¡Spoiler Warning for the original Final Fantasy VII and Remake!
To avoid writing spoilerific things right at the top, let me start with a slight tangent.
When I was in elementary school, I asked my mother to buy me a three-book set of How to Draw books from the Scholastic catalog. While I don’t remember the titles, I do remember that one was about dinosaurs, one was about pets, and one was about fashion. (Or was it four books, and the other was about horses?) I didn’t take too much to the first two, but as the fashion book also taught how to draw people, I spent a lot of time in its pages. Thus my first semi-formal “training” in figure drawing came from fashion illustration. Then Sailor Moon came along and cemented the idea in my brain that people should have mile-long legs. Now, even when I’m drawing from life, my initial gesture drawings pretty much always end up standing 9 to 10½ heads high.
Though I had an anti-fashion phase as a teenager—mostly because to Young Me the word meant “blindly and wastefully following trends”—I’ve ended up coming back to fashion with an appreciation for its design and illustration. Which brings us back to Final Fantasy VII.
I don’t remember exactly what my thoughts on the Wall Market side quests were back in 1997. I remember thinking it was funny to have Mr. Cool Tough ex-SOLDIER with a Huge Sword end up in a dress and pigtail braids while still having that uniquely spiky hair, a disguise that, like Clark Kent’s or Tsukino Usagi’s, shouldn’t work. It probably also struck me as funny for a guy to wear the things that I as a girl did not; most of my limited wardrobe of jeans, t-shirts, and polos through middle and high school came from the men’s section of Sears and St. Vincent de Paul. I think that I thought it was fun but not in a laughing-at kind of way, but in a Let’s Subvert Gender Norms! sort of way. That was certainly how I felt about it in subsequent playthroughs a few years later.
Still, I wondered if there was actually something unquestionably, hands down, not-up-for-debate problematic about dolling Cloud up that I just couldn’t see. So I spent a lot of time reading about this topic, primarily from LGBTQ authors. I think I can say that overall the general feeling, at least in what I can find published publicly, is that the scene had problematic elements but that it still could and did have a positive impact on some people. I also read and/or re-read some older articles that were relevant but unrelated to FFVII. I’ve linked some of them at the end of this post.
So after playing Remake and seeing that Square-Enix literally called Sephiroth a “Cloud-botherer,” naturally it occurred to me that if Seph is stalking Cloud, he’d need some new threads to infiltrate Corneo’s Mansion.
Never mind that he could probably just teleport/manifest inside.
I wanted to create outfits that would accentuate Sephiroth’s form and beauty, but preferably with a totally different silhouette from his canon outfit, which is basically already that of a dress. This train of thought made me realize that we have never seen Sephiroth’s bare human legs in an official release. Well, so I thought at the time, as I didn’t now about his alternate costumes in Dissidia Final Fantasy NT, which add legs to his original Safer Sephiroth form.
After deciding on the basic silhouette, I started brainstorming from the same three themes as Tifa’s outfits had: mature, sporty, and exotic. (The Sefikura implication of that was unintentional. I actually don’t ship Sephiroth with anybody…though now I feel like maybe Madam M could handle him.) I also decided not to use black, at least not as the main color of any outfit, as that would be, in my opinion, too easy.
So these were my results! I originally posted them to Twitter as I went.
This one came to mind pretty easily. I was thinking of the “Going to your partner’s place in nothing but a trench coat and heels” bit. (But I couldn’t remember what that was from…some movie? Was it Pretty Woman?)
I suppose the shoes would be “purple bottoms” according to FFVIIR though. (^_^;)
Originally I had been thinking of a golf or tennis outfit. A V-neck shirt with a short pleated skirt, golf club or racket instead of Masamune, hair high in a ponytail over a visor. But as I had also been thinking of the Dance of the Seven Veils for “Exotic,” it came to me: ballroom dancing is a sport. And dancing is apparently part of SOLDIER training.
The pose came from a photo of ballroom dancer Yulia Zagoruychenko that I came across primarily posted to Pinterest but with the original source never cited. It’s on this person’s WordPress blog as well.
I considered writing “Dancing Mad” in the background in the same font as used in the movie Dirty Dancing, but then I thought that might annoy people who don’t understand that not everything has to be a competition. (Personally I prefer Sephiroth to Kefka, but I appreciate that Kefka walked so Sephiroth could have an ominous Latin choir.)
I struggled with this one the most. I don’t even remember the order of my train of thought, but some points it hit where “bird of paradise (the flower),” “birds,” “Björk’s swan dress but with a chocobo instead,” “Athena in armor,” “exotic dancing,” and “belly dancing.” I initially decided to go with a dance theme again, and watched lots of dancing videos, made several rough croquis, and then, for whatever reason, decided the thing to do was exotic birds after all.
Oh, I think I remember what it was: I just happened to come across the avian-themed terno gowns of Cary Santiago while lolligagging on the internet. The shape for the sleeves on this dress were certainly inspired by terno gowns’ distinctive sleeves.
For some reason, while I was drawing the peacock “eyes,” they kept simultaneously creeping me out, and reminding me of avocado halves (which are decidedly not creepy). So I came up with this stylized shape to avoid both of those pitfalls. (Pun intended.)
Initially I was going to follow an actual peacock’s color scheme, but it just looked ugly to me to have the bodice be blue and the outer skirt green. Perhaps I was reacting to seeing Seph in such highly saturated colors, and a primary color at that, blue, the color of good guys. I tried several different color schemes, almost caved to the temptation to go the easy route and paint it black, but then I figured I would just have to get used to seeing Seph in this bright blue and that was that.
I have alternate versions of the Sporty and Exotic drawings that I’ll post separately later because this is getting a bit long, as well as some digital coloring “bloopers” that I thought were funny. So for now, I end with this:
1. “How should we talk about Final Fantasy VII’s crossdressing sequence” by Sarah Nyberg, July 2015, BoingBoing
2. “How Final Fantasy VII’s Cross-Dressing Segment Saved My Life” by Cayla Coats, April 2017, HuffPo
3. “The Transgender Icon of Final Fantasy VII” by Diana Tourjée, March 2018, VICE
4. “‘Let’s Talk About That Crossdressing Scene in Final Fantasy VII’ – Me, A Trans Woman” by Harmony M. Colangelo, April 2020, Medium
5. “Final Fantasy 7 Remake takes problematic ‘cross-dressing’ scene and turns it into a queer celebration” by Reiss Smith, April 2020, PinkNews
6. “Final Fantasy VII Remake Gives Cloud’s Honeybee Inn Makeover The Update It Needed” by Todd Harper, April 2020, Kotaku
7. “Cloud Threatens Gender Norms Through Way More Than Cross Dressing” by Stacey Henley, May 2020, Into the Spine
These aren’t specifically about FFVII, but relevant:
8. “Billy Porter on Why He Wore a Gown, Not a Tuxedo, to the Oscars” by Christian Allaire, February 2019, VOGUE
9. GQ’s November 2019 issue “The New Masculinity” (I actually bought this issue in hard copy so I’m not sure how much of it is available online. Seems like a fair chunk of the content judging by this page.)