Have a question? We’ve got answers! Before submitting your application or emailing the costume contest staff, please read through our FAQ carefully.


Q: Why are you only accepting sign-ups for the Costume Contest online and in advance?

A: Only accepting sign-ups online and in advance allows us to better plan out and organize the event, provide the best assistance and support to contests, and make for a much more enjoyable experience for both the participants and the audience.


Q: Is there a limit to the amount of entries in the contest?

A: We will begin by accepting a maximum of 20 entries per class for Novice and Journeyman, and 10 for Masters, making 50 entries total. After we have reached capacity we will wait-list entries or we may increase the size of contest if we have enough demand. Wait-listed contestants will be contacted based on the date of their submission and given the opportunity to compete if a registered entry drops out.


Q: When does the Costume Contest take place?

A: The Costume Contest will be held on the evening of Saturday May 30th. Rehearsals and judging will be in the afternoon with the exact time announced prior to the convention.


Q: How will the contest be formatted?

A: The contest will be organized and presented similar to a fashion show. Contestants will enter the back from stage left, walking towards centre stage. They will pose towards each side of the audience for photographs and then proceed off of the stage, returning backstage until the victory lap.


Q: Can I enter with a group of friends?

A: Yes! We have a category for costume groups, although all the costumes must be from the same series/universe/etc. or, if they are original, share a theme. If you are entering as a group please make sure to look at our group guidelines first before entering.


Q: Do I need to attend the orientation/dress rehearsal/judging/contest to compete?

A: Yes. Please note all of the above are MANDATORY. Costumers who do not sign in and complete the orientation will be disappointed to find they have been removed from the competition.
Please note if you are entering as a group your entire group must be present in order to compete.


Q: Help! I can’t attend or will be late due to panel scheduling/food poisoning/freak storm, what do I do?!

A: We understand that in costuming if something can go wrong it usually will, and typically you will not be penalized for showing up a few minutes late. However, if you miss your timeslot we cannot guarantee that the judges will have time to see you.

If you are unable to attend any of the mandatory preparations on short notice due to circumstances beyond your control, please use the emergency contact information for the costume contest staff and we will see what can be done to hold your place.

If you will be later or unable to attend any of the mandatory contest preparation due to an unavoidable scheduling conflict please contact the costume contest staff in advance to discuss possible alternative options.


Q: Do I have to wear the costume I’m competing in to the orientation/dress rehearsal/judging?

A: Yes, this is very important for several reasons. Firstly we use the dress rehearsal to ensure that the contestant will safely be able to navigate/see the stage in their costume, and assign them a handler if they are not.

Secondly, this will allow the judges to see your costume as a ‘complete package’ during the judging process and also how the garments you have made or modified are tailored and fitted.

Contestants who do not wear their costume will not be judged or allowed to perform due to safety concerns.


Q: Can I use a costume I bought or a costume somebody else made for me?

A: You may not wear a purchased costume. However, if you are in the Novice or Journeyman category you can partially assemble a costume out of purchased parts and/or modified parts. Please see class and category definitions for more info.


Q: My costume isn’t Anime / Gaming / Sci-Fi / Comic / Movie / TV Show related, can I still enter the contest?

A: Yes! As long as you can provide a high quality reference image and you made the costume yourself you can enter the Costume Contest.


Q: Can I wear a costume based on an original character?

A: Yes! All we require is that you provide a high quality reference image at the time of your application and that you make the costume yourself. Please note that your design may not be changed after your application has been confirmed and you are expected to follow the reference provided, even if you created it yourself.


Q: What are reference photos and why do I need them?

A: Reference photos gives the judges a clear idea of the character you are portraying and what the original costume looks like in comparison to the one you have made, and allows them to evaluate your costume more efficiently.

The best reference photos are clear, high resolution, and if possible show the costume from all angles so the back front and side are visible. If we don’t feel like the reference provided to us allows for accurate judging you will be contacted by the costume contest staff to provide another one if possible.


Q: How do I know which category or class I should be in?

A: Please see our detailed section on categories and classes. The Northwest Fan Fest Costume Contest features unique categories but will follow the standard ICG class guidelines when applicable. If you are unsure which category or class you should enter after reading through our information costume contest document, please Email Us and we can help find the right class and category for you.

Any contestants who are found to be miscategorized may be bumped up or down at the judge’s discretion prior to the contest. Don’t worry; we will notify contestants of any changes made.


Q: Why does competing for the grand prize require a construction portfolio?

A: Due to the heavy competition and high stakes, proof of craftsmanship is required in order to ensure a fair contest. All contestants are required to submit their portfolio to the judges before they are eligible to be judged for the grand prize. Any contestant that does not submit their portfolio will not be qualified for the grand prize, but will still be considered for all class-related prizes (Best in Class, Runner-Up, and Judge’s Choice).


Q: What should my portfolio include?

A: Please reference this list when taking photos and deciding which content makes it into your portfolio. The judges will expect most, if not all of the following as evidence of your costume construction. This is one occasion where less is not more, though multiple photographs of the same thing are not recommended as the judges do prefer variety and quality of imagery over quantity.

  • Photos of your materials
  • Photos of progress such as sewing, painting, building, and wig styling
  • Photos of items before and after modification (if applicable)
  • A rough photographed timeline of your progress from beginning to end
  • Drafted pattern pieces, fabric samples, and costume notes are welcome and appreciated!


Q: What if I made my costume already, I didn’t take any photos and I still want to enter?

A: Please Email Us and we can discuss alternatives.


Q: How will I be judged?

A: You will be judged in three different categories and be given a score of 0-10, which, with three judges, allows for a maximum of 90 points.

Please note that a penalty will be applied to the percentage of the costume you didn’t make yourself. The chart is included below for your reference. Master-level costumers are expected to strive for 100% handmade with few heavily modified elements.



Q: What does ‘heavily modified’ mean?

A: An item is heavily modified when it is more or less unrecognizable from its original form. We have provided examples of alteration vs. heavy modification below.

Alteration: Taking in a pair of bought pants.
Heavy Modification: Taking in a pair of pants, shortening them, adding pockets, removing the zipper and replacing with lacing, tearing holes into the knees, distressing the seams and splattering them with blood and paint.

Alteration: Painting a bought toy sword black.
Heavy Modification: Painting the sword, weathering it, wrapping the handle in leather, creating a sheath and chest strap, adding a charm to the pommel and drawing runes onto the blade.

Alteration: Re-lacing a pair of costume pirate boots the right colour.
Heavy Modification: Buying a pair of work boots, building boot covers with buckles and lacing on top of them, painting the sole and obscuring the entire base boot.


Q: Does that mean I have to make or modify my socks and underwear?

A: We will overlook purchased garments or items when there it would be pointless or silly to make them yourself. We won’t go into detail on every item as it is up to the judge’s discretion, but we have provided a short list below to clarify.

Stockings: Nylons or tights which may require special machinery to create are allowed, though we would be very impressed if you were to make them by hand!

Socks: You may purchase socks but please ensure if they are visible they are suitably matched to your costume.

Shoes: If your character is wearing plain black flats we don’t expect you to make them. We do however expect you to make or heavily modify your cyber/Victorian/pirate boots rather than buy pre-made costume pieces when possible.

Other items: contact lenses, fake nails, hoop earrings, a plain belt, underwear, etc.

When do we expect you to make your own underwear? If you are costuming a Victorian era woman in the Masters category, the correct handmade underpinnings are necessary. If you’re not sure if the item you have purchased or heavily modified is wearable without penalty, please contact the costume contest staff in advance and ask!


Q: Can I wear the same costume I wore to the contest last year?

A: You are not allowed to enter a costume you have used previously at a costume contest run by Northwest Fan Fest. You may enter as the same character or a different version so long as you are not using parts of the original costume. This is to maintain a fair standing amongst competitors and to ensure the costume contest is full of exciting new costumes every year, and allows as many new competitors a chance as possible.

We may consider a costume that has been worn before if the contestant has made significant additions and the contestant is willing to enter a more experienced division. If you would like to wear a costume that has been entered before, please contact costume contest staff in advance of your application.


Q: Can I enter the costume contest if I’ve won previously?

A: If you have previously won in the Novice or Journeyman category you must compete at a higher level for the following costume contest. For Master class we have set a limit of 3 consecutive victories before you must take a one year break from competition.


Q: What will happen if you’re caught sandbagging/what is sandbagging?

A: Sandbagging is the term used by the ICG and many costuming groups to describe the act of bringing a costume that has won a major award at a larger costume contest to a small one with lesser competition which is seen by many as poor sportsmanship and award sweeping. We encourage all contestants to enter costumes created specifically for the contest, and to notify costume contest staff if your costume has been previously entered at another event or already won a major award. We have included a list of exemptions from the ICG website that apply to the Northwest Fan Fest Costume Contest for your reference.

  • A costume that has not won an award in competition may be entered in another masquerade.
  • A costume that has won a major award may be entered again in a competition of similar size at the discretion of the contest director (usually if the audience, judges and slate of competitors are significantly different).
  • A costume that has won a major award in competition may be entered again in a larger competition.
  • A costume that has won a competitive award (see Judging Guidelines) in international competition should not be entered in competition at any other contest.


Q: What will happen if you’re caught cheating (AKA ‘coslifting’)?

A: If you take credit for someone else’s work (submitting a commissioned piece or purchasing a part of your outfit online and failing to mention it to the judges) there will be consequences. This will apply for all classes.

You will be suspended from entering the costume contest the following year and will only be allowed to enter two years later. However, you will be placed in Novice, no matter what class you were in before and you must contact the costume contest staff for any additional rules or limitations before you will be allowed to register.


Q: How else could I be disqualified?

A: You will only be disqualified if the costume contest/convention/location rules or regulations are broken, however the costume contest coordinator and staff reserve the right to eliminate anyone from the competition at their discretion.


Q: I change my mind and I don’t want to enter anymore due to [reason].

A: Please let us know as soon as you are sure you will no longer be competing so another person can be given a chance if there is a waitlist. If you are considering changing you mind because you are confused, nervous, or have a particular concern, please let us know so we may try to address the issue for you.


Q: I need assistance moving and seeing in my costume, can somebody give me a hand? (AKA I need a handler!)

A: If you know in advance that you’ll need help to get on or off stage or simply require special assistance, please note it on your application form in the space provided and we will assign someone to you. If you only realize at the convention that you need a hand, don’t panic! Let us know as soon as you can and we will find someone who can help and ensure you get on and off stage safely.



A: As soon as you realize you’re having a problem please let one of the costume contest staff know and they will do their best to make sure disaster is averted and your costume is stage ready. We do have a cosplay repair station located nearby which will have supplies to fix most costume problems.


Q: Can I use special effects on stage? I want to spurt blood or goo or use my smoke machine!

A: We do not allow any messy, sticky, slippery, or vision reducing substances onstage due to safety concerns. They can also get onto costumes and cause a real mess, so please respect your fellow costumers by keeping fake blood and gore for your personal photoshoots.


Q: Why aren’t professionals allowed to enter, and what constitutes a professional?

A: Professionals are not allowed because the costume contest is an amateur, hobbyist contest and it wouldn’t be fair. If you do the occasional commission on the side or sell prints, that does not necessarily mean you are a professional. A professional is a person who is engaged in a certain activity for gain or compensation as means of livelihood, such as a permanent career, not as an amateur or pastime.

If you are unsure whether you qualify as a professional or not, please Email Us in advance of your entry submission.


Q: I want to sing/dance/surprise everyone with a special act on stage!

A: The costume contest is a runway-format event and contestants will be disqualified if they do not follow the set performance guidelines. We have a limited amount of time to run the event, so please respect your fellow costumers and do not spend more time on stage than you are allotted or you will be penalized.


Q: I still have questions that aren’t answered here, whom do I speak to?

A: Please Email Us with any costume contest questions you still have!