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ARTICLE: What are the judges looking for?

Judges often use a set of criteria to score each costume; these are set by the competition organisers and can vary from event to event. Typically, they are: Accuracy, Craftsmanship and Performance. If you’re planning on entering a particular competition, try to find out its criteria and their weighting.

Accuracy – How accurate are your costume/armour/props to the original source? Be aware that your work will be compared to any reference photos you submitted (see my tip below).

Craftsmanship – How well is the costume put together? Is it neat, lined, hemmed? Are any props and armour well made, painted and finished?

Performance – Does it come across as well performed and executed? Does it have clear, well recorded audio? Do you work well with the entire stage and any stage props? Is it understandable to a general audience? Does it represent the original source well?

Try to Prepare for Pre-judging!

Pre-judging is the best way to score accuracy and craftsmanship points. You only have 5 minutes (depending on event) to talk to the judges, so make it count! Before you go in think carefully about what you want to tell the judges and try to talk about all parts of your costume equally (costume, armour, props).  Here are a few good questions to get you started:

  • Which piece are you most proud of?
  • Which section or technique did you find most complicated?
  • Was anything particularly time consuming or hand decorated?
  • Did you use a pattern or tutorial?
  • Why did you interpret the reference in the way you did?
  • How did you get the proportions right? Did you build it upon foam, use a petticoat or other structure?
  • Did you use any unusual/innovative/recycled materials?

Try to avoid these topics they don’t really add to conversation

  • The cost of any materials or fabric
  • Transportation issues
  • Specifically talking about any costume damage unless pointed out by the judges

Some events will expect you to produce a progress book. You can be as creative as you want with your progress book. Aim to include  progress photos, detailed descriptions, design sketches and fabric/material swatches. If your looking for an example of a progress book you can check out this post on the one I made for D.

If on the day you end up completely lost for words. Its not the end of the world, alot of pre-judging is done by eye and your costume will speak for itself.

Remember to Provide the right References

Unless you’re cosplaying a well-known character, it’s likely that the judges will have never seen the design before. They will be relying on the reference you provide as a guide for scoring accuracy points. On the few occasions where no reference has been provided, the judges often have no choice but to score the entrant a zero.

Aim to fit all of your references onto one or two A4 sheets of paper. Also if possible, try not to provide references with costume pieces, accessories or props you haven’t made, as the judges may interpret this negatively. If you have chosen to combine one or more character designs together for your costume, spend a few moments explaining this choice to the judges, just to make it clear.