Wonder Woman burst onto our screens in June of this year, in her first ever feature length film. Sure, she’d featured in 2016’s Batman Vs Superman, but this was her first outing as the title character, Princess Diana of Themiscrya, also known as Diana Prince. She’s not a new character; in fact, Wonder Woman has been around since 1941 in comic book form, a creation of William Moutlan Marston and H.G. Peter, a combination of a physcologist and an artist. Wonder Woman has always been something of a feminist icon; she was created around 1940’s ideals of a strong, passionate woman and early ideals of feminism. She’s been subverting the damsel in distress trope for a long time, and the 2017 reboot is no different. Starring Israeli actress Gal Gadot as Diana, and directed by Patty Jenkins, this is the superhero movie millions of Wonder Woman fans have been waiting for for years.
And to be honest; it was an absolute smash hit. It’s easy to see why; it was one of the first superhero movies that I watched that I actually engaged with and really enjoyed. Sure, Guardians of The Galaxy is a lot of fun, but there’s only so much emotional connection one can have with a CGI raccoon and a CGI talking tree (still love you though, baby Groot.) I’ve always enjoyed superhero movies for what they are; a treat for the eyes and the senses, and fun as long as I’m sitting in the cinema accompanied by a bucket of popcorn. But Wonder Woman actually left me feeling, well, great. As a woman who works in the television and theatre industry, it made me proud to watch a movie that was so unashamedly female, from it’s amazing cast of female Amazons, to its hugely talented director. Of course, there was the usual superhero nonsense (not including a gas that makes people inexplicably glow and a 15-minute-long fight at the end, complete with around 2000 explosions), but it was also a celebration of female strength, talent and creativity. I walked out of the cinema with a big, goofy grin on my face, certain that Wonder Woman had proved that, yes, a female superhero can rake in the money and still be totally badass. I’m waiting on that Black Widow movie, Marvel.
And onto the costumes! Designed by Lindy Hemming, they are amazing. Wonder Woman has, hands down, my favourite costume design out of any superhero movie; and I will tell you why. Hemming, along with director, Patty Jenkins, really respect the women in this movie. The costume design was incredible and respectful; it was a celebration of female strength and beauty in an industry still prone to presenting female flesh solely for the male gaze. Yes, the women were beautiful, but they will also take down you and your army with their fighting skills. I’ll also point out that I am sick and tired of people saying ‘Yeah, but their costumes showed a lot of skin, so that’s meant to be sexy.’ Sexy and strong are not mutually exclusive; the Amazons were wearing armour that has real historical precedents, and actual functionality, especially in the presumably tropical climate of Themiscrya. But there’s also no problem with these women being strong and attractive; they’re mythical warriors crafted by the Gods themselves. Superman is allowed to have a perfectly sculpted eight-pack without any complaints, after all.
Anyway – rant over. I love the world of Themiscrya that’s created. It seems like a very distinct, new culture, with a lot of different cultural influences. Ancient Rome and Ancient Greece are obvious influences, but some of the cloaks, hairstyles and armour is also reminiscent of Scandinavian and Viking Cultures. The practicality of the Amazonian costume was excellent; no tight skirts or metal bikinis here; it’s easy to see that it’s all handmade by the women themselves. The women could move, and move extremely well in their costumes, with split skirts for maximum leg movement. I also love the call-back to the mythos of the real Amazonian women; there was a myth that the real Amazons cut off one of their breasts to enable them to handle a bow better. And, low and behold, in the background of some shots, we see a single-breasted armour plate, worn by the archers of the Amazons. It’s a great tie-in to real mythology.
Hippolyta and Antiope, Diana’s mother and aunt, are beautifully costumed. As the Queen of the Amazons, and the Leader of the Army respectively, their contrast is beautiful. Hippolyta is regal and ornate with a gold, armour plated dress, an ornate diadem, and a beautiful cloak with fur detailing. She wears her hair loose, and the look is altogether softer and more regal than her sister, Antiope. Antiope is the General, and is covered in scars that I didn’t see on my first viewing; it’s a beautiful job by the special effects department. Her look is rougher, more unrefined, but a lot more practical; shorter skirts make it easier for her to fight, and her entire look is more natural. There’s a real focus placed on the leathers here; and Hemming notes that her ensemble was meant to look like she had hunted every animal she was wearing herself. Robin Wright plays Antiope so well, and her loss in the first act of the movie genuinely tugs at the heartstrings.
Let’s move onto the main lady herself; Diana, Princess of Themiscrya. We all know what Wonder Woman looks like; well, at least we thought we did, till we got our first glimpse at her new costume in Batman vs Superman. The redesign of Diana’s costume wasn’t just welcomed; it was so much needed. Considering Wonder Woman’s original costume was basically Americana underwear, it’s fitting that her newest reincarnation be updated for the modern viewer. The red and blue elements of her costume are still evident, although darkened down massively, and the bright yellows and white of the comic books have been toned down to a burnished gold. The costume moves very well during the action scenes; it was actually lined with fur, as Gadot was shooting in every kind of weather. Her totally impractical high-heeled boots have been swapped out for over-the-knee, armoured boot/sandal hybrid, with a wedged heel that was the source of a lot of controversy. There is a part of me that wanted to scream at the cinema screen ‘Let her wear flats!’, but Jenkins did point out that some parts of Diana’s get up are total wish fulfilment. And once I read her views on it, it did make sense. The point of the armour and costumes in Wonder Woman isn’t to simply make girls wear armour and be done with it. It’s okay if this armour looks amazing as well as practical; sure, she’s wearing a wedge, but she’s also one of the best warriors to ever grace the Earth. This armour is practical, and also visually pleasing; as I’ve pointed out, it’s no different to Superman and Batman’s massive pecs. So, let the lady wear wedges.
I can’t really describe how much I loved the reverse-makeover scene in the ladies’ clothes shop. It was a really funny, sweet part of the movie, but also made a clear statement of just how far women have come in terms of their freedoms. Diana’s disbelief that a corset could be a woman’s armour really made me laugh, and I loved the design that they settled on for undercover Diana; the perfect blend of masculine tailoring and feminine lines. Also, just as a side note, I think it’s literally impossible for Gal Gadot to look anything short of stunning.
Another lady of note; I loved the costume design on Isabelle Maru, or Dr Poison, as she’s better known. However, there was a part of me that wished she wasn’t disfigured. It’s basic shorthand in cinema; beautiful people are the leads, and anyone scarred or deformed is probably a villain. I suppose it could have been a little less on-the-nose about using physical disfigurement as representative of mental state, but I didn’t hate it. The makeup and props department did a great job with her very early prosthetic, and I like Maru’s costuming as well, with a standout piece being the dress suit that she wore to the Gala dinner, seen below.
The detail in Wonder Woman is great; all the military costumes are beautiful, and it was lovely to see such a fantastical story set in such a recognisable time period. Also; fun fact: to my shame, I thought the film was set in the Second World War until Diana arrived in London and I saw the late Edwardian Costumes. My best friend, who is a PhD Student in History, hasn’t stopped mocking me to this day. Oops. (Ottoman Empire wasn’t around in World War Two? Weird)
As usual; I’ve barely even covered half the costumes in the movie; but that’s a blog for another time. I’ll definitely do a follow up, since there’s just so much to be said; I haven’t even touched on the male characters, so that’s definitely reason enough to watch the movie again. Right?
Cool. Off for my third rewatch. Sorry not sorry.
Till next week,