The 5 Stages of Making Your Halloween Costume


I am decent cosplayer. I’m far from famous but I do what I can and I do genuinely love making costumes and accessories. Which is why it’s not a surprise to anyone that I decided to make my Halloween costume again this year. And after last year’s immense success as The Walking Dead’s Negan, I was feeling bold.

I decided to do Dr. Facilier from The Princess and the Frog: admittedly, a movie that isn’t my favorite but Dr. Facilier was the best part of a mostly weak narrative. He’s been on my costume shortlist for a while so in theory, cranking out a Fem! version of his iconic outfit shouldn’t be too difficult for a veteran lazy cosplayer like me.

With that in mind, this costume meant there were pieces I had to make and pieces I’m going to buy. And I decided to get to work nearly immediately on the pieces I had to make, in fact, I’ve been making this costume for about a month now.

And during this whole process, I’ve been pushed to the limits of sanity and have had to remind myself repeatedly why I cosplay to begin with.

But with all of that in mind, I want to provide insight, advice and assistance.

Here are the 5 Stages of Making Your Halloween Costume.

Stage 1: Well-Intended Lists

I started in September with two lists and all the coupons I could shove into my purse. I listed out the things I needed to make and the things I needed to make them. I made a list of the things I needed to buy and possible places to get them.

Well, the road to heaven is paved with lists that mean well.

Upon entering the local craft store, none of those lists mattered. I was fortunate enough to find the bones of the costume required and in paint colors that were pleasing to me. I had my reference photo and did what I could. My coupons helped because of course once let loose in a craft store I picked up several things I have no need or space for and I left with a wooden dowel, modeling clay, a wooden ball, a metal skull, a bag of feathers, a ton of paint and a basket full of dreams.

Stage 2: Paint, Removing Paint, Removing Regret

It was like a Jackson Pollock massacre. It was like a postmodern panic at the disco. It was a nightmare in cheap acrylic paint.

I had to paint several pieces to make this costume. I had to paint a feather, an orb, a staff, a ribbon, a skull and two fangs. I find painting very relaxing: most of the time.

The repetitive nature of painting is alluring and within days I had pieces drying and prepped and ready and I was filled with a joy I did not think a Slytherin was capable of feeling.  

Now, if you have never worked with paint before: it is messy. Paint gets everywhere. It gets on your hands, your clothes, your floor, your IKEA table, other pieces that didn’t need that paint. It’s stressful and ruins all the fun you’ve had LARPING a Bob Ross episode. But fear not, an actual piece of costume advice. The best things I’ve found to remove paint from surfaces is AJAX/Comet Cleaner or acetone. Don’t use acetone on plastic but it’s great for getting paint off skin and off carpets and floors. Use the comet bleach to remove paint from other surfaces like counters and IKEA tables and family heirlooms.


Stage 3: Offering Your Soul to the Cosplay Gods

By stage two of painting and sealing, I realized I wasn’t going to get that airbrushed flawless look to my pieces without spray paint. Mind you, I live in a crappy apartment in the hood and I have asthma. Spray paint is a gamble but I love the airbrushed look. I was also seriously internalizing that nothing looked just as I wanted. I’m anxious and a perfectionist, likely short of pulling the pieces from a still of the movie, I’d never be fully happy with what I made. But I had to reach a stage where I was at least okay with what I made so that meant spray paint and lots of it.

Now, I’m not advocating for spray painting inside, it’s downright dangerous. But I am lazy and have already had a good run, so asthma and ventilation be damned: I spray painted inside my studio apartment.

After several coats of paint and more expressionism paint splotch misery, I was feeling better with how things were looking. That was until I ruined it all with a top coat.

The sealant I used messed up most of the paint work I did and thus I was thrown into a pit of despair. I was angry at myself, at paint, at costumes and at the world.

So I resigned myself to more acrylic dripped paint and then ANOTHER coat of spray paint, still inside my studio apartment.

I began to loathe myself as the paint dried.

Stage 4: Accepting the Mess Satan Gave You

By now, I’ve spent more on paint than I wanted and I pushed back my schedule near to breaking over my perfectionism. I hated what I was doing and my main motto of cosplay is that I’d stop doing it when it was no longer fun. I wasn’t having fun and was mostly just tired and annoyed by the color purple.

But I have an amazing support network that was so excited to see me continue that I had no choice but to do so. I wanted to show off more. I wanted to show my friends, my fans, my family; I wanted to show them that I could do this.

So after a Rocky-style montage, I got back to work. It got easier to sculpt and easier to paint. It got easier to accept that I’d never quite get the gloss right and that sometimes paint meant bubbles. But every imperfection was somewhat charming. It’s a Halloween costume: I’m not entering a contest. It’s to wear for maybe one day and improve upon before taking this to a far-off convention in the future.

I got more secure in what I was doing and made the most progress I had after I made the formal announcement on my Facebook page.

I felt better about myself and my work and now things look like how I want them to. That’s rewarding when you look back at a piece and think:

Wow, this does not suck entirely.

Now all that’s left is to sculpt a necklace and start buying some clothing pieces.

I’m not making a dress: it’s Halloween, not Anime Expo.


Stage 5:  The Mad Dash to Amazon

I’m now a few weeks away from Halloween. I’m working on ordering the pieces I still need and sorting out if I really can get away with simply going into the local Old Navy.

I did another coat of spray paint inside and I’ve now burned myself with hot glue and I’m still struggling to remove paint from my nail bed: I have accepted this as my current reality.

It is in this time that I’ll continue to be somewhat and mostly proud of the pieces I made and I will welcome what the final costume is when I finally finish the thing.



I’m happy to be close to being finished. I’m relieved to be nearly done. It’s great to see the finish line.

I will finally finish the costume I will wear for at least one day and then it will all be done…

Until I start planning again for next year.

I hope you all found this helpful! Let me know in the comments what you’re working on! I’d love to see it!



One Response

  1. KL Ashworth October 3, 2018 Reply

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