Follow TV Tropes


Embarrassing but Empowering Outfit

Go To
It looks like he doesn't think much of his new battle attire...

"Reminds me of this one group I ran with. The barbarian in our group found, and I quote: 'a pink frilly tutu of Strength +6', and he wore it with pride for the rest of the campaign."
KillItWithFire (comment on The Order of the Stick's forum)

A character has an outfit that grants them immense power but there's one major problem: The outfit looks ridiculous and its powers can't be accessed without wearing it. Despite the benefits, the character is usually hesitant or refuses to wear the outfit all together.

This frequently overlaps with Stripperiffic as usually the outfits, while powerful, are often extremely revealing.

Sub-Trope of Clothes Make the Superman. Will always overlap with either Blessed with Suck or Cursed with Awesome, depending on whether the wearer deems its powers worth having to wear such a thing.

Compare to Impossibly Tacky Clothes, Chainmail Bikini, Embarrassing Superpower.

Closely related to Rainbow Pimp Gear, where it's a discordant combination of empowering articles that makes the character look silly.


In-Universe Examples Only

    open/close all folders 

    Anime & Manga 
  • From Sumomo Mo Momo Mo, Sanae's Uma Kamen outfit. It's an outfit from her tribe that increases its wearer power but it looks like a bondage costume. Sanae hates wearing it and most characters, even the ones she saved, are taken aback to how ridiculous the outfit looks.
  • Project A-ko: B-ko's battle armor, Akagiyama 23 enhances her speed and reflexes to match A-ko's. However, it's basically nothing but a skimpy bikini with boots, gauntlets, and a visor. Oddly, B-ko herself isn't at all bothered by wearing it.
    • When A-ko and the other students first see it, they burst out laughing at her. But once the fight began, A-ko's laughter was short-lived. Later in the film, it's revealed that it also has a built-in jet pack which enables B-ko to fly; which she uses during her attempt to rescue C-ko from Captain Napolipolita. B-ko was able to maneuver effortlessly through a non-stop missile barrage.
    • However, the visor's function doesn't become clear until the fourth movie: Final. It allows B-ko to breathe in outer space. Seen when she flies A-ko into space, to get C-ko back, at 11.5 G's! Taken Up to Eleven and subverted when her father steals the design and wears one, and she's the one embarrassed by it.
  • Is This a Zombie?: The costume worn by Magical Girl Haruna contains lots of ruffles and bows. This isn't so embarrassing for her, but when she accidentally passes on her powers, costume included, to the zombie Ayumu (pictured above), he is not so amused by the outfit. Unfortunately, in order to activate his powers, the pink bow-covered costume is included. Also when he uses his own Limit Break abilities while wearing it, the costume proceeds to get even girlier. Complete with commentary on his rising cuteness from whoever's on the sidelines.
    Ayumu: What? Not this getup!
    Haruna: It's gonna make you stronger, and way more brave, so don't knock it you jackass!
  • On Kill la Kill, this is a plot point: the Kamui that both Ryuko and Satsuki are extremely skimpy and reveal most of the user's torso (although they do still explicitly protect non-covered areas of the skin). The embarrassment of wearing it causes Ryoko problems early on because you have to wear Kamui without shame or rejection in order to access their full power. The revealing nature of Kamui later gets some justification when it's revealed that Kamui are sentient aliens and in order to get as much power as possible from them without them overwhelming the wearer's mind they need to be touching as little skin as possible.
  • There's a scene in Slayers where Lina and Amelia put on silly dresses and sing a silly song (in a clear parody of Idol Singers) in order to cast a powerful spell and kill a demon that was supposedly guarding a MacGuffin they're searching for. It produces some lights. The spell was actually for a festival, the Mac Guffin is elsewhere. Lina then killed the demon with her classic Dragon Slave as punishment for watching her embarrass herself.
  • The manga Miracle Lingerie parodies Stripperific costumes with a set of actual lingerie that gives superpowers, but only when nothing is worn over it. The heroine is understandably not keen on wearing it in public.
  • In Pretty Sammy, the costume Sasami dons when she transforms into Pretty Sammy includes a really short skirt. This is one of the reasons why she doesn't want to be a magical girl.
  • Yuusha Gojo Kumiai Kouryuugata Keijiban has two Transforming Heros who despise their outfits (and animal mascots). One is a 20-something Magical Girl given a pastissier theme and the other is a Kamen Rider-esque hero whose outfit is made of vegetables. The latter is so ashamed of his tomato helmet and pumpkin pants that he has arranged to only fight at night.
  • Yuzuka of Mahou Shoujo Nante Mou Ii Desukara transforms into the Magical Girl version of herself wearing... a swimsuit. It doesn't particularly reveal much, but she hates it.
  • For the Tournament Arc of Devil & Devil, Mizuno Soujiro — a devil-hunting exorcist — wears a leather outfit that she describes as a holy armor passed down from generations. This gives her an enormous amount of Super Strength; unfortunately, it also looks a lot like a Dominatrix outfit. Since Mizuno usually dresses rather conservatively, she's rather embarrassed.
  • In The Demon Girl Next Door, Yuko's Crisis Management form is Stripperiffic to embarrass her to no end, but it does raise her normally pitiful physical abilities as a former Ill Girl.

    Comic Books 
  • In Empowered, the title character possesses a full body super-suit that gives her numerous super abilities, but it's also made of an extremely thin and fragile material. The suit tears easily and even when it's fully intact, it's so form-fitting that it leaves little to the imagination, and nothing can be worn over or under it. These are huge problems for a superheroine like Empowered who has numerous body-image issues - particularly because tearing the suit strips her (pun intended) of her powers. What makes this worse is the main character suspects that the suit is only as strong or weak as the user's self-confidence (with a few memorable occasions that suggest she's absolutely right). This applies both to the abilities it gives, and the fragility of the material. Given how paper-thin the title character's confidence is and how it gets more fragile after every failure...
  • In Spider-Man, almost everyone laughs at the Shocker's costume, because it's a big, bulky thing of padded fabric with a cross-patching design that makes him look like a walking mattress or bundled quilt. However, the padding is essential to keep the backlash from his vibration-blaster gauntlets from breaking his own arms, and Shocker's cunning means that Spider-Man, who actually has fought him, never laughs at it.
  • In Superman: Secret Origin, Clark expressed his dislike over what would become the Superman costume. Martha Kent designed it to look like standard Kryptonian attire based on what she saw from Jor-El's holograms. Combined with the colorful look and how skin-tight it was, Clark, upon trying it on for the first time, vowed to never wear it again. However, it was also made from the blankets that Clark came to earth with, and was, therefore, virtually indestructible. In fact, Clark's heat vision was the only thing capable of cutting through it, so if he was to continue performing his heroic acts, he would need to wear something that wouldn't easily rip or tear.

    Fan Works 
  • Starbound, a Lucky Star fic, involves a variation of this, in which Kagami, Konata, and Miyuki's hair end up being restyled against their will. Trying to undo them doesn't work either, as any strands pulled just arrange themselves back into position. Kagami and Miyuki are both embarrassed by this, although Konata doesn't mind so much and finds moe in their new hairstyles. Responsible for their hair situation eventually turn out to be some magical crystals, eventually revealed to contain potent psychokinetic powers.
  • In The Infinite Loops Darth Vader commissions Rarity to create a cape capable of inspiring fear. She does so... but decorates it with smiley bats. He also asks for a cape that inspires awe and gets one that's white and gold... which doesn't really mesh with his color scheme.
  • In Water Aerobics for the Aquaphobic, Hermione's Jusenkyo curse (Spring of the Drowned Warrior Goddess) comes with a clothing transformation into a Chainmail Bikini, complete with Combat Stilettos. While the outfit actually does protect her (notably, it can absorb magic), it also doesn't change back. Asocial bookworm Hermione is not amused about having to wear it in public.

  • In the short story "Wunderpants" by Paul Jennings, the protagonist David is given pink, fairy-print underwear that give him superhuman strength.
  • In the short story "Origin Story" by Dwight R. Decker, a spirit who's been out of touch with events on Earth for the past century or so offers the protagonist the empowering (and prominently emblazoned) garb of "Captain Swastika". He declines.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In The Greatest American Hero Everyman Ralph Hinkley is given a "super suit" by some friendly aliens. It's spandex but made for someone with a much more muscular physique, and on Ralph it looks a lot like footy pajamas. He is very embarrassed being seen in it, but eventually he gets used to it.
  • On Wizards of Waverly Place, when Max's powers fully come in he's unable to truly control or use them. In order to do so, he must wear a huge, gaudy, puffy jester hat. Not doing so would cause events like spontaneous indoor blizzards, but doing so made him the laughing stock of the school.
  • Charmed:
    • Phoebe gains genie powers thanks to a Bedlah Babe outfit.
      Phoebe: Why do I always get stuck with the wig?
    • Piper must defeat a Wicked Witch exploiting Fairy Tale Motifs... by donning Little Red Riding Hood's cape.
    • Billie gains a massive power boost by putting on the Gold Belt of Gaea. The downside is that she gets dressed in a Stripperiffic Amazon costume. Her actress Kaley Cuoco burst into tears when she saw that she'd have to wear it.

    Video Games 
  • Shin Megami Tensei: Persona:
    • In Persona 3 there's a bonus female-only costume you can get called the High Cut Armour. It significantly raises a party members attack and defense, can be gotten early on in the game and isn't usurped as the best armor for a while. However, it's also very skimpy and one the few costumes that the girls will comment on specifically if you equip it (usually you get a generic "thanks!" message, but with the HCA you get a "...really? I have to wear this?" one instead).
    • In Persona 3 FESyou can actually see what it looks like. Meanwhile, in Persona 3 Portable, the item was renamed to "Battle Panties". Hilariously, the female main character can also wear it, with pride too! This additionally gives amusing reactions from male team members.
  • The World Ends with You has something like this with its 'threads' system. Instead of buying armor or the like, you buy designer clothing that grants you bonuses. Female clothing tends to have very high bonuses, but most of your characters are male. To get them to wear it requires increasing the "Bravery" stat. Shiki, the only playable girl, starts with a moderately high Bravery stat.
  • Mai Tsurugino, the primary protagonist of the Makeruna! Makendou trilogynote , is not at all fond of the outfit she finds herself in as Makendou Ichi-go.
  • In Final Fantasy X-2 if you make Tomboy Paine wear the Songstress dressphere, she will complain in battle in spite of the powers it gives her.
  • The "Feastday Gifts" DLC from Dragon Age: Origins allows you to manipulate your party members' approval ratings by giving them "gifts" or "pranks" to raise or lower the approval score. The pranks usually follow this trope, being an item that grants bonuses but would be completely out of character, such as a chastity belt for Zevran or a greatsword that emits rainbows and butterflies for Sten.
  • In Dark Souls, the Catarina armor is ridiculed in-universe for its bulbous, onion-like shape, but the armor itself is masterfully created and amazing for deflecting blows. Male characters might also need to use initially feminine outfits, like a piece of the Priestess set, to help increase other stats, like the amount of magic casts.
  • Deltarune has a mild example of this, when you pick up the White Ribbon. It gives +2 to Defense, and Kris can equip it themselves, or give it to Ralsei who will ask if it makes him look pretty. Susie however, flat out refuses to wear it if you try to equip it on her, and tells you she's not in first grade anymore.

    Web Comics 
  • Magick Chicks: The mysterious wand grants Melissa Hellrune unimaginable power, enough to trigger a level 9 magical event. Said wand also comes with an outlandish Cute Witch Magical Girl costume. Melissa is not pleased.
  • The Order of the Stick: Haley has a pair of magical Boots of Speed, but considers them a fashion disaster because they're lime green, and refuses to wear them until she can get them dyed brown to match her armor.
  • Goblins has a subversion, when Minmax complains loudly about Forgath forcing him to wear a suit of magical pink armor. He doesn't realize that one of the armor's properties is the ability to take on any color he says out loud.
  • In one strip of Oglaf, a man asks an apparently really misogynist blacksmith to commission him some armor. The blacksmith, disgusted by the man's lack of facial hair, begins haranguing him for his supposed lack of masculinity. The man ends up getting a breastplate with an enormous bust and the word "SLUT" embossed on the front in big block letters. The man concedes, though, that "it's really good armor".
  • In the xkcd strip titled shoes a character is rewarded shoes that make their wearer immortal. He can't decide whether or not to wear the shoes since they have "those creepy individual toes".
  • In Slimy Thief a male warrior goes to Azamat's store and asks for the most powerful armor. Azamat pulls out some magical armor that He initially refuses to wear it because "It has boobs".
  • Homestuck:
    • Most God-Tier outfits (a.k.a. God Hoods) are pretty decent-looking, but some of the class-based variations are just embarrassing — particularly the Page, Prince, and Bard outfits. The hypnotic terribleness of Jake and Gamzee's speedo shorts and jutting codpiece respectively get Played for Laughs. Meanwhile, Dirk gets a ridiculous pair of pantaloons that Caliborn refers to as "NONSENSE TROUSERS". Fortunately, while the outfit comes with ascending to the God Tiers (and is super-comfy and self-cleaning), it isn't required to access any of the other perks. Furthermore, Meenah reveals that it is possible to modify them.
    • Gamzee's codpiece might be an Embarrassing Outfit for anyone else, but he actually seems to like it (especially since it's outright stated by another character that his "Cod Tier" outfit is a fake).
    • Meanwhile, John's god tier outfit is relatively normal, but the hood is longer than he is tall.
  • In Girl Genius Gilgamesh Wulfenbach acquires a hat so impressive that no one who sees it can doubt who he is (well, except that one guy). It's huge, purple, on fire, and has "Gilgemesh Wulfenbash: Schmott Guy!" written on it. The moment he's done using it to establish his identity, he orders it taken away and never spoken of again.
  • In El Goonish Shive, Elliot's Super Gender-Bender spell involves transforming his clothes into an outfit that makes him resemble a cheerleader. The one time he uses the spell while thinking about a different outfit, he ends up with an even more embarrassing skin-tight outfit instead.

    Western Animation 
  • The Armor of Zeldron, from Adventure Time, grants its wearer flight and protects them from just about anything (even ghosts!). In the episode "Blood Under the Skin" Finn and Jake go quest to find the armor, but when they do find it Finn refuses to wear it since it's "girl armor".
  • In SpongeBob SquarePants it is stated that superpowers come from costumes, and that is the only reason that the heroes would wear them.
    Mermaid Man: Power's all in the costume. Why else would we run around in colored undies?
    Squidward: I can think of three good reasons.
  • This is the entire premise of SheZow, which involves a kid by the name of Guy who is destined to become a superhero through a costume that unfortunately was made for a girl.


How well does it match the trope?

Example of:


Media sources: