A few weeks ago we looked at some of the Faces of Jace, and got the column’s first look at crossplaying. Today, we look at some of the other Faces of Jace, featuring three fantastic cosplayers—Mei, Tappy Toe Claws, and Jessica Sagahón—who all have crossplayed in Magic: the Gathering.

Meet The Women

Photography by Cosgamers Brasil


Mei @letsongakemi

Non-Female MTG Characters Cosplayed: Jace, Oko, Ugin, Angrath, and Ashiok. Jace Beleren was a quick wardrobe look to wear during the pre-release event of Dominaria at her local game store for a cosplay contest. This initial experience sparked her official debut cosplaying Jace shortly after at a Magic Fest.

Photography by @BibliovoreOrc


Sydney @TappyToeClaws

Non-Female MTG Characters Cosplayed: Jace, Oko, Ral Zarek and most recently Domri Rade for the Secret Lair release. Jace was the first MtG cosplay Sydney made, and she has since cosplayed every version of him! (Jace the Mind Sculptor/Jace, Unraveller of Secrets/Jace, Cunning Castaway)

Photography by @Bibliovore Orc, Cosplay made by Uma Asato

Jessica @jpsz6

Non-Female MTG Characters Cosplayed: Urza, Nicol Bolas, and in-progress currently is Ugin. Jessica’s first cosplay ever was Sasori, from Naruto, and Urza was her first male Magic character.

From the introduction photos alone you can see a lot of effort and detail has gone into translating the exact details of the character’s get-ups, bringing some of our favorite legends to life. Choosing to dress as a character who may be a different gender than you is no different than choosing other characters with differences from yourself. Maybe you choose an elf with pointy ears, or a pyromancer with flaming hair, or a beastly planeswalker with a large muscular build, all which may be unattainable or unrealistic for you. When in costume you’re roleplaying and expressing yourself eccentrically, and who you think is cool to cosplay is completely valid, and probably more than who you might “look like.”

One of the most beautiful aspects of cosplay is that there are no limits, including (but not limited to) the age, race, or gender of you or the character you like; cosplay is for everyone. Your creativity, imagination, and inspiration pulled from your favorite fandoms can transform you into any character—whether is a subtle nod in the form of a casual cosplay, or a full blown 200-hour project that is as close to an identical realistic reproduction of the original art as possible.


Crossplay in terms of cosplay is by nature a more binary term of a cosplayer dressing opposite to cisgender norms. In a previous article we saw a male, Broc from @teammtgcosplay, dressing as both Chandra and the Wanderer who are both female planeswalkers (assumed, as we don’t know much about the Wanderer yet). He had the chainmail, red breastplate, red hair & goggles all easily identifying him as our fiery female friend Chandra. For Chandra, he sported shorts instead of a skirt, but for the Wanderer he wore her traditional dress. I would consider both to be crossplay as he wasn’t distinctly altering the character’s canon gender, still with a distinct breastplate. Some might argue Broc’s Chandra was gender bent because of the shorts, but in my opinion he was merely satisfying a costume fitting requirement more than completely altering Chandra’s clothing design. Crossplay can be interpreted in many ways. It’s about replicating costume components, including identifying items and choosing commonplace colors to let one’s audience know who exactly they are portraying.



Gender bending is a type of cosplay where one interprets a different gender than the original character’s. You dress as you normally would, but reinvent the costume to suit your needs. In the example of Chandra I used above, a gender-bent Chandra might sport a vest exposing his chest, a steampunk top hat instead of just goggles, and perhaps suspenders with the pants, more emphasis on the gender shift.  Let me share some examples to help the term “gender-bent” make more sense.

While I was writing this article, I was super excited during my first sealed pool of the newly released MTG Core Set 2021 to stop and admire the art of Liliana’s Devotee illustrated by Colin Boyer. It’s a perfect example of gender-bent cosplay on MTG card art:

Here is a human who is baring their chest, currently a public display acceptable for those who identify as male in most places, wearing the same garb of his gruesome female leader Liliana. A gender-bent look is achieved here with black hair, purple pants, and a purple overcoat with a golden collar resembling Liliana’s iconic veil. They aren’t wearing a dress as she is always drawn in, but his devotion is completely discernible.

By Wild Bangarang

In reverse, if a woman wore this dress covered in male planeswalker Teferi’s time-honored markings, that would also be an example of gender-bent cosplay.

Now you know a couple types of popular gender related cosplay terms that have been canonized for quite some time in the cosplay community, let’s look at some great examples. All of the examples we will be looking at with the women today are crossplay, as opposed to gender-bent.

Chatting with the Cosplayers

Mei as Ugin, the Spirit Dragon

There is always something that hooks one onto choosing a character, that initial inspiration sparking creativity. How do you choose a character to cosplay?

I cosplay characters for different reasons. Sometimes I am fond of their personality or relate to them specifically on some level. Other times, I pick characters due to a unique visual, in which case I try to imagine how recognizable a character silhouette is from every angle possible and what their most striking feature is.

Usually it’s the design that catches my eye first, something about the visual aesthetic that holds my attention. Gender of the character never factors into the equation. Often what gets made just boils down to what concept worms its way into my brain and won’t leave my idea space.

First, I have to like the character and its design. I really like villains and antiheroes because they have the coolest design and personalities. If the character has clothing that covers most of the body, big armor or flashy props I feel very attracted to it, I feel empowered in armor!

Jessica as Nicol Bolas made by Uma Asato, Photography by @BibliovoreOrc.

Each lady is influenced by different aspects from lore to art. There are no differences to be found here than choosing any other character; all are influenced by their own personal drives. It made me wonder: are any cosplay elements adjusted due to gender difference?

I scale things to my size so that everything looks like it fits sensibly, I don’t want to walk around looking like I’m a kid wearing my dad’s suit. This way the whole look, the whole outfit reads cohesive in pictures. I’m very lucky that I am a women’s average size everything; but that’s still proportioned differently than even a younger male character, and definitely smaller than the usual 6 footish adult male character archetype (speaking in terms of the usual cis-normative averages we see in a lot of media, obviously).

Sydney as Domri Rade, Photography by @Zak_SHWAP

I also tend to design costumes in layers to help get the right silhouette, as well as the correct support so the cosplay is safe and comfortable to wear. In my case as a cis-woman cosplaying male presenting characters I usually need some kind of chest binder or similar base layer. Assuming anyone wants to go this route: DON’T SKIMP ON THIS. Do the research and get something that is safe and comfortable.

I try to respect the original design as much as possible, but I like to use makeup and have a lot of fun with genderbend. I like the versatility that Urza gives me, because I can make him as the original old man, or I can switch it up and style the cosplay as a woman, as non-binary or as a cat (I cosplayed Jeff Laubenstein’s Purrza by changing the make-up).

Jeff Laubenstein, Illustrator with Jessica as Purrza

I personally wouldn’t genderbend a cosplay for the sake of fitting my gender, but I don’t have any problem with cosplayers that do so. Some characters might need a small adjustment for the sake of not exposing my body in ways that make me feel uncomfortable, like wearing a white tanktop while cosplaying as Oko. Mostly I go for the original design whenmaking the costume.

Mei as Oko, Thief of Crowns

All of these are perfectly normal design demands each making sure their apparel fits appropriately and mostly sticking true to the original inspiration. Speaking of styling, how does one do their hair and make up for crossplay? Do you ladies have any pointers?

Learn all you can about makeup. Contouring is a magic trick that will do wonders if you master it. Also, choose a wig that reflects what you want to show to your audience, especially when doing genderbend. Do you want your character to look cute? Evil? Neutral? Sexy? A wig can help you with that. A cosplay can change completely just by playing with hair and makeup alone.

I have spent some time watching tutorials on how to apply make-up so your face looks “more manly” and make bulkier pieces of armor to shape my silhouette.

After Mei mentioned tutorials I wondered what other skills these ladies had acquired while working on a crossplay. What is a skill you’ve learned from crossplay?

More like what haven’t I learned? Sewing, wig making and styling, sculpting, sanding, painting, make up… Everything I know about cosplay creation is a combination of self-instruction and help from very talented friends. There’s a wealth of knowledge out there, it just takes a lot of time and trial and error. Mostly error but you learn something every time you fail.

Sydney as Jace, Photography by @BibliovoreOrc

One thing is learning to accept criticism and improve your work based on the feedback the community gives to you. People have the right to have their opinions and it’s impossible to please everyone. Not everyone will like your cosplay. By far the most common comment I receive is: “Oh. Are you cosplaying (male character’s name)? But he’s a man…” However, I don’t let negative comments affect doing what I love. 90% of my experiences are very positive and I’m always eager for my next cosplay project and to interact with people at events.

Jessica as Nicol Bolas made by Uma Asato, Photography by @BibliovoreOrc.

With so much sounding similar to any other approach to cosplay, all that’s left is to ask the experienced, what advice would you give to someone specifically wanting to crossplay?

If you really like a character, but you don’t feel comfortable with their clothes, it’s completely valid to make some changes to it. You should feel comfortable in your crossplay/genderbend!

No matter what character you are cosplaying and what gender they are, remember it’s your cosplay, you have your reasons and your feelingsthat lead you to this choice—either because you like the character, youidentify with them, because you want to test your skills, you want to explore new possibilities, or really anything else. You don’t need to justify them to anyone. Never feel ashamed for wanting to crossplay and don’t let the nay-sayers dictate what you should cosplay; there’s nothing more fulfilling than doing something you love.

Sydney as Oko, Thief of Crowns

Go for it! You don’t ever have to let your gender or a character’s gender ever prevent you from making the outfit or portraying the character that you feel the most drawn or attached to. Change any part of the costume of the character so that you’re more comfortable. Definitely do some make-up and outfit tests as you’re working to see how you feel, as a face full of make-up or a crazy new outfit can feel really odd sometimes (in both good and bad ways). Finally, find a friend to cosplay with, that’s a rule for any project. You’re going to have more fun and feel more comfortable going out and wearing all this crazy fun stuff in a group. Plus, I promise you all those failures along the crafting process (because there will be, I’m not going to lie) will be way more manageable when you can commiserate and laugh in a group chat.

Wrapping Up

I hope you walk away from this article with a new appreciation of crossplay. I want our Magic community at large to understand crossplay is a common occurrence in the cosplay community, and so I never want to see negative comments on cosplayers’ posts based on their creative choices, especially when it’s such a widespread activity. Inviting these established women who have displayed multiple crossplays is my way of normalizing the fact: cosplay is for everyone. These women are proof, one should go about cosplay or crossplay however they please!

I’m curious, have any of you reading this dressed as crossplay or gender-bent, whether or not you realized it at the time? For me, this past Halloween I dressed as Short Round (from Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom) as a duo with my husband. Find me on social media @ZBexx and share your costumed pictures with me!

Next time in the column we will take a look into a whole different creature type. Let’s just say we aren’t human anymore…

Zenaide “ZBexx” Beckham is an Oregon-based cosplayer, gamer, and MTG judge. Her favorite format is Legacy, because just like performing in dance or cosplay she gets to Show and Tell.

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