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What Makes A Competition Costume?

I’ve mentioned in a couple videos that a costume I’m working on is either a competition or not a competition costume. But what does that mean? Short answer is that is means that it is a costume that I plan on entering into a cosplay craftsmanship competition. Let’s expand upon that further.

Start by seeing what competitions are available in your area. Read the rules of each contest carefully to see what costumes are eligible. Some contests require the costume to be from specific source material. For example, my Morrigan cosplay from Dragon Age Origins is not eligible for the Otakon hall cosplay contest because it is from Western source material.

morrigan dragon age origins

(Photo by Clouds Photography)

Some contests divide the entries into categories based on the primary type of handiwork that goes into the project. For example, the Twitch Creative cosplay contest was divided into Needlework, Armor, FX, and Larger than Life. Since needlework is my strongest area, if I had competed I would have wanted something sewing intensive.

Now that you’ve got an idea of what the restrictions are for your specific contest, it’s time to choose a costume. The goal is to present a costume that best displays your skills, so here are a few things to keep in mind.

  1. How much time do you have? Be realistic about how much time you have to complete your costume and leave a little wiggle room in case things don’t go as planned and end up taking longer than anticipated. A huge, labor intensive costume may look great ideally, but if you don’t actually have the time to make it you’ll end up worse in the long run. A simple, clean costume is better than an enormous costume with rushed, sloppy work.

  2. Play to your strengths. A contest is a chance to show off your best work, so pick a costume that will allow your talents to shine. There is nothing wrong with trying out a new technique for a costume, it’s a great way to learn and challenge yourself. Just be aware that practice makes perfect and you may have to make a couple attempts before that component matches the quality of the rest of your costume.

  3. Are there any physical limitations that the costume will cause? A large costume may cause issues transporting it to the convention, particularly if you are going to be flying to the event. Also consider if the costume is going to require assistance from another person. Some costumes may be difficult to move in and require a guide to travel around the convention. Others may require an extra pair of hands to put on/take off. Make sure you will be able to have this kind of assistance at the time of the competition.

NOTE: If you are entering a contest as a group, make sure the costume difficulty is appropriate for all members of the group. It’s not fair to drown someone in a costume above their skill level. Similarly, it is not fair to force one member to make a majority of the costume pieces because they are more skilled. It is also worth noting that most cosplay contests require you to be judged at the level of the highest ranking member of your group. For example, a group of five novices and one journeyman would be judged at the journeyman level.

These are just a few ideas to keep in mind while picking your costume. Cosplay competitions can be great fun and are a great way to expand your skill set. Next, we will discuss the “Which Cosplay Competition is Right for You?”


Want to learn more about cosplay sewing? Check out my e-book: (currently available in Kindle format, though can be read on other devices through the free Kindle app).

cosplay sewing for beginners

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