Posted By Kathleen David on August 23, 2013
I have been part of a discussion on the Official Dragon Con Facebook page that started with this sentence Are professional cosplayers ruining what are supposed to be amateur costume and masquerade contests?
Honestly I have heard this phrase back when I started entering costume calls and I still hear it to this day.
Recently there has been more discussion because of the SyFy channel called the “Heroes of CosPlay”. On the show more than one of the participants have stated that they want to parlay their wins in cosplay and Masquerade into a business. They want to make props for a living. They want to design costumes for a living. They want to do professional make-up for a living. Now among these people is someone who has turned costuming at conventions into a business, which is Yaya Han. She has worked hard and for years to sell her look(s) and her costuming skills to create a business. I know she has worked as a model for a number of my comic book artist friends. She is professional and a great costumer.
Now I can count on the fingers of two hands the number of people I know who turned their convention costuming into a business for them. A number of them went onto film, TV, and theater and have good careers there. They honed their skill set on their convention costumes.
I have taken things I learned from making costumes and used it to earn money by making puppets and puppet sized costumes. I also don’t compete anymore or rarely compete and don’t expect any form of a win. I know that I am held to a much higher standard than a novice or a journeyman and, in many cases, my fellow master class entrants because my work is know and judges against my previous work in many (not all) cases.
One of the reasons that we have novice (never entered a contest or may have entered one or two with no wins or places), journeyman (entered a couple of contest and may or may not have a win or two under their belt), and master or professional class (has a number of wins and has shown a skill set above and beyond most costumers). I went from journeyman to master class during a contest which I was informed afterwards I had been place up. Since then I have competed at Master Class because it wouldn’t be fair to do otherwise.
Yes, there are sandbaggers who try to go for the win by placing themselves in an “easier” level. But they don’t stay there long because the costuming community is not the largest of groups. In the Friday night costume call (workmanship) we have bumped people up a category or two based on what we have seen and what we know outside of the contest or that they are that darn good and need to be competing on a higher level.
Yes, some people have access to vacformers and other tools that some of use only dream of using. Personally I am expecting to see 3-D printer work this year at Dragon Con. Would I like to own a 3-D printer? Yep. Do I have one or do I have access to one? Nope. Someday I hope to. You take what you have and what you know and create. I find it more interesting when someone finds a way of making something on the cheap or recycling materials and can make it look like the expensive professional costumes. I have seen cardboard and paper mache used to create armor that looks like it is metal or fiberglass. I have used cardboard and paint to make an axe that looks like it is stone. So you work with what you have and do the best you can.
I don’t think there are that many costumers who are going around and making a living by entering and winning contests. I don’t think there are many people sandbagging. I do know from experience that there is an ebb and flow to the costume contests. You do have a group of people who seem to win all the time but they do eventually go onto other things and a new group becomes the group or person to beat.
If you just in it for the prize, then I think you are missing the point. Hearing the audience react to what you have done is a reward. Hearing the groans and laughter from the room when you hit your punch line is a reward. Meeting other costumers and making new friendships that last a lifetime is a reward. Learning new skills from other people is a reward.
I am grateful for all the people I have met through costuming.