It’s con season, and as we all know, that’s the perfect time to put on a costume and pretend you’re a pretty pony. But of course, what is the point of wearing a costume if you can’t show it off to every single person at the con?
That’s where the costume contest comes in. Show off your costume, and maybe win a shitty prize donated at the very last minute by one of the con’s vendors! But if you think you can just throw on anything pink, call yourself Pinkie Pie, and win, you’re so very wrong, on so many levels. In fact, if you do win, you really didn’t deserve it.
You might be asking how you can win anyways, without any skills or effort. After all, you really want that blue ribbon from the dollar store. I have some bad news for you: it will take at least a little bit of effort to create a costume that impresses the judges.
I’ve run costume contests for the past few years. There are things I thought would be basic knowledge, but you people have proved me wrong, time and time again. So here are some basic tips on how to enter a costume contest, how not to suck, and how to maybe get a chance at winning.
1. Keep in mind the con’s theme. Chances are, you’re at a pony convention. That is not the time to wear your Aquabats costume, no matter how cool it is. (Actually, it is never the time to wear your Aquabats costume.) It is also not the time to wear your fursuit of your special wolf-fox-dragon hybrid and regale the judges with your fanfiction of how your fursona is totally a character in Equestria, just so powerful and amazing that we’ve never seen her on the show. The more you weird out the judges, the more likely you’re getting voted down for it.
2. Remember the character you’re portraying. I’ve seen some amazing cosplays where they clearly put thought into the character and used clothes the character would wear. It helps when you can explain your thought process beyond “this was pink. Pinkie Pie likes pink. lol I’m so random like Pinkie!” Of course, for every amazing cosplay, I’ve seen a dozen Rarities in white minidresses and not much else. If that’s all you feel like doing, fine, but don’t expect to be rewarded for it. And cover up that tattoo on your thigh, there is no universe in which Rarity would have a tattoo of a busty woman in bondage. (And no, I don’t want to hear about your fanfic explaining otherwise.)
3. Know your judges. Are you a female who has breasts and knows that most bronies will let you get away with murder if you show them? That’s cool, but you might want to make sure you’re not also being judged by a straight girl. You can have a great costume that happens to make you look sexy, and you will totally be voted up for that. But if your costume is barely more than dental floss and your tits? I don’t care—I can just look down for those. That’s not to say sex appeal is a bad thing. I definitely enjoy a good-looking shirtless dude, and I’ve seen some male judges swayed by a great rack. But if your costume relies entirely on sex appeal, make sure you’re marketing it to someone who cares. Of course, if there’s not much sexy about you, it’s maybe better if you don’t try on anyone at all, ever.
4. Make your own costume. I don’t care if you can recreate Rarity’s Gala gown or a Wonderbolt’s flightsuit perfectly from scratch, or if you’ve bought a few pieces from Goodwill to make a hipster Scootaloo. Either way, if it looks good, you get points. What I do care is if you purchased that Gala gown from someone else, and you think you should win because you happen to look good in it. Costume contests are to judge the costume, not the model. Your costume may genuinely be the best one there, but why should I reward you just because you happened to have the money to buy it? Alternately, if you have great design skills but have the body shape of a potato and don’t feel like walking onstage, feel free to send up a friend as your model. You’ll still get the glory you deserve.
5. Don’t be a dick. If you lose a contest because you did something stupid, accept it. It’s perfectly fine to ask the judges why you lost, and what you could do better for next time. What’s not acceptable is to give the judges dirty looks from across the room for the rest of the con. I’m sorry that you thought a wolf head you bought from someone else, paired with the jeans and T-shirt you were already wearing, at a pony convention, was a terrific costume. You were incredibly, stupidly wrong. Don’t take it out on me.
Costume contests are a fun way to show off your design skills and the effort you put in your costume. I don’t care how much you paid, how much you love the character you portray, or how hot you think you are. If you can’t grasp these very basic things, you don’t deserve to enter the contest.
"But I just want to show off!" you may be thinking. And that’s fine, but don’t expect to win the contest, ‘cause you won’t. Ask if there’s a portion of the show for people to walk across stage without being judged. Often, there is, or there can be made time for it. If not, enter the contest, and don’t bitch when you don’t win. Because I will remember you, and if you’re in my neck of the woods, I’ll be judging you again soon.