Virtual Paper Doll

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Which ermine gown should she wear today?

Any computer program that lets you change clothes a character is wearing. This may be either one feature among many in a Video Game, or a program dedicated entirely to changing clothes—the virtual equivalent of a paper doll, hence the name.

The video game version is often a way to customize the character, but it's often just a cosmetic feature. Sometimes you can gain more clothes by completing certain tasks. Sometimes it's not even for a game, but a way to customize user avatars for online communities. Either way, expect Changing Clothes Is a Free Action.

The paper doll programs themselves come in several formats, such as Flash games that can be played on a Web browser, or full programs that must be installed onto the user's computer before it may be used. Sometimes the player merely selects the items from various lists (the most common format for videogames featuring this), while other programs allow the player to click, drag and drop the costume elements directly from the wardrobe onto the character.

Some of these are community-driven, and require currency to be earned via posting and various other means, which can be used to buy more items and clothes. The point? Possibly, whoever dies with the most clothes/items wins.

These can become Fetish Fuel (to nobody's surprise, really), considering that if the game allows you to change the clothes on a character, there's a chance it might also allow you to remove those clothes entirely ... right? To what extent the player is allowed to "undress" the paper doll varies by genre: Hentai games may allow the player to strip the virtual paper doll down to full anatomically-correct nudity (or at least Stripperific lingerie), while more family-friendly fare will ensure that the doll is wearing modest undergarments if nothing else, or require that the doll wear a minimum one or two pieces of outfit at all times.

It is worth noting, however, that virtual paper dolls are not strictly limited to the human form: Paper-doll programs featuring cats, dogs, animals (anthropomorphised or not) and monsters (even dragons) are also available, depending on the fandom involved.

Frequently included in Character Customization. Menswear Ghetto may be in effect.

Often the outfits will be Pimped Out Dresses, Impossibly Cool Clothes or both.

A Sister Trope to Gorgeous Garment Generation.

Compare Unlimited Wardrobe, Costume Porn, An Interior Designer Is You, And Your Reward Is Clothes.

Contrast Rainbow Pimp Gear, which is useful gear that is worn with no sense of taste.

Examples of Virtual Paper Doll include:

Video Games

Adventure Game

  • Hamtaro: Ham-Hams Unite! and its successor Ham-Ham Heartbreak has a dress-up game accessible from the mirror in your room/a special room in the Clubhouse. In a variation, you have to buy clothes from Boutique Ham stores before they'll show up in the mini-game.

Beat Em Up

  • The Capcom Beat'Em Up game Beatdown: Fists of Vengeance actually uses the Virtual Paper Doll system as an integral game mechanic, practically requiring you to change outfits and accessories (sometimes changes just as basic as colors will do), and even get plastic surgery and/or tattoos in order to lower your "detection" percentages; the higher the number on either the Gang Detection or Police Detection, the better the chance you'll be accosted by them while trying to navigate the city stealthily and be forced to fight or run away. For a bit of fun with this, you have 5 main characters, and going to the plastic surgeon allows you to change your character's FACE to any of your teammates' (of the same sex, though). Somehow the procedure is reversible.

Fighting Game

  • Soul Calibur III, IV, and V. Soulcalibur IV changes the character's stats (in some game modes) based on the clothing, making it something between this and Rainbow Pimp Gear.
  • Most modern Wrestling Games feature Create-A-Wrestler modes. Depending on the game, these can get extremely elaborate, allowing you to dictate every aspect of a character's appearance, behavior, and move set.

First-Person Shooter

  • Part of character creation in Wii Ware FPS Water Warfare. Of course, given that it's a downloadable game for the Wii, your choices are limited...
  • Halo, of all games, lets you customize your multiplayer character's armor. Halo 2 lets you pick colors and whether you want to play as a human Spartan or alien Elite. Halo 3 adds unlockable shoulder and chest armor and helmets for both. Halo: Reach takes the system Up to Eleven with far more purchasable armor pieces as a player investment system, plus cosmetic armor effects that do things like light your head on fire.
  • Team Fortress 2, starting from the introduction of Nice Hats, has only increased the number of outrageous-looking accessories one can equip [1] (including, for the Demoman, a Pimp Hat). And then the Mann-Conomy update added the ability to color said accessories every hue of the rainbow.
  • Believe it or not, a good "Borderlands" weapon editor, particularly one that comes with the gun cards, get a pretty reasonable feeling of this.
  • Rainbow Six: Vegas 2 offers a ton of customization options for the player character. For that matter, a lot of the enemies look like they were created with the same system the player uses for creating Bishop.

Third-Person Shooter

  • James Bond 007: From Russia with Love does this. Players can choose from the Grey Suit (what Bond usually wears in cutscenes), the White Dinner Jacket (from the beginning of Goldfinger), a decidedly retro Stealth Suit, a Snow Suit (a hoodie, no less), a Tuxedo, and Russian military garb (a disguise).


  • 3D Custom Girl has 3D cel-shaded anime girls, which you can dress up, and then undress. Has a huge selection of mods, many of which are extra costume options, while others have more to do with the cosplay sex.
    • However, the inclusion of Gravure Mode (photo-op mode) complete with full pose editor (starting from XP pack updates) as well as TechArts3D's openness for it to be modded (in contrast of Illusion Soft's Artificial Girl series' increasingly complicated encryption) allows for 3DCG to be played completely ignoring the H-elements and focusing more on the photography side. If nothing else, it adds more depth to the otherwise-storyless game.
  • The Artificial Girl series lets you customize the characters to a great degree, for personalized Hentai.
    • AG3‍'‍s range of customization was so broad that many players were addicted to the character generation to the point that they rarely or never actually played the game.
  • Custom Maid 3D from Kiss is all but a Spiritual Successor to 3D Custom Girl. Just as easily modded, the models are animesque to a T, the alternate colors use the same hues for easy matching, and the entire mini-game is nothing but forcing your maid to either exhibit for you, or go all the way (usually both).

Massively Multiplayer Online Games

  • MMORPGs have rabid fanbases over this stuff. City of Heroes/Villains, for instance. World of Warcraft is a rare aversion, in that the options are far more limited than most other MMOGs, yet it's still pretty popular. (This is harder to role-play, though, when everybody has more or less the same face, and you can't see past the shoulderpads anyway.)
    • Although WoW does have features such as allowing players to preview what armour and the like would look like on the player before they equip it. Of course armour tends to be swapped out more often...
    • Many items in Final Fantasy XI only exist to be worn, even though some of them might have a mininal stat boost. Most holiday items are used exclusively for this trope.
    • Maple Story also has an emphasis on customizing appearance. A large majority of the "Cash Shop" items are purely cosmetic.
    • The Lord of the Rings Online: You have two slots for cosmetic outfits, and can even bind them to a key.
    • The makers of the new edition of Dungeons & Dragons promised, but have yet to deliver, an app to create 3d models of your character. Shame, many of us would have spent hours on it.
    • MMOs embrace or deny this trope based on their design philosophies. WoW, as noted above, offers very little "pure" customization because Blizzard intends for gear quality (and thus, power) to be identifiable by sight. Champions Online allows for a ludicrous amount of customization during creation and retailoring during the course of normal gameplay, but also has certain amounts of customization as gear-based unlockables. (For example, equipping a pickaxe on a sword-using character turns their sword into a pickaxe, and also permanently adds "pickaxe" to the list of selectable weapons for that, and as of recently all other characters.) In-beta Earth Eternal has, like WoW, gear-based appearance, but one specific type of NPC exists solely to give items the appearance of other items.
      • Although WoW is adding Transmogrification; this will allow you to change any piece of gear to appear as any other piece of gear, within limits. (Must be the same type, e.g plate armor can't be changed to look like cloth; the exceptions are ranged weapons that can be freely switched between guns, bows, and crossbows. The armor must also have stats, it can't be a cosmetic-only piece like some of the holiday costumes) For example, one can change one's current endgame tier 12 armor to appear to be a vastly outdated set of tier 2 armor from the pre-expansion game, but still looks like a druid, warrior, etc.
    • La Tale, on the other hand, has an entirely separate "Fashion equipment" category and slots that override normal equipment's looks, just so that players can customize their appearance without sacrificing defence.
    • Perfect World has similar "fashion equipment" available from the cash shop; much of which is limited-time-availability.
    • Mabinogi has a huge variety of clothing and armour; all but a very tiny fraction of which falls into one of three categories, and everything in those categories has identical stats (except for durability). Along with the range of styles, there is also a huge variety of random colours. Add to that a large number of accessories that are purely cosmetic, with no function whatsoever.
    • Puzzle Pirates has a very complex economy, which would completely collapse without this trope. Part of the game is buying player-made, decaying clothes for your pirate.
    • In Guild Wars, all sets of armour for any given class are functionally identical. The same can be said, with almost no exception, of all weapons of any given type. The only exception is the small amount of weapons with nonstandard mods and items with low requirements, of which only low req shields really give any substantial benefit. People still pay absurd amounts for rare weapons and prestige armour though, even though they offer absolutely no advantage.
      • And, at the end of 2009, special inventory slots for costumes and the festival hats were added so that you don't have to compromise your stats when you want to wear them.
    • Anarchy Online started with the ability to wear a wide variety of clothing/armor, but a common complaint was that, as only a few of the vast amount of in-game items are actually any good, character appearances were boring and bland. The developer's solution was to add "social inventory" so that any piece of armor or clothing could be equipped for visual effect without impacting character stats.
    • Ragnarok Online doesn't have an option to change your character's outfits, only their color. What the game does have in abundance, though, is hats.
    • Phantasy Star Universe justifies this one in-game: Your 'armor' is Line Shield, a force field usually visible as small Tron Lines on your outfit. Since that's protecting can wear whatever you want with no stat advantages or disadvantages. In-game clothing includes futuristic trendy jeans, fur coats, samurai-esque armor to evening gowns to eensy weensy leopard print banana hammocks. Players will happily wear their battle-poor attire all the way to the Big Bad.
    • EVE Online moved towards this with the Incarna expansion, allowing players to see a full-size avatar of themselves in their "Captain's Quarters" and deck them out with a limited selection of clothes and accessories. There's a small collection of special items which can be purchased for real money, the exchange of gametime for Aurum or from the player-run market from another player who's acquired such an item. The Internet Backdraft resulting from player reactions to this became known as Monoclegate after one particular purchasable item.
  • Monster Hunter has a pretty wild array of mix-and-match clothing options for your character (more than 50 different sets - 100 if you count minor style variations), along with very extensive colouring options at higher levels. (Ninja outfits! Pirate gear! More knight-ish armour than you can shake a stick at! Pretty dresses made out of chain armour! Obligatory Fan Service outfits for both sexes! And did we mention the Grim Reaper robes?)
  • Second Life is made of this trope. There are literally hundreds of thousands of clothing stores with which you can equip your avatar.

Platform Game

  • The player character in Drawn to Life actually starts out as a mannequin. You are then required to draw what the actual thing looks like, from the shape of your hero, to its colour (it's even possible to make the character an Invisible Streaker). With every hit you lose some of the clothes, and reveal the mannequin beneath it.

Puzzle Game

  • Later games in the Diner Dash series gives you clothes between levels and a closet where you dress Flo.

Rhythm Games

  • THE iDOLM@STER has the particular distinction of basically existing FOR this trope. Dressup and outfit swaps are an integral part of the experience, with lots of new outfits available as purchasable add-ons. Until Modern Warfare 2 put out the Map Pack, iDOLM@STER was the game that held the record for most DLC profits.
  • The Rock Band series and Guitar Hero: World Tour allow you to create a character and customize their appearance, as well as their instrument.
    • Some gamers refer to this section of the game as "Pretty Pretty Princess", named for a dress up board game by Milton Bradley. As in "We gotta stop, my fingers are falling off. Eh, guess I'll play Pretty Pretty Princess for a while."
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  • Lilpri: Yubi Puru Hime Chen is an arcade game (which inspired an anime; see the article in question) where this is a main gameplay characteristic. Similar to Love and Berry (a similar game released by the same company), you use special trading cards to dress the character of your choice, after which you participate in a Rhythm Game in which the girls dance wearing the costumes you dressed them in.
  • Space Channel 5 Part 2
  • Dance Dance Revolution
  • Dance Central
  • Hatsune Miku: Project DIVA and its numerous sequels and spinoffs are this. You do have to meet certain requirements to unlock new costumes, but they are still purely cosmetic.

Role Playing Game

  • With RPGs, this would seem to be a perfect fit, since you'd just be swapping armor you'd find or buy, but ROM space and development time have kept this from general use for years. Games that include visible armor changes:
  • White Knight Chronicles features a character creator so robust it was used to create every NPC in the game.
  • Dark Cloud 2 rewards the player with mix-and-match outfits (consisting of shoes, clothes, and hats/headdresses) that can be bought at stores or traded for Medals. Finishing the game once allows the player to choose from these as the characters' starting wardrobe in a new playthrough.
    • And don't forget the vast amount of clothing and armor mods.
  • Fable II lets you pick from a relatively limited wardrobe, but offers a very wide variety of coloring options.
  • Pokémon Battle Revolution allows the player to customize the avatar's outfit, though the selection is so limited that the customization is often tantamount to a Palette Swap. Western releases allow the player to change the avatar's skin tone, as well; the Japanese release had Monochrome Casting.
  • Phantasy Star Universe and its offshoots allow for just about every inch of your character to be customized. Furthermore, clothing doesn't affect your stats, so there are no benefits or penalties for wearing what you want, preventing enforced Rainbow Pimp Gear.
  • Resonance of Fate has an extremely large number of customization options that you can uncover, win, or buy for clothing, hair colors, eye colors, and accessories, all of which are visible even in cutscenes.
  • Mitsumete Knight R: Daibouken Hen has this as one of its game mechanics.
  • This is one of the main drawing points to some people for Maple Story.
  • Persona 3 FES is odd about this. On one hand, you can get Yukari and Mitsuru to wear High-Cut Armor, have the guys wear The Shirt Of Chivalry and buy the party's winter, summer and swimwear for outrageous prices. However, don't expect to see your comrades wear ponchos, bulletproof vests, aprons or tigerhide belts; they just resort to their default winter school uniform.
    • Persona 4 The Golden has several outfits to unlock and buy for the whole party. It includes the return of the High-Cut Armor, the swimswits, the towel wraps from Kanji's dungeon and even the Featherman costumes.
  • Job/Class system in Final Fantasy series also involves characters dressing in different ways (at least in battles). Final Fantasy X-2 steps into the center of this trope, thanks to how girly the game's theme is.
    • The 4 Heroes Of Light lets your characters wear different hats instead to gain abilities in addition of the game letting you change character's clothes when you change body equipments.
    • The first Crystal Chronicles game lets you paint and cut the fur of the Moogle that accompanies you in single-player mode. This actually serves a gameplay purpose as well, e.g. cutting his fur short will make him tire out less often in hot areas but more quickly in cold ones, and painting his fur makes him more likely to cast a particular spell.
  • Inazuma Eleven initially has two uniforms, a coat/school uniform during random encounter and overworld navigation and Raimon Uniform when you play a soccer match. You can buy or get new uniforms to use in free matches.

Simulation Game

  • The Sims
    • The Sims 2 and Sims 3 allow for a variety of customization, especially 2 with its thriving Modding community. Some players spend more time making sims than actually playing.
    • When you create your sim in My Sims, you get a limited variety of outfits, even more limited by the fact that each outfit is a single unit rather than individual articles. Whenever you become a commercial Sim's best friend, you gain an outfit like that sim's.
    • In The Sims 3 you can actually change the default color of any outfit or accessory to any color combination possible. Not to mention you can give the clothes any texture or pattern available—even if it's not for clothes! Wooden pants, anyone?
    • The Sims 4 offers even more flexibility. While the initial set of clothing options is somewhat limited, multiple colors and/or patterns are available, each expansion usually offers more items, and user-created Custom Content can be added for virtually unlimited wardrobes and looks.
  • Animal Crossing: Buy (with in-game currency) shirts, hats, and masks at Able Sisters, and apply them to the character. Or even try designing your own shirts.
  • Similar to Animal Crossing, Magicians Quest Mysterious Times offers you a variety of shirts, pants, skirts, shoes, coats, dresses, hats and accessories to choose from. And yes, since we know you're going to try: You can put the male characters in skirts.
  • Style Savvy is a Nintendo DS game more or less based around this trope. You run a boutique, and get to dress your own avatar as often as you want. There's also a hair salon and make up shop in the game.
  • Princess Debut allows you to change your dress before you practice and compete dancing.
  • Rune Factory Frontier allows your character's equipment to show on your character. Said equipment, after the game forces you to play as a boy, seems to have been designed for a female character.
  • Ludia's ports of classic game shows, such as The Price Is Right and Press Your Luck, allow players to customize the clothing of their contestant avatars.
  • Fishing Resort for the Wii has a huge number of shirts, pants, shoes, hats, and accessories for the Mii-like fishermen.
  • Fortune Street has various Nintendo and Dragon Quest characters but forces Miis for online. However, the Miis have several clothes and effects from the mundane to Nintendo and Dragon Quest costumes.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Gardens: You can choose your pony's body, mane, and tail colors. You can also do the same with Ivy and give her clothes.

Sports Games

Stealth Based Games

  • Metal Gear Solid 3 allows the player to change Snake's camo and face paint, which affects how well you are able to blend into your surroundings. For example, Snake will be an easy target for guards to see if he wears a red camo while hiding in the forest, but he'll have a better chance of not getting caught if he's in green. Some camo patterns even have special features, like the Cold War camo, which has a hammer-and-sickle design on the front and the Stars and Stripes on the back, and wearing it results in enemies hesitating to shoot Snake as long as he's facing them, but becoming hostile when he turns away. Many of the more useful camo designs are earned by beating bosses in a specific way, and can be carried over to subsequent playthroughs...including a tuxedo, which you can wear in the game's opening sequence so that your mentor can reprimand you for your bad choice of camouflage.

Turn-Based Strategy

  • Advance Wars Dual Strike lets you buy the option to change your character's colors, and if you get them to level 10 (it's 1000 exp per level), instead of getting new powers like levels 1-9, you get a new casual set of clothes to change into.
    • Of course, getting anyone with whom you can't farm survival mode to level 10 is almost impossible...
    • Not so: on hard mode, you can play as any character, and get double exp. All you need is two save files, then keep reloading (from one save file) and resaving (onto the other) the battle against the army of oozium.
  • Though customization of the teams in the Worms series were limited to flags, tombstones and voices (and hats in the 4th generation onwards), Worms 4: Mayhem introduced the option to give your wormy team its unique outfit, though concerning the anatomy of these creatures, it was limited to hats, eyewear, facial hair and gloves. More clothes could be unlocked by buying them from the in-game shop with the cash you earned in the Story Mode.

Wide-Open Sandbox

  • Saints Row, like White Knight Chronicles, features such a robust character creator that every character in the game was made with it - hence a ton of tutorials on the Internet on how to make the player character look just like Johnny Gat or other major NPCs.
  • Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas and IV
  • Spore has an interesting variation: The features of your creatures, vehicles and buildings range from 100% functional (cell stage) to 100% cosmetic (space stage). For example, in the animal stage, plumage and other decorations give you bonuses to befriending other animals, but become purely cosmetic when you reach the tribal stage, where your creatures start wearing clothes.
    • The Galactic Adventures Expansion Pack includes new clothing items for the space stage which increase your natural creature abilities for adventures.
  • No More Heroes lets you change Travis's jacket, t-shirt, shades, jeans and belt. There's even a special pink outfit based on Pure White Lover Bizarre Jelly available right before the final battle. Of course you just have to wear the full ensemble while fighting the boss. It's the law.
  • The video game Bully features a fairly extensive wardrobe of clothing for the main character, which is purchased in game from specialty stores. Since certain articles of clothing are associated with different cliques and subcultures, wearing the wrong clothes could get you laughed at or attacked on sight.
  • LittleBigPlanet‍'‍s Sackboy is a virtual canvas doll.
  • The Video Game adaptation of The Godfather allowed the player to alter his character's appearance at the beginning of the game and immediately after every load. It was impressively detailed, giving the player control over such things as the character's dimples and hairline.
  • IMVU, a virtual chat where you can customize EVERYTHING, and making your own items can be done simply by changing the texture of an existing item and adding it to your catalog, which you earn in game money for.
  • Second Life, in which users can make their own paper doll clothes and sell them for real life money. Obviously this leads to there being more items than anyone could ever look at in a lifetime...

Web Browser-based

Web Comics

  • Kid Radd has one for Sheena.
  • The Foglios kindly provide a webpage listing these for Girl Genius (although each could double as non-virtual paper dolls too if printed).

Real Life

  • Dolling is a type of pixel art that concentrates on doing just this. Dollers will make "bases", or naked bodies (naughty bits optional), and other dollers will make clothes and hair for the bases. There's a lot of focus on making the dolls as intricate and realistically shaded as possible.
  • And the 3D design versions. Poser was originally designed to give classic line-and-brush artists a proxy model when they couldn't get a live one in their studio. Now the community is almost exclusively graphic artists designing clothes, and selling through Renderosity (or Renderotica), DAZ3D, and many other sites for 3D artists to use in their own works.
    • There's a link on this wiki's Main Page, under "Other Sites We Recommend", to a wiki that lists where you can get compatible software and wardrobe for free. (Fair disclosure: After that link was added, that wiki's admin became an admin here.)
  1. America's #1 war-themed hat simulator.