Design Rules Explained
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Futuristic Design Contest Rules, Explanations

The Fashion Design rules can be intimidating the first time you enter.  Here we have an article where our sample rules are discussed section by section. 

bulletEntrants, we give you rule by rule details to help your understanding of the whole contest. 
bulletShow Directors, note the why's for the various sections.  It will help guide you creating your rules.

So, you have just seen a flier for a Futuristic Design Contest.  It sounds like something right up your alley, but you have never entered one before.  Hey, what about all those rules.  They are nothing to be afraid of.  What follows here is a quick and painless explanation.

First and most importantly, READ THE RULES COMPLETELY AND CAREFULLY. Failure to comply with the rules might get your entries disqualified.


1. All designs must be ORIGINAL IDEAS.  You can draw your design on a traced figure or have someone else draw it for you, but the idea itself must be original.  If someone other than the designer is drawing the design, please give them credit on the back of the design.  Please be neat.

Being original does not mean, however, that you cannot do an interpretation, or a redo, of something you have seen on TV, in a movie, or a book or magazine.  (There has been many a redo of the STAR TREK uniforms.)  Just indicate what your inspiration was.  Remember, too, that if your design is too similar to its inspiration it may not qualify.

It's perfectly all right to use a traced figure to work on.  What we are interested in is the design idea, not how well you can draw.  I have seen designs that were barely more than stick figures win because the basic idea was great.  (Design contest judges must not judge on drawing ability -- that's not fair.)  If you do use a traced figure, tracing paper is good to work on.  It's easier to see through and it's much easier to make changes.  I do most of my work on tracing paper and all my master finished drawings are on tracing paper.  Most copy machines can do perfect copies from a master on tracing paper.  If you are dealing with an older copy machine that gives you trouble with a tracing paper design, try putting a sheet of white paper behind your drawing.

If someone else draws up your idea - give them credit. It's only right to give your artist credit, and in some cases the artist's style may add something extra to the design -- making it a type of collaboration.

2. All designs must be on 8.5" by 11" (or A4) sheets of paper.  (We would prefer white.)  Detail work or back views may be put on extra sheets.

The contest entries may be shuffled and/or sorted anywhere from 10 to 20 times each.  An overlarge piece of paper can become crumpled or torn, and a smaller sheet of paper may get stuck behind another sheet.

3. Your name and address MUST be marked clearly on the back of EACH AND EVERY design sheet submitted, NOT just on the envelope or just one of the entries.

Costume Con 8 had 345 designs submitted for judging.  If even half those designs had both a color and a black and white set, we were shuffling close to 500 sheets of paper.  If each design is not marked, in a mess like that, a design could be attributed to someone else.  Laying out the folio becomes a nightmare if you keep having to hunt for who did what through 20 or 30 stacks of paper.

Some people use address labels, they are small and neat, as long as they are stuck down tight.  A personal stamp would also work.  Whether you write or stamp your name -- avoid using pens or ink that can soak through the paper.  Also try to avoid writing across the back where your design is on the front of the sheet.  Some copy papers are very thin and if lettering, on the back, is too dark it'll bleed through when the design is photo-copied.  The folio director will then have to spend time with a white-out bottle cleaning up your design.  Please, if you do not use a stamp or an address label, PRINT YOUR NAME AND ADDRESS and E-MAIL.  A phone number is not necessary on your designs, but include it in a letter with your designs.

4. You may, in fact we encourage you to, submit your designs in color. But we MUST have a black and white line copy of your design for reproduction in the Fashion Folio.  This means black ink on white 8.5" by 11" ( or A4) paper.  Please make sure your black and white line copy is clean and will reproduce well.

This rule is fairly self-explanatory. The black and white line copies are what the folio will be created from. We have to be able to get a good photo-copy, or be able to scan the design. By clean we mean the photo-copy does not have lots of black specks or extraneous lines. Sometimes the black specks are hard to avoid if the drum on your local photo-copy machine is dirty.  All you can do is do your best. You do not have to do color copies if you do not want to.

5. DO NOT SEND US ORIGINAL ARTWORK.  All designs should be photo-copies or any other clear, non-smudging reproduction.

First, remember that you will be trusting your original to the mail -- be it the U.S. Snail Mail, the charming Canadian Mail, or any other mail service.  All of them -- a fate worse than death if you are a piece of mail.

Second, as I have said before, the contest entries are handled many times.  A contest director does not want to deal with or have to worry about original artwork.

Third, though the contest directors try to take good care of the designs, sometimes with all the good will in the world -- things happen.  Earthquakes, floods, new puppies, relatives' kids -- you get the idea.

6. If you color your design, DO NOT use anything that requires spray fixative, or may smear, smudge, stick, or flake off on other people's drawings.

Again this has to do with the amount of handling the entries get.  Just think of a design covered with chalk pastels or oil pastels, even with a spray fixative the stuff would be all over everything.  Plastic page covers are not 100% effective.  If you just have to use a smudgeable type of medium, then send us a color photo-copy.

Non-smudging media are: inks, felt tip pens, Dr. Martin's dyes, water colors, colored pencils, acrylic paints, and even pantone sheets (a type of rub down sheet of color).  (By water colors I do not mean Poster Paints, they tend to flake off if you get them too heavy.)

7. Number entries consecutively on the back in the upper right hand corner.  Example: If you submit 4 designs, they will be numbered as follows - #1 of 4, #2 of 4, etc.  Your black and white set should be labeled B/W #1 of 4, etc.  Detail sheets can be numbered as #1a of 4, etc.

This is basically so we can keep track of how many designs you have sent us.  It also helps to identify the designs.

8. Enter as many designs as you wish and as often as you wish, PRIOR TO THE DEADLINE OF xxxxxxxx xx, 20xx.

Most designers (myself included) wait until the last minute to send everything in.  It's perfectly all right to send in your designs in small batches before the deadline.  It'll certainly surprise the contest director.

9. Please identify the source of your inspiration (if any) on the back of the design.  Book, poem, movie, TV, or your own imagination.

I have already gone over this rule under rule one.

10. Please let us know what category you think your design should be in, sportswear, bridal, etc.  You can include design details, fabric suggestions, and colors if you want.  The Folio Director and the Judges do reserve the right to shift the category of a design if necessary. (This sometimes happens in heavily entered categories to give more designs a chance to win.)

We do not require a novel's worth of description on the back of your design, but please give us something.  Otherwise we will put your design where we think it belongs, leaving you wondering how that sportswear design ended up in formal wear.  Again, be careful of ink that bleeds through and try not to write across the back where your design is in front.  A typed, computer printed, or hand printed description is best.

What I do is to computer print up my descriptions, including my last name, the number, and the title (if there is one) of the design on a separate page.  I make the description fit in a smaller space than the page the design is on.  I then cut out the description and tape it to the back of the design.  I only tape the sides of the description, and I use only one piece of tape on one of those sides.  This way the description can be flipped to the side for photo-copying.  My name and the number on the description sheet help if the sheet happens to get separated from its design.

Please put your description on both your black and white line copies and your color copies, it saves time and effort later.  The Folio Director does not have to try to match the color designs up with the black and white line copies to find out what the description says.

Fabric suggestions and color suggestions are okay to include. (Swatching is not necessary.)  Remember though, if you are not doing your own design, the person who does do it may not have the money or the access to the fabric you suggest.  If you want your design done up in certain colors, then indicate that in your description.  If, however, you do not care what colors your design is done in, or you have more than one palette in mind, then also indicate that in your description.  This is because, invariably, the Design Contest and therefore the Fashion Show will have a run on one particular color, or mix of colors.  The Fashion Show Director then has to contact designers and models trying to balance out the show.  If you have already indicated your color choices or that color is not important to you -- it'll save the Fashion Show Director time and phone bills.

If your design is based on a new technique you have learned (i.e., weaving tights, new dying techniques) include sample sheets of these as well.  This will assist the person making up the costume.  If certain parts of the design are based on a certain pattern (i.e., a Kimono) note the pattern and a source for it.  All of these extra details increase the likelihood that your design will go from paper to model as you imagined it!

11. Your designs will not be returned unless you request it and have also included a BIG ENOUGH SASE with SUFFICIENT POSTAGE on it, with your designs.

A SASE, for those who have never encountered it, is a Self Addressed Stamped Envelope.  I have the Postal person weigh the designs with their return envelope for me before I get my designs ready to mail off.  Whatever it costs to mail that weight, I get in stamps which I put on the return envelope.  I always use a water proof marker and print my address on the return envelope.  If the Post Office has been talking about a rate increase, even vaguely, it pays to add a couple of extra stamps just in case.  Make sure that the SASE envelope has REAL stamps on it.  Metered postage has a date on it.  The postage is worthless if someone tries to mail it more than a couple of days later -- little less three months later.

If you should happen to move after you have sent in your designs and before you get them back, do up one of those self adhesive address labels with your new address and mail it to the Design Contest Director.  Remember to use waterproof ink.  This way, all the Director has to do is take your label and go affix it to your envelope.

If you do not want your designs back, let the Contest Director know that too, it's another little courtesy that saves time and trouble.

12. By submitting your designs to Costume Con you agree to the non-profit use and publication of said designs by Costume Con, prior to and during the run of the convention, also their reproduction in the Fashion Show.  All rights revert back to the designer after the convention.

This is not really a rule, it's more of a notification to the designer about his or her designs and what the convention plans to do with them.  Also it tells the designer about his or her rights.

There was one Design Contest once (not a Costume Con) that had their rules written in such a way that they basically held on to the rights to the designs just about forever. I did not enter that contest and I wrote a letter to the Contest Director pointing out how unfair that was.  No one ever bothered to get in touch with me.

The "all rights revert back to the designer after the convention" should also be included in the Fashion Folio, to keep people from just 'doing up' a costume idea without contacting the designer for permission.  That happened to me once and I was not very happy about it, though the person did give me credit as the designer.

In the modern world of the internet many people are not upholding copyright issues.  If the folio is going to be posted on the internet, some people will chose not to have their designs published on the internet.  If that is you, please note that you are restricting permissions for internet publication on EVERY sheet.  If you are the folio director, do not hassle the people that are not comfortable with this.  You may end up with all the artist's designs withdrawn or a very long story about copy right infringement.

You can be as serious or as silly as you would like. Along with ornately beaded wedding outfits, and velvet formals, we have had Ninja Housewives and famous cat costumes. Whatever designs you do, have fun at it.

by F. W. Evans

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This page last updated 01/18/08

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