Don’t Dress as Slave Leia

It’s hard to find a topic on which I have a strong opinion, but I found one today discussing Halloween costumes.

I love sexy costumes. I love the skill and creativity that goes into them. I love Star Wars. That is why it pains me to say

Slave Leia is a bad costume.

Please, let me elaborate.

I have nothing at all against dressing in a way that makes you feel sexy, or attractive, or awesome. That’s what Halloween is for. But Slave Leia represents so much that is wrong with geek culture I don’t know where to begin.

Argument the First: The Character

Princess Leia is a badass leader of a galactic rebellion. She is intelligent, willful, respected and skilled. However, during her time in the slave costume, she has had her power stripped of her; she is reduced to chattel and is used and abused by a filthy, fat, deplorable letch.   By choosing the slave costume, you are choosing that part of the Leia character to portray.  You are implicitly making the statement “I’d rather be sexy property than a reasonably dressed human.”

Argument the Second:  Nerd Girls

There is a well known issue with attracting women into nerd culture. Slave Leia is a symptom and a cause. She and her ilk are ubiquitous in any nerdy gathering. Those wearing slave Leia costumes do other women a disservice. They get a lot of attention largely because they’re mostly naked. This means girls uncomfortable wearing less than their normal undergarments in public may feel both pressure to do so if they want acceptance, or unable to gain attention and acceptance and therefore leave the community.

Argument the Third: Real Nerds Dress as Voltron

This is a bit of a personal tangent, but I think it’s worth noting. My anecdotal evidence has shown me that Slave Leias don’t understand what they’re doing. They have chosen their costume for no reason other than they think it’s hot. They don’t know about or care about the character. They don’t even necessarily like the movies.

Argument the Fourth:Don’t Feed the Trolls

There are more than a few people out there that want to be Jabba. Not in body, but in essence. Dressing as Leia feeds that. Supports it. Says that’s all fine and dandy. Is that the message you want to send?

Argument the Final: The Boys

So far I’ve been talking about the ones in the Leia Costume. The reason that the costume is popular, though, is how the rest of us react to it. Don’t support it. Tear your eyes away from the cleavage for a second and notice that Zoe, or Amy Pond just a few feet away. When a girl asks for advice on what costume to wear, talk about characters or concepts that she likes and knows about rather than ones that are wardrobe malfunctions waiting to happen.

Whew. Rant over.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to the other Mad Art Labbers.

Admissions of guilt:
1. I have engaged in hyperbole, excluded the middle, and stated opinion as fact for the purposes of making a point.
2. I have trouble not giving undue attention to women Slave Leia costumes. I am part of the problem.


Ryan is a professional nerd, teaching engineering in the frozen north. Somewhat less professionally, he is a costumer, author, blacksmith, juggler, gamer, serial enthusiast, and supporter of the Oxford comma. He can be found on twitter and instagram @studentofwhim. If you like what I do here, feel free to leave a tip in my tipjar.

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  1. While I don’t think I would ever dress as Slave Leia, if I ever did, I think I’d have to make sure to carry a chain and remind any asshats what she did to Jabba with it.

    But I’d much rather dress as Kayleigh or Zoe from Firefly. Do you think that people dressing as Inara are doing it for the same reasons as Slave Leia? Seeing her as Space Hooker instead of the character she is?

  2. Inara seems like a whole different discussion.

    She doesn’t have the brand recognition that Leia does nor are her costumes comperably revealing.

    To me that makes people dressed as her much more likely to know who and what she is and stands for.

    I’m not even going to try to enter the quagmire that is the ethics and morality of being a sex trade worker nor attempt to decipher the deeper meaning implied by a fictional society where interplanetary transport is of less value than a high class escort.

  3. I am patiently awaiting a prominent writer/professor’s dismissive poo-poo’ing response to this woman’s clearly histrionic post**. Oh, wait, Ryan is a dude. So, never mind…

    == canned laughter ==
    Thanks, I’m here all week! Don’t forget to tip your waitstaff!
    Also, it’s a joke! Put your phaser back on stun!

    ** – Assuming their attention isn’t currently taken up by someone chewing bubblegum, of course.

  4. The ONLY real issue I have with Slave Leia is that it’s over done. Which is only going to get worse now that Rubies is producing a “cheap” version of it. The colors are wrong and it’s a cheap imitation like every other Rubies costume, but it’s now going to be available in large, premade quantities to the masses of “slutty sorority girl” types who know nothing about the character, the movies or geek culture in general and who are going to turn the costume and by extension the character into just another brain-dead misogynistic cliche.

    As to the blog: I COMPLETELY disagree with the assessment of Leia’s character in the slave outfit. It isn’t looking past the surface, or past the costume one could say, in order to form that opinion. Leia isn’t a BAMF because of what she wears. Leia went into that situation KNOWING what the overall outcome was meant to be, she went in as a spy in order to help set the trap that would be Jaba’s downfall and free the love of her life. Her POWER in that situation was her KNOWLEDGE, her brain, and for that type of power it doesn’t matter if she was fully covered head-to-toe wearing the bounty hunter costume or if she was all but naked wearing a golden bikini.

    And let’s not forget that the Princess not only didn’t need to be saved by anyone, but that she, in all her half-naked glory, did a whole heap of the rescuing all by herself.

    “You are implicitly making the statement “I’d rather be sexy property than a reasonably dressed human.”” This statement is ABSOLUTE BUNK. Read everything I typed above again if you don’t understand why I feel that way.

    The “nerd girls” argument is likewise bunk and proves to me that the person typing this blog is not actually a part of geek/nerd culture (or at least not THIS section of geek culture). If they were they would have a FAR better understanding of it, and the girls who participate in it.

    The VAST majority of “nerd girls” who cosplay don’t feel “pressured” to do anything and NOBODY has ever been “forced to leave the community” because they won’t walk around half naked. I find the implications of that blatant misinformation to be insulting and annoying.


    UGH! RAPE CULTURE “troll” argument GTFO. The girls that dress as Slave Leia do not have to take responsibility for the way other people think and behave. Period.

    On top of all of that the writer also manages to do a disservice to most Geek/Nerd men by implying that they can’t, and don’t, see past that rolling hills of boobies to take note of all the other BAD ASS female cosplays around them and that’s just crap. Again this tells me that this person isn’t part of nor has a full understanding of this sector of geek culture. Also the idea that all the girls who wear a Slave Leia costume are somehow pushed into doing so by a man REEKS to me of internal misogyny so deep I dare not stick my toe in for fear of being pulled under.

    The fact that people may get distracted by the cleavage and the slave Leia costume doesn’t make that costume inherently bad or problematic. It just means that some people like boobies and skin and there is nothing wrong with that.

    There are many reasons not to do the Slave Leia cosplay, most of them having to do with creativity and the over abundance of the costume, but none of them have been shared in this blog post.

  5. Woo! A dissenting opinion!

    I won’t do a point by point rebuttal because most of what is being said here is your experiences vs. mine. But I will defend against one of the stranger Ad Hominem attacks I’ve had.

    I am a nerd. I am a geek. I cosplay, play dungeons and dragons, write fantasy novels, build dragons, play video games and am a medieval recreationist. My views on this subject are based on my experiences at cons and costume parties and talking with both men and women on the subject of costuming and geek culture.

    Also, I agree with your comment on the third point but only if you were talking about my fourth point. It was poorly articulated. What I’m trying to get at here is that one needs to choose and think about what they promote and who they pander to. I definitely see Slave Leia as pandering.

    Also, con trolls creep me out. I may have let some of that bias sway my commentary.

  6. Just curious, but what exactly do you mean by your fourth argument? If you’re suggesting that Slave Leia costumes encourage men to be dominant over real-life women, I find that claim to be just as ludicrous as the 501st Stormtrooper Legion encouraging people to support dictatorships or militarism. Anyone, male or female, who admires a Slave Leia costume at a con is fully capable of fighting for feminist causes in the real world.

  7. I seem to have been called out twice on this and rightfully so, in hindsight. It’s poorly structured and judgmental.

    I was trying to say that you should consider the message that costumes send. Think about what they represent and make a concious choice.

    It’s true with any recognizeable costume. Stormtroopers are nameless and faceless generic villains with poor aim. Vader is a badass evil leader with superpowers. Han is a charming rogue with very little respect for anyone. When you put any of those costumes on, you also take on some of those traits to anyone that sees you.

  8. OK Keene NH had their pumpkin festival last weekend. Costumes galore.

    One FRATERNITY at Keene State College….every single one… dressed as slave Leia. I wish I had a photograph. It was GREAT!!!!

    Jabba would have run screaming in terror!

    So this article only applies to females I hope. PLEASE say it’s ok for MEN to dress as slave Leia. I’ve never laughed so hard in my life.

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