Looking for a Cosplay Suit? Know Before You Shop!!!
I’m really stressed out about the writing of this article. This isn't my first writing gig, don't get me wrong, but this is a cool site and as the new guy I feel I need to impress. So when asked to contribute an article comparing cosplay costume companies, I was a little hesitant. Not only is that possibly THE NERDIEST thing I could do, but it could also harm my standing with some of these companies since I am an aspiring cosplay model and have purchased custom pieces from most companies out there. I really had to weigh my options here, really take a moment to decide whether it’s worth risking my standing with any of these businesses by saying one is better than the other…screw it! Let's critique some companies!
So here are my ground rules: I'm narrowing this down to three companies, The RPC Studio (the juggernaut), Zentai Zone (the price conscious alternative), and OracleMadeUK (the plucky upstart). I will be breaking this review down into 5 categories:
- Ease of Ordering
- Customer Service
I'm not going to be giving grades or using any kind of points system. Using a grading system to over simplify hours and days of research so it can boiled down to a “X out of 10” negates the entire point of the article….
In case everyone reading this article doesn't fully understand what these companies do; cosplay design companies create costumes made out of spandex, generally screen printed to look like famous superheroes or video game characters, that can be customized to have masks, shoes, faceshells, lenses, and other accessories. The RPC Studio is a Thailand based company that offers pre-made and custom suits as well as faceshells, lenses, and props and is one of the most popular cosplay creation companies in the world. Zentai Zone, based in China, offers one of the largest collections of pre-made suits as well as custom options, faceshells, and lenses. OracleMadeUK began as a faceshell and lens company from England and has just entered the suit design game. Since they all offer such a similar array of products, we will begin with the actual ordering of them.
Ease of Ordering
For this comparison I went through the process of creating a customized order. Each store has ready to order options but where’s the fun in that?
The RPC Studio just recently relaunched their website and it is smoother than ever before. You have the option of choosing prints (the pattern that is going to be painted onto the actual spandex) from a collection of third party designers, or you can import your own. Next is an extensive questionnaire to fill out for sizing as well as simple pictures that assist along the way. There is a comments section at the end that allows for customization or special requests, which comes in handy, and if they have questions they will reach out to you. I was actually able to order my first suit from them entirely through email, with my contact walking me through each process step by step.
Zentai Zone’s website is… crowded, for lack of a better word, and it was a little hard to find where the custom order option was. Once I had figured out where to go, the ordering process was a little confusing. It is simply laid out with options for generic sizing as well as custom, which was very easy to navigate, but the trouble came from the laundry list of add-ons that came next. Several of the add-ons were redundant or just didn't make sense. The lens options were vague except for one REALLY SPECIFIC one and several of the zipper options contradicted themselves. Once I created what I thought was the suit I was looking for, (in which I made a few educated guesses for what certain things meant) the next steps were simple and intuitive to finish up and check out.
OracleMadeUK has a beautiful and clean website and is the easiest to navigate. The custom sewing option is easy to find and quick to fill out with my only hesitation being that it's almost overly simplified. When buying a full body spandex suit I want the measurements to be EXACT and I chose to send my full body measurements directly instead of relying on what options were there. That being said I was able to fully customize my suit via Instagram Direct Messenger. It can't really get much easier than that.
This is a huge factor for a lot of cosplayers when it comes to buying a costume. A suit that is personalized for you is just as important as a perfectly tailored one. The RPC Studio has taken a unique approach to their customization options and offers 6 different “sets” to choose from. Each one builds from basic to elaborate and covers most customer needs. If these fail to meet expectations, options can be added individually as well. These options include sewn in “kungfu” shoes (my favorite shoes available), multiple mask options, customizable zippers for your neck, back, forearms, and crotch, multiple lens options, and two different printing styles. Some of the coolest add-ons come in the form of 3D embossing. Logos and certain patterns can be made to extend off of the fabric and give an amazing uniqueness and realness to a costume. They also include a wide variety of ready to order patterns and superhero inspired fitness gear.
Zentai Zone is a more traditional a la carte. They offer very similar add-ons to The RPC Studio, including zipper and shoe options, faceshells, and lenses, but where they really stand out is the added options of two different fabric types and the ability to buy extra masks. They seem small, especially the masks, but that is where a lot of the obvious wear and tear occurs and having a backup can really extend your suit’s life. There is also alot of pre-made print options to choose from...seriously…they have something like 11 main categories (several of which have subcategories), a good portion of which aren’t even superhero related.
OracleMadeUK is very different when it comes to customization. They only recently started creating suits but have a CRAZY number of faceshells and lenses to pick and choose from. These are where OracleMadeUK really shines. The lenses themselves come in both a standard plastic and higher end metal. They are interchangeable with different faceshells and come with foam inserts that allow you to create the perfect fit. There are even half shells that only cover your head, eyes, and nose. When it comes down to the actual suits, there is a very limited number of ready to print options; just one. There's one pre-made suit. It's a really killer suit, but its still just one. The customized sewing section is fairly basic and simple with just enough to create a basic suit, but I messaged the company directly and was given greater customization options, which matched Zentai Zone and The RPC Studio.
This is probably the most important section for the majority of people interested in purchasing their first costume so I'm going to keep it as simple and basic as possible. I am going to breakdown each company, but I'm also going to give an average price for an average, mid-range suit, plus shipping. Each costume will have attached shoes, forearm, back, and neck zippers, a detachable mask, faceshell, and lenses.
The RPC Studio has the highest starting price of $270 and a fully loaded suit can top out above $1,000! $270 gets you the suit with shoes, which seems basic, but the custom sizing, zippers, and basic screen-printing are all included in that price. A faceshell with lenses will run you $190 and the extra features like embossed logo and hexagon printing (which is insanely cool) range from $50 to $250. Shipping is also a little pricey, making them the most expensive of the brands, a mid ranged suit with shipping will cost about $530.
Zentai Zone is what we would call the budget option. A suit with mask begins at a mere $75. The lower cost is fantastic and you can get a higher quality lycra (do that it is no doubt worth it) for only $30 more. Zentai Zone offers very few free add-ons, with them ranging from as little as zippers for $2 to the faceshell and lenses combo for $88. Most options are below $25, including; soles, detachable gloves, opened eyeholes and extra masks. Shipping is fairly low considering that the company is based in China, with packages to anywhere in America topping out at $15 max. A mid ranged suit from Zentai Zone costs around $250, making them the lowest priced of the three companies BY FAR.
OracleMadeUK’s suit creation service begins at $256 (I know the number is weird but I had to convert the company’s prices from British Pounds to US dollars) and will get you a suit, mask, and any number of zippers you might want. Attached shoes will run $38 and shipping is less than $20… and that is pretty much all they have for the actual suits. As I have said before, OracleMadeUK makes a mean suit, but the money is in their faceshells and lenses. Both faceshells cost $64, surprisingly making it the cheapest individual shell. The plastic lenses cost $128 while the metal ones are $179, offsetting that cheap faceshell with the most expensive lenses. Combining the suit service and faceshell/lens combo costs about $461.
I want to pause for a minute and explain the reasoning behind the order of my categories. As I researched each company I really tried to view them as a person who was new to cosplaying. What would I be looking for and what would I ignore? I compiled my list and also compared it to what I look for as an experienced cosplayer. What I came to realize is that what I look for and what a first timer would look for are almost the opposite of each other. While a newcomer will look for the simplest to use service and the most options to build exactly what they want in a single transaction, a seasoned cosplayer focuses most on the customer service interaction and the overall quality of the product.
The RPC Studio has a great customer service team. They are OVERLY friendly. Email response times are about 24 hours and they are definitely not coming from an automated computer system. I have actually received emojis within emails from them! Now, the company is based in Thailand so there is a slight language barrier. Sometimes you will have a problem or an issue that will take a follow-up or two to clarify, but they really want to help you and will offer fixes or replacements if you are unhappy with your product.
Zentai Zone’s customer service is top notch as well. This is going to sound very similar to The RPC Studio but… since they are based in China you can expect email responses within 24 hours. Responses are friendly, understanding, and open to helping you with whatever you need. Orders from them more commonly have errors so they are always ready to quickly fix and replace anything not up to par. That language barrier is there as well so… you know… there's that.
OracleMadeUK has the fastest response time and no language barrier (I actually wrote this as a note in my outline for this article). Contact with them is very personalized, even to the point where I feel comfortable enough to message them just to see what’s going on within the company. They are even making me a customized lens for my upcoming suit, so I’m pretty pleased with their service.
As I enter the last section of my article, THIS is most important category to me when it comes to making my decision on where to buy my suits from. The RPC Studio has one of the highest quality fabrics in the game. Sturdy and rip resistant, their suits will last years of wear and tear. The weakest points tend to be the areas around the shoes, the armpits, and the gloves, where the fabric will sometimes split and the paint will fade. The stitching is strong but sometimes the pattern won’t line up perfectly across seams. They make a good quality foam faceshell that fits most heads but are susceptible to deforming or misshaping. The lenses look really good and are customized for the shell they are bought with, but they don’t always fit as they are supposed to. They also tend to come apart at the edges, especially at pointed sections. The silhouette created from the faceshell looks amazing under the masks, giving one of the closest recreations from the comics and movies. The shoes that RPC Studio uses are unbelievable. They fit well and give great support during long sessions inside the suit.
Zentai Zone’s fabric options differ greatly. The basic fabric is… BASIC It's good but barely. It whites out quickly, tends to pill (pilling is when a fabric gets those little balls that collect on it) and run after a few wears, and is fairly shiny. The shiny part isn't necessarily a negative, it's just not my jam. It definitely has a huge positive in its weight. Since it's a thinner material it breathes really well for spandex, which anyone who has ever cosplayed in the summer will tell you, is definitely a selling point. The upgraded option, the Super Lycra, offers a much sturdier product whose quality rivals RPC Studio's. The thicker, matted, fabric holds it's form much better and doesn't white out like it's basic partner. OF COURSE there has to be a downside, it's weight. The higher end Lycra is much heavier and far less breathable, meaning extended wear can lead to some sweaty situations as well as the chance of overheating. Moving past the fabric, the printing quality of Zentai Zone has improved dramatically over the last year and now offers a very solid print and paint that won't fade or bleed. A big issue I have come across in my research is that, commonly, Zentai Zone costumes will have small issues like prints that don't line up or zippers that don't fully close and often seams won't be entirely sewn. These faults will always be fixed for free by contacting the company.
OracleMadeUK has been well known for its high quality faceshells and lenses for a while. The sturdy plastic shells are adjustable and well fitted and the lenses offer plastic and metal options that are fully interchangeable. The fabric is a high quality spandex and every suit is hand sewn which is shown in the fine detail of the costume. The printing is crisp and the paint is high quality but since the company's costumes are so new to the market there isn't much data on how well they stand up to wear and tear.
… Damn…. I am exhausted. When I began researching this topic I had NO idea that this was going to become as in depth or as detail oriented as it became. For those who have powered through this thank you so much for sticking with me!
I am going to leave you with a little cheat sheet for when you are ready to finally make that first purchase:
As a little extra for you, and a thank you from the companies themselves, here are some discount codes for each company:
- The RPC Studio – Use code 1010 to get $10 off your purchase
- Zentai Zone – Use code WEBHEAD to get 10% off your purchase
- OracleMadeUK – Check the website for seasonal promotions and reference this article to receive special perks
Now go out there and suit up!!!