I finished my progress book for Madoka Kaname yesterday and one of my international cosplay friends 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 a progress book, and some smaller regional events now request them 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.
So with competition season coming up quickly I figured I’d share some advice for anyone to make a progress book!
My first progress book was made for Eiko Carol, the costume I qualified for WCS with. I had great fun making this one and it was very well received by the judges (excuse the terrible handwriting)!
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.
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 forever, you know!
So while I’m not a huge authority, I figured I’d give a little bit of advice from both a cosplayer and a judges’ point of view. Progress books seem to be something people either get very right or very wrong, so here’s a few things to consider before starting yours;
- When working, photograph everything: 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.
- 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.
- 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 piece to no more than two A5 pages, including images.
- 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. And of course, you can always explain key parts in more detail in person.
- Make it yourself: try and make your own book or use a folder instead of using a bought notebook if possible. Having empty pages makes the content you do have look less impressive. It takes no time to sew some pages together or to grab a stapler!
- Don’t rush: progress books are important, so don’t rush! Take your time and choose what you’re putting in carefully. The book won’t be judged, but they are very helpful for judges to see what sort of effort you put into your work.
- 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 won’t see them!
- Finally, 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 do the work for you.
Of course there is tons more brilliant advice out there, so I’ll end it there. Really though, 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 so make sure you put some time into yours! 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!