There is an option for 500 credits I believe. You then have the option of using the apparel attributes and wearing different apparel for appearance. Once you have paid for that option, you can set up your avatar with no apparel attributes, but can adjust your appearance Attributes to look any way you want. You still need to use the sponsorship to unlock the different levels to say change the color or style of your shirt or pants etc.
So yes, you can have the ability to change appearance without affecting ability attributes. You just have to purchase it.