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

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

Wonder Woman's chest plate changed from and eagle to the stylized "W" (which maybe is sort of an eagle). She got high heeled boots and overall started to resemble the comics form that was popularized in pop culture through the "Super Powers" toy line.

Then the Crisis on Infinite Earths happened and consolidating all the DC universes into one could only mean another reboot. This all said, her costume really didn't change that much - just got a new origin as having been inspired by the outfit of Steve Trevor's military mother, Diana Trevor, who crash landed on Paradise Island. 

6. 1990s

Wonder Woman took on a new era by opening up new iterations of her outfit, including full battle-ready regalia of 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. 

After Diana lost the Wonder Woman title to Artemis, she got a very 90s makeover involving a leather jacket, leather leggings, and — knee pads? Also note how her hair must have been styled by Jem and the Holograms. It didn't last long, and she was soon back to her original outfit.

7. 2000s

Not a ton changed, look wise, for Diana during this decade. Each artist on the book added their own details of flairs to Diana's costume, but things remained fairly stagnant. One notable incident had Diana - for the first time since the Crisis on Infinite Earths - adopting the Diana Prince identity in an all-white jumpsuit. 

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 dashed 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 with it's New 52 reboot, 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 a few years later. 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. This outfit was only used occasionally. 

What has been your favorite Wonder Woman look?

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