AMBER LOVE 28-JULY-2014 Let’s have a healthy discussion on convention dress codes. Were you among the attendees that didn’t even know they existed? Truthfully some do and some don’t. It seems to be that convention staffers are following a process of doing nothing about cosplay that violates dress codes until someone complains. Leaving other attendees to police cosplayers gives me an uneasy feeling. Either train the staff – complete with pictures of examples – in what is or isn’t allowed and have them stop people or come up with something else. I also think that it’s absolutely unrealistic to say, “If you don’t like how I am dressed, don’t look.” That’s not how people with sight are able to function. I don’t know if I don’t like how you look until after I’ve seen you. I can’t believe that is always a defense. It’s so asinine I usually ignore it and leave the conversation because that’s the sign of an unreasonable person.

I’m intentionally not including photos of anyone unless they have personally blogged about their experiences.

Inconsistencies in enforcing the rules:

It was fairly buzz-worthy when MsCaramelVixen said she was cosplaying as Deadpool and was asked to cover up at NY Special Edition because someone complained that her skirt was hitching up too high. This story alone raised questions:

  • Does cosplay have different dress code standards at a convention than someone’s personal choice in attire?
  • Was she even in a costume? (I argue she was not.)
  • Why are ReedPop’s dress codes different than the City of New York where you are legally allowed to be topless regardless of gender?

In the past (I believe it was 2011), model/cosplayer/nerd icon Adrianne Curry was asked to leave San Diego’s convention hall and told she needed to cover up because her Aeon Flux costume was too revealing (the issue seemed to be about the G-string bottoms not the top). There are flickr photos showing she wrapped a red t-shirt around her butt. Since then, Curry has worn tight-fitting but covered costumes like Catwoman and also goofy parody costumes like “raptor Jesus.”

adriannecurry aeonflux

  • So why then, if Curry’s Aeon Flux costume was too revealing, were there plenty of revealing costumes photographed in 2014?

I went through some galleries and spotted a pretty much naked Daenerys (different from the one a couple years ago) and a Witchblade barely covered in silicone prosthetics that were so revealing she needed a fully “waxed floor” so pubes weren’t showing (and someone told me they saw “tufts” anyway, let’s hope it was a merkin). These women are gorgeous but I don’t understand how they weren’t given the same treatment as Curry. I recommend popular con photographer Pat Loika’s galleries which are among my favorites to look at for con cosplay when I can’t get to show.

I’ve had cosplay friends report that they were asked to change clothes or leave shows a fraction of the size of San Diego or NY. However, I think it can be said that each convention’s staff handles this differently.


My friend Alicia has suffered the cosplay shame of being asked to cover up on at least five different occasions. She knows for sure that two of them (Cammy) were because of her butt exposed in a thong style leotard; and another she was told her breasts were hanging out. I looked through her galleries and could only consider the Cammy ones to match the description of the complaints; there is a lot of ass showing. The rest look fine to me. Her boobs weren’t out any more than the average dress would allow.

Alicia reported that in some of those instances, the staff were incredibly kind and helpful even going to a pharmacy to get tights for her so she’d be more covered or given her a t-shirt from their merch table. I think that’s pretty amazing! Taking the humiliation and embarrassment out of the situation is a good public relations move.

I’ve checked a few convention websites to see where they have their dress codes, if cosplay is considered different than non-cosplay dress, or if they can’t be found at all. I also tweeted to those accounts asking if I couldn’t find the information.


  • Boston Comic Con is the most clear. They very clearly state their cosplay dress code and harassment policy in a page that’s easy to find! I also appreciate how they use a familiar character, Mystique, as an example of what is not allowed. It gives people a point of reference and something easily identifiable or searchable if they don’t know the movies.
  • ReedPop/NYCC definitely has a dress code policy because they’ve asked people to cover up before; the problem is I can’t find that policy on either the corporate or the convention website. The weapons policy is easy to find but nothing about what is or is not considered appropriate. Historically they follow an “attendee policing” method – if someone complains about your costume, you are probably going to be asked to get changed or leave.
  • Comic Con International San Diego – They appear to have no rules. None can be found on their website. Yet if someone complains about your costume, they reserve the right to ask you to cover up. Like ReedPop, CCI oversees several conventions not only their flagship show. This is the show of the Adrianne Curry incident where, in convention floor photos, I’ve seen a lot more skin revealed than what she had been wearing.
  • Comic Con Bangalore states very clearly that if your costume is too revealing you’ll be asked to cover up.
  • Salt Lake City Con is a bit vague, like many cons, when it says “use common sense.” That’s simply not enough. Although, it’s the only time I’ve seen a policy that bans hate symbols even if they are cosplay accurate; this is sometimes a big deal with Nazi symbols on costumes seen in video games and manga. However, as far as harassment goes – they have a ban on “free hugs” signs. So they have in bold, “if you are not within the guidelines, you will be asked to cover up.”

Here’s where I have another issue:

There are so many cosplayers that seem to be unwilling to abide by any rules at all and this most especially true when they are “guests” of the show. At shows where other women are told they have too much showing, there are bosoms overflowing by the cosplay famous elite. They refuse to see that convention organizers have the power to declare if their show is the appropriate time and place. If you’re reading this on my site, you know I love sex-positive culture and I love porn. I’m not shaming anyone about their bodies. I will, however, shame them about their judgment for where and when they show off those bodies. Doing a burlesque show? Then yes indeed, show it off! That’s what ADULTS are paying money to see. I’ll be among those giving you a standing ovation.


Sexualizing what doesn’t need to be sexualized in ALL AGES environments:

I’m also very much on record about my disdain for sexualized versions of things that need not be sexualized in an all ages environment like cute animal characters! The T&A versions of Chewbacca, Pikachu, or (dear god my heart broke seeing) a T&A “sexy” Rocket Raccoon. Wearing furry ears and having your boobs out does not a Rocket Raccoon make. What makes it even worse is that these are the people featured on every news outlet as “best of cosplay” when they are not fairly representative of the hobby.

Wear what makes you happy – expect people to have opinions.

Being Wonder Woman makes me happy and I have faced tons of comments through the years especially when I first started out. Also, since I’ve been doing this a number of years and my life changed so drastically in that time, there are things I would either not do now or would do differently. I don’t know if I’d ever wear Catwoman, Black Cat or a Lolita version of Alice Liddell even though Lolita dresses are far more covered up than these outfits I’m discussing today. Even when I dressed as a modified Catwoman in Baltimore and Pittsburgh, I was WEARING A BRA which is more than I can say for some of these cosplayers.


Is it shaming women’s bodies asking them to cover up?

I think the question is far too broad to simply answer Yes or No. First of all, it’s not gender specific, though by the visuals of being on a con floor, there are hundreds of scantily clad women to one man. In all of NYCC (over 100k people), I saw one man in a loin cloth and a Spartan or two. In all of VA comic con, I saw one man in a loin cloth.

tarzan cosplay VACC 2013 virginia comic con

The kink community seems to show more respect about visual and physical boundaries than comics:

If adult/porn and fetish con goers can abide by dress codes in hotels/convention centers, why is this SO HARD for comic fans? I’ve been to shows that have sex dungeons and the attendees follow a dress code! One show I have not yet attended is the popular Geeky Kink Event which has an entire hotel (closed to non-badge holders) for the weekend until 2pm Sunday. It is the most liberal dress code I’ve ever heard of and yet, there are restrictions which are so explicitly stated that you have no excuse if you violate them. Even folks who dress in chains and leather leashes have a need for restrictions. Yet comic book fans seem to feel like they are too good, too elite in their costume making, or just too “pretty” to want to follow any rules.

Dress code for the Geeky Kink Event:
1) In the common areas of the hotel including the lobby, cafe, bar, courtyard and restaurant, you must keep your genitals and anus covered.
2) Outside of the restaurant and bar, patrons are allowed to be topless inside the hotel.
3) Full nudity is allowed inside the dungeon and other designated areas.
4) In the parking lot and all areas outside the doors of the hotel, you must maintain street legal dress.
5) Bare feet are not allowed in the lobby, restaurant, bar or event hallways.
6) Shoes are not allowed in the ball pit, pool and the inflatables.
7) At 2pm on Sunday, the general public reenters the hotel. Please return to a street legal and vanilla friendly dress at this time.

Why do some attendees think that a mainstream all ages comic con should have the same liberal dress codes as a fetish con?

Some cons have cracked down on bodypaint specifically. It doesn’t matter how great the model is or how great the art is; you’re pretty much naked except for a thong. Is there a reason those cosplayers can’t bring themselves to make a zentai suit of the skin texture or pattern and save the bodypaint for an adult event? The only time I ever donned body paint was my top only with jeans at a porn convention.

It’s not about how hot you are:

I know it’s also easy to think that it’s a hotness scale of enforcement. However, that’s not true either. If Adrianne Curry can be told to cover up, I think that blows that argument out of the water. But when you personally don’t feel like you’re in the super model end of the scale and a staffer asks you to cover up when you have witnessed the “hot girls” running around in skimpy clothing worse than yours, that “hot girl” conclusion feels legitimate even if it is not.

Skimpy clothing does not correlate to harassment:

I’m putting this out there in a simple way because this alone could be a huge conversation. Cosplayers wearing modest costumes have experienced harassment. In surveys done and from talking to each other, it’s evident that the amount of skin showing does not increase your potential for harassment, negative comments online or rape.

Why can’t we talk about this in a civilized way?

Chatting about these dress code policies and selective enforcement, I was told it’s a non-issue because it’s a “slippery slope.” Why, yes, it certainly is! That’s my point. It’s created this great divide between fans showing that some are above the rules. My own complaints, mind you, are not that I’d ever report anyone. I wouldn’t. I’m extremely annoyed that some people are told to change and others aren’t. I don’t feel that it’s my place to report anyone unless there’s a reasonable issue of obscenity or something outlandish like a costume that mocks pedophilia (as I’ve seen in some Halloween costumes).

You’re here at my site filled with sex imagery. You should know this isn’t a sex-shaming issue. It’s the issue of “time and place” and “enforcement inconsistencies” that I firmly believe we, as a comics community, need to address positively and openly.

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5 Comments on I’m wondering what happened to SDCC’s “standards” of cosplay dress code.

  1. Also have seen cons whose dress code is ” if you can’t wear it on the beach or wouldn’t wear it to the beach then don’t wear it here”… of course that is a policy that still leaves a LOT of leeway.

  2. I am so pleased to read this article. I questioned the dress code of a local pop culture expo here in Australia after seeing a cosplay er dressed in nipple pasties, g string and all over blue body paint on the convention floor.
    The fact that I questioned the events dress code was blogged by the cosplay er on her blog that I complained about her. I was then subjected to numerous names such as soccer mum and being narrow minded and the usual, if you don’t like it don’t look. I felt my request for clarification was misused by her and her followers and has truly turned me off the convention circuit for a while.
    Again. Thank you Amber for making me feel not so alone in this.

    • Thanks, Paul. I’m in the cosplay community and I have taken heat for years over my opinion of this. I am constantly told that I’m “just jealous” of their bodies and if it’s not hurting me, I shouldn’t have any opinion on it anyway. What they don’t recognize is that I review conventions as press. It’s important to me to let any of my readers and listeners know what they can expect. And as a woman secure enough with her body to make her own porn, it should be glaringly obvious that I’m not shaming anyone or against human forms; I wouldn’t give a vibrator demo to an all ages audience after all.

  3. I strongly disagree with the prudish power of those that complain about scanty clothes of cosplayers. Ugly or beautiful people should not be harrassed by people with murky minds or concern about what their children watch (normally a neutral matter in the rest of civilisated word, only an issue in the prudish USA).
    However I agree about rules should be clear and apply everybody not distinguishing about fittness or gendre. But the only limits must be genitalia and female nipples, not more. Complaining about glutei is a nonsense.

    • Actually in the US it varied greatly. Some schools ban which kinds of formAL gowns girls can wear to dances. Small isolated communities are not reflective of the entire state they’re in. And then states can vary from one to another.

      Cons should have rules. They should inform people clearly of those rules and enforce them fairly whether someone is a hired booth babe or an attendee.

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