Martha Thomases: It’s No Longer Your Mother’s Verisimilitude
When Siegel and Shuster first designed Superman’s costume they didn’t have other superhero costumes to copy. Instead they modeled his outfit on circus performers, which made sense. Circus performers needed outfits that sparkled, that attracted the eyes of the audience, but also were flexible enough to permit them to perform their amazing feats. In case you were wondering, that’s why Kal-El wore his underwear on the outside – like a circus strongman.
When it came time to dress super heroines, the same rules applied – almost. The outfits seemed to be modeled on magicians’ assistants as much as acrobats, that is, for women who were there to be stared at, not to move. This is perfectly understandable when you think about it. They people designing the clothes were the ones doing the staring, not the wearing.
Anyway, this has bothered me for at least the last twenty years, when the costumes (and the physiques they covered) became more extreme. Women with enormous breasts, tiny waists and legs longer than stilts wore costumes that defied gravity and exposed their most vulnerable parts. The costumes provided no breast support and most gave the wearer a permanent wedgie. Even when I was running and wore lycra tights (feeling like The Flash, and always wishing DC had licensed that product category), I didn’t wear them so tight that you could see my individual ass cheeks in such detail.
Clearly, no man had ever tried to move in such an outfit.
Last week, thanks to the wonders of the Internets, I saw some examples of what super heroines might wear if they had a choice. A woman I’d never heard of, Celeste Pille
, sketched a few examples.
They are wonderful. While I don’t share her antipathy for capes or long hair (although I agree that both are impractical in a physical fight), it’s breath of fresh air to see costumes a woman can wear and still move.
Gone are high heels. Gone are costumes cut down to, or up to there. If the character needs armor, it covers the places that are most likely to get stabbed or shot at, or that she most wants to protect. Characters who might get cold wear pants.
And while I don’t know that I would hire Ms. Pille to draw comics (not enough information on her story-telling abilities), she does know a few things about how women’s bodies fit together. Women who are human and need strength have big arms and thighs. If they have big breasts, they wear sports bras because while men might find flopping breasts arousing, most women find them inconvenient at best.
If I have any criticisms, it’s that almost everybody needs more pockets. But that’s my criticism of real life as well.
SATURDAY: Marc Alan Fishman
SUNDAY: John Ostrander