What should Wonder Woman wear for her long-awaited standalone outing on the big screen, the first in her 76-year history? And how do you dress her mythical army of female warriors, the Amazons, when kickass women characters are so lamentably rare in the comic book boys’ club? With experience outfitting everyone from Heath Ledger’s Joker to Angelina Jolie’s Lara Croft to Anne Hathaway’s Catwoman, costume designer Lindy Hemming is a veteran of the superhero genre – making her perhaps the perfect choice when it came to kitting out Gal Gadot’s feminist heroine. We caught up with the Oscar winner to learn more about the challenges and considerations of styling the biggest film of the summer…
Like the character herself, Wonder Woman’s outfit needed an origin story
Wonder Woman’s armour was first made for the Batman Vs. Superman film; it’s [BvS designer] Michael Wilkinson’s original costume. Our film was a pre-story, so we wanted her costume to look new, to be much more colourful and shiny – she hasn’t worn it to war in the human world yet. I wanted to make sure that the armour of the Amazons and [Diana’s] family leads us to the Wonder Woman costume we see in Batman Vs. Superman: I was trying to do an origin story for that costume.
Ancient civilisations provided style inspiration for Themyscira, the home of the Amazons…
I started looking into the lands around ancient Greece, Scythia and Thrace. There were some countries, all in the same sort of area, which had women leaders, women rulers and – this was most interesting – women warriors, so we did a lot of research looking at their clothes.
… But an injection of contemporary fashion gave their outfits an edge
While the clothes and the armour of the women on Themyscira had to look like it originates from thousands of years ago, I wanted to make it a little more accessible. To do that, in my reference boards I juxtaposed something from an ancient civilisation with contemporary fashion and sportswear.
Avant-garde Brit designers, high-octane couture, gym gear: all were important influences
It was quite easy to find reference points in contemporary fashion – there were lots of interesting necklines and cut-away shoulders. We looked at Gareth Pugh and even some Versace stuff, but mostly it was sportswear – gym and yoga gear – as the Amazons are meant to be healthy, sporty and fit rather than over-sexualised.
A feminist superhero needed an empowering costume
We decided early on that the women would have as much of their bodies on view as the men would’ve in that same period – Greek men wore breast plates with their arms bare, with shin guards and helmets. There is hardly any reference to women’s armour through history, but it did exist and it did follow the form of the body, often made of leather with gold plates – looking at those artefacts was quite inspiring. We knew the legs were going to be exposed, so we didn’t want to have the breasts on view: why wear armour if so much of your body is vulnerable? We wanted to allude without revealing, not taking an underwear-as-outerwear path.
Dressing an army of warrior women was no mean feat
We had to design and create the world which Diana comes from. That was a huge task: every single person on the island had to have armour, which we did individualise a great deal – it was a massive women’s armour endeavour, but it’s a wonderful feeling to be able to make nearly everything from scratch. I was glad that I’d done other superhero films [like Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy] before this one because it was an enormous project, though we did have the luxury of more time than we’d perhaps had on other films.
Diana’s WW1 outfit wasn’t just Edwardian dress-up: it still had to feel fresh and powerful
Even when Diana travels into the real world of 1918, she’s still a super hero and so there always had to be a little edge to what she wore. The great gift was that it’s written into the script that she doesn’t like the Edwardian clothes – we could make them prim, we could make them too tight, we could give her something to act against. That made a lovely foil to the costume she eventually decides on. By good fortune, the Women’s Auxiliary Corps, the women’s army of that time, wore these very straight, almost ‘70s looking jacket and skirts – we chose that shape for her to go to war.
Wonder Woman's armour wasn't just for show
In Batman Vs. Superman, Gal hadn’t done many days in that costume; she certainly never had to go out into the elements, get in the mud and go in the sea. Even though it looks solid, the armour has lines of movement in it. It’s separated into pieces so that she can swing swords, jump off horses and twirl into cartwheels.
Women championed one another behind the camera, too
Patty Jenkins is a really collaborative director. You could go to her everyday with your ideas, then she’d give you questions that you could research. She came to the fittings and she’s interested in clothes. Working with Patty, I found that we were on the same wavelength – it was so enjoyable, and hopefully to be repeated…
Wonder Woman is available on 4K UHD, Blu-Ray and DVD from October 9, and is available as a digital download now.
WATCH NOW: Gal Gadot On Becoming Wonder Woman