Interview with Andreea Ciohodaru
Andreea is a living proof that you can make a living out of cosplay commissions if you have enough experience and skill. She started cosplaying 10 years ago, in high school, and cosplay made her decide to go to a Fashion Design Faculty to perfect her sewing techniques and skills.
She won 4th place at the EuroCosplay contest and 3rd place at European Cosplay Gathering (along with her best friend Ștefania). After working as a graphic designer for a few years, she decided to turn her passion into a fulltime job, taking commissions from customers from all over the world through her Etsy account and delivering her costumes with maximum attention and responsibility.
You’ve been creating costumes for more than 10 years already. How much work do you think is needed to reach a good level of craftsmanship?
A decade already, oh wow! Yeah, I began making costumes in high school, starting with a simple pattern: the yukata. Hmm, it’s quite difficult to say how much work is needed, it really depends on each person’s rhythm. I think it took me at least 3 years to visibly improve. In my first year I made maybe 4 yukatas based on YouTube tutorials, things like “Asuka yukata version” or other original characters. After that I started studying fashion design in college and that’s where I learned many technical details. I think sewing was really fun for me and I absorbed as much info as I could.
I noticed you pay a lot of attention to details and usually take your time to make sure you create a clean costume. What advice would you give to those that want to start creating their own costumes?
Thank you! 😊 I do try to make it as clean as possible. Honestly, I think it’s all thanks to the teacher that I had. Even now I hear her voice in my head saying “let’s try to do it properly, it will look better”, “let’s have patience and sew it right”. She taught me lots of things and I admire her. So my advice is: learn from nice people, reach out and ask them questions, they can inspire you! Be it a fashion design teacher, a tailor or even better: cosplayers online! It’s a big community with great teachers and tutorials.
Apart from sewing, what skills do you consider necessary to become a great cosplayer?
Cosplay is so diverse and experimental, it’s hard to say. Sewing-based costumes are merely just one area, the one I like the most. I think anyone can make a costume without having any initial skills. We all had none in the beginning. With research, patience and the will to learn, you can create anything, as long as you have fun doing it. Because, above all, it’s important to enjoy it!
When you start your cosplay project, what steps do you usually take?
Step 1: thinking a lot about it. Sometimes I even dream about it 😆. Basically planning, drawing, studying the reference, understanding the shapes. Step 2: For a more complicated design, I often make a costume breakdown. This really helps me visualize the final outcome, how it fits a real body. Step 3: I make a list of necessary materials and buy them.
How did you decide to start taking commissions and when did you realize that you can really make a living out of cosplay?
My first commission was a request from Alessandro, now a friend, but back then just a guy from Italy that saw my Aion costume and wanted me to make a similar one for him. 5 years ago, I didn’t know cosplay commissions even existed, so I remember I was just very surprised and struggled to put a price on it. After that, there was Susan from Germany who contacted me in the same way, after seeing my Witcher 3 costume (Thank you both😊). Then somehow, a few more people trusted me with their requests, after I posted the commissions on my personal Instagram account. Basically, I was doing around 3 commissions per year while still having a fulltime job and making costumes for myself.
Then 7 months ago I had to quit the job I had for the last 4 years. In the first 2 months I was focusing on finding a new job and just kept 2, 3 commissions as a backup. But then I noticed that more cosplay requests came in and I was very thankful. I think they saved me in a way, the people that trusted me with their costumes showed me that I can do this! That’s when I realized I can make a living out of it. And so, I opened my Instagram and Etsy shop for commissions. Now I am usually making 3-4 commissions per month and I really enjoy it! I consider myself fortunate for being able to turn my passion into a real job. 😊
What kind of commissions do you prefer to take? Do you take care of the whole process, from start to finish, including the fabric, thread, etc.?
I just focus on what I enjoy best, and that is sewing. I don’t make any armor parts or accessories/props, they’re out of my comfort zone. Yeah, definitely, I take care of the whole process: writing quotes, planning, shopping for fabrics, sewing and going to the post office to ship them.
Price is also a very important factor for a potential customer. How do you evaluate it? Can you give us some examples?
Indeed. To write up a quote, I first need to see reference pictures and ask things like what specific elements they want me to make (shirt/pants/cape, etc.) the height and size of the person wearing it, the country (to estimate the shipping), the budget and a deadline. After receiving all the info, I can tell if it’s a costume that I can make, if it’s in my range of skills or not. If yes, I write back explaining how I’d make it, what fabrics and techniques I’d use, along with a price.
Because I’m not compromising the quality and I try to make them as best as I can, the costumes are not cheap. The price depends on the time spent on it, so on the difficulty level. If it’s a rather simple costume that takes me 2 days, my work can be around $150 + fabrics and transport = $250.
A more complicated one that takes me 1 week of work can reach ~$700. The most difficult commission I made is Joker (Persona 5)’s coat and vest, which took me more than 2 weeks and at this difficulty level the price can be over $1000
Do you think that adding a personal style to a cosplay costume is an added value?
A personal style… hmmm, yeah, it can add value. For example, going for a more real-life look (live action/movie) approach will increase the difficulty. But of course, any style has its strengths. I think that anyone who makes a costume after a 2D character is adding a personal touch to it by default, because the result is a unique interpretation. I really like to search and see how other cosplayers interpret the same character. That inspires me!
Monica works as a writer and translator, and is a passionate researcher of pop-culture, anthropology and cinema. In her spare time she also enjoys toy photography and often searches for old Japanese art toys to enlarge her collection. She also loves to discover monsters from old movies, folk tales, myths and legends of various cultures. Her blog is bestiarumvocabulumimaginarium.tumblr.com.