Wonder Woman’s look was originally designed by H.G. Peter in 1941. Patriotic superheroes were big at the time, given the state of the world, so Wonder Woman’s outfit was designed accordingly, with stars and stripes and a bald eagle on her chest. Though it may look like she’s wearing a skirt, Wonder Woman actually donned culottes.
In the 1950s, Wonder Woman’s shorts grew shorter and her storyline took on new themes that would continue throughout her evolution. Her new origin story revealed that her powers were gifts from the gods. Also during this time period, the plot point was introduced that any man who set foot on Paradise Island would be destroyed.
In the 1960s, Wonder Woman decided to give up her powers and her sexy, iconic costume in order to stay in “Man’s World” and fight for justice. This Diana learned martial arts and weapons skills, becoming a badass who didn’t need powers to get it done.
The made-for-TV movie starred Cathy Lee Crosby and was a dramatic departure from the iconic Wonder Woman look. Not only was Crosby blond, but her costume took on a much more reserved look, with leggings and a long-sleeve shirt. Though this Wonder Woman lacked powers, she still embodied the feminist ideals that defined the character.
In the mid-1970s, Lynda Carter starred in the Wonder Woman TV show, which embodied the feminist ideals of the superhero.
“It was about feminism and women’s rights,” Carter explained in a recent interview with Entertainment Weekly. “[The producers] got a lot of blowback for that. But I said it’s ridiculous to dumb [Diana] down. She’s not wearing something over her face. You don’t suspend belief that [Diana and Wonder Woman are] not the same person. I wanted to make her smart.”
In the ’90s, Wonder Woman admittedly became more sexualized. Her hair got bigger and her costume got smaller. Comic book writer Trina Robbins lamented that Wonder Woman became part of the female superheroes with “balloon breasts and waists so small that if they were real humans, they’d break in half.”
Efforts have since been made to remake Wonder Woman back into the powerful, intelligent, confident and, yes, beautiful icon she was meant to be. This image is from the 2009 Wonder Woman animated series and depicts an evil-conquering Wonder Woman in her more modern look, sans the eagle on her chest, complimented instead by “W” gold decaling.
In 2010, DC Comic’s decision to put Wonder Woman in an edgy, street clothing-inspired costume drew mixed reactions. Gloria Steinem was among the critics who said, “[J]eans give us the idea that only pants can be powerful — tell that to Greek warriors and sumo wrestlers.”
A 2011 pilot was ordered for a live-action Wonder Woman series starring Adrianne Palicki. Though the series was never picked up, it did signal a desire to see female superheroes join the live-action craze. According to Deadline, the series failed because early tests revealed that audiences couldn’t get behind the modernization of the storyline.
After many a failed attempt in recent years to revitalize the Wonder Woman storyline in a live-action telling, it seems that Warner Brothers has finally gotten it right with Gal Gadot in the lead. Learning from the Palicki crash and burn, the film is keeping the storyline classic, though they’ve done a major overhaul on her outfit. The new look was inspired by Greek armor and has drawn many comparisons to fictional warrior princess Xena.
As for the storyline, you better believe that it isn’t conforming to gender norms in traditional superhero tales.
“We were shooting on a beach in Italy with Robin Wright and Connie Nielsen, just beautiful women. All of the husbands would show up with the kids to support their wives. I thought it was this awesome flip of the script,” film co-star Chris Pine explained. “All the husbands sitting behind the monitors and playing with the kids.”
Gadot echoed those sentiments, saying it was the women who were shooting the battle scenes in Wonder Woman.