THE COSTUMES OF WONDER WOMAN

 

Wonder Woman the movie has been a winner at the box office, a long planned-for super heroine  movie finally brought to life by Warner Brothers as directed by Patty Jenkins. One wonders what took so long, given the pent-up demand for such a feminist story with a strong female cast. As it turned out, just the right female director for finally got the job. One may remember the TV show starring Lynda Carter that aired in the 1970s. The role is now played by the Israeli actress Gal Gadot, former model and veteran of the Israeli Army. The new movie traces Wonder Woman’s origin story as Princess of Themiscyra of the protected island of the Amazons, an ageless utopia from ancient Greece. There she was also known as Princess Diana, and later known as Wonder Woman, the daughter of  Queen Hippolyta (Connie Nielsen). The Queen was over-protective of the Princess, the only child on the island. But  her aunt the warrior General Antiope (Robin Wright) wants to train her in the arts of combat, believing that Ares, the god of war, will find them even on their protected island. As Princess Diana grows into womanhood she has learned these arts through rugged training, and even discovers that her powers are more than mortal.  And when a biplane shatters their airspace and crashes into the sea, Diana saves the pilot (Chris Pine) from drowning. She has never seen a man, and he tells her of his important mission he is on to save lives during the final phase of World War I. Thus is Diana quickly turned into Wonder Woman, persuaded to enter World War I on the side of the Allies. This will be her effort to save lives from the hand of Ares and his henchmen who have taken over the German Army.  

 

Lindy Hemming designed the costumes, having previously designed a variety of popular films including The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises, Clash of the Titans, Batman Begins  two of the Lara Croft movies, several James Bond movies including Casino Royale and  Die Another Day, Paddington, and Four Weddings and a Funeral. Ms. Hemming began her career designing costumes for the English Theater. She transitioned to film with movie director Mike Leigh. Like all costume designers, her job is to help develop the character of the actor she dresses.. In this capacity she works very closely with the director at first, getting their vision. Director Patty Jenkins had definite ideas, she said, “As a woman, I want Wonder Woman to fight and look great at the same time. In my opinion, this means she has really long legs.”  Hemming knew how to make both factors work through her costumes. This stage was followed by working with the art director and with the specialized trades that fabricate various parts of the costumes. And of course working with the actors themselves, including the all-important “fittings” for the custom work that is done for many of the costumes for the principal cast members. Nowadays these are mostly done on mannequins made from body scans of the actors, each perfectly proportioned.

 

Gal Gadot is shown at left with Connie Nielsen who plays her mother Queen Hippolyta. The Queen’s costume is regal, showing gold and fur. Diana’s costume has more the look of gilt armor, with the strapped skirt that, minus the  asymmetrical cut for sexiness,    even Ancient Greek soldiers wore.   Since the Wonder Woman costume had already been worn by Gal Gadot in Batman v Superman, and that costume had been designed by Michael Wilkinson, Ms. Hemming had to coordinate with that look and work backwards to its origin. In designing all of the Amazonian costumes she researched ancient armor, warriors, and female-centered societies. The costumes she designed also had to be functional for the strenuous scenes including horseback riding. The warrior armor was fabricated from handcrafted leather by Patrick Whitaker and Keir Malem. They had been making formed leather bustiers for 30 years and worked with Alexander McQueen on his first Givenchy couture show. To attain the glossy appearance the leather was either dyed, gilded or leafed with metallic-looking finishes. The leather was then steamed so it could be molded onto the custom-sized mannequins.

 

In the photo above Princess Diana grasps the God Killer sword, with her shield and Lasso of Truth, she will now embark on the path to great battles. But first she has a costume change, removing her training outfit to donn her Wonder Woman costume, complete with the Wonder Woman tiara her mother gives her. She wears a black Mohair and lamb’s wool cape over all, concealing her sword and shield. With pilot Steve Trevor, they sail a boat to London.

 

While Princess Diana, now re-named Diana Prince to better fit in, may feel comfortable in her attire, it becomes quickly apparent that she draws stares from everyone. Trevor’s secretary Etta Candy (Lucy Davis) takes her shopping at Cleridge’s for a wardrobe. Diana is attracted immediately to a corset, asking if this is what their version of armor is like. She next tries on a variety of period outfits – in which she attempts her kicks and sword thrusts – splitting the hobble skirt of one.

 

She finally settles on a boxy Woman’s military-inspired tailleur (suit), accurately designed from the period (shown below). This will carry her into the trenches of the front. She will later trade it for her Wonder Woman costume, when we know she means business.

 

 

Steve Trevor fails to convince the English military hierarchy of his discovery of the German* plot to use a new horrific poison gas on the front. Thus he gathers a rag-tag bunch to follow him and Diana: his friend Sameer (Said Taghmaoui); Charlie (Ewen Bremner) a Scotsman that wears the cap badge of the Gordon Highlanders; and The Chief, an American Indian ( Eugene Brave Rock).

 

Chris Pine and Said Taghmaoui are shown below on the set. Their costumes show the period detail that gives realism to the movie and help develop their character. Said wear a fez in the photo above.

 

When things are jammed in the trenches and no advances can be made due to the withering  machine-gun fire (and a village with lives to save lies just ahead) , Wonder Woman takes it in herself to charge the enemy lines. This rallies the Allies and the village will be saved. This was one of the emotional high points of the movie.

 

 

But there is more to do, and finding and stopping Ares, who Wonder Woman believes is Ludendorff, is next. She and Trevor cleverly enter the castle where a ball is being held for the Germans. Their crew lurks outside. Wonder Woman has “borrowed” the gown shown below from another guest. The gown will surely get her noticed. The cerulean blue goddess gown is now a timeless style, yet it was not so in 1918. This was Lindy Hemming’s favorite costume.

 

 

The gown’s sword accessory at the back was also somewhat unique.  Ludendorff made his retreat before she could use it on him.

 

 

The photo above shows the backless gown and God Killer sword. Wonder Woman will have to use all her powers to overcome Ludendorff and Ares.

 

Photo courtesy Hollywood Movie Costumes & Props

 

One of Wonder Woman’s costumes was on display at the ArcLight Hollywood Cinema, shown above. One can see the added coloration of the blue, red and gold to give it a hint of the original comic book and Lynda Carter suit.

Wonder Woman is a powerful movie, Lindy Hemming’s costumes added tremendously to the actor’s characterization and comfort in their functionality in battle scenes and and elsewhere. They are memorable yet serve the story. What more can we ask for?

 

 

8 thoughts on “THE COSTUMES OF WONDER WOMAN”

  1. Love the costumes and the movie. Mattel has put out about 4 Barbie size dolls in 4 different costumes from the film, including the blue dress – I bought 3 of them because Mattel did a great job of creating “miniature” movie designs.

  2. The blue gown is absolutely stunning! So, I’ll put you on the spot now, Christian: Does Lindy Hemming receive an Oscar nomination for costume design?

    1. I would think so Rick. Her work here is of very high quality and she has a great track record. Fantasies (I think we could place the superheroes and heroines in that category) and historicals are favored for Best Costume nominations and awards. Ironic since Lindy Hemming acknowledges how unfair it is that contemporary costume design gets little recognition. We’ll see who her competition is by Oscar nomination time, fall is usually thick with Oscar contenders.

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