Judges, that is. Costume contest judges of all kinds. Those you drop your hard work and dedication in front of for scrutiny. Those judges.
A friend prompted this post by asking about “unwritten” requirements in masquerades and cosplay contests. What are the expectations for each level? For presentations? For anything?
First off, the written rules are the only ones you need to worry about. Those are designed by the coordinators or chairs in order to make things fair and – most importantly – keep you safe. They also remove any liability from the con if you choose to ignore those rules.
Second… You'll never know the unwritten requirements. You'll never know what each individual judge really wants to see. You can't know that stuff, all you can know is that you love what you did and you did good work. You might be able to learn them by looking at past winners and participating in the contest – but only maybe. Those unwritten expectations change from year to year, convention to convention, judge to judge. They’re always different, and that’s part of the fun!
As an example, the question of wearing colored contacts came up. Lots of people love to wear them to complete a look. I do it on occasion too – and I’m in the market for some circle lenses soon! But is it necessary?
As a judge, I like it because it's a detail that's been considered. It's just like taking the time to choose the right colors or finish your seams. It means you put thought into it. But it's only one piece in a thousand that indicate your skill and interest level - there are plenty of others to work with. It’s an extra: like adding a delicately sugar-frosted cherry on top of an already intricately decorated cupcake, but the lack thereof isn’t going to deduct points. When judging, I wouldn’t be looking for it – but if you did it (and pointed it out, as it’s not always obvious) with the intention of providing just that one more detail, I would love it.
As a cosplayer, I love the look – especially if the character’s eyes are distinctive – and the way it can really complete a costume. I don’t regularly wear contacts, though, so it’s a challenge I reserve for distinctive costumes. OR sometimes it’s an added detail to a costume that’s otherwise rather simple: Princess Emeraude, for example. I wore blue contacts with her costume – a non-competition piece – because first of all she’s MADE OF EYES, and second because with her simple white shift, it was a detail that I felt really defined the costume. I love details; I’m a detail fiend. That’s how I choose to create costumes.
If you don’t, no biggie! You costume based on what you need and want. If you can’t wear contacts, focus on another detail that’s important to you, and make sure the judges KNOW it was important and intentional. There are thousands to choose from! Finishings, makeup, wigs, accessories, shoes, even music and movement for your presentation -
- tiny tangent here, I just did a fully-fleshed out, dramatic presentation in 40 seconds. Most of my presentations are under 1 minute. One minute in stage-time is an ETERNITY. The music/SFX are super important, and I use them for the utmost effect. Anyway -
… anything that makes you memorable. Give the judges a good reason to remember you and your costume, whatever that reason is. Make a statement, and make it yours. Enjoy!
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The as-yet-to-be-renewed Heroes of Cosplay completed its initial run tonight with some spectacular fun and serious drama (guys, it’s reality TV, there is drama. Did you know you have nerves attached to your muscles?).
I HAVE NEVER SEEN SO MANY SICK PEOPLE AT A CON. Stop that. Even so, it’s not hard to understand the motivation to work through an illness for something you’ve already put so much effort and time into. Despite how you feel, you want to go through with it. How many of us do that with our work or career? It’s a tough choice. Admittedly… my illnesses in the past have come the next morning… *mumblemumbledragonconmumble*
One of the most lovely moments was Jinyo’s proposal to Victoria. So sweet, and the opportunity to have help from such a fantastic gentleman as Peter Mayhew (THE Chewbacca) simply can’t be passed up. Peter is also currently in need of medical care which his friends, family, and fans are helping to support via the website Standing In The Stars.
Unfortunately, a far more negative scene awaited us during the masquerade as the crowd jeered the “out-of-towners.” It is my understanding that there was some frustration with the show and management, but in my opinion, that is absolutely no reason to be heckling people, offering rudeness, or (even if you didn’t start it, as I have heard is the case) continuing an argument. What the hell was that? Aren’t we all adults?
Aside from that, “out-of-towners?” REALLY? It’s a major convention that brought hundreds of thousands of people to Kansas City. Conventions are DESIGNED to be attended by non-residents. If there were only residents of that city attending THERE WOULDN’T BE A CONVENTION. And heaven forbid there were only locals in the masquerade – it’d be five minutes long with two entries and no judges.
When you are costuming, you are there to do YOUR best. If your best doesn’t win you an award, keep going. Learn. Seek out new and better techniques, materials, keep creating and GROW. But do not stand there and cry in your beer that you were “outclassed.” Every single one of those people started out with no skills; they worked for them and built them. It is an extremely ungracious and disingenuous way to approach anything.
You didn’t start it? Good for you. But you didn’t leave it, either. You participated in a meanspirited, abrasive heckling. You were hungry, tired, and hurting? So was everyone else in that masquerade. No excuses. Bullying and meanness is never okay. Period.
Aside from that, it seems like it was a great experience for all the folks involved. There was a lot of growing, learning, and the requisite struggle that is one of the things that makes anything – but especially cosplay – worth doing.
Looking forward to another season!
I love this episode, too! So much excitement and – yes indeed! – drama!
One of my favorite things was the emphasis that Yaya put on the performance aspect of their competition entry. I love the idea of a big reveal for Riddle’s Alice/Meat dress. Watching Yaya move in their skit rehearsal really demonstrated her dedication to the theatrics of a skit like this.
I’ve really been enjoying this aspect of cosplay coming out. When I started, the first skit I did in 1999 was literally a bunch of people I’d met at the con that day in Sailormoon costumes and we were making it up as we were in line for the contest. I’m so delighted in the change to these well-written and planned out skits with music, voice, even special effects! That’s so exciting, and really just adds to much to what cosplay already is.
Everyone also really seemed to be pulling out all the stops and trying something new. Building props with friends is some of the best cosplay-time I can remember, and I feel like Jessica, Holly & Rebecca really represented that. One of my own proudest moments in cosplay was made possible only by the huge effort of my friends Jake & Tom who built Nausicaa’s mehve glider for me.
Seeing Chloe & Jesse find success with their costuming was heartwarming. Jesse, who had worked so hard, put so much expertise and effort into his truly professional-level costume, was really gratified by his award – a position I really understand. Though we persevere despite a lack of recognition or praise, there is a great feeling that comes from the accomplishment of getting an award. We can know we’re good, but outside recognition means something different. Maybe not better, but different.
Also hello Jessica & Holly as Riker and Picard, I mean come on. It doesn’t get any better than that.
I’ve been feeling a little bit lately like I’m out of the cosplay loop. Part of it is just that I WAS out of the loop… getting laid off and finishing grad school and being a first year elementary school teacher and a major 3 month illness will sort of do that to you. Oh, and getting married and buying a house with said new spouse, those things will all do it, too. All of that stuff happened to me in the last three or four years, taking away my attention from a community that’s been changing in major ways, right under my nose.
I never really stopped cosplaying, but it did take a major back seat in my life for a while, and that’s left me reeling a little as I’ve come back to the scene full force. It’s been good in a lot of ways: I’ve grown in both skill and attitude. I’ve done more ‘traditional’ costuming, working from a number of different material sources (books, for instance). I’ve gone to more kinds of cons than just anime cons – I have to say that was a great experience, and I’m really fond of Costume-Con and the scifi-fantasy con scene.
It took me until last year to get up a cosplay Facebook page. It seems like that really became the thing to do while I was on my not-really-a-hiatus, and I totally missed the boat. I was surprised to see it a point of contention that how many ‘likes’ you had, as if it was a way to measure your worth as a cosplayer. Then again, it sort of didn’t surprise me at all. It was that way for years with photo comments at cosplay.com or comments and friends on Livejournal. A new method to old madness? Could be.
The word ‘professional’ is bandied about quite frequently. There’s no hard and fast definition (because how can you have a hard and fast definition of any job in the arts?) but I love that people are making what thy love into a career. That’s a dream so many have, and I’m impressed that people are pursuing it with such passion.
My attitude is really different now. I think that had less to do with cosplay itself than with me learning more about who I am and what’s important to me… and while cosplay is definitely important, I think I have a better idea of, well, HOW. I learned a lot about my former bad attitudes – limiting others (at least in my head) by gatekeeping, keeping a list of what the criteria for “good” cosplay was, that sort of thing. I had my eyes opened to how damaging those ideas are really only within the past year, and I’m proud to have broken those incredibly destructive attitudes. Unfortunately, I still see it happening in the community, and I feel like teaching better attitudes is now a priority for me. I guess it’s a throwback to my chosen career, education, and how much I want our community to be strong and welcoming.
Cosplay IS mainstream now, there’s no denying it. When Conan O’Brian uses the word regularly on his show, it’s mainstream. The definition of the word itself has changed in the last few years – cosplay is a synonym for costuming. There’s no difference now. Cosplay is nothing more than wearing a costume, whether you made it or bought it, whether it finds it’s source in Asian pop culture or American comics or English literature, whether it’s a customization or genderbend, whether the design is yours or someone else’s. It’s all cosplay. And it’s so beautiful.
I take it back. I don’t feel out of touch - I feel inspired. I don’t feel old - I feel rejuvenated. I’m so proud to be part of a growing, learning community.
I’m so happy to be back.
I have to consolidate my comments of the last two episodes as I had the CRAPPIEST WEEK EVER last week and I nearly died. Okay, that was an exaggeration – but only barely. (FYI, during the day I masquerade as an elementary computer technology teacher… that’s right, I herd kids all day! On computers even!)
Episode 3 was a great comeback after the conflict of Episode 2 – at least in social media. Watching the struggles with props and costume-laden travel was again painfully real – not some of my favorite memories. I hope they might be a warning tale to new cosplayers, haha!
Not only that, but watching the conflict and struggles between friends and coworkers when working together and “against” each other. I like to believe cosplayers are never really working against each other. I’ve done competitions with and against friends, as well as entirely alone and on my own. Each one has it’s own challenges and perks.
OMG the PROPS. It was heartbreaking when Rebecca’s little car didn’t make the trip. It’s happened to nearly everyone. The challenges of traveling with costumes LITERALLY follow cosplayers everywhere.
What struck me the most about #3 was how much dedication, passion, and love for their characters each of the cosplayers had. This has always been a major motivational point for me, so I identified with that aspect in a powerful way.
Episode 4 was more tough stuff. First, the fun stuff – OMFG Guillermo del Toro! I have no aspirations to work in costuming or Hollywood, but that was a really awesome opportunity! And Monika’s interview at Blizzard was another great opportunity. I loved seeing the potential for people to be using their experience in cosplay to create careers and achieve dreams. It’s absolutely possible.
I was both hurting for and proud of Rebecca. To hear such a backhanded refusal to work together from someone you admire – and an unfair assumption, to boot – is heartbreaking. It made me sad to hear Monika say what she did; it reminds me of when I was much younger. I admit to having similar and unfortunate attitudes in years past, though I don’t think I would have phrased them so bluntly. I’ve learned since then that everyone has skill, potential, and is worth working with.
But for Rebecca to come back, talking to Holly like she did, she got the best advice: do what you love, do it with people who love you, and have fun. I expect to see her go forward and enjoy herself more than anyone else thanks to that attitude.
And one last bit… take care of your body and health when in cosplay!
Here we are again! All the drama and angst of a cosplay competition! And some difficult conversations. This was hard for a lot of people to watch. Including me. But it was neither inaccurate nor misrepresentative of the community.
Early in the show there was a dinner conversation. Two plus hours of footage edited down to 2 minutes, natch, because this is TV and we only have so long.
Here’s what I saw: a group of cosplayers criticizing the choices of other cosplayers. At least one cosplayer at the table feeling incredibly awkward abuot the conversation. Like you do.
Here’s what I think: I think that at some point in all of our cosplay, other hobby, even professional careers, we’ve been responsible for needlessly and unfairly judging someone else. Myself included. In the past, I’d been particularly nasty, not always intentionally, but sometimes it was just none of my damn business and I thought it was.
Here’s what I say: Ye who have never secretly in your heart and mind judged another, muttered under your breath how you would have done it better, narrowed your eyes at what (to you) was an unacceptable body form, please… throw the first stone at Yaya and company. Go ahead.
Oh, none of us fit that bill? I didn’t figure any of us would.
I’ve heard people SCREAM (figuratively, online) that this show is ruining cosplay. Know what ruins cosplay? Telling people they suck. Spewing pure hate at people willing to put themselves out there. Being a bully. Being unwilling to allow people to change, apologize, and come back better. Judging people who are doing it their way.
Cosplayers are not perfect. As I’ve grown older, wiser, quieter, perhaps a little wistful, I’ve been able to recognize my prejudices and clean them out. It honestly didn’t happen until really recently. It was hard. Letting go of what I had envisioned as deep-seated, worthy platitudes that all cosplayers should follow. But I realized… it is none of my damn business what other cosplayers are choosing to do.
It’s like I tell my elementary school kids. “OMG, Mrs. Warner it’s an emergency!” “Oh? Is someone bleeding?” “…no.” “Is someone on fire?” “…..no.” “Then it’s not really an emergency, is it?” “No, I guess not.”
I feel like we need to have that kind of come-to-Jesus in cosplay right now. How you cosplay is how you cosplay, and it’s legit.
Additionally, on the subject of someone else working on a costume… perhaps it’s because I teach, and teachers live by the adage of “beg, borrow, and steal.” (Obviously we don’t really steal, I mean, that wouldn’t be cool.) Maybe it’s because I’ve been dabbling in more ICG-style costuming for a few years. Maybe it’s because I’ve worked on HUGE group projects where we all had our specialty – sewing, crafting, prop making – and we shared the fruits of those labors. Maybe it’s because design in itself is an art, and still deserves to be recognized… even if the design isn’t for you, but for your model.
I think we need to start expanding and clarifying the rules about who can be in what costume and who has to have made it. Create a place for a cosplayer AND a designer who can work AND compete together. Victoria and Jinyo both deserved a lot of congratulations for creating the Tron dress (EL wire is like…. AAAAHHHHHH). Again, it’s about the whole sum of the parts – planning, crafting, presentation, and discussion. Having someone help you – willingly, of course – should be totally okay in competitions. Just make a space for that person so he or she can share the credit. Teams make powerful, incredible costumes and simply cannot happen with one person alone. Let’s honor that.
Final note… I love Chloe so much. She’s my new favorite person. I love her bright, open attitude. I love that she had fun. I love that she reminded me how fun it is to get up on stage. Great job, girl!
I've been feeling a little discouraged (okay, a lot discouraged) by some of the attitudes brought out by Heroes of Cosplay, etc. First, criticisms from folks who haven't seen it. That doesn't seem fair to me. We say in elementary school that it's only fair to refuse something after you've had a "no, thank you" portion. IOW, you gotta TRY it at least.
And then, from the folks who have seen it who are so negative about it. Maybe I'm just trying to stick to the old "if you don't have anything nice to say" adage, but I also didn't see it as negative. I saw it as real. It's one of the most realistic reality TV shows I've seen in a long time.
I was SO in every one of those positions and perspectives at some point in my cosplay 'career.' Now, they're not all healthy, but they're part of the reality. I don't understand hiding what it can really be like. People are saying that it is or is going to give cosplay a bad name, but I don't understand that. To me, it wouldn't be right to say it's all rainbows and unicorns (besides the MLP cosplayers, hurhur ^.~) all the time - that would be a lie, and a great disservice to those who aren't familiar with cosplay.
It's like anything else. It's beautiful and ugly at the same time. There's conflict. There are amazing moments of synergy and cooperation. There's anxiety and triumph. There's disappointment. The show displayed some great positivity; it also showed some of the most negative reactions.
Yes, it was majorly about competitions. That's going to carry a lot of dramatic weight and make for exciting television. Some people love to compete. I love to compete because I love to be on stage - I have a background in music and it shows. That's MY perspective, but I would never expect everyone else's perspective to be the same. The feeling of winning is gratifying. And I have had those moments where I was upset because I felt someone won who didn't deserve it (I like to think that's in my past, but who knows what the future will bring?). I'm so impressed that some of the participants in the show had the balls to come out and admit that! It's an ugly feeling (for me at least), but it's also real.
And the time and cast is limited. They can't cover the hundreds of thousands of cosplayers out there. They have six (six? Did I count right?) [Edit: Nine. I read the synopsis, durhur]. They have to be on coasts because that's where TV happens. Maybe if this is successful, there will be more and better coverage. There are a lot of things that are the way they are because that's how TV is made (I'll tell you what, I wish there were more home decorating & landscaping shows in the US interior, I could sure use some help!). They can't speak for everyone. But they took a good sample. Hopefully there will be more.
[Edit: It was identified that the cast is mostly white females, which of course doesn’t make for an appropriate cross-section. I was referring to the sample of perspectives, attitude, and areas of expertise. Food for thought.]
And at the last, some semantics. Those cosplayers ARE heroes. Each one of them, for their own reasons. But EVERY cosplayer is a hero. It takes guts to put on a costume. It takes heart to put yourself out there. And any one of those people who were on the show would tell you that every cosplayer - every level, every perspective - is a hero.
Maybe it's me. I'm an optimist. I see the good in things, most of the time. It's a perspective that works for me. But I'm also a realist, and that can still jive with the optimistic perspective. I can go back 15 years and see from that perspective, and see these important folks having to make the same difficult choices as I did, I can watch them feel anxious and triumphant and appreciated and afraid, just like I did - and do. That made it very positive for me, to know that all those feelings I had and still have are out there in other people's brains. To know that my perspective was always valid. That makes the show itself valid. They did a great job.
[Again compiled from FB posts, etc.]
(As compiled from several Facebook posts and subsequently edited to make more sense and follow some kind of grammatical logic. Hurhur.)
I love it. I love the vast variation of skills and experience and perceptions and behaviors. All the feelings, all the experiences, all the perceptions, it was all so VALID. It honestly reminded me of my earlier days in cosplay, when competing was a priority for me.
No, it wasn't all pretty. Anyone who's cosplayed for any amount of time KNOWS it's not always pretty. No, I wouldn't have made the choices that others would have made, but that's why it's so awesome - it's another perspective! And each one of them is valid. The joy of success. The tragedy of disappointment. Priorities and perspective are totally different for each person. That's real. Some of it was hard to watch because I KNOW THOSE FEELS.
My first costume, Super Sailormoon from Sailormoon, made in 1998 (Photo from NDK 1999). I had on two wigs. For realies.
I swear I've been every one of the competitors shown over the last 15 years that I have been cosplaying. I felt like I got gypped, I felt like a performer, I felt successful, I felt like I swept, I felt like I had a rockin' good time and that was all I cared about. All of those things. All of them.
And I've been the bitch. And I've been the one hurt by the bitch (or bastard, as it were). I've been the grown-up princess with the little girl who loved me for who SHE thought I was. I'VE been the little girl meeting a princess I love. I've been incomplete, overdrawn, stressed, blissful, grateful, exhilarated. I think HoC portrayed that perfectly, honestly.
And on top of that, there were any numbers of really amazing tips and tricks - costuming at a professional level! Automotive paint, head moulds, embroidery machines. So much to learn and try.
Rosa of Final Fantasy IV (DS) done in 2008 for Dragon*Con.
It was inspiring. I want to go up to my studio and work. I want the back yard to be done so I can convert the garage into a shop. I want to compete again. I want to be on stage. Yaya Han & company, you should be proud. I am. I am proud to be a part of this beautiful, fun, dysfunctional, nutty and nerdy community. I love it. All of it.
Also love DJ Spider's take, and I can't agree more. Read it here!
Watch the show Mondays on SyFy.