The Trouble with Costume Competitions
Most Conventions have the opportunity for cosplayers to participate in a competition of sorts. Often, the cosplay competition is one of the main events of the con. The only issue with these competitions is that they are inconsistent, and often unfair. I'd like to go over some of the most fair vs unfair competitions I've witnessed and point out the key things I think really make the difference.
Recently, I witnessed a Children's costume competition. I'm not positive what the age range was but I'm assuming it was around age 2-15ish. What was unfortunate was that it was in no way organized by age and the measure of who won was determined by the crowd (AKA which kids parents had the most family members/loudest family members in the audience). This really put me off. Personally, I believe if you're going to put kids head to head in a popularity contest, you could at least put them in the same age group. I found that the little kids who's parents went to halloween express and bought a costume for them and made them wear it won over many older kids who made their own costumes look just as amazing (if not better) and made them themselves. It really didn't feel fair.
One con I am particularly impressed with in terms of cosplay shows is Anime Milwaukee. Though I haven't been there in a few years. I distinctly remember liking the system in which things were awarded. It went by categories like "Best Showmanship" "Best Craft" and "Most Popular"
Because of this, those that were dressed as well-known characters, or those with adorable kids were put in the running for most popular (judged by crowd noise). Best craft was inspected by the judges, and only 80%+ Homemade costumes were eligible for the reward. Best showmanship went out to those who were most prepared with their poses/skits. I really like this category system because it plays to different strengths and doesn't seem to run as unfairly. The show itself was also significantly more entertaining than simply bringing people up and having the host try to judge mildly different levels of volume between costumes.
Personally, I also have a bit of distaste for costume competitions that have no presentational component. Basically it's a bunch of cosplayers in a room waiting for what feels like eternity for their names to be called so a judge can inspect their costume. In the end there's no actually performance or presentation, so the winner is one of the only people who knows that they are the winner, and they spent half of the day not showing off their magnificent costume to the convention, but instead waiting in line or in a room out of site. This particularly irks me because one of the main reasons I attend cons is not only to cosplay myself, but also to see other attendees' amazing cosplays. I LOVE taking photos of cosplay (see galleries).