Entering Costume Contests at Comics Conventions: How to Impress Judges and Other Cosplayers When Dressing Up at Cons

Many fans of science fiction, fantasy, comic books, and other pop culture genres enjoy creating and wearing elaborate costumes based on their favorite characters. The Japanese neologism “cosplay” was first coined to describe dressing up for comics conventions and other fan gatherings.

Many major comics conventions have costume contests as part of their programs. The chance to show off their costumes for an audience, as well as competition for prizes and bragging rights, has become an extra draw for fans. Cosplayers who wish to do well – and have the most fun possible – should heed the following principles when entering contests.

Costume Contest Entrants Should Learn the Rules

There are many guidelines and practices common to most costume contests that entrants should keep in mind. These can include:

  • Advance registration. Costume contests at big conventions are complicated to run, so contestants need to register at least a few hours in advance. Entrants should also budget time for orientation and pre-judging, which may be held in another part of the venue.
  • Time constraints. Typically, costume contestants are introduced by an emcee, and given a minute or two onstage to show off their costumes from all sides. It’s courteous not to go over the allotted time, and shorter presentations tend to make better impressions on judges and audience members anyway.
  • Officials need to be informed. The people running the costume contest should be informed in advance of any special surprises contestants may be planning when they show off their creations. Coordinators won’t spoil the surprise, and they may disqualify entrants who disrupt the contest without clearing it beforehand.
  • No messes, or dangerous effects. Comics conventions need to keep their venues clean and safe, so costumes with messy effects (such as spraying fake blood) are forbidden. Entrants who wish to make chest-puppet costumes, for example, would be better off dressing up as Kuato from Total Recall than blood-gushing Kane from Alien. Similarly, costumes with open flames, smoke, or projectiles are also a bad idea.
  • No nudity. Costumes that reveal too much, or can otherwise be deemed lewd or offensive, will not be allowed at most costume contests (this is especially true of all-ages comics conventions). Besides, revealing costumes means that there is less actual “costume” to be judged.

Each convention will have its own rules, so costume contestants should check those before planning their costumes for specific events.

Tips for Winning Comics Convention Costume Contests

Once contestants are clear on the rules, they can focus on creating the best costumes they can. Creativity and originality are perhaps the most important factors when costume contests are judged, so it’s important to have a good idea for a costume, and then execute that idea effectively.

For instance, costumes should be of recognizable characters, so that judges can best appreciate them. But savvy costume contestants will avoid obvious choices, such as dressing up as characters from the latest comic-book-to-movie adaptation.

Likewise, the costume and the costume-wearer should be a good match in terms of physique and personality. A shy Joker, a skinny Hulk, or a fat C-3PO may get more unintended laughs than praise. On the other hand, a wheelchair-bound contestant who dresses up as Professor X would be making a clever choice.

Entrants should also be aware that many comics convention costume contests have different categories. Costumes may be judged by the age and skill level/experience of the entrant, while store-bought and homemade costumes are usually judged separately. Contestants who tailor their costumes to their category have a better chance of winning.

Making the Most of Costume Contests at Conventions

With fan conventions growing yearly, and the popularity of cosplay and casual costumes increasing, there are more opportunities than ever for fans to dress up. Costume contests are no longer just for Halloween, but they have also grown more complicated – and tougher to win.

But even if they don’t take home a prize, dressed-up fans who express the most creativity and originality, while still respecting the rules, can have a fun experience when entering a costume contest at their next comics convention.

About Laine Mcwhirt

I have lived and worked in the Missoula Valley most of my life. I am a freelance writer and emergency management specialist. 

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