s cutting craft foam into all sorts of shapes. Just a basic x-acto (or scissors, really) will do the job just fine, but they sell great sets that come with a variety of handles and multiple blade shapes to help him get the perfect angle of armor.
where to buy: Amazon, hardware stores like Home Depot, hobby stores like Hobbytown, craft stores like JoAnn Fabrics or Michaels.

For the Cosplayer That Has Everything

You have a friend that’s been making costumes for years. She has her own space to sew and has made dozens of costumes. Surely, she has everything she needs to create things to the best of her potential, right?

Probably. But there are some items that are often overlooked by even the most experienced cosplayers, because while they’re useful, they’re not very necessary.

1. Glue Mat

The glue just peels right off!

The glue just peels right off!

This is one of those things that everyone should have, but no one actually buys (boyfriend, if you’re reading this, take note). Everyone uses whatever they have lying around – the print-out from last night, the cardboard from the box UPS delivered the day before and has yet to make it to the recycling bin. It’s so much better to actually use a glue mat. The gun doesn’t stick to anything, which saves a lot of time and keeps your gun cleaned.
where to buy: Amazon, craft stores like Hobby Lobby, Michaels, or JoAnn Fabrics.

2. Hot glue finger protectors

Modpodge makes the only ones I've seen before, but they're pretty great.

Modpodge makes the only ones I’ve seen before, but they’re pretty great.

This is another thing no one actually has and should. I personally have so many scars across my fingers from pushing things together only to find out that there’s too much hot glue and it’s on my fingers, or it’s seeped through fabric too thin to protect your fingertips.

Either way, hot glue on skin sucks. It takes forever to heal. Like all creative-types, cosplayers are more than willing to take a little suffering to achieve their goal, but it could be so avoidable.
where to buy: Amazon, craft stores like Hobby Lobby, Michaels, or JoAnn Fabrics.

3. Measuring tape lanyard

There's a few different kinds out there, but these are the kind I have.

This is a great stocking stuffer!

I bought this on a whim last year. It was in a clear bin along the front of the cash register, one of those impulse buys I never give into on principle alone, but I’m a bit attached to lanyards. I use them on all my keys and my wallet, and I’d attach one to my phone if I could get away with it. It’s just easy to keep track of things on lanyards.

I digress.

I never carry measuring tapes around unless I’m going to a fitting. It’s remarkable how useful they are. Kind of like when you go to Ikea and they hand you a stunted pencil and one of those paper measuring tapes. Suddenly everything must be measured! Measure all the things!

I use this all the time. In addition to the obvious, I find it useful in situations I didn’t even realize I’d need to. In like, the grocery store, when I’m unsure whether something will fit in a pot, or when my friend’s kid needs a measurement last minute for school, or when you’re suddenly in a position to get measurements, but you didn’t bring anything with you for that.

Another option: a retractable measuring tape keychain.where to buy: local quilt shops tend to have trinket-type things, ebay, etsy.

4. A Loop Turner.

Basically the best invention since the seam ripper, okay.

Basically the best invention since the seam ripper, okay.

Anyone who sews has had to sew a long strip, like a cord or tie. Super easy to sew – a straight line, for the most part. Then it takes twenty times as long to flip it right side out. There are lots of tutorials on the internet about this, using things like safety pins and chopsticks, but the best thing, the unspoken genius, is the loop turner.
where to buy: Amazon, craft stores like Hobby Lobby, Michaels, or JoAnn Fabrics.

Things That Almost Made the List

1. Thread snippers

Ginghers arent the only ones out there; there are a few varieties.

Ginghers arent the only ones out there; there are a few varieties.

Gingher and other companies make special scissors just for snipping threads. They’re not necessary at all but they look cool, sound cool, and if you attach them to a string to your sewing machine, save you a lot of time and thread. They’re also good for final trimming and cleaning when you’re done with a project.
where to buy: Amazon, craft stores like Hobby Lobby, Michaels, or JoAnn Fabrics.

2. Awl

There are different sizes and sharpness to different awls.

There are different sizes and sharpness to different awls.

These are mainly used for book-making and binding, but I have found them useful for a number of things, like popping corners right side out, or expanding holes carefully, or when a seam ripper isn’t quite getting the job done.
where to buy: Amazon, art stores like Blick or Utrect.

3. Rotary cutter and mat

You can get mats in different sizes; rotary cutters come in two different sizes, but each company has different blades.

You can get mats in different sizes; rotary cutters come in two different sizes, but each company has different blades.

This makes cutting patterns from fabrics so much easier, and quicker. Scissors move the fabric around because something has to go underneath the fabric – the bottom blade – and they can cut unevenly if you’re not attentive enough. Rotary cutters are basically pizza cutters for fabric; they work great, when the blades are sharp, and you can cut fabric much more efficiently.
where to buy: Amazon, craft stores like Hobby Lobby, Michaels, and JoAnn Fabrics.

Don’t discount books and gift cards

Any creative type has a kind of love-hate relationship with research and the giant, full-color books that typically accompany it. The trouble with them is that while amazing, they’re often impossibly expensive and looking at the same images on a computer just doesn’t do it justice.

Chances are your cosplay friend feels the same way. She or he probably has an Amazon wishlist of various art-books or history books they want to own, but can’t quite make themselves jump on the price. If you know the kind of games, comics, anime, movies, etc that your friend is interested in cosplaying, check out some of the art books for them specifically. Most movie-specific art books, for example, contain concept art for characters and their various costumes, and some offer verbal insight on the processes they took to reach their final design decisions. All of these are valid and useful in a cosplayer’s world, but frequently get pushed aside in favor more immediately necessary things, like supplies.

Additionally, gift cards have such a bad reputation for lack of creativity or thoughtfulness, but they can be some of the most important gifts to get. If you don’t know what to get your friend, a gift card to the local fabric or craft store isn’t a bad bet. They can make their own decisions, or put it toward something they might not have gotten if they didn’t have your gift to encourage them to bite the bullet.

 

In the end, there are a ton of things to buy for a cosplayer, whether they’re just starting out or involved in the culture for many years. Take a walk around a few craft stores or a hardware store and see what strikes your interest. Chances are there are dozens of things there that you’ll see and think your friend will want and enjoy, possibly more than the items on this list. And if not, there’s always that gift certificate!

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About The Author

Aidan Vitti is a costume designer for film and stage productions. In addition, she also spends her time working on children's clothing and costumes, specifically for children with physical or mental design challenges. Her bed is in Seattle, WA, but it's often empty. Other interests include photography, carnivals, motorcycles, and hedgehogs.

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