Fancy Dress: Buy, Rent or Make Yourself?

It’s becoming more and more common that people buy their fancy dress costumes rather than renting or making them. Costumes are readily available at a much more affordable price than they were as little as 5 years ago, which could explain why crafting one by hand is becoming a less popular option. My question is does this take away some of the enjoyment associated with wearing a fancy dress costume?

Two sailor costumes

I decided that the best way to find out what people do is to get out there and ask a few questions. Here’s what I found.


Alice in Wonderland costume

Buying a costume is the easiest way to get involved with fancy dress. Thousands of different costumes are available on the market from retailers worldwide. There are also options that account for every budget, so if you’ve only got a small amount of money to spend you’ll still find something to dress up in.

The biggest factor that I found leading people to buy a costume was the convenience. People pay for an outfit as they either don’t have time or the skills to make a quality costume of their own. The majority of those I quizzed purchased their costumes online from fancy dress websites, Amazon or eBay. They said that the convenience of buying online from work and having it either delivered to their work or home address made the process far easier. They also stated that prices were cheaper online and kept costs down even with postage costs added.

Some even admitted that they would feel embarrassed going out in a costume they’d made themselves incase the quality wasn’t up to par with their friends. Buying a costume produced by a design team and manufacturer made it much more likely that the costume would look good and last the evening without falling apart. This wasn’t always the case but it was more often than not.

The feedback related to buying wasn’t all positive however. A few mentioned that it was annoying when a few other people turned up to a party or event wearing the same costume. This would be much more likely to occur at a niche themed event where the number of different designs for a particular character might be limited.



Renting a costume used to be very popular but as the cost of buying reduced so did the number of those renting. Many see that you get more value from purchasing a costume and reusing it a few times rather than renting and having to give it back after each use. On the other hand very high quality screen accurate costumes are very expensive, so paying to rent one for a night would be far cheaper than buying.

Rental costumes tend to be higher quality as they need to be durable. If a shop is going to rent out a costume, wash it upon its return and rent it again it’ll need to be well made from quality materials. This can be quite costly but if a demand is high for a particular outfit, a Santa suit around Christmas for example, then it’s usually worth the investment. This could lead to expensive rental fees though, which would potentially put people off.

Convenience came up again as a reason for renting. For a one off fee and a refundable deposit you can pick up a costume and not have to worry about making something. On the flip side some people were worried about renting incase the costume got damaged or stained, which would mean that they’d lose their deposit. Instead they said the piece of mind that came from buying or making one was an overwhelming decision maker.


Make Your Own

Sewing kit

Making your own fancy dress costume or putting one together yourself can be a lot of fun. Many of us have given it a go in the past with varying results. Some have produced outfits that they’re incredibly proud of while others, well, let’s just say they didn’t quite go to plan.

There are many reasons for wanting to make your own costume. Having a very small budget lead many of those questioned to trawl through their wardrobes to find a piece of clothing that could be customised into a costume. Looking through the rails at charity shops was another popular way to find bargain garments that would form a costume.

Obtaining costumes that could be considered niche can be really difficult. Many cosplayers find that sourcing a costume for an obscure character is nearly impossible so they either commission one to be made by a professional or make one themselves. The pay off can be huge going this route as the attention that they receive from other fans or cosplayers is worth the effort.

It was fantastic to hear from some people that they learnt how to sew and developed their practical skills by making their own outfits. These skills were generally passed on from family or friends, though YouTube was the resource that one person consulted to learn the majority of their skills.

The most important factor for me when deciding if you should make a costume is the fun factor. Yes making something from scratch can be really hard work and stressful but wearing a costume that you’ve created yourself is very satisfying especially when you’re lavished with compliments.


My Thoughts on the Matter

As a fancy dress retailer you might find it odd that I could actively encourage current or potential customers to make your own costumes but it’s a lot of fun and can be incredibly rewarding. Many of us as children used to make our own Halloween costumes and have fond memories of doing so. The excitement of putting a costume together from scratch and showing it off to our friends when we went out trick or treating together created a huge buzz and made the holiday that much more special.

It doesn’t have to take hours out of your busy schedule or a fortune from your purse to put together a great costume. If you invest both your time and money wisely you’re more than capable of creating a fantastic outfit for yourself. Don’t lose that excitement and enjoyment if you can help it.

For those of you that still wish to buy costumes rather than making one we’re here to help. Head over to the main website here and pick yourself up something to wear out to your next party or event.

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About the Author: David Hayler

The owner of Otley Run Fancy Dress and a fancy dress guru. He's also an amateur photographer who has experience with cosplay and costume photography.

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