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Superheroes: Fashion and Fantasy

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From Wonder Woman’s satin stars and golden bracelets to Batman’s brooding cape and mask, the style of superheroes’ dress has influenced both street wear and high fashion. This richly illustrated book explores how radical couture, avant-garde sportswear, and state-of-the-art military garments—as seen through the lens of the superhero—can be metaphors for sex, power, and pol From Wonder Woman’s satin stars and golden bracelets to Batman’s brooding cape and mask, the style of superheroes’ dress has influenced both street wear and high fashion. This richly illustrated book explores how radical couture, avant-garde sportswear, and state-of-the-art military garments—as seen through the lens of the superhero—can be metaphors for sex, power, and politics. Beginning with the origins of the superhero costume, this volume looks at how designers have been influenced by iconographic components such as the cape, mask, boots, and unitard. Costumes, such as those worn by Batman and Catwoman, are examined as reflections of sexual and physical prowess, while others, most notably those of Superman and Captain America, are analyzed as political propaganda.   Superheroes also explores superpowers and their manifestations––literal, symbolic, or metaphorical: Flash’s speed, Iron Man’s invulnerability, Hulk’s strength, and Spiderman’s agility are presented in their fantastical evocations. Featured designers include Pierre Cardin, John Galliano, Azzedine Alaia, Giorgio Armani, Hussein Chalayan, Alexander McQueen, Nicolas Ghesquiere, Jean Paul Gaultier, Comme des Garçons, and Walter van Beirendonck.


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From Wonder Woman’s satin stars and golden bracelets to Batman’s brooding cape and mask, the style of superheroes’ dress has influenced both street wear and high fashion. This richly illustrated book explores how radical couture, avant-garde sportswear, and state-of-the-art military garments—as seen through the lens of the superhero—can be metaphors for sex, power, and pol From Wonder Woman’s satin stars and golden bracelets to Batman’s brooding cape and mask, the style of superheroes’ dress has influenced both street wear and high fashion. This richly illustrated book explores how radical couture, avant-garde sportswear, and state-of-the-art military garments—as seen through the lens of the superhero—can be metaphors for sex, power, and politics. Beginning with the origins of the superhero costume, this volume looks at how designers have been influenced by iconographic components such as the cape, mask, boots, and unitard. Costumes, such as those worn by Batman and Catwoman, are examined as reflections of sexual and physical prowess, while others, most notably those of Superman and Captain America, are analyzed as political propaganda.   Superheroes also explores superpowers and their manifestations––literal, symbolic, or metaphorical: Flash’s speed, Iron Man’s invulnerability, Hulk’s strength, and Spiderman’s agility are presented in their fantastical evocations. Featured designers include Pierre Cardin, John Galliano, Azzedine Alaia, Giorgio Armani, Hussein Chalayan, Alexander McQueen, Nicolas Ghesquiere, Jean Paul Gaultier, Comme des Garçons, and Walter van Beirendonck.

52 review for Superheroes: Fashion and Fantasy

  1. 4 out of 5

    DoctorM

    A gorgeously illustrated book based on a show done last summer (2008) at the Met. Fashion is linked to superhero costumes, and there's an intriguing commentary on the semiotics of superhero costumes in comics. The layout is a bit off--- the runway images should've been more closely compared to the comic panels ---and some referenced costumes aren't shown in illustrations. But--- lush, delightful, and rather good on the idea of costume as transformation, and on gender representation in superhero A gorgeously illustrated book based on a show done last summer (2008) at the Met. Fashion is linked to superhero costumes, and there's an intriguing commentary on the semiotics of superhero costumes in comics. The layout is a bit off--- the runway images should've been more closely compared to the comic panels ---and some referenced costumes aren't shown in illustrations. But--- lush, delightful, and rather good on the idea of costume as transformation, and on gender representation in superhero drag. Worth looking at on a spring afternoon.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Andy

    Visually stunning photography book of designers doing their take on real superheroes like Batman, Wonder Woman and Iron Man; and imaginary superheroes, reminiscent of William Klein's "Mr. Freedom" costume and beyond. The usual greats are here: Mugler, Gaultier, McQueen, Galliano, Westwood and a gaggle of obscure designers who impress just as much. One of the most entertaining fashion books out there! Visually stunning photography book of designers doing their take on real superheroes like Batman, Wonder Woman and Iron Man; and imaginary superheroes, reminiscent of William Klein's "Mr. Freedom" costume and beyond. The usual greats are here: Mugler, Gaultier, McQueen, Galliano, Westwood and a gaggle of obscure designers who impress just as much. One of the most entertaining fashion books out there!

  3. 5 out of 5

    M

    Saw the exhibit for this last year--really interesting coupling of topics.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Jon Nakapalau

    Umm...I would not wear any of these clothes...models look good in them...nice photography.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Tracey Sinclair

    Interesting (if not always convincing) look at superheroes and fashion, the intersection between them and the societal impulses that influence both.

  6. 5 out of 5

    WORN Fashion Journal

    MET Costume Institute curator Andrew Bolton attempts to bridge the gap between the world of fictional crime fighters and contemporary fashion design. The book features the work of some of the most highly regarded fashion houses, as well as the best of Iron Man, Spiderman, Cat Woman and the like. Superheroes: Fashion and Fantasy begins with an essay by novelist Michael Chabon discussing the relationship between superheroes and their costumes.In what Chabon coins as “Unitard Theory,” he emphasizes MET Costume Institute curator Andrew Bolton attempts to bridge the gap between the world of fictional crime fighters and contemporary fashion design. The book features the work of some of the most highly regarded fashion houses, as well as the best of Iron Man, Spiderman, Cat Woman and the like. Superheroes: Fashion and Fantasy begins with an essay by novelist Michael Chabon discussing the relationship between superheroes and their costumes.In what Chabon coins as “Unitard Theory,” he emphasizes that the costume/clothing of a superhero is more than a mere unitard-cape combination. The costume serves as a spectacle of transformation, symbolizing humanity’s desire to manipulate and reinterpret their bodies into physically perfected, supernatural beings. The essay, originally written for The New Yorker, lays the foundation for the remaining eight sections of the book. Bolton has arranged the book into the following sections based on the designers’ attempt to interpret the body as a constantly changing entity: The graphic body, the patriotic body, the viral body, the paradoxical body, the armoured body, the aerodynamic body, the mutant body and the postmodern body. Each of these sections explores how the superhero costume has influenced the design of radical couture, avant-garde sportswear and state-of-the-art military garments. The book itself is also aesthetically pleasing. Printed in full colour on thick glossy paper, it has taken on the characteristics of an actual superhero. Comic books are usually floppy and easily destructible. This book is the complete opposite. Armoured in a tin, the book itself represents the strength and endurance embodied by the superhero. Superman was North America’s prototype of what would become the very definition of a superhero: a public figure endowed with otherworldly powers, committed to fighting evil for the betterment of society. Since his inception, and the slew of crime-fighting crusaders that followed, the superhero (like fashion) has established itself as a powerful influence upon society. They embody the hopes, dreams, and fantasies of humankind. Often disregarded as superficial and frivolous, it is their very lack of seriousness that enables superheroes to address greater social issues without controversy or objection. Over the years, superheroes have metaphorically represented our social and political realities. They reveal shifting ideologies and attitudes towards identity, sexuality, and agency, as they are constantly being redefined to reflect ideal interpretations of beauty and character. Similarly, fashion also embodies many of the characteristics for which superheroes have become famous. Fashion not only shares the superhero’s metaphorical diversity, but it also embraces and flourishes based on its ability to transform. Fashion celebrates metamorphosis, providing designers with unlimited opportunities to reinterpret the body and the self. Superheroes: Fashion and Fantasy brings its readers a different understanding of the relationship between popular culture and fashion design. And even if you don’t truly believe that Iron Man was the inspiration for Dolce and Gabbana’s spring 2007 collection, the book is still worth the read. (reviewed by Candice Okada)

  7. 4 out of 5

    April Zola

    As a companion to an exhibit by The Costume Institute this book is an nice resource. The divisions of costume (iconic, patriotic, aerodynamic, armored, etc.) are interesting but they seem almost arbitrary. There is little historical or scholarly context. Published in 2008 before the current heyday of superhero movies the 'inspired designs' seem dated and Chabon's opening essay almost short-sighted. It is an alright coffee table book but falls short of any real insight or conclusion. As a companion to an exhibit by The Costume Institute this book is an nice resource. The divisions of costume (iconic, patriotic, aerodynamic, armored, etc.) are interesting but they seem almost arbitrary. There is little historical or scholarly context. Published in 2008 before the current heyday of superhero movies the 'inspired designs' seem dated and Chabon's opening essay almost short-sighted. It is an alright coffee table book but falls short of any real insight or conclusion.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Surfing Moose

    My eyes my eyes... Most of the fashion in the book made me cringe and laugh at the same time. In other words, what were they thinking or on. I enjoyed the essay by Chabon and that was really about it.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Bethany

  10. 5 out of 5

    Msbookgal

  11. 5 out of 5

    Jen

  12. 4 out of 5

    Anne

  13. 5 out of 5

    Cameron Chamberlain

  14. 5 out of 5

    Adam

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    Michele Carter

  16. 4 out of 5

    Tatterdemalion

  17. 4 out of 5

    Nicholas

  18. 5 out of 5

    Cachita Paredes Vasquez

  19. 5 out of 5

    Shlomi Mor

  20. 4 out of 5

    OTIS

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    Michellekauf

  22. 5 out of 5

    (^・ェ・^)

  23. 5 out of 5

    Lexie Southern

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    Richard Gombert

  26. 4 out of 5

    Leah

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    Matthew Hittinger

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    WheelchairNinja

  36. 5 out of 5

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    Lollyletsgo

  48. 4 out of 5

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  49. 5 out of 5

    amanda

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    David Palazzolo

  51. 5 out of 5

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  52. 4 out of 5

    Guido Sanchez

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