Technique - Female to Male Crossplay
Article by Annette Wilkinson (Mighty Odango) posted Thursday 12th June 2008
There are a number of things to consider when attempting an effective female-to-male crossplay. No matter how androgynous both you and the character you intend to cosplay may be, it is always important to make an effort if you wish to pull off a truly convincing crossplay. This tutorial will discuss a number of the things that should be taken into account to effectively masculinise yourself.
As is usually the case in cosplay, makeup can be an utterly vital tool in convincingly resembling your character. The primary area to focus on with FtM crossplay is usually the eyebrows; unless your eyebrows are naturally thick and you leave them to grow this way, you’re likely to need to apply some makeup. Men have thicker and often darker eyebrows than women, though colour is naturally dependant on hair colour. Choose an eyebrow pencil or eyeliner (solid, not liquid) a shade or two darker than the hair colour of the character you are cosplaying, unless the hair is black in which case I suggest a very dark brown pencil for a more natural look.
To apply the makeup, it often helps if the pencil is a little blunt and preferably quite soft. With very light strokes, draw on top of the eyebrow hairs themselves, avoiding getting too much pencil on the skin below. This will give a more natural look. The strokes should be in the direction of the eyebrow hairs to keep it smooth and natural looking. Don’t overdo it – subtlety is the key here to make you look like a real man instead of a woman trying to pretend she’s a man!
Foundation is also important. Men may not be in the habit of wearing makeup, but their skin texture tends to be slightly coarser and darker than that of a woman, so once again makeup is your friend in reproducing this. Choose a foundation a shade or two – not more – darker than your normal foundation colour, being absolutely sure to blend it well at the jawline if not continuing it down to cover all exposed parts. For anime and game characters, the texture is less important as they tend to be smooth-skinned in appearance, but for live action characters I suggest a thickish layer of foundation and then roughening it slightly with a stipple sponge. You may also wish to use a slightly lighter colour to highlight your jawbone to make it more prominent and masculine.
Avoid mascara for obvious reasons, but a small amount of eyeliner can be appropriate for anime or game characters.
If the character you are cosplaying has facial hair, there are ways of effectively achieving this. Some of them aren’t particularly comfortable and will give you an appreciation of what men have to go through!
For simple short stubble, the easiest way to achieve it is to get a stipple sponge and some face paint (professional please, preferably oil or cream based) in the colour of the hair colour. Dip the sponge lightly in the makeup and apply in quick dabs. Do not blend as this will lose the stubble effect.
For styled beards and moustaches, I recommend buying a proper prosthetic piece, available from professional stage makeup shops such as Charles Fox in Covent Garden or on the web. They’re not cheap, but as they’re made from false hairs implanted onto a piece of lace, they are by far the most natural looking and effective method. Apply with spirit gum or Prosaide, also available from stage makeup stockists, and make sure you have the appropriate remover or taking them off will be a painful experience.
For longer stubble and general facial hair, I use crepe wool, once again available from professional stage makeup stockists. It usually comes in a long plait. Separate it from the plait to begin with and cut (preferably onto a piece of paper) hairs into the length you require them. Try to keep them all going in the same direction. Apply spirit gum or Prosaide onto the areas of your face that need the hair, then gently dab the hairs on with a finger, again trying to keep them all facing in the same direction.
Breast binding is one of the main skills required for effective female-to-male crossplay. In this tutorial I will discuss the various methods of which I am aware, detailing my personal experiences with each method, plus tips and tricks I’ve picked up over the years.
When you don’t have any part of your chest on show, binding obviously becomes much simpler as you don’t have to worry about how the method you’ve chosen looks! There’s several methods available and I will list them in order of my personal preference, least effective to best.
Bandages may seem like the obvious choice, but they have a number of problems. First of all, you need a bandage of sufficient width to actually horizontally cover the breasts, otherwise it will cut into them, leading to discomfort and a lumpy appearance. Try to find the widest bandage available and use that. You will need a considerable length as well as bandages tend to slip and slide about when you move, generally moving off the breast. You could consider using double-sided tape to keep them in place. Bandages with less stretch are preferable as stretch bandages tend to become narrow as they stretch out. Make sure they are not wrapped too tightly or you will experience difficulty breathing and discomfort, and make sure that you wrap quite high up the chest to minimise movement of the bandages.
Advantages to this method are that it is cheap and readily available at any pharmacy.
Sports bra alone
If you’re relatively small chested and the costume is not particularly tight-fitting, you may need nothing more than a sports bra to flatten you out a bit and minimise “jiggle”!
Advantages to this method are that it is cheap, readily available and comfortable.
Sports bra/t-shirt and duct tape
Another cheap and dirty method is to use a cheap sports bra or old t-shirt and wrap duct tape around it. I really, really don’t recommend you place duct tape directly on your skin! This is an improvement on bandages as the glue on the duct tape means you can get good even coverage and you don’t have to worry about it slipping. It does tend to mean you have to cut yourself out of it (CAREFULLY) with scissors; even if you manage to unwrap the tape the clothing underneath is likely to be unsuitable to wear afterwards except for this method. You will probably need a friend to help you with this method. Again, make sure not to wrap too tightly or you may have trouble breathing.
Advantages to this method are that it is cheap and simple, and easy to move around in.
Waist cincher/girdle/control top tights/cycling shorts
I’m putting all these in one category as they act in much the same way.
Waist cincher/girdle – first please note that you should NOT use a metal boned waist cincher for this method. Light plastic boning is OK, but metal boning is designed to create a curve and will give you a very odd shape as well as being immensely uncomfortable.
Elasticated girdles are the best for this method. Simply wear it over the chest instead of the waist and hips and it will provide a reasonable flattening effect. This is not very suitable for tight costumes, however, as the lines of the girdle are likely to show through thin and tight fabrics.
Control top tights/cycling shorts – two methods here. Either cut just above the crotch area and use as suggested for girdles above, or alternatively cut a reasonably sized hole in the crotch area for your head and use the leg holes for your arms. This won’t work too well for cup sizes above B, however.
These methods are a little more expensive and harder to find, but have the advantage of quite smooth lines and being relatively comfortable.
This is by far the most effective method, but is likely to be the most expensive and difficult to source. Purpose-made binders are designed for FtM transsexuals and thus have a very natural, smooth look underneath clothing. They are reasonably comfortable, although may take some getting used to, and are more effective than most methods at concealing breasts over C-cup size. I have D-cup breasts and my binder flattens them out to look like muscular pecs; not completely flat, but effective nonetheless.
There are a number of websites from which you can order these. Some are not FtM sites so look for “compression shirts” or “gynecomastia vests”.
www.underworks.com (this is where I purchased mine)
www.t-kingdom.com (I have heard good things about these products!)
The above methods are all very well if your character is well covered, but what if you have a hankering to play someone who wears an open-shirted outfit? If you really want to go for accuracy instead of the safety of flesh-coloured fabric, there is a way!
I apologise in advance for my dreadful MS Paint diagrams, but I’m no digital artist!
First of all, you’ll want a decent quality sports tape/strapping tape. I’ve used two types before, Johnson’s and a non-branded variety. The non-branded variety was itchy, uncomfortable, adhered poorly and reacted with my skin. The Johnson’s was just fine and left almost no glue residue on my skin, and I have quite sensitive skin. It’s available from pharmacies. I do not recommend using tape that is not designed to go on skin, such as duct tape, unless you have remarkably resilient skin and don’t mind glue residue.
The first pieces of tape to apply are the vertical pieces. These provide the horizontal pieces with something better to adhere to than skin as well as giving you a guide. Next, apply the horizontal pieces, from top to bottom, taking the tape all the way around your back to the other side (what I’ve attempted to indicate with the arrows). It’s important that the tape goes all the way around the back as this is what holds the breasts to the side effectively. It does mean you end up using a full roll of tape each time, but the stuff isn’t too expensive!
Obviously this method cannot be used for topless cosplays, but it is remarkably effective for shirts that are opened quite far down. In order to prevent the tape from showing you could use some double sided tape to attach the costume to the vertical strips of sports tape.
One thing to note about this method: It feels darned odd. It stretches the skin between your breasts in a way that it isn’t really designed to do, so I strongly suggest applying some moisturiser to this area after you have applied the tape. However, it doesn’t give the breathing difficulties you may experience with other binding methods as the chest is not compressed. You may also wish to have some cold cream or cream cleanser with you for use after removing the tape, to soothe the skin and remove residue.
You may have seen it stated that this method is not effective for breasts above a B-cup, but I am a D-cup and find it to still be frighteningly effective to the point of upsetting people!
Extra tips on being convincing
I’ve never found it to be necessary to pad my crotch, but if you really want to convince people you’re a man you should bear in mind that men tend to walk very differently to women. Avoid swinging your hips as much as possible and try to walk with your legs slightly apart, although perhaps not John Wayne-style unless you’re cosplaying a cowboy! Imagine that you’re being pulled by a string from your crotch and you should come close.
Hopefully this guide will help you in your quest to
be a real boy crossplay convincingly!