OMG that's just wrong. AX, of all cons, to slam that kind of wall down? They need to be slapped upside the head.
WorldCon and CostumeCon, the international level costuming conventions for crying out loud, allow professionals in any costume-related field. They're in Master class, yes, but they're still allowed to strut their stuff. That's the standard across the board at most cons I know, this is the first I've heard of such a restriction. And it's a ridiculous one. After all, I'm a paid seamstress - I work at a shop sewing dye-sublimated banners, flags, table skirts, etc. (commissions are on the side, not my main income) So does that mean, because I spend my days getting paid hourly to sew straight lines on banners, that I'm "pro" enough to be disqualified at AX? That's nuts on so many levels. Be assured, Jia, that it doesn't happen often or everywhere.
Perhaps that's a symptom of what Danzikumaru and I mentioned - the way anime cons don't understand the hobby of costuming. Not just its history, but its ongoing and vital growth in all kinds of genres. Anime cons have this conception that the hall cosplay they see at every other anime con is "it," that's the most you can expect out of people. But if you throw anime costumes into the same con with mainstream sci-fi, fantasy, and media costumes (think DragonCon, Archon, ComicCon) and the quality standard sticks out like a sore thumb. I'll take a Batman in a foam latex bodysuit over a Naruto group made half out of sweatpants and shirts cut and taped in the right places. And that's just in the halls! I excuse the kids because of their youth sometimes, but the internet being as pervasive as it is, it isn't difficult to look at pictures from other cons and go "wow. Look at that. Look at what that guy did. I want to be able to do that." Why CAN'T anime costumes look as good as sci-fi costumes? Why CAN'T we have Evangelion plugsuits that look as good as superhero costumes, or Trinity Blood props as lovely as some of the X-men ones I've seen, or packs of State Alchemists or Bleach shiningami looking as refined and crisp as an army of stormtroopers or colonial Marines?
It's a rhetorical question, but there is an answer. People just have to know that such a thing is possible, given they put the effort into it. If half the cosplayers I run into at anime cons put in the same amount of effort as my old stormtrooper buddies, cosplay would be revolutionized. And then they'd be the ones knocking on the masquerade directors' doors, demanding the same kind of quality competition (rules, divisions, judging, stage directing) as those sci-fi cons get. I say it will always go back to the prevailing attitude of the audience. As long as the kids still think it's great fun to throw a pack of randomized Final Fantasy and Naruto characters on stage in piecemeal costumes and goof off, anime cons will continue in their same rut, and you won't get any kind of serious competition going.
Founder and President, Madison Area Costuming Society, a chapter of the International Costumer's Guild
Strange Land Costuming - www.strangelandcostumes.com