How to Win when you Fail

WCS Runners-up

AKA: WCS Canada Life Lessons that I’ve learned the hard way at some point.

Before we get started, let me tell you a story about Chibi-Calamity. Chibi Calamity was fairly smart and school was easy, and most things were easy. Then she made a decision to enter an advance high school and everything changed when the fire nation attacked.

Learning how to fail sucked. It sucked hard. I wasn’t the smartest in school (or even in the top half…), I had to learn how to work hard and take criticism and deal with the fact that sometimes what I thought was awesome and perfect was actually kinda, really, not that great.

BUT. As Chibi Calamity grew up, her skin got tougher and she learned to learn from failing, and after a while (lol, university) she had figured out how to deal with not getting things, and how to improve on it. She tempered her fails into chitinous armor that she now wears proudly (made out of worbla).

Learn from her, lest ye suffer her fate in the cosplay world:

1. You are going to fail sooner or later.

Accept it. Embrace it. It’s going to happen no matter how hard you work on your cosplay. Something will fall apart, you won’t get an award, or you won’t get the award.


And if you do win, don’t assume you won’t fuck up.

Assuming that you’re going to win because you really want it and tried really hard, is setting yourself up for a huge disappointment. Also, hubris has the best dramatic timing in the universe. Fair warning.


2. Failure hurts.

No matter how long you’ve been around the block, when you really, really totally absolutely, want something… not getting it is the unwashed adolescent pits of life. In other words, it stinks. Time helps, so does learning how to roll with the punches. But, who am I kidding, a punch still hurts no matter how much you roll with it amirite?


Silly kitten, you can’t hide until the feels are gone.

(Full disclosure: I have never actually been in a fist fight. But I’ve been kicked a lot in soccer, so… close enough?)

Pretending that you don’t win something is totally cool and ohmygosh I didn’t want it anyway isn’t necessary. It’s absolutely okay to be bummed out that you didn’t get the shiny fancy horse ribbon, or the cash prize. You’re allowed to wallow a little bit, but the key is: the length of time we’re allowed to wallow is related to the size of the prize.

See the Equation:

W = h e n

Where = time wallowable; h = hours spent on costume; n = prize size; E = effort

algebra... necessary

hah! take that … !

Hur hur hurr. Math jokes. Because Cosplay Calamity is the intellectual’s cosplay blog.


3. There will always be someone who is better/smarter/hotter than you.

Facts of life: we are all special snowflakes, but we’re still snowflakes, dudes. There will always be someone more skilled, smarter, smoother, whatever-er more than you. Growing up and being told that we can do anything we want to as long as we work hard enough?


Reach for the stars SPAAAAACE!

Yeah they never said we’d be doing it well. That takes time and effort and the ability to sit back, look at ourselves hard in our compact mirrors (boys too!) and ask ‘What do they have that I don’t? And what do I have that they don’t?’ I bolded that last part because it’s the key section of this question. Using others as benchmarks is fine SO LONG AS YOU DON”T COMPARE EVERY SINGLE THING. OKAY? OKAY.

Nigri, Monika Lee, Yaya

Things they’re good at: Being sexy and awesome, and skilled and famous.

Things I’m good at: being tall like a M*thef**king amazon.

Bench marking means giving yourself a goal timeline. I’m not going to compare my work to Yaya Han’s as it is, I mean, I’ve only been costuming in earnest for two (three? Gawd) years. But if I compare my worksmanship progress to Yaya at her three year mark, that’s something a bit easier to handle. Benchmarking is a tool for growth, don’t get bogged down in the details.



4. Failure is totally an option.

Unless you’re an ER surgeon or NASA employee. In which case, please do all your failing in the testing phase. Khnx.

But seriously, losing once isn’t the end of the world unless you’re cosplaying against the Antichrist. Losing also doesn’t mean that you suck and should totally quit your hobby forever. It just means that someone was better than you this time. Or maybe you ran into Acts of God that prevented you  from finishing your cosplay in time.

Melia to the Rescue

Or things break and/or get broken on the way to the stage.

Shit happens, and it happens to everyone sooner or later. Facts of Life, yo.



5. Turn envy into a positive. 

Oh my god, did you see Shushuwafflez’s Ester? She embroidered everythiiiiiing. I’m envious of her ability to tailor, construct and embroider, but sitting around and grumbling about it won’t help my butt learn any of those things.

Shushu Wafflez as Ester Blanchette

Instead of letting Envy be a negative thing, turn it to positive. If you know someone who is super skilled at something, ask them how they got started, or what resources they use. Chances are they’re an awesome person too, and could be an awesome friend. Hell, maybe they were secretly admiring your propwork? 


6. Don’t be a sore loser.

Okay folks. We’ve all seen those people that bash other people’s costumes/bodies/reputations. Do not give into that little shitty-person voice in your head saying ‘oh they only won because…’

Detailed Illusion and Messy Mia are adorbs!

Omygosh Detailed-Mess only won because they were like, soooo deserved it.

It turns into poison pretty fast and the more you drink that poison, the worse you’ll feel about yourself.

6 B. Don’t be a sore winner either.

This is just as bad. I will verbally smack down anyone I see lording the win over people. You’re allowed to be appreciative, and happy, but don’t shit on people who are already hurting. That’s gross.


7.  Get feedback on where you can improve. 

Listen to that feed back. Chew on it, and digest it, no matter how bitter it is. Sometimes, you’ll get ‘feedback’ that’s really part of lesson 6, and it takes a while to understand what is honest-but-blunt critique and what is mean-spirited-bullshit.

tutu Cat

The skirt might need to be a bit smaller… what do you think?

For example…

Honest-but-blunt: “Your hem isn’t straight, and the thread you have on your top stitching doesn’t match your fabric”

Jerk-Face: “You actually suck at sewing. Please stop.”

Honest-but-blunt: “The corset you’re wearing needs boning to hold it up.”

Jerk-Face: “You’ve got rolls and your stomach is sticking out.”

Although Ms Honest-but-Blunt should be offering more constructive criticism, they genuinely aren’t coming from a bad place. They’re just phrasing it in a less than helpful way. This might be due to anything from a language barrier, to exhaustion, to extremely limited time.


8. Judging is subjective. Pick your battles.

If, on the odd chance that you run into a legitimate judging scandal, ask yourself if the upcoming battle is worth it. Sleep on your feelings of hurt and frustration and then talk to a couple rational friends you trust about what to do next.

Sometimes, if the situation is worth it, you’ll need to stand up and say “This is Not Okay”. But you need to be able to back it up with objective facts.


You can read an example of supporting your arguments here.

The judges are human, and that’s worth remembering too. A judge might award a costume that you think doesn’t deserve it, but they are only allowed so many minutes per entry, and sometimes make mistakes.

Or, sometimes the costume has something wonderful hidden in it, like Hong Kong seams. Talk to the judges first to get feedback on what you need to improve. Eliminate all other options before you jump onto a soap box and shout out ‘RIGGED!’

Cuz if you’re wrong, say bye-bye to any reputation in the Con circuit you might have had.


9. Set realistic goals.

Coming off a loss sucks balls, but let’s be honest… sometimes we set unreasonable goals for ourselves that ONLY lead to us falling short.

Try “I will move up to Artisan by next year” instead of “I will win Heroes of Cosplay forever and become mega famous and rich.”

or… “I will finish my dream costume in time for the con in 7 months” instead of “I will start and finish my dream costume this week!” (you need sleep. Seriously)

Otakuthingy, revealed

*uncontrollable sobbing*

Also Facebook likes are generally a lie due to Facebook’s current sharing algorithms, so chasing after ‘Likes’ are pretty pointless unless they are key to a life-saving surgery. (hint: they’re not. If they are, get a new surgeon.)


10. Failure to learn from mistakes is the only REAL failure in cosplay (and life). 

It’s okay not to win, but when you do the same thing, over and over and over and… well, you’re going to get the same result. (And go insane) You might eventually luck out and get something… but without personal growth, you’re going to be stuck. (something something metaphor about mud and plants and swampthing)

Have you ever heard someone say “They just don’t learn”? Yeah, we as cosplayers are tool using monkeys. (I suggest against teaching actual monkeys how to sew. That would not end well)


Ahh yes, attempt #1 of armor: the meltening.

A huge part of the fun is the sense of accomplishment when you figure out how to do something for the first time and HOLY SHIT IT WORKS AND IT’S STAYING ON. GUYS LOOK!

Melia to the Rescue

Proud to report with everything that went wrong on this, my pauldrons were solid as fuck. #nbd

Just check twitter, or other cosplay blogs about progress. Try new things, do research and learn from other people’s mistakes, experiment. Enjoy the process, because the time you spend working on a cosplay will heavily outweigh the time you spend flailing your sword around onstage. Sword as in prop, duh. You’re all aweful people… (huehuehue.)

Because I run this blog and I make the rules, I’m adding a final point:

11. The healthiest competition is with… yourself.

I mentioned Benchmarking in #3, and there is no single better person to benchmark your progress against than yourself. Take progress pictures, and final pictures. Document your work and then you can look back on it and see just how far you’ve come in six months, a year, two years… hell look at Melting Mirror’s ten year series where she compares where she’s grown and what she’d do differently now.

Zodiac Ladies

Learning is a process, and neverever… ends.

Don’t get discouraged when you look over old costumes, appreciate the fact that now you know how you could do it better, faster, and make it more awesome.

I suppose that’s enough for now, *sets down pompoms*. WCSC build breakdown will be coming tomorrow or Thursday.

xox Calamity

4 thoughts on “How to Win when you Fail

  1. I super love your blog and have to resist the urge to reblog everything you write. You always have great things to say and you do so with a great sense of humor. I kind of want to be like you when I grow up and I’m going to leave now before things get really weird.