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Female to Male Crossplaying

Not to be confused with the ‘gender bending’ side of cosplaying, crossplay follows the same principle as cosplaying.  However, in the case of crossplay, the individual will dress as a character of the opposite gender to their own.  In other words, a female will dress as a male character – and likewise, a male will dress in the costume of a female character.  Here are some pointers on female-to-male crossplaying.

It is probably best to start off with the definition of the term ‘cosplay’ in this article.  Cosplay, short for ‘costume play’, where people dress in the same (or similar) attire to replicate a character (humanoid or otherwise) from certain medias such as anime, games, movies and comics – though, the range of possible categories does extend past the examples mentioned. Mostly seen at conventions and related events, cosplayers can also take on the role and behaviour of the character that they are dressed as. For example, if somebody is dressed as a certain villain from a film, they may take on the attitude and posture of this particular character. When requested for photos, they may also adopt poses to replicate scenes that said character has been involved in – or a posture similar to one that the character would adopt if they were actually standing in front of the photographer. For a cosplayer like myself, I personally see it as a challenge to step into the role of a character that has a personality different to my own, and see how long I can maintain the nature of said individual at a convention.

Not to be confused with the ‘gender bending’ side of cosplaying (which may be covered in a future article on Renegade Revolution), crossplay follows the same principle as cosplaying.  However, in the case of crossplay, the individual will dress as a character of the opposite gender to their own.  In other words, a female will dress as a male character – and likewise, a male will dress in the costume of a female character. This is the basic understanding of crossplay. However, there are also extra factors to consider on top of the usual cosplay factors.

This article will focus upon female-to- male crossplaying – only because this is the side of cosplaying that I am most familiar with, and I feel that a male crossplayer would be able to give a more accurate and opinionated article upon male to female crossplay. Hopefully, in the future, Renegade Revolution will be able to post another article that focuses on male-to-female crossplaying.

Holly crossplaying as Togusa from Ghost in the Shell, standing in an alley of graffiti

Arguably, the key part of female-to-male costuming here is binding: Visually speaking, male characters will not have breasts. However, female cosplayers do still need to breathe and move about with some levels of comfort – especially if they plan to stay in crossplay for a hefty duration of the day. Budget binding is quite simply done by purchasing bandages and using these to bind your chest. The downsides of this method includes a very uneven layer of binding, which, depending on the thickness of the layers, can be quite visible if worn under fitting clothing, as well as the fact that the crossplayer risks poking themselves with safety pins in order to secure said bandaging. When I first started to crossplay with bandages, a few times I found that the safety pin can come undone from moving about too much – though admittedly, I have only managed to jab myself once with the safety pin. It is possible to purchase other fastenings besides safety pins – some bandages even come with clip-like fastenings included – however, these are even more likely to come undone from natural movement than actual safety pins.

It is also possible to purchase actual female-to-male custom made bindings. A quick online search for ‘chest binders’ should bring up an adequate amount of results, actual stockist websites included. I have also noticed these items being readily available on sites such as EBay, but do check the seller rating before making your purchase. The variety of binders can be quite wide – with many different styles, colours and fastening mechanisms. Do take your time in choosing which type of binder is best for you: Fastening systems can vary between hook and eyelet clips, velcro and zippers – with zippers giving the least amount of adjustable leeway. Take the time to consider which may be the best option for you. If you are not sure, do not be afraid to ask around for personal opinions. Actual breast-binding websites may also have testimonials from previous customers, so do take the initiative to read through those as they will be beneficial towards your making a decision. Also, make sure to check the sizing guide for each product as they will vary with each brand and possibly with each model as well. If in doubt, contact the website or seller for clarification. They may even ask you to provide them with your own measurements in order to advise you which would be the best size for yourself. If you are in between two sizes, they will often advise you to purchase the size up to avoid causing yourself any harm: Do not forget that you will be restricting your chest and that this in turn can affect your ability to breathe if you wear a binder that is too tight. I’m pretty sure you and your friends would not want to experience you fainting or becoming sick from a binder that is too tight for your own good!

Moving along from the subject of binding, make-up is the next topic that I will approach. Remember that generally, male character will not wear heavy make-up, unlike their female counterparts. Go easy on the eyeliner – though, if the male character you are crossplaying has quite distinct looking eyes, you can use eye make-up to your advantage to accent your eyes; shaping them to mimic a similar contour as your character’s. Also, depending on the character you are crossplaying, sometimes using a slightly darker shade of eye shadow (a natural tone that is darker than your actual skin colour tends to work well) around the upper orbits of your eyes can help to accent your appearance and give a slightly darker, sunken-eyes look without making yourself look very feminine. Do remember to use the eye shadow sparingly and to blend it in to your actual skin colour to give it a more natural finish. Avoid lip gloss too as this will give your lips a more feminine appearance. Consider finding a lipstick that is almost similar to your natural skin colour. It does sound like a strange technique, but it is also one that has worked for me many times in the past to make lips appear less feminine.

Another tip that has been brought up in the past would be the use of make-up for cheek shadowing. Whilst I, personally, have not tried this actual technique yet, our Sci-Fi editor Holly has. Her tip for this would be to use a subtle colour of eye shadow – slightly darker than your own skin colour – and apply gently with a thick brush along the hollow of your cheek. She also recommends that the direction of this application should be from your ear towards your mouth (but not connecting the make-up lines to said ear or mouth). For blending purposes, she also suggests that you should grade the eye shadow delicately, in a similar fashion as utilised with blushers.

Clothing-wise, if you are shopping around for parts of your crossplay, do remember that a lot of shirts and trousers come in a variety of styles.  Try to avoid the more feminine cuts and designs of shirts and trousers (female shirts tend to have a slimmer waist and front seams start from just below the breast).  Even if you have a binder on, if the top is a feminine style, it will not really do the crossplay justice.  With regards to trousers, try to avoid skinny fits and bootleg trousers – unless the character you are crossplaying wears these.  Skinny fits and bootleg trousers tend to be made to accent feminine curves – especially the hips.  If in doubt, go for the more unisex, straight cut.

Jojo in crossplay as Yamamoto Takeshi from Katekyo Hitman Reborn, drawing a katana

Like most cosplayers in general, crossplayers are not afraid to pose for cameras at conventions, organised shoots and events.  When it comes to posing in crossplay, do remember that you are taking on the role of a masculine character.  In general, cosplayers do tend to pose like their characters do for photos and videos.  This same incentive applies to crossplayers too.  Try not to make poses too feminine as this can make your character look a little off – unless, of course, the character happens to have a very feminine side.  If you are worried, you can always re-enact poses that you have seen the actual character doing.

Finally, like same-gender cosplaying, the most important thing is to have fun!  So, be it cosplay, crossplay or even fursuiting, make sure you have a ruddy good time!

photos © Jojo Yap and Scott Sanderson

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