Saturday, January 7, 2012

Renting Costumes: Personal list of Tips, Tricks and Nightmares

Part of being a cosplayer, you get a wee bit too passionate and end up looking at your drawer or garage piling up with your past costume creations and wonder if you can make something out of it.  Unlike commissions where you would have to build a costume from ground up according to the desires and tastes of your client, renting costumes seems a whole lot easier since its already available, and renting takes on a day or so with cash normally done on hand with no hassle of bank transfers, online transactions, credit card purchases or checks.

But renting costumes can be tricky business.  Often I would lend or rent costumes to those whom I know personally.  If you plan to rent a costume to people, here is my personal list of things i'd do before, during and after renting a costume.  I classified it into 2 categories: Casual Renting and Professional Renting.  Casual means renting/lending without the hassle of legal obligations.  Price isnt even the issue with Casual since it meant very little consequence on your part.  Professional Renting is when everything needs to be done to make sure your costume investment maintains its street value for years.

Feel free to incorporate them to your own renting system, if ever you plan to rent costumes in the future:

Casual Renting

  1. Rent to people who you know to some degree.  I know its always the hardest to charge rent to family and friends, but its easier if its somebody else your friend or family knows.  Usually they would assure you that they'll take care of your costume.
  2. Best if the person who is borrowing/renting is a fan of the series.  Chances are they'll respect the costume because they love the character.  So unless you had the horrible luck of lending it to a psychopathic fanboy kleptomaniac who will never return the costume, you can at least be partially assured of its safety.
  3.  Rent costumes you can afford to fix for Casual Renting.  Always expect it to be a little beat up than before after every rent.  It's a fact that no matter how careful a person who borrows or rents, it will depreciate in time.  Prepare for constant repairs and touch up if you can.

Professional Renting
A common mistake whenever you try to rent costumes to a total stranger is to assume he or she will take care of the costume with the same passion to detail as you do.  Best way is to look in yourself and ask if ever you borrowed something at one point in your life, and returned it in perfect order, 100% of the time? Most likely you borrowed or rented something and took it for granted.  Like that library book you borrowed one time with torn or stained pages, or that PS1 disc you rented or borrowed, and accidentally scratched while playing. Here are some tips on how you can minimize the hassle.

  1. Know your client first.  As usual get not just the usual contact numbers, find out if any of your friends or contacts can vouch for them.
  2. Make sure your client can fit in the costume.  This is also the best time to meet your client in person and at the same make things a bit more personal than just communicating through the phone or internet.
  3. Document everything through hard copy or email.  Making a contract works but usually if you are not part of a rental company and doing this freelance, some clients may scoff at the idea or may even feel insulted (weird huh?) with all the paperwork.  But an email exchange or text exchange will do.  But if you can work on an actual contract, the better! 
  4. Charge "insurance".  Heavily invested (aka expensive) costumes with lights and stuff needs to be assessed first.  Other than the rental charge, add a security deposit of at least 30% of the street cost of your costume.  If you spent P8,000 on your costume and you charge P2,000 a day, add P2k as security deposit to be given back to the client when they return the costume.  Security deposits is often used to pay for any major damage the client has incurred on the costume, and it makes a great motivator to return it as much as possible in its original state.  Make sure the client understands this and does not accuse you of hidden charges.
  5. If possible, be present on the event they will use the costume.  This is a surefire way to make sure the quality of the costume remain in good condition.  Be part of the dress-up crew or at least assign a friend or family member to watch over the costume for a few hours to make sure they treat it right.  For me, if the client refuses this condition, it usually means bad news for your costume and I would normally not trust them at all.

Hope these may help you whenever you decide to make use of your extra costumes and make an extra buck with it and hopefully not end up with clients from hell, as a friend of mine found out the hard way.

Also I realized this was my first post of the year, so Happy New Year everyone!


  1. Thank you for the interesting read sir!
    I hope people take this into consideration.
    Meaning both parties involved.

    Nauuso na din kasi na basta maka-rent, without knowing the chara...

  2. So true Ku ri, but its not if they know the character, its how they take care of things rented or borrowed. Pansin ko kasi walang insurance ang mga costumes, so kung nawala o nasira, walang pampalit. Sayang talaga. :(