1. Draw your costume. Yes, that’s right—draw it! Costuming is an art form. You likely won’t be the next fantastic clothing designer, but in the end, it doesn’t matter either way; your drawing is for you. Think of it as your architectural “costume blueprint” to help you visualize your costume before buying anything. As an alternative, if you simply can’t see yourself drawing anything, surf the interweb or hunt through magazines for costume pieces you find interesting. Print or cut them out, and paste them onto a piece of paper to build a visual representation of your costume.
2. Buy the critical pieces first. If you have a very elaborate costume in mind, buy the most time consuming or most important pieces to your costume first. For example, if you plan to have a dress sewn for you, fabric and sewing materials should be purchased first to allow the dress maker time to make your creation for you. If you plan to make a headdress for your costume, concentrate on buying everything you need for the headdress first. If you are going through so much trouble for one piece of your costume, no doubt it will become an important focal point; complete it first to guarantee the rest of the items you buy coordinate with it appropriately.
3. Buy the detailed accents next. Does your costume require some special small touches to make it historically accurate? Maybe you want a little bling to make sure you sparkle? These are important pieces that make you feel special and stand out for the evening, so they should be purchased next in the pecking order. A lot of these items can get expensive, so watch your costs here. Maybe you don’t need the vintage buttons for your Victorian era dress, when you could just buy a cheaper look-alike? However, don’t compromise by eliminating accents, because they can really dress up a costume! Borrow where you can. Keep substitutes in mind, and don’t forget to look for items in your local thrift shop, where you can often find vintage at cheap prices!
4. Buy the basics last. Have you chosen to go elaborate for some portions of your costume, and simple for others? Purchase these items last, but not before you look through your closet to see if anything you already own will work. Maybe a pair of simple ballet flats stored in your closet will work with that vintage dress? It really helps to actually go through your closet for this step, rather than just go by memory (or maybe I am the only one with a terrible memory?).
5. Put it all together and try it on—before the party. Don’t wait to piece your item together until the day of the party. Trust me on this—you don’t want to find out at the last minute that something doesn’t work, or doesn’t fit right! Build it early, put it on, and look at yourself in the mirror. Ladies, make sure everything fits like you want, including room for movement as you stand up or sit down. Note the amount of time it takes you to dress so that you can plan adequately for the day of the party (I once fought my way into a costume with a corset only to realize later how difficult it was going to be to put on my lace-up knee high boots!). Give yourself enough time to get ready, and make the assumption you’ll do something crazy like drop fingernail polish on your skirt—or better yet, paint your nails the night before and avoid that problem altogether.
One final tip for those on a severely small budget—the key to costuming with limited funds (and possibly limited options) is to outfit yourself in something you would never normally wear. For example, if you’re costuming as a flapper, you can get away with a plain, little black dress with simple, beaded fringe at the bottom if you wouldn’t normally wear a little black dress. If, however, you wear those all the time, you won’t feel any different, so you won’t change your mindset to meet your character. Dress different for you!
Wishing you a life of intrigue,
Note: Sequined mask photo is courtesy of Torli Roberts, via stock.xchng.