Movie Costume Review: Wonder Woman

Let me be perfectly honest- when Wonder Woman first came out a couple weeks ago, I assumed that it was not the type of movie I would be interested in seeing. I assumed it would just be a postmodern feminist rant with lots of thoughtless blowing things up. But I heard such good things about it that I finally decided to see it, and I was FAR from disappointed! I enjoyed the plot, the WWI setting, the characters, and, of course, the high quality costumes.

~An Overview of the Costumes~

Overall, the costumes in this movie were nothing short of eye candy, and very diverse. We had classical Grecian inspired gowns and armored bodices for the Amazon women, grungy and worn battle fatigues for all the soldiers, and all the variants of post-Edwardian women’s fashion.

First let’s address the Amazon outfits.

As I’ve mentioned before, I am extremely picky about female armor. I don’t like it when it tries to blur the lines between men and women, as in the case of Captain Phasma in the new Star Wars. And I think they did their armor perfectly in Wonder Woman! These armored bodices are every inch feminine, and practical and protective. They don’t try to make the women look “manly.” It’s just armor for women that looks like armor for women. That’s all.

Another thing I love is the inclusion of SKIRTS! I love this because it combats the postmodern message today that skirts are oppressive/they hinder movement or whatever. But actually, if the skirt is full enough and short enough, you can do almost anything in a skirt. Martial arts. Running. Horse riding- and yes, astride! (I’ve seen many Victorian costumers make a riding habit with a long skirt, and ride astride, not sidesaddle.) Sometimes the Amazon skirts have slits in the legs or something, but guess what. They are still skirts. They add beauty and elegance to the costume.

Next, let me address the WWI fashion they included in the “real life” scenes. This would be the year 1917, when WWI ends. I know a thing or two about 1915-1919 fashion. The silhouette is quite a bit different from the 1910-1914 silhouette. Instead of having long, columnar skirts, they have much fuller, tea-length skirts. Here are some actual examples of late WWI fashion:

The waistline was also a bit lower than the Titanic silhouette.

In Wonder Woman, there was only one scene where we saw any post-Edwardian evening dresses. I enjoyed them quite a bit, but they looked a bit too Titanic, and not enough WWI. They would have been excellent for 1912, but they’re a little bit dated for 1917! And Diana’s blue dress looks too modern. It has very little structure, and not the right silhouette. It’s still lovely, but not very accurate to the time period.

See what I mean? Hobble skirts (super narrow skirts) went out after WWI started. Also, a 1917 evening dress would probably not have a neckline that low. Some 1910s evening dresses showed a little cleavage, but not that much.

Unfortunately, there aren’t many pictures available of the other partygoers, which is a shame because their costumes were quite beautiful, even if a few years behind on the historical accuracy.

~The Messaging of the Costumes~

Considering that this is a modern “feminist” movie, I was prepared to see a lot of hate on the everyday Edwardian fashion. While there are certainly things to critique about Edwardian society (and ALL societies made by flawed humans), I never like to see people go overboard with it. Living as an Edwardian women probably wasn’t as bad as everyone makes it out to be. The everyday 1910s woman was not in constant agony because of wearing a corset, and long skirts don’t make you trip all the time if you’re used to them. I could go on.

While there was a little bit of critique on the fashions of the day, I didn’t find that it was as bad as some modern interpretations of the early 20th century. There was this one scene where they had to get her some clothes in order to blend in better with the other people. And I found a little bit of it annoying, like when she ripped this narrow skirt trying to do a kick in it. First of all, narrow skirts had pretty much gone out by 1914, as I’ve already mentioned. Second of all, not everyone needs to do martial arts in their everyday life.

Here’s what I liked, though. They made it pretty clear that Diana is not opposed to skirts and other societal standards of “dressing like a woman.” She didn’t insist on going off and buying men’s trousers or anything like that, even though they easily could have done that in a movie like this. The outfit she decided on had a long, full skirt- much more WWI accurate than some of the other costumes in this movie. And she did a fight scene in it- and nobody tried to complain about the outfit hindering her or something. I couldn’t find a picture of the full dress, but here it is.

Another interesting point is the part where they walked past the corset section.

(First of all, that is a pretty cheaply made corset there- you can see it is hardly boned at all, so it has a lot of wrinkles. And it looks a little bit too curvy to be a WWI corset. WWI corsets were pretty straight and tubular. But I digress….)

Here’s how I remember the scene taking place: Diana came up and said, “Oh, is this armor?” And the cheerful little lady who was shopping with her (on the left in this picture) kind of laughed and said, “No, those keep our tummies in.” To which Diana replied, “Why would you need to keep them in?” And then they moved on.

Here’s what I find interesting. Diana seemed to like the corset! Which makes perfect sense to me, because you could argue that the armor the Amazons wear are basically corsets, only even heavier, and thicker, and probably less comfortable than a well-made corset.

What she was questioning, in my opinion, was the body image standards. I have no problem with questioning body image standards. I do the same thing today, since the modern silhouette of being slim AND curvy and full chested- and naturally, since we don’t even have corsets to help in most cases- is pretty impossible!

So, if anyone approves of the Amazons wearing armor like they did in this movie, but not corsets, I’m going to call them out on a massive double-standard. Corsets function the same way as armor. You can’t bend from the waist in either one. And, a corset would probably be more comfortable, since it can at least stretch and conform to your body a bit, whereas a metal armor bodice is so inflexible, it wouldn’t. Armor is more protective, and a corset is more comfortable. There are pros and cons to both.

~Miscellaneous notes~

Overall, I loved this movie. I really loved it. Even though it’s supposed to be a feminist movie and I am not a feminist in the modern sense (though I would have been in the Edwardian sense), the movie did not attack my views or feel like a lecture on why men are evil and all that. It was just a high quality, exciting, creative, and thoughtful film.

The thoughtfulness was actually the main thing that won me over in this movie. Superhero movies these days are often shallow, with a forced, superficial theme or message, and way too much destruction and blowing things up. Wonder Woman was completely different. It posed very deep, unanswerable questions about the bleakness of World War I, the innate good and evil of mankind, the nature of justice, and probably a lot more too. I also, as a Christian, enjoyed the spiritual metaphor in that movie. Diana is a metaphorical character, supposed to be perfect- and she left the perfection of her home world to save humanity from bringing themselves to destruction. I love movies that give you something to think about. This is why I’m so drawn to movies like Revenge of the Sith, Les Miserables, Titanic, and other sad but hopeful dramas.

I also appreciated that Diana is innocent, a bit naive, and compassionate. The trope of “tough” characters who are untrusting and coldhearted really gets on my nerves after a while.

I think part of the reason why there was so much more heart and soul in this movie than in other superhero movies, is because it was directed by a woman. A woman director is more likely to give sufficient attention to the emotional part as well as the plot/action part. I highly recommend this movie to basically anyone- if you like action, it has that. If you like drama, it has that. If you’re a feminist, you’ll like this. If you’re more traditional like I am, it won’t make you feel lectured or undermined. Wonder Woman is just a high quality, well-made, and thoughtful movie.



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