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The costume commissioning process - from beginning to end.

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Mengshu

Co-Founder

👉 This is the first part of our series: Commissions 101. Stay tuned for more deep dives into the costume commission process!

A custom costume commission is a great way to get your dream cosplay when you can't make your own - whether that's due to time or skill.

If you've been on cosplay forums or groups, then you've definitely seen the word "commission" floating around. It's likely that you have also interacted with many commissioners. They are usually also cosplayers! Despite this, not all cosplayers are familiar with what that actually means. What does a commission actually entail? What is the process like? How are commissions priced?

We are starting a multi-part series on costume commissioning. We will go over the commissioning process, what the experience is like, and the tools that you need to estimate the potential cost. This post is by no means a replacement for any information provided by commissioners. You should definitely rely on them for your specific situation and needs. Instead, we give a general overview to make the commissioning process less confusing. Let's get started!

The Players & Terminology

First, some terminology. There are two major players in the commissioning process: the commissioner and the client.

Commissioner

A commissioner is someone who makes custom costumes, wigs, props, armor, shoes, etc. at someone else's request. This may be a little counter intuitive for native English speakers. For the cosplay community, the "commissioner" is someone who takes the commission, not the one who requests it. You may also see them referred to in more plain terms such as "maker".

You can think of your commissioner as your fairy godmother - the one who will be making your most fantastical cosplay dreams come true. So treat them well, respect their craft, and most importantly: credit them in your social media so more people can discover them!

Client

A client, or a customer, is someone who requests the custom commission. Pretty straightforward stuff! In the rest of this post, I will be using "clients" and "cosplayers" interchangeably to refer to the folks who want the costumes.

Slot

Slots represents the number of clients a makers can take for a period of time. Commissioners can't constantly take on new projects. They need to manage their workflow. Typically, makers will predetermine a specific number of customers they can take on within a time range. These are slots. Each client fills a slot.

The Process

The process for a custom commission can be very long. It can also differ wildly depending on your needs, the project complexity, and even location. Here, we break down the process into a few big buckets that are common to everyone. From when you start thinking about getting a commission, to your piece arriving at the door, here are the steps involved.

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Commissioner search

Getting a commission is a unique experience where an artist is turning your vision into reality. You'll want to find someone whose artistic vision you like, who is within your budget, who has an open slot in time for your deadline, and who can work with your body type and size. That's a lot of factors! So it's no surprise that it's going to take some time to do this research.

Here are some common places to start your search:

Facebook groups

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An easy place to start is with Facebook groups. Try searching for commissioning groups in your area on Facebook. On these groups, cosplayers will post their needs and commissioners will respond if they think they can work with that project.

ProsCons
You don't need to do much active work if you don't want to. Just create a post with your needs and commissioners will reply.If you want to actively search for commissioners, it is a headache. You can't search by experience, price, past works or anything that might be helpful. You have to scroll down very far to get a decent list of commissioners since the ones actively responding tend to be the same people. And it can be hard to compare commissioners side by side.

American Cosplay Paradise forums

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Like Facebook groups. ACP has a forum specifically for commissions. Here, cosplayers can post projects and commissioners can list themselves.

ProsCons
ACP has a commissioner list that has ~90 commissioner for those who want to do more research before settling on one person.The content can be outdated. Many posts (especially the commissioner list), and their responses, are from pre-2011.

Instagram

Due to the visual nature of cosplay, many makers use Instagram as a primary way to do business or share content. If you already have some favorite makers you follow, you can just DM them to check if they take commissions at all and if they have open slots.

ProsCons
Quickly see the past works of commissioners without having to go to separate websites, portfolios and such.Very hard to actively find new commissioners who have open slots. This process can be more of a grind. You may have to DM many commissioners to check their statuses.

Etsy

Some commissioners have Etsy profiles and accept custom commissions. Try typing in "cosplay commission" to the search bar on Etsy and see who you can find.

One thing to keep in mind is that Etsy is not designed for custom commissions and the timeline associated with it. Commissioners will get reminders to ship out their product after ~2 weeks. This forces commissioners to click a button and fake to Etsy that they shipped it. For cosplayers, this means that buyer support and protection is generally not possible. Commissions generally take 2-6 months and is way past Etsy's usual window of support.

ProsCons
Can see past works and reviews of the commissioner.The commissioner pool may be small. Due to Etsy's system, limited buyer support and protection is available. The system is not designed to facilitate commissions.

Coscove

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After facing the frustration of looking through all the sources above, we decided to collect our own list! Head to Find Makers on Coscove to see our list of verified custom costume makers. You can filter makers by location, skill level, and specific skills that are required - like EVA foam. You can also see past works, including which fandoms and characters that the maker has worked on.

We started this list because we were spending so much time looking for good commissioners and feeling overwhelmed. There are many steps from the beginning to the end of the commissioning process (read about them below!). Our goal is to make that process as smooth as possible.

Project Requirements

Your commissioner needs to know a couple of things about you and your project. With this information, they can figure out if they can help you and give you an accurate pricing quote. To avoid confusion, have the following information ready when reaching out.

Contact

  • Name, phone/email

Project Details

  • Deadline
  • Series name
  • Character name
  • Reference images (Front and back view of character outfit. Other cosplay photos are a plus.)
  • Items needed

Measurements Details

  • Gender
  • Height/weight
  • Usual top and pant sizes

Construction ideas

  • Do you have preferences for material?
  • Any special requests

We are working on making this process as easy and painless as we can! Wouldn't it be nice to be able to create a project brief, with all the relevant details, and send to to as many commissioners as you like? No more copying and pasting. No more retyping the same information. No more scrambling to find images in your download history. Have some thoughts? Let us know!

Project Quote

After you share project information with commissioners, they will give you a rough estimate of how much the project might cost. This process can take anywhere from 3 days to 2 weeks. It depends on the commissioner's workload, team size, and the level of detail they're going through.

We have a article on the way that will go over the two most common ways to estimated commission pricing. These simple number-crunching techniques can help you check if the project is in your budget range.

In our experience, we've found that commissioners are always incredibly passionate about cosplay. They want to make cosplay accessible for as many cosplayers as possible. This is why it's important to come to the conversation with a realistic budget. Commissioners can work with you to achieve the best final product within your budget. They can play with a combination of factors such as materials, patterns, and complexity.

Do keep in mind that this quote is a best guess, and that your commissioner is only human. As humans, we tend to underestimate time needed and overestimate project progress. So don't be too surprised if there are differences between the quote and the final cost.

However, as a best practice, you should ask your commissioner about this from the get-go. Ask about what happens if there are small misestimations, large misestimations, and if they can cap overage charges to a certain percentage of the initial quote.

Payment

After you decide on the perfect commissioner, you will need to make a payment before any work get started. A decent chunk of money (usually 50% of the total) needs to be paid immediately. This is because commissioners need to go and buy materials, fabrics, and anything else that's needed to begin creating your costume.

Commissioners usually offer payment plans. These plans can be on a monthly basis, or a certain percentage at different milestones or any combination depending on the needs of both parties.

Submitting measurements

You will need to share detailed measurements of your body. This part may seems easy but a surprising number of people don't know how to measure themselves properly, and ultimately end up submitting wrong measurements. Measurements is a crucial part of the process that causes the most amount of stress for commissioners.

That's why we recommend the following:

Measuring

Get a friend to help measure you. You can find plenty of measuring guides online (we've included one below from a guide on Etsy). If it's possible, you can go to a local tailor - that's the best way to avoid error.

Photos

Everyone's body is shaped differently even if you wear the same clothing size. Send photos of yourself in forming fitting clothing (front and side) to your commissioner. The photos will really help them see where they might need to make adjustments from the standard patterns or sizing.

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Project Construction

After you share your measurements. The fun part begins! Your commissioner will be doing a ton of planning, sketching, designing, and shopping. Then, depending on your project details, they will be sewing, molding, using their highly honed crafting skills and more.

In this phase, expect an update from your commissioner every week or two weeks. A good commissioning process is one where communication is going well. Your commissioner will share updates with you throughout the process. They may also invite you to voice your opinions along the way and make any tweaks as needed.

Fitting (for certain projects)

Sometimes fittings will be done as a part of the process if your project is very expensive or if you and your commissioner are in the same city.

If you are not in the same city and want to be doubly sure that your costume will fit like a glove, you can request your commissioner to send a mockup in muslin before they use the final fabric. Extra shipping, fabric, and sewing times will add to your final cost. But if you're spending a few hundred or grand on the perfect costume, it might be worthwhile make sure it fits exactly the way you want it to.

Shipping

Always request a shipping service that requires signature and provides insurance. At this point, you have probably spent a small fortune on the costume and your commissioner has probably burnt enough midnight oil. If anything goes wrong, both of you need need need to be protected by insurance.

If the package requires international shipping, customs officers may be opening up your package. Chances are they won't be putting your costume back in the same delicate manner your commissioner packed it with. Keep this in mind as an extra wrinkle if you are getting anything delicate shipped internationally.

For commissioners: the best practice here is to take a photo or a short video when you're packing and share it with your client. This way your client knows the condition the package was in when it left your care. In case anything goes wrong, it will be clear that you took proper care. Here's an example for styled wigs from Nomes Cosplay.

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Sharing Back

After months of waiting, your cosplay is finally at your door. You try it on in excitement and it's absolutely perfect. But, wait - the journey doesn't stop here!

When you are sharing your photos from a photoshoot or from a con, please please please remember to tag your commissioner. Support the cosplay community by making connections. Most commissioners rely on word-of-mouth to get clients. In order to continue to provide their services to you, and to other cosplayers, commissioners need our support.

Resources for cosplay - whether it's commissioners, DIY guides, or even cons - are hard to come by and hard to find. We've scoured Facebook and forums for too long. With Coscove, we are working to create a central place to showcase the extraordinary creations of the cosplay community. And to help cosplayers realize their cosplay dreams! If you have worked with a good commissioner, please support them by giving credit and - better yet - refer them to us!

Want to learn more about commissions? Check out our other Commissions 101 posts!

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Mengshu is a co-founder of Coscove. Growing up in Canada, Mengshu loved theatre, dance, and all things photography. She did photoshoots in costume before even learning what cosplay was! Find her on Coscove: coscove.com/mengshus

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