A friend of mine typed up a quick guide for costume commissions, for both the buyer and seller. It's recommended that you read this before approaching someone to make a costume for you, or vice versa. READ IT ENTIRELY!
My friend has a bit of a foul mouth concerning these matters however, so I've taken the liberty of substituting certain words, in bold. You can use your imagination as to what the original phrase was.
So, apparently on the ACP forums there has been some serious cosplay chubby raccoonery. This is not the typical "so and so is too ugly to cosplay that" or "that costume sucks" chubby raccoonery that people are familiar with. This is the rarer but more legally questionable costume commission chubby raccoonery.
Let us briefly overview what happens in costume commission chubby raccoonery:
1. The person making the costume accepts the money and fails to deliver a costume on time, or ever.
2. The person makes a costume that the buyer considers to be unacceptable or not what they expected.
3. The person makes the costume, sends it off, and never sees the money.
The last is the rarest. The first is the most common. Either way, nobody wants this to happen if they are buying or selling a commissioned costume.
To avoid getting screwed, it doesn't matter who you are, DO THIS ANYWAYS. It will protect both people!
1. Before agreeing to the commission, talk extensively about the details of the costume. Both parties should know what is expected in the end. Discuss what materials should be used, what accessories will be included, measurements, and approximately how many HOURS it will take to make and what the anticipated timeline looks like. I say hours because "I can make that in a day" rarely takes into account jobs, school, family, and other obligations.
2. Based on the details above, estimate the cost. The estimate should be in TWO parts: pure cost of the materials to make the costume and compensation for construction time. The compensation can either be a flat value, or an hourly rate.
3. Agree on a delivery date. If you're making it, give yourself a few days more than you'll think it will take because THINGS ALWAYS GO WRONG SOMEHOW. If you're buying it, ask for it a week MINIMUM before the latest time you want it, because, THINGS ALWAYS GO WRONG.
4. At this point both of you need to decide if you feel this is fair and/or possible. If either person says "no" it's over.
5. Now that you've agreed on the details of the costume, the cost, and when it will be done, WRITE ALL THIS INTO A CONTRACT. It doesn't have to be all legal and formal, it just has to read along the lines of "Henry will make the season three Card Captor Sakura opening costume for Wayne from satin and taffeta including shoes and wig and blahblahblah full details go here. $60 US will be collected up front to cover the cost of materials, $200 to be collected on delivery of the finished costume. The delivery date will be July 1, 2007," with both parties signing and dating a line "I, (name), agree to the above terms. (Signature) (date)." Both people should have a copy of the contract signed by both of you.
I know that seems scary and like work, but this way if ANYTHING GOES WRONG for EITHER side, your ass is COVERED.
6. Pay the materials fee up front and get to work. This way the buyer is already financially invested and the seller is not digging into his or her own pocket to start.
7. The person MAKING the costume must keep ALL receipts and, if an hourly rate was agreed upon, carefully DOCUMENT how ALL the time was spent on a time sheet.
8. At the agreed upon date, the costume outlined in the contract needs to be in the buyer's hands and the remainder of the money needs to be in the seller's hands. If this doesn't happen, hey look, you have a signed contract, you now have legal recourse! The seller should also include on delivery: copies of all receipts, the time sheet (if applicable), and any remaining materials the buyer paid for.
9. Be sure to exchange E-mail, phone (home and cellular), addresses so that you can maintain clear lines of communication.
10. It's best if you're in a deal with an experienced buyer and seller. While it might be okay for inexperienced buyers to buy from experienced sellers, it's less okay for inexperienced sellers to sell to experienced buyers, the worst is for inexperienced buyers to buy from inexperienced sellers. Keep this in mind.
The important thing is to both specifically agree on what will happen and have it in writing and then DO IT. Don't make excuses, don't change your mind, both of you have entered into a legal agreement.
If you are buying a costume you should keep in mind that making a costume is very time consuming and they aren't going to be cheap. You should be aware of how much time the person making it will spend and how much materials cost.
If you are making the costume you need to be aware that people are used to cheap Halloween costumes worth only $40 and mass-produced in China. They will want something that looks good for very little money and often on short notice.
The important thing is to TALK to each other and be as CLEAR as possible on what will happen.