Announcing our 2023 Costume Contest!

It’s time for the annual Dress Parade Costume Contest! This is the first year with our new name, but it’s still the same contest. We’ve tweaked the categories and the rules just a teensy bit as part of our never-ending quest to make things simpler and clearer.

This year we have eight prize categories spread over two divisions, with a total prize purse of $1500. Whee!

Prize Categories
Division I: Women’s History

These are the prize categories that we award every year. They’re based on our own costume categories here on the website: queens, goddesses and mythological figures, notable historical women, and glamorous stars. These should be specific historical people (or beings), not generic costumes. You don’t have to follow one of our costume designs—you can do your own take on any historical figure.

  • Best Queen Costume
  • Best Goddess or Mythological Figure Costume
  • Best Notable Woman Costume
  • Best Glamour Grrl Costume
Division II: Masquerade

The Masquerade Division is for costumes that don’t fit into Division I. We’re still interested in historical and feminist themes, but there’s no requirement that you represent a specific person from the past.

Period and Folk Costumes: This category is about presenting a particular clothing style from a period or region. Costume periods should be no later than 1973 (50 years ago): Tudor England, Heian period Japan, Mughal India, Viking Age Scandinavia, and the American Civil War are just a few examples. Folk costumes are traditional dress styles from specific regions, such as the various folk costumes of Greece.

Historical Recreation: This category is about recreating a specific image or artifact from the past, specifically from no later than 1973. Entries can be silly or serious. Examples include posing to look like a famous painting or photograph, creating a replica of a historic gown, or copying a design from a historic illustration or artifact.

Fictional Characters: This category is for fictional characters from literature, fairy tales, movies, television, or art. Your character should be a basically normal human, such as Elizabeth Bennet in Pride and Prejudice or Queen Ramonda in Black Panther. We really prefer that you not enter anime or video game characters (sorry, it’s just not our thing), but we do allow doll characters from movies (like Barbie). There is no limit on the time period.

Fantasy Characters: The rules are the same as for Fictional Characters, but this category is for non-humans. Mermaids, werewolves, aliens, that sort of thing.

There is obviously a lot of overlap between categories, and most costumes will tick more than one box. Just tell us who or what your costume is supposed to be and we’ll put it in the category where you have the best chance to win.

Competition Classes

We award prizes in up to four classes: Amateur, Hobbyist, Expert, and Junior. This is really more about the judging process than anything else; our goal is to ensure that every entry is evaluated fairly and people are competing at their own level. Rest assured that your homemade Athena outfit with a tinfoil helmet is not being judged against an expert costumer’s flawless replica of the Athena Parthenos statue.

Amateur: We expect most entries to fall into this class. These are costumes put together pretty much the same way we created all the costume designs on this website: combining various bits and pieces of existing items, perhaps doing a bit of low-key crafting if necessary.

Hobbyist: These are basically amateur costumes, but with an additional element of intense crafting. Perhaps you constructed your own wings, hand-beaded a collar, or crocheted an entire solar system (yes, that was a thing).

Expert: This is for costumes that exhibit a higher level of skill than amateur. If you’re an experienced cosplayer, Ren Faire person, historical reenactor, or theatrical costumer, your entry is probably expert class.

Junior: This is for competitors age 15 and under, as well as collaborative parent-child efforts.

When you send in your entry, just tell us a little about yourself and your costume so we can figure out where you fit. Note that we won’t necessarily award prizes in all four classes; it just depends on the entries we receive. By the same token, if we need to create a blended class (junior/expert, for example), we will.

Judging and Prizes

Amateur, Hobbyist, and Expert winners will each receive a $50 Amazon gift card. Junior winners will receive a $25 gift card. If we have a slew of great entries in a particular category, we may award additional Judge’s Choice prizes (also $50).

The deadline for submissions is 11:59 pm EST on Sunday, November 12, 2023. Send your entry email and photos to You can also email us with questions about the contest, and we may email you for clarification about your costume.

All contest entries will be uploaded to our 2023 Costume Contest Album on our Facebook page. We have found that Facebook is the easiest way to share hundreds of photos with everybody and for everybody to share their favorites with each other. Our Facebook page is also where we will post updates on the progress of the contest, any problems that have arisen, and so forth. (We find Instagram almost impossible to use at this point, but we will try to share major announcements there. We deleted our Twitter account when Elmo let the Nazis in.)

We plan to post the winners by the end of November. All winning entries will be announced on Facebook and uploaded to this website.

General Rules

1. You may enter up to three costumes for consideration. You may not submit a costume you have previously entered in our competition.
2. The costume itself must date from no earlier than 2021. That means costumes from 2021, 2022, and 2023 are eligible for this year’s contest.
3. Modern materials and techniques are acceptable in all categories, including period costumes.
4. You are free to use pre-existing garments and store-bought items to construct your costume. There is no requirement to sew or craft anything from scratch.
5. No nudity or overtly sexual content is allowed.
6. Your entry email must include the following information: your name, who or what the costume represents, the category or categories you are aiming for, what competition class you think is appropriate, and at least one large, clear photograph of the costume. If you are entering more than one costume in the contest, you do not have to submit them at the same time or all on the same email.
7. You are welcome to send in multiple photos of your costume, and you can submit additional photos separately from your entry email if necessary. The higher the resolution, the better. Just make sure you identify yourself and your costume in the subject line. Photos should show the costume in full and be clear and well lit. Avoid distracting backgrounds that don’t contribute to your costume.
8. By submitting your photo, you are giving us permission to publish it on the Dress Parade website, our Facebook page, and any other social media. If you’re submitting a contest entry on behalf of someone else, you must have that person’s permission to submit the entry and publish the photo. If other people appear in the photo, you must obtain their permission for us to use and publish it.
9. All entry emails and photos must be sent to no later than 11:59 pm EST on Sunday, November 12, 2023.


If you’re new to Dress Parade, it might help to look at our contest winners from past years to get a sense of what we like:

2020 Costume Contest winners
2018 Costume Contest winners
2017 Costume Contest winners
2016 Costume Contest winners
2015 Costume Contest winners
2014 Costume Contest winners
2013 Costume Contest winners
2012 Costume Contest winner

Happy costuming!