If all you want to do is wear a cosplay costume, you can go to just about any anime or comic convention and fit right in. There are so many ways to participate in the overall event, without having to worry about your costume being judged. In fact, the vast majority of cosplayers you’ll see at conventions have never entered a cosplay contest. However, some people love the competition.
To participate in cosplay events, you have to create your own costume. For many competitions, there is also a performance aspect that you can do by yourself or with a group. However, hall cosplay contests are a way to participate without needing to perform in a masquerade.
Can you cosplay at conventions without participating in contests?
If you want to cosplay, but don’t like the idea of being judged or performing in front of a crowd, don’t worry! You can wear your cosplay to any comic con or anime convention without going anywhere near the cosplay competitions. In fact, the vast majority of people who cosplay at conventions have never participated in a cosplay contest and never will.
There is still plenty to do at conventions without participating in a contest. You can schedule photoshoots or meet up with a group of other cosplayers. You can attend panels and workshops, go to anime screenings, and even just hang out in the halls and people watch.
How to find groups of similar cosplayers
If you want to go to a convention to connect with people who have similar interests, one of the best things to do is find a group of cosplayers from the same movie, game, comic book, or TV show as you. Usually, these will be organized as large photoshoots so you can be sure to find photos of your cosplay after the convention. If you’re cosplaying from an obscure or older series, you might not be able to find a group for your cosplay, but anything that’s currently airing or timelessly popular will usually have cosplay meetup opportunities at conventions.
How do you participate in these group photoshoots at conventions? You really just need to show up and jump into the photos. The tough part is figuring out when and where the group meetup is happening. Try looking for cosplay groups using these methods:
- Look for posts or groups on Reddit, Facebook, or other social media for the convention or event you’re going to. Many people will start to plan gatherings ahead of time by posting into groups for the convention.
- Check the event schedule at the start of the convention. Some conventions will allow people to sign up for group cosplay spots ahead of time so that they can be included in the schedule.
- Listen for word of mouth at the convention. It’s very common for other cosplayers at the convention to pass around word of an upcoming group gathering.
Participating in a cosplay competition
Cosplay competitions aren’t for everyone, but if you’re the type of person who gets value from having your work judged and showing off your skill then most conventions will have cosplay craftsmanship and performance competitions you can participate in.
There are generally two aspects to cosplay competitions.
- Costume judging, which looks at the accuracy and craftsmanship of the costume.
- The performance aspect, which is sometimes just walking across a stage and posing. Other times an actual skit is involved.
Some conventions will have the option to only participate in a hall cosplay contest where your costume can be judged without any performance aspect. However, many will require you to at least walk across the stage and pose so that they can see how the costume functions more easily.
1. Look up the rules and register before the event
Most comic cons and anime conventions will require you to sign up for a slot in the cosplay competition or masquerade ahead of time. You always want to check the rules on the convention website ahead of time. The guidelines will vary depending on the convention you go to. You’ll have to make sure you’re following the rules so you don’t get disqualified.
Typically rules will include:
- You have to make the entire costume, including all props, by yourself (exceptions can be things like stockings, undergarments, shoes, and base wigs)
- You must submit reference images for your costume as well as photos of your finished or almost finished costume when you register.
- Always show up on time or risk being disqualified.
- You must cosplay a recognizable character from a video game, comic, movie, or anime (no original characters)
- You must be able to get on and off stage without help from the staff (unless you require accommodations for a disability)
- There are typically size limits for the costume and props.
- All costumes and performances must be family-friendly.
2. Make sure you are on time
Always be on time for any registration, practices, judging, and performances. Most cosplay events have a waiting list of people who want to participate. If you don’t show up when you are supposed to, you will likely be disqualified from the event and replaced with the next person on the waiting list.
3. Craftsmanship assessment
All cosplay competitions will have an element of craftsmanship judging. The criteria will differ slightly depending on the event, but typically there will be beginner through advanced levels. You will be judged on both the accuracy of the costume compared to your reference images and the quality with which it was put together. This will include the sewing elements as well as armor and even visual effects that are incorporated into the costume.
Can pieces of your costume be store-bought?
For the most part, costumes must be made from scratch by you. Very few elements can be store-bought, but there are some exceptions:
- Wigs. You don’t have to make a wig from scratch, but any styling should be done by you alone.
- Shoes. You can buy a base pair of shoes, but any shoe covers or adjustments should be done by you.
- Glasses. Glasses, monocles, or basic goggles can be store-bought.
- Undergarments/unitards. If the undergarments and unitard are not a significant part of the costume and they are only for body coverage, it’s okay for them to be store-bought.