The Final Fantasy franchise is known for its runway-ready fashions. The most recent Final Fantasy game—Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII—employs costume-switching as part of its battle system, and it’s not even the first FF game to do so. This revisitation of the best outfits in all Final Fantasy games over the years has been long overdue.
Maddy: I do like a good thigh-high boot. Also, I like the gender-bendy blend of femme and butch fashions on display in this outfit — a clear sign of more gender fluidity to come in future Final Fantasy fashions.
Todd: What I liked about Refia in that game (this pic is from the DS remake; in the original the characters weren’t particularly individual) is that she’s a blacksmith’s apprentice, and I think that’s how this outfit reads. She’s here to work iron and kick ass, and she’s all out of iron.
Maddy: Think Peter Pan meets Moulin Rouge’s Green Fairy, and you’ve got Rydia’s costume. I’m not sure whether that makes it good or bad, but it’s definitely a memorable look—and Rydia even manages to make green hair look beautiful.
Todd: What is it with SNES-era Final Fantasy and battle bikinis? Rosa, Rydia, Terra, Celes, all their sprites had them. Were pants too hard to animate? In any event, I always loved Rydia’s detached sleeves emerald gown thing because she could simultaneously vogue it out like a rhythmic gymnastics competitor, ribbons everywhere, while causing massive explosions of flame to take people out. Quality.
Todd: You don’t actually see this totally sexy affair until it became downloadable content in Dissidia. I’m over my pretty boy phase, but damn, damn.
Maddy: It’s hard to pick a favorite Celes costume, but I’m settling for the classic yellow one with the puffed sleeves because it makes her look like a beautiful-yet-deadly Disney prince.
Todd: I’m not normally a fan of Yoshitaka Amano’s art. I don’t find the willowy bizarre watercolor stuff that appealing. However, in-game Celes is wearing some totally pointless battle bikini-with-armored-shoulder-guards nonsense, whereas in Amano’s art she’s got this nifty gold and white number that still reads “Deadliest Yoga Instructor,” but frankly, that would be an amazing job description so I’m for it.
Todd: This is technically Setzer’s Kingdom Hearts 2 render, but damn. It’s this weird combination of “bishounen anime jerkwad”; and “Bolshoi ballet” that I sort of love. I think it’s just the part where he’s like “YOU KNOW WHAT, FORGET SLEEVES, I’M WAY TOO AWESOME FOR SLEEVES.”
Todd: This outfit is so iconic that even Lightning ends up rocking it in Lightning Returns. I guess we were introduced to a version of it in FF7, but screw Cloud, so let’s give the credit to Zack, who’s much cooler (and Cloud is a Zack knockoff anyway if you know the plot).
Maddy: Quistis’s pink, bellybutton-baring outfit has become so iconic that it’s almost impossible to find original Final Fantasy concept artwork of the entire ensemble because Google is so clogged with thousands of fan-art and cosplay renditions of the costume. Yet it’s definitely an unusual outfit; the slouchy black pants underneath a form-fitting pink pencil skirt serve as yet another example of Final Fantasy’s blending of unexpected elements.
Maddy: The understated simplicity of Rinoa’s clothing, both in her classic blue outfit and particularly in this white semi-formal ballroom gown, made her a style icon for middle school-aged me. Even adult-aged me would still love to own this white gown. Rinoa’s wearable style is in contrast to the rest of the Final Fantasy franchise’s high fashion feel, but her outfits still have an unquestionable elegance.
Todd: Honestly, this outfit is a classic (and another one that Lightning wears in LR:FF13 — Amazon.com preorder bonus). It’s based on a traditional Okinawan design, like much of Yuna’s character and the culture of her home town, Besaid. Perhaps the only weird thing about this costume is that she accessorizes a really understated and elegant yukata/furisode-style ensemble with BIG TROMPIN’ BLACK WORK BOOTS.
Todd: DAVID FREAKIN’ BOWIE.
Maddy: Songstress Yuna’s outfit from this game is my personal favorite, but I definitely agree that Songstress Paine is an oft-unsung (yes, I went there) success in terms of its ability to incorporate ruffles into a rock star aesthetic.
Todd: Check out this sky pirate/super-spy bad-ass. Right down to that unzipped halfway to the treasure trail shirt. God DAMN.
Todd: So, with the glasses she wears in-game, this look can read as a little too “pointless sexy librarian” but in terms of just outfits worn by a military commander, I like it. It’s ornate — but not, like, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band cover ornate.
Maddy: Plus, the detailing on the coat, the leggings, and the shoes bring together the entire outfit in a femme-meets-military way that I can’t help but love. The juxtaposition of the braiding details and the masculine cuffs with her loose hair, skirt, and heels is exactly the kind of gender-bending style that FF fashion does well.
Todd: This was actually designed by Japanese pop idol Yuko Oshima. It’s got some stuff I side-eye at — the epaulet braids, for one — but it’s got a sporty, functional look I really enjoy, plus I love the little kicky elbow buckler accessorizing.
Maddy: We’re both also awarding an honorable mention here to Serah’s outfit from the first FF13 game, which has a classic schoolgirl look that complements Serah’s naive determination to make a side-ponytail work for her.
Maddy: Lightning Returns incorporates a lot of gothic looks, perhaps most notably with the Dracula-esque high collar on Lightning’s first in-game outfit, but Lumina’s lolita twist on the theme is my favorite — especially since she’s supposed to seem like a chaotic demon child.
Todd: BATTLE TUX.
Maddy: Say no more. I’m sold.