With Gender-Bending, Cosplay Adds Another Layer of Creativity

By treating gender as a variable, cosplayers get to think about what really, actually makes their characters tick.

Typically, when people hear the word art, they think about paintings, sculptures and classical music, but what about cosplay? Considering the amount of work that goes into creating cosplay outfits, it’s pretty impossible to deny the craftsmanship involved, and when it comes to gender-bent cosplay in particular, the creativity and meticulous design necessary take the subcategory into an entirely different level.

To clarify, cosplaying, in general, is the art of dressing up as a character from a work of fiction. Most often, comic books, anime, video games and TV shows provide the source material for character selection, but some people go even beyond the original creations when they are creating their costumes. Though cosplay used to be somewhat marginalized, the popularity of the activity has skyrocketed in recent years, and today it is considered to be one of the most popular sub-cultures all across the globe — Japan and America are the most notable cosplaying hotspots.

Most of the time, seasoned cosplayers take it upon themselves to gather the materials needed, construct props from obscure materials and sew clothes and small details to create their costumes. Paying attention to every detail no matter how small, such as shoelace color, is important.

Just like standard art materials, cosplay supplies can cost quite a bit, ranging from double to triple digits, with big spenders willing to breach quadruple figures. In the end though, the final product is worth it.

Crafting a cosplay from scratch may seem intensive, but if you’re someone who wants to get into cosplay, you can go at your own pace and work your way up. Usually, as you get more into cosplaying, the amount of labor and money you are willing to invest increases. As a beginner, buying pre-made costumes or going simplistic is a good start; you can gradually make your way to designing every aspect of the cosplay.

For some though, the fact that traditional cosplay limits their character selection based on their gender feels like an arbitrary restriction. After all, if you’re already dressing up as a fictional character, why start imposing-real world restrictions?

As a result, some people have started a trend of creating gender-bending characters, which takes designing to the next level. For example, popular gender-bent cosplays are female versions of male superheroes, male versions of female video game princesses and so on.

Originally, people felt confined to just recreate people of the same gender, but once the gender-bending trend blew up, people were able to take on the challenge of accommodating fictional characters to their gender. And if someone has a vision for their character, almost anything can be altered to make the costume work.

Gender-bending characters is a level up from simply cosplaying because there is more creativity that goes into the construction of the costume. On top of the craftsmanship involved with standard cosplays, designers have to think about how to mend the outfit to fit their gender.

Gender-bending cosplaying isn’t as easy as using a picture for reference and copying the structure of the outfit; they have to think about how the outfit can be changed for the opposite gender, but still convey the essence of the character they are trying to recreate.

Ultimately, sticking with the identifiable colors that represent the character and capturing their style is important for making the cosplay successful and identifiable. At the core of it, gender-bending cosplays opens the field and gives people more choices to pick from.

What once was looked at as weird is currently a growing hobby for many people around the world. Each year, conventions garner so much attraction, and more people are willing to dress up in homemade, detailed costumes of characters they love.

With the intricate thought processes and the extensive labor that go into it, creating cosplays, especially gender-bending cosplays, allows endless creativity and is an art form in itself.

Erin Marie Winans, James Madison University

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Erin Marie Winans

James Madison University
English / Writing, Rhetoric and Technical Communication

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