10 Costume Contest Tips and Information for New Judges and Contestants. This blog post is information I shared on Facebook concerning Costume Contests. I wanted to also share it here on my website too since it has information that may help out someone in the future.
I am here to address some situations that usually appear durring or after a contest. Hopefully this information will help explain a bit more about costume contests. A little background first. I have experience in not only running contests but also judging at several events and have been around the contest circuit for nearly 6 years ( The cosplay community for 2x longer). Now that we got passed the " Why are you qualified to give this information" I want to give people some insight and information for entering contests. Please feel free to share. Please check out my Bio for more information.
1. What is an appropriate entry for a craftsmanship-based contest? Every costume contest has a set of rules to be followed by both the judge and the contestants. The rules of a contest are almost always posted on the website for everyone to view. Judges usually know if they are judging a contest well in advanced of the event and should study these rules. Contestants wanting to enter should also read these rules before entering. It is the responsibility of everyone involved to follow the rules to protect from any possible cheating. Cheaters will be banned from contests if caught, and word does spread around.
2. Should you enter a store-bought costume even if you are in a group? From a personal stand on the matter, no. The reason for this is because this can have negative effects on the group. If you want your friends to walk on with you as a group then that’s fine, however if you have bought a costume it is your responsibility to inform the judges and also consider either stepping outside of the judge’s panel or sitting in the back to not be judge. If you are trying to sneak a costume you bought in, I’m sorry but an experienced judge can easily pick that out. So, trying to be sneaky will only bite you. Also, judges should only present the awards to the winners within the group that won the craftmanship title. It’s okay to say the individuals and explain why they won. Try something like this for the explanation. “The winners for the ‘best group’ is awarded to Person A and Person B of ______ group for their craftmanship. Although other members of this group were walk-ons with the group, the winners were chosen for their outstanding craftmanship…..”
3. If a judge knows a contestant, is that judge automatically bias towards friends? No they are not. I have often seen judges be a little bit more critical of friends when judging or they take a step back and let the other judges decide. As a personal preference I have often asked to step back when I know someone or have seen them work on an outfit. Usually I inform the other judges and the coordinator of this and explain I want to prevent any bias. This is not a bad thing to do. It shows that you care for the integrity of the contest and it’s fair towards the other contestants.
4. Can awards be taken away after they are given? A contest has the right to revoke an award, remove an award, or change an award if they so choose. Usually a reward is either revoked or changed if there was a contestant caught cheating. They can also remove an award if there are not enough contestants to fill the award. Fewer awards are better than inadequate ones.
5. What is the appropriate course of action if I suspect cheating? Always bring it up privately to the costume contest coordinator first. The next in the chain is the convention themselves. They will then speak with the judges. After that, it is up to the convention on how they would like to deal with the matter. Bringing it up and blasting it on Social media is never a good thing and could potentially get you barred from future contests.
6. Can I recommend cosplayers or voice my concerns for judging panels? Yes you can. Conventions welcome suggestions for guests and judges. There are TONS of cosplayers out there and a convention can’t be expected to know all the costumers that have the skills and know-how. You are always welcome to send in a suggestion to a convention if there is a cosplayer you know that would be a good fit. Try starting off with local cosplayers first though before working up to international. Not every convention can afford international guests. Having a list of your top 10 reccomendations works nicely too, and gives them a list of cosplayers to review for guest positions for the current year or the future years.
7. If I am new to judging, what sort of questions should I be asking? If you have never judged a contest before I highly recommend you look up the rules and seek advice before judging. Usually you will be given a set list of recommended questions such as.
“How long have you been crafting?” This gives you a gauge on experience. “Have you ever entered a costume contest before, if so have you won any awards?” This gives you the contest history of a contestant “ Have you ever entered this costume in a prior contest?” This tells you if this is a re-entry or not and what they may have won with the costume. “How much of this costume did you make?” If the contestant is truthful it tells you the % that was made “ Do you have any reference and progress photos?” This also solidifies if a contestant made the costume or not. And then feel free to ask if you can check the seams and construction of the costume. I HIGHLY SUGGEST YOU ALWAYS CHECK THE UNDER WORKINGS IF GIVEN PERMISSION. This will show you the construction of the costume. 8. Cand/ should I enter a costume I've previously won an award with? If you have entered a costume into another contest before ( ANY COSTUME CONTEST ) and have won an award above honorble mentions / judges award, I do not reccomend entering it again. This action is highly frowned upon by judges, contestants, and other events all around the convention community. Most of the time it will be stated in the rules that you cannot enter a costume that has previously won an award. Most of the contests you come across will actually bar anyone from doing this and anyone caught doing this can be immediately disqualified.
9. Tips for Judges: Never be afraid to tell the audience and contestants a little bit of reason why you have chosen a contestant for an award. Give a brief explanation as they collect the award. Show the audience your thought process. Also, if a contestant has questions try to remain polite with your answers and be professional even after the event is over.
10. Tips for contestants: Feel free to research a judge in advanced for a con or even after the con. If you feel like you weren’t judged fairly its always best to bring it up in private. Call outs are never the solution. Judges and contest respect, it when you do come directly to us with your concerns and we do take them very seriously. However please understand that these are people too, so try to remain as polite as possible. Sometimes you might not like the answer you get, but unfortunately that is the answer and it can be hard to swallow. Don’t get discouraged though and get angry and make a scene, try again at another convention. Now if there is a special case where you get a different answer from multiple sources, the head of the contest and the owner of the convention are the ones whose answers outweigh everyone else’s. They are the ones that run the show and know the most. They will be the ones whose answers hold the most weight.