So, you’ve decided to become a wardrobe designer! But not just any wardrobe designer. YOU have gone the extra mile: you’ve claimed the indestructible scissors, the adamantium needles, and the phlebotinum-powered industrial sewing machine. You’re ready to wield the mighty powers of fire-retardant thread and invincible self-cleaning fabric. You want to become a fashion designer for SUPERS.
Well, you’re not the first. And we all dearly hope that you won’t be the WORST. Because frankly, some of the heroes and villains out there are rather tragically garbed. Horrible color schemes. Strange accessories. Flared collars. Leg warmers. It’s gotten better in recent years, but… let us not speak of the 80’s. Eugh.
And that brings us to the here and now. No doubt you are reading this because somehow a Super, whether good or evil, is willing to let you design the uniform that will be their icon; their protection; their signature look. You are not only being entrusted with their dignity, respectability, and modesty, but their safety itself. This is not a power to wield lightly, and some do not wield it well. But! If you follow the rules listed here (mainly explaining what NOT to do), everything will probably turn out fine.
At least until they decide they want a complete image overall, which usually happens around Year 2.
- I will not dress my supers in skin-tight uniforms.
This one always surprises new designers, but the facts are simple: NO intelligent Super wears anything like what you see in the commercials. Being able to see every line and muscle on your Super equates to those same muscles being severely restricted of movement, not to mention what’s happening to your circulation. Looking hot does not count for much when you’re being beaten stupid because you can’t expand your lungs. (And for anyone contemplating body paint: that is both indecent AND cutting into your usefulness as a clothes designer.)
- I will not dress my lady Supers in four-inch heels.
Better yet, try to avoid high/narrow heels entirely. Barring invulnerability or superhuman balance, this is a perfect way to break an ankle mid-battle, which is usually the last time and place you want a broken ankle.
- I will not let my flying lady Supers wear skirts unless they are wearing shorts underneath.
If any dispute this, they should immediately be referred to a course on Basic Common Sense.
- I will not let my Supers wear their underwear on the outside, especially if said Super claims to be of a very serious persuasion.
It makes me sad that I have to include this rule, but you’d be amazed at what people cling to.
- I will not put my Supers in anything less than full-body coverage, no matter how hot they want to look.
You may get some complaints on this one, because showing skin is very “in” right now; but let’s remember, we must be practical as well as fashionable. Wearing a skimpy, revealing uniform while fighting laser-wielding megalomaniacs is akin to motorcycling on gravel in a swimsuit: no one can take you seriously, and when (not if) you hit the dirt, it will hurt a lot more than if you’d been wearing your leathers.
- 5a. I will not leave stylish holes in a Super’s costume over vulnerable areas, even if the Super thinks that he or she is invulnerable. To bare that muscular midriff to the world is to invite punishment from anyone with an ounce of hand-eye coordination.
- I will not make my Super’s outfit entirely from leather.
In case anyone misunderstood my analogy in Rule #5: leather as a clothing material should be limited to boots, gloves, and jackets. If it must be used elsewhere, better to sew it on over proper clothing so as not to restrict movement or chafe. Because it will. Oh it will. And if it doesn’t, it’s probably doe-skin or something equally unprotective and unsuitable for crashing around fighting dinosaurs.
- 6a. As a necessary corollary to the above rule, only use metal for accessories and armor, not as a replacement for clothes. Any lady Super caught trying to go out in a steel corset should be enrolled in another course on Basic Common Sense.
- I will not include a cape unless it is easily detachable, kept at a moderate length, and made of materials that are resistant to snagging.
Your Super won’t look very heroic/villainous if his/her cape is constantly catching on gargoyles or being yanked on by the enemy. A similar rule can be applied to hair; they better have a really good reason for that 8-foot braid, unless they prefer being swung like a lasso. It’s not great for secret identities, either.
- I will not let my Super add frivolous and impairing special effects to their costume unless they can prove that these additions make practical sense.
Ex: Nighttime costumes will not bear glow-in-the-dark stripes or phosphorescent trim unless it can be turned off for stealth purposes, and helmets used in lieu of masks will not have protrusions that impair the wearer’s ability to fit through small openings.
- I will ensure that my Super’s costume consists of as few individual pieces as possible.
Look, all the rules about full coverage aside, this is THE most practical thing you can do. Many Supers, particularly Heroes, rely on timing; they need to react as quickly as possible, and they won’t always have their costume on under their clothes. (Preferably never, if I had my way. Gross.) And your Hero is not going to make good time if they spend fifteen minutes fixing all their belts and accessories first. There is no objection to these attachments being sewn onto the costume ahead of time for stylistic effect, but use common sense. Zippers are a wonderful and easily disguisable invention, and should not be scorned.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly of all:
- I will seek second opinions on my and my Super’s design choices to ensure that they don’t make people’s eyes bleed.
Heroes and Villains do not always have the best fashion sense, it’s true. But we must also remember that we, the wardrobe designers, are not infallible. Need I remind you of the horrendous efforts of designer Z.Z. Fosho when he decided that Pangolin Man would look “cutting edge” in neon green spandex with pink and blue spots? It ended both men’s careers, and arguably the city of Chicago. So if you are even marginally uncertain that the costume design you have in mind is not completely outdated, glaringly painful, or utterly impractical, seek a second opinion. No matter how original and unique we might wish them to look, Supers who wear thirteen mismatching colors in five different patterns and styles are only embarrassing themselves and their local Super community.
Remember: the Supers are out there to get the bad guys (or the good guys). But it’s our job to make sure they look good (and not totally ridiculous) doing it. Best of luck! We’re all counting on you not to mess this up.
(A/N: Something silly I wrote to vent my annoyance at the many impracticalities of superhero costumes. Figured I would share in case anyone got a laugh or wanted to commiserate with me. :D)
(You can read all of my posted short stories by clicking “Writing Shorts” in the top Menu. Thanks for reading! – Jenn H.)