In many circles, genderbent costumes get a lot of unfair criticism. People may see it as a cop-out and a way to get away with a costume that doesn’t have all the accurate details. Others will say that the cosplay isn’t creative enough, and if you’re going to genderbend a character you should put more effort into it. But that’s all a load of bologna! Genderbending a character is a fun and valid way to create a costume that celebrates your favorite character.
A genderbent costume is when you change the perceived gender of a character you are cosplaying. So, you would portray a male version of a female character and vice versa. Typically, you would do this to avoid changing your physical appearance to cosplay a character of the opposite gender.
Creating a genderbent cosplay also gives you the chance to design your own costume. You’ll have more creative freedom since you don’t have to stick to the details of an existing costume, and you can design a costume that adheres to your own personal comfort levels.
What is genderbent cosplay?
At its core, genderbent cosplay is simply changing the canonical gender of a character when you wear their costume. For example, wearing a female-gendered All Might costume or a male Tinkerbell. Sometimes, you will change the costume entirely to fit the new character, while other times the costume can more or less stay the same.
Usually, you will change the gender of the character to match your own gender. This is because you won’t have to put the effort into changing your physique and using makeup to adjust your facial structure. Most people can walk around more naturally as a character who has the same gender identity.
However, I’ve seen people genderbend characters separate from their own gender identity as well because they enjoy the creativity involved with genderbending or they enjoy crossplaying (when you cosplay as a different gender).
Why genderbending a character is fun
While you may first try genderbending a cosplay for your comfort, you’ll quickly find that it’s actually pretty fun. There are certain advantages to genderbending that you don’t get when you try to match a character’s costume exactly. It gives you a unique creative experience when creating your costume while also giving you the chance to be recognizable at conventions.
You can be creative with the design
My favorite part about genderbent cosplay is the amount of creativity you can put into the design. You no longer have to stick to replicating the exact details of a costume. Instead, you can use the original design as a base and adjust it to work for the opposite gender. The changes you make are entirely up to you.
You can use your creative license to make the costume similar enough to be recognizable, but different enough to work for the opposite gender. This can be big changes to the costume or very small changes. Something as simple as changing the cut of a coat to be more feminine can work for many cosplayers, while others will want to change a suit into a dress.
You can plan the costume according to your comfort level
Another great part of genderbent cosplay is the ability you have to change the outfit for comfort. You can design the clothes for the type of weather you expect at the convention, the type of clothing that looks flattering on you, and simply your own comfort during a long day at a convention.
If you know the convention will be in the summer, design a costume using lighter material and doesn’t make you too hot. If you prefer looser clothes, rather than a skin-tight suit, design a costume that uses the color scheme and basic elements of the character, but changes the actual clothing. You can also choose shoes that are comfortable to walk in all day long!
Of course, you don’t have to if you don’t want to. For example, I’ve definitely seen genderbent characters with massive heels before that do not look comfortable. To be fair, it often does make sense for the female version of a character to wear heels and it’s totally okay to make that creative choice. However, personally, I would choose to lose the heels in favor of comfort at a convention.
You can still be recognized at conventions
If all you’re looking for in cosplay is to make creative and comfortable costumes, you can just as easily design a costume for an original character or your own D&D character. However, sometimes that’s not enough.
One of the fun parts of cosplaying at anime or comic conventions is running into other people who love the character too. It’s fun to get photos taken and simply be recognized as the character you’re portraying. With genderbent characters, you still get that inclusion and recognition in the fandom, while also being able to have fun with the creative design of the costume.
Is genderbending just for women?
It is much more common to see women creating genderbent versions of male characters than it is to see the opposite. I think one of the main reasons for this is that there are simply more male protagonists and characters in popular media. There are simply more opportunities to genderbend a male character.
However, this doesn’t mean genderbending is just for women. I’ve seen a handful of really creative costumes designed as male counterparts of female characters. I’ve never recognized someone as cosplaying a gender-neutral version of a character, but this would also be a way to genderbend a cosplay.
Genderbending vs. Crossplaying
If you’re new to the world of cosplay, you might not be familiar with all the terms or get them mixed up a lot. Genderbending and crossplaying are two similar terms that have very different meanings. At their core, genderbending is when you change the gender of the character, while crossplaying is when you change your own perceived gender to match the character.
While genderbending and crossplaying are two separate concepts, they actually can occur simultaneously. If you change the design of a character to change their gender and make the gender opposite of your own, you would essentially be crossplaying as a genderbent character.