Friday, October 17, 2014


Cosplayers tend to dress up in costume and act as that character. Costumers tend to dress up in costume but still act normally. While I might throw out some quotes from movies, I remain mostly a costumer.
That said, I need to speak out about costume contests at conventions. I’ve been in a few, my children have been in a few, we’ve both won some contests, and been in contests without winning. Granted, we’ve only been at the small-to-middle-sized conventions so they may have vast differences at the big conventions.

The prizes for the contests have been mostly improving over the years. The top prize can usually be a membership to next year’s convention but most of the time it is merchandise. Sometimes, if the convention truly values the costume contest, the prizes make sense – like gift certificates to a local fabric place or the convention dealer’s room, or even theme-related prizes but they are usually random items donated by the dealers in the dealer’s room.
Sometimes they will also give certificates, ribbons, or medals. I know the kids like the ribbons and medals. For me, we’re really not in the contests for the prizes. (Especially with most prizes being what they are). The recognition is more what we are after.

Often they will have some categories in mind – workmanship, junior, group, but a lot of times we have found that they decide on winners and then pick a category to assign them. This helps to cover if there are no costumes in a category and allows them to recognize extra costumes that might miss out by being the second or third in a category. This allowed our friend Sean to win as Best Female Hormonal Response.

While some costumes can be pulled together in short time, a lot of costumers will spend a lot of time working on their costumes. This is not to say that we haven’t been working on the final touches of a costume the night before or even final modifications just before the contest. Any extra time allows for extra touches or tweaking up until the last minute. The bad part about some judging is the amount of time it eats up of the convention. A lot of contests will want you to show up for a walkthrough to show you the contest space and where they will often do some prejudging. Even with this, you have to be there before the contest itself, the entire length of the contest, and then wait around while the judges take their time to decide on the winners. At one convention we were at, that ate up over four hours in a row on a Saturday for the kids’ part of the costume contest. Judges
Often the judges will include the guest, who may or may not know anything about costumes. Sometimes you will also have at least one judge who does know about costuming and will look for details like stitching, materials, and techniques. Hopefully this knowledgeable judge will be at the prejudging and can check for all this at that time. The other judges will often be committee members who have been rounded up to judge without haven been given much instruction.
At the smaller conventions the judging may even be done by crowd response – which can allow a store-bought costume of a popular character to beat a fabulous costume of an obscure character. Sometime the MC will be the judge although it often works quicker if they aren’t.

During the walkthrough the judges will sometimes take the time to inspect the costumes up close and ask questions. This allows them to take their time and helps to speed up the actual contest. This should allow them to have those portions already scored and only require them to note presentation and crowd response during the actual contest and then add them to the totals, but it still seems to take an hour for the judging to finish.

A good MC can help explain a costume or help to bridge those who don’t have a good write-up or music. A bad MC can distract from a good presentation. We’ve seen an MC treat the costume contest as her own personal stand up routine. They can definitely lead an audience if the judging is by audience response.

So, of the three conventions we go to, while some of us will costume (to varying degrees) at all of them, my daughter only really enters the costume contest at Keycon now. Although, if we get a great costume idea done, we might try again at Valleycon.