I love taking your average super hero, and giving them a vintage twist. So as you can imagine, I love those female characters that already ooze with that vintage pin up style!
I want to share the love for some of my favourite classic pin up gals that inspire me to create my costumes.
The 60’s Sex Kitten
Julie Newmar is one of my favourite Cat Women. This 1960’s feline super villain became a sex symbol overnight, and it’s no surprise with that figure hugging cat suit. Although I find the 1960’s Batman show a little hard to watch due to its major camp factor, all this is forgotten when Newmar slinks into the scene, seducing Batman so she can kill him with a sniff of her au de chat perfume. I’ve added a clip of her in action below.
The sexy costume was designed by Pat Barto, although Newmar revealed in a number of interviews that she modified the costume herself, adjusting the belt to sit at the hips to accentuate her tiny waist. The design is so obviously 60’s, but also incorporates elements of 50’s style with the inclusion of the bullet bra. I never noticed the subtle sparkle in the fabric, 60’s collar or eye makeup fanning from her eyebrows until I researched this costume.
Due to the styling of the costume, that hour glass figure and the character’s sassiness, this version of Cat Woman definitely makes it into my top 5 pin up babes.
The American Wartime Babe
Captain America’s love interest, Peggy Carter, played by Hayley Atwell in the 2011 film Captain America: The First Avenger is the original wartime pin up. We love her because she’s not just some damsel in distress, she is a strong and smart woman, she’s actually Captain America’s equal and friend. I have just started watching the new Agent Peggy Carter T.V series and I have to say I am very impressed so far and I‘m loving the costume design.
Costume designer Anna B. Sheppard has become somewhat of an expert in the war time era having worked on films such as Schindler’s list and Inglorious Bastards. It was great to see Peggy’s character in an array of costumes with some mix and matching going on too. The image above depicts Peggy in perhaps her most iconic look, her uniform. The outfit consists of three pieces; a pencil skirt which has a box pleat at the back allowing for movement but not as sexy as a split, a fitted jacket in the same khaki green as the skirt in which she wears two pins on the lapels. The final item is a white shirt, accompanied with a khaki tie. The look is finished by a soft finger wave and a pop of red lipstick.
I couldn’t talk about Peggy without mentioning that red dress she wears in the bar scene. For me, this dress proves a point; a dress doesn’t have to be revealing to be sexy. The way this dress has been designed is very clever, the satin V neck draws the eye downwards towards the waist and the pleated drape of the skirt accentuates the hips, which although subtle, emphasises her hour glass figure. The red dress has become a bit of a trade mark for Sheppard since working on Inglorious Bastards, and that scene were Shosanna is getting ready to ‘Putting Out Fire with Gasoline’ by David Bowie is one of my absolute favourites.
A true 1940’s Pin up
The original Silk Spectre, Sally Jupiter was a teenage runaway who worked as a waitress and burlesque dancer. She was only 18 years old when she became an adventurer fighting crime in her fish nets and high heels, joining the group of masked heroes the Minute Men. Villains didn’t seem to mind getting caught by her and soon she was famous. She became the ultimate sex symbol and she was proud of it. The thing I love about Watchmen is how dark it is. In places, there is something quite film noire about the graphic novel art work.
The story of Sally Jupiter played by Carla Gugino in the 2009 film Watchmen is actually quite a sad one and her character has some serious self esteem issues. I greatly admire this character because she became a heroine not to save the world like most other heroes, but for the fame. Her story is different and I like that. She loved the attention of being a sex symbol and embraced it. Those were her glory days.
I didn’t really like the costume in the graphic novel. Personally, I think she looks a little too masculine. In the film adaptation, Michael Wilkinson managed to capture a more feminine burlesque essence in the costume whilst still making obvious comparisons to the original graphic novel artwork.
I love this costume; underwear as outer wear, fishnet stockings held up by suspenders on show and a sweetheart corset which can just be seen underneath the sheer yellow dress fabric. And then there is another corset, this time an under bust which appears to hold the fabric in place. The lacing is then mimicked at the neck which is either a choker style piece which acts like a halter neck, or a type of neck corset. Even the cut of the skirt is beautiful, the way it dips at the front and back and is higher at the sides revealing a glimpse more flesh. The look is finished with knee high lace up boots (how she fights crime in those heels I will never know), just the one black satin elbow length glove with possibly pearl buttons, iconic 1940’s victory rolls and red lipstick. A burlesque perfection.
A pin up wonder
Where to start! Wonder woman made her first debut in 1941 in the All Star Comic books. Having been around for over 70 years it’s not surprising her costume has gone through so many changes. In the history of comic books, Wonder Woman is a pretty important character. Let’s rewind back to the Golden Age for a moment, back when the only female characters in comic books were either love interests (to avoid allegations that the male lead is homosexual), career girls or perky teenagers. The portrayal of women as the ‘damsels in distress’ was in keeping with the stereotypes of that day but then of course the 2nd world began and women took up the jobs the men had to leave behind as labourers and factory workers. They did their part in the war effort building military vehicles, weapons and ammunition and over 400 women joined the armed forces. Suddenly women had a new world of opportunity, confidence and freedom. Eventually a few female characters were created that stood for gender equality, who where strong beautiful heroines. Not all lasted however, but Wonder Woman created by a physiologist named William Moulton Marston did.
Here I have featured her first ever costume because it speaks so loudly of the 1940’s with a twist of the Wild West and a touch of rockabilly. You may think Wonder Woman is wearing a circle skirt, and maybe even a petticoat hiding underneath. But no, she is in fact wearing culottes. Although I was admittedly disappointed when I realised this, I still love this costume and let’s face it, I can’t honestly expect her to fight crime with her knickers flashing! Aspects of this design are so iconic that they have stayed pretty much the same throughout the years- the red bodice, blue skirt or shorts scattered with stars a nod to the American Flag, the gold embellishment on the bodice that goes back and forth from eagle to WW. There are plenty of variations to the silhouette of the costume but in essence the design never really changes. I’d also like to point out the accessories. Hello, she’s wearing a tiara!
Born of the 40’s, this girl was one of the first true female super heroes and for that we salute you.
A pin up to cast a spell on you.
The final spot has to go to Zatanna just because whenever I see her character I immediately think of vintage burlesque show girls. She’s not a character I know well and only discovered her when my friend Lucy (Torathena), see the link below,cosplayed as Zatanna. I saw the corset, tail coat and top hat and I just needed to make it. So here’s what I know about her, she’s the daughter of one of the best magicians in the world, she inherited his talent and the gift of true magic. Following in her father’s footsteps she is a magician and illusionist although she doesn’t depend on her true magic for this. She is exceptionally talented, especially at sleight of hand. Zatanna belongs to the DC universe appearing alongside superman in the television programme Smallville, and she is best of friends with Batman in the DC comic books.
Apparently Zatanna’s original costume is based upon her father’s old stage costume, with the exception of the fish net stockings and high heels substituting trousers. I have featured Zatanna’s Justice League costume as it’s the one that evokes that Marlene Dietrich image the most to me. There is also a Dita Von Teese thing going on which I adore. You have the classic top hat and tailcoat ensemble paired with a white tuxedo shirt, bow tie and a white, or sometimes golden yellow waistcoat. I do also love the sexier corset variation and the cape with the red lining!
For me, this costume is inspired by the pin up magicians and show girls of the 40’s and because the costume evokes so many images of my favourite pin up icons such as Betty Page, Marlene Dietrich and Dita Von Teese, Zatanna has to be one of my top 5 pin up gals.
It actually took me ages to write this post so I really do hope you’ve enjoyed it! Please share with me your inspiring super hero pin ups or villains of course!
Shhh one of these 5 costumes will be featured in my next video on https://www.youtube.com/user/torathena along side the beautiful Lucy.
Images courtesy of