Tips on Presenting Your Costume
- Watch TV Commercials. Good commercials tell a story
in less than 30 seconds. This is what a good costume presentation
should do. Pay attention to how commercials keep their audience
interested and entertained, then try to do the same.
- Keep it short. Masquerade guidelines generally allow
up to 60 seconds for individuals, 90 seconds for small groups,
and 2 minutes for large groups. You don't have to use all
that time. Make your presentation long enough to tell your
story, but not a second longer.
- Keep it moving. A static presentation is a boring
presentation. Keep things happening: bring on new characters,
have characters interact, reveal a different part of the costume,
go through a transformation, etc. Ten seconds sounds like a short
time, but it's an eternity when a costumer is standing still
onstage. Rule of thumb: make something different happen every
- Short and funny is best. One of Rotsler's Rules for
Masquerades states: "Short is better than long. Funny is
better than serious. Short and funny is best." Even if your
idea is a dead-serious one, see where you can inject an element
or two of levity.
- Fit your venue. A small, single-person presentation
that works at a local convention may be inappropriate for a large
regional con or Worldcon. Likewise, a twelve-person ensemble
with a twenty-foot wingspan would be out of place at a small
con. If you're taking a presentation from a small con to a regional
or Worldcon, scale it up: add more people, make the costumes
- Choose the right music. Choose music that matches
the mood and tempo of your presentation. Some pieces of music
have been over-used in masquerades; it's best to stay away from
these unless you are doing a parody. Prepare a tape or CD with
just the excerpt you want. Just to be safe, make at least
- Use an appropriate title. If your presentation has
a punchline, don't use the punchline as its title. (Some
masquerades have a printed program giving the names of all the
presentations; you don't want the entire audience to know your
punchline in advance.) We didn't want anyone to know the nature
of our Twilight Zone tribute in advance, so we titled
it Fridays at Ten (which was when the show originally
- Plan your exit. Decide how your characters will exit
the stage, and make that part of your presentation. (Make sure
to carry off any props or discarded costume pieces when you go.)
- Make the Emcee's job easier. Give the emcee a sheet
with all necessary information clearly printed. Include
any introduction you want read, stage directions, and special
features you want mentioned (i.e. "This costume was made
entirely out of recycled cardboard.") Mark all directions
clearly, and spell all names and potentially-unfamiliar words
- Be comfortable. You may be in costume for several
hours at the Masquerade. Before the event, wear your costume
for an extended period to make sure it doesn't chafe you, cut
you, tip you over, suffocate you, or otherwise make your life
miserable. (If it does, redesign!) Be aware of how your costume
limits your sight, movement, or social life.
- Practice, practice, practice. Nothing can substitute
for practice. Run through your presentation until it becomes
second nature. Get someone else to watch and make suggestions.
Refine as you practice, until your presentation is the best it
can be. Make sure you do several "dress rehearsals"
with everyone in full costume. Practice your entrance and exit
as well as your presentation.
- Plan for what might go wrong. Have a contingency plan
for everything that might go wrong. The emcee may foul
up your introduction, the tech crew may miss your lighting cues,
parts of your costume may fall off, mechanical bits may not work
the way they're supposed to, one of your participants may freeze
in front of the crowd. Be prepared for whatever may happen.
When you are practicing, it often helps to "stage"
a disaster -- pretend that something has gone wrong. Stop your
music in the middle, turn off the lights, etc.
- Aim to please the audience, not the judges. Masquerade
judging is unpredictable, capricious, and often unfair. Don't
focus on the judging or the awards -- instead, focus on pleasing
the audience. Believe us, you'll be much happier that way.
- Ask for help. Most costumers are more than happy to
assist anyone who needs help. Masquerade staff are usually prepared
with emergency items like needle & thread, duct tape, scissors,
etc. But no one will know that you need help, unless you ask.
- Have fun. Chat with other costumers, Masquerade staff,
audience members. If you admire someone's work, tell them. Relax
and enjoy the Masquerade experience. Afterwards, various people
may want to take your photograph. If there's a costumers' party,
go and visit with the other costumers.