If you’ve been paying attention to costuming photos from conventions, you’ve probably noticed that one of the cool new trends in costuming is to gender swap a costume. It’s gone from being something you see every now and then at a convention to a sort of costume that you now expect to see at conventions. Some groups, such as the fantastic Gender Swapped Justice League, have become far more internet famous than others but gender swapping certainly is not limited to just superheroes. (Just ask the Doctor Who fandom.) For everyone person who thinks that these costumes are cool, there’s probably another person tilting their head in confusion and asking “why?” If you’re one of those people, you should absolutely keep reading.
First, we need to distinguish between two terms: gender swap and crossplay. Gender swap refers to someone taking a character of the opposite gender and making a costume for that character as if they were the same gender. (For example, Janet deciding to do a “Hannah” Solo costume as opposed to a Han Solo costume.) Crossplay is when a person does a costume of the opposite gender as if they were actually that gender. (For example, Lizzie decides to do an Anakin Skywalker costume but does the costume as if she were a man and does not try to feminize it.) We’ll just be discussing gender swapping in this article.
So why gender swap a costume and not just do a costume of your own gender?
There are a lot of reasons actually! One of the biggest reasons can be for the purposes of costume groups. I’ll use my own most recent gender swap group as an example. My con going group is comprised of mostly girls. This can make it difficult to pull a large group together since most science fiction teams tend to be skewed towards having more men then women. But what if you really want to do a certain group? The solution? Gender swap! This was exactly the reasoning behind the recent gender swapped Wraith Squadron group. We all love the Wraiths but there are unfortunately a lot more males on the roster than females. Was it a little silly? Sure. Did tons of people recognize us? Not really. But it was fun and we certainly enjoyed ourselves. Nothing beats having Aaron Allston absolutely love your group and be more than happy to take a bunch of pictures with you.
Another reason to gender swap is because you really love a character but don’t feel comfortable crossplaying. I know a lot of people absolutely rock crossplay and who love it. (Take a look at the amazing Guy Gardner crossplays if you don’t believe me.) There are, however, also plenty of people who don’t want to bind their breasts down or such for a character but still really want to do a costume for him or her. Both ways are totally okay because they’re expressing love for the character. Like Wash says in Firefly, some people juggle geese. Gender alone should not stop a person from costuming as a character that he or she really loves.
That leads directly into the next reason which is character design! One of the things costumers often don’t have, especially if they costume as characters from visual mediums, is the freedom to design a costume and take more artistic licenses. Gender swapping a character gives you the freedom to really think about what Steve Rogers’ costume might be like if he was Stephanie Rogers instead. Sometimes the chosen changes can be more subtle and sometimes they end up being more extreme. The fun comes from seeing if you can redesign the costume into something reasonable for your character while simultaneously keeping it recognizable as that character.
The final reason, of course, is that it’s fun! Oftentimes, in between all the tears and cursing over costume pieces that just won’t work like they’re supposed to, we forget that costuming is above all supposed to be fun. While this list only contains a few of the different reasons to embrace gender swapped costumes, having fun is by far the biggest and the best motivation for doing so. As a certain Rogue said, you can’t look dignified when you’re having fun. If there’s a costume you’ve been eying for awhile and want to gender swap it, go for it and absolutely remember to have fun!