How would I do a Megaman X/Kirby hat style character?

Idea, 2D side-scroller where you get power-up from enemies. I want to have it obvious on the sprite you have a power up (maybe colored differently like Megaman, or hat like Kirby) would I have to sprite for each instance of change, or could I have the “hat” as a layer over the base character? What if I wanted power-ups that changed the base model (Megaman-X style with the armor, or Super Ghouls and Ghost with Arthur).

I don’t want to get too far into one process just to find out there is an easier/better way to do it.

Thanks, I was hoping there was a short cut, guess not. Very helpful, thanks.