While many Shore Leave attendees wear costumes in the convention hallways (though it is by no means required), the Masquerade is the event where costumers can get up on stage and show off their art for the greatest number of people at once.
For the audience, it's a little like a beauty pageant, a little like a talent show. Costumers may appear alone on stage, or often a group of costumers will arrange a presentation. The MC introduces each presentation, either of a single costume or a group, and then each entry gets a minute or so to show off their costume/s to the audience. Sometimes it's just a sort of fashion show walk out on stage, but often there's a short skit involved, which can explain the character represented and provide some context for the costume - and some more entertainment for the audience.
Entries are judged both on the appearance of the costume, and on the effectiveness of the presentation. Costumers may choose to show their costumes to the Workmanship Judges before their stage presentations, in case there's something that they're particularly proud of which might not be obvious from a few feet away - like the fine finish of all the seams on the interior of the costume, for instance.
For the costumers involved, it does require some effort and sacrifice. If you want to appear in The Masquerade, you'll be occupied for most of Saturday evening of the convention. You'll need to sign up no later than 4:00 pm on Saturday afternoon, be backstage in the Green Room by 6:00 or 7:00 pm, and if you decide to stick around after your presentation to see if you've won an award, it might be close to midnight before you can get on with parties, filking, late-night panels, or just some sleep. We do try to get things wrapped up before then, and to make your backstage time as comfortable as possible. Young Fans (under 13) go onstage first, and their awards are given right away, so that they don't have to stay up past their bedtime.
The Shore Leave Masquerade will be held at 8pm on Saturday in the Hunt Valley Ballroom with multiple options for registering at the convention or before.
For questions not answered on the Masquerade pages, please contact Masquerade Director Thomas Atkinson.