Crossplay is the term used when someone cosplays as a character of a different gender. The cosplayer will actively adjust their own appearance to try to match the gender of the character their portraying. As someone who identifies as female, I can only give advice from experience of a female crossplaying as male characters.
If you are female cosplaying as a male character, pay special attention to your makeup by creating harsher shadows around the eyes and jaws. Of course, it’s also ideal to adjust your body structure by flattening your chest, building up your shoulders, and learning to pose in more masculine positions.
There are some unique challenges involved in cosplaying as female-to-male since it will require changes to your facial structure and your physique. The more practice you get, the more effective you’ll be at creating the illusion of a male character.
This page contains affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate, I earn a small commission from qualifying purchases.
1. Bind your chest safely
One of the most obvious aspects of our physique that we need to get rid of to cosplay a male character is our chest. Obviously, this is a lot easier if you are small-chested, however, most women will want to bind their chest to achieve a more masculine figure.
Do NOT use an ace bandage to bind. Although these are widely available and easy to wrap around you, they can actually cause damage to your chest and rib cage if worn incorrectly. They can make it difficult to breathe and even crack your ribs if they’re wrapped too tightly.
Instead, you want to use a piece of clothing that is made to be worn around your chest and expand to allow for breathing. If you are small-chested, you can easily get away with wearing a sports bra. However, if you have a larger chest or want an even flatter look, I recommend using a binder made for trans men.
I recommend the company Underworks. I’ve been using one of their binders for years. They are high quality, keep you flat, and are surprisingly comfortable to wear.
2. Build up your shoulders
Male characters also tend to have much broader shoulders than females. If the costume allows, you can pad up your shoulders to create a more masculine silhouette.
If your character wears a coat or jacket, this is as easy as adding padding to the inside to slightly build the shoulders out, making them wider. This is similar to the appearance of some women’s fashion in the ’80s. Suits were made with broader shoulders to create a more masculine profile.
If you don’t have any kind of jacket, you can also widen your shoulders by adding props or armor. Things like pauldrons can also make a bigger appearance to help make a more effective costume.
3. Strong poses for photographs
Generally, photographs of male costumes will look more traditionally masculine if your poses use hard angles rather than curves (which are more traditionally feminine). Think about keeping your body in straight lines with sharp angles. You want to avoid putting too much weight on one hip, since that creates a curve around your abdomen, and think about your elbows and how they change the shape of your silhouette.
If you are cosplaying as a younger character or a character with a gentler personality, it’s not as necessary to take one of these more ‘masculine’ poses. You also want to think about the types of poses your specific character would stand in. Many male characters that you can portray will subvert the gender norms and look great in a wider variety of poses.
4. Create thicker eyebrows
While certainly not always true, it is much more common for men to have thicker and flatter eyebrows than women. This is partially due to common hygiene practices since men are generally not expected to pluck their brows like women, and partially due to the anatomy of a male’s skull. Since the brow bone protrudes a little farther from the face it creates more of a shadow around the eyes, making the appearance of thicker brows.
To make your eyebrows thicker, simply go over them with a brow or eyeliner pencil (you can use eyeshadow with a thin brush too). As you’re adding some weight to your brows, also make them a little bit flatter and closer to your eyes.
5. Contour your face
The anatomy of male and female skulls is actually a little different. As mentioned in the previous point, the brow bone protrudes slightly more in males. Male skulls also tend to be slightly longer overall, with square cheekbones, rounded chins, and a rounded forehead.
This means you’ll need to contour your face to make the illusion of a different shaped skull. Use a bronzer or contour color of makeup to create darker shadows under the eyebrows and square out your jawbone. You’ll also want to add contour underneath your chin to create a wider jawbone, and along the side of your face and top of the forehead to create a more rounded appearance of your skull.
6. Adding stubble can add to the illusion
Unless you are cosplaying a very young character, adding a little bit of stubble can help you look more convincing in photography. I knew someone who cut up wig wefts into very small pieces to glue to her face, but you don’t have to go that far.
Instead, I prefer to use makeup and a stipple brush. Use the same color that you used on your eyebrows to create sideburns and the illusion of facial hair around your jawbone. This isn’t a technique that will pass in-person scrutiny, but it can look excellent in your cosplay photos.
7. Practice a deeper voice
Since role-play is an element of cosplay, especially at conventions, it can be beneficial to practice talking in a lower octave. To speak in a deeper voice, you’ll want to practice breathing with your diaphragm and talking from the chest and lower throat. Try humming in a low octave to get an idea of the vibrations you can maintain. Then practice talking so you can sound more natural with that slightly deeper voice.
8. Learn to walk and stand like a man
As a general rule, men tend to walk, sit and stand with a more relaxed posture, and with their legs further apart. There will, of course, be wide varieties of habits based on societal and cultural norms, but if you’re trying to look more traditionally masculine, try relaxing a little and putting some distance between your legs. While you certainly want to maintain good posture when posing, it doesn’t have to be quite as rigidly elegant as most female characters.
9. Scowl a little bit
Since male skulls have a lower brow bone than female skulls, giving a slight scowl can create a more natural resting face for a male character. Simply lower your eyebrows a little bit before photos to make a more intense facial expression. Instead of looking angry or upset, your facial expression will actually appear to be neutral.
10. Wear straighter and looser clothing
The costume you wear will depend mostly on the clothing of the character of choice. However, something you will cosplay as a character who wears jeans, for example. In these cases, you want to opt for a cut of pants that is more-or-less straight and does not accentuate any curves. I will even shop in the men’s department (or boys) to find more appropriate clothing.
This goes for other types of costume pieces also. Any type of suit jacket, T-shirt, or pair of pants should be straight and loose enough to look flat on your body.