Mainstage Cosplay

AnimeIowa Mainstage Cosplay

Mainstage Cosplay is one of the highlights of AnimeIowa. You’ll have the opportunity to present your Cosplay as a Model or as part of a Skit complete with lights and sound in front of a live audience! Read the rules below, and check the bottom of the page for sign-up! Also be sure to check out the Cosplay Board on the forums.

The Mainstage Cosplay competition consists of two categories: Craftsmanship and Performance.  You may choose to enter either Craftsmanship or Performance separately, or you may enter both categories. 

Category Divisions

Within each competition category, entries will also be separated by division according to the following guidelines:

Youth – All participants under the age of 13 will compete here.  This division is not separated between the two categories.  Instead, entries can choose either a walk-on or a performance, and one award will be given to the best in this division.  All youth participants must be accompanied by a registered adult at all times. 

Novice –  Participants with minimal or no cosplay experience will compete here.  This includes participants who have won 0 major awards and 0-3 minor awards. 

Journeyman –  Participants with moderate cosplay experience will compete here.  This includes participants who have won 1-3 major awards or 4 or more minor awards. 

Master – Participants with extensive cosplay experience will compete here.  This includes participants who have won 4 or more major awards and all participants with professional qualifications (ie: professional seamstresses). 

Exhibition – Participants who wish to show off their work onstage without being judged will enter here.  Exhibition entries are ineligible for awards, and will be accepted as time and space allow.

*Major awards: Best in Class (Novice, Journeyman, Master), Best Workmanship, Best in Show

*Minor awards: Judges’ Choice, Best Prop, Best Wig, Runner-up, Best Performance, etc.

*Groups must compete in the division appropriate for their most experienced member.

*Any entry may be moved to another division at the discretion of the judges or Cosplay Head.

*If you are uncertain which division to enter, the Cosplay staff can assist you.  Please contact us by emailing


Cosplay Qualifications

The following may not be worn for craftsmanship competition:

Wholly purchased costumes without significant modifications, rented costumes, commissioned costumes entered by the purchaser without the creator, or costumes that have already won at AnimeIowa in previous years, without significant modifications or upgrades. 

*Commissions may be entered by the creator with the purchaser as a model.  However, the creator must be present at craftsmanship judging and any craftsmanship awards will go to the creator, not the model. 

*If your costume has won awards at other conventions, it may be entered at AnimeIowa in the next highest division.  If it was awarded Best Master, Best Craftsmanship, or Best in Show, it may only be reentered in the Master division with significant modifications. 

*If your costume has won any awards in previous AnimeIowa competitions, unless there are significant modifications or upgrades, it can only be entered into the Exhibition Category

*Costumes entered in the Hall Cosplay or Cosplay Photo contests are not allowed in the Mainstage. 



Craftsmanship –  All Craftsmanship pre judging will take place prior to the Mainstage during one of the two information panels. There are two time slots for these meetings, Friday evening and Saturday morning. All preregistered entries MUST attend the Friday evening meeting unless you have spoken to the Cosplay Department Head ahead of time.

All craftsmanship entries are strongly encouraged to bring reference material for their costume(s). While we will not turn away entries that do not bring reference material, the absence of reference could affect your final score. Not all judges know all characters and creatures, so it’s in everyone’s best interest to bring a color photo (or several) if at all possible. If costume is an original design, then reference images of inspiration or in cases of characters from novels, a printed description from the literary work will be most helpful. Photos do not need to be printed off, but it would be much easier for the judges if they each have a copy of the picture(s) to refer to while judging

Costumes should be roughly 75% made by the participant. All participants should be prepared to briefly explain the process through which their costume was created, altered, or modified. Costumes and props that are handmade tend to score higher than costumes and props that are compiled or modified parts.

Craftmanship things you should explain to the judges:

– Materials used: If handmade, explain the type of materials used for each piece, like type of cloth, type of paint, etc. If using pre made pieces, explain why you chose the material types you chose, and what type of modifications you made to these pieces to fit your cosplay. If something special about your materials sticks out, like glow in the dark paint, be sure to mention it.

– Stitching: Explain the type of stitching you used, and if it was hand stitched or machine stitched

– Wig/Hair and makeup: Explain the styling you used for your wig or hair, and the type of makeup techniques you used.

– Time and effort:: Be sure to explain how long your cosplay took to make, which processes were the hardest to do and why, and which processes took the longest to do and why. If a piece of your cosplay is especially rare or unique, like a signed prop, be sure to explain it as well.

*Groups will be judged as one singular entry regardless of how many members they have.

Performance – Performances may be submitted by individuals or groups.  These will be judged onstage during the Mainstage.


Mainstage Presentations

All participants are required to appear onstage during Saturday evening’s Mainstage.  There will be two types of presentations: walk-ons and performances.

Walk-ons – Entries of this kind are limited to those competing in the Craftsmanship category ONLY. They are encouraged to present a series of poses to display their work to the audience.  (ie: 3 poses of 10 seconds each, 4 poses of 8 seconds each, etc.).  They may also choose to do a theatrical walk or some small movements as long as they do not exceed their allotted time. 

Performances – Entries of this kind are required for anyone competing in the Performance category only OR for anyone competing in both categories.  Participants will perform short dances, skits, etc. for judging during the Mainstage. 


Time Limits

There will be a 30-second maximum limit for walk-ons and a 3-minute maximum limit for performances.  If your time has passed and you have not discussed an extension with the Cosplay staff prior to the convention, the tech crew will halt the audio and bring down the lights.  Please plan accordingly. 

In certain circumstances, an entry may be granted special permission to exceed the time limit.  Any extensions must be approved in advance by the Cosplay Head.  Please send requests to



Please record all audio for your presentation.  No live mics are available for participants to use onstage and spoken dialogue will not be heard by the audience.  Edit your audio in advance to fit within the designated time limits, and submit your audio no later than Friday at con at Midnight.  You can email your files before the convention to  All submitted audio is subject to review. 

If you are unable to provide audio before the deadline, or do not have a preference on audio, a selection of generic music will be provided. There are various types of music and genres, but not all, and the chosen music might not suit your cosplay well. Therefore, it’s recommended that you submit your own audio. Submitted audio MUST be in mp3 format or it will get rejected, and generic audio will instead be used in its place.


Mandatory Information Panel

There will be two mandatory information panels for all participants, one on Friday and one on Saturday.  Cosplay staff will be going over the judging, greenroom placement, and onstage processes as well as collect any additional information needed. Pre judging will also occur for all Craftmanship entries after all information has been given out. Preregistered entries are REQUIRED to attend Fridays panel unless otherwise cleared with the Cosplay Department Head. As long as you attend one of the two panels, you are not required to attend both. Any participants who do not attend one of the two panels, and have not cleared an absence with the Cosplay Department Head, will be disqualified


Mainstage Greenroom

All participants are expected to check into the Greenroom in Cosplay Central prior to the Mainstage Cosplay contest.  At this point, you will be reminded of your seating assignment.  We ask that all members of a group arrive together whenever possible to ensure proper seating.  Please arrive in full costume and make-up.  If you have bulky accessories or large props to assemble, this may be done in the Greenroom.  Additionally, unexpected repairs may be completed if necessary. Basic tools will be available for use.

If you need a handler or assistant to accompany you, you must receive approval from Cosplay staff prior to entering the Greenroom.  No one that is not competing or a member of staff is allowed to enter the Greenroom without prior approval. 


General Contest Rules

  • All Cosplay participants must be registered attendees of the AnimeIowa convention.
  • Participation in this event is open to all attendees, including staff assuming their duties allow.
  • Youth participants must be accompanied by a responsible, registered adult at all times.
  • Participants will be required to sign a liability release and limited release for use of video and photo images.
  • NO blatant nudity. This event is rated PG-13.  Please use discretion with your character, props, and performance content.
  • For safety reasons, the following are not allowed:
  • Live animals (Excluding service animals)
  • Substances that might damage or soil
  • Aerosol sprays
  • Projectiles
  • Pyrotechnics (including but NOT limited to fire, flash powder, explosives, smoke bombs, fireworks)
  • Entries that could potentially damage the hotel, the other attendees, or the participant.
  • Glomping
  • Illegal weapons of any kind
  • Anything not approved by the weapons check prior to your entry. No tag; no go.
  • Legal real and prop weapons used as part of the costume are allowed with restrictions. You are expected to act responsibly with your weapon, and you must have your weapon checked by the Props Master or designated Cosplay staff prior to the show.  If you decide to carry a weapon, by signing your registration form, you accept any legal and financial responsibility for any damage your weapon may cause to persons or property.  General AnimeIowa Weapons Policy rules apply.
  • Entries with electrical power requirements need to be self-contained. There will be no access to electrical outlets onstage.
  • Participants who want to use special effects (ie: strobe lights, fog, etc.) must notify the Cosplay Head in advance. The Cosplay Head has the right to deny requests for special effects due to safety concerns and/or building regulations.  Do not plan your performance around unapproved special effects; doing so will be an automatic disqualification and other potential consequences up to a ban from the convention.
  • Any large set pieces like tables and chairs can be requested through Please include descriptions so we can help as best we can. These requests must be made before the convention.  We cannot accommodate last-minute requests of this nature at the convention. 
  • Surprise the audience, not the Cosplay staff! If you are planning something completely different, please notify us well in advance at  All information will be help in the strictest confidence. 
  • Your entry must be completed before you get to the Greenroom. No sewing, gluing, spray painting, welding, or other construction work is allowed backstage.  However, final assembly of large costumes and/or props and unexpected repairs will be allowed.
  • Cosplay Central does have some emergency repair supplies, and the Cosplay staff may be available to assist you with emergencies and damage repairs. However, AnimeIowa does not supply participants with make-up, make-up applicators and/or removers, paint, etc.  Please come to the convention with everything you need to complete and/or assemble your cosplay.
  • Smoking is not allowed in the hotel. Participants who leave the building for a smoke break may lose their turn to appear onstage.
  • All judges’ decisions are final.
  • The Cosplay Head has the right to eliminate any entry from the competition on the basis of taste, danger to the audience/building/participants, violation of any of the above rules, or any other reason deemed sufficient.
  • Remember that it is a convention, and to have fun! You miss 100% of the shots you do not take.


Got all of that?  Great!  Now follow this link to sign up: