I have won, I have gotten nothing, I have entered by myself, I have entered in Duos, I have had stuff finished the month before, I have had stuff finished the night before. I have been late, I have been early, I have done skits, I have not done skitssssss and I have judged. Let my past failures and good-times help you navigate the cosplay contest process as stress free as a cat made of kolonopin asleep in a lavender bush.
Note: as always this is all a bunch of my opinion and a whole lot of internet, take this with a grain of salt.
Read the rules (even if you have entered before!)
I think the number one thing to bear in mind is that most costume/cosplay contests are run by volunteers in their spare time for freesies. Everything you do to make their lives easier will be gratefully received. Follow the rules, be punctual, supply everything asked for in the entry form and everyone will have themselves a time.
Here are some things I look out for when I enter something:
Timing! Carefully note what day judging and prizegiving is and what time, especially if you are travelling in from another city. Think about how long you will need to get ready and travel to the convention, do you just need to pull on a mask and zip up gown? Rig armour straps all over your body? Apply body paint and wait for it to dry? Create a perfect smoky eye? Treat yourself to a nice window of time and your stress levels will plummet.
If you can, find out where the judging room is. This is usually not finalised until the day before because event management logistics is a unrelenting hell beast and problems are only discovered once someone gets on site and finds the proposed judging room is actually the kitchen’s cold-store.
What type of contest is it? Is it about craftsmanship? Character doppleganger? A super-size deluxe combo of craftsmanship and performance? Audience favourite? Knowing this will let you know what to concentrate your energy on if you are keen on nabbing a prize for ya mantelpiece. It’s good to match your expectations to the contest type – i.e. don’t feel bad when your exquisitely worked blackwork embroidery doesn’t get noticed in a contest that is judged by audience claps on stage.
What can you enter? Contests vary on what you enter, from anything as long as it covers your breasts and genitals to costumes only from a specific origin or theme. Some let you recreate fan art, and others do not. If you want to enter an original take on a character comb through the rules carefully and if in doubt drop the organisers an email with your plans.
What needs to be done by you? In some contests you must make your own costume entirely, in others you can chose a model to wear it for you and some have no restrictions at all. Check it…and again if unsure drop the organisers an email.
What do I need to submit?
Portfolio? Entry form? Name on a clipboard? Reference images, work diaries, progress pics… Supply everything they ask for and you will have happy judges. Again, no two contests are the same so carefully read the requirements and ask if you are unsure.
Ugh Why do I have create this huge form?
You put in hours and hours of work working on your costume, so another two hours on a form isn’t too horrifying in the scheme of things (it is, but in the case of this article I will lie and say it isn’t). Basically these documents are a tool for the judges to find out all the blood, sweat and swears you put into your work without the time constraints of a judging room schedule – think about it: it’s way easier to carefully read over notes whole you are in your poolside, leisurely sipping a Mimosa then in a windowless conference room with lost ugly kid announcements blaring overhead – ugh.
Craftsmanship heavy contests that require in depth entry forms will usually supply you with templates and an example or two so that you can get a good idea of what the judges need. Progress photos give you a chance to showcase how you transformed that pair of Number 1 shoes clearance scuffs into sparkly slippers or the hidden edges of your amour are perfectly smooth – so use this to your advantage …Show off like every one of those judges is your Grandma.
Reference images are super important, even if your character is well known….you try drawing Meowth from memory and see how much detail you can remember
Ask before not later
Unsure about something? Don’t be afraid to drop the organisers an email – it’s much less painful to find out you can’t make your wings seven meters wide then try and pluck them to five meters a week out from the competition.
A good rule is to direct any questions to the official contest email – not a facebook group, private messages to one judge, texts, twitter, passenger pigeon. This way it everyone who needs to see it will see it and it will not be lost.
Honesty is the best policy
Judges tend to know if you are telling porky pies, they are just too polite to call you out on it. Do you reaaaaaaallly want to do this in a contest that is for people’s hobby? Respect yourself.
Shhhh…It’s Okay to be Disappointed
It’s totally normal to be disappointed if you don’t place or do as well as you hoped you would – it’s part of being a human being. Cliched as it might be, entering a contest is an achievement in itself – you got it all done and you put yourself on stage and up to critique..not everyone can do that! Congratulate the winners, and concentrate on what amazing costume you will do next.