Costume-Con FAQ

This FAQ is designed to help folks understand what a Costume-Con is all about, since it is likely different from any SF/F, Comic, or Anime convention you have ever been to. Costume-Con is held in a different city across North America every year. The info presented here is designed to be somewhat generic, as each Costume-Con is a little bit different. For items specific to Costume-Con 30, please check this page.

Everything You Wanted to Know About a Costume-Con but Didn't Know Who to Ask

How many people attend Costume-Con?
It varies from year to year, depending on where it's held, but the average membership is between 225 – 300. You can see the approximate attendances here and click on of the pictures for that year.
Is this a media convention?
No. But you will see various media costumes.
What kinds of costuming will I see at Costume-Con?
Everything from science fiction to historical to wearable art and everything in between. The costumes will be of original design, as well as recreations from film, TV, comics, books, etc.
Will I look out of place if I'm not wearing a costume all the time?
Not at all! People are not always in costume, because they like dressing comfortably, too. Everyone is welcome, whether they make costumes or not. We also have people who almost never wear costumes, but enjoy our art form – photographers, backstage crew and videographers, just to name a few.
I don't make costumes. Are purchased ones okay?
Certainly. People are always encouraged to wear costumes in the halls, but only a certain percentage of an outfit – usually an accessory (shoes, hat, purse, etc.) is allowed in the competitions.
Everyone looks like they're so much better than me! Why should I bother?
Practically no one starts out as a "great" costumer – they have had to work at their craft for many years. And they are always interested in learning new techniques, even from a beginner.
Is Costume-Con run by the International Costumers Guild?

No, although most times, members of an ICG chapter make up a Costume-Con committee. Actually, any costume-minded organization may bid to host a Costume-Con.

The details are here:

What kinds of subjects are taught in the panels?
Every conference is different, but they might be about dyeing techniques, wing construction, hat making, corset construction, mask making, prop making, beadwork, or even a study of different glues, just to name a few. It all depends on who attends a particular CC and what knowledge they have that they are willing to share.
Are people paid to speak or given a free membership?
No. Everyone volunteers their time. One of the major purposes of this conference is to share knowledge.
Is there a list or schedule of panels I can look at, to see if I'd be interested?
As the current conference date approaches, check the site for a schedule. Also, some past CCs still have their sites up and have published their pocket programs.
Are there any special guest celebrities?
Not as such, although there are occasionally costume industry or ethnic costume speakers.
What is the Friday Night Social and what happens at it?
It's basically a themed party. It's the first chance for the conference membership to mix casually, catch up with friends they see only once a year, and meet new people. There may be a cash bar available, and there are usually light snacks. While dressing for the theme is encouraged, any kind of costume is welcome. Activities In the past have included dances, drawings for prizes, etc.
What is the "ConSuite"?
Hosted by the conference committee, it's in a hotel suite where members can sit and chat, maybe do a little sewing and have a snack. Hours of operation vary, and should be published in the conference program book, but it is generally open most of the weekend, except during the shows. After the masquerades, there are parties sponsored by future Costume-Con committees. At other times of the day, there may be breakfasts, brunches or other foods sponsored by other groups like Guild chapters or regional conventions that have their own masquerades. (By the way, it is not advised to rely on the Suite for all your food, but if you can't leave the hotel because you're getting ready for a competition or a panel, it's a good place to seek something to tide you over.)
I'm shy, and I'm afraid no one will talk to me. What should I do?
Believe it or not, a sizeable number of costumers are just as shy as you are. Sadly, some people interpret that as coming across as "snobbish". The best way to strike up a conversation with a costumer is ask to take their picture, or ask them how they made some part of their outfit. They'll be more than happy to tell you, and flattered that you noticed them. Many long friendships have started that way.
What kinds of costumes are typically entered in the Fantasy & Science Fiction Masquerade?
This is your opportunity to let your creativity run wild! There have been monsters, mascots, vampires, demons, fairies, superheroes, cartoon characters and historical figures that have crossed the stage. The show is limited only by what your imagination can come up with. To see the past masquerade entries, go here: The International Costumers Gallery - - also has records of past CCs.
Can I wear my competition costume in the halls before I go on stage?
Wearing a competition costume before it is seen on stage is generally discouraged for a couple of reasons. First, you deprive the audience the delight of a collective "ooo!" and "ahh!" over your fabulous work when you take your turn. econd, you could prejudice the masquerade judges ahead of time if they happen to see you in the halls or checking out the wares in the Dealers' Room earlier in the day.
I've heard that the masquerades have "Tech Rehearsals". What are those?
This is a scheduled time during the day before the masquerade for meeting with the technical crew who run the masquerade lights and sound. You will find the sign up sheet at the Masquerade Director's registration table. Generally speaking, you get about 5 – 8 minutes to show the crew how you will enter, explain any light or music crews you may have, and they make notes about the colors of your costume so that it is lit in the best way possible. Your actual stage movement should already have been planned out. You will probably get one or two opportunities to run through your presentation, and then you will be done.
What is the Skill Division system?
The easiest way to explain is it's a system for protecting those who have little to no experience in costume presentation and workmanship from having to compete with those who have costumed for many years. For more explanation, have a look at the ICG Guidelines for Ensuring Fairness in Competitions:
How do I know at what level I should enter at?
If the aforementioned document still leaves you unsure, contact the Masquerade Director, and they will be more than happy to help you.
I've heard something referred to as the "Green Room". What's that for?
Just like a theatrical Green Room, it is a staging area where the competing costumers meet to put on their outfits in preparation for their presentations. The Green Room is traditionally open 2 hours or more before the beginning of the masquerade. You are checked in by the Green Room Manager, who will assign you to a "den" of costumers where you can rest in chairs and put a small prop on a table.

Last minute preparations are normal, but everyone is encourage to be considerate of their fellow costumers by not actually constructing pieces that take up large amounts of room. Usually, light snacks are available for nervous nibblers, is as water. A good Green Room will also provide hand fans to keep people cool.

Once you have most, if not all of your costume put on, you will have an informal photo taken of you for the presentations judges who will be seated in front of the stage. This will serve as a mnemonic for them during deliberations. Typically, Workmanship judging takes place in some corner of the Green Room.

Once your costume is completely put on and ready to show, you will have an official Masquerade Photo taken. It is not only a record of your creation, but you will have the opportunity to purchase copies of the photo and any others of your fellow costumers.
I've seen mention of something called a "Den Mom". What's that?
Den moms and den dads are Green Room volunteers who are there to assist the competitors with their last minute preparations like putting on a head piece, zipping up dresses, etc. Often, these volunteers are costumers themselves, or experienced back stage helpers. Usually, one den mom or dad is assigned to 4 – 5 costumers or entries. A good den mom or dad will monitor their charges, checking to make sure they stay comfortable by bringing them water, or a snack or keep them cool with a hand fan. They may also lead the costumer to their backstage position before going before the audience. Without den moms and dads, there would be a lot of uncomfortable competitors!
Workmanship judging sounds intimidating. How does that work, & why should I bother?
Everyone is encouraged to submit to Workmanship judging. The judges are there to look for something which they believe should receive recognition of excellence – not to find what you did wrong. You can submit your whole costume, or just one specific item that you are proud of. If you had to buy a particular accessory that you couldn't make yourself, you should make that known to the judge(s).

The judging usually takes place in the Green Room before the masquerade, but sometimes continues while the show is in progress. Contestants are allowed a few minutes to explain how they made their costumes, and the judges may ask specific questions about a particular piece. As a courtesy to their fellow costumers, entrants should be considerate of the judges' time constraints so that everyone has a chance to submit their works.
Do I need to have documentation for my costume? What format should it be in?
If you are recreating a costume from a media source, you are strongly encouraged to bring some sort of documentation. Not only does it prove your accuracy, but if the judge is not familiar with the source, it may be the only way to judge its veracity.

Documentation can be as simple as a photo or photos that show the costume from various angles, or if it is an interpretation from a book, then a photocopy of that source. It is also strongly encouraged to present the documentation in printed form, so that a judge can refer to it later, if needed. Keep in mind, the judges will most likely have only a few minutes to read through your documentation while making their decisions. You can get more specifics from the individual Masquerade Director as to what is acceptable.
Are there any cash prizes?
Nope. Your only rewards are possibly a rosette ribbon and the applause and admiration of your peers.
I've heard some guild chapters give out their own awards. What's that about?
Often times, before the official masquerade awards are announced, some ICG Guild chapters will present their own award to an entry. These include, but are not limited to:

The "Spazzy", given by the New York/New Jersey Costumers Guild for the best presentation of sick and twisted humor.

The "Slattern", presented by the St. Louis Costumers Guild, for the person or persons they feel had the most fun on stage.

The "Cement Overshoes", presented by the Chicagoland Costumers Guild, to the person they would like most to take a long walk off a short pier, so that they can take the costumer's stuff.

Basically, it's a way to say, "Hey, we like what you did!"
What is the Future Fashion Folio?
t's a fashion design competition which is judged and printed (hopefully) months before Costume-Con. Once the Folio is published, attendees of the convention can reserve one of the designs, make it and wear it in the Future Fashion Show.
How do you submit designs?
Think up a fashion design that might be worn in the future. It could be a uniform, a bridal dress, work clothes, sportswear, business wear, etc. Put it on paper and send it either by mail or email. For more tips and specifics, visit here:
Do I have to be a member of the convention to participate in the Future Fashion Folio?
No. Anyone can enter. Those designers who are selected for the publication will receive an electronic copy of the Folio.
How are the designs judged?
It depends on the convention. Some CCs use a panel of judges, while others have used a group panel of Guild chapter members.
How can I enter when I can't/don't draw?
No problem! Go here: for some croquis (figure blank) that you can trace over with your fashion designs.
Will it be published online?
Can I make up someone's design, even though I can't go to CC this year?
Ethically, you should seek permission from the designer.
Can I make up more than one design?
Yes, but ordinarily, you are only allowed to appear on stage in one design. You may, however, have someone model one of your others for you.
What happens in the Future Fashion Show?
The format varies, but basically, it's an informal fashion show. A picture of the design is projected on a screen while you walk on stage and a brief description is read from the Folio. It's a much more relaxed event, with less emphasis on competition.
Are there awards?
Traditionally, there are three awards: one for the Best Recreation Made by the Designer, one for Best Recreation by a Non-Designer and Best Overall.
What is the Single Pattern competition?
One or more (mostly) readily acquirable commercial patterns are selected to be made up. The competition is in the decoration, alteration and fabric selection for the pattern. Previous patterns used have been the Tibetan Panel Coat, vests, Drovers Coats, tuxedos and others.
Are there any other competitions?
Ordinarily, there is the Doll Costume contest. There have also been other competitions making and decorating hats, bras, and even – codpieces! It differs from one conference to the next.
What is the Historical Masquerade?

The Historical Masquerade showcases the history of clothing, which includes, but is not limited to, any one culture, period, or type of dress. It highlights creativity, scholarship, stage presentation, and workmanship skills in the context of historical clothing. There is some variance of what qualifies as “Historical Clothing”, but generally speaking, it is understood as something that would have been in fashion before the birth year of the entrant.

Each Costume-Con Historical Masquerade may be run slightly differently, but the usual entry categories are:

Theatrical Costume, Historical Dress and Historical Interpretation. Ethnic dress is another category that is not as restrictive, and can be either historical or modern day. There might be others.

Like the Science Fiction masquerade, entries are judged for Presentation and Workmanship. Since the Historical Masquerade traditionally takes place on Sunday evening, workmanship judging usually takes place during the day. Each convention is different in how it is handled – sometimes, the entrant comes in costume to a judging room and shows what they have done. At other conventions, the judges can come to the entrants hotel room, which many find more convenient and less stressful.

The third category for judging is Documentation. The format of the documentation doesn’t have to be term paper-dry – it is only limited by one’s creativity. The main purpose of documentation is to demonstrate the entrant’s knowledge of the outfit they will be presenting on stage. (This is also submitted prior to Workmanship judging).

For more information on judging, documentation creation, etc., contact the standing committee Historical Masquerade Director.

Can my parents/friends/etc. come to see the shows?
Check with the conference committee – usually, there are accommodations for selling event tickets for the various masquerades.
I've heard there are no activities/panels scheduled opposite the shows. Why is that?
Everyone is either in one of the shows or watching them!
What kinds of things are sold in the Dealers' Room?
It differs from year to year, but usually it is a mix of beading materials, costume accessories, costume-related books, hard to find patterns and jewelry.
This is supposed to be a 4 day conference. Why should I stay through Monday?
While programming is not all day, there are still things to do both at the conference and outside it. There are the panels, workshops and costume video presentations by the ICG Archives. Usually, there are opportunities for both guided and self-guided tours of the host city. Sometimes, conference members organize their own trips and activities. And at the end of the day, they all meet one more time in the ConSuite for the "Dead Dog Party". It's the last opportunity to relax and socialize before everyone makes their way home.
I'd like to volunteer. Who should I contact?
Check the website of the CC you want to help out with and contact the committee person in charge. They will gratefully accept any assistance in areas like Registration, stage ninjas, den moms, exhibits and other areas. Or, ask at Registration when you arrive.