Tips on how to actually win a thing: Part 1

So continuing on in the vein of competitions/masquerades, here’s a guide to how to actually win a thing! This is mostly informed by my experiences of epic failure! This part will be focused on the craftsmanship portion of stuff, and I’ll be writing another guide soon about performing.

1. Compete in the right division. Different cons have different rules, but generally if you haven’t won anything or have only won a few minor awards (i.e. judge’s awards and not “best in…” or “1st place…”) you belong in the novice division. As you win awards, you’ll be forced to compete at higher tiers. If you have a lot of experience but have never entered a masquerade/contest it’s probably best for you to compete at the Journeyman/middle division; there’s less competition because there’s fewer people at the higher levels.

 

1a. If your convention has a theme, like Anime Boston often does, you will probably get brownie points for doing a cosplay from that theme. 2011’s theme was “music”, so I did Sheryl Nome & Ranka Lee that year; and communicate this to the judges in order to score those delicious brownie points! Otherwise they’ll think it was a coincidence.

2. Challenge yourself!! Go a little bit out of your comfort zone and make sure you communicate this to the judges – taking risks are often rewarded. Take competition as an opportunity to teach yourself a new technique (like embroidery or a new way of fabricating props); even if you don’t win you’ll have added valuable skills to your repertoire. Do your research on who’s done what in your division in past years to give yourself an idea of your competition; make something with equal or higher complexity to those around you. This isn’t to say that more complicated = better; because if it’s poorly executed it’s not going to make a difference. Simple costumes done well will beat complicated ones done poorly.

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Birb says “go big or go home” and did these two for my first ever costumes from scratch. Still have no idea what the hell I was thinking, but this risk won me a candy crown and a kawaii af trophy! 

3. Give yourself enough time to get stuff done WELL. It’s easy to procrastinate on competition pieces and finish them in your hotel room, but if you’re rushing, you’re probably not putting out your best work. You also won’t have time to make sure everything looks right and won’t fall apart as you’re walking around. Costume malfunctions are a lot easier to deal with at home than at the con. Make fake deadlines for yourself of when different components need to be complete (that way, when you inevitably procrastinate, you won’t be completely screwed) and try to stick to them. Stressing out before the con can often cause a dark cloud over your con experience itself, which isn’t fun.

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Ada/K-san from AB staff saves my ass LITERALLY every year I compete; this year I didn’t give myself enough time to finish my sleeves for Small Lady, they fell apart (kinda, and Ada was there to save the day!) and I wasn’t happy with the way they turned out. 

4. Make everything as neat as possible. This means top-stitching, ironing (bring your own iron if possible, because hotel irons cannot be trusted, but in a pinch, hanging stuff up in the bathroom while showering should get out a lot of wrinkles), lining stuff, cutting all your stray threads…etc. All of this stuff alone doesn’t seem like a big deal, but added up it makes a big difference (especially for judges who like to come up close to inspect your costumes!) This also includes your wig and makeup! Make sure your makeup is a) a thing (because it makes a big difference, especially on stage) b) blended out & c) not running, caking, flaking, etc. Bring a touch-up kit with you so you can fix your face before judging. Wigs should look smooth, have little to no flyaways/frizz (although, if you’ve been standing outside in a security line there might not be a ton you can do about that).

5. Show up on time! Punctuality is important, if you miss judging you might get booted from the Masquerade entirely or DQ’d from craftsmanship awards. You want to be at the place where judging is at least 15 minutes before your judging is scheduled; usually things run late, but sometimes they run early! So make sure you give yourself enough time to get into your cosplay, into the con, and down to the place where judging occurs (people will try to stop you for a bajillion photos if you’re in a group or have a really impressive costume). If I have a 10am judging time, my ass had best be up by 6:00 at the latest and out the hotel room door by 8:15 because getting elevators downstairs (10-15 minutes), security lines (who knows, potentially up to an hour or more), and endless photos (15 min for turning folks down; 30 if you’re being nice and letting them snap) add up quick. If something’s holding you up (i.e. medical emergency, stuck in a security line), do your best to get in touch with the Masquerade coordinator and they might be able to re-schedule your judging for a different time. Communication is the key!

6. Rehearse the main points you want to hit in judging. If you’re anything like me, it’s easy to get frazzled in the presence of your senpais and everything you wanted to say about your costume goes rushing out of your head.

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It’s yo girl @ judging 

You only have about 5-7 minutes so hit the stuff that you think is most impressive (i.e. you taught yourself this cool new technique or you spent 700 hours working on this costume). Print COLOR reference photos with as many angles as possible (i.e. front and back) to give to the judges (not everyone is familiar with that cool indie anime). You can also print out progress pictures to give the judges a better idea of how your costume was constructed, and if you know your costumes have too much stuff to get through in 5-7 minutes, you can do a little write-up essay of how everything came together (try to keep it short and sweet; judges’ time is limited and they won’t be able to read a novel before the contest!).

If you do all this biz, you’ll be giving yourself the best possible chance of at least taking home something shiny for craftsmanship! Stay tuned for how to do well in performances!

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Cosplay 101: Dealing with Creepers

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No, not these… credit to the Minecraft Wikia’s vignette3

Conventions are supposed to be a fun time for everyone, but nothing kills your vibe faster than some creep proposing that the two of you go back to their hotel room for some “one-on-one time.” There are bound to be a few bad seeds at a convention simply because of statistics; stick a lot of people in one place, and a few of them are bound to be jerks. If you’re a woman at a con, your chances of being harassed are pretty high, especially if you’re in cosplay (& yes, men are harassed at cons too, but typically at lower rates).

Here’s my guide to dealing with these jerks:

1. IT’S NOT YOUR FAULT. I don’t care what you’re wearing, how you’re posing, or what series you’re from. There is absolutely no excuse for someone sexually harassing another human being, even if it’s “in character”; there are some lines you just do not cross. They’re the person in the wrong, not you. It also literally doesn’t matter what you’re wearing; someone groped my chest at a con when I was cosplaying Maid Hungary from Hetalia – she’s covered from neck to mid-calf, and I’ve gone surprisingly unscathed as Lion version Sheryl Nome. Creepers gonna creep.

2. Use the buddy system. If you’re with a friend, people are usually less apt to make a gross comment. If you do have to split up, make sure you set up times/places to check in with each other. This also gives you a convenient way to extricate yourself from a creepy person’s “conversation” with you. Call your friends if they’ve missed their check-in time with you; taking the call will be an easy out for them if they’re in trouble.

3. DO. NOT. Go anywhere private with someone you don’t know! Just don’t, even if they seem perfectly normal/not a creep. Take a friend with you if you’re working with a photographer you don’t know, have them stand behind the photographer to make sure there’s no panty shot stuff going on if that’s not what you’re going for. This sort of garbage can happen at cons. Your safety should be your #1 priority.

4. If someone’s creeping you out by talking to you, and you feel comfortable doing so; loudly tell them that their behavior isn’t appropriate. This draws attention to the two of you, which will hopefully make you less of an appealing target. Sometimes, people at cons are just realllllly socially inept and don’t realize their behavior isn’t appropriate, but this is usually a rare occurrence. If they back off and genuinely apologize, you just have a well-meaning dingbat and not a predator, hurray!

5. If you don’t feel comfortable confronting them, try to get a good look at their badge (most cons have your real name printed in a small font, and some let you pre-pick your large font “badge name” online and have it printed on the badge — this makes it easier for con staff to look up their info), what they’re wearing, and their build/eye/hair color. Go to convention security, tell them what happened, and give them all of the relevant info. They’ll be on the lookout for Dudebro McJerkface and will probably boot him from the con, because chances are, you’re not the first person he’s harassed this weekend.

6. If you’re not the confrontational type and need to get away from a conversation, hopefully your friend is calling you because you missed your check-in time (make sure your ringer is on full blast). Take the call and use it as an excuse to get away “oh sorry my friend needs my help with a costume in our hotel room, catch you later” and get the heckie outta there. Alternatively, you can say that a panel you want to see is starting soon (but sometimes people are persistent and will insist on going with you) or that you need to go back to your room and change for a photo shoot (and some people are even so persistent as to want to come with you AND your boyfriend to your room…). Sometimes, people just can’t take a hint & you’re gonna have to be flat out with them and say they’re making you uncomfortable, and you’re leaving now.

7. Hopefully, things never escalate beyond a gross conversation or comment. If someone touches you without your permission, ALL BETS ARE OFF, no playing nicey-nice. Here’s what to do in that situation:

  • Step one: Yell something to the effect of “how dare you touch my _______ without my consent/did you seriously just _______ my ________?!/don’t touch me again!” This draws attention and witnesses, and hopefully someone will overcome bystander effect and intervene.
  • Step two (optional unless they’re holding on to you, ONLY DO THIS IN SELF-DEFENSE): Hit that jerk. You need to get away from this person quickly, so do only enough to get away – don’t try to incapacitate them. Getting the groin is usually the best way to get them to drop.
  • Step three: Find your nearest human and ask them for help if you don’t immediately see someone who’s part of con security. Explain what happened, then go to con security.
  • Step four (optional): Talk to the police if you want to press charges.

& that is your bird’s guide to dealing with creepers at cons! Hopefully you’ll never have to deal with this, but now you have a handy protocol of what to do if you do!