Vogue, by Martha Thomases
There is a special exhibition at the Costume Institute at New York’s Metropolitan Musuem of Art called Superheroes: Fashion and Fantasy. I haven’t been able to go yet, but according to the exhibit’s web site, the show features costumes designed around these groups:
•The Patriotic Body (Wonder Woman, Captain America)
•The Virile Body (they cite The Hulk and The Thing, which sort of creeps me out)
•The Graphic Body (Superman and other characters with logos)
•The Paradoxical Body (Catwoman and other hyper-sexualized heroines)
•The Armored Body (Iron Man, Steel)
•The Aerodynamic Body (The Flash)
• The Mutant Body (they cite Rogue)
• The Post-Modern Body (Ghost Rider, Punisher).
The show and its parties are sponsored by Conde Nast, DC and Marvel, and Giorgio Armani. The opening night was extremely glamorous, with attendance from stars like George Clooney, Julia Roberts, Tilda Swinton, and the Olsen Twins. Heidi has written great stuff about it at The Beat and the Fug Girls are all over it.
Some of these groupings I understand, and some seem to be redundant (really, is Rogue that much different from Catwoman in the way she’s presented in this show?). However, none of them seem to consider superhero garb the way I did, when I was considering being a superheroine.
It’s true that I was designing my costume when I was eight years old, when fashion was not my foremost concern, nor did I need to worry about where I was going to keep my breasts at that time. I wanted something that would allow me to hide in the shadows, mysteriously, even while showing off my beautiful blonde hair (I had a few blonde cousins, and thought all I needed was more time in the sun to achieve the same golden tresses). Midnight blue, I thought, was the perfect color, at least among those choices in my Crayola box.
There was no spandex at that time, nor lycra. The stretchiest fabrics were knits. I didn’t think about it much at the time. As a swimmer, I was at home in quick-drying nylon. Later, in my punk days, I wore spandex tights with big, torn t-shirts. I wore other high-tech synthetics to run. I liked the way they felt, especially when I was in good shape and the fabrics clung to my muscles.
At DC, I suggested to the Licensing Department that they consider Flash running tights, with yellow lightning at the ankles. They looked at me like I was crazy. I still think it’s a great idea, one that might get me running again. They had plenty of good ideas, including the Wonder Woman bracelets on sale at the Warner Bros. store for a while. But nothing you could really wear to fight crime, or save the galaxy.
So I’ll probably go to the Met later in the summer, especially since John has a membership. I’ll consider the costumes and the fashions, and deride them for their lack of functionality. It’s as if the people who design super-heroine outfits knows less than the eight-year old me what it feels like to have breasts. And Anna Wintour isn’t the person who can tell them.
Martha Thomases, ComicMix Media Goddess, only wears lycra now for lap-swimming.