Wonder Woman's Costume

#1 Edited by RazzaTazz (9638 posts) - - Show Bio

This is one of the most often asked questions in the forum, and I have personally answered it at least 5 times since I have been here so I decided to answer it once conclusively. People often ask why Wonder Woman's costume looks like an American flag if she is supposed to represent the international world and global peace. There are basically two answers here - a golden/silver age answer and an answer since the reboot in the 1980s.

First the golden/silver age answer. Wonder Woman was originally designed during the Second World War and a very patriotic theme was incorporated into it. At this point Wonder Woman was not considered to be an international hero, rather she was very much American. Many times after vanquishing an enemy she would say something like "better not to mess with the USA because American values are incorruptible." Towards the end of the silver age Diana was working for the Pentagon, so she was very much not an international hero, though of course she responded to global crises.

With the 1980s reboot, George Perez decided that the character should represent something more than the United States (as she really has no ties there at all) and so her origin was redesigned. What remained though was the iconic American flag inspired costume. In the story line Challenge of the Gods Perez introduced Diana Trevor, Steve Trevor's mother. She was a female test pilot, who through some navigational anomaly accidentally crash landed off of Themyscira. Wandering ashore she found that the Amazons were battling Cottus at the portal to the underworld which they had been given the task of protecting. The many-handed monster Cottus was in the process of trying to break the door and had managed to pull in Phillipus. Diana Trevor intervened though and shot Cottus with her service pistol. Phillipus was freed but Diana was dragged in and killed. Later all that was recovered was the pistol and fragments of Diana's jacket. Knowing only that she was from the outside world, the Amazons had no idea who she was or what she represented, but gave her full military funeral. Being a very militaristic society, they sought to bury her in full military dress, but only had the scraps from her jacket. They decided that the insignia on the jacket, her flying wings and the the American flag would be her battle honours. Two suits were fashioned, one for her burial, and one kept in reserve. When Diana won the right to travel to Man's World she was given this costume to wear as it was assumed that it would be recognized somewhat as the costume of a warrior.

There is a brief description of Wonder Woman's alternate costumes here.

Although Diana has occasionally changed costumes she maintains her links to Diana Trevor always by incorporating in similar motifs (this is true even of her space pirate costume). The one exception is the 1970s mod-girl costume which was introduced before Perez wrote the Diana Trevor character. Another major problem people have with the costume is why is it so revealing if Wonder Woman is supposed to be a feminine icon. From a real world stylistic point of view I can't answer this, other than to say that it is fan service. In the comics though this is somewhat explained. The Amazons are usually displayed as a group of people who have less concerns over the exposure of their bodies than others. They also live in a warm climate where it is natural to not wear as much clothing for comfort reasons. So from the first point Diana is used to wearing a lot less clothes to begin with. Secondly, there is the point that Diana doesn't really need much protection. She is essentially impervious to the elements, and her natural toughness mean that despite revealing so much skin, that it really doesn't add or detract much from her defense. She is often depicted wearing armour, and the armour usually breaks off without her even being injured as it is incapable of the strain of her great strength and endurance. In this sense the less armour she wears, the less there is getting in the way of her while she is doing her heroics.

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#2 Posted by Primmaster64 (21138 posts) - - Show Bio

Hmm That explains it.

#3 Posted by Reventlov (5 posts) - - Show Bio

Here is a quite detailed history of Diana's ever-evolving costume.  The writer's wry commentary is critical of most of her costumes, so take that FWIW.  Still, it's a fascinating study of Wondie's outfit over the years.  I thought I knew the full history of her costume, but I didn't know the half of it.

#4 Posted by MrUnknown (1700 posts) - - Show Bio
@RazzaTazz
Wonderful explanation and significance of the costume! If I might add, I think it is a feminine icon because Wonder Woman wears it out of choice. Feminism is all about matters of choice to the extent that almost anything can be molded as its icon. Here, Wonder woman wears her costume out of her choice because she doesn't need to wear heavy armor and it would essentially distract and get in the way. Of course, it is also fan service (as you mention) when we look at the bigger picture and incorporate the writers and artists into the fold, but the suit as a feminist icon still makes sense solely on the plot and story perspective.  
#5 Posted by PowerHerc (83508 posts) - - Show Bio

@RazzaTazz
Good job. 

Maybe this'll put this one to rest.

#6 Posted by Erik (32787 posts) - - Show Bio
@RazzaTazz
 
Spot on explanation. Good job.
#7 Posted by battyfan1 (203 posts) - - Show Bio

i don't really care for the swimsuit outfit.......its meh...........but why are the colours so uummmmm.....American......?!?......i get she was created by martson and that was an american comic writer etc.........costume needs colour change

#8 Posted by battyfan1 (203 posts) - - Show Bio

i like this costume.......it makes sense

#9 Edited by Feliciano2040 (654 posts) - - Show Bio
@RazzaTazz said:

With the 1980s reboot, George Perez decided that the character should represent something more than the United States (as she really has no ties there at all) and so her origin was redesigned.  What remained though was the iconic American flag inspired costume.  In the story line Challenge of the Gods Perez introduced Diana Trevor, Steve Trevor's mother.  She was a female test pilot, who through some navigational anomaly accidentally crash landed off of Themyscira.  Wandering ashore she found that the Amazons were battling Cottus at the portal to the underworld which they had been given the task of protecting.  The many-handed monster Cottus was in the process of trying to break the door and had managed to pull in Phillipus.  Diana Trevor intervened though and shot Cottus with her service pistol.  Phillipus was freed but Diana was dragged in and killed.  Later all that was recovered was the pistol and fragments of Diana's jacket.  Knowing only that she was from the outside world, the Amazons had no idea who she was or what she represented, but gave her full military funeral.  Being a very militaristic society, they sought to bury her in full military dress, but only had the scraps from her jacket.  They decided that the insignia on the jacket, her flying wings and the the American flag would be here battle honours.  Two suits were fashioned, one for her burial, and one kept in reserve.  When Diana won the right to travel to Man's World she was given this costume to wear as it was assumed that it would be recognized somewhat as the costume of a warrior.


This is quite impressive, makes me respect the Wonder Woman mythos much more.
 
Surely you've already been asked this, but what do you think of Lee's new design ? As a non-reader of Wonder Woman (hopefully to change soon) I think it keeps the good elements of the most recent costume (the pants) while also conserving the more traditional ones like the tiara and the "corset" (I don't know what that piece is called) and at the same time it doesn't seem to be gratuitously patriotic.
 
Also, I think Lee's new design would be perfect for a TV series or for a a movie, and despite what a lot of people may think about the traditional outfit I still think in comics it makes Wonder Woman look stunningly beautiful.
#10 Posted by RazzaTazz (9638 posts) - - Show Bio
@Feliciano2040: I like the redesign, sort of moving in the right direction.  I still like the original though.  On the old costume I would call the part that covered her body the breastplate because it was actually part of her armour, but I guess corset works for what she has now.  
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#11 Edited by Feliciano2040 (654 posts) - - Show Bio
@RazzaTazz said:

@Feliciano2040: I like the redesign, sort of moving in the right direction.  I still like the original though.  On the old costume I would call the part that covered her body the breastplate because it was actually part of her armour, but I guess corset works for what she has now.  

I like the word breastplate more, corset is what the new Harley Quinn design has, which kinda sucks now that I mention it.
 
If the purpose is to introduce more readers to Wondie, then I think Lee's design is fine, but comics truly shine as a medium when the traditional Wonder Woman costume works and also makes the character look aesthetically beautiful.............starting to sound like a broken record now !
#12 Posted by DEGRAAF (7881 posts) - - Show Bio
Notice the change in Wonder Woman's lower half of attire
Original New design prior to the update above
#13 Posted by Erik (32787 posts) - - Show Bio

Since so many people are freaking out about her costume, I thought I might show what I would like to see. I personally would love to see her regularly wear something that is more of a ancient Greek hoplite armor. My favorite version of this is posted right below of a random non-DC Amazon.

 
To me, this is very historically accurate though before someone makes me eat those words, know that I am no historian. It just feels about right. Granted, I would like to see some "advanced Themysciran design" making major influences to the design though. Nothing tech-based but streamlined perhaps. Just enough to make it clear that the Themysciran Amazons made very superior armor to anyone else in classic Patriarch's world.
 
Wonder Woman has shown us a more hoplite-type armor on a few occasions when she preps for a big battle. For example when she fought Medusa, her armor was the picture on the right. 

 
Overall I think that armor does the ancient Greek armor justice. Very functional and it keeps with the colors that belong to the Wonder Woman mantle. 
 
Then there is the full Amazonian heavy battle armor seen below to the left. I actually really like it but I would like her to pull that out only for the really big opponents. If the design guys at DC could take the time to give it a more updated feel but still give a nod to the original design, I think it would look perfect for a prepped battle against Superman for example. 
 
Just my personal take on it. I know many people are all twisted up on whether or not she is wearing pants but I honestly could not be bothered to care about that. I am very attached to her classic look but I could never really make an argument that it was realistic battle armor. It very clearly is a super hero costume though so I could not very well criticize it either. Times change and so does Wonder Woman's wardrobe. For just a quick look back at the evolution of her costume for all you fashion gurus out there, take a peek at the right.
 
Though one of my personal favorites is missing. That is right, I loved the newer Agent Diana Prince. Call me crazy but it worked for me. Maybe it was the pouches or the gauntlets or even the glasses but I thought it was the bee's knees.  
 
Circling back to the current redesign, I think we are getting far too worked up over the pants issue. They are pants and pants do not make the woman. Her costume with the pants seems remarkably similar to her Odyssey redesign and that design was mostly praised. Without the pants, it just looks like it blends both worlds of Odyssey and classic. I honestly see no problem.
 
I saw that someone pointed out that the DC guys may be deciding not to decide for her look so settled on both, saying her pants are retractable. Funnily enough, this has caused an uproar among the Wonder Woman fans. IF they do decide to actually implement that idea and the quote was not just an evasive joke about the topic, again so what? How is this a terrible thing? Is it not possible that these potential retractable leggings just provide added protection when needed? I think people need to relax about this. Crazy fan rage is likely the reason the Wonder Woman television show was never picked up and having seen it myself, I can tell you it had potential. I say bring the pants/no pants into play and see how it works. I guess it turns out I care about this topic more than I thought. It is surprising what a few trips through a picture gallery will do.
#14 Posted by theik2 (207 posts) - - Show Bio

Good answer RazzaTazz.  It seems to me that most women superheroes wear revealing costumes.  In the 1940s  Wonder Woman had a much more modest costume than she does now.
#15 Edited by QuasarPrime (57 posts) - - Show Bio

I like the WW costume before it was changed to the black pants/jacket last September----the one with the bird on the chest and the double-W belt.
 
However, I also like the above post by Enik both with and without the pants.  The silver without the gold does look good, especially on the choker and upper arm band.
#16 Posted by yeopop (631 posts) - - Show Bio

THis new "swimsuit" it's better than te original one. But I would remove that necklace.

#17 Posted by Feliciano2040 (654 posts) - - Show Bio
@yeopop: I don't know, as I said, I like the original look in aesthetic terms.
 
But I was kinda getting a taste for the pants, they do make her look more modern.
#18 Posted by QuasarPrime (57 posts) - - Show Bio

Who knows, we may get to see a pants and no-pants version in the coming months, and when this reboot is over, maybe even another variation of the Wonder Suit!
#19 Posted by Batcrow (232 posts) - - Show Bio

Umm Brian Azzarello has it confirmed. NO PANTS. 

#20 Posted by QuasarPrime (57 posts) - - Show Bio

No Pants?  
 
No pants it is.   I'm A-OK with that!
#21 Edited by Batcrow (232 posts) - - Show Bio
@QuasarPrime said:

No Pants?   No pants it is.   I'm A-OK with that!


   Indeed. 
#22 Posted by PowerHerc (83508 posts) - - Show Bio

DC can't help but mess with the look of all their iconic characters. Wonder Woman loses most of her iconic recognizability in pants.

#23 Posted by Hazlenaut (1960 posts) - - Show Bio

It would be something if this costume is a tribute to the original Black Canary. It would make sense with the jacket.

#24 Posted by victoriancuckoo (228 posts) - - Show Bio
@unwritten_duck I love that costume design
#25 Posted by cloudzackvincent (1028 posts) - - Show Bio

this one is my favourite... the original but with the cape nd the blade

#26 Posted by RazzaTazz (9638 posts) - - Show Bio
@cloudzackvincent: Thats actually getting closer to her full costume, what is usually considered her costume is actually just the breastplate of a much larger armour
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#27 Posted by cloudzackvincent (1028 posts) - - Show Bio

@RazzaTazz: oh! didn't know that...... i just thought it was upto the artist ....well this is another dose of 'enlightment' ;)

#28 Posted by RazzaTazz (9638 posts) - - Show Bio
@cloudzackvincent: I think that was done retroactively, they mentioned it when she battled Devastation for the first time I think
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#29 Edited by kartron (420 posts) - - Show Bio

@RazzaTazz: Great job here!!.. once again!!

Firstly I want to say that I began reading wonder woman after reading some of your blogs. Truly I had no idea about her other than that she just was there in DC comics. Now I am hooked on to Parez reboot. I dont care how much time it takes but will read the whole history!!!

Secondly, I feel that the costume really shouldn't be a big issue and just like normal people, she too should have some wardrobe. Why the heck should she wear just one costume? As a woman I am sure she would like to have some new things trying out right? Maybe just retain the theme of American flag and keep changing - not per season but maybe every 3 to 4 issues within same volume!!!! She can even change hairstyles based on her mood! what the heck!?!?!

Thirdly, I personally liked all her costumes that had cape (like the one above user mentioned) attached with it - esp the red cape from infinite crisis...

Lastly, I really wouldn't care for the costume, even if it is just "good" as long as the character holds strength in her origin - which thanks to Parez, its does.

Lastly, I love Wonder Woman!!!

#30 Posted by RazzaTazz (9638 posts) - - Show Bio
@kartron: Not many artists want to think about all the work to get all the female characters a different look all the time, plus most artist's concept of fashion is pretty bad.   
 
Glad you are liking WW though :)
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#31 Posted by Outside_85 (8996 posts) - - Show Bio

@RazzaTazz said:

@kartron: Not many artists want to think about all the work to get all the female characters a different look all the time, plus most artist's concept of fashion is pretty bad. Glad you are liking WW though :)

Well, most fashion designers seem to put things on the catwalk that only Lady Gaga would actually wear, so that probably goes hand in hand :)

Btw, just noticed how similar Guillem's Diana is to is to his Catwoman in face.

#32 Posted by Silver_Leopard (6 posts) - - Show Bio

@RazzaTazz: You know, this makes so much sense. The people I tell this to do not understand, yet they scream cheesecake. :( That's what bothers me a bit.

#33 Posted by PhoenixoftheTides (3551 posts) - - Show Bio

Great review, Razzatazz. I have to admit, though, that I like the costume with pants and a jacket. It makes her feel more like an independent, road warrior which seems to match the rough-and-ready Amazonian spirit moreso than a swimsuit. I say let her change clothes depending on where she is; just because Superman is invulnerable doesn't mean he only wears a thong. I like the texture used for her current costume, as well. I'm a big fan of textured costumes because they show much more interesting shadows compared to swimsuits and body condoms and add a dose of grit to a medium that revolves around battles.

#34 Posted by noggin_the_nog (12 posts) - - Show Bio

I like this costume:

#35 Edited by HoneyKr (20 posts) - - Show Bio

I dont like wonder woman for one sheer reason, ie her costume. Its weird she fights in undies, i mean we dont normally see people walking around in underwear Do we? Like if they make live action movie on wonder woman will they show Wonder woman fighting in thongs? Thats idiotic IMO.

Did they make changes in Wonder woman coustume DCNU 52 OR she still fight in underwears? (I havent read the above post)

#36 Posted by PowerHerc (83508 posts) - - Show Bio

@cloudzackvincent said:

this one is my favourite... the original but with the cape nd the blade

Nice image.

#37 Posted by jrock85 (2874 posts) - - Show Bio

@cloudzackvincent said:

this one is my favourite... the original but with the cape nd the blade

Awesome pic.

#38 Posted by Watcherg6 (263 posts) - - Show Bio

@RazzaTazz: I'd be happy if she had Pants this is the Year 2012, Women have been Voting in America for at least 91 years, we are very close to women Making more money than Men in the average house hold. Women are even taking over in Action movies. Comic books seem to be behind in the women Movement. Maybe the FF, and the X-men, but that is all

#39 Posted by RazzaTazz (9638 posts) - - Show Bio
@Watcherg6 said:

@RazzaTazz: I'd be happy if she had Pants this is the Year 2012, Women have been Voting in America for at least 91 years, we are very close to women Making more money than Men in the average house hold. Women are even taking over in Action movies. Comic books seem to be behind in the women Movement. Maybe the FF, and the X-men, but that is all

I liked the pants as well, it would be nice if they went back to them.  
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#40 Posted by RyuHayabusa (2019 posts) - - Show Bio

@RazzaTazz: Hmm interesting. What do you think about her new armored look?

#41 Posted by RazzaTazz (9638 posts) - - Show Bio
@RyuHayabusa: Looks interesting, which issue will this be in?
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#42 Posted by RyuHayabusa (2019 posts) - - Show Bio

@RazzaTazz: Issue #8

#43 Posted by X9 (757 posts) - - Show Bio

Well, she's a warrior, the pants make sense.

I have to say her new costume (the red one with silver adornments) pleases me more than her classic one. But I agree, she looks more Wonder Woman without the pants...

#44 Posted by rfagen62 (4 posts) - - Show Bio

Don't care about the costume changes. I'd rather see her given an overall purpose in life. Besides make everyone love each other.

#45 Posted by TAneT62 (1060 posts) - - Show Bio

perfect WW for me!

#46 Posted by wondergirl246 (27 posts) - - Show Bio

I don't mind the "panties" outfit so long as it isn't TOO cheesecake, i.e., don't make the bottom a thong, don't make the top show an absurd amount of cleavage.

I think the 2009 movie got it right when it justified the patriotic color scheme by describing it as a sign of respect to the nation to which she was traveling. Not very hard to think of that as an Amazon custom.

My favorite outfits are her more full warrior sets, with a war skirt, cape, and sword. If they do a live action film they should try to fit in a combination of outifts, e.g., the "swimsuit" for a more wrestling type fight and the cape for another.

One take I thought was cool:

#47 Posted by brettjett (55 posts) - - Show Bio

@RazzaTazz:

I might add that you can get some more revelations here in the "Symbols - Emblems - Outfit" section of my 70th Anniversary article/reference guide, "Who Is Wonder Woman?":

http://new.dcuwiki.net/forums/viewtopic.php?f=40&t=4182

#48 Posted by brettjett (55 posts) - - Show Bio

@RazzaTazz said:

Another major problem people have with the costume is why is it so revealing if Wonder Woman is supposed to be a feminine icon. From a real world stylistic point of view I can't answer this, other than to say that it is fan service. In the comics though this is somewhat explained. The Amazons are usually displayed as a group of people who have less concerns over the exposure of their bodies than others. They also live in a warm climate where it is natural to not wear as much clothing for comfort reasons. So from the first point Diana is used to wearing a lot less clothes to begin with. Secondly, there is the point that Diana doesn't really need much protection. She is essentially impervious to the elements, and her natural toughness mean that despite revealing so much skin, that it really doesn't add or detract much from her defense. She is often depicted wearing armour, and the armour usually breaks off without her even being injured as it is incapable of the strain of her great strength and endurance. In this sense the less armour she wears, the less there is getting in the way of her while she is doing her heroics.

Good effort on answering the OUTFIT question(s)....BTW, its an outfit not a "costume". Altho I must say that you sound like a GUY. A revealing outfit on a women IS feminine! And so it'd be appropriate to have it on a feminine character. The fact of gender dynamics is that women evoke sex appeal with how revealing their outfits are, and men evoke sex appeal by how much clothes they have on.

As to the separate issue of in-story practicality, its one of those questions that's in the same league as 'How the heck does Superman keep a secret identity with only a pair of glasses?'. Suspension of Belief. Altho I have created a practical answer to that within MY screenplay.

To add to this thread, here is an excerpt from the "Top 10 Questions" portion of my literary reference piece, "WHO IS WW?".........

1* What's up with her wearing such a revealing "swim suit" to fight evil in, and what's the significance of it?

There's 2 parts to the answer of this question-dilemma:

First off, depending on who draws her outfit, I don't think the original design was really that revealing. But in any case, tell me this... does it bother you that male characters like Hercules, or Tarzan, or He-Man, or Conan walk around scantily clad to fight badguys? You barely pay much focus on their "swim suit" outfits, right? The ladies notice it, and they don't make a big deal of it all the time. So why should we think it outlandish for a WOMAN to dress like that? The fact is, she's actually more covered up than those men I've mentioned! While Starfire is even more scantily clad...so why aren't people up in arms about HER instead?

Just because you find WW attractive, doesn't make her more outlandishly dressed than the various male characters who barely have any shirts. And if you're a woman who finds her dress outlandish, then you must be jealous. Women should not be ashamed of their bodies or showing it. Showing off your physique is the Olympian way...Greco-Roman sculptors appreciated the human figure. And WW is a liberated woman, born & raised with that mindset, confident and unashamed. He-Man or Hercules's look represents masculine power, WW's look represents feminine power.

One theory as to why people tend to think WW's outfit is outlandish is the mix of colors and its American Flag motifs. If her outfit was the same, such as all black, would it look outlandish then? No. To you, she'd look like some girl dressed up at a formal social function. This whole difference in people's perception is also an interesting study in gender dynamics.

But whatever perspective you all have, just remember to include relativity to it...If she's outlandishly dressed, then so is He-Man or Conan, or Martian Manhunter.

Secondly, when Dr. Marston designed her, he was trying to create a very alluring feminine character --The idea being that WW represents a being of love in many forms, not just the maternal, but the allure, and so she had to inspire all those feelings, especially in men.--And men, being sexually visual creatures, will respond to a woman who actually shows off that feminine allure--therefore she could not be impeded by mousy or masculine clothing...she's anti-prudery. And for a woman, alluring means wearing something that accentuates & shows off her figure, her feminine loveliness...and strapless is the way to go. And it also had to give her freedom of movement for acrobatics & combat. So I'm sure he might've melded that idea by altering circus outfits. He probably also wanted to amalgamate it with a Greco-Roman feel, but I've found no concrete evidence of this to be sure. But in making her alluringly lovely, its fascinating to note that the overall bodice shape is nearly that of a Valentine heart as if to signify a love symbol.

Another perspective...the "living symbol": Imagine the outfit being not so much an outfit but a symbol with magical powers, representing some powerful concepts. And so its floating around, spreading good. Now imagine 4 fleshy limbs growing out of it, and out pops a head. Now you have a person inside that makes the symbol come alive, making it a living symbol. That's pretty much what the outfit is.

#49 Posted by Hatutzeraze (269 posts) - - Show Bio

She needs pants. Bring back the pants.

#50 Posted by sunhawk (550 posts) - - Show Bio

yes bring back the pants

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