I finished my progress book for Madoka Kaname yesterday and while I was getting critique, one of international cosplay friends commented that they had never seen one before. In the UK they’re quite common now to go with competitions; most major competitions (including both European Cosplay Gathering and World Cosplay Summit qualifiers) now require progress books, and many local competitions encourage you to submit one too.
I think they’re a great little momento for cosplayers to make and keep, especially for bigger costume projects! Most events will give you your books back so it’s a nice keepsake and chronicle of how you made your costume and they’re great if you want to share them and show your construction to others.
My first progress book was for Eiko Carol, which was very well received by the judges. It was a lot of fun designing it to match my costume.
Cosplay Progress Books
So… what are they?
They’re basically cosplay scrapbooks to show how you made your costume, the standard of construction, what sort of considerations you made, which techniques were used, etc. They’re also used as proof to show you made the costume yourself rather than buying something and cheating in competitions (which is more common than you’d think, sadly).
What are they used for?
Progress books normally go with competition costumes. In the UK you usually have at between 2-5 minutes to explain your costume to the judges, and you usually have access to your book throughout that time. If you have your book in front of you, you can reference it when speaking and point out progress images to help explain your costume better. It also helps if you forget to mention something or don’t have time that everything is already written down, which is a huge bonus if you’re a nervous speaker.
What should I include in one?
Well, anything you want really, as long as it’s relevant and doesn’t drag. Judges don’t have a long time to browse books, so keep it concise.
Things to Consider
I’ve made a few now and I have judged many, so here is some advice I can give from both a cosplayer and a judges’ point of view. People get progress books either very right or very wrong, so here’s a few things to consider before making yours;
When working, photograph everything
I can’t emphasise this enough. Photograph everything. Photograph patterning, fabric choices, shoes, everything! You won’t use it all but it will come in very handy when you put your book together to have too much choice than not enough.
Make something unique
If your progress book looks interesting, it stands out from the crowd. See if you can customise the look of the book to match your costume somehow, like a diary or handbook. A little extra effort makes a big difference and it shows you have dedicated enough time to do it “properly”.
Make it short and sweet
Judges have very little time to read books thoroughly so you need to cram as much information in as little space as possible. I usually keep my work per costume piece to no more than two A5 pages and no more than 30 images total. It’s very handy to organise things as pictorials or in order where possible so it’s easier for judges to understand on first glance.
Make it easy to read
Everyone loves cramming books with details but lots of these competitions are international and English might not be the judges first language, so you need to consider that. Short, simple sentences will explain your work much better than huge paragraphs. You can always explain key parts in more detail in person – use the book as a prompt!
Make it yourself
Try and make your own book or use a folder instead of using a bought notebook if possible. Empty pages make the content you have included look much less impressive. It takes no time to sew some pages together or to grab a stapler!
Progress books are important, so don’t rush them. Take your time and choose what you’re putting in carefully. The book itself won’t be judged and will not influence your scores, but they are very helpful for judges to see what sort of effort you put into your work and they can definitely add or deduct points when evaluating your costume.
Don’t sweat the small stuff
You don’t need to cram your book full of every little detail. Include blurbs and photos of the details that are most important and that you’re most proud of and they’ll stand out. Ignore the parts that are inaccurate or caused you problems – don’t mention them and judges are less likely to focus on them.
Don’t rely on your progress book
You need to know your costume inside out when presenting to the judges, and judges might not have time to go over everything in your book. Reference your book as much as you like but make sure you explain your costume first and foremost. The book is there to help, not to do the hard work for you!
I could go on and on, but I think that’s the basics covered! Take your time and enjoy putting your progress together. A progress book is a summary of your costume’s journey from start to finish – it’s nice to go back over every little detail and see the effort you’ve put in!
Some books I have seen have been incredible handcrafted pieces just as impressive as the costumes themselves – stained pages, leather binding, plush covers to match costumes – you can do so much with progress books, all it takes is a little creativity!
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