For nearly 70 years, Wonder Woman rocked star-spangled bottoms, a red bustier, a tiara, and a mean lasso. When DC Comics recently made over the crime-fighting heroine to give her a less flashy, “more functional and protective” costume, many fans were unimpressed. With all this backlash, I wondered how relevant her outfit is to her character’s purpose. Does this new look change what made her so wonderful?
Most superheroes’ and villains’ costumes are defined by their names. The sultry Catwoman wears a sexy, skintight bodysuit to evoke the image of a sneaky, slinky black cat. When looking at Wonder Woman’s old uniform, it’s clear the Amazonian isn’t shy about her powerful, muscular body.
Admittedly, there isn’t much covering her body, which is what DC Comics felt needed remedying. “Wonder Woman has, to an extent, become like a Ferrari you keep in the garage 24/7 because you’re afraid of denting it. It’s great to look at, beautiful in line and form, and as long as it’s in the garage it’s safe …but that’s not what a Ferrari is for,” said comic writer J. Michael Straczynski in an interview last month. Her new look is one “designed to be taken seriously as a warrior, in partial answer to the many female fans over the years who’ve asked, ‘how does she fight in that thing without all her parts falling out?’”
For fans to consider the practicality of her uniform was, perhaps, a call for a more human and relatable character. With this new design, that’s just what DC went for, in both her body and mind. Starting with the latest issue, Wonder Woman’s alter ego, Diana Prince, now has little knowledge of her mythical origin. Like her super friends Batman and Superman, she must now struggle with being an outsider, having self-doubt, and finding her identity more than before.
But, to me, Wonder Woman’s look always reminded me of a pinup girl who leaped out of a poster to vanquish evil and live out her true calling. Could it be that what made her original costume so “wonderful” was that she wore it with such confidence, regardless of what others thought, as she fought to better the world?
Gloria Steinem also pointed out that perhaps Wonder Woman’s new look “gives us the idea that only pants can be powerful.” While they’re actually leggings Wonder Woman now wears, it’s clear that the shift from her exposed, healthy skin to a covered body has so far not impressed many fans.
I agree with Steinem in that for a woman to be considered powerful, pants are not a necessity. And, although there wasn’t a pocket for Wonder Woman to store her eyeglasses or house keys, she still successfully took care of serious business in that super pinup garb for nearly seven decades.
In the ABC World News clip above, Wonder Woman illustrator Jim Lee touches on the idea that if you or I were to go out in public wearing “what is essentially a bathing suit,” we’d be very aware, even uncomfortable. I think it’s safe to say that neither you nor I would hang out downtown in our swimwear. Wonder Woman’s traditional outfit is less realistic than the new one, but maybe it’s more idealistic. Until a woman can wear a sexy outfit by choice in public without being a topic of criticism, Wonder Woman’s costume remains just a joke for some.
Regardless of what she wears, surely Wonder Woman will continue to inspire us, even if it’s just to “tell the truth,” as actress Lynda Carter portrays in the clip below. I mean, it’s no accident that my personal journal has a holographic Wonder Woman on the cover!