I'm currently having a dilemma were I feel like I'm "too late" to cosplay. As if, everyone who is already cosplaying has mastered it and become presentable, where as I'm just starting out and don't even light a candle to most of the crowd. I really adore everyones craftsmanship, and it's an incredible hobby to be apart of. But no matter how many tutorials I see I feel like I simply don't have the skill/talent to put together a cosplay, or as if I can't be a beginner. Has anyone been thru this?
Sorry that you feel that way about cosplay. It should be something fun, but if you feel inadequate, that can take away from it.
Know that it’s perfectly okay to be a beginner. Cosplay is a growing hobby, and people are getting into it all the time. There’s no shame in being new! I’d guess that the cosplayers who are relatively new at a con probably vastly outnumber those who have been doing it for 5+ years (who outnumber those of us who have been doing it 10+ years, etc.). Just remember that there’s a reason why you see so many “cosplay 101″ panels at cons, and why help sites like this one can exist: because so many people are getting into the hobby or looking for ways to get into the hobby that this kind of thing can be sustained.
The thing about skill is that it’s something that comes with practice. No one is amazing at something on their first try. It takes time and experience to get good at something, and it’s hard work. You can’t compare yourself to someone who has been cosplaying for a number of years and has more skills and more resources than you. Only compare yourself to your previous self. Did you learn how to make a new type of clothing, even if it’s not perfect? Great! Your next version will be better. Did you have a problem with something and it didn’t turn out? That can be discouraging, but you learned something from it, and now you can apply that knowledge to future projects. Reading tutorials will only get you so far. You have to actually do things.
Also, there’s no shame in starting small. You want to get into cosplay but can only do minimal sewing? Modify pre-made garments. This can also help you learn how things are constructed. Make simple outfits to begin with. Most complex costumes are just lots of simpler sewing techniques put together, and while this takes time to do, it can help to think of a more complex outfit as smaller pieces rather than as a big complex whole. Your first cosplay doesn’t have to be (and shouldn’t be!) a super elaborate hand-beaded Sakizou design, for example, or a full suit of armor. Learning how to make simple things so that they fit well and have clean construction will be much more useful and much more impressive in terms of construction than trying to tackle something far outside your skill level.
It also helps to take things slowly and set reasonable goals. Say you want to make a whole costume in a year. Set a goal so that you make the skirt one month, the bloomers another month, the top another month, and the accessories another month. Take your time with the items, and remake them if needed. Break down each piece into even smaller pieces – make your goal for that week to learn to sew a zipper, or learn to sew elastic, and then work your way up to the more complex princess seams on the top, and then the more complex boning in the top, and then the most complex item, such as a small bit of embroidery. Make mockups and practice pieces (I /still/ make practice pieces for new techniques) so that you can do the technique a few times before doing the final piece. Learning skills in small, manageable chunks will make it less overwhelming, and you’ll learn how to put things together in a practical way that can then be applied to a more complex outfit next time.
You can also enter a contest that has a beginner skill division. Ask for advice from the judges on how to improve. Attend a con in normal clothes or a storebought costume and see how you feel about that. Take some of the pressure off, and refocus a bit on other aspects of cosplay before tackling a project.
Also, keep in mind that a lot of what you see online and the viral images you see of cosplays are the “best” images – the most impressive construction, the best photography, and any “flaws” are often hidden in creative photography or photoshopped out, etc. (Of course, “best” is super subjective here, and there is no “best” way to cosplay, hence the quotes, but I think my meaning is clear.) The average cosplay at a con doesn’t look like that, certainly not while walking around the floor, and there are a lot of beginners around, or people who cosplay for reasons other than the construction, and there is nothing wrong with that. I’d actually recommend looking at con coverage photos and videos, or digging through the tags for local cons. You’ll often see photos here that are hall shots (not staged photoshoots), usually taken by fans of the series because they like the character, not because the cosplayer looks like they just stepped off a movie set. Look at photos and videos of crowds and gatherings. You’ll see a lot of cosplayers there of all skill levels – you’ll fit right in no matter what your costume looks like.
And hey, a lot of attendees will see your costume and be amazed by it even if you only see flaws! People are often just excited to see their favorite characters, or don’t notice all of the tiny things that went “wrong” that you might.
It can be hard to deal with feeling of inadequacy, but you’ll get to the level of skill you want to be at faster than you think if you continue to work at it. Here’s the secret: a lot of artists (cosplayers included) are hardest on their own work. Even someone like me, who has been cosplaying for nearly 15 years, deals with these feelings. The secret to overcoming it is not to look at other people’s work (”this person is at a way higher level than I am and they just started!” or “I’ll never make anything that amazing!”), but to look at how far you’ve come, and what you are proud of in your own work. I’m a pretty practical person, so if I ever do feel that kind of inadequacy, I usually stop, identify where I can improve, and set out to do those specific things. Even then, you will see your flaws, while others will see your strengths. Learn to identify your strengths and appreciate them, and work on the things that you see as flaws. Know that no one can do everything perfectly, and learn to embrace that.
I mention my own experiences here because you sound like the kind of cosplayer I am. I’m the type who has the most fun with the construction aspect of it, and has fun trying to plan out and problem solve a cosplay, and then showing off all my hard work. Not everyone places as much personal importance on those aspects of the hobby, so this kind of advice doesn’t really apply to those who have different versions of fun. This answer isn’t meant to be a “you have to have good construction to be a good cosplayer” response, but since you specifically want advice on construction skill, I would guess that you’re the type who likes to make things.
You’ll get there, but remember that you are always allowed to be at the skill level you are at. Always.