Lightning Final Fantasy XIII Cosplay / Aliexpress Costume review

I've always loved the look of Lightnings character but never really had the courage to go ahead and try the cosplay (there are so many incredible cosplayers out there already) but hey if not now, when?! I decided on her FF XIII outfit but I thought she'd also be a good cosplay to ease myself into more complicated amour cosplays later. 

Since I've been working my ass off on some dmmd cosplay I had the same issue I have with all my other cosplay plans - theres just not enough time to make them all! I've ordered a full cosplay once in the past (Lenalee Lee 2009 - the whole thing was about 4 sizes too big!!!) so safe to say I was put off ordering one ever again. My friends have ordered cosplays though all to varying degrees of success and with pressure mounting to get something done in time for London I deiced to save myself the hassle (famous last words) and order Lightning with the intention of making her Gunblade myself.

Boy, did this cosplay hate me. I went with Aliexpress since its cheap (another you get what you pay for applies here) but my focus was mostly on the reviews, I went with one that was mid range in price, it wasn't the cheapest and there were many others that were much more expensive. I have to start of by saying that for what I paid its really pretty decent (minus those damn gloves hahah) but its just not what was advertised or what I'd paid for. The reviews were all positive saying it was 'impressive' 'accurate to the character' and 'good quality', maybe I just got unlucky but the reviews failed to mention it flat out was not the same as in the '100% product shooting' images. I'm not an idiot and I obviously know that images get stolen and reused for lesser products but I trusted the reviews so I went ahead and ordered. 

I'll note I was also cautious to add extra measurements for my arms and thighs as a review stated the cuffs and bag straps did not fit around her, Since they offer custom sizes I stated to go with the size ordered but if these pieces of costume did not fit into the measurements given to follow those.

This is the costume that was advertised

And this is what I got, as I've said it looks pretty decent but its clearly not the same as the one advertised. The worst offender by far was the gloves which were both huge and not even the same size as you can see from the photo.

 Next up is probably the Pauldron which again, isn't terrible but its not the same at all. The fabric was poorly ironed on and I pretty much pulled it off straight away.

The bags zips were mismatched and the main popper to close the bag was broken. Another popper on the straps also broke while I was in London.

The belts and cuffs were all cheap and flimsy none of which had proper buckles so its hard to keep the middle belt up properly. The material also tears really easy around the buckle and after the first wear it was already ripped.

The cape is a horrible shiny satin material which I've found never photographs well. I'd kind of already expected them to use this and planned to replace it anyway (along with possibly making proper leather belts and working on the pauldron) but I didn't expect to have to work this much on fixing it all up. In fact the only piece I was pleased with was the main jacket, even that however was too big for me and had different buckles to the once advertised.

I contacted the seller immediately to let them know I was unhappy, to their credit they got back to me straight away to work something out. In the end we settled with a partial refund since it wouldn't be cost effective for me to send the whole thing back with tracking.

Heres a shot of the whole costume, its one of those things were individually I think the pieces look bad but overall its ok. Nevertheless I set to work on fixing bits of it up.

The top (underneath) I left the same and I put darts in the back of the jacket to fit it better to my body.
I replaced the cape with a darker thicker fabric - I chose colour over material since it looked more realistic but ultimately the fabric was too heavy and the draping was a bit of an issue for me. In the end it had to be pinned to the jacket to stop it falling backwards due to the weight.

The next part I worked on was the pauldron, I repainted the brown plate with a mix of silver and gold rub 'n' buff and black paint. The details were cut from foam and painted yellow then varnished. The varnish kind of made the paint turn green so I ended up repainting it several times. The pauldron was probably the piece I wanted to work the most on but I just didn't have time to do it how I'd of liked.


I completely remade the skirt so it was more accurate to Lightnings, I was kind of stumped with the material. Hers looks almost denim like but this was the closest colour I could find in my fabric store. Since it was stretchy it ended up being a good choice for a skirt. The top part is left over wool I had. 

Next up were the shoes, since these didn't come with the costume anyway I'd already started work on these. I studied images of her boots for a while and tried to make a template of the lighter front piece of her boot. Since I didn't want to ruin a pair of boots I already had (snk ye) I had to work out a way to fit it to the top. Once I was happy with the shape I cut it from leather and attached it via elastic that goes all the way around the shoe. I made sure I put the elastic in places were the shoe is covered with the straps and buckles. They were made from belts that were painted, the buckles are foam. I also cut another piece of material for the side bit of the lower boot and then worked on weathering the whole shoe to make it look more realistic.

The main issue I had with these were the top bits which as you can see below flop downwards! Since I was working on these the day before we left I had to settle with tying the top bits with elastic round my leg and hiding it with my sock! On the day the bottom bits of the outer cover also broke since the glue wasnt strong enough but generally for something put together so last minute they held up ok for the day!!

Here's a shot of all the 'new' costume. I replaced the middle belt with one I found around the house since it was stronger (but not as long as hers) I also remade the gloves (which was not easy, how on earth do people make gloves!!) and the night before the con I glued some painted gold fabric on top since I was running out of time!

As for the wig I got one from ebay here its actually really nice but needs a lot of triming and styling before wearing. It's a bit on the shiny side but still good for photos.

My lenses are the beaucon jewels blue I did order new more icy blue lenses from pinky but one was ripped when it arrived. I'm still waiting on a replacement so hopefully I'll be able to do a costest with the new lenses soon!

Thats all for now on my Lightning cosplay, I'm still in the process of editing more photos taken at London. Also planning what Lightning cosplay I will do next (won't be buying it online though hah!)