Every cosplayer is always looking for ways to improve the quality of their costume. You don't always have to make a big change to have a big effect though. Here's five simple, little things you can do to vastly improve your cosplay in both construction and presentation.
1) Iron Your Costume
This goes for both while you're sewing (if you make your own cosplay) and before you wear it. Most hotels in the United States provide an iron and ironing board in each room so you shouldn't have to lug one with you to any event. Even if you don't think the garment needs it you really should try to give it a quick ironing before putting it on. The result will be a much cleaner and “polished” looking costume. Just make sure to use the right setting and test a small or hidden piece of the fabric first to make sure you don't damage anything.
2) Take Care of Your Wig(s)
Like an un-ironed costume, a ratty wig will only make your costume look sloppy. Pick up some wig conditioning spray (note: NOT the same thing as spray conditioner for hair) and a wig brush, and possibly a styrofoam wig head as well. Before you wear your wig pin it to the wig head, spray it with conditioner, and brush the tangles out working from the bottom up. Depending on how well you take care of your wig between conventions will dictate how long and arduous of a task this will be. Speaking of which, between conventions don't just throw your wig haphazardly in a box for storage. Put a hair net around it, and if it's long braid it first, and don't put it in a place where anything too heavy will sit on top. If the style is elaborate, invest in a wig head to store it on and leave it on a shelf out of the way where it can't get damaged.
For a more in-depth discussion on wig care, check out this tutorial by WindoftheStars.
3) Moisturizer + Make-up
Nobody has a naturally even skin tone. Some may have better skin than others, but no one is perfect. Therefore, when cosplaying it is a good idea to wear at least a little make-up. Men can get away with going without easier than women, but those men who choose to touch up their faces should go with foundation and maybe a little carefully placed bronzer and “nude” lip color. Women should consider foundation, bronzer/blush, mascara, eye liner, and lip color. Women dressing as men should ditch the eye liner and mascara for some more “stage make-up” techniques to make their faces look more masculine. Men dressing as women obviously want to add eye liner/mascara and techniques to make their faces look more feminine. Certain other characters will require more specific make-up. Whatever you do, make sure to moisturize your skin before applying your foundation so that everything sits more evenly – you'll be shocked at the difference it makes!
4) False Eyelashes
These aren't necessarily needed for all costumes, but I've found for any characters that are supposed to be particularly glamorous false eyelashes can be especially effective. They really bring out your eyes and while they do require a little practice, they aren't as difficult to use as you may think.
5) Pose In-Character
Some people may think this goes without saying, but I've encountered a lot of cosplayers for whom this thought never crosses their minds. Even if you don't choose to “role-play” them in the halls (I certainly rarely do), understanding who your character is and how they act can inform how you carry yourself and how you pose for photos. A character-driven pose can really help your cosplay come to life and add that little something that gets your work more recognized.