Geek Fashion: Cosplay Tips from the Opera

I had the pleasure of attending a Seattle Opera costume tour last week, and learned a lot of things that could be applied towards cosplay. Take a look at these tips from the opera to make your next cosplay/costume a success!

  • Display your Inspiration. The opera houses pics of the show they’re working on along with sketches of the costumes and pieces of inspiration. Post pictures of your past costumes, favorite cosplayers, and images of the next person you’ll be portraying on your wall to keep you inspired at all times. Your inspiration doesn’t need to be limited to costumes; I keep an inspiration notebook with images that stand out to me from fashion magazines, and display favorite pieces of artwork, sayings, and clippings on my wall.

  • Keep a Project Notebook. This “swatch book” contains information on every outfit the opera’s making from scratch, from a sketch of the product to swatches and information on every pieces of fabric they use. This helps them pass the costume on to others to work on as well as order more supplies in the future if they need to make adjustments. Keep a binder of your sketches, swatches, and receipts for your costumes so you can make changes later or teach a friend how to make it!
  • Use High-Quality Materials. The opera knows they’ll be reusing costumes, so they make sure to use the highest quality materials so they’ll last longer. The costume will be expensive either way–you can save a few bucks for something essentially disposable, or use/rent it for years to come for a little bit more. The opera also makes sure there is a huge seam/hem allowance in all of their garments so they can be resized easily for future use. If you’re making a costume you plan on wearing to an annual convention, a seam allowance may be a good idea. You never know if you’ll go up or down in weight a bit over the year, or if you’ll want to sell/loan the costume to a friend!
  • Share Your Costumes. As a way of recouping some of the cost of the costumes, many opera houses rent out costumes to other operas/theaters doing the same show. This helps everyone save a bit of money and eliminates waste! Consider doing the same thing with your friends: open up your costume library to friends before cons/Halloween and encourage them to share theirs as well. It’s an easy way to get a new costume with very little time or money. The same can be done for normal clothes: have a clothing swap with your friends as an easy way to change out your wardrobe!

Seeing the costume shop made me want to take up sewing and costuming… there are just so many cool costume possibilities out there! Do you cosplay? What costume are you currently working on?

Want to see more from the Seattle Opera? Join them for their free simulcast of Madame Butterfly at the Key Arena on May 5th. You can get your tickets here. I’ll be in the “Tweet Suite” sharing my experience of seeing an opera for the first time with my twitter followers!



  1. Oh the seam allowance… wish I’d known that four years ago! My mom had to help me add extra panels of fabric in the back of my Aurora dress because I’m no longer dance-class skinny.

    I also recommend lining your costume. More time and money involved, but worth it if you plan to wear it more than once.

  2. Great suggestion! You can see in the “swatch book” pic that they have a lining picked out for that costume. Lining makes it look and feel so much better!

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