WonderCon 2023 Masquerade

The 2023 WonderCon Masquerade featured 29 entries, some as solo entries, some as groups, making for a total of 40 costumes having their turns on the stage. As usual there was a mix of clever Re-Creations and totally Original Designs, plus a few entries that somewhat fit into both categories since they were original designs for otherwise recognizable characters. In addition to the WonderCon trophies and Honorable Mentions given, there were six organizations and companies that also donated generous cash and other awards of their own.

Our excellent Mistress of Ceremonies was Ashley Eckstein. Ashley has been widely recognized and honored as an actress, entrepreneur, and author. To WonderCon fans she is likely best known as the voice of Ahsoka Tano in Star Wars: The Clone Wars, Star Wars: Rebels, and Star Wars: Forces of Destiny. Ashley is also the founder of Her Universe, a very popular fashion and lifestyle brand for fans. Ashley is also a passionate advocate for mental health awareness and is a champion for the Nationwide Children's “On Our Sleeves” movement.

For the Judging intermission, the audience was treated to a fun modern dance performance by the highly talented 20-member Corps Dance Crew, followed by a 20-member Star Wars light-saber story-performance by the Lucasfilm-approved Temple Prime Saber Guild group. Both of these groups perform at many conventions, charity events, and other special events throughout southern California, and while non-professional in status, always give terrific, choreographed shows with lots of great costuming.

Our very enthused audience varied in size over the course of the 2 hours and 20-minute event, and at its fullest point numbered nearly 2,000.

WonderCon Trophy Winners and Honorable Mentions:

(Trophy winners also receive complimentary 3-day badges for next year’s WonderCon)

WC23 MASQ Best In Show

Photo by Jerry Shaw

Best In Show:
“Paint It Empire”, a two-person Original Design, using beautiful Tudor and Elizabethan historically inspired and highly detailed designs to re-imagine the Star Wars scene of Anakin Skywalker being turned into Darth Vader by the evil Emperor. It was crafted and worn by Diana Tolin and Ali Weber.

WC23 MASQ Judges Choice

Photo by Jerry Shaw

Judges’ Choice:
“Wonderland at WonderCon”, a 4-person Re-Creation from Disney’s animated Alice in Wonderland. To bring animated designs more fully to life, 8 months of time was spent crafting and using specially altered fittings to approximate the body proportions of the animated characters, and with a clever stage presentation! Crafted and worn by Prue Dense, Whitley, Gabrielle, and Ryan.

WC23 MASQ Best Recreation

Photo by Jerry Shaw

Best Re-Creation:
“Sophie Hatter”, an impressive re-creation of the heroine from the Japanese animated fantasy film Howl’s Moving Castle. Crafted and worn by Becca Gibson. Taking an animated character design and interpreting it into the real world can be challenging, and this design succeeded with style and heart.

WC23 MASQ Best Original Design

Photo by Jerry Shaw

Best Original Design:
“Princess Zelda”, an Original Design inspired by the popular Legend of Zelda video game series, another example of bringing animated art to life and far surpassing the original inspiration. It was crafted and worn by Starlit Memory Cosplay.

WC23 MASQ Best Workmanship

Photo by Jerry Shaw

Best Workmanship:
“Art Nouveau Sally”, a re-created character but with a fully Original Design inspired by The Nightmare Before Christmas, featured outstanding hand embroidery and beading, and made entirely from recycled materials. Crafted and worn by Lauren Mathias (who almost wasn’t in the show, but when a drop-out happened two days before the convention, we were able to bring her in from the Waiting List).

WC23 MASQ Most Beautiful

Photo by Jerry Shaw

Most Beautiful:
“Belle: A Tale as Old as Time”, a Re-Created character / Original Design inspired by Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, with stunning handcrafted beading, embroidery, and more, creating an over 60-pound elegant historical dress taking over 100 hours to complete. Crafted and worn by Katie Strube of Kstroobz Cosplay.

WC23 MASQ Most Humorous

Photo by Jerry Shaw

Most Humorous:
“The Chosen One(s)?”, a 2-person Star Wars inspired Original / Re-Creation, with familiar characters portrayed in an original way, crafted and worn by Lisa Truong and Cindy Purchase.

WC23 MASQ Best Young Fan

Photo by Jerry Shaw

Best Young Fan:
“Doc Octopus”, a terrific Re-Creation from Spider-Man 2, complete with extended tentacles, working lighting, and an uncanny facial resemblance to the actor in the film.  Crafted by the Pineda Family, worn by Madison Pineda.

And, Really Liked By the Judges, But Just Missing a Trophy Win Were the 3 Honorable Mentions:

Honorable Mention for Cleverness:
“Snipe and Hawks from My Hero Academia”, a 2-person Re-Creation utilizing over 400 hours of crafting, including 1,000 hand-applied feathers, opening and closing wings, plus metal and leather work.  Crafted and worn by Jenn and Ed Mulvey.

Honorable Mention For Young Fan Runner-Up:
“Chamberlain and the Dark Crystal”, a Re-Creation from The Dark Crystal movie and franchise.  A Skeksis creature took several puppeteers to operate in the movie, but it only took one clever and dedicated wearer to bring it to life on our stage! Worn by Eleanor Lee, crafted by Eleanor Lee and her dad, James.

Honorable Mention for Best Newcomer:
“Doctor Strange – Can’t Get Home, a 2-person Young Fan Re-Creation based on two Marvel characters, worn by Mary Stella Zamora and Isabella Elizondo, crafted by Amy Morales and John Zamora.

In addition to the above awards decided by our judging panel, the following companies and organizations donated their own generous awards, with their representatives selecting their winners. We are thrilled that these professionals from Hollywood and elsewhere attend our show and give our contestants the unique opportunity to meet with them and share their common passions for costuming. Some are panel participants, but others travel to the convention specifically to see what our contestants bring to the stage.

Company and Organization Awards:

From The Frank & Son Collectable Show:
$500 cash award to what their representative deemed to be the audience favorite, by the amount of applause it received, was presented to: “Wonderland at WonderCon”, a 4-member Alice in Wonderland re-creation crafted and worn by Prue Dense, Whitley, Gabrielle, and Ryan. The Frank and Son Collectible Show, of the City of Industry, California, presents twice-weekly huge collectibles shows, including special signings and much more, for all your collectible needs. It has donated generous prizes to our competitions for many years now.

From our guest professional costume designers:
Three of our judges (Jennifer May Nickel, Frank Ippolito, and Claire Mildred) generously assembled a prize pack of their own in support of fan cosplay, presented to the entry they deemed to be the Most Visionary Designer. The award included a Huion Inspiroy Giano, a state-of-the-art pen tablet with a 16-inch diagonal screen for digital painting and retouching in 4k and 8K resolutions. Their award was given to “Locked Tomb NCIS”, four original designs inspired by the science fiction novel Gideon The Ninth, by Tamsyn Muir. They were crafted and worn by OfficialGhosty, The Fashionable Cupcake, Lorelei Echo, and Mason.

From The Costumer’s Guild West
Their award was presented to the entry “Paint It Empire”, which had original historical designs inspired by Star Wars characters, crafted and worn by Diana Tolin and Ali Weber. The Costumer’s Guild West, a southern California non-profit costuming fandom group, awarded a one-year membership to their CGW group and a full weekend scholarship and one night’s complimentary hotel stay to their annual weekend conference, Costume College®, held the last weekend in July each year in Los Angeles (winner may choose 2023 or 2024). Costume College promotes the art of costuming by providing educational lectures and workshops.

The San Diego Comic-Con Alan Campbell Award:
Judge Pamela Ford chose and presented this $500 cash award on Comic-Con/s behalf to “Shenron”, an Original Design/Re-Creation based on the popular Dragonball comics/manga/movies/animated series, and video games, crafted and worn by Sparkle Stache. The San Diego Comic Convention Board of Directors gives this award in memory of a long-time committee member and Board member Alan Campbell, who passed away and is sorely missed. Alan was a great fan of the Masquerade, often generously donating his own prize. This award was for the entry deemed the best re-creation from comics or related media.

From the UCLA Jonsson Cancer Center Foundation:
The Foundation presented an award to coincide with their “Make Cancer Less Scary” public awareness campaign. Their award for Most Imaginative was presented to “Locked Tomb NCIS”, four original designs inspired by the science fiction novel Gideon The Ninth, by Tamsyn Muir. They were crafted and worn by OfficialGhosty, The Fashionable Cupcake, Lorelei Echo, and Mason. The award was a special trophy, a $100 Amazon gift card, and articles in their newsletter and social media posts during their fall 2023 campaign.

From 3DHQ:
3DHQ, a popular vendor in the WonderCon Exhibit Hall this year and at last year’s WonderCon and San Diego Comic-Con, provided gift certificates to each trophy winner in the Masquerade, valid (for those able to visit their Exhibit Hall booth) for a free 3D body scan, free 3D Self Avatar, and 3D statuette of themself.

The 2023 WonderCon Guest Judges Bios:

Frank Ippolito has worked in the film industry for over 20 years and owns Thingergy, one of the premiere union prop and specialty costume shops in Los Angeles, contributing to Film and TV shows like The Mandalorian, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Umbrella Academy, Bullet Train, Black Adam, Dungeons and Dragons, Ghostbusters: Afterlife, and many more! He also built and played everyone's favorite sweater-wearing Mon Calamari on the second season of The Mandalorian.

Jennifer May Nickel is classically trained in theatre and holds an MFA in Costume Design from Carnegie Mellon University. Jennifer also studied in England at Oxford University (St. Edmund's College: Myth and Ritual in Theatre) and at East Stroudsburg University (BFA Theatre). For television, Jennifer’s costume design credits include the CW Network’s new show Gotham Knights, Legacies (season 4), as well as Containment, Netflix’s Cabin with Bert Kreischer, Taylor Tomlinson: Look at You and Quarter-Life Crisis, Fox’s series What Just Happened?!, as well as shows for Syfy, Hulu, Nickelodeon, TLC, E!, The History Channel and more.

Claire Mildred got her start in Competitive Cosplay which grew into a passion for Costume Design. Claire received her BFA in Costume Design from Carnegie Mellon University and interned with the Television Academy Foundation in 2020.  Her feature credits include Et Tu starring Lou Diamond Phillips and Malcolm McDowell; and Hard Miles starring Matthew Modine, My Life Stopped at Fifteen has rocketed across the festival circuit winning best film at Official Latino, and shown at Dances With Films, Bronze-lens, Women X, and Martha's Vineyard. Mal de Amores premiered at Hola Mexico and will be making its international premiere at Inside Out 2SLGBTQ+ Film Festival in Toronto.

Pamela Ford Robles attended the Fashion and Art Institute of Dallas. She is a retired couples’ dance competitor, judge, and award-winning costume designer for ballroom and swing dancing.  She at one time had the honor of being the interior designer and muralist for Baseball Hall of Fame member Rollie Fingers.  She is the former graphic artist for Coronado Island Stamping, editor for The San Diego Swing Dance Club News, and event logo designer for the dance organization UCWDC.  Currently, Pam is the designer and owner of a miniature costuming and pattern company specializing in fantasy, comic book, and movie recreations. 

(Note that Jennifer, Frank, and Claire are all members of the Costume Designers Guild, IATSE Local 892, which 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 WonderCon Masquerade team gives our sincere thanks to all contestants, plus the judges, Mistress of Ceremonies, intermission performers, industry professionals, and organizations that participated in this year’s show that celebrates the talents, cleverness, originality, and dedication of the many attendees that create and share their great costumes at the convention!  See you for next year’s show!