Today’s article is about some dos and don’ts when it comes to the craftsmanship side of cosplay competitions. This is not referring to skits but to having your costume judged for quality and craftsmanship.
To people who take the time to compete in various masquerades or other live competitions, cosplay really can be ‘seriuz biznis’. For a lot of seamstresses, it means putting in long hours pouring over references, patterning, sewing and crafting. When you put that much time, effort, and money into a project, it really does become serious.
Every competition has its own rules, so it’s very important to read over those before entering. Also, rules can vary from category to category, so make sure you are reading the information for your appropriate skill level.
There are some universal rules of thumb to keep in mind. While they are pretty straight forward, you’d be surprised at the amount of people who try and slide things by, just to try and win an award. Skeevy, yes, but they do it anyway.
First and foremost – if you did not make the costume yourself, do not enter it into the competition. I see this one broken left and right, and it drives me insane. I don’t care if your Mom, your Dad, your sister, your brother, your uncle, your aunt or your BFF helps you – if they gave you anything more than advice, if they sewed on your project, if they crafted items for your project, if you did not do 100% of the manual labor – do not enter that particular project into the competition. To be blunt, it’s really douche if you do. The whole point of entering a competition is to showcase your work, not someone elses – and if anyone worked on it but you, it’s no longer solely your work.
Now, if you and a friend are entering as a group and helped each another, that’s fine. As a matter of fact, if the competition allows it, I encourage that. Crafting items with friends is a lot of fun, and then you and your group can show off your hard work at the competition. Just make sure to enter at the level of the most capable person in your group. (Meaning, if you have two beginners and an intermediate, everyone should enter as intermediate.)
And, please, do not enter commissioned items in a cosplay competition. If you think claiming your Mom or sister’s work as your own is douchey, claiming a commissioned costume as your own qualifies you as a total douche-canoe. Seriously. And, as a side note, this also includes wigs and props. Don’t pass off someone else’s work as your own, no matter what part of the costume it is.
When you enter a competition, make sure to enter at your appropriate skill level. If you are willing to cheat just to get an award, you really should reevaluate your priorities. If you’re new at cosplay or have tried competing a couple of times and haven’t won an award, by all means, stick to beginner. However, if you’ve ever won an award before, then you need to suck it up and move to intermediate. The whole point of competing is to learn and grow in your craft, not be a jerk.
Next, when you go to get judged, bring reference pictures and progress pictures of you making the costume. Reference pictures help the judges see how accurately you made the costume; progress pictures help them see the journey you made from pile of fabric to completed costume and generally tend to win you bonus points. The more you bring of each, the better off you are. The most professional of cosplayers will bring a whole portfolio so that they can go over bullet points with the judges and show them how they did various things. The point is to impress the judges with your skills and knowledge. (Oh, and before you even walk in the door, do a once-over on your costume to make sure you don’t have any loose threads and that everything is where it needs to be.)
If you are given feedback by the judges at any point, listen to them. A lot of times, the people who are judging are cosplayers like yourself and they may have a trick or two to teach you. They aren’t insulting you. They aren’t putting you down. They are trying to help.
Some competitions allow modified street clothes, and that’s fine. Check to see the ruling on it. However, once you get past a certain level (usually journeyman but definitely in masters), it’s really tres gauche to use modified street clothes in competition. If you are entering in masters, you should be able to make pretty much anything off the rack yourself, anyway. Save it for hall cosplay.
And finally, be a good competitor. If you lose, lose graciously. Everyone has heard the “but the judges were biased” story – and sometimes it’s true. Some judges don’t know anything about seamwork or quality, but most of them do. Just chalk it up as a learning experience and move on. On the same note, if you win, win gracefully. While no one likes a sore loser, everyone hates a gloating winner. Thank the judges, be proud of your accomplishments, and leave it at that.
If you play your cards right, you can have a great time and meet some really fun and interesting people whom you already have something in common with!