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A Fangirl’s Guide To Last Minute Sherlockian Cosplay

Need a last minute cosplay for 221B Con? Always wanted to cosplay, thinking about it now, but don’t have the time? Want to do a Sherlockian cosplay but going to another con and not sure you’ll be recognized?

It’s con season and ’tis the time to take chances and make the leap!

Everyone can cosplay no matter the budget or preferences, and if you’ve had the want and thought then you absolutely should give it a whirl.But I don’t have the budget! I don’t look the role! I don’t have time!

No worries! Here are some tips and tricks to coming up with last minute cosplays for any budget or desire:

A Fangirl's Guide to Last Minute Sherlockian Cosplay. The Baker Street Babes.


I’m not sure what who or what I want to cosplay in time!

Too many or too few ideas? Laundry list, laundry list, laundry list!

Write them all down! Even the crazy one from that pastiche or fanfic you read ten years ago! Every thought or idea or “wouldn’t that be cool” put down on a sheet of paper. Let yourself loose and put them down, and no doubt more ideas will pop up. Once you’ve done that, scratch through the ones you really don’t want, and then look at the rest and see what would feasibly be possible with the time allotted for you. If you’re a fantastic stitcher you might be able to get that Victorian Ballgown built in two days, but if you’ve never held a needle maybe look at something that you can put together via purchases or minor alterations.

Jeremy Brett Lolita cosplay. The Baker Street Babes.

(Jeremy Brett Lolita was not something I had ever really planned for. Sometimes it just happens.)

You can probably buy a purple shirt, slacks, and a long coat in an afternoon, but it might be more effort to get Irene Adler’s dress from the RDJ films. So keep that in mind and give yourself some options. Pick your top three or four (or just that one you’re dedicated to) and then start your search.

Once you’ve narrowed it down, write out what each costume will take in an ideal world, and you have your shopping guide there for you. Once you start looking you might find a whole new direction and that’s alright too!


I want to go as [person] but I can’t get their costume together in time. What now?

Pirate last minute cosplay. The Baker Street Babes. www.bakerstreetbabes.comCan you do another incarnation? Another version?

I would love to do a canon Violet Hunter, but I also think it would be amazing to see a short red haired contemporary version wearing an electric blue evening gown. Or punk outfit. Or a blue haired blue dress Violet. You can’t get Irene Adler’s Victorian ballgown, but what if you found a pair of trousers, suspenders, and a white shirt?
(Pirate costume from RenFaire? Or Captain Basil at your service?)

Consider your options and back ups. The canon is filled with characters and ideas, and there is no amount of other incarnations out there as well. If you’ve got a pirate outfit laying around there’s at least three Holmes film/tv adaptations you can play with. See what you do have and what you can parcel with. You might be surprised what you can come up with instead.


I want to go as [insert character], but I don’t think I look like them?

You really don’t have to.

First and foremost remember this is cosplay. You needn’t be a dead ringer for Robert Downey Jr. to go as his Holmes, or look like Lara Pulver to be Irene Adler. Some of the best cosplayers for them look nothing like them, but if you feel you must there are ways for that as well.

Robert Downey Jr Sherlock Holmes last minute cosplay. The Baker Street Babes.

(Note: I look nothing like Robert Downey Jr. Nor am I wearing anything like him. Let’s be honest though. The glasses.)

Wigs, makeup, and costumes can turn you into anyone, or subtle hints can be employed to achieve the effect. Unless you happen to be that person or a blood relation, it is nearly impossible to be a dead ringer regardless. Sometimes the best cosplays are in the minor details.

That said, here’s some tips for achieving that look if it’s what you’re going for.

Makeup and hair are important points that can make and break a character. Remember: most actors are probably wearing some amount of makeup- or certain eras in the novels or other stories have ways they were applied. If you plan to pick something from a different period than our own, do a quick google search on looks from that time period: men and women. Eyebrows, hair, and ways of contouring have changed over the years and it’s amazing how that can entirely change even the simplest of outfits.


Wigs can be found at local beauty supply shops, wig stores, or online. I tend to prefer the first two if you happen to be looking for something realistic (Not, say, a blue haired anime version of Watson from ’92). Beauty supply stores, especially off the regular mainstream markets, are great and frequently you can find nearly human hair quality for twenty dollars or less. These market to individuals looking to wear wigs for everyday use, but without the money to have them custom built. Wig shops tend to be a little bit higher, but you might be able to find something with real human hair or lace front that is more movie/theatre quality if you have the budget for it.

The other great thing is these stores will usually let you try it on first if you buy a wig cap, usually a nominal one to three dollars. So if you’re uncertain how it’ll look on you can test it first.

Death last minute cosplay. The Baker Street Babes.

(Best twenty dollars spent for  “Day of” cosplay ever. That was after tax. Thank you small alleyway beauty shop. xoxo )

If you don’t want to use a wig, then there are other options available. Dyeing is of course a great choice, but be careful if you want it temporary– darker colours tend to stay in even after several washes so remember this may be a more dedicated choice. There is also a product many beauty stores like Sally’s carry that is a color mousse. This won’t give you as dark a color as a hair dye, but it will wash out usually with no lingering effects. It’s not as great, but if you want just a touch lighter or darker it’s a nice quick fix without any side effects.


1920s last minute cosplay. The Baker Street Babes. www.bakerstreetbabes.comIs magical. Don’t have cheekbones? Contouring powders and sticks are there to help. Want to go as someone from the Gillette film or Rathbone? Pull up at 1916 guide to makeup tips and tricks! Going as Data dressed as Holmes? Get a Ben Nye kit for clowning/mime work. This is especially prudent for the heavily made up characters like Adler, but this also does wonders for anything. Places like Sephora are usually happy to have you try, match, and provide free samples- so if you aren’t someone who usually wears it that’s a great way to try out some products to see if it will give you the desired effects.

(Those are not the shape of my lips or eyes. Nor are those my cheekbones. They are a half hour of twenties pics a la google and a good deal of make up remover in-between.)


It’s all about the small things. A Female Moriarty with apple earrings. Holmes with the right pipe and tobacco. The perfect shoes. A green carnation. You’d be surprised what can be seen from afar or can get a point across, especially with someone who’s more obscure. A Reichenbach badge on a lab coat, or perhaps a book on Freud with a Victorian Watson? Subtlety and detail can be the cheapest and most rewarding aspects of the costume.

Holmesian brooch. The Baker Street Babes.

(This is a normal riding esque outfit. Add a brooch? Holmesian)


Is 99% of it. If you’re trying to play doppleganger think back to High School improv. You don’t have to be fully in character, but rewatch or reread your incarnation. Think about their motivations, their stances, and see how they move. Moriarty moves his head reptilian like, Holmes tends to pencil his fingers; these are tricks and poses that can enhance your costume and turn a regular suit into a character. At the end of the day, you can look nothing like the character you’re going as, and still be a dead ringer just from a hint of clothing and the right smirk.


But I don’t have any money!

First check your closet.

Check for the things you never wear anymore, or things that aren’t really you. Check old costumes buried in a tub in the back, or pieces your Mom sent you with the tags still on them. It’s shocking how much of the time these can sometimes be perfect for what you’re looking for. Also think how it might look with a vest or as a full set. Some of the ugliest items look fantastic when paired with the right vest or jacket.

Consider what you want to do and how much time. If you can sew, then check out your local fabric store and see what’s on sale– but that said– sewing projects get expensive fast although can give you the most bang for your buck. Even better are things you can find at thrift stores, or on the sale rack of your local department store. These tend to be faster, sometimes more rewarding, and far easier to alter or change into something else. And don’t think just because you want to go steampunk, 1920’s, or something off the wall that this rules these places out. Movies, Film and Theatre frequently get much of their “vintage” stock from stores like Topshop, Modcloth, H&M or even Macy’s– sometimes without alterations.

bakerstreetbabes_lastminutecosplay_modcloth(Hello 1950’s. Or otherwise known as Modcloth. Currently available for this season.)

If you’re going for something like Elementary or Sherlock, a lot of last seasons fashions may have even been used or close to items from the show. If you have the money, sites like Sherlockology and Sherlock Unravelled can tell you what’s screen accurate and where to find it. But while screen accuracy can be awesome, it’s by no means necessary. A purple shirt can and will be a purple shirt. It will always look somewhat different on the screen since it has been fitted, likely altered, and pressed more times than you can imagine. The color will also frequently be changed by lighting or dyeing processes to adjust for the camera.

(I have currently four purple shirts that I love and adore in my closet and wear interchangeably. I paid no more than ten dollars for any of them. Two are designer). Furthermore thrift shops have all sorts of amazing things that can be used for myriads of purposes. Bring your laundry list or your cosplay idea and a list of what you need/think you need. Skirts, blouse, suspenders, bow ties— put anything and everything down so you’ll remember and start looking for it. Be willing too to leave the list behind. Maybe you don’t find a brown skirt for a female steampunk Holmes, but you do find a fantastic pair of leather pants? Do you have a pair of boots? Can you dress that up to take it a new direction?

Some of the dingiest, most unpopular shops are the best for these sorts of designs. Those horrifying dresses from twenty years ago might have the perfect sleeves for a Regency ballgown. A bad prom dress can be ripped apart and turned into all sorts of wonders. These stores also have the cheapest prices, so you’re willing to buy something as a risk for three dollars you might not otherwise.

If you have more time, eBay and online shopping are also excellent resources, but I do warn people to be wary. If you’re ordering from afar, sizes tend to be skewed and frequently the fabrics are never what you order. I have seen pleather dresses with labels sewn in that say 100% silk– which is why I tend to find it better to go with something close but usually off a rack. You’ll also find these frequently look less “costumey” as they were made for actual wear.


(I am fond of this shirt. I have had it for at least two years. It is an excellent purple shirt and was about four dollars at Goodwill).


Army and Navy Surplus is your friend.

Military cosplay. The Baker Street Babes. www.bakerstreetbabes.comYou may go in and walk out with things you never knew you could ever find. Pith Helmets, caps, sailor wear, parachuting sets, coats, jodhpurs, you name it and they have it. If you happen to be going the military route with your outfit, this is the place to go. Even if you are not, I highly recommend checking it out. Frequently inverses, dress blouses, and other antique items will show up here for outrageously low prices since they are still worn in the service. Remember though: not all Army Navy stores are the same. Google your area and check out some of the reviews and then have fun. I dare you to walk out without at least one item.

(I think this outfit was a total of $20? Maybe $25. The hat is hiding in the pocket.)


But what if no one will recognize my character!

They might not! And you know what? Great!

Maybe you’re cosplaying a character from an off-beat pastiche, fanfic, or anime version. Maybe it’s something you came up in your own mind. These are wonderful conversation starters, or ways to help get other people into a series. (I suffer from this unfortunate effect that many of my cosplays are unknown, but the joy when someone else is a fan and recognizes you is amazing.) This is the time to revel in your originality, so take it and run.

Last minute cosplay. The Baker Street Babes.

(I love this cosplay. It was one of my first cosplays. It’s even vaguely Holmes related. Nobody gets this cosplay, and I do mean nobody. If you do? <3 )


I’m nervous….

Don’t be!

There will always be something grander or less than your own, and you can’t judge yourself against that. You needn’t do anything that makes you feel uncomfortable, and always ignore the dissenters. People will say what they will no matter have accurate or fantastic the outfit. If you like it and feel comfortable in it than revel in it! You’re wearing it for you, and really it’s nothing more than another piece of clothing. And guess what? Undoubtedly you’ll make someone’s day just by being there to remind them why they love that character too.


Most important rule?

Have fun!

Don’t stress over your cosplay. It’s meant to be just that: “costume play.” Whatever you do or wear will be great. Some of the best are some of the simplest. There will be the people who are doppelgangers, cleverest, or most outlandish, but sometimes it’s all about what you’re doing.
At the end of the day we’re all just a crowd of Sherlock enthusiasts dressing up and having a good time. Make friends, have conversations, and wear whatever you want!
Guess what? A t-shirt that says “I don’t understand” is just as great as a custom made Victorian mourning suited Holmes. Always remember that.

(T-shirt from BBC Shop or Victorian cosplay. At the end of the day the Victorian cosplay could be anyone, but you’ll get a great conversation and automatic recognition from that shirt.)

(Photos courtesy of Babs Daniels, Chris Zordan, Modcloth, BBC Shop,  and my phone)

Tiffany is an actress who moved to New York from Texas five years ago. Since then she now has a day job working as a wardrobe dresser and tries to audition in-between. In addition to things Sherlockian, she enjoys swing dancing, costuming and just dressing up in pretty things and going out whenever time allows.

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