As Gal Gadot arrives at her first Wonder Woman fitting during the making of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, she’s overcome with excitement. Such is her sense of awe that as she’s squeezed into the tight outfit, she dare not make her concerns about it known. But before long, it becomes all too obvious that there’s one big problem with the costume.
For decades, the Wonder Woman we knew and love came clad in a red bodice, star-spangled briefs, and a tiara perched on her head. But by the time Gadot stepped out in superhero’s knee-high boots, it seems that fashion had moved on somewhat. That’s because her outfit looked nothing like the one set out in the comic books of years gone by.
Gadot’s first outing as Wonder Woman came in the 2016 movie Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. And comic book fans were no doubt quick to note that the character’s iconic red, white, blue, and gold costume was long gone. But that turned out to be the least of Gadot’s worries.
Since Wonder Woman’s origins in 1941, the character has become a rare example of female empowerment within the superhero realm. In fact, her comic book intro promised she would outdo her male counterparts. It read, “At last, in a world torn by the hatreds and wars of men, appears a woman to whom the problems and feats of men are mere child’s play.”
While Wonder Woman wasn’t the first female superhero, she soon became the most popular. Her profile received a boost when she graced the cover of Sensation Comics’ debut issue in 1942. But as interest in the character increased, it was revealed that her origin was perhaps stranger than fiction.
That’s because, in the summer of 1942, it emerged that Wonder Woman’s creator was one Dr. William Moulton Marston. The internationally renowned psychologist had been educated at Harvard and is also often cited as the person who invented the lie-detector test. Apparently, the identity of Wonder Woman’s creator had been kept secret at first. But finally, the strange truth was made public.
So what was the motivation for Marston – a top psychologist – in inventing a new superhero? Well, it seems that he had high hopes for the character and for females in general. He once explained, “Frankly, Wonder Woman is psychological propaganda for the new type of woman who, I believe, should rule the world.”
That’s right, Marston was of the belief that women should run the world. He felt that females were mentally stronger than their male counterparts and would one day take over as the leaders of America, at least. In 1937 in an address to the Harvard Club of New York, Marston explained, “The next 100 years will see the beginning of an American matriarchy – a nation of Amazons in the psychological rather than physical sense.”
Marston felt that the change wouldn’t be quick, but he was certain that it would eventually happen. He said, “In 500 years, there will be a serious sex battle. And in 1,000 years, women definitely will rule this country.” Interpreting Marston’s theory, The New York Times newspaper wrote that, “Bored wives will start within [the] next 100 years to take over [the] nation.”
Despite his high opinion of women, Marston felt that there wasn’t a superhero for them to look up to. He wrote, “Not even girls want to be girls so long as our feminine archetype lacks force, strength, power. The obvious remedy is to create a feminine character with all the strength of Superman plus all the allure of a good and beautiful woman.”
It was important to Marston that he created a character that would serve as a good role model. As a result, according to a 1942 press release, Wonder Woman was intended to set a “standard among children and young people of strong, free, courageous womanhood.” He also hoped “to inspire girls to self-confidence and achievement in athletics, occupations, and professions monopolized by men.”
But before Marston could introduce his character to the masses, he needed to come up with a backstory fit for his feminist heroine. So he established that Wonder Woman was descended from the women of Ancient Greece. Here they had been kept in chains by the menfolk until they finally escaped their shackles.
According to the comic’s backstory, after fleeing Ancient Greece, the women established a base on Paradise Island, free of all men. It was here that Wonder Woman’s mother carved her in clay and also where she became an Amazon warrior. However, her peaceful existence was disturbed by the arrival of a man on the island.
That man was Steve Trevor, an American pilot who became stranded on Paradise Island after his plane crashed. His arrival changed everything for Wonder Woman, who was then merely Princess Diana. She nursed the intelligence officer back to health, falling in love with him in the process. With a romance established, Aphrodite urged Diana to go to the “Man’s World” to lead the fight against evil. It was then that Wonder Woman was born.
Given that Wonder Woman launched in the early 1940s, the evil at large in the world back then was the Nazis. In fact, her debut coincided with the United States’ entry into World War II. With that in mind, comics featuring the female superhero saw her taking on the nation’s enemies. And she soon proved popular with readers.
As if to symbolize her patriotism, Wonder Woman sported the colors of the American flag, complete with star-spangled shorts. Given that the superhero was not from the U.S., it was written into the comic that the Amazons approved of the country. In fact, they saw it as a stronghold of democracy and freedom.
To defend these values, Wonder Woman wasn’t armed with regular weapons. Instead, she possessed superhuman strength and speed, the ability to fly on the wind, enhanced senses, and breakneck reflexes. She also had bracelets that could stop bullets and – perhaps in a nod to Marston’s lie detector invention – the “Lasso of Truth,” which compelled honesty.
But while Wonder Woman became a massive hit among fans, she turned out to be problematic for some others. In fact, the National Organization for Decent Literature blacklisted Sensation Comics as one of its “Publications Disapproved for Youth” in 1942. And the reason? That “Wonder Woman is not sufficiently dressed.”
Yet more controversy stemmed from the fact that Wonder Woman was often chained up. It has been suggested that these shackles represented the American patriarchy at a time when women were fighting for the right to birth control. That being said, it could also have been a nod to Marston’s partiality to bondage.
In fact, it seemed that Marston had some pretty liberal views towards sexuality in general. He was in a polyamorous relationship with his wife, Elizabeth Holloway, and his lover, Olive Byrne. He had children with both women, and the unconventional arrangement appeared to work for all parties.
But despite her creator’s liberal attitudes to both feminism and sexuality, Wonder Woman was not immune to the more conservative views that were ushered in at the end of World War II. As men returned home from the front line, women went back to the traditional roles that they’d occupied before. Reflecting this, the superhero showed a desire to marry and took jobs as a babysitter and model.
To reflect the gender norms of the 1950s, Wonder Woman’s risqué costume was toned down. It became more demure, covering her previously exposed thighs and cleavage. Her superhero outfit disappeared altogether in the late 1960s, when she simply dressed in the fashions of the day. But Wonder Woman’s feminist origins were about to be reinvigorated.
In 1972 prominent women’s rights activist Gloria Steinem put Wonder Woman on the cover of the debut issue of her publication Ms.. The character was featured in her orginal costume, and Steinem wrote about the importance of the female superhero. And after calls to return Wonder Woman to her former glory, her creators took heed.
One of Wonder Woman’s most memorable incarnations emerged soon after. In 1975 former Miss World U.S.A. contestant Lynda Carter was cast as the superhero in a TV adaption that ran until 1979. In the show, Carter’s costume was remarkably close to the original red, white, blue, and gold get-up that Wonder Woman had first sported during the 1940s, thus cementing the character’s visual identity for decades to come.
With that in mind, it was a bold move for the creators of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice to veer away from the classic Wonder Woman costume. Instead, Gal Gadot sported an armored-leather one piece that took inspiration from Greek armor. The result was more reminiscent of Xena: Warrior Princess than the superhero we knew and loved.
But it seems that for Gadot, the accuracy of her costume was the least of her worries. That’s because she had one big problem with her outfit from the very off. And the Israeli beauty’s issue had nothing to do with the fact that her leather bodice looked nothing like what Wonder Woman had worn in years gone by.
During an appearance on TV show Jimmy Kimmel Live in 2016, Gadot revealed what had bothered her the most about her Wonder Woman costume. After the host pointed out that her look had been different than the one popularized by the early comics and Carter’s character, he added, “It’s just different. It takes some getting used to.”
Gadot agreed that her costume did indeed take “some getting used to” but probably not in the way that Kimmel was getting at. The actress went on to relay the drama that had occurred at her first Wonder Woman fitting, which took place just two days after it had been announced that she would be taking on the iconic role. But the process hadn’t gone as smoothly as Gadot might have liked.
Recalling this initial fitting, Gadot continued, “I walked into this huge hangar filled with images with me as Wonder Woman, which was surreal. Then they got me into the fitting room, and I tried the costume. I was so happy and so grateful and thankful for being there and doing this role that I didn’t say anything about the fact that it was so tight.”
And it didn’t take long for the tightness of the costume to prove a problem for Gadot. She told Kimmel, “I literally could not breathe. So I was just trying to get myself together, keeping it all together… It was so small, but I didn’t say anything.” Though it was about to become all too obvious that the actress was struggling.
Luckily, it seems that someone noticed Gadot’s distress before an accident could occur. The star revealed, “Right before I passed out, they noticed that I was breathing quite heavily, and they adjusted it.” With the fitting fixed, Gadot was left with just one minor issue with her costume: it didn’t keep her warm.
After Kimmel asked Gadot if she had felt “vulnerable” in her skimpy Wonder Woman outfit, the actress said, “No, just cold.” She added, “I don’t know who came up with the idea of shooting Wonder Woman during the English winter… you saw the costume.” Meanwhile, she pointed out that her male counterparts playing Batman and Superman were “fully covered.”
So Gadot clearly had her misgivings about her costume in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Even so, it remained fairly unchanged for her subsequent outings as everyone’s favorite female superhero in Wonder Woman and Justice League. But for Gardot’s upcoming appearance in Wonder Woman 1984, it seems that her wardrobe has been given an update.
Fans of Gadot’s usual Wonder Woman outfit can rest assured that it will feature in the upcoming movie. A promo photo from the film showed the actress clad in her recognizable armored bodice. But while it looked similar to the get-up she’d worn before, there turned out to be a subtle difference.
Costume designer Lindy Hemming revealed the changes that had been made to Wonder Woman’s outfit in an August 2020 interview with entertainment website ComicBook.com. She exlained, “When we did a suit for Wonder Woman, the first Wonder Woman, we made it slightly a different color. But we also changed quite a lot of the style lines because [director Patty Jenkins] wanted to.”
Hemming continued, “Obviously then we adapted a lot of things for Wonder Woman one, but by Wonder Woman two, Patty wanted in the same mood as the ’80s mood of the film. She wanted the suit to have much more depth of redness and goldness. So we’ve put in really quite a lot of luscious, almost sweet, you feel like it’s really delicious kind of a depth of color to it for the 1984.”
As the name suggests, Wonder Woman 1984 is set at the height of the Cold War. The first Wonder Woman film, meanwhile, was set at the end of World War I. And given the bleak surrondings the superhero found herself in, the colors of her her outfit were toned down to fit the setting.
So when Wonder Woman arrived in the 1980s – where fashions were bold – her costume was giving a fitting color lift. And that wasn’t the only wardrobe update that the superhero received. Yes, in another promo image from the film – she’s seen in a new gold body-armor outfit complete with a suitably ’80s power shoulder.
Revealing the inspiration for Wonder Woman’s golden armor, Hemming told scifi website SyFy that she took looked toward another great superhero – Batman. The costume designer explained, “It’s like the Batsuit, or anything: All small parts. An armadillo-like articulation means that the person can move and twist and turn, and it will return to its previous position.”
Given that her golden armor seems to cover more flesh than Wonder Woman’s usual outfit, perhaps Gadot was warmer on the set of the 1984 film. Even so, it’s not likely that she was any more comfortable. Speaking of the metallic look Hemming revealed, “It was not pleasant to wear – and no armor of any kind is pleasant to wear.”