The Practicality Of Video Game Outfits, Reviewed By The Cosplayers Who Wore Them

Earlier in February we asked asked five fashion writers to evaluate the fashion sense of various video game characters — this time we're looking at the practicality of their outfits, as judged by the people who make and wear these clothes themselves — cosplayers.

Lead image: AmenoKitarou by Lark Visuals

Have you ever looked at a video game character's dress choice and wondered how the hell they do all the intensely active things they do in-game? Whether its sky-high heels on female characters or men so swathed in belts they hardly look like they can walk (looking at you, Square Enix), cosplayers have a unique first-hand view on the wearability of different outfits.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, many of the outfits rated to be highly practical come from live action media — movies, TV, even theatre. Video games tend to offer the most impractical costumes, while comic books can go either way. Want to see what the cosplayers think? Here are their ratings:

The Best:

Photo by What A Big Camera

Cammy White, Super Street Fighter IV

Worn by: Hayley Elise

A lot of people tend to think that Cammy, queen of wedgie-world, would have a hard time fighting in her scanty costume — but it's actually one of the most comfortable costumes I own. Of course I cheat a little by including a thick pair of tights to reduce the risk of unwanted flashing, but there's a reason why Cammy's costume looks so similar to 80s gym gear — it's really easy to move in. Not only that, but her military-style boots are nice and flat, and she wears good thick socks to reduce the risk of blisters as well.

The only thing that restricts movement are the gloves, but it would be useful to have that padding if I was punching people all day. Spandex is the active cosplayer's best friend — I've even sparred in this costume. Think of Ned Flanders' "feels like I'm wearing nothing at all!"

Practicality: 9/10. The only improvement I would make would be to give her a hairstyle that isn't so heavy and easy to grab in a fight.


Photo by Charmaine Morgan Photography

Darth Talon, Star Wars

Worn by: Soylent Cosplay

In another example of 'less is more', Darth Talon's costume seems to provide stellar functionality by giving plenty of room to move. While Soylent Cosplay adds that the heavy headpiece does make the costume a literal headache to wear, we can probably assume that Talon herself is a true Twi'lek and not in disguise, making it likely she'd find her costume quite practical.

"Surprisingly, Darth Talon was really easy to move around in and was comfortable (as far as the outfit was concerned), so I can actually see how easy it'd be to fight in it!"

Practicality: 9/10. "Darth Talon doesn't have pockets, but she doesn't actually carry anything anyway so she's a 9 for freedom of movement. If I could add a pocket I'd give her a 10."


Photo by What A Big Camera

Princess Peach, Mario Series

Worn by: Hayley Elise

While I admittedly won't be doing any martial arts in it, Princess Peach is the second most practical costume in my armoury. It's a classic: simple and easy to wear, not too heavy and not too restrictive. While serial upskirters are able to tell that Peach wears a classy pair of red heels, let's be honest here — she could wear whatever she shoes she wanted under that dress and no one would be the wiser. Need to play some mini-games in Mario Party? Hell yeah, chuck some running shoes on.

Practicality: 8/10. On par with most fancy evening-wear.


Photo by Joffre St Productions

Kim Possible, Kim Possible

Worn by: Ardella Cosplay

The holy grail of cosplay is a character who is both recognisable and easy to wear. With a costume that's not far from real clothing, but still interesting enough to stand out amongst non-costumed convention-goers, Kim Possible easily ticks both boxes.

"The most practical cosplay I've ever worn has been Kim Possible. A belt full of pouches, comfy dunlop shoes."

Practicality: 8/10. "Only danger is my pants possibly falling down, but that's because she's a 90s character and therefore wears them like hanging off her butt already."


Photo by ArmsRace

Gaige, Borderlands 2

Worn by: Rose Cosplay

"Anything I've done where pockets or pouches have been incorporated into the design have been amazing to wear. Most comfortable/practical cosplay I've ever worn has been Gaige from Borderlands 2, because she has a lunchbox tied to her belt and that was big enough to fit my wallet, phone, coscards, makeup to retouch my cell shading during the day, keys and even sometimes snacks. It's been the only cosplay that I didn't need a bag bitch for and was able to handle myself pretty well. Also it has really comfy shoes and full movability in cosplay."

Practicality: 8.5/10


Photo by Madman

Wonder Woman, Injustice: Gods Among Us

Worn by: Rae Johnston

Finally, Wonder Woman gets a costume where she doesn't have to worry about flashing the people she's kicking in the face.

"This costume is comfortable, but the real practicality is it's durability. The armour is all leather, so it takes a beating, and because it is moulded to my body it is super secure. My phone even fits down the side of the boots for handy storage!"

Practicality: 8.5/10. "High heels can get a bit ouchie after a long day at the con."


Indiana Jones, Indiana Jones series

Worn by: Andrew Scott

Just try to get Harrison Ford into an uncomfortable costume, I dare you.

"I would wear the Indiana Jones costume in an actual swashbuckling adventure... Or an archaeological dig."

Practicality: 10/10. "Only if it doesn't include the makeup."


The Worst:

Photo by Steamkittens

Shyvana, League Of Legends

Worn by: Hayley Elise

Shyvana is the only costume that's left me physically bruised from wearing, though I was lucky to be able to wear it at all. The character's armour pieces float on her body while also conforming tight to it — the only way I could actually wear it was to velcro the pieces to a full bodysuit. The helmet with its full 'tail' of armour plates was also a poor design choice, clashing against and catching on all the other armour with the slightest movement. It also doesn't seem to serve any useful purpose, unless Shyvana is really protective of her ponytail. Movement was also generally difficult — this three second run was all I was getting up to for the rest of the day.

Practicality: 3/10. At least I was in character with how angry I was whenever someone asked me to stand up for a photo.


Photo by Tom Williams

Liara T'Soni, Mass Effect 3

Worn by: Soylent Cosplay

Two elements consistently come up for cosplayers when rating costumes' practicality — shoes, and storage. Liara is one that fails on one level but passes on the other, boasting comfortable shoes, though a complete lack of pockets or pouches is heinous enough to cut her practicality rating in half. Assuming this is Mass Effect 3 rather than the first game, she's going to need somewhere to store all her thermal clips.

"Liara was completely non-functional for someone who's literally fighting non-stop and is an archaeologist; no pockets despite having so many layers. Though her shoes were comfortable."

Practicality: 5/10. "I'd say that Liara was about a 5, because her shoes were practical but nothing else was."


Photo by What A Big Camera

Jaina Proudmoore, Warcraft

Worn by: Ardella Cosplay

Armour seems to be one of the things that really trips cosplayers up on wearability, especially fantasy armour with no visible straps or connections, which often conforms tightly to a character's body (despite supposedly being hard steel). Add to this two wildly impractical capes (Edna Mode would have a fit) and Jaina is in no state to even be on the battlefield in this costume.

"Impractical award goes to Jaina Proudmoore. For a mage who spends half her time running from one end of a battlefield to the other, she has no pockets, crazy impractical 5inch wedge heels with pointy toes, heavy armour that just seems to hover magically in place and two capes. Two. That get tangled up in everything."

Practicality: 3/10. "I can stand up and walk about 5 meters before I want to cry. Or one of my knee guards falls off. Or my pants need hiking up. Or my pauldrons take someone's head off."


Photo by Falcon Visuals

Yoshimitsu, Tekken

Worn by: CatRoulette

While fighting games sometimes get things right (see: Cammy and pretty much every male character who only wears pants) sometimes the more fancifully designed characters' costumes turn out to just be impossible. While Yoshimitsu's armour is based off traditional Japanese samurai armour, it's also a version of said armour that apparently does not work so well in real life.

"My Yoshimitsu costume was an absolute nightmare. It's full armour so kinda expected, but in game he just flips and kicks and jumps around. His breastplate was solid from neck to waist and really tight (because he has a ridiculously small waist) so it was super painful and everything else was generally stupid. People would ask if I could do one of his moves and I'd be like 'All I can do is fall over.'"

Practicality: 2.5/10. "Many cyborg samurais were harmed in the making of Tekken TT2."


Photo by I Got Superpowers

Elektra, Marvel Comics

Worn by: JusZ Cosplay

Okay, maybe less isn't always more. This is especially evident in the case of some comic book costumes that might as well be painted on — random arm/leg straps made out of actual fabric will rarely stay up unless literally glued to your skin. With these design elements and random dangly bits flying everywhere, Elektra's is one costume that doesn't pass the cosplay practicality test.

"Elektra is oddly difficult to wear for such a simple costume. The leg straps are always falling down, the headpiece slips off every five minutes and her long arm band/ribbon things catch on everything and get tangled up. Not practical!"

Practicality: 4/10. "Not terribly uncomfortable, but also not secure. Too much slippage (leg bands, headpiece, weird one shoulder strap) - makes running, and probably ninja-ing, a bit tough."


Photo by Carlos Adama

Elise, League Of Legends

Worn by: Hollita

Elise suffers from the same problem as Shyvana, with floating armoured pieces improbably stuck to her body. We won't even mention the fact that her feet appear to be little more than sharp spikes — which admittedly look pretty cool, but would no doubt sink immediately into the ground if she ever tried to walk over turf or dirt.

"I could move somewhat but every movement was slow and the armoured parts though strapped to me for grim death were problematic, no place for phone etc, claws make handling things a no go. Sitting was a carefully choreographed act."

Practicality: 2/10. "League should just 100% stop, people would die of old age before I could attack them."


Photo by What A Big Camera

Ariel, The Little Mermaid

Worn by: Rose Cosplay

"Least convenient, I'm not even going to explain why. I'll let you figure it out."

Practicality: 1/10.


Comments

    Haha, I love this. Reading through it all just sent flashbacks of issues that came up in the past. After my first few costumes I started to put a whole lot more thought into the practicality side of things. Manny was pretty excellent for that, being just a suit and helmet. Tonnes of pockets for storage, and with the split in the back of the jacket I could even reach up to slide the PAX guide into the waist of my pants pretty easily without having to crush or fold it up or anything. Totally felt like an adventure game character, reaching back and pulling that thing out of nowhere :P

    Similarly it lead to my adding a pouch to the belt of my Shredder outfit, so I could easily slip my wallet and phone in the back there and not worry about having to carry a bag around or having it be seen and ruin the look of things, thanks to being hidden beneath a cape.

    Couldn't quite get away with much practicality for Zangief :P The bruise I got under my toenail at the last PAX from those boots is only just starting to grow out now, at this rate there'll probably still be traces of it by next PAX. But it was still better than Luigi's stompers. Terrible/10 idea.

      I'm going to get a long sleeved cycling shirt to wear under my N7 armour, precisely because it will have drop pockets for phone/wallet.

        Pockets are pretty much the best thing ever. I don't know how people survive without them.

          That was one of the first things I realised when I sorted out my Nac Mac Feegle costume. The kilt was great but I suddenly realise that I had no pockets in the outfit anywhere.
          Ended up being the most expensive part of the costume as I had to rush out and get a sporan at short notice

    to be fair both Elise and Shyvana aren't human. I'm not sure how you can pass judgement on the practicality of the costume for a half dragon and half spider.

    also it seems Jaina is the HoTS version, she's slightly more simple in WoW. Probably because there's no heels in WoW (or none to my memory)

      True, though it's still going to be impossible for Shyvana to wear that armour unless she has sticky dragon skin or something.

    the only reason why Jania's outfit is impractical is because we dont have access to magic to make everything stay in place

    Id love to see how practical the Fallout New Vegas Desert Ranger Outfit is

    I didn't realise that Wonder Woman wore heels. Bizarre choice for an Amazon. Or is it just the cosplayer trying to attain a better stature for the character?

      Most versions of Wonder Woman are drawn with heels, although that's improved a little in the last decade or so.

    I'm like 6 disappointed that there wasn't mention of Canary and her wedgie from Hell and yet okay you didn't openly talk about my hungry butt.

    "Why don't you cosplay something more practical?"
    /brain aneurism

    Any costume that displays more than say.. 20 to 30 percent skin can't be very practical in bad or cold weather.. yet these characters parade around in all weather types, but due to the way artists love to conjure up bombastic storms and weather to set the mood.. most of the time they are in cold or bad weather situations!

      I cosplayed Black Canary for the first time in Winter in Sydney. Got photos taken on the harbour after it had been raining. Funnily enough, Hayley was there in her Leia! She was smart enough to bring a cloak, my dumb arse forgot to wear pants and got sick as a dog!

        That was a bad, cold night. Metal bikinis belong on Tatooine only,

          You were still smarter than I was! And I still haven't learnt anything from that experience.

      You'd be surprised. I ran around PAX as Zangief and despite being a pretty cool, rainy day and the air conditioning in there being icy cold, I was sweating up a storm all day long. Even during times when running around without the cape on.

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