Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice succeeded at a nearly impossible task: costuming and styling a Wonder Woman who satisfied all of the character’s multiple facets. Diana, according to her comics, is an ancient warrior, but her 2016 onscreen persona had to satisfy our culture’s developing understanding of femininity and power. In short, she needed to look battle-weathered, ageless, effective and classically attractive.
Michael Wilkinson, the costume designer on both Man of Steel and Batman v Superman went into detail with The Hollywood Reporter about the styles of menswear worn by Bruce Wayne and Clark Kent. More significantly, he mentioned how he designed Wonder Woman’s costume, including all the references it includes to her more classical assemblage.
“Of course there’s all sorts of things she has such as the eagle and WW motif throughout the costume, so I tried to use that WW motif through the belt and the gauntlets and across the breastplate,” he said. “There’s WW throughout the costume. I think someone tried to count them and they got to 40.”
Actress Gal Gadot confirmed in interviews that she believed sexuality was an integral part of Wonder Woman’s power and influence, and that sensuality was achieved through Wilkinson’s skirt design and knee high boots, which are more than they appeared onscreen.
“Our solution to the boots were to make them armor as well,” he said. “We loved the sense of the practicality of covering her legs for fighting and protection. I designed a boot that was actually a segmented leg armor with strapping and articulation for movement.”
When Gadot’s costume was revealed at Comic Con two years ago, fans discussed whether the loss of Wonder Woman’s signature Americana aesthetic was too much to bear. As Inverse explored, Wonder Woman’s armor insignia in her comics is often attributed to her work in World War II; she adopts her red, white, and blue in order to ally herself with the United States against the threat of Germany and Japan. Though her costume actually incorporated more red and blue tints than the Comic Con image suggested; her overall look in BvS was certainly understated.
“We wanted to creates something incredibly strong and portray her as a legitimate fighter, so we looked back,” Wilkinson said. “Because we wanted her to look like she’s been wearing the same costume, in a sense, for thousands of years since she’s immortal, after all; we were inspired by the medal armor of Greek and Roman warriors and gladiators.”
Is it a surprise that Zack Snyder’s Wonder Woman would look like a character from 300? Maybe not, but Diana’s textual history actually supports the vibe Wilkinson chose. “We created a costume that looks like medal armor,” he said, “but of course, in these films the fight scenes are very intense and challenging so I had to come up with a solution that would allow her to move and breathe, but also to have this very iconic, sort of hourglass shape in a modern and interesting way.”
One of the challenges faced by contemporary superhero and action media has been getting feminine costuming just right. Many were outraged at Claire’s impractical stilettos in Jurassic World, and even Marvel’s Jessica Jones rejected the costume worn by the character in comic books, in favor of a tougher-looking jeans and leather jacket combo. BvS successfully debuted a version of Wonder Woman that honored both the character’s history of seduction and her skills as a soldier, and that’s a feat filmmakers in the MCU and DCU will honor in the future.