Sunday, May 25, 2008

Superheroes: Fashion and Fantasy

I just returned from the new Superheroes: Fashion and Fantasy exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

One thing that struck me about the "fashion" part of the exhibit—that is the runway costumes, not the actual superhero costumes—is that the women's attire generally looked horribly uncomfortable to wear, whereas the men's runway costumes looked much more comfortable. For instance, in the photo above, Batman's costume (from this year's The Dark Knight film) is on the left, then there are two male fashion versions, and three women's fashion versions.

Would you rather wear the male or female costumes if you were going to be out all evening?

Of course I really shouldn't have been surprised by the difference in comfort and utility between men's "costumes" and women's "costumes". It's true of fashion in general. Men's clothes are built for comfort and practicality—ample deep pockets that can safely contain important objects (cell phones, keys, wallet) without danger of falling out or spearing buttocks when the wearer sits down.

In contrast, women's clothes are generally built to show off the women's shape in the best light, regardless of comfort: tight dresses and skirts that make it impossible to take long strides when walking; high heels that make standing or walking for even moderate periods of time painful, no functional pockets so that purses are required (and another opportunity for the fashion industry to make money with accessories!). I often wonder how men would react if men's suit designers did away with pockets so that men would need to carry some type of satchel for the important belongings.

But I digress…back to the Superheroes fashion exhibit and the utility of a costume. One more example—the "armor" section that includes the costume for Iron Man, and then a women's fashion version (on the right, in case you couldn't tell the two apart):

More of women's armor fashions are below. If I needed armor, I'd go for complete coverage.


  1. So why do you think women buy into this system and wear the uncomfortable clothes? I don't know if this would be something you'd be interested in doing, but I'd love to see you blog an analysis of some fashion advertisement (tv, radio, print) and what different techniques they use to try to convince women to buy clothes that are otherwise uncomfortable and not useful, as you suggest.

  2. I think women looking very pretty and different in superheroes costumes.It is a different wearing for women.

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