Let’s Talk: Female Heroes and their costumes.
After seeing Black Widow this week, something occurred to me as I was leaving the theater and it made me smile. The difference in the costumes for both the DCEU and the MCU now that more women are getting involved.
My first example is from Birds of Prey.
There is nothing inherently pulling the male gaze with these outfits. One could argue that Dinah’s is a little, but she is also still wearing her outfit from work, where she works for Roman Sionis, so that would explain the cleavage that she’s showing. But overall, most of the women in this shot are wearing flat shoes and clothes that they look comfortable in and look like they can actually fight in as well. Of course they make fun of Dinah later on for her choice in pants, but it’s more of a fun tongue-in-cheek moment more than anything else. But look at Harley’s outfit, that’s a fun outfit but there’s nothing that screams “LOOK AT MY BOOBS AND BUTT” like her outfit in Suicide Squad did. Helena is decked out in combat boots and protective vest. And of course, one of the most relatable moments in women’s comic book history happens during the big brawl:
You love to see it. From the outfit choices and this scene alone, I would have known that this film was directed by a woman.
Even in Wonder Woman 1984 we saw a difference. Sure, Diana was still running around in her tiny skirt/metal bra combo, but she got the chance to put on the golden armour and while it kinda looked tacky, it was still better than the other suit in terms of getting rid of the male gaze.
Practical, covering her while still looking nice. There is a slight heel on the boot but nothing too crazy, unlike her other costume. And which movie did she first wear the Iconic Wonder Woman costume? Oh that’s right, BvS, a movie directed by a man. The difference is easy to spot if you’re looking. There is nothing wrong with her costume, but you can see the difference from when a man is making the choices versus when a woman is.
Next we hop over to the MCU as we take a look at Carol’s outfit from Captain Marvel.
Carol’s suit is very much like Steve’s suit, in the way that it’s very military looking. It fits her body, but so does Yon-Rogg’s and the other members of the Kree. A man did design this costume, but with input from the directors and I believe Larson herself, though I’m not sure on that. But the whole outfit screams badass practicality. There is no cleavage, no ridiculous heels. You could switch her outfit with Steve’s and it would basically be the same, and that’s a good thing.
Next is Elizabeth Olsen’s Wanda Maximoff.
She’s been on record to say how much she disliked the first costume on the left. Olsen said that she didn’t like how revealing it was, and that it didn’t really fit her or the character. The middle one wasn’t a lot better, but at least she wasn’t showing as much cleavage. But the last costume? Olsen had a say in it and she loves it, and I think it’s the best one to date. I actually would argue it’s one of the better costumes in the whole MCU. It looks visually appealing on her and really suits the character as well. And while they’re not featured, the shoes she’s wearing are more flat in the bottoms I believe. The last costume is just a sign that if you listen to the person who has to wear it constantly and focus on making it look cool and practical rather than sexy, it ends up being more attractive anyway. I don’t know a single person who has complaints about it.
Last but certainly not least, Natasha “Black Widow” Romanoff. This is one of her costumes, coming from Age of Ultron:
Zipper is super low, you can see the size of that heel from her, and it’s super form fitting. Natasha was sexualized the moment she showed up on screen in Iron Man 2 and they rolled with this look for a very long time. We saw them relaxing it a little in Endgame when she wore the comfy clothes and her socks, but overall she’s always had this look.
Even here you can see how far dawn that zipper is, and even the vest is nearly wide open. But as you will soon seen, Johansson had enough of that and had a lot of say in Natasha’s clothing in the Black Widow movie. Natasha for most of that movie is wearing loose clothing or clothes that stay up near her collar bone. Also, throughout the whole movie she and Yelena wear combat boots, never once wearing those heeled shoes that Natasha wore in all the other movies. It’s a subtle enough change that it’s not changing the entire look of the character, but enough that it got me thinking “about fucking time.”
Look at the zipper placement. While it may be a little low here, it’s not so low that she’s falling out of her costume. Plus there’s the added strap that hold the jacket in place. The pants are also a tiny bit looser, and so is the jacket. Just a tiny bit, but you can see the bunching and creasing from the extra fabric. ScarJo said that it was her favourite costume to date and the most comfortable to wear. And just to compare the two Infinity War Era Natasha’s:
See where the zipper is on the inside jacket? The vest is open but that’s how Yelena wore it for most of the movie as well. It looks comfy and attractive, but not in the male gaze way.
As you can see from the examples above, the more that the industry is changing due to women getting involved, the more the costumes reflect that. No longer are these female heroes meant for the male gaze and not much more. The costumes are cool, they’re practical, they’re badass. It may have taken a while to get here, but at least we’re starting to see it. Hell, even Melissa’s Benoist finally got pants after asking for them for years. Look at the new Supergirl’s costume, there’s no skirt or heeled shoes.
Also, this isn’t to say that sexualized costumes are evil or anything. I really did like Supergirl’s original costume, but it depends on who it’s for. I never liked Harley’s outfit in SS because it was meant for the male gaze, and I found it silly. While I appreciate Diana’s iconic look, there is something off-putting seeing her with a tiny skirt and corset-esc top while Batman and Flash get armour in the Justice League. Even in the CW’s Stargirl, Courtney wears a crop top and shorts that are above the knee. I like the costume, but it could be a full shirt at least. It’s not practical for her to be exposing that much skin considering how many times Cindy stabbed her or she got tossed into the pavement. But if you’re going to put a woman in a sexy outfit, then do the same for men. And for the love of all things good in this world, stop putting women in heels in action movies. It’s ridiculous.
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