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Gender Issues: Wonder Woman’s Costume

Wonder Woman is, without a doubt, one of the world’s most recognized heroes. Alongside Superman and Batman, elements of her costume can be readily picked out and pinpointed to her character. The tiara, the lasso, the hot pants…

Golden Age:Modern Age
Should Wonder Woman stick to her classic look, or is she due for a more permanent change?

What is it about female comic book characters that requires them to wear skimpy costumes while their male counterparts look battle-ready? There are entire sites (like Escher Girls) devoted to the ridiculousness of female costumes and poses, yet things don’t seem to be changing quite as fast. In terms of our favorite Amazon, the costumes she’s donned over the years seem to be a parade of questionable choices.

Raise your hand if this is what you think of when I say “Wonder Woman”!

Wonder Woman’s costumes have ranged from fun and flirty to downright scary. The classic image of her in her star-spangled bloomers has not always been the norm. She’s had skirts, pants, biker shorts, and thongs. She’s had battle armor, strapless tops, and jackets. It seems like people cannot help remake Wonder Woman over the past seven decades.

Superheroes go through change over the years, and costumes are no exception. As readers, we have become savvy enough to image actually fighting in some of the getups these characters wear. Batman and Superman have undergone changes in their costumes that still reflect the idea that they are superheroes. Wonder Woman…it’s been hit or miss.

Golden Age:JMS
A long way from the classic costume, but the pants didn’t stick. What was so wrong about this costume?

The classic costume is iconic, yet impractical. How can any woman fight with a strapless swimsuit clinging to her body? How about heels? No matter the costume change, we are always back to Wonder Woman’s highly impractical costume.

Aside from the bright colors and high-heeled boots, Wonder Woman’s costume is unique in that it set the stage for female superheroes to come. It seems the norm for women to be barelegged in fights, to have impressively tall heels, and hair whipping around their faces. We hardly bat an eye at some of these costume designs, and Wonder Woman is no exception.

WW Throughout the Ages
Impressive line-up of some of Wonder Woman’s incarnations over the years. Pretty difficult to break from that pinup look…

Why are we so invested in this one costume? Why is it so hard to accept any changes to the classic look? Even if nothing else was changed but the pants, people still complain that Wonder Woman doesn’t look like Wonder Woman. Where do we go from here?

Wonder Woman and Power Girl Redesign
Artists! Think before you design. Lack of pants for women is not the only problem!

While it may be too late for Wonder Woman to escape her not-so-battle-ready daily costume, we can support changes for newer women in comics. Captain Marvel (Ms. Marvel) is a character with a history of costume changes, yet has successfully broken from the swimsuit look. Her flight suit has been met with open arms and open minds. Poison Ivy has made the jump from Playmate to serious looking-villain. In general, the X-Men provide as much coverage for their women as their men.

WW Cliff Chiang
In all seriousness, this is an awesome costume design.

While it doesn’t seem like Wonder Woman is due for a costume change any time soon, we can still appreciate the subtle changes in New 52. In her own title, Wonder Woman is drawn as a statuesque beauty, someone who actually looks like she knows how to throw a punch. In Justice League, Wonder Woman’s booty is covered. The idea of her fighting in pants was even briefly flirted with.

No matter the costume, if Wonder Woman is handled with respect and care, fans will still be devoted. While the costume is only one part of the superhero, it is not the make-or-break factor in enjoying a story. Yes, Wonder Woman’s costume does have some significant disadvantages in terms of actual use. However, it draws up a sense of pride and heroism when we see the metal WW, star-spangled hot pants, and red boots.

No pants!
Kind of hard to take them all seriously now.
Mara Wood holds a Ph. D. in School Psychology. Currently, she works for a public school system assessing students for educational placement. Her research focus is comic books and how they can be used in therapy and educational settings. She tends to spend…

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