The Wonderous Wardrobe of “Wonder Woman 1984”
There’s a moment in Wonder Woman 1984 where Gal Gadot enters a party in a flowing white ensemble, the breeze catches just right and the skirt lifts and balloons showing an endless stretch of leg casually but impactfully. Costume designer Lindy Hemming refers to the stunning look, rightfully, as, “the goddess garment.” Beautifully pleated, supremely tailored with subtle shoulder pads and darting, the costume epitomizes the RADA graduate’s talent. With credits like 007’s Casino Royale, Batman’s The Dark Knight, not to mention Four Weddings and a Funeral, and more, Hemming has a history of delivering iconic images that impinge on the retina, magnifying character, while playing up physicality.
Speaking from Italy, the Welsh native recalls her first experience of fashion. “I was about five years old, we lived in rural Wales, I used to go to a Saturday market in our local town with my parents who had a craft stall. I spent my time under the stall, looking at people’s feet, trying to imagine what kind of person owned the shoes.”
If you look carefully, you will see that her fascination for character and shoes is still evident in the specifically crafted shoes by Gina that detail aspirations and character throughout the film, not to mention the clever costumes that capture the excess of the 80s. Your eye will be on the action, but it is in the subtle specifics that Lindy has created a woman we can all wonder at.
In Wonder Woman 1984, Diana Prince (Gal Gadot) has to use all her skills – and a new Wonder Woman armor to combat Maxwell Lord (Pedro Pascal) and a ferocious villainess, Cheetah (Kristen Wiig). Chris Pine returns as a love interest. Costume Designer Lindy Hemming explains her approach to the iconic DC image and the balance of innovating while appeasing the legions of comic book fans.
Gal is elegant, capable and sensual as Wonder Woman. The white gown is an instant classic – is it designer?
Linda Hemming: We knew that scene needed something special. I wanted her to stand out like a shaft of light. We explored so many evening dresses – none of the metallic ones of the period seemed to be the right for her character. They seemed to be too on the nose. I referenced Chanel, Calvin Klein and Claude Montana to create that kind of classic American look. I created that costume as a shirt and wrap-around skirt with a really clever cutter, Ian Frazer Wallace, in a really heavy double silk crepe. We wanted something so that her legs could come through. She has the most fantastic legs anyway, and I knew that she would walk along that Long Pond in Washington (the National Mall). It seemed like white would make you stand apart from everybody else. She would look like a goddess, and she is a goddess in a way, we called it the 1980s goddess look. Cuff from Tiffany.
This look says so much – professional, understated, she looks magnificent, and then … the shoes – unexpected!
Linda Hemming: That’s my favorite. The shoes spark the imagination of the ‘Cheetah’ in Barbara, Kristen Wiig’s character. In the scene she looks at Gal’s shoes – she thinks she’s looking at this impossibly elegant and classically dressed person, and then she looks down and sees these fantastic heels which she herself is unable to wear, and they inspire her in that moment when she’s desiring to look like Diana Prince.
They were made by a company called Gina, that make the most incredible shoes. They are in France and New York, originally from Los Angeles. They also made the shoes for Kirsten Wiig, when she decides to venture into a higher shoe.
This was made by us. We had a really good tailor. We looked at references, but the main thing was to make her look really classic and simple even though she looked terribly elegant. One of my favorite outfits is the simple blouse and trousers. The trousers are pleated at the top but narrow at the ankle. I remember having them and wanting them so much, with little turn-ups at the ankle. The reason they are so beautiful, apart from the fact that she is so beautiful, is that they are made of the most expensive fabric, silk crepe. The trousers have a really good drape to them, a lot like an Armani of the period would have. The shirt comes from an ‘80s pattern.
This is very of its time, what are we seeing?
Gal Gadot: That entire look is a homage to the Ralph Lauren and American designers. We made everything except for the waistcoat. We were searching for an item to finish the look and someone found the Ralph Lauren waistcoat which was perfect. The rest of the costume is made by us. It is slightly Annie Hall.
Chris Pine: I have to credit Patty Jenkins for wanting that look. When he is in the collage-sequence, dressing in all those outrageous ‘80s clothes, she just wanted him to end up in a more timeless – but still ‘80s – classic look. Kind of Nick Hayward. He has to spend most of the film in this costume after all.
Linda Hemming: The jacket was a ‘Members Only’ jacket, the pants we made, and we added an expensive white T-shirt from Japan by Pharon. We then added a simple fanny pack made by our workshops, introducing the idea of wearing one to him during the dressing up sequence. It was a look that lots of ordinary guys had back then.
This is a transition moment. You have to have the confidence to pull off the look.
Linda Hemming: We wanted something that would really show her body off. It was black because she started toward the darker, punkier side of her character. We were channeling Azzedine Alaia and his body-contouring designs and, of course, tough punky girls and a bit of Madonna. At that time, there was a big exhibition of body-conscious clothing at the V&A Museum in London. In terms of tightness, and the elasticity of the fabric, it was not an expensive lace because none of the expensive laces would contour so tightly to her body. It ended up being something far less expensive but something that had a great stretch to it.
This is such an ‘80s look but also speaks to her psychological state.
Linda Hemming: Kristen Wiig, fake fur, and thigh-high boots. She has gone mad by then. The jacket shows an animalistic feel coming over her. She has torn tights because she has been running around outside in the dark. We’re meant to get the definite feeling that she is disturbed by then (laughs) The jacket is just a nylon fake fur, picked for fabric. It is very right for the later ‘80s. The boots are by Gina Shoes that made fantastic footwear for many films for me.
We made the boots really long so that she could wear almost no skirt at all: a crepe animal print, silk-chiffon skirt, which was torn and ragged. The stockings that were visible underneath, were torn as well. It was supposed to make you feel like she had been running through the bushes being wild as she evolves towards what she becomes at the end of the film.
The Cheetah mirrors the shoes we see on Gal at the beginning.
Linda Hemming: When you costume one of these stories, your job is to develop each character in costume. You try to give little indications of how they are changing when you look at all of her clothes, she is moving from a slightly dowdy, intelligent woman to a stronger, aggressive and animalistic woman, culminating into what she becomes at the end.
Linda Hemming: The new gold costume took months and months to make. It references the story of the past of the Amazon’s history. It needed to look magical and glow, with a magical aura and lends extra protective properties. It couldn’t look like just regular armor. A lot of my inspirations came from Alexander McQueen and Thierry Mugler. It needed to have this deep golden decadence to the material. It is molded or printed of a urethane material. We had to make it shimmer and shine and make it more of a magical armor rather than an ancient military armor.
Linda Hemming: Her other armor, which is her Wonder Woman bodice, really called Wonder Woman’s Red Blue and Gold Armor was also changed for this film. We made it have much more depth than 1984 and we changed the colors of the suit.
Talk about the bustier.
Linda Hemming: The original one was designed by Michael Wilkinson when I inherited it, we made changes to the style lines on the body. By the time we were doing this Wonder Woman – because it was set in 1984 – we changed the fabric. We made it more glowing red and blue and gold because Patty felt that was much more 1980s. But also, in the previous film, Wonder Woman, takes her through the battlefield and takes her through all kinds of terrible adventures, cold, the rain, the sea, whereas this one we knew was always going to be an urban armor, so we could afford to make it look not quite so broken down and old. The changes in the look of the armor were in a textural way and color-wise.
What kind of pressure do you feel creating iconic costumes that the whole world knows so intimately and has expectations of, iconic and the history, while also making it new and fresh?
Linda Hemming: When I was doing Batman and Bond before that, you have to follow the expectation of an iconic character. You are dealing with an iconic image. You can’t say, ‘I’m going to make it look like something else,’ or, ‘They are not going to wear that anymore’. You have to respect the silhouette, the image, the look of the Comic book Hero or Heroine, your work is to design it anew with a sensibility that reaches a new and contemporary audience.
This Chris Pine outfit just makes you smile.
Linda Hemming: They were dance pants, like combat trousers, and people wore them to go to clubs. Lots of zips on it. It’s an inspiration from club wear of the ‘80s. Those Combat trousers were made much too tight on purpose. (laughs). They were very, very uncomfortable, but they were what people wore. They were a thing of the ‘80s.
Linda Hemming: While many may wonder if Donald Trump was the inspiration for Max Lord’s look, Pedro Pascal clears up the confusion. “I thought it was a Gordon Gekko look, but Patty said, “It’s not one thing.” Note the padded shoulders so typical of the ‘80s.