Sabers & Stilettos: Women’s Impractical Armor in Cosplay

As any geek knows, comic conventions are some of the best places to show off just how much you love something. One of the most common and (in my opinion) coolest ways to do this is definitely cosplay. Who didn’t love to dress up as a kid and pretend to be your favorite character? News flash: it doesn’t have to stop when you hit middle school. Cosplay is short for ‘costume play,’ which is kind of weird, right? It pretty much means you’re doing hardcore dress-up. 

Some cosplays are better than others. We’ve all seen attempted Iron Mans out of construction paper and laughed. And then we look at the really fancy, hand-built ones and we’re in awe. Either way a viewer sees it, it’s fun for the actual cosplayer.

I speak from personal experience. I used to just do little things—like throw on a Starfleet Captain’s shirt and call it a costume. Now, though, I went all-out with a Darth Revan costume my aunt and I built together.

Darth Revan, Knights of the Old Republic, cosplay
Spoilers: Darth Revan is the big bad and protagonist of Knights of the Old Republic.

Cosplay is a great way to show off who your favorite video game characters are. Now, for women, this can actually be pretty difficult. What if your favorite character is Morrigan from Dragon Age, but you don’t want to be wearing next to nothing? Sadly, this is a problem that can be seen with a lot of female characters. Either the character doesn’t have an outfit you feel comfortable in or it’s too complicated (ex: Commander Shepard or a Halo Spartan’s armor). Even for my Darth Revan cosplay, the chest piece just doesn’t fit right—and it never will. The armor in the game is a generic male-figure piece, and for a slightly curvier woman, it just doesn’t work. 

Obviously, there are some video game outfits that are a lot easier to create. Morrigan’s ensemble would be an example. There’s a clear problem there, though. The easy ones are often the impractical, uncomfortable ones. I’ve had some experience in this too. Back in August, I attended the Wizard World Chicago convention. I had to fly there, so bringing all my armor and lightsabers was a big no-no. I still wanted to be in costume, though, so I decided to create one of Commander Shepard’s casual outfits.

rpgcalledlife @ blogspot

I settled on her dress from Mass Effect 2, which took me a surprising amount of time just trying to get the length right. When I put on the finished product, I felt pretty badass—just like Shepard (this is how you should feel in cosplay). Unfortunately, after a whole day of wandering around in a super tight, super short dress and stilettos while being checked out by one too many sleezes, I came to a huge realization. There is absolutely no way this would have been a practical outfit to wear for Shepard. Sure, a fancy dress was needed for a covert mission, but did it have to be clingy and have high heels?

Then I realized that this was more common among video games than we realize. Everyone sees the ads for those games with the women in nothing but skimpy armor, but did anyone stop to consider Shepard’s dress? Or even in Star Wars: The Old Republic when the shirt I put on my Jedi Sentinel was a crop top on her, but perfectly covering everything for a male character? (Note: if it had been the same for the guys, I’d be all for it. Let’s put all these ridiculously in-shape characters in skimpy armor!)

But don’t let that stop you. If you want to cosplay as Revan, Shepard, Morrigan, or a Spartan, go for it. Whatever body shape or age you are, go for it. Be your favorite character from 10:00 to 5:00 for a Comic Con. Enter a costume contest. Go crazy—because cosplay, while more difficult for a lot of women, is something that anyone can do. Have fun with it.


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