Superheroine costumes have a notoriously bad rap for prioritizing form over function - even when the ‘form’ itself is questionable. Whether it’s the platform heels, physics-defying lycra bodysuits, or impractical boob windows (maybe all of the above?), something’s gotta give. Fortunately, not all of the super-powered women on the pages of our favorite comic books are plagued by impractical, over-sexualized costumes. Here are a few of our favorite leading ladies whose costumes won’t hinder a little crime-fighting and ass-kicking.
The design is undeniably eye-catching, and though it does include some common lady-costume pitfalls (skintight spandex), it actually makes sense for the character and is pretty in-line with Gwen’s male counterpart. Spandex makes sense for a melee fighter who relies pretty heavily on dexterity, acrobatics, and speed. It’s also necessary to note that though her costume is form-hugging, she doesn’t have exaggerated sex characteristics, which is especially important given the character is a teenager.
Another great aspect of this costume is that it reads very clearly as a Spider-character, but it is also a unique and visually striking design in its own right. The colors are distinct, but it still incorporates the signature web pattern and spider logo, albeit more subtly than in Spiderman’s costumes.
Her costume is actually a very important part of her characterization and identity, as when she first discovers her powers she wonders how she can reconcile her culture with the image she has been given of what a hero ought to look like: blonde-haired, blue-eyed Carol Danvers in a skin-tight unitard (and, depending on the artist, a thong). It takes some time for Kamala to accept that she can be herself and still be a hero, and part of that is coming up with a costume that makes her feel powerful, and doesn’t compromise her identity.
The costume also succeeds from a practicality standpoint. Kamala’s close friend created it himself out of materials that can accommodate Kamala’s constantly changing form, so it won’t hinder her powers or fighting capabilities. Another important aspect is that it makes Kamala feel comfortable (both physically and emotionally), and she is better-able to focus on foiling the plans of her enemies if she isn’t constantly worrying what her mother would think of her clothes. While one might argue that a scarf could be a liability, that is only one negative in what is an overwhelmingly positive crime-fighting ensemble.
From a design standpoint, this costume looks killer. The details really make it, from the snap-on cape to the lines of the jacket to the far more practical utility belt, the whole thing is spot-on. It also fits Batgirl’s fighting style quite well. She’s an acrobatic fighter, but not to the extent that a Spider-character would be, so spandex doesn’t make as much sense for her. She has the protection of the thicker leather, while maintaining most of the range of motion and flexibility with the athletic pants. She will also deliver a far more powerful kick with those boots protecting her feet. The only complaint I’ve heard that holds any water is that it might limit her range of motion, but I would argue that the added protection she’s getting is a pretty fair trade.
The team is lead by Storm, who commands attention in a sleek outfit which, while pretty heavy on the cleavage, certainly fits with her usual weather-goddess aesthetic. The cape, a recurring aspect of her attire, evokes the image of a magic-user from an RPG; magic-users wear robes instead of armor because they can protect themselves with magic as Storm can protect herself with a sheath of lightning. What really makes this costume is the hair. The long mohawk and shaved sides bring out a punk edge that adds to Storm’s already powerful, imposing demeanor.
Next up is Rogue, whose powers necessitate a certain measure of adaptability in her costume. She needs the flexibility to use any power and try out any fighting style, so her clothing can’t be specialized in the way that other characters’ can. This design succeeds in that she is still easily recognizable, but she has done away with the bodysuit which is really only practical for quick, acrobatic, and stealthy characters like Psylocke. Instead, she has a hooded jacket and pants which offer more protection without severely limiting her range of motion.
As a ninja assassin, it makes a lot of sense for Psylocke to wear an outfit made of flexible material, and to avoid having a lot of loose fabric getting in the way. It doesn’t, however, make sense for her to forego pants and sleeves altogether. Thus, her new design is a happy medium. More detailed pictures of the design also suggest a measure of padding in the suit for added protection, which would be important for a hand-to-hand fighter.
Rachel Summers might be the most deserving of an entry to herself of all of the leading X-ladies. Her costume is full-coverage, armored, and complete with a badass duster, all of which contributes to an awesome and fairly iconic design. The armor and padding will help in any combat situation, and are certainly appropriate for a character who fights more mentally than physically and might need the extra protection if things get up close and personal.
Kitty Pryde’s costume is the most “classic” of the bunch, as it is essentially a spandex bodysuit, and it certainly has the most problems. However, it also makes far more sense for a stealthy character to wear a bodysuit than most any other kind, and Kitty doesn’t have to worry about physical attacks because she can simply phase to keep from being harmed. Additionally, excess fabric could potentially be a liability if she took solid form before her clothing was free of whatever she just phased through. While I wouldn’t necessarily defend her costume as practical for crime-fighting, it does make a certain amount of sense for her powers and the ways in which she uses them.
Jubilee is one of the few comic book heroines to have a fairly consistent history of relatively practical costumes. Sure, high-waisted jean shorts aren’t necessarily the most fashionable choice (the 80s were certainly a different time…), but overall her costumes have been pretty tame. That being said, her new costume is absolutely killer. It is immediately identifiable as Jubilee due to the canary yellow trenchcoat and pink shades, but it’s what’s underneath that really makes it shine. The black jacket-and-pants combo would already be pretty great on its own, but you can see in some of the more detailed artwork that whatever it is made of has the rough texture of a more protective fabric. Considering Jubilee’s explosive powers, it makes sense for her to wear something that covers a lot of skin and can take a bit of heat (both literal and figurative).
It is a pretty significant departure from her classic look, but she is still clearly recognizable as Wonder Woman, just a Wonder Woman who is ready to kick some ass. One aspect I’m especially fond of is that this costume actually has some armor elements, which echoes her origins as an Amazon Warrior. She even has a battle skirt (Xena would be proud)!
It goes without saying that this is not an exhaustive list of the female superheroes with practical costumes. There are many, many more both currently in print and historically. However, the overwhelming trend is still for female superheroes to be swathed in skin-tight lycra and high heels, posed in such a way as to highlight their sexuality rather than their power and heroism, or their vulnerability and humanity. Still, the industry is clearly making strides. The recent redesigns of Captain Marvel and Spider-Woman, and the announcement of a new Power Girl are all indicative of this. The industry still has a ways to go, that much is true. But it has also made a lot of progress, and that should be celebrated.
What do you think of these new costumes? And did we miss any important ones? Let us know in the comments below.