Build Your Cosplay Confidence with Body Neutrality

Models (left to right): David M., Crayle of Phoenix Sisters Cosplay, Kelly of Phoenix Sisters Cosplay | Photographer: Mark Shafer Photography

It’s no secret that superheroes, anime characters, and other cosplay subjects often wear tight or revealing clothing. It’s also no secret that their poses can often be hard to recreate with a real-life human body.

As a cosplayer, going for accuracy often feels unflattering.

Should we let that stop us? The Pheonix Sisters say no.

Of course exact page accuracy is not required to enjoy cosplay. Sometimes it is even fun to see how far away from the source material you can get while still being recognizable, from mash-ups to gender bends, and everything in between.

But very often, cosplayers dress up as a specific character because they want to recreate a certain aspect of their story, appearance, or personality.

Letting a tummy bulge or facial feature that you worry fails to meet “mainstream” beauty standards stop you is squashing your joy.

The photo above comes from the photoshoot that cemented the Phoenix Sisters Cosplay team, Crayle and Kelly, into a tightknit friendship and incredibly fun cosplay partnership.

Not only did Crayle and Kelly squeeze themselves into spandex – their Scott Summers model was shirtless to recreate a few specific scenarios from the comics.

None of us feel that we have perfect bodies. In fact, spandex and shirtlessness can really highlight the stomach area, which is hardly the “favorite” body part for any of us three.

If we had let those doubts stop us from recreating one of Kelly’s favorite comic book panels though, who knows if the Phoenix Sisters Cosplay brand would even exist!

Models (left to right): Kelly of Phoenix Sisters Cosplay, David M., and Crayle of Phoenix Sisters Cosplay | Photographer: Mark Shafer Photography

How do we push through the insecurity to create the scenes (and memories!!!) that we most want to experience for ourselves?

Body positivity.

There are some misconceptions out there about how to be body positive. Many people feel that they fail at being body positive because they just can’t force themselves to love every part of their body, or not care how they look.

There is a better way.

The base philosophy to build body positivity from is “body neutrality.”

Body neutrality is looking at a body part or physical feature and saying “I don’t have to love or hate this part of me. It is there, and I can look past it.”

Crayle’s example is her skin. She never outgrew the “teenage” acne and breakouts. If she tries to tell herself “My face’s skin is beautiful anyway, zits and all!” it doesn’t ring true, because she doesn’t believe it.

Crayle tells herself instead, “My skin does many important jobs, like protecting me from heat, cold, and foreign bodies that could make me sick. Surely that balances out the fact that it breaks out sometimes. Make-up can cover it enough for me not notice it as much anyway.”

Now that she can view her skin as a net-zero towards the way she views her appearance, she has time to focus on the things she truly believes are beautiful about herself. In her Emma Frost costume, she loves the way she arranges the crystals to “transition” into Emma’s diamond form. She loves the way she can pose regally with her hands, or tilt her head just right to highlight her shiny hair.

Her view of her body and the photos of her in it are now much more positive.

Model: Crayle of Phoenix Sisters Cosplay | Photographer: David M.

There are so many things that the Phoenix Sisters are comfortable telling the world that they do not love about themselves – and that’s okay! They still love the costumes they make. And plenty of their fans still find them hot. They have the DMs to prove it.

Kelly often feels uncomfortable with parts of her body in her comic book Leia Organa costume.

Model: Kelly of Phoenix Sisters Cosplay | Photographer: Thomas Guentner

Any time you wear white, it can feel like the fabric is just begging to reveal any unflattering part of your body’s shape.

And if anything shows through, the cosplayer in question has to decide if the revealing nature meets their own modesty standards in addition to highlighting any body parts we may want to hide.

But when Kelly applies the body neutrality mindset to anything that her Leia costume leaves to be desired when she views herself in it, just like Crayle, she is able to focus on the positives.

Model: Kelly of Phoenix Sisters Cosplay | Photographer: Thomas Guentner

For example, she has an iconic Leia Organa hairdo, and Kelly’s choice of backdrop was exquisite, taking the character work to the next level for a photoshoot.

In full body shots, she is in command and facing the task at hand head-on, just as the “real” Leia would.

Sometimes, our bodies are especially uncooperative with our cosplay goals.

Of course it’s okay to postpone a photoshoot or costumed outing if you need to take care of yourself. In fact, the Phoenix Sisters encourage that.

But when it just comes down to how you think you look, Crayle and Kelly encourage cosplayers to give the body neutrality to body positivity mindset a try.

Model: Crayle of Phoenix Sisters Cosplay | Photographer: David M.

Crayle had been dying to get a formal photoshoot done in her Dark Supergirl cosplay. She usually feels amazing in that costume in every way…  But she was bloating that day. She almost chose not to go.

This would have resulted in her missing the most serendipitous shooting location coincidence she has ever experienced.

When she and her photographer ducked under an overpass to escape the glare of the sun, they found graffiti saying, “Kneel before Zod.”

Model: Crayle of Phoenix Sisters Cosplay | Photographer: David M.

Who knows how long that graffiti wold be there before the city decided to power wash it off or paint over it? It would have been a missed opportunity for sure. The graffiti definitely wasn’t there the last time Crayle took a walk in that park, that’s for sure!

Furthermore, Kelly had the time on her hands and the inspiration (at the same time no less) for some amazing special effects edits. Who knows if that would have lined up either if the photoshoot had been delayed?

Model: Crayle of Phoenix Sisters Cosplay | Photographer: David M.

If you are too uncomfortable with the way you look or feel in a costume, of course you can always sit it out. Protect your mental health first.

But if you’re starting to feel limited by the parts of your body you don’t like, try thinking about body neutrality as a part of body positivity. You may find yourself finally able to enjoy costuming in your own skin.

And if you want to hear more examples of this mindset, and a general discussion of cosplay-specific body positivity, please consider listening to the Phoenix Sisters’ podcast episode – Cosplay Café Meets Body Neutrality.

Give yourself the gift of cos-positivity. It can start with body neutrality.

Models (left to right): Andrea Starnes, a.k.a. Mehdiia_Rise, Crayle of Phoenix Sisters Cosplay, Kelly of Phoenix Sisters Cosplay

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