Cosplay Competitions are always one of the highlights of any convention. If you’ve ever been sat in the audience, or watching a stream at home, and have been confused by the winners that are announced, there’s a good chance you’ve been watching a craftsmanship competition!
Craftsmanship competitions, like ReedPop’s Cosplay Central Crown Championships, don’t focus on the biggest, flashiest and most popular costumes, but instead focus on the fine skills, quality of finish, variety of techniques and ingenuity of the costume maker. The judges have always inspected these costumes closely before the cosplayers walk the stage in pre-judging interviews where they get to question the cosplayer and learn all their secret techniques, flip seams and inspect the inside of those outwardly impressive foam builds and glorious ballgowns. They get to see all those details it’s impossible to see from way back in the audience! Everyone always has their personal favourite, but it’s important to understand the kind of competition you are watching, especially to appreciate why a more outwardly ‘simple’ costume beat something with a bigger wow factor on stage.
In the USA regional rounds, the Crown Championships selects a winner specialised in each major costume category - Needlework, Armor and FX - and an overall top 3. The top 3 costumes in master level competitions like this will regularly cross over the categories, having a combination of several sewing, armor and FX techniques and all done to an exceptionally high standard. To give more insight into the details that the judges get to see we’re sharing a series of interviews with the six winners from New York Comic Con’s Crown Championships Qualifier.
Needlework category winner: Patterner Mage Cosplay
The Needlework category is focussed on stitching, embroidery, corsetry, fabric manipulation and other needle crafts. Patterner Mage Cosplay claimed the category title with their beautiful and layered interpretation of Raistlin Majere from Dungeons and Dragons: Dragonlance Legends.
Popverse: Congratulations on your win! Please tell us a little about yourself as a cosplayer?
Patterner Mage Cosplay: I have been cosplaying for about 20 years. I’ve been competing since 2011 and judging competitions since 2018. Over the years I’ve cosplayed from almost all types of media but now I mostly cosplay novel characters so that I can create my own designs for the characters I like. If I can make them look so real that it’s like they’ve walked off the page, then I know I’ve succeeded.
What inspired you to make your costume for Crown?
When I started making this costume, I had no plan to compete with it. I hadn’t competed since 2017 and I thought I was done. This costume began like so many others that I make with a character that sparked my imagination and the chance to design something beautiful and fantastic. I like a good anti-hero to villain character arc and Raistlin certainly has that. This wasn’t the first costume that I had made for Raistlin. By the time in his life when he was wearing black robes, he was wealthier and more powerful so I took what I had designed for him previously and from there I refined things and made them overall MORE.
How did you go about bringing the character to life?
I designed Raistlin based on the classic DnD “medieval fantasy” aesthetic and then blended that with techniques and materials I knew I wanted to use. Some things are set in stone because that’s how the authors decide Raistlin looks and dresses and then I can choose the rest. Everything I make has lots of texture so there is a back-and-forth between my design and the fabrics and materials that I can find. Everything in my design exists for a reason. I think we can get caught up in adding more and more detail without asking if it’s right for the design and there are many things that I changed or removed from this costume because they weren’t melding well with everything else. I only finish two or maybe three costumes per year so that I am able to budget for the ideal materials. For instance, the deep blackness of the silk velvet that I embroidered with thousands of metal-plated-glass silver beads let me create the magical twinkling night sky effect on my cloak.
Once I knew I was competing at NYCC, I designed and made an entire set of undergarments to go with my costume. This is all stuff that you don’t see very much but it adds so much realism when a sleeve hem is pushed up or something and you see more costume underneath.
Did you learn anything while making this costume?
A competition-worthy costume doesn’t need to be difficult to wear. In the past mine often were but you can take something that’s fairly comfortable the next mile and that’s just as strong.
What is your favorite part of the costume? And Why?
I love the way my costume moves, and that was intentional when I designed it. It should give an impression of mystery and power so I wanted the textures and garments to blend gracefully together from hood to floor, from inside to outside. In early test runs I wasn’t satisfied with the drape of the cloak and robe so I fully lined them both in silk and added an additional interlining to make the cloak look extra heavy.
This was also the first time I designed custom contact lenses and had them made. After I spent so long trying to get the gold makeup right, it was incredible to see the look come together with the eyes and metallic gold skin which are integral parts of Raistlin’s character design. It was a very DnD moment.
Are there any other details or features you would like to highlight?
All my costumes are optimized for travel and practicality. There are many hidden pockets so I don’t have to carry things, but this is also a direct reference to how DnD wizards store things in their own hidden pockets.
Also, I remade my staff three times. On this final iteration I created a mechanism that allows me to completely detach the top and pack it safely when I travel. I’ve taken the staff on the train to Boston and back three times. The stave itself is made from Hudson River driftwood and I had to saw branches off it then thoroughly sand it and fill cracks before it looked regal enough to become a wizard’s staff.
Any advice for anyone thinking about entering a competition like this?
Competition can be affirming in so many ways and I want everyone to know how positive it is overall to meet everyone else backstage. I met some of my best friends through cosplay competitions. Whether or not you win, your work was seen and people appreciated it and you met good people. We can really hurt ourselves over the expectation of winning but cosplay is supposed to be fun. I stepped back from competing for six years because I realized that I expected too much of myself, so give yourself space and be kind to yourself and others.
Missed the competition on stage? You can check out all the entries right here on Popverse in our VOD of the NYCC livestream!