I have a real thing for obscure holiday celebrations. I love the idea of having a special day to shout some love for a really good (but often forgotten) cause. For example, National Secondhand Wardrobe Day— 25 August. An awesome day to talk about secondhand clothes, recycling your wardrobe, and calling out the crazy recklessness churned out by the cosplay industry.
Oh, wait. Did you think I was talking about the fashion industry in general? Well, yeah. That’s a given. There are plenty of news articles and commentary on THAT issue. Clothing Waste is a serious issue. The global fashion industry is worth about US$2.5 trillion, with US consumers alone spending around $380 billion on clothing, accessories, and footwear. That seems even more wasteful when you consider the average North American throws around 81-pounds of textiles into landfill each year. Add all of this to the highest industrial pollution in the world, and you start wondering why we value the fashion industry in such a way!
Now let’s consider this with our cosplay wardrobes. *shudder* Full transparency here: I love my cosplay as much as the next GeekMom. But just like many of you, I find myself staring at the ‘costume box’ and muttering, what will I do with all of this? When you think about the amount of money you spend on cosplay outfits compared with the number of times you wear them, we really should be thinking of better ways to feed our geeky habits.
Not every cosplay is an authentic original masterpiece, made from the freshest of materials and sculpted with the blood of your own hands. Yes, there are some amazing cosplay artists who do create spectacular outfits from scratch and display them all over the place. However, the truth is we don’t all have to do that. Some of us lack the skills. Some of us lack the finances. Some of us lack all the other resources required to complete such a phenomenal task.
There are alternatives, and National Secondhand Wardrobe Day is a great day to talk about it. There is more than one way to cosplay, and there is a very good chance you are already doing this. The best part is, you can mix and choose from any of the following to achieve your look:
- Buy secondhand
- Recycle/Upcycle from your existing wardrobe
- Create a new outfit ‘in the spirit of your cosplay’
There are plenty of thrift stores and “op-shops” around, selling secondhand clothes for very reasonable prices. These stores are no longer considered the ‘charity bins’ of yesteryear. There is (and to be honest, always has been) a growing movement to support the culture of secondhand clothes. By purchasing from these stores, you are often supporting charities who do amazing work in a range of areas. Plus, you are doing your bit to reduce wasteful fashion.
You can also do your secondhand shopping online through websites like eBay. In Australia, my preferred site is Gumtree because I can keep it local and reduce my carbon footprint on transport costs as well. There are plenty of similar sites all around the world; google for your local area.
Recycle/Upcycle from Your Existing Wardrobe
Casual Cosplay is absolutely a thing. Before you rush out to by a new item for your outfit, take a good look at your wardrobe. And your partner’s wardrobe. And your extended family. You can make some amazing outfits from the casual clothes you already have. I mean, that’s where some of our best superheroes made their costumes from (Spider-Man, anyone?)
Create a New Outfit
Speaking of making your own cosplay, don’t forget the “Spirit of Cosplay”. Your outfit doesn’t always have to be exactly like the TV/Movie/Book image. Some of the best cosplays I have seen have been interpretations by the cosplay artists themselves. Having your own twist on the character adds your personal touch and accentuates your geeky passion. It allows you to show which elements are most important to you, and that is a geek-love in itself. By creating your own cosplay outfit from scratch, you will have the luxury of finding whatever fashion items you want–which also means more opportunity when you go secondhand shopping.
Not convinced? Take a look at cosplay extraordinaire, Trish (IG handle: @trishykitty). Trish is my go-to gal for Sustainable Cosplay and Eco-Cosplay. I am constantly blown away by her creativity and ingenuity for each cosplay. Almost every cosplay outfit she has is made from recycled or repurposed or secondhand clothes.
Trish: “This is my Pink Harley creation, to celebrate the wedding issue of Batman and Catwoman. My local comic book store (Kings Comics) held a wedding vow renewal ceremony. The dress was bought secondhand from an ‘op-shop’ in Sydney. The pink glove is secondhand vintage.
I LOVE this outfit because it is so original while keeping with the very soul of Harley Quinn. And in Trish’s spectacular style, she ticked all three boxes.
This one is also a favorite of mine: Bombshell Black Canary. Trish tells me, “The top was secondhand top from eBay. The microphone was also secondhand. And the skirt is one used to wear for work; I just modified.”
It’s not just her cosplay. Trish has also shown me how easy it is to create any outfit from a secondhand wardrobe. When she is not bringing her fave comic book characters to life, Trish works as the Coordinator of Waste Avoidance and Resource Recovery in local government. Trish also has her also has a PhD in Chemical Engineering and is a strong supporter of independent artists in the geeky community. For Trish, her secondhand wardrobe is as much a way of life as it is an expression of her creativity.
Trish: This is a secondhand dress I got from an op shop (thrift) in Sydney. The necklace and earring are made from repurposed electronic waste by @hippiesyster (Instagram). This was for a meeting where I was a guest speaker talking about my experiences as a woman working in the waste & recycling industry.
Trish is a huge inspiration for me. Since meeting her and seeing her outfits, I have been rethinking my own secondhand wardrobe, especially for cosplay. When our daughter asked to cosplay as Squirrel Girl for her Book Day Parade at school, I took the opportunity to look at secondhand stores.
While I’m not as good as Trish at the shopping, I did find the bomber jacket in a secondhand op shop / thrift store. There is no way I could have made the jacket myself. And trying to find a brand new version of the same jacket would have cost a fortune, especially for something to be worn for a few occasions. On the other hand, buying secondhand has helped reduce a landfill, has extended the life of some clothing, saved me some money, AND the money I did pay went towards charity.
Cosplay is and always will be a personal expression of your geeky interests. If you have the skills and resources available to make the perfect outfit from scratch, I will always admire your work and dream of achieving the same. However, if you ever have the chance to expand your secondhand wardrobe and create some sustainable cosplay, I will also be cheering you on. It doesn’t have to big, bold, and out there. Just knowing your secondhand items are making a difference is a statement in itself.
If you would love to see more of Trish’s amazing cosplays, check out her Instagram account with @trishykitty. We would also love to see your secondhand wardrobe and sustainable cosplay–tag @geekmomblog and #SecondhandWardrobeDay in your pics or share your Instagram details in the comments below.