Published on March 20th, 2015 | by Amy Dittmeier

Cosplay on a Budget!

If you’re new to cosplay, getting started can be daunting. Who should you cosplay as? How much money should you spend on an outfit? Do you need to know how to sew? Take a deep breath – it’s ok! You can always find characters to cosplay that you not only enjoy, but can also do with zero sewing or crafting skills.

Zatanna has always been a favorite character of mine, so I decided that she should be one of my first cosplays of 2015. Zatanna is one of DC’s resident magicians, and currently stars in Justice League Dark. She’s also appeared in the Justice League Unlimited and Young Justice animated series, which make her recognizable to even non-comic book readers. Her magic is genetic (which I always found fascinating) and she uses verbal commands backwards to cast spells. All in all, she’s a sorceress in a top hat that you do not want to mess with.

Cosplaying on a budget is hard but doable. Your vision can be done for under $100. There are many tips and tricks to keep costs down. Being aware of what you already own and what you can find easily can help you pick a cosplay that’s right for your wallet. If you have a white dress shirt, fishnet stockings, and some black shoes, you’re already halfway to a Zatanna cosplay. I personally use an app called CosPlanner where I can monitor how much time and money I’ve spent on a particular cosplay and help better plan my projects.

The nice thing about Zatanna is that her costume is simple but versatile, which makes it good for any body type. Comic book artists have depicted her in many different ways – Adam Hughes’ Zatanna is sultry, while Bruce Timm’s embodies the classic Zatanna look. Pick a style that is perfect for your body confidence level. Also keep in mind that whatever you wear to a convention, you’re wearing the entire time. That includes all the walking you’ll be doing browsing the con floor. Not only should you feel confident in what you’re wearing, but you should also feel comfortable enough that you can wear it all day.

There are some key elements to the Zatanna look:

  • The tuxedo jacket: Surprisingly, finding a tuxedo jacket with tails for cheap can be difficult. I was able to find a used boys tuxedo jacket that was in fantastic condition. If you don’t have the time to hunt for a jacket that will fit properly, renting one from a place like Men’s Wearhouse is always an option.
  • The top hat: Zatanna takes her style from her father, Giovanni Zatara, who was also a stage magician. How are you going to make rabbits magically appear without a top hat? A costume top hat for under $10 is easy to find at any costume shop or online store. Most seem to come with a plastic black band, which doesn’t evoke the professionalism that Zatanna’s outfit has. A simple way to make it look more posh is to remove the fake hat trim and replace it with a nicer looking ribbon. Michael’s, JoAnn Fabrics, and many other craft stores have a whole aisle dedicated to ribbon. I would suggest any wider, wire satin ribbon in either black, white, or burgundy. A dab of Fabrictac or hot glue will adhere it to your hat.
  • Fishnet stockings: I honestly do not know how Zatanna is able to fight the baddies of the DC Universe without ripping her stockings, but she seems to get by. Like our namesake you’re bound to put some wear and tear on your stockings during a convention, so plan on spending $5 or less on fishnets.
  • The vest: Zatanna usually wears either a vest or a waist cincher over her white shirt. Depending on what version of Zatanna you’re going for, your vest or waist cincher should be black, white, yellow, or grey. I opted for a black vest, because I wanted to go for the Stage Magician look instead of Vampy Magician.

My Zatanna cosplay

Most of the other items Zatanna wears can probably be found in your own closet, such as a white dress shirt or black shoes. Other things can easily be found online or at your local thrift store. Sticking to a defined color palette for this keeps the continuity of the costume in check, and there are plenty of images online to help you decide what version is best for you.

Everything else is up to you! I decided to wear shorts instead of a brief-cut bottoms for more backside coverage, which is like the Young Justice version of Zatanna,. I wore boots instead of heels since I knew I would spend the majority of the convention looking for comics to buy. I got a white bowtie with a slight pattern on it to add some depth to my costume. I don’t have naturally luxurious black hair, so I bought a wig. Finally, I added a magic wand and a quick floating card prop to add to the Stage Magician vibe and really pull the costume together.


Top Hat: Black Satin Top Hat from Amazon + 1/2 yard of ribbon – $9

White Button Down Shirt: Cotton Button-Down Shirt in Ivory from Forever21 – $9.99

Black Vest and Bowtie: Tuxedo Dress Vest Set from eBay – $10.68

Tuxedo Jacket: Boys Oscar De La Renta Tuxedo Tailcoat (Used) from My Own Tuxedo – $19.99

Black Shorts: Adult Dance Shorts from Discount Dance Supply – $8.95

Fishnets: Nordstrom Rack Black Fishnets – $4.97

Black Ankle Boots: West Blvd Bootie Wedge in Black from Amazon – $19.99

Black Wig: Black Curly Wig from eBay – $7.89

White Gloves: Faux Leather Gloves in White from eBay – $2.79


Total Spent: $94.25

About the Author

Amy Dittmeier is a former Chicagoan who left her hometown to pursue her MLIS at University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Her life is now full of textbooks and paper writing as she works towards her dream of opening up a comic book archive in the Midwest. Before entering graduate school, she ran the pop culture website HEAVEmedia, where she acted as an editor and produced her own podcast, Pocket Protectors. When she’s not studying, Amy enjoys reading comic books, making new characters for D&D games she doesn't have time to play, working on cosplay (see her latest projects here), and binge playing video games. She can be found on Tumblr here.

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