So when you're trying to cosplay or dress up as a movie or TV character, you might run into some questions. Which one will be easiest? Which one would be cheapest? How would you even pull it off? There are lots of easy options out there when picking a character to dress up as. Finding clothes is often the easy part. It's often the details that make or break an outfit.
A good thing to look out for when recreating a costume is how unique is the movie or TV show's style? Shows like The Office are hilarious, but their wardrobes are already very grounded in reality. This is great if you want an easy costume. You can go browsing for a suit, and then you've got your costume. If you want to go an extra step forward, you could go browsing for just the right tie. You could even pick out a specific tie that someone was wearing during one of your favorite scenes. Why limit to ties? You could just get an accessory worn during your favorite moment. Remember the time Dwight wore an elf hat during one of the holiday episodes? Or you could throw a Miami Heat jersey over your suit. Each accessory represents something ridiculous that has happened on The Office. Or let's say you don't have a suit. You could still find a warehouse worker uniform and make a Dunder Mifflin badge to put on it. The badge would immediately turn the normal uniform into a background character from the show. The Office is grounded in reality, but enough happens in the show that you can accessorize a regular suit to make it a truly unique costume.
Napoleon Dynamite and Wayne's World
Movies like Napoleon Dynamite and Wayne's World have a similar theme with their visual styles. Napoleon Dynamite and Wayne's World have wardrobes rooted almost entirely in reality. It's easy to find some of the t-shirts worn by Napoleon, Wayne, or Garth. But the small things they add make their clothes completely identifiable. If you saw somebody on The Big Bang Theory wearing a white t-shirt with "vote for Pedro" written across the front in red letters, you would know what that shirt was referencing. And if somebody wore that "vote for Pedro" shirt with big curly red hair, you'd definitely know what they were referencing.
In the case of Wayne's world, jeans, plaid, and hats aren't all that unique from most TV or movie outfits. But if you see somebody wearing a black hat with "Wayne's World" in white letters, it's easy to figure out what they're referencing. Even though the hat is technically the accessory, the hat is the most identifying thing about the costume. You could throw on nearly any t-shirt or jeans with that hat, and it would still be Wayne's World.
The Big Lebowski
Then there are some characters who live entirely in the world of reality, even when the character themselves doesn't. Some movies and shows have that one character that doesn't visually fit within the reality their movie has built. In the case of The Big Lebowski, every outfit is somewhat similar to what somebody in the real world would wear. Except for the outfit Jesus wears while bowling. In a world where ratty jackets, t-shirts and collared shirts are normal, an out of nowhere purple leisure suit with manicured pinky fingers just sticks out that much more. Having an out of place outfit in an otherwise normal world of clothes makes the outfit recognizable both in and out of the movie. This makes the outfit a great pick when creating an iconic costume.
Wilfred works the same way. The entire world of Wilfred is visually and thematically normal. Or at least it's visually normal until you see a man in a fur suit. Wilfred's fur suit is less elaborate than some other fur suits on TV. But Wilfred's fur suit is incredibly recognizable thanks to how much it pops in its own world.
Borat and the Mankini: Very Niiiice!
This also works in Borat. The clothes worn in Borat are largely from a world of reality. A grey suit is considered a regular thing to wear in reality. One could easily find a grey suit and a dark mustache, if they wanted to make their own Borat costume. But the places where the Borat character wears his suit causes the suit to longer function as a part of reality. Pristine suits are not normal in third world villages. Nor are suits normal in gyms, or grocery stores. And despite grey suits being somewhat realistic, a man in a grey suit repeatedly asking what cheese is causes the entire grey suit, dark mustache and exaggerated accent to become iconic to a character that doesn't fit in reality. Thus the look no longer fits with reality, and stands out entirely from the rest of the world.
Then there are some costumes that come from a visual world of their own. One great example is WWE. If you saw a wrestler wearing nothing but a speedo, gloves, and boots, you'd think it was absolutely ridiculous. But if you saw somebody wearing this in a wrestling ring, it wouldn't be weird at all. This is because WWE has created a world where big men in ridiculous outfits isn't odd. It is completely normal to see men running around in masks, speedos and leather. Everyone in WWE has a thematically similar look, even if these looks aren't in anyway grounded in reality. The general look has become iconic to WWE as a whole. And if you know enough about costume design, one could easily make their own homemade WWE outfit.
But shows and movies don't have to abandon reality to create their own visual styles. Sesame Street is a great example of this. In the world of Sesame Street, there are lots of ordinary looking people, and ordinary children. This is all normal in reality. But then you also have giant yellow birds walking around, and blue monsters with googly eyes. Even though only the puppets work outside of reality, Sesame Street has created an entire visual world of its own where normal people can interact with innocent and otherworldly puppets. So even though Kermit the Frog does not belong in ordinary reality, his presence, whether on the show or as a homemade prop, brings you into the reality where puppets and people coexist without question. Kermit creates immersion.
Scott Pilgrim vs The World & Suicide Squad/Harley Quinn
Some movies just scrap the realistic visual world for the sake of a stylized world entirely of their own. Scott Pilgrim vs the World a visual world of its own. Even though some of the outfits may look easy to find in a store, the entire look of the movie, and comic, is hard to replicate. It may be easy to find Matthew's red and black striped shirt. But not everybody is going to have his eyeliner, or the exact shape of his hair. Ramona's outfit wouldn't be to hard to put together, but not everybody can style their hair into the exact shape he has. Even with Roxy's more complicated outfit, her most memorable features are her face paint, and her finely carved pigtails. Even her skin tone is a little off to highlight how black the rest of her outfit is. Her exact look was never truly replicated until Harley Quinn in Suicide Squad. And that movie had a unique visual style on its own. Sometimes, even when clothes are simple and ordinary, styling can make a costume a completely unique look.
Cartoons have a very easy time building their own visual worlds. The world of Charlie Brown for instance would be extremely simplistic in reality. But it is that exact simplicity that makes Charlie Brown stand out. The solid colors and simple lines stand out because of how little they match reality. Thus these designs are easy to spot when they are put into reality. Charlie Brown's yellow shirt with a black jagged line is instantly recognizable. Snoopy is recognizable even if you've never watched the Charlie Brown cartoon or red the comics. And because these characters are hand drawn, it is easy to simply pick up a solid color shirt, and draw the lines onto the shirt yourself to make your own costume.
Rick and Morty
Rick and Morty has designs that operate under the same logic when building a visual style. Most of the Rick and Morty human characters are just solid colors. But small details like their expressions, their eye pupils, the shape of each character's hair, and Rick's constant chin stain make the characters stick out. And then they stick out even more when they are replicated in reality through costumes.
The art of the costume
The art of the costume is often a much more subtle one than we expect. Sometimes the clothes are more based in reality than we expect. Going out and buying a movie character's outfit is often the easy part of making a costume. But it's often things like mannerisms, accessories, and styling that make a look go from ordinary to otherworldly.