"Whatever happened to Fay Wray?
That delicate satin-draped frame
As it clung to her thigh
How I started to cry
'Cause I wanted to be dressed just the same"
Dr. Frank N. Furter, The Rocky Horror Picture Show

In short, this trope is about "dressing in the clothing of the opposite sex." The long version can get a little more complicated.

Crossdressers may be men dressing as women, or women dressing as men. Contrary to popular belief, crossdressing does not necessarily imply homosexuality. An element of sexual arousal ("transvestic fetishism") may be involved in dressing, but not necessarily. And sometimes the primary purpose for crossdressing is simply disguise. This supertrope covers all the various possibilities and permutations.

Distinguished from Drag Queen, which tends to be strongly associated with gay men and has an inherent aspect of "performance." Also not to be confused with Transsexual, which describes people who self-identify as a different gender from that which they were assigned at birth. There's always potential for overlap, however. A drag queen may also dress as a woman while "offstage", and thus be a crossdresser as well. Some people may start out as "merely" crossdressers, only to eventually discover that they are transsexual.

"Crossdresser" and "transvestite" aren't necessarily synonymous in Real Life. Many different (and often contradictory) definitions for each term can be found. This trope is intended to encompass all of them — at least for purposes of troping. (It's also worth noting that the term "transvestite" is largely considered obsolete and pejorative nowadays.)

Note that, since the 1960s or so in western culture, there tends to be little or no social stigma attached to women wearing "traditionally male" clothing. Once upon a time, however, a woman dressing like a man (e.g., wearing trousers) would be frowned upon, or even illegal in some jurisdictions.

The following are subtropes of Crossdresser:

Tropes about characters and their clothing choices:

Tropes about dressing as disguise:

Tropes about other character's responses:

See Also Ambiguous Gender, Viewer Gender Confusion, Bifauxnen, and Dude Looks Like a Lady, tropes which share some common aspects with the above but generally are not about deliberate crossdressing. Similarly, Unplanned Crossdressing technically involves crossdressing, but it's unintentional on the character's part. Like Drag Queen, Crosscast Role involves crossdressing, but only in the context of "performance" — here, an actor playing a part.


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     Anime & Manga 

  • Nevada: One of the characters in the book is convinced he's just this and not a trans woman.

     Live Action TV 
  • British television has a proud tradition of men dressing as women for comedy. It probably goes back to how men (or boys) played female roles in Shakespeare's day; re-enforced by their tradition of single-sex schools (few plays have all-male or all-female casts, so if a single-sex school has a drama program AT ALL, SOMEBODY will get cross-cast.) Some have gone so far as to say that there is nothing funnier to a British audience than a man dressed up like a woman.
  • Coronation Street, of all programmes, had a particularly bizarre plot-line involving Audrey Roberts and a transvestite boyfriend....
  • In Princess Returning Pearl Xiao Yan Zi and Zi Wei sometimes dress as male when going outside. No one is fooled.
  • Night and Day's Fiona Brake and Dennis Doyle both have forays into cross-dressing; Fiona in a bid to seduce her gay husband, and Dennis because he briefly thinks he might be intersex. Also, in in the final episode, set four years into the future, we learn that Ryan Harper now wears women’s clothes and goes by the name of Beverly.
  • Father Brown: The Victim of the Week in "The Missing Man". His crossdressing actually leads to his demise, as the person who shoots him does not recognise him in drag, and shoots him thinking he is a female intruder.

     Web Comics 

     Western Animation 

Alternative Title(s): Transvestite, Crossdressing