Comic-Con International’s 42nd Annual Masquerade
Celebrating Costuming in the Popular Arts and the Creativity of Our Attendees!
San Diego Comic-Con was only a few years old back in the 1970s when all the costumes showing up at the convention made it clear that costuming was an integral element of the event and deserved its own special showcase. After all, costumes plays an important part not only in comics, but in nearly every popular art form.
Comic-Con’s Saturday night big event is a unique evening of fun and amazing costume creations as the stage lights brighten, the music swells, and the huge audience that’s lined up hours in advance takes their seats for the annual costume competition. Not a dance nor party as the name might imply, it’s an onstage event in the style of a talent competition, with a Master of Ceremonies, a panel of guest judges, and impressive awards and generous prizes presented in assorted categories.
Why is it called a Masquerade and not simply a costume contest or fashion show? Because it’s more than just posing on stage, it’s about portraying characters too, creating moods, sometimes a sense of story. There can be bits of drama, comedy, lightsaber battles, even some song and dance, and you never know what’s going to appear on stage next. The Masquerade reminds us that the creative arts reside in all of us, that the arts are not meant to be just a spectator sport, and that among our attendees there is plenty of amazing talents and creativity worth showcasing. More than a few times over the years we’ve seen our contestants go on to professional costuming or related careers in the arts.
The large elevated stage has theater-style lighting, changing backdrops, and four huge high-definition video screens providing great close-up views gathered by multiple cameras, so everyone gets great viewing. An audience of 3,900 fills the San Diego Convention Center’s Ballroom 20, and an overflow audience of over 2,000 more people watch the show on large projection screens in the nearby Sails Pavilion and other ballrooms. It is free to participate in, or just be in the audience for anyone with a Comic-Con 4-day or Saturday badge. (You don’t have to wear a costume to be a member of the audience, but some wear them anyway.)
Some entries are solo costumes; others can be large groups with a shared theme. Many will be fabulous re-creations from movies, TV shows, anime films, computer games, history, and of course, comic books, but some completely original designs are always included, some never seen before anywhere. All costume genres are welcome, but no purchased or professionally sourced ones are allowed. It’s a celebration of imagination and craftsmanship, not shopping ability, and to have a great time is the main objective.
Our Master and Mistress of Ceremonies will again be the very entertaining five-time Hugo Award-winning artists and writers Phil Foglio and Kaja Foglio, who for many years have created, published, and contributed to a variety of comics, art, and games in the science fiction and fantasy genres through their company Studio Foglio, and you’ll often find them at the Girl Genius booth in the Comic-Con Exhibit Hall.
Masquerade tickets for Ballroom 20 seating are given out free to badge-holders starting at noon on Saturday to those people lining up early, so they may then get out of line to enjoy other daytime events at Comic-Con, then return to the Masquerade line later towards the evening knowing there will be seating for them. Tickets are not needed for watching the show in the Sails Pavilion or the overflow ballrooms, although the Sails Pavilion seating can fill up as well.
How to Enter
There is only space and time in the event for a limited number of contestants, so if you’d like to share your costume creation with our audience you should apply for a contestant slot as soon as possible.
We usually fill up all our slots several weeks in advance of Comic-Con, so sending in an Entry Form requesting a reserved spot early is advised. A photo of the costume you will be wearing will be required for full confirmation as a contestant. More details are on the PDF download.
Flash photography is NOT allowed in Ballroom 20 during the event, but there will be an off-stage Photo Area with a backdrop in a nearby room, where the contestants pose after their stage presentations. Photographers or Press who wish access to this Masquerade Photo Op Stage Area should write the coordinator at firstname.lastname@example.org  ahead of time to request a reserved spot, as it fills up quickly, and spaces are limited so as to avoid crowding. Note this is a non-public area and access is only open to those with approval; it always fills up. Video recording of the Masquerade is allowed for personal non-profit use only. Any videography in the ballroom for professional purposes must be cleared with Comic-Con beforehand, please write to email@example.com  to make a request.
Beautiful Comic-Con awards, featuring our custom-created Comic-Con Masquerade medallions, will be presented in categories of
- Best In Show
- Judges’ Choice
- Best Re-Creation
- Best Original Design
- Best Workmanship
- Most Humorous
- Most Beautiful
- Best Young Fan
Our award medallions were designed by fantasy artist and illustrator Sue Dawe, whose internationally published creations have been featured by the Franklin Mint, as well as on greeting cards, stationery, posters, porcelain statuettes, and more.
Any costumed entry winning one of the above Comic-Con award categories will also receive a FREE 4-day membership badge to our 2017 Comic-Con! If you're a winning costume you’ll have your badge for 2017, Comic-Con’s extra thank you for all your hard work and talent! Badges are non-transferable; and if a group wins, up to four memberships will be given.
Additional Awards and Prizes
In addition to the Comic-Con awards listed above, the following companies, organizations and educational institutions will be generously donating their own awards to outstanding costumes, as selected by their own representatives:
Frank And Son Collectible Show, of the City of Industry, CA, “Your one-stop show for all your collectible needs” will present to the entry they deem to be the audience favorite a prize of $1,000 cash, plus a very impressive trophy.
DC Comics representatives will present a special DC Collectibles item valued at $300 to the finest entry portraying a DC Comics character or characters from their publications or films.
Lucasfilm Ltd. will reward the best Star Wars costumers with fabulous items from their Licensing Archives. The finest Star Wars entries will be selected by a Lucasfilm representative to receive very special limited-edition collectibles.
The Costume Designers Guild IATSE Local 892: Celebrity Costume Designer judges from the CDG will present to their favorite entry a CDG Masquerade trophy provided by Legacy Effects and a full year’s subscription to Costume Designer magazine. The Costume Designers Guild is Local 892 of the International Alliance of Theatrical and Stage Employees (I.A.T.S.E.), and represents Costume Designers, Assistant Costume Designers and Costume Illustrators working at the highest levels of expertise in motion pictures, TV, commercials, music videos, and new media.
The David C. Copley Award for Most Innovative Costume: UCLA's David C. Copley Center for Costume Design will bestow on their favorite entry the UCLA Copley Center for The Study of Costume Design Award of a $1,000 gift card to Amazon.com, plus a copy of Copley Center Director Deborah Nadoolman Landis' beautiful book: Hollywood Sketchbook: A Century of Costume Illustration, (cover price $75).\
More awards will be announced in the months to come, so check back regularly for updates. But whether you are going to be in the 2016 Comic-Con Masquerade or not, it’s time to start work on that great costume idea, and be a part of the popular arts!