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A group of Final Fantasy 14 characters stand in a variety of different clothing items Image: Square Enix via Polygon

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Final Fantasy 14’s fantastic fashions and how they came to be

With such a wide variety of outfits to choose from in Final Fantasy 14, designing clothes that fit in the magical world takes time

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Julia Lee (she/her) is a guides producer, writing guides for games like The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom and Genshin Impact. She helped launch the Rift Herald in 2016.

The fashion in Final Fantasy games stands out among other Japanese role-playing games. Most video game fans can immediately recognize Cloud Strife’s iconic turtleneck sweater, Lightning Farron’s pink asymmetrical hairstyle, or the Vivi’s old-school Black Mage design in a blue robe with a yellow pointy hat.

Three Final Fantasy characters: Cloud, Lightning, and Vivi Graphic: Julia Lee/Polygon | Image source: Square Enix

Final Fantasy 14 follows in these footsteps, with intricate character designs and hot fashion items. Fashion is honestly one of Final Fantasy 14’s selling points. After hitting a certain level, players can cast enchantments over their outfits so they can look fresh while retaining the stats they need to fight any monster. Square Enix releases new clothing to wear with just about every patch and players frequently cite fashion being the “real endgame.” There’s even a detailed camera mode to take cool pictures of your character and your in-game friends.

Ayumi Namae is responsible for a bulk of the best looks we’ve seen in Final Fantasy 14. Namae has worked on important characters like Lyse and Yotsuyu in the Stormblood expansion, as well as the outfits for Ryne, Y’shtola, and Urianger in the Shadowbringers expansion. She also designs artifact gear — the iconic outfit sets that each class wears —along with for-fun fashion items to cast over their armor.

Lyse, Yotsuyu, Ryne, Urianger, and Y’shtola stand side-by-side Graphic: Julia Lee/Polygon | Image source: Square Enix

Starting from scratch

Designs in Final Fantasy 14 start with a basic model of a Hyur — the game’s human-like race. Namae will draw a two-dimensional design on the model, keeping in mind details about positioning. Some equips will be bracelets or fingernails rather than gloves, whereas some shoes will have intricate details that need to be placed in certain positions.

While Namae and other designers use the humanoid race for initial designs, they still keep other player races — like the slender rabbit-eared Viera or the tiny dwarf-like Lalafells — in mind. But it can be hard to design items that suit every race. A raincoat looks way better on the cutesy Lalafells, for example. In contrast, the same piece can look silly on the strong orc-like characters, Roegadyns.

Two Lalafells celebrate, wearing green and blue raincoats. A tall woman with rabbit ears stands in a beige raincoat.
The raincoat simply looks better on the small bodies!
Image: Square Enix via Polygon

To combat this, Square Enix creates a variety of different clothing items, so everyone can have pieces that fit whatever motif they want. If the item doesn’t look great on a Roegadyn this time around, the designers will try to create something in the future that will to balance things out.

“I’m sure players using a male Roegadyn character will come across many items that are hard to pull off, since the tough image of a male Roegadyn is more prominent than that of other races,” Namae said in an email interview with Polygon. She notes that she’s thankful that there are players who still overcome the challenge of pulling off every design, regardless of character race.

The rulebook for Final Fantasy fashion

In the early days following Final Fantasy 14, the design team had to abide by a stricter fantasy theme when designing clothes. They couldn’t just put anything in the game, because Square Enix wanted to present the game as consistent with the fantasy setting. Even something simple, like a sailor shirt, had visual details to make it appear handmade, rather than mass-produced in a modern way.

However, as the game has continued to update and grow in popularity, it has introduced items from several other titles, like Yo-Kai Watch, Final Fantasy 7, and Final Fantasy 15, in crossover events.

Two characters sit in a goofy-looking mount based on Whisper from Yo-Kai Watch Image: Square Enix via Polygon

The addition of the Whisper A-go-go Yo-Kai Watch mount, which is a goofy-looking glowing cartoon ghost, ruined the game’s visual consistency the second it was added. In 2018, Cloud’s motorcycle introduced automotive technology, which hadn’t existed in the Final Fantasy 14 world before. These crossover events allowed the team to break free from the game’s original style and add more modern flair.

Namae uses the newly-added craftsman’s apron as an example of how the team has been able to be more experimental.

“[The craftsman’s apron design] was born from an idea from a member of the art team, who thought it would be fun to be able to pretend to be a café clerk in a player’s in-game house,” Namae explains. “This idea was later adopted and implemented into the game. The apron looks quite realistic and is based off the design of a very modern apron, but we added a cute chocobo icon to give it that Final Fantasy touch.”

The newest additions to the game’s library of outfits have definitely modernized the look of Final Fantasy 14. The punk Rebel Coat and casual Summer Indigo Shirt are two recent additions that look like clothes that people would wear right now in the real world. But they also have a Final Fantasy-vibe.

Concept art for Final Fantasy 14’s Cashmere Poncho, including a fox and nutkin standing next to the model
Concept art for the Cashmere Poncho
Image: Square Enix
Concept art for the Sailor outfit set, featuring a floral crown around a straw hat
Concept art for the Sailor outfit set
Image: Square Enix
A male model clad in Red Mage Artifact armor holds a rapier. A female model next to him stands as if she is going to walk forward.
Concepts for the Red Mage’s Shadowbringers Artifact gear
Image: Square Enix

Now the floodgates have really opened for even more modern looks.

“Items such as realistic leather jackets or school uniforms, which we thought would probably be well-received by players, were not implemented early on in the game because we didn’t want to risk destroying the medieval fantasy, but now as we move forward, we might see these kinds of gear implemented in the game, slowly but surely,” Namae says.

Final Fantasy 14 lives up to the design expectations one would have when playing a Final Fantasy game. Players can choose between high-fantasy artifact gear that looks like something from an older Final Fantasy title, or they can choose something more sleek and modern, pulled from the style of the newer games. It makes sense why people would opt for the latter. There’s something dope about wielding a broadsword while decked out in streetwear.

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