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Unread 09-16-2016, 01:51 AM   #1
CosplayNinjaBoy
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How to win cosplay competitions

I'm new to cosplay, and have 2 questions.

1. What are the most esteemed cosplay competitions in the U.S.? That is, the ones that big time cosplayers want to win?

2. How do judges decide who wins these competitions? To be more specific, do you need to entirely create your costume yourself (as in sew), or can you win buying pre-made garments? How much a of negative is it to your score if you use pre-made items?
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Unread 09-16-2016, 02:18 AM   #2
SirWonderusMary
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I don't know which competition is the best but for the second question, It's very hard to say. Each contest is different and has different judges, but generally you're not going to win a cosplay contest with something pre-made like the costumes you buy from the stores. The competitions with the bigger prizes will go to the contestants who spent their time and money to create their costume as It's only fair. There are different contests you could enter though if you'd like an opportunity that let you just walk on, or even contests where they focus on your performance. If you want to know more, you could also try checking out the Masquerade discussion board and learn more about that side. http://www.cosplay.com/forumdisplay.php?f=35
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Unread 09-16-2016, 05:42 AM   #3
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As a general rule of thumb, the bigger/more well known the con is, the tougher the cosplay competition is. That tends to be because you've got more entrants, and as a result, a higher probability you've got people at high skill levels competing.

Pre-made garments really depends on the costume, from what I've heard from talking to various judges. You definitely need to be following the "Make X% yourself rule." Sometimes it makes no sense to waste your time sewing things that are just under layers (ex, making a plain black long-sleeve shirt to wear under a suit of armor is kind of stupid, or making socks if they don't need to be custom), but if your cosplay is more fabric-based and you sacrifice accuracy with a pre-made garment I don't think that'll go over as well unless you have really good justifications for it.
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Unread 09-16-2016, 06:52 AM   #4
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There really isn't a HUGE PRESTIGIOUS MUST-WIN contest. I mean there are bigger conventions and more costume-focused conventions and those are harder to win, but eh?

Competitions are something you do for your own sense of accomplishment, not actual fame or "big time"-ness.
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Unread 09-16-2016, 07:18 AM   #5
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2. Have a design that blows them away, with colors, details, and an interesting silhouette. The costume should also cover a wide range of techniques used. Like sewing, prop making, painting, wig styling, makeup, prosthetics etc. Make sure also to blow them away with your performance. Show confidence.

In cosplay contests they mainly judge your costume making skill. So there's no point in competing with mostly pre-made garments.
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Unread 09-16-2016, 08:57 AM   #6
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To become a big time cosplayer:
1. Be conventionally attractive.
2. Have facial features that closely resemble a currently popular character enough that you can be people's "headcanon" for that character.
3. Be good at taking selfies.
4. Sit on social media all day.
5. ??????????
6. Profit.
Then you will win the biggest contest of all, which is the "popularity contest" where the prize is to be idolized by tens or maybe even hundreds of people.

Or, you could work really hard on your craft and enter competitions for feedback and a sense of personal accomplishment. If you get good enough at something, make tutorials about it. Have enough good tutorials and people will know who you are without any of steps 1-5.
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Unread 09-16-2016, 09:46 AM   #7
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Maybe #5 is "get lucky". Sometimes you do really cool work and you just happen to be in the same place at the same time as someone else who created something even more jaw-dropping. It happens.
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Unread 09-16-2016, 09:47 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CosplayNinjaBoy View Post
I'm new to cosplay, and have 2 questions.

1. What are the most esteemed cosplay competitions in the U.S.? That is, the ones that big time cosplayers want to win?

2. How do judges decide who wins these competitions? To be more specific, do you need to entirely create your costume yourself (as in sew), or can you win buying pre-made garments? How much a of negative is it to your score if you use pre-made items?
1.) First, what do you consider a "big time cosplayer"? People who are really excellent at making costumes or simply the lucky few with a big followership on social media platforms? Depending on your definition, most of who you might consider "big" are not participating in contests at all or are judges, not contestants.
A rule of tumb is, that big conventions usually have big contests with more and bigger prizes and in some cases a bit more prestige (for example: Representing the USA at the World Cosplay Summit is probably something to be proud of). But this also means that your competition is a lot harder at big contest, because you run into more people from all over the country, who have years of experiance.

2.) Depends on every single contest. Each contest has a slightly different set of rules. Some include a skit/performance others just judge your craftmanship or both. Some have special categories, where you can win for the best prop or the best make up etc.
Most contest require that you have to make a certain percentage of your costume by yourself. A good rule of tumb is, that you are the safest, if only small and barely noticeable parts of your costume are brought.
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Unread 09-16-2016, 11:49 AM   #9
belligerent
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Quote:
Originally Posted by StarsOfCassiopeia View Post
Maybe #5 is "get lucky". Sometimes you do really cool work and you just happen to be in the same place at the same time as someone else who created something even more jaw-dropping. It happens.
Yeah, there's a lot of factors here. You could also run into the reverse issue. Maybe you've been working on your voltron cosplay for two years, with life getting in the way, hoping to pay homage to a retro series nobody really cosplays. The new voltron comes out and suddenly you're one in a sea of many.

You could work hard for years and never get a lucky break. Or you could accidentally do something that resonates with people, like chewbacca mom, and become famous for seven minutes. I prefer at least the illusion of agency in my own success, so I prefer endless toil since at least it's something to do while I wait for my millions and shoe endorsement deals.
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Unread 09-16-2016, 03:15 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by belligerent View Post
To become a big time cosplayer:
1. Be conventionally attractive.
2. Have facial features that closely resemble a currently popular character enough that you can be people's "headcanon" for that character.
3. Be good at taking selfies.
4. Sit on social media all day.
5. ??????????
6. Profit.
Then you will win the biggest contest of all, which is the "popularity contest" where the prize is to be idolized by tens or maybe even hundreds of people.

Or, you could work really hard on your craft and enter competitions for feedback and a sense of personal accomplishment. If you get good enough at something, make tutorials about it. Have enough good tutorials and people will know who you are without any of steps 1-5.
Or... have money.
- Hire a real thirsty actor/actress looking for work to parade around in your costume for the convention and social media.
- Hire a social media consultant unable to utilize their English/Liberal Arts degree because they went to a diploma mill to grind away at social media.
- Contract out photographers to take photos of your actor/actress for social media.
- Hire a recent engineering grad student to draw up designs for mechanical props.
- ???
- Lose money.
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Unread 09-16-2016, 04:18 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by belligerent View Post
You could work hard for years and never get a lucky break. Or you could accidentally do something that resonates with people, like chewbacca mom, and become famous for seven minutes.
I'm honestly shocked that I've never seen a Chewbacca Mom cosplay at a convention, complete with annoying laugh. There may have been a few at DragonCon last weekend and I just didn't notice.

For your #5, it should be persistence and dedication. Additionally, you have to excel at selling yourself.

Add top-heavy for #7.
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Unread 09-16-2016, 07:25 PM   #12
belligerent
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number 5 was actually a south park reference

i didn't see any chewbacca moms, either. imo they should have had a parade section dedicated to chewbacca mom. where was chewbacca mom deadpool?
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Unread 09-16-2016, 09:47 PM   #13
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Each contest/masquerade is slightly different, depending on the convention. You'd have to look at the specific con's website to see the rules, and email the judges/staff if you have any questions.

There tend to be 2 main types of contests at the masquerade:
1. Skit/performance contest
2. Craftsmanship contest

The skit/performance contest usually allows store-bought costumes, since the emphasis is on the talent of the performance, (acting, dancing, singing, etc.) not the quality or skill level of the costume.

The craftsmanship contest is where the focus on costume quality and skill is. The cons I go to have this divided into skill classes. (Beginner, novice, journeyman, and expert.) So if you're a cosplaying/crafting newbie, you won't be held to the same standard as someone who's cosplayed for many years or is a professional crafter.

Most craftsmanship contests require that you make at least a certain percentage of your costume. This can vary between skill classes, too. (For example, the beginner class may only have to make 50% of their costume, while the expert class may have to make 90% of their costume.) Some conventions also ask for proof that you made it and aren't cheating. (i.e. WIP pictures or answering questions about your techniques) Using a costume you didn't make WILL get you disqualified.

Honestly, there's a million factors that could influence a win or loss. The other entries, the judges' preferences, and judges' skills/knowledge. (For example, a judge who knows a lot about armor may appreciate a well-done difficult technique in your armor more than a judge who knows a lot about wig styling or sewing does, and may give you more points for that. However, the judge who knows a lot about armor may be more likely to notice flaws or sloppiness in your armor than the other judges, and may knock off more points for that.)

But it kinda sounds like you're trying to get cosplay famous quick by going the contest route. While there are famous cosplayers, (and I wouldn't be surprised if some of them did get famous that way) it's *very* difficult to become a famous cosplayer.
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Unread 09-17-2016, 09:17 AM   #14
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If you're hoping to become Cos-Famous by winning a competition, boy have I got some bad news for you.

1) Every contest is different, even year to year at the same con. Some years a huge contest is huge, and the next year it might be mediocre.

2) Contest judging depends entirely on what area you're entering in. If you're doing Craftsmanship, then generally at least 80% needs to be hand made. If you're doing Performance, you can get away with more being store bough, because the primary focus in on the performance.

3) There is always going to be someone out there who can sculpt, sew, craft, sing, dance, perform, etc better than you. And you never know when that person(s) is going to be at the same contest you're in. There is *never* a guarantee of winning at a contest

But as the others have stated, if you're hoping to become famous, there's a lot of other stuff involved other than winning a contest (looks, being in the "right" series at the right time, *A LOT* of luck...). Winning a contest doesn't really do much for a cosplayer other than give them a certificate/trophy (and maybe a cash prize or free badge, depending on the con) to show off / hang on their wall. I'm speaking from experience.

If you want to compete in a competition, that's wonderful, I highly encourage it. But do it because you love the costume you made, or the skit you came up with, and because you want to share those things with others - not because you think it will be a way to become a "Big Name Cosplayer". If you're only in it for the latter, you're going to come away sorely disappointed.
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Unread 09-17-2016, 01:26 PM   #15
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Yeah, the only people I know for winning competitions are people I know of because I also know them as people. I couldn't tell you who won what competition unless I also know them or recognize them by happening to have seen the contest results and also have seen them in that particular cosplay. For example, the one contest I entered, I only know that the person who won it posts here because their avatar was that cosplay for a while.

Most cosplayers don't care terribly much about competitions or who wins, because like a lot of people these days, a lot of cosplayers like to cultivate the attitude of "whoever cares the least, wins." Which means that if you compete and win, obviously you care too much about winning and are a loser. Weirdly enough, once these people have the skills to compete, they do. But if they don't win, then they go right back to saying competitions are stupid. So, depending on your friends circle, competing and winning can actually make you LESS popular.

For a while, I was friends with a lot of these people, and it kept me from competing because I didn't want to seem like I thought I was better than they were, but now that I'm friends with fewer of those people, I really don't care. If I do something I'm proud of, I want feedback from objective people who have seen a lot of costumes so I know what I could be doing better and if I need to work on things. Real friends are also happy for you if you win, not resentful that you took the initiative that they're too insecure to take and were rewarded for it. Lift people up, don't bring them down.

Popularity works in really stupid ways. Do things that get you talked about, ideally in a positive way. You can be "famous" or you can be "notorious." It's a lot easier to be notorious but you might get banned from cons that way.
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Last edited by belligerent : 09-17-2016 at 01:29 PM.
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