At this year’s Colorado Anime Fest I had the wonderful opportunity to view and photograph the cosplay judging process. For me this was a definitive first and gave me a whole new insight into the hard work and detail that goes into these costumes, some that I would never have noticed before.
The judging process starts with the contestant registering themselves as a novice, beginner, intermediate, or master. Contestants had to have their costumes originate from Japan. Meaning either Japanese TV, video games or culture. This means no D&D costumes or things that are American based with a Japanese spin (see My Little Pony Sailor Scouts). They are then given a window to come to the cosplay green room for judging. While in the green room the contestants talk about the process they used to make the costume, the materials, and any special process. The judges also inspect the stitching and any details that are on the outfit. Then they assign points to the outfit and record them on sheets which are placed in each judges notebook. Once all contestants have been judged the judges check the scoring and assign winners in each category as well as make selections for their judges choice awards.
A particular note to be made is intermediate and master level contestants are required to bring a portfolio. If one is not provided intermediate loses a few points and master loses a large amount of points. Missing portfolios were rare. The ones that were provided were mostly filled with photos of the costume making process and some even had receipts for everything that was purchased.
Something that is common during the process was a contest registering at a low level and then getting promoted to a higher level. Apparently this is extremely common in contests and is done to keep it competitive and fair. They will not lower a level though, so it is best to start low and let the judges bring you up if you are not sure.
The amount of detail on some of these costumes in amazing, and the average convention attendee will not always notice them. Here are few examples:
First of we have Wedding Princess Peach. This is a beautiful outfit that could be worn as an actual wedding dress in my opinion. But what I would not have known, and I bet most people did not notice, is that the gems on the front of our dress form the constellations you find in the night sky. Click on the second photo to blow it up and see what you can find.
Next is the Legendary Birds. These three girls each had beautiful dressed that highlighted the element that their bird controlled, but how many of you noticed the work they did on their shoes? You might have noticed Zapados, but Moltres and Articuno could have gone lazy since the shoes would be covered by the dresses. But no, they went the full bore and customized some amazing foot wear.
Next we have the cosplay outfits from the team “Better Than Toast”. They won Best of Show this year at COAF, and it was well earned. The special thing they did for their outfit was apply Kintsugi to their outfits. Traditionally Kintsugi is the process of taking broker pottery and repairing it with gold. This makes something that was broken more beautiful then it was before (there is a life lesson here too if you look deep enough). “Better Than Toast” took old kimono fabric that had holes in it and repaired it using gold leaf.
The last costume I am going to bring up is the red Kanti cosplay. You might have recognized this guy as the dude with the working monitor on his head that he can change with a keyboard on his wrist. What you might not know is that he has a small camera on the front of his helmet and another screen on the inside that shows what the camera sees and what he is showing. He won the engineering award for this.
And there you have it. Let this be a small example of the hidden details that are in the cosplay you see on the floor. You can few more photos at the COAF 2019 photo page. These guys are just awesome.