What are they thinking?
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!