The wondrous evolution of Wonder Woman's Wonder Suit

Since her birth in ancient Themiscyra (or, rather, William Moulton Marston's imagination in the 1940s), Diana Prince aka Wonder Woman has become a feminist icon for any woman who wants to be an everyday superheroine. She is strong but peaceful, fierce but compassionate — and, like women from every era, has undergone a series of makeovers.

Just as Batman started out as a Caped Crusader in spandex before his get-up became high-tech, WW has been through a series of costume iterations that have gone from girly ruffled star-print shorts to Lynda Carter's emblematic red, white and blue to things with wings and G-strings and latex most fans would rather have magically erased from their memory. Its evolution alone makes the Wonder Suit a thing of wonder — whichever direction the tiara is facing in.

Journey through a thousand years' worth of lassoing bad guys and deflecting bullets in leather, plate armor, chain mail and, of course, spandex.

1. 1940s

It's a skirt, it's a skort, it's … culottes? Wonder Woman apparently wasn't born in spandex. What appears like a star-spangled skirt on DC's Sensation Comics #1 is actually supposed to be a pair of ruffled pants so she won't flash any supervillains. They soon transformed into some sort of patriotic Bermuda shorts that don't even flatter the athletic Amazon. A gold eagle (which would morph into a W and back until it became a hybrid) is about to take flight on the bodice. Her indestructible bracelets almost resemble handcuffs instead of gauntlets at this point, and I don't know how you spring into action wearing boots with a heel like that, but at least her tiara was always a weapon. She must have also had access to super-strength hairspray considering how her impeccably curled hair stayed that way. Lasso this truth: her costume was inspired by the not-so-secret '40s fascination with bondage.

2. 1950s

The Bermudas became bike shorts and the boots blazing red gladiator sandals, both of which are probably much less of a pain when leaping and lassoing. They also go with the whole Amazon aesthetic much better than knee-high boots with killer heels. The eagle is also drawn in more detail. How Diana's hair defies wind and gravity without a bottle of Aqua Net is still a mystery. Later, the Prohibition Era for comics, aka the Comics Code of 1956, banned nudity, "suggestive and salacious illustration," and costumes needed to be "reasonably acceptable to society," whatever that means. Women were also supposed to be drawn realistically (read: no Barbie bodies). Somewhat realistically, anyway, considering WW's bust-waist-hip proportions could probably only be achieved with a corset in the real world. Still, this probably ended up being welcome nostalgia when her character was grossly oversexualized decades later, but we're not there yet.

3. 1960s

The Wonder Suit really began to take shape in starry spandex during the Silver Age, having undergone a transformation into the comic character we recognize today. That eagle on her bodice has become a W with wings (note the parallels in her logo). Her tiara is more prominent, looking less like something the guest of honor would wear at her fifth birthday party and more like the deceptively powerful weapon it is. Notice how you can actually see the red star now. Her belt has also gone from white to gold. The bike shorts are now bikini bottoms, but think the sort of briefs that allow for a diverse range of motion rather than the borderline G-string that forever haunted us after the '80s. Somehow the heeled boots stayed. I guess heroines of this caliber just can't trip. The lasso is also longer and more prominent — which it should be, considering it's the most cleverly disguised lie detector test ever. Oh, and her hair actually bounces!

 

Plunging sales meant another revamp for Diana in 1968, whose only super power this time was tae kwon do. It was also the mod era of the comic that most fans would rather erase from all memory. Amazons just don't wear color block tunics or shiny white bodysuits.

4. 1970s

The Wonder Suit has never seen as drastic an evolution as its makeover after Cathy Lee Crosby burst onto the scene and screen for a TV pilot in a tunic-length jacket with star-print sleeves, navy leggings, black knee-high boots and ... what is that belt? That costume could've easily gone from the set to a roller disco after dark. She's missing the tiara, and her cuff bracelets look like cheap costume jewelry. Not to mention her identity wasn't even supposed to be secret as it was in the comics (no wonder this version of Wonder Woman soon jumped onto the list of the hundred dumbest events in television).

 

ABC gave the show a complete makeover, replacing the disco suit with the red bodice and blue briefs fans of the comic had been expecting to see the first time, along with a star-studded cape used in promo shoots — and Crosby with Lynda Carter, whose mystical powers made her the Wonder Woman icon. She's still signing autographs.

This is also the decade she appeared as the cover girl of Ms. magazine, bolting down a city street under the headline "Wonder Woman for President."

5. 1980s

The era of big hair and even bigger egos saw Diana was on hiatus for a while, with Artemis, whom DC insisted was the "original Wonder Woman," usurping the title along with the Wonder Suit and an ever-changing shield. Was DC aware that in classical mythology, 'Artemis' and 'Diana' are just the ancient Greek and Roman names for the same deity? It's just baffling why they decided to make them separate entities. Anyway, the Wonder Suit was completely unrecognizable in 1983 when Artemis took over as WW in something that could only be described as a plate armor bustier (which soon evolved into a chain mail bustier) with a dangerously short skirt. Those matching boots also look as if they could have been swiped from a suit of armor, not to mention impossible to walk — let alone leap — in. She fiercely wields a sword with arms in gauntlets that actually look like gauntlets. Her shield started out with a W until DC was embarrassed by a fan pointing out that such a symbol was a thousand years too soon, so they replaced it with something vaguely resembling an eagle.

 

Speaking of eagles, this was when Diana's infamous eagle armor, designed by Alex Ross, emerged in Challenge of the Gods. There is much debate as to whether this thing, which looks like it weighs 800 pounds, is an homage to Winged Victory, and why Ross would ever want to put such a minor character in the spotlight by essentially gluing her wings onto Wonder Woman.

 

Then the Crisis on Infinite Earths happened and consolidating all the DC universes into one could only mean another reboot. This was when the god-tier George Perez restored Diana to her original glory and Wonder Suit (topmost image), and apparently gave her a perm while he was at it.

6. 1990s

Wonder Woman took on a new era in full battle-ready regalia, including a regal cloak, helmet, star-emblazoned shield and an axe that matches the eagle that mutated into a W that mutated halfway back into an eagle on her bodice. Either way, that axe could probably take out several heads at once. The Wonder Suit was as iconic as ever, if not with a slightly higher leg cut to the tune of the "Let's Get Physical" video that spawned a million high-rise leotards. Not like Diana isn't doing hardcore aerobics.

 

Maybe one of the most bizarre pieces of Wonder Woman memorabilia to almost fly out of the '90s (the prototype was thankfully never mass-marketed) was the Mattel doll that looked more like a dance recital version of the superheroine than someone who was about to save the world. Her hair, no longer shellacked with spray, was now so long that it's a wonder she didn't trip over it, and whatever that sparkly star scepter was for it probably didn't serve much more purpose than playing Pretty Pretty Princess. Unfortunately, the most horrifying thing about this failed Mattel fiasco is that the mini-comic meant to go with the doll that would never see the light of day was actually included with Barbie dolls. Wonder Woman and the Star Riders has been immortalized in infamy.

 

Someone in the mid-'90s had the bright idea of dressing up the Wonder Suit with a bizarre leather jacket, leather leggings, and — knee pads? Also note how her hair must have been styled by Jem and the Holograms.

 

As if it couldn't get any worse for Diana, she not only ends up defeated by Artemis, who shows up looking like she just strutted in from an S&M convention, but is drawn into some bondage-biker costume that makes her totally unrecognizable. Maybe it was meant to, because she was technically no longer Wonder Woman so long as Battle Barbie was taking down villains. Comic fans booed this attempt to get down to the gritty aesthetic of the decade. Whatever it is that WW is wearing, it looks extremely uncomfortable and made of latex.

7. 2000s

Adam Hughes gave Wonder Woman her Wonder Suit back once more in a series of award-winning covers, though he seems to have shrank the suit into a corset-esque instrument of torture while ironically giving her feet some relief with slouchy boots. The only thing that could be protecting most of her upper torso is her mystical powers. At one point she took on evil in outsize hoop earrings, which could be nothing but hazardous in an onslaught of swords and spears. It's surprising her own lasso didn't get stuck in those things.

 

The Justice League animated series on Cartoon Network returned Diana to more appropriate attire for the preteen set. Her lasso strangely doesn't make an appearance until the later episodes, and she doesn't keep a secret identity here either (just like the failed TV pilot), though the rest of the costume stays classic. It pretty much stayed that way when Terry Dodson did a redesign for the new comic series. Her boots for once actually look like she can move in them and the eagle has become really prominent in the W with a more defined head and curved wings. She still needs more coverage in my opinion, but it's an improvement over the borderline wardrobe malfunction she was wearing before.

 

Aaron Lopresti gave us several iterations of the Wonder Suit in the Ends of the Earth arc, from a fur-lined cape for going to battle in a blizzard to an impenetrable shirt of chain mail to a bronze bikini for clashing swords while knee-deep in a river, alongside other DC heroes resurrected from the '70s. Her tiara also became more detailed with the red star really glowing and surrounded by flourishes and miniature wings that echo the W-eagle on her bodice.

8. 2010s

What better way to start off a new decade than another redesign? Superheroes are the celebrities who get the the most makeovers and plastic surgery of all. Wonder Woman dashes onto the cover of #600 in red spandex with a much more subtle W, black leather pants and ... is that a jean jacket? If you look closely you can see the tiny stars on the shoulders. The tiara is starting to turn into more of a circlet, with the point now facing downward. Those blister-inducing red boots have also been swapped out for black leather ones she can actually run in. Jim Lee wanted to give Diana's style an update with pieces closer to what women actually wear (with the exception of the lasso and gauntlet-bracelets) despite Lynda Carter's disapproval of the cap sleeves being replaced with crisscrossing gold straps once she took the jacket off. As WW's audience became increasingly female, it was less about sex appeal for the fanboys and more about a relatable superheroine who could at least seem somewhat normal. Not that a deity born on the isle of Themiscyra could ever be totally normal, but you get the point.

 

Another Wonder Woman who never made it onto the air was Adrianne Palicki, whose suit looked like it was made of blinding metallic spandex that wouldn't allow a human being to breathe for more than half a second. It was trying too hard to be the vintage Wonder Suit it wasn't. Somehow, the show ended up with a huge underground fandom.

 

DC reimagined Diana again after that epic fail, giving her a Wonder Suit variant that held on to classic elements like the star motifs and the W-eagle while rearranging them slightly, such as placing a star on either hip of her briefs and adding a W choker to match her bodice. There was no discrepancy about whether the tiara was pointing upward or downward because Cliff Chiang gave it two points and ended any potential for artistic controversy right there.

 

She was revamped again for the New 52 (topmost image) when sales started going to Hades. Gold accents changed to silver, with a slimmer tiara and armband, and her sword mysteriously had no scabbard. Her top was so perilously low-cut it must have only stayed in place by magic.

 

David Finch soon made over the underdressed heroine again, this time adding some serious star epaulets and covering extra skin with (surprise) more spandex. His accessorizing was also quite impressive. You don't want to mess with those spiked bracelets.

9. 2017

Wonder Woman's most recent fighting gear-slash-fashion statement in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016) and her own titular movie is at once a tribute and an update to the original. Her armor and weapons look both new and appropriately ancient. While Gal Gadot doesn't blaze in pop-art primary colors, the patriotic red and blue are still there, just in darker, broodier shades that match the overall tone of the films. The verdict on the tiara for this movie is that it's definitely facing downward, and it looks like the W and the eagle are bound eternally. Seeing as how the whole thing (boots included) is made of metallic leather, she can realistically run and swerve. Not to mention that — and this is important for a heroine who performs unnatural feats — there is no chance of a wardrobe malfunction.

More from around the web