Pirate Cosplay Tips

So you wanna be a pirate? Here are some tips...

Get the boot. Everyone knows, pirates love booty! Just not the kind you're thinking of. We can help with that. Click here to shop Plank Walker Pirate Boots & Accessories.

Color!! Little bits of colorful stuff is the key here!
Hit your local thrift store, ask your friends, look around your house, visit an antique mall. You want to look like your outfit is made from the plunder of a hundred others’ belongings. Chains, necklaces, costume jewelry rings, bits of fabric, twine or ropes, ribbons, rhinestone brooches, pieces of lace, faux fur, old belts, feathers, old watches, satin neckties, broken holiday decorations, you name it. Wearing a plain shirt? Rip it a bit - you’ve probably been in a few skirmishes. Paint the buttons red with some fingernail polish. Thread colorful twine through your beard. If layering will make you too hot then just pin lace and such inside the bottom of your shirt or jacket - maybe have it sticking out of your collar. The pirate look is one of a badass gypsy.

- Guns (muskets, blunderbusses, etc.): Whether you purchase a replica, alter a toy, or make one from paper mâché - you ALWAYS need a fluorescent end on your “gun”. Don’t court disaster!
- Swords: Pirate swords were short. Ask any collector of nautical swords. Short swords will not get caught in the rigging. But short or not you will not be allowed into most places with anything that even remotely resembles a real, sharp, knife or sword. Better to make a mock handle that goes into a mock sheath (you can carry your money in it!).

No-sew costuming:
- Cut up old shirts and pants - you’ve just come fresh from plundering somebody else’s boat - no time to change into something new!
- Belt a long jacket at the waist - or sew metal rings on both sides of the waist and cinch it together in the back with a bit of ribbon.
- Buy 1/8th of a yard of striped or shiny fabric at a fabric store (yes - they’ll sell you as little as an eighth!). This can become an arm band, belting, strap for your booty bag, leg band, ascot, head band… and if you’re one half of a couples costume: each of you can incorporate that fabric into a part of your costumes.
- Got a black jacket? Carefully lay it in the bathtub and paint a skull and crossbones on it in bleach. Wash it (rinse it 10 times first). White jacket? Draw a circle on the back with a sharpie, draw the outline of a skull and crossbones, then draw lines in between the circle and the skull and bones.

Corseting / Sashes:
- If you have the body for it you can make an ersatz underbust corset or enormous pirate-dude sash out of shiny fabric or tapestry that you wrap around your midsection a few times. Finish it off with our Big Buckle Belt [LINK] and/or a huge piece of pin-back costume jewelry.

- No matter which gender you’re identifying with - everybody looks great with a little eyeliner!

Accessory ideas:
- Telescope
- Hat
- Sash
- Belt
- Boot toppers (use fabric that matches your jacket)
- Weaponry
- Paper mâché parrot on your shoulder (could even be an origami one you colored up with pens - your friends will appreciate the effort!)
- Paint an old purse from a thrift store and affix it to your belt or wear it like a sash
- Mock business card that has your Instagram on it. And also says: “part time pirate - cheap rates”. Hand written is fine. Just add a skull and crossbones as your logo.

Finish it off with our Big Buckle Belt (click here) and a huge piece of pin-back costume jewelry.

• Buttons are screw-back and can be replaced with any other screw-back or stud buttons (they have been fastened with Loctite - if they are difficult to remove try heating them with a blowdryer or other warming device).
• The laces can easily be replaced with cord, ribbon, leather, ribbon, or twine.
• They are unlined: this will allow you to easily embellish them with stitching, beading, or studs.

(Every one of these tips has tons of videos about them online - please watch them!)

 Never cover your face. The owner of Aris Archer has a permanent shin scar from trying to walk the Baltimore Bar District (Fell’s Point) in a Frogman costume. Which had a mock snorkel. Which blocked the view of anything below the knee. Which happened to be a low marble set of stairs. Walking one second… laughing on the ground the next. Lots of blood. So: design your costume so you can see where you’re walking!

 Evolution. Your costume will evolve over the years. Layering is the key. It’s much easier to make half a costume than start over every year. Much greener, too.

 Start EARLY. There’s nothing worse than having to stay up all night because you kept putting things off. Costuming always takes double the time you think it will.

 Sewing your very first piece? One of the best ways to start is to lay your favorite shirt, pants, jacket, etc. on a large piece of paper, trace it, then cut that out to use that as your pattern (lay it on your fabric, trace around it with chalk, then cut the fabric (please watch videos about this before you start). If you make the pattern too big you can cut it down. If you make it too small you can tape pieces of paper to it to make it larger. You can also start by making a doll-sized version. Or get the cheapest fabric possible and make one first before you cut into that vintage tapestry you purchased on Etsy. Ask a friend for help if you know someone who regularly sews.

 Scissors! Cutting up existing clothing also works pretty well. Pirate shirt? Buy an XXL burgundy button down shirt at a thrift store. Borrow your mom’s New Year’s Eve sequin dress from 2002. Cut it a bit, hem it a bit… voila! Fit for a Pirate King! 

 Costumes to dye for! Most cotton fabric can easily be dyed. A pair of cotton Khaki pants will have lots of pockets, be quite comfy, and can be dyed most dark colors. Just make sure to wash it several times with very dark things before you ruin everybody else’s clothes by throwing it in the machine while the dye is still unstable. Look up dying light colored fabric with tea. Gives them a nice vintage look.

 Safety first. Safety pins are your friend. Both to hold your outfit together - as well as for making on-the-spot repairs if something rips when you’re out in public. Pin a dozen somewhere inside your outfit. Maybe you’ll be able to make a new friend when you hear the MC ask if anybody has an extra safety pin for somebody whose wings are falling off!

 Don't forget pockets. Build your garb in a way to hold your phone, ID, money, etc. Either build a secret compartment into your costume or, if you forget, just pin a sock inside your pants, jacket, or skirt (two pins are better than one!). Better to add a half-assed pocket than leave your phone on a table because you keep putting it down. Just make all of your “pockets” very deep. It’s no good to think your valuables are safe only to find out you dropped everything back on 5th Avenue while you waited for the light to change.

Paper Mache:
• Your new best friend. Need a fake musket or sword? Form it from cardboard, cover it with cheap packing tape, then mix equal parts white flour with water (maybe a little extra water). Dip strips of paper in your flour/water mixture, Lay them on your armature, let each layer dry, then sand or cut away mistakes, and keep applying layers of paper (must dry thoroughly every time you add a layer) until you get the look you want. It’s cheaper, and greener than buying a commercial product - plus you get bragging rights: “I made this myself!”. You never hear anyone say: “I bought this myself!!” Lame!

• Costuming is an easy way of belonging to a crowd that you may or may not be friends with yet. You may think you’ll look like an idiot in a get-up. Not so: you’ll look like an idiot in your street clothes when everybody else is running around channeling an alter ego. You don’t want to be that guy who didn’t care enough to bother to put a costume together. Join in the fun!


We are looking for a few pros to trade boots and belts for photographs. Please contact us at 410-990-0005 if you are interested. We will require you to provide links or email us photos to show us the quality of photography we can expect.