featurebanner_summerrogueAMBER LOVE 24-JUNE-2014 A few things are bothering me about the cosplay controversies that began to crop up again since the show at the Javits Center a couple weeks ago. It’s mostly things that are on my mind after reading and listening to different sides of the story about MizCaramelVixen’s experience at Special Edition NYC. This isn’t necessarily about her but rather where her story influenced my train of thought.

What I need to voice because it’s bothering me so much, are the convention dress code myths. Conventions have the right to establish dress codes. Fans ask that those codes be enforced fairly and reasonably and this does not seem to be the status quo.

RED LANTERN COCKTAIL VERSION
RED LANTERN COCKTAIL VERSION

People have asked how wearing a themed sweater and street clothes is cosplay. MizCaramelVixen wasn’t in a costume really. She wasn’t portraying Deadpool. She was showing her fandom in a way that was comfortable for her. The phrase “casual cosplay” has been around a while. When we wear our geeky t-shirts or reimagined costumes as dresses, steampunk frills or bombshells, all of them are types of costume: it identifies which series/characters you like; you’re in an environment where it’s allowed; you put together an outfit to reflects the theme of the character in color choices and accessories. This can be jeans and t-shirts versions (like the girls who have done “hipster” versions of characters) or more elaborate that take as much time and money to create as a caped hero (like pinup style dresses of Marvel or DC women). There are also characters that wear street clothes so it’s hard to tell: my friend Ally was just at the show as Kate Bishop (jeans, t-shirt, wig, sunglasses) or the girls that are Ramona Flowers which is street clothes with dyed hair or a wig.

Those casual approaches may very well be thematically accurate but they are not the same as a guy who is wearing an articulating Optimus Prime exoskeleton. You can do normal things while wearing casual cosplay outfits like walk down the street, go out to dinner, or even drive your car. That’s not really easy dressed as Batgirl.

Do I personally think MizCaramelVixen was dressed in a costume for cosplay? No. It was a fandom outfit casual enough to be streetworn kind of like the entire Black Milk clothing line or things you’d find on etsy.

Here’s my concern: This isn’t really about whether she was in a costume or not.

Lil' Wonder Woman and Amazonia, NYCC 2010
Lil’ Wonder Woman and Amazonia, NYCC 2010

Why is a revealing costume appropriate and a revealing streetwear outfit not? Lots of superhero and video game costumes are booty-shorts, cheeky underwear, bikini bottoms or figure skater designs. Supergirl’s skirt is sometimes ridiculously short depending on the artist.

If a pantsless cosplayer is allowed because seeing a panty-covered buttock isn’t alarming, then why is a streetwear butt alarming? Fishnets and no pants are the noteworthy costumes of both Black Canary and Zatanna, two very popular characters to cosplay. They aren’t considered “revealing” or very “skimpy” at all; they simply lack pants. Wonder Woman is often pantsless, as is Power Girl. And if you haven’t noticed, so is all of the fangirl group Team Unicorn, real fans who have created superhero identities and appear in fan films and soon an animated series on CN. They show plenty of cleavage and have traditional pantsless heroine outfits.

TEAM UNICORN PHOTO BY IGN
TEAM UNICORN PHOTO BY IGN

I can’t even understand how Lady Death, Red Sonja, Emma Frost and Vampirella costumes go by without complaint — I actually do, they’re usually really hot girls who get less complaints because of hot girl privilege – in fact, they are often “guests” at cons and sit on contest panels as judges. Sometimes, the world is fair and sometimes the hot girls are also asked to cover up such as the case of Adrianne Curry and Jessica Nigri. Usually famous cosplay women who are guests get leeway others don’t. I have a friend Alicia who posted six pictures of costumes she was asked to change/cover up. She’s thin and a skilled costumer but not a “guest” or “famous.” One of the times she was asked to change was because of her cleavage; yet I have never seen a single appearance of cosplay “famous” Ivy DoomKitty where her boobs were not the center of attention. But you put someone like that on a panel and on TV, they get away with others can’t.

PHOTO BY L.JINTO 2008
PHOTO BY L.JINTO 2008

The system is too flawed when it expects attendees to police each other. If a woman’s non-costumed butt is showing, the best approach would have been if the staff alerted her to the issue and let her determine if her panty exposure was intentional or not. It’s like that paranoia I have about getting my dress caught in my pantyhose and my butt hanging out. My actual butt isn’t showing but the dress isn’t where it’s supposed to be. I’d want someone to tell me immediately in a delicate manner.

Another friend of mine posted on her Facebook that the only time she was physically assaulted while cosplaying was while she was wearing a full Batgirl suit. The only skin showing was the lower part of her face. Still her breasts were grabbed. This proves that it’s not about the costume or the outfit one wears when incidents do go too far.

If the point of convention dress codes is to keep criminals from being tempted, we’re all doing it wrong.

If the point of these dress codes is to save the innocent children’s eyes, I sure hope they never go near a swimming pool or beach.

Also, being a hired or volunteer booth babe does not exempt you from any con’s dress code. If the character in question violates the dress code, you should be prepared with a more modest version, a “casual cosplay” like a dress printed in the logo, or whatever the clothes of choice are for other people at the booth.

Some conventions expressly state “naked is not a costume.” That point seems to be left to interpretation. Bodypaint is not something that you can expect a lot of people to understand as clothing. It meets the definition of clothing but is not enough of a barrier between observer and skin for congoers. But I’ve seen pictures of bodypainted Mystiques from the movie versions; others have altered it to wear a body suit and only painted their faces but the real deal body paint ones are out there.

COSPLAY BY LAURA XAVIER (DEVIANT ART) CHICAGO 2011
COSPLAY BY LAURA XAVIER (DEVIANT ART) CHICAGO 2011

Another issue for me is how selective the body parts are in determining what’s appropriate to be visible and what isn’t. I think it’s a bit strange that the bare midriff and bare legs are fine while condemning cleavage that, to be frank, a lot of women with big boobs can’t reasonably hide without wearing unflattering potato sacs. Again, I’ve never heard of a Red Sonja cosplayer being asked to cover up. Even January Jones’ version of Emma Frost is a bra and a miniskirt, sometimes with the cape. Her breasts are plenty covered as is her butt, but she’s showing a lot of leg and abs.

tarzan cosplay VACC 2013 virginia comic con

Men are excluded from this. There’s an older man that I see at all my local comic cons who dresses as Tarzan. He wears a loin cloth and a prop knife. He’s naked with a few inches of suede covering his bits. And he walks freely at all the shows.

Indecency laws are unfortunately irrelevant because these are quasi-private events. You are there by choice: hired or paying to get in. The event dictates the dress code policy. They then expect to wait for complaints to ask people (women, let’s face it) to get changed.