The first question people ask when they find out I’m going to San Diego Comic-Con is: “Are you gonna dress up?”

Of course I am!

Cosplay is one of the best parts of SDCC (along with celebrity sightings, getting in to your favorite panel, and the party atmosphere of the Gaslamp District). People go ALL OUT on their costumes, often spending up to a year and thousands of dollars to create amazing creations like an actual transforming Optimus Prime or fully-functioning Iron Man suit. The trouble for me is fitting whatever costume I create into my carry-on-only lifestyle.

As long-time readers are well aware, I pack light. Really light. I don’t skimp on clothes or tech, but every ounce is carefully weighed (sometimes literally) before I decide what goes in my backpack. Luckily, I always leave just enough extra space for a gift or jacket picked up on the road. And that’s how much space I have to work with when deciding what costume I’ll be bringing to SDCC.

Cosplay with only a carry-on

Decision: one TARDIS/ninja outfit, one Rhaegal the Dragon-inspired outfit.

So how do I manage to look amazing at comic con without weighing myself down? Careful planning! Believe it or not everything I need for the two outfits above fits into this bag:

Cosplaying with a carry-on

And that’s without putting any of the squish-able things into my compression sacks, which I will totally be doing to save even more space!

The secret to my ultralight success? Start with your regular clothes! Then modify with jewelry, makeup and accessories, which – as you can see in the photo above – take up very little space.

Here’s how I look on a normal day:

Everyday Nerdy Clothes

Black top paired with some crazy/awesome leggings and my ultralight black walking boots. All I added to make my two costumes was this:

Minimalist cosplay

Everything needed for super-awesome, ultralight cosplay.

Everything came from Etsy, Amazon, Sephora, and a ribbon store I found in Portland.

For the TARDIS/ninja cosplay, I bought blue eyeliner (which doubles as lipstick), blue hair extensions, a blue sash, black fingerless gloves, blue ribbon, a TARDIS purse, “St. John Ambulance” & “Police Public Call Box” patches, and an amazing blue hood that had been on my Etsy wishlist for years. I’m SUPER pumped about this outfit!


For the Rhaegal outfit, I bought a scale maille arm band (for Rhaegal’s distinctive green and bronze scales) & earrings (in red for dragonfire), a dragon claw necklace, a green/black chainmail bracelet, green hair extensions, black nail polish for claws, black lipstick and green eyeshadow. Perhaps not a perfect imitation of a dragon, but badass nonetheless.


My bet is that most women already own a black shirt and black shoes. You’re probably even wearing that on the plane! All you need to do is add a few select items to your “everyday nerd” wardrobe. Nerdy leggings can now be bought from dozens of online stores, like Black Milk (my personal favorite), Her Universe, Gold Bubble, and even mainstream stores like American Apparel.

The same goes for tops! Are you telling me you couldn’t make an amazing Captain America cosplay out of any one of these?


Or go ready-made with a 221B dress, Dalek dress, Wonder Woman suit, Snow White bodysuit, Marauder’s Map dress, or a Tony Stark chest piece t-shirt! (I could go on, but you get the idea.)


And pretty much everywhere carries galaxy leggings these days. Pair it with a blue dress and voila! You’re a TARDIS!

TARDIS cosplay with Matt Smith

I did that at the Doctor Who convention last year!

The best thing about the everyday cosplay trend is that everything packs up SUPER tiny. My Black Milk leggings take up practically no space at all, especially when put in my trusty compression sacks! (If you haven’t caught on by now, I can’t live without the compressions sacks.)


Leggings take up no space & don’t wrinkle!


So if you think that you need an entire extra suitcase (or a UPS truck) to get an amazing costume to SDCC, think again! With careful planning (and just enough makeup) you can make an amazing costume that takes up very little space in your luggage. (Seriously, if a digital nomad can do it, you can do it!)

So what are YOU going to be at your next comic con?

  • Berrak


    • Kit Whelan

      YEAHHHHH! I’m so excited!!!

      • Berrak



        • Kit Whelan

          YES! It was a fantastic day :-D

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