The world of cosplay is incredible. The practice of dressing up as a popular character from film, television, comic books, video games, or other media has grown geometrically since its start in the 1930s. And thanks to the Japanese who coined the term, they are often credited as making cosplay what it is today.

If you’ve been to a Star Trek convention, you’ve likely seen cosplay or dressed up in a costume yourself. The one thing that makes cosplay wonderful and challenging to get into at the same time is the accuracy and presentation of the outfit and makeup. Because people have been raising the bar on what is acceptable, the more the cosplayer looks like their character, it often means the more expensive the ensemble will cost.

Sally Seagraves is changing this. Thanks to her ability to create costumes, which look incredible, for very little, Sally is creating a new way to participate. She calls it “thrifty cosplay.”

Sally in cosplay mode as Seven.
Sally in cosplay mode as Seven.

Her first experience at a convention of any kind was at Star Trek Las Vegas seven years ago. She commissioned one costume and created one herself. Through that process, she learned how to create a custom suit and make a few innovative design decisions, which altered the price.

“The seamstress I commissioned was a longtime family friend, so she did not charge me her usual rate for labor, but I was still surprised to learn how much the materials were — from the fabric itself to a suitable pattern, to the trim and insignia I needed,” says Seagraves.

“There are also tons of Trek costumes you could put together right off a thrift store rack — think holosuite costumes and time-travel disguises,” says Seagraves.

“I was sure it could be done for less money if I started experimenting myself. My homemade creation was Saavik’s uniform from The Wrath of Khan — which I’ve since learned is one people really go wild over making with perfect accuracy,” says Seagraves. “If I’d known that then, I would’ve been way too scared to wear it!”

Seagraves lives in Arizona and works in the medical industry. While she works, she’s always thinking of the next “thrifty cosplay” to make, and how to pull it off.

“There are also tons of Trek costumes you could put together right off a thrift store rack — think holosuite costumes and time-travel disguises,” says Seagraves. From that point, the player just needs to make some decisions on makeup to ‘become’ the intended character.

Sally with Nicole de Boer and Alexander Siddig.
Sally with Nicole de Boer and Alexander Siddig.

“I am doing a lot right now to make alien makeup and prosthetics more accessible for new cosplayers to make themselves,” she says. “You might find you don’t want to sew, but you [can work] with latex or clay.” 

Seagraves says that her alternative methods open many new possibilities, including inexpensive designs for Klingons, Trill, Cardassians, Bajorans, Borg, and other alien species.

She says that when she appears at conventions, people are surprised that she made the costume herself, and how she did it. She admits that some fans at the cons have tried to purchase the uniform off her back, but that’s not her style. In a way, it’s almost like a challenge for Seagraves for her to see which character she can create next.

While she’s created over 30 different costumes and designed the makeup and prosthetics to go with them, she says one character stands out as her favorite: Major Kira. 

Seagraves says that her alternative methods open many new possibilities, including inexpensive designs for Klingons, Trill, Cardassians, Bajorans, Borg, and other alien species.

“I have a few different variants of her outfits, and I always get a great reaction when I wear one,” she says. “I think she’s an incredible character with a great arc, and I love to bring different parts of her journey to life. 

“I’ve also been told I resemble a younger Nana Visitor, which I consider incredibly flattering, but I don’t see it — I think the resemblance is all my choice of makeup contouring and the way I carry myself when I’m cosplaying her,” says Seagraves. “You can honestly become anyone you want!”

To learn how to “thrifty cosplay” like Seagraves, follow her on Twitter and Facebook, where she often posts tutorials, photos, and interacts with fellow fans. She does have a few words of advice for fans who want to get started:

“Think of the character they want to be, first,” she says. “It’s easiest to start with civilian outfits rather than uniforms. Really look at them, try to get the shape and color well in mind when you go shopping.”

Sally as a terrifying Cardassian!
Sally as a terrifying Cardassian!

“Don’t worry about what the used version is made from, just try to find something that will fit you the way you want. And keep in mind that you can customize it with or without sewing — you can add beads or gems, paint or dye a pattern on it, cut pieces off or splice on pieces from another thrifted item.

“Always try things on when possible — I try on everything at every step of construction, which helps me figure out what parts I can change and what parts need to be easy to put on and take off,” says Seagraves.

“Sometimes my costumes are made up of multiple layers, so I don’t need to figure out how to attach some components to each other, especially if they’re made from an unusual material.”

She also wants those who are new to cosplay, it’s really all about having fun. She warns that perfect screen accuracy isn’t for everyone, and often, it’s not achievable.

“If you don’t feel confident in what you’re making, you won’t have fun wearing it — try something else or reach out for help on construction parts you’re unsure of,” she says. “That’s why I try to keep things cheap — you can experiment and learn and grow, and scrap something and move on if you don’t like it. I want you to have fun.”