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Comic-Con 2017 Masquerade Rules

Comic-Con International Masquerade

“Jackie O’Skellington,” worn and made by Elizabeth Dampf. Photo: J. Randolph © 2016 SDCC


1. Costumes must be of original construction, or show significant modification of pre-existing materials. No costumes are allowed that are purchased or otherwise obtained from a commercial source. This is a show of creativity and craftsmanship, not shopping ability. It is expected that some costumes may include as minor elements some purchased items. If your entry utilizes many of these, check with the Masquerade Coordinator for approval. As a general rule, at least 75% of what you bring onto the stage must not have been purchased. If it could pass for street clothes, it’s not a costume.

2. Competing costumes MUST NOT be worn at the convention prior to the show! If everyone's seen your costume, there's no point in displaying it on stage, so keep your entry out of sight until Saturday night. You may of course wear your costume around the convention after it has been in the show. Costumes entered in our previous shows may not return. Costumes entered in the Masquerade at our sister convention, WonderCon Anaheim, may also compete at Comic-Con.

3. Maximum time on stage:

  • 1-2 people: 1 minute 15 seconds
  • 3-6 people: 2 minutes
  • 7 or more: 2 minutes 30 seconds

If you would like more time, check with the Coordinator beforehand. Show off your costume well and have fun, but remaining on stage too long can lessen the impact of your presentation, but don’t be too quick, either!

4. No liquids, messy substances, or anything that may pose a danger is allowed on stage. Unsheathing of bladed weapons is not allowed without clearance from the Coordinator. No throwing things into the audience. Nothing is allowed that would get a movie an “R’ rating. Violating these rules will disqualify you, and possibly result in escort off the premises. Due to safety concerns, minors may not perform combat simulations.

5. Category definitions:

  • Re-Creation: A costume copied from a pre-existing design, such as from a movie, comic book, famous artwork, history, etc.
  • Original: A design original to the maker/wearer. It may be inspired by some work of fantasy, science fiction, mythology, etc., but is not a copy.
  • Young Fan: Ages 9 to 15.

6. A costume that has previously won Best In Show or Best In Master Class at a Costume-Con, NASFiC, or Worldcon convention is not eligible for an award from the judges, but is still eligible to win company prizes.

7. Contestants agree to report in with staff in the Masquerade backstage rooms no later than 7:00 PM, (6:00 PM or earlier is suggested) and to allow video recording and photography of their costumes for non-profit purposes.

8. The Coordinator may reject an entry on the basis of inappropriate or unsafe behavior or content, or because of too many purchased items, or because the construction materials or techniques used do not meet the criteria of quality for the show, or because the event has reached its limit for entries.

9. For safety reasons, children under age 9 are not allowed. A Young Fan must have a parent or guardian present with them backstage and minors' parents will be asked to sign a permission form. Please do not bring small children into the backstage areas. With a hundred costumers plus helpers and staff all rushing around, some in sight-limiting masks, some carrying large props, tools, or scissors, it is not an appropriately safe environment for small children.

10. You are not required to wear your costume yourself; someone else can present it in the show. But if your costume is worn on stage by someone other than you, that person should not be a paid individual, nor may your soundtrack or narration or costume include content that advertises an actual product, service, organization, or website.


Comic-Con International Masquerade

Winner of the Most Beautiful Award, “Cleopatra,” (re-creation from the 1963 Elizabeth Taylor film), worn and made by Devon Jopling. Photo: J. Randolph © 2016 SDCC


Send in an Entry Form (click here to download the 2017 form) no later than June 26, via email or postal mail. Often we fill up as early as May, so submitting a form early is highly recommended! Photos of the costume you will be wearing are also required to be fully confirmed for the show, and until photos are received your entry is only tentatively accepted.  Photos may be sent via email or regular mail, and due by June 26. "Work in progress" photos are acceptable if only a small amount of work remains to be done. Send them with your Entry Form, or as a follow-up afterwards. If your entry is a group please provide photos of all costumes. This is to assure costumes meet all the Rules criteria for crafting and quality, and to assist us in helping your presentation by letting us know what to plan for. Photos will be kept confidential so that you will still be a "surprise" for the audience and judges. Many costumers reserve a space months early, then send photos in May or June to be confirmed. You will receive a mail confirming receipt of your form within two weeks.

There will be a Waiting List to fill spots arising from cancellations (travel plans change, etc.) and entry forms submitted after we’ve filled up will be put on a Waiting List. Those on the list will be notified if a spot opens up. You may also sign up on the Waiting List at the Masquerade Desk at the convention on Thursday and Friday 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM.

Unfortunately, due to the limit on number of entries we can accommodate we must turn some costumes away. Therefore to fairly give spots to contestants most deserving of them we will evaluate photos as they are received, using a 3-person jury, to ascertain if an entry has sufficient original craftsmanship and quality. The earlier you supply your photo(s), the sooner we can confirm you. If you reserve a spot and later discover that you must cancel, please tell us so the space can be given to another contestant.

What if you have a costume in the works but were unable to buy a badge? Our contestants go to much work to craft their amazing creations, but sadly, some can’t buy attendee badges due to the sell-out. If this is your situation you write to the Masquerade Coordinator at for information on possible options for attending.


If you are incorporating music, pre-recorded narration, or any other recorded sound with your costume presentation, you may provide it on a USB drive using MP3 format, or on compact disk (CD).  If you record your own CD, please use a CD-R and test it on other players. Please supply your music to us by July 10, by either emailing it as an MP3 file to, or send your CD or USB using postal mail. Label the disk or USB with your name and costume name. If you simply can’t provide it in advance, or you have last-minute changes to make, you may give it to us at the convention NO later than 12 Noon on Saturday and we’ll try to include it if time permits. Smart contestants always bring a back-up copy, especially if you’d like to rehearse with it. There will be NO MICROPHONES for contestants, so any speech must be on your recording, or printed out for the Master of Ceremonies to read.  If you have no music we can provide some if you’d like. You may use copyrighted music since we pay ASCAP and BMI performance royalty fees to cover all music used at the event.


A full diagram of the stage with measurements is included in the Masquerade download. The presentation area of the stage is 32' wide by 20' deep, elevated 48" from the ballroom floor. Going up to stage level will require traveling up seven wide 7" high stairs. The ballroom doorways are 9' high by 6' wide. Nearby rooms will contain dressing areas constructed out of thick pipe and drape, with mirrors, work tables, clothing racks, and emergency repair supplies, and there will be bathrooms for make-up needs. Standard entry will be stage-right, with the exit stage-left, behind the M.C. lectern. Groups may enter and exit from both sides. Special accommodations for the disabled are possible if we are related the particular needs in advance. The panel of guest judges will be located at the very front of the audience, facing the stage. The company representatives donating prizes will be seated right behind them. There will be a special seating section for the disabled, managed by the Comic-Con Deaf and Disabled Services staff, and there will be a signer for the hearing impaired.


If your costume is a re-creation, we suggest providing the judges with one or more reference images of what it is based on, since not all of them may be familiar with your costume. You may submit reference materials at the convention, and they will be returned afterwards. Most contestants simply provide a photo or two, but some supply elaborate booklets detailing the features, close-up photos of the construction and even fabric samples that show their entire creative process.

High-Definition cameras will be providing close-up views for the giant projection screens, so if theatrical make-up is appropriate to your costume, you may wish to use it. Following your stage appearance you will be escorted to the Photo Area to pose in front of a few dozen photographers, and you will need to remain in the Masquerade backstage areas until all the award presentations conclude, since you may win an award and be called back on stage to receive it!

Please let us know ahead of time about any especially large costumes, prop items, or set pieces you’ll have. Freight elevators, storage space and special rear-building access for unloading is available, but must be arranged beforehand.  Experienced costumers know the rule: “Surprise the audience, but never surprise the backstage crew!” Be as elaborate as you like, we love elaborate costumes and presentations, but please inform us at least two weeks in advance.

Do not wear your costume at the convention before it is seen in the Masquerade, or it will be ineligible for the competition. The audience lines up several hours early to see something special, so keep your Masquerade costume out of sight until Saturday night so that it has maximum effect to the audience and judges.

When you arrive at the convention, sign-in at the Masquerade Desk upstairs near Ballroom 20 to confirm your arrival and to fill out some show forms. If you don't sign-in by noon on Saturday, we will have to assume you have canceled and will release your spot to someone from the Waiting List. Completed show forms must be submitted no later than 5:00 PM Friday, or, if you are a Saturday attendee only, you may submit it by 11:00 AM Saturday, either at the Desk or the Orientation. All contestants and helpers need Backstage Passes for the show, obtainable at the Desk and at the Orientation. Masquerade Desk hours are 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday.


Comic-Con International Masquerade

Winner of the Best Re-creation Award and the Best DC Universe entry from DC Comics, “Lex Luthor (in battle armor),” worn and made by Trevor Kaihoi, with the amazing support of his fantastic wife Steph. Photo: K. Green © 2016 SDCC


We strongly suggest attending the Masquerade Orientation from 10:30 to 11:30 AM on Saturday in Room 31, where we’ll discuss your technical needs and answer questions. You need not bring your costume, although you can bring it and store it there if you like. This room will contain a practice stage available all day. The Ballroom 20 stage will be in use for other events during Saturday daytime, but the practice stage will have similar dimensions to provide a feeling for the ballroom stage, and you may sign up for specific practice time.

When arriving for the event Saturday evening, all contestants must check-in with the staff at Room 32. You may check-in at 5:00 PM or after, but NO LATER than 7:00 PM and you must be stage-ready by 7:15 PM to allow for judging photos to be taken. We’re sorry, but if you are late, we may have to pull you from the show. Private dressing areas will be assigned when you arrive, and there will be make-up artists on hand to help as well.

Saturday evening will be a long one, so you’ll want to eat a decent meal sometime in the late afternoon, and drink plenty of water during the day. If you have been to Comic-Con before you know well how busy, crowded, and full of things to do it can be, and it’s easy to forget to eat and drink.


The show comes to a close, depending on how long the judging has taken, around 11:30 PM, so keep that in mind when planning your transportation afterward if you are not staying in one of the nearby hotels. Our free shuttle buses run late, however, and the trolley stop is just across the street, so getting where you need to go after shouldn’t be an issue. The After-Masquerade party in the Sails Pavilion runs well past midnight should you visit there afterward.

There will be a Masquerade Review on Sunday afternoon so contestants may watch a large-screen video of their presentations and offer questions or comments to the Masquerade staff. At this event contestants who did not pick up their reference materials, forgotten costume items, or USB drives immediately after the show can collect them then.