If you click on a link and make a purchase we may receive a small commission. Read our editorial policy.

Ask Ani-Mia: Original Designs, References, and Cosplay Embellishments

This week's advice includes cosplaying original characters, how to find references, and more!

Ask Ani-Mia

Hey there cosplayers and cosplay enthusiasts. Welcome to Ask Ani-Mia, a running advice column where you can ask questions on any topic that may be cosplay related and get an answer. Hopefully my years of cosplay experience can help shed some light on questions you may have been dying to ask but for some reason or another haven’t. So let’s get started.

Hi Ani-Mia, I want to do an original character design cosplay but I feel like no one is going to care because they won’t know who the character is. - Anonymous

I love original creations and designs because they are immensely creative and I quickly learned after trying to create my own female version of Aquaman, it’s actually much more difficult than people think. When you are faced with endless possibilities of what you can make your character look like or wear, the harder it can be to make choices. And without design limitations, you can make a cosplay as simple and clean or grandiose and elaborate as you want.

The most important thing about your cosplay is that you like it. As long as you love your cosplay and can show the pride you have in it as you wear it around the convention, people will take notice. You’ll find that many people will be intrigued by seeing a character they haven’t seen before and may even ask you about it. Take that opportunity to explain your character and why you chose to cosplay as them. You may just make them a new fan of your own character you’ve created.

Hi Ani-Mia, What’s the best way to get reference photos for a character? I want to cosplay a character from a movie but he isn’t a big character so there’s almost no photos of him online. - Anonymous

There are so many times when the best character in a show or movie is someone only onscreen for a few moments leaving cosplayers with almost nothing to go on for accuracy. The most straightforward method is screenshots directly from the source material. This may mean finding a way to watch it on your computer or phone so you can screenshot as much as you can or taking a photo of a paused tv screen.

Look to see if there are any figures or statues of the character. This could be a long shot for a really obscure character but figures can be a great resource for cosplayers since you can get a look at the outfit from all angles and how proportionate different parts are to each other.

The last step requires more research but check to see who the costume designer or team was for the movie in the credits. Some costume designers, like the ones for Riverdale and Witcher, will post photographs of their work on their social media. You may also be able to try to reach out to them to see if they have any photographs of that character that they can share. I know one designer I follow, Kara Saun who worked on the Disney Descendants movies, loves to post photos that will help cosplayers and often shares their work on her own social media.

Hi Ani-Mia, Where can I get extra decorations for cosplays like fringe or appliques online? – Cory T.

Embellishments can really take a cosplay to another level but a good selection of them can be hard to find outside of larger cities. One of the things I love about visiting NYC is the abundant number of stores catering to all matter of extra flair up and down the blocks of the fabric district. Because they supply the designers for Broadway productions, they are always stocked with the perfect pieces for zhuzhing up costumes. And luckily for those outside of NYC, many of them have online stores.

My personal favorite is M&J Trimming which has a gigantic selection of rhinestones, trims, ribbons, buttons and more. If you find that you are buying rhinestones often, I highly suggest investing in a Swarovski crystal color chart which I found at Fire Mountain Gems, along with anything you need for jewelry making.

Shine Trim has a wide selection of decorative appliques, particularly those for dance outfits and costumes, so really anything that sparkles and shines. And while traditionally known for its wide array of fabrics, and its sponsorship of the show Project Runway, Mood Fabrics has a large selection of trims, lace, zippers and other decorations. They also have a handy rewards system so that you can earn points towards a discount on future purchases.

If you have a question that you’d like to have answered, feel free to send it to askanimia@gmail.com. Make sure to include your first name and last initial or let us know if you’d like to mark the question as “From Anonymous”

About the Author
Ani-Mia avatar



Ani-Mia has been cosplaying since 2008 and her love for video games, comic books and anime are reflected in her wide variety of cosplay costumes. She has been a cosplay guest at over 150 conventions across the globe as well as judged championship cosplay contests, appeared in both online and print magazines as well as television appearances. She’s also the Cosplay Writer for Otaku USA Magazine, the premiere print magazine about anime and manga in the United States, and an official video host for PreviewsWorld catalog and Sapphire Studios.