girls pageant dress

Thrift Stores Finds and Retail Scores: Cosplaying Made Cheap and Easy

Part 4:

What to Look for When You’re Looking for Parts: Clothing with A lot of Material 

Next, look at clothing made up of lots of yardage. Extra large-size dresses and men’s shirts can be cut up and reused just for their fabric. The apron for the Witch Hunter Robin costume was originally a large skirt. I opened up the back seam and added straps made from a skirt in a similar color. Because it was a factory-made item, it already had the lining in it which gave it a nice finished look without having to buy extra fabric.


The jacket, gloves and material for the apron all came from the thrift store too.

The material for the jumper for Satsuki from My Neighbor Totoro was cut from orange scrubs I bought for a dollar. 

 Except for the pink dress and Soot Sprites, everything these young cosplayers are wearing were modified items from the thrift store.

For cosplays that require nice satin fabric, prom dresses are an obvious choice. If you don’t see what you are looking for the first time you skim over the available dresses, be sure to look closely a second time. Prom dresses are often made of several layers. Chiffon, tulle, and other sheer fabrics are often layered over heavier satins, gabardines, or taffetas. Some of the ugliest prom dresses and wedding gowns you will ever see are generously “donated” to local shops have beautiful high quality lining which can be cut down and used to line anything.

The Princess Jellyfish dress was made from an old wedding gown that was purchases for $1.

Many Lolita or Victorian inspired cosplays (Rozen Maiden, Black Butler, etc.) require fuller dresses. You can achieve this by cutting the pre-sewn tulle crinolines out of old wedding gowns or finding an unattached drawstring or elastic crinoline right next to them in the same section. Personally, I think having that extra oomph under larger dresses can make a good costume into a great one.

You can see my crinoline peaking out from under my Saber costume. I found it for about $10 at a thrift store.

Don’t be afraid to check the opposite gender’s section. This goes for guys as well as girls. You will be surprised at what you can find that will work for a costume .The shirt I used in this Souseiseki cosplay from Rozen Maiden is a woman’s. A little lace around the collar and sleeves was all that was needed, although I purposely toned down the amount of lace from the original design at the request of the client.

A boy dressed as a girl dressed as a boy wearing a girl’s shirt.

Don’t ignore the children’s section just because at first glance everything seems too small. The skirts on little girls’ pageant or frilly dresses are made from an enormous amount of fabric. You can easily turn a child’s dress into a Loli skirt, petticoat, or crinoline. Just cut it off at the waist, and add a little elastic. This doesn’t just work for size 2 people. I was a size 14, and I modified them to fit myself.


Size 8 children’s dress modified into a size 14 woman’s skirt.


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Part 6

Part 7

Part 8

Part 9