Just like Cloud is known for his Buster Sword, Tifa is known for her sports bra, mini skirt, and combat boots – with an overall aesthetic similar to that of Lara Croft. Tifa is one of the most important and recognizable female characters in the history of video games. Debuting in Final Fantasy VII in 1997, Tifa has since appeared in multiple Square Enix games and continues to be one of the most beloved waifus in gaming.
Tifa isn’t Tifa unless she has a large bust and exposed midriff. In Final Fantasy: Advent Children, she donned a bit more clothing but the idea stayed the same. Tifa was designed to be part of the monk character class that appears in previous Final Fantasy games with incredible martial arts skills specifically in unarmed combat. Her combat style and most notably her limit break require high kicks and lots of flexibility, something her skirt gives her.
Her sports bra ensemble, while sexy, is fairly practical. Even in the original game, the outfit never felt outlandish and part of this is because of the confidence Tifa carries while she wears it. Plus, the freedom of movement it offers her when fighting. Tifa throughout most of the game wears a white cropped tank top and black miniskirt with red boots, gloves, with suspenders, connecting her skirt to her shoulders, and guard covering her left elbow. However, just because Tifa is dressed sexy and was designed for the male gaze, doesn’t mean she isn’t important to women around the world.
To be honest, the sexualization of Tifa never bothered me. If anything, it empowered me. I might be five feet tall but I am not the smallest girl. I have big hips and a large bust. Growing up, I was always self-conscious about the size of my top half. I never felt like I was allowed to wear crop tops, bralettes, or sports bras like women with smaller breasts because women with big breasts are sexualized more. Every summer family members would critique me and the swimsuit I wore, even when I was young. Being a 12-year-old with a C cup isn’t easy.
I was 11 and in a training bra the first time I was sexually harassed. Needless to say, it only got worse as I got older. I was conditioned to believe I had to hide my figure. Even now, I wear bigger tops, tanks, and t-shirts because that insecurity continues to live on. But, Tifa’s design flies directly in the face of those insecurities. She has hips, curves, and looks like a lot of women, including me.
While she is clearly beautiful and a sexual person (see the sexual tension between her and Cloud in both the original and remake), it is not the crux of her personality. Tifa is not a femme fatale, her main draw to most players is her kind-hearted but firm nature. She is a strong woman with a heart of gold. Her friends, the people in the slums, and Avalanche respect her and never sexualize her in a demeaning way. In the Final Fantasy VII Advent Children: Reunion Files, Tetsuya Nomura, Tifa’s designer, describes her “like a mother, a sweetheart, and a close ally in battle” and “remarkably strong, not only emotionally, but physically as well.”
In the Remake, Cloud goes out of his way to touch her arms or upper back and avoids her midriff. This small detail might be missed by a lot of people but to me, it is a sign of respect. Cloud treats her as an equal partner, she is always more than a potential love interest.
As a young girl, Tifa’s athletic figure and large bust empowered me. I felt like I could also wear a sports bra or tank top without the fear of being overly sexualized. Now, a grown woman seeing her again in Final Fantasy 7 Remake, I can’t help but feel drawn to how comfortable she is with her body. More importantly, how the people around her don’t treat her differently just because she has decided to fight an evil corporation in a sports bra. Tifa is confident in her body and feels comfortable showing it.
Her updated design for the Final Fantasy 7 Remake gives her bust even more support, because during development, Square Enix’s ethics department told developers to “restrict” Tifa’s chest. I had my initial concerns considering how much Tifa’s body type meant to me but the final design hardly restricts her chest. Instead, Tifa’s new design has a larger focus on her athleticism with the character now also rocking more prominent abdominal muscles. Because of this, designers gave her an additional bra under her classic white tank.
While some fans complained, wearing two sports bras is mandatory for a lot of women like me. As a child, I had to wear two sports bras to soccer practice. I’ve worn two sports bras all of my life, now as an adult, my wardrobe has evolved and I have learned to love crop tops, sports bras, and bralettes. All items of clothing that still carry a stigma for people with bigger breasts.
Tifa is a character with emotional intelligence, grace, and a caring nature. While these things are all important but at the end of the day, Tifa also matters because of what she wears, no matter who she was designed for. Feeling confident in my own body is a constant struggle. However, seeing more women in media be comfortable with themselves and show that through their actions and fashion choices helps me see myself in a different, better light.