How to Win Halloween Costume Contests

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To Win Costume Contests, Read the Rules Carefully

Children wearing fancy dress
Zing Images / Getty Images

When Halloween rolls around each year, you have ample opportunity to win prizes for your costumes through online costume contests, contests hosted by local businesses, and even friends' parties. If you'd like to take the prize this year, follow these five easy steps to learn how to win Halloween costume contests.

Winning Costume Contests Step 1: Read the Rules. Carefully.

When you hear about a Halloween costume contest that you want to enter, your first instinct might be to start brainstorming ideas right away. But hold on a minute; before you start thinking about costumes and props, read through the contest's rules thoroughly. Maybe even more than once.

It doesn't matter how great your Halloween costume is if you get disqualified from the contest on a technicality. So jot down guidelines for entry, the goal of the contest, the end date, and other pertinent details to make sure that your entry will be accepted.

While you're at it, also think about the costume contest's sponsor. You may have a leg-up on the competition if your contest entry ties into the sponsor's product or image.

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Next, Come Up with a Great Halloween Costume

Image of a child in a cloud costume.
Costumes that tell a story have an advantage in costume contests. Image (c) Victoria Hederer Bell / Getty Images

Winning Costume Contests Step 2: Come Up with a Great Costume

You're not going to win a Halloween costume contest with the same costume everyone else is wearing. Pick a costume that's original and reflects your personality.

Cute or funny costumes have an advantage over costumes that are gruesome (unless the contest is looking for something scary) since people tend to have a positive feeling toward them. Avoid the standard fare (witches and vampires) or current costume trends unless you can add a personal twist.

In photos, you can use props along with the costume to make your image more eye-catching.

If you're looking for some inspiration for original Halloween costumes, Pinterest has over 1,000 images to browse through. You can also pull inspiration from stories in the news, popular movies, or word play (like this one for chicken cord on blue).

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Use Personality to Make Your Halloween Costume Contest Entry Stand Out

This angel costume really stands out because of the personality on the little girl's face.
This angel costume really stands out because of the personality on the little girl's face. Image © Jose Luis Pelaez / Getty Images

Winning Costume Contests Step 3: Make Your Halloween Costume Contest Entry Stand Out

Whether you're entering Halloween costume contests online with a photo or video entry, or you're standing before the judges in a local costume contest, one sure-fire way to stand out from the competition is to really play the role that your costume represents.

For example, look at the photograph above; it wouldn't be nearly as arresting if the angel were looking straight into the camera and smiling blandly. It's the truly angelic expression on her face that would make any judge take a second look, even though the costume itself is very simple.

Coming up with a little background for a character that matches your costume might help you bring some personality to your costume. Don't be just "an angel" or "a superhero." Come up with a name, consider what would be important to your character, and bring that personality onto the stage or into the photo or video you take.

For more tips, see How to Create a Believable Character.

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Step 4: Take a Great Halloween Costume Photo

How to Take Great Photos for Halloween Costume Contests
How to Take Great Photos for Halloween Costume Contests. Image © Rob Melnychuk / Getty Images

Winning Costume Contests Step 4: Take a Great Picture of Your Contest

Many costume contests, especially those that take place online, base their judging on a photo of your Halloween costume. Even if you have a unique Halloween costume idea and have and have made it stand out with your personality, you need to take an amazing photograph to have a chance to win.

Judges will be looking at hundreds of photographs, so yours needs to stand out be able to stand out from the crowd. If appropriate, use props to make your costume really pop. Use good lighting to highlight the subject's expression as well as the costume details. And try some unique camera angles so that you won't just be another person staring straight into the camera.

For some ideas about taking unique, great-looking photos for your costume contest, read how to win photography contests.

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Step 5: Build Enthusiasm for Your Halloween Costume Contest Entry

Hands raised in support for a great Halloween Costume Contest Entry
Hands raised in support for a great Halloween Costume Contest Entry. Image © Thomas Northcut / Getty Images

Winning Costume Contests Step 5: Build Enthusiasm for Your Halloween Costume Contest Entry

At this point, you've created a unique and fantastic Halloween costume, you've come up with a way to set it apart from the crowd, and you've taken a fantastic picture to submit to the contest (if necessary). Is there anything else you can do to help you win your Halloween costume contest?

For many contests, there is one final step: gathering votes for your entry.

If your local costume contest asks for input from the crowd when picking a winner, make sure that you work the room, talking to people and letting them get to know you and see your costume.

If you're entering an online costume contest, read 50+ ideas to get votes for online contests and how to get votes on Facebook for ways to entice people to vote for your costume.