Masquerade ABC's

Masquerade ABC's

There are all sorts of special words and insider terminology used by Masquerade competitors and organizers at conventions. Here's a dictionary of the most commonly used words and what they actually mean!

This post is meant to provide an introductory look into the world of Masquerades for those interested in submitting, so that you can understand what you're getting into, or for a handler so you understand your cosplayer better.

I have a few alphabet letters blank, so if you think of a missing word, please comment as I'd love to add it! Pls halp. 

Also, thanks to MTKS Adventures for the photo! 



Artisan: A contestant must win three awards at the Artisan level before they are moved up to the next level. This level is lower than Master but higher than Journeyman. This level does not exist in the official ICG (International Costumers Guild) rules.


Backstage: The area off the stage where contestants are quietly queued, along with the exit area where they are no longer visible to the audience after leaving the stage.


Cosplay: the practice of dressing up as a character from a movie, book, or video game, especially one from the Japanese genres of manga and anime. It is  a contraction of the words costume play, is a performance art in which participants called cosplayers wear costumes and fashion accessories to represent a specific character.

Cosplayer: The person who is competing in the masquerade or costume contest. 

Costume contest: A less formal contest that may only be on the con floor. Confusingly, many people may call the Masquerade by this name, and both names are acceptable.


Den: A group of cosplayers, usually no more than 12, who sit together and are managed by the same person (see Den parent) for their time in the green room. They will sit together in chairs that form a loose oval or line. Typically they are not allowed to leave without permission from their den parent, and when they leave they may be sent with an escort. Typical reasons for leaving are to speak with the individuals needed to set up their masquerade presentation, to see the official photographer, to get judged, or to use the washroom. The purpose of this is to ensure that all competitors complete the required tasks and so that the green room stays orderly. 

Den mother: See Den parent.

Den parent: The person in charge of a group of cosplayers (usually no more than 12) who form a den. This person’s job is to make sure that they know the location of all cosplayers in their Den at any given time for the time of the green room, and to make sure that they complete all the necessary steps prior to the masquerade starting.

Den father: See Den parent.




Group: Contestants may compete individually or in a group. When competing in a group at an ICC-type masquerade, the group's level will be the level of the highest-ranked member.

Green room: The place where cosplayers go to wait and to complete any necessary tasks prior to going on stage.


Handler: A person who is not competing in the Masquerade but whose job it is to assist the cosplayer who is competing. 

Historical costumes: Some masquerades offer divisions specifically for historical costumes. Since they represent living history, the need for authenticity and exactness is very important. Expect to spend hours researching the designs and time period. Some masquerades also require extensive documentation of the production of the costume and elaborate explanations on decisions regarding construction, fabric choice, etc...


ICC: International Cosplay Convention, a set of guidelines and rules by which some Masquerades are judged. The rules are set up by the ICG (International Costumers Guild). Although many conventions follow these rules (especially in Canada) not all competitions are vetted by the ICG. Their general guidelines can be found here:

ICG: International Costumers Guild is a group seeking to promote costuming in all its forms. You can read more about the ICG here:

International Master: A competitor who has won in the Master division at an internationally-credited masquerade.


Journeyman: A contestant must win three awards at the Journeyman level before they are moved up to the next level. This level is lower than Artisan but higher than Novice.

Junior: Anyone under the age of about 12 (at the discretion of the masquerade director) is considered a Junior. Junior presentations are "out of show" (their awards do not count towards levelling up) and they are all presented with awards at the end of all the Junior performances. Cosplayers who are Junior age can choose to submit in the regular competition.

Judge: A person who is judging the costumes. Typically there will be three or more judges, who are master level cosplayers. These judges will work all together or in pairs to evaluate all the costumes. Typically judges are chosen in order to represent a range of skills and may only be judging costumes that relate to their skill sets.


Kill: When presenting a skit on a stage that uses ninjas, competitors can pretend to "kill" the ninjas to demonstrate their character's use of their weapon. Ninjas are not actually to be harmed or touched in any way, but the process of presenting the weapon's use is simulated and a ninja pretends to be killed.


Level: As in, "what level are you". Level is the general name given to the different Masquerade submission classes, such as Journeyman, Artisan, or Master.


Masquerade: Not a giant ballroom filled with dresses and masks. It is the competitive costume contest with on-stage presentation of costumes. It may also be called a costume contest. 

Masquerade Director: May also be called head organizer. This person is in charge of the entire masquerade and is usually present for the entire event. They are orchestrating the whole event and are the party responsible for decisions in the event of a problem or mistake. Their decision is final, once made.

Master: Any competitor may enter in the Master division. This is the highest level of competition. Professional costumers are required to compete at this level. 

Master of Ceremonies: Also called an MC, this person introduces the contestants as they walk onstage and reads the provided information. They also keep the mood fun and light and encourage audience participation/support of the contestants.


Ninja: Individuals dressed all in black who are available at some masquerades to serve as aides for the cosplayer to show off their costume. Most notably they are used to represent enemies that the cosplayer “kills” with their beautiful prop weapon, but they can be asked to do many things, from removing props left on stage, to holding or acting as props themselves.

Novice: A contestant who has either never competed before or competed at the Novice level in the past but has not won any awards. One award at the Novice level moves you up to the next category. This is the lowest level of competition. Cosplayers submitting to Novice may be moved to another level category at the discretion of the Judges/Masquerade Director. 


Organizer: A person (typically staff of the convention) who manages the masquerade. There may be several present at the time of the masquerade, although there will always be a head organizer or Masquerade Director who is the final say in matters that require a decision. 

Original costume: designs that are a product of the competitor's imagination or are taken from a fictional description. They are often drawn from literary works. Since they are original, the choice of design, construction, materials, and props are left entirely to the competitor's discretion.


Pre-judging: Time spent in advance of the stage presentation where the Judges get to look up close at a contestant's detail in workmanship. This is not a required component at all masquerades or costume contests, however it is required for ICC level masquerades.

Presentation: The stage performance or skit. Judges judge a performer and often award prizes in two categories - presentation, and workmanship. To win a presentation award, Judges will be looking for how well the stage performance was executed, presented the character, interested the audience, or was innovative and new. 

Prop: An item that is a part of the competitor's costume but separate, such as a staff, sword, or wand. It can also be something less obvious, such as a ball, stuffed animal, or other piece that is a necessary part of the character but not attached to the competitor's body. 



Recreation costumes: (They mean "re-creation", not having fun in a park.) This is a formal name given to those costumes whose design is copied, reproduced or derived from film, television, comic books, paintings, etc. They are the most common type of costume in a masquerade. This is also more commonly called "cosplay" by North American audiences.


Skit: A short sketch done alone or with a group. The time limit is typically one minute (60 seconds). For a group of four or more, the limit is typically a minute and a half (90 seconds). 

Stage: The place where the competitors present their costumes to the audience and judges. Typical masquerades have a time limit for stage presences, and they can be as short as 30 seconds.


Tea: The thing I drink all the time while making cosplays, and that fuelled this blog post.




Walk-On: the contestant or the group walks on the stage, strikes different poses in the middle of the stage to show their costumes on every angle and walks out of the other side of the stage.

Workmanship: The quality of technical detail that went into the creation of a costume. Judges judge a performer and often award prizes in two categories - presentation, and workmanship. To win an award in workmanship, the costume must be skillfully and cleanly executed in the chosen medium, accurately represent the source material, and execute challenging techniques well. 

World Cosplay Summit: A Masquerade held in Japan for international-level competitive Master Cosplayers, who must qualify at appropriate events in their home country. 



Yaya Han: goddess.

Youth: Another name for the "Junior" level of competition. See "Junior."