Let's make things simple for everyone: Cosplay is a hobby and passion; it is not a job or done to earn extra cash. There are many reasons why a person ends up joining the realm of cosplaying; some good and some...not-so-good.
Based on my observation, some of the reasons why one ends up cosplaying are:
1. To make new friends
2. To develop better communication skills with the public (when one cosplays, be sure to be approached by many; other cosplayers and the public alike)
3. To develop new skills or enhance previous skills (sewing, crafting, planning)
4. To cosplay a character that one looks up to by trying to be just like him/her
5. To motivate and challenge oneself to make the cosplay project a success
6. To enjoy and have fun, just like other cosplayers :)
Sadly, there are also the reasons that are considered to be judged badly by the public. They are, perhaps in reality, not wrong; however with these reasonings alone, one could end up looking terribly ignorant to the public. Here's some badly-used reasons as to why one cosplays:
1. To gain popularity
2. To gain attention from the public
3. To impress the opposite sex
4. To jump into the bandwagon; not wanting to be left out
I've noticed that more often than not, when these reasons are indirectly implied, the cosplayer tends to be ignorant and would rush into things without any proper research beforehand. This causes the wrath of veteran cosplayers, in which the former would demand or whine for help; thinking that the latter would simply hand everything out to them in a silver platter with a silver spoon. Not a good approach - you'll end up scorned for taking the simple route rather than to work for it.
Interestingly, this applies to real life as well. Work hard for what you want to accomplish, and you'll feel satisfaction with the results. Whine and complain for what you want, and you'll be looked down by everyone; deemed as a spoiled brat who knows not of hard work and diligence. Sure, you might not know where to start from, but one could always take a leaf out of a veteran's book and start getting busy looking up for tutorials, advises; and while you're at it make some new friends too! Always be humble and never be too pessimistic over the tips and advises you receive from other cosplayers (or from the public for that matter, sometimes even the most innocent remark could help you improve yourself!). Never leap blindly before you look is also a good advise. Don't take things for granted thinking that everyone will be at your beck and call, giving you what you want. Keep those in mind when you plan to start cosplaying.
I can still remember when I first cosplayed, it took be approximately one year of researching and questionings before I finally dared to cosplay. It was, sad to say, not a success on my part; but I realized I had also learned from the very first project of mine. I'm glad to say that there were other cosplayers whom eventually became some of my closest friends, were not too judgemental and gave me appropriate advices on how to improve better.
So why did it take me one year before I finally dared to cosplay? For starters, I had to plan and budget my cosplay plan beforehand to roughly sum up how much will I be spending on this little project of mine. I was still a student then, and I am a student now; and being a student means that I was financially supported by my mother and sister rather than me having my own financial income. To organize and plan gives me a basic idea as to how much I should save up for, while trying to cut down the cost to the very minimum without being overly cheap about it.
That was my first mistake, by the way. By being too cheap, I ended up getting low grade quality cloths for tailoring (which was expensive) hence I ended up with a costume that was not great. My mum, who by then had known of my little venture (I finally told her about my projects...a few months after I cosplayed) took a look at my costume and told me that it was poorly done (mum was a tailor herself, but she couldn't sew anymore due to athritis). It was a mistake I had learned the expensive way (cheap cloth+expensive tailoring = not lasting costume) but at least I had learned from it all the same.
My second mistake was to choose a character that was not easy to pull off as a first project. The wig itself was a mess that I was at a loss on how to style it. I had to buy two wigs in order to style it, but since I failed (tutorials did not help me at that point of time) I ended up passing it to someone I knew to style it...for a price. Sad to say it was not what I had expect it to be; thus failing badly at that point. So choosing a simple project to start of with is a good beginning.
So how do I execute a cosplay project? Here are the following steps I use:
1. Decide on the character I want to cosplay
2. Get some research done on the character (details of costume, accessories, props, etc)
3. Draw up a rough budget for the plan (cloth, wig, accessories, shoes, misc) and a timeplan for them all
4. Approach your tailor with your project to estimate tailoring cost
5. Scout for cloth materials - it's wiser to ask someone who has an eye for cloth materials to be with you; or alternatively, ask your tailor for what sort of materials you should look out for (This may take awhile, depending on whether you managed to find what you want)
6. Modify my budgeting plan (tailoring cost, and materials that I may have already bought)
7. Scout for the perfect wig for the project (some wigs are sold pre-styled; I usually aim for this unless I don't like the prestyled wig whatsoever) and note down the cost of the wig+shipping (if any)
8. If there are any accessories/props necessary, research in detail on them by drafting them out (if necessary) and/or enlarging those necessary patterns for a better look
9. Source out the necessary materials for the props/accessories
10. Source out tutorials if necessary to complete the props/accessories (Google is your friend)
11. Referring back to picture references, scout around for shoes if necessary
12. Refresh budget list if necessary
Those are some of the basic steps anyway. I tend to refer back to my budget list and check each that is done because I'm a forgetful person and I know I'm bound to forget something if I don't list everything down extensively *laughs*
My basic budgeting list is as follows, if any of you are interested in knowing (Please note that the pricings are just an example...i don't have my plans with me right now haha):
EXAMPLE COSPLAY PLAN:
Suigin Tou from Rozen Maiden
1. Materials - RM150
2. Tailoring - RM200
3. Wig - RM150
4. Contact lens - RM50
5. Misc - RM20
Revised budgeting plan:
1. Materials cost
- Blue Velvet - RM48
- White cloth - RM24
- White netting - RM20
- Purple ribbons (for rose pins) - RM15.50
2. Tailoring - RM180 (Sent to tailor - ???)
3. Wig - RM120 (seller found, to be paid soon)
4. Shoes & Socks - own pair
5. Contact lens - RM50 (found, need to save up for)
The plan is revised from time to time, based on my own self-updates. As you can see, I tend to budget each item slightly higher than necessary. Mostly it's due to the unknown fact of how much it will cost in the end, but it's also based on my own examination over the character itself (Suigin Tou has a rather extensive detailed costume though it looks relatively simple, which will cause the tailor to tear her hair out in frustration if not planned properly and thoroughly. Hence, tailoring work will be more complicated = extra cost).
Hope this article helps! Most of the contents here are written based on my own experience as a cosplayer and an observer. If I happen to offend anyone with my words, my apologies in advance. I, too, have yet a lot to learn from other veteran cosplayers out there :)