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Fashionable fantasy costumes

The Superheroes: Fashion And Fantasy exhibition at The Metropolitan Museum of Art explores the fashionable side of superheroes

Publication Date : 26-11-2012


Superheroes are not usually pegged as the most fashionable people in the world.

After all, superhero costumes in their quintessential forms may very well be considered a fashion faux pas. Overly bright body suits made in a too-tight fit? Outrageous masks and capes in overabundance?

Well, it will certainly take a more open mind (or perhaps, creative one) to appreciate the aesthetics that these saviours of the world display through their costumes.

That being said, however, the fashion and design industry – one that is as mutable as it is – has successfully taken inspiration from costumed superheroes in the past, and come up with wearable options for both on and off the runway. From high fashion to streetwear, the nuances of each particular fantasy garb trickles into the creations conceived by designers.

German designer Bernhard Willhelm, for example, once unveiled an entire fashion collection for Spring/Summer 2006 inspired by the Man of Steel.

Themed in colours of red, yellow and blue, the different looks that he sent down the runway was observed to be a seemingly fun collection meant to appeal to a trendier market, but probably targeted Superman fans as well.

Other fashion designers have similarly had designs inspired by the men and women who run around in tights. John Galliano once made a corset and bikini bottom in the style of Wonder Woman for Christian Dior Haute Couture in 2001, and Jean Paul Gaultier had a dress reminiscent of Spiderman’s costume in his Spring/Summer 2003 collection. Even Diane von Furstenberg launched a Wonder Woman collection in 2008.

There are many more instances where superheroes have come to be at the forefront for fashion inspiration and these were further detailed in a book entitled Superheroes: Fashion And Fantasy, which was published in 2008 by the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

The book was published in conjunction with a special exhibit by the Costume Institute department of the museum and the prestigious Costume Institute Annual Gala for that year celebrated the theme, further highlighting the significance of superheroes and their costumes as inspiration for fashion.

The Superheroes: Fashion And Fantasy exhibition by the museum was said to highlight symbolic and metaphorical associations between fashion and the superhero, and featured movie costumes, avant-garde haute couture, and high-performance sportswear.

To meet this aim, different fashion creations were organised thematically around particular superheroes for the exhibition that were highlighted as catalysts for the discussion of key concepts with regard to superheroism and their expression in fashion.

This can only come to equate that – like superheroes donning their costumes– most people dress up for the same purposes.

In a metaphorical sense, the particular outfit that someone puts on helps in creating a perceived identity he or she wants to become known for. Want to be seen as a sophisticated woman or gentleman? Dressing like one, would be the most obvious answer.

Thus, as a woman slips on a hot dress for a night out in town, a man would probably suit up if he needs to impress a date. It all boils down to the same inherent need to be recognised as an identity fashioned for all means – superhero, or not.


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