elope Inc. is delighted to announce the winners of our 2015 Colossal Coachman Contest, which featured 32 national semifinalists who employed aesthetics ranging from Victorian music machines to light-up steampunk, ocean-front beach houses, to industrial fish tanks.
The Colossal Coachman Champion and Grand Prize winner is Aquasha DeLusty (Gordon Mellott) of Moscow, ID, who will receive a $1100 prize package of cash and elope hats, glasses, and other whimsical wearables to inspire a victory celebration. As the host site of the Grand Prize winner, Safari Pearl Comics of Moscow, ID also won an iPad Mini 3, $100 and free freight on elope orders for a year. The store specializes in games, comics, costumes, and carries supplies for both party planning and theatrical productions. DeLusty created a hat entitled “Nurture Creativity” that featured a whimsical mix of arachnid and insect-inspired panache with trendy colors. Hand-cut, painted, and fabric-decorated butterflies burst out of an opening the designer cut into the crown of the hat. Said DeLusty, “I wanted elements of the traditional and modern uses of the Coachman hat, but I wanted to challenge myself to stretch as a designer and dream up something joyous and grand. That’s when my ideas took flight! Once you pop the top your ideas explode out and flutter about. My design is the realization of the creative process; a beautiful explosion of ideas varying slightly but creating one glorious outcome.”
An independent panel of judges that included designers, costume enthusiasts, and industry professionals awarded DeLusty’s hat the third-highest score based on contest criteria: Use of the elope Coachman Hat Style, Creativity, Overall Effect, and Crowd Appeal. Said judge and industrial designer Alyssa Rose, “This hat is true to the elope Colossal Coachman style, wearability, and structure, but completely transforms the original with over-the-top attitude and imagination. We loved that the designer invested incredible time and energy into crafting each butterfly, and also found inventive ways to keep the final design light enough to wear all day as a stand-alone piece, or as part of a costume.” Earning top votes in the public ballot helped push “Nurture Creativity” into first place overall. Due to a glitch, the ballot failed to close at midnight MT, so the elope contest administrators eliminated 218 votes that were cast after the deadline. After this purge, DeLusty was the clear favorite by 20 votes.
Second Place: Heather Shuler’s “Anglerfish” via Eddie’s Trick Shop in Marietta, GA. Schuler will receive $500 in elope products. The judging panel favorite said of her inspiration, “I have always had a curiosity about the wonders and horrors of the deep ocean. I had hoped my anglerfish hat would send that same spooky mysterious feeling to anyone seeing it.” Eddie’s Trick Shop, which deals in theatrical magic, novelties, costumes, and more, selected Shuler to be their local champion. Judges awarded a nearly perfect score due to the “gorgeous application of iridescent fabrics and materials that suggest both an aquatic environment and a menacing hunter. This hat is clearly in the elope coachman style, but grabs your attention as a beautifully rendered deep sea creature. Can’t believe how transformed the original hat is, but you can still clearly see the underlying structure in the fish body. It’s brilliant design.”
Third Place: Steven Wilson’s “Deep Sea Diver Helmet” via The Burrow in Wichita, KS, will receive $250 in elope products. The Burrow specializes in sci-fi and fantasy collectibles, science gear, gadgets, anime and video game collectibles, cubicle decor, faire and steampunk accessories. Wilson described his process as “cutting the bottom and tops off pop cans to create the look of metal pieces riveted together.” The designer inserted metal brads to secure the aluminum plates on the hat and then “cut a hole in the center of the hat to fit a handmade light out of LED’s, a coffee mug lid, melted plastic and the bottom of a pop can.” Wilson’s maker sensibility and craftsmanship impressed the judges. “Terrific overall effect with the caged headlamp, and love the gorgeous paint job with the copper oxidation. That sold it as a metal coachman-style helmet that had seen its share of dives,” their notes read.
Mighty Honorable Millinery Mentions: 

  • Fourth Place: Matt Maxfield’s “Father Time: The Mason” via Twisted Twinz Emporium in Tawas, MI – Ranked second on the public ballot with outstanding craftsmanship and an eerie mask inspired by a steampunk look.
  • Fifth Place: Alisia Silliman’s “Smoldering Temptress” via Disguises Costumes of Denver, CO – Ranked third on the public ballot with a deeply theatrical phoenix rising from a hand-painted and beautifully destroyed ashy brim.

elope structured point distribution so that public voting on social media accounted for only 40% of final points. A rigorous judging process that followed the contest’s official criteria awarded 60% of the final points.
According to contest promoter and elope’s marketing director Becca Sickbert, “We intentionally weighted the judging process higher so that it wasn’t just a Facebook popularity contest. We wanted to account for stand-out design and originality, regardless of the size of the city and social media following that each of the semifinalists represented. The purpose of this contest was to celebrate imagination and creativity by featuring the incredible work of our semifinalists,” said Sickbert. “Ultimately, we wanted to have some fun while shining a national spotlight on artwork you can wear.”