This year, for con season, I’m dressing as Slave Leia… sort of.
If you’ve been following this blog, you know that, over a year ago, I wrote a post somewhat condemning the wearing of the Slave Leia costume. And though I’ve revised my stance, it would seem somewhat hypocritical of me to wear the costume without some justification, so I want to explain why I’ll be trotting around nearly naked at the cons this year.
Last year at Dragon Con, much of the Skepchick and Mad Art Lab crew dressed in gender bent versions of Star wars characters.
It was awesome. They looked fantastic. I wanted to play, too. Myself and some of the other male MALers laughed that we wouldn’t be left out of such a fun game next year. We plotted as to what we could dress as… but there aren’t that many females in Star Wars, even fewer with iconic or even recognizable costumes if the genders were swapped… Somebody would have to find a way to gender-bend Slave Leia.
I drew the short, and mostly naked straw.
I will be honest, this costume is well outside my comfort zone. Normally, I’m a strong advocate for not doing things with which one is uncomfortable. There are often good reasons for the discomfort: questionable safety, social consequence, morality, lack of information, etc.
My reason, however, apart from a slight worry about being cold, is fear. Fear is not a reason, in itself, to not do something. Fear is a pretty useful heuristic tool for situations involving live tigers and such, but with time for rational and collected contemplation, it should give way to honest risk assessment and emotional reflection.
My fear is not well reasoned. I’m not afraid of injury or death or tigers in this situation. I’m not afraid of losing my job or my friends. I’m not even afraid of looking absurd or being laughed at, I have a whole webseries devoted to that. What I am afraid of is being judged, being scrutinized, being exposed.
I typically cosplay on the conservatively safe side. Last year I wore a jacket, tie, and overcoat and the nuances of my figure remained secreted away behind layers of fabric and tailoring.
Walking around with barely any clothes on, exposing my imperfect skin, my undefined chest and abs, my knobby knees and my unsightly body hair is, well, terrifying. But then again, if I, a guy just on the scrawny side of ordinary, can’t muster the courage to wear such a costume, how brave must the women that do wear it be? Moreover, how can I call for throwing off the media-induced self-conscious insecurities about our bodies if I’m incapable of doing it myself? I think I’ve painted myself into a corner containing a gold bikini costume.
This costume is a challenge.
I could just buy a Slave Leia Costume and wear it. In a lot of ways, that would be easier; It would be purposely comedic and absurd. Nobody could mistake me for trying to look good in it. It would be a joke.
But that is not at all the point.
The point here is to make a gender-bent Slave Leia, a Slave Leo. The outfit must capture the essence, the aesthetic, and the artistry of the original costume, and twist them to suit a man. This is a fun game for any character, in my mind, but Slave Leia presents a deeper challenge.
Slave Leia is a sexual icon. I am not.
She is a well constructed collection of forms that succeed at accentuating and flattering the form while tantalizing the viewer with the threat of exposing forbidden bits of flesh. It is, effectively, fetish lingerie. How the hell do I make that masculine without making it either indecent or absurd?
That, there, is a design challenge that I’m too obstinate to back down from.
Even more than just getting the design right, I couldn’t just make this out of cardboard and hot glue. My hubris demanded that this be better than that, in fact, better than real. The gold bikini in the film was probably resin cast and held in place with tape and careful editing. I couldn’t accept that. I wanted the metal bits to be made of metal, the leather bits to be made of leather, the buckles to be real buckles and the overabundance of exposed flesh to be real exposed flesh.
I spent most of my Christmas vacation and dozens of evenings sketching, sewing, beating brass, dying and stitching leather until I had a product of which I could be proud and proud of it, I am. I had to learn new skills to build it. I had to experiment and fail and try again.
There is no way anyone could think of this as a casual joke. Serious time and effort went into the creation of this costume. So… now I can’t laugh this off as being just an ill-considered lark… no more excuses… see section 2 for my resurgent feelings on this.
In order to get over my misplaced sense of shame and fear, I hereby expose myself to the internet. I’m going to go hide under my bed now while I deal with this.
Classic Leia Pose.
Don’t I look comfortable and confident in this next one? ALL LIES!
I actually looked like this for most of the shoot.
Classic super manly pose.