Helpful Hints from Ohayocon: A craftsmanship judge's view
My staff assignment was to watch over the cosplay gallery, a display of award-winning costumes or examples of superior craftsmanship. I also ran a repair service that became gradually more popular as the weekend progressed. Word got around and my glue gun was in great demand.
Judging craftsmanship was a daunting experience and I'd like to share my advice with you if you intend to compete in a cosplay competition.
1. Read the rules. If reference pictures are required, bring them. At Ohayocon you instantly lose 1/3 of your points for showing up without references. (This does not apply to original design, although we like to see inspiration pictures & sketches.) Your chances of winning are almost non-existent without your references.
2. On the subject of references, I prefer printed paper over a tablet and images on your cell phone are a pain. And stay away from fan art as references.
3. Be prepared to talk about the construction of your costume - what kind of fabric, why did you choose that particular material, did you purchase anything ready made? The rule is 60% made by you, so it's no sin to admit you bought that perfect medallion online. It's worse to tell us you made it. Believe it or not, we can tell. If you had some help with your sewing, let us know rather than claiming you did it all yourself.
4. Be prepared to be poked and prodded as we examine your costume closely. We will be feeling fabric, lifting hems, moving your wig to see the back of the costume.
5. Trim all loose threads, clip your curves, press your seams open, make sure your zipper isn't puckered. Lack of attention in this area is another HUGE way to lose points. We do grade on a curve and have much higher expectations of Masters than we do of Novices.
6. Press your costume and make sure all "bits" are attached. Getting bunched up in the car is no excuse. Hotels have ironing boards and irons!
7. If you are struggling with props, it is better to buy them or leave them off than to come with a sloppy prop.
8. Pay attention to your wig/hair and makeup.
9. Wear appropriate undergarments. If your outfit needs a petticoat to have the right shape, wear it.
10. Get help with fitting your costume. Poor fit is another big reason for losing points. Make a trial run (muslin) to check and perfect fit.
11. Entering as a group reduces your chance of winning unless all costumes are at the same level of craftsmanship.
12. Never, never, never show up in a purchased costume! If you got it online or in a costume shop, chances are at least one of the judges will have seen that exact costume before. Claiming a bought costume as your own will get you an instant Zero!
The best moment of the contest was when we asked a Novice if she would move up to compete as a Journeyman and she agreed, shyly and a little reluctantly. The look on her face when she won Journeyman class was worth every moment of painful deliberation. Despite all the rough patches, I'm looking forward to next year.