Wardrobe Secrets From Behind The Scenes Of The DCEU
Fans can - and will - debate the cinematic merits of DC Comics-related films until they’re blue in the face, but what cannot be denied is that an enormous amount of work and thought went into creating the DC Extended Universe from behind the scenes. Zack Snyder and other subsequent directors have been so involved in the minutiae of their shared franchise that their influence has even extended to the DCEU’s many costumes and, through working with some talented costume designers, they’ve managed to do an excellent job of bringing some 2D superhero outfits to life on the big screen.
Costume design is a multifaceted endeavor, and it is clear that those designers involved in the DCEU have taken their task seriously and with great consideration. It doesn’t take too much digging to discover some truly astonishing secrets and hidden meanings behind the get-ups worn by the Justice League and their allies - and that only adds to the depth of enjoyment that fans can continue to find in the films themselves.
The Batsuit Was Simplified And Beaten Up To Emphasize Batman’s Brawniness
When it came time for director Zack Snyder and costume designer Michael Wilkinson to create a new Batsuit for Ben Affleck in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, they looked to one of the Batman’s most beloved comic book adventures.
At the time, Wilkinson said:
[Snyder] said the most important thing for our Batman is that he comes across as a really hulking big guy. He’s super pumped up. He’s going to be even bigger than Superman in silhouette... He’s like a tower of muscle. Zack Snyder is a real fan of Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns, and we looked a lot at that silhouette when we were creating our silhouette.
In another interview, Wilkinson elaborated on how the desire to bulk Batman up required a simplification of his crime-fighting outfit:
Zack was quite clear about the direction he wanted to take. He really wanted our Batman to look more like he does in the comic books, so when he was drawn in 2D, he’s just a solid ball of muscle - but he’s more of a boorish brawler than an armor-and-high-tech figure. So we kind of went back to his roots and portrayed some of it through his massive strength and fighting technique, more than armor... That was important, to show our Batman really battle-worn and a little older than Batmans from recent films, so he’s fighting crime in Gotham for a long time now and he has the scars to show it.
Jason Momoa’s Unique 'Dimensions' Dictated The Look Of Aquaman's OufitPhoto: Aquaman / Warner Bros.
All superhero films require some level of costume customization, but some are able to get away with dressing their characters in regular everyday clothing when they’re using their secret identity. That was not the case for Aquaman’s Jason Momoa, however, because the actor is simply too big for ordinary clothes - but fortunately, Momoa already had several custom hookups to share with the production’s designers.
As costume designer Kym Barrett explained to Fashionista:
He's got a real design sense himself and he knows what looks good... Because of Jason's, you know, dimensions, he has to have jeans custom-made... He's into clothes and shoes and things like that. So it doesn't make any sense to not embrace that.
Several of the items Momoa wore in Aquaman were created by brands he had already made a habit of supporting in his personal life, which means that he wasn’t really dressing up as Arthur Curry - Arthur Curry was dressing up as Jason Momoa.
The Supersuit Is Covered In A Joseph Campbell Quote Via Kryptonian Glyphs
When it came to updating Henry Cavill’s Supersuit from Man of Steel to Batman v Superman, director Zack Snyder had some particularly off-the-wall ideas - but costume designer Michael Wilkinson was able to rise to the challenge. As he tells it:
We found a new way of applying the "S" glyph, and a much more streamlined and kind of modern-looking way of detailing the suit, but I think one of the biggest differences is that Zack had an idea of having a quote from one of his favorite writers, Joseph Campbell, and we had that translated into Kryptonian. Then once we got the script, we sort of ran it through the biceps, belts, wrists and even through the "S" glyph in the front of the costume so it’s sort of this fantastic complexity of texture on the suit.
The quote in question is, obviously, quite difficult to read even if one is fluent in Kryptonian. Fortunately, Snyder shared the quote in a different interview, and it’s not difficult to see why he saw parallels between it and Kal-El’s story:
[A]nd where we had thought to find an abomination, we shall find a god; where we had thought to slay another, we shall slay ourselves; where we had thought to travel outward, we shall come to the center of our own existence; where we had thought to be alone, we shall be with all the world.
Harley Quinn’s Necklace In ‘Birds of Prey’ Is Loaded With Hidden MeaningsPhoto: Warner Bros.
Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn didn’t just receive a new costume in Birds of Prey - she received dozens of them! And each fresh outfit was created by costume designer Erin Benach with serious attention to detail and hidden meanings, right down to the necklace Harley wore throughout the film.
As Benach recounted to Looper:
Everything had a reason, and a point, and a story behind it. There was the child-like bottle cap. It's something that Harley would do. She would sit there and drink Coca-Cola - out of a Twizzler straw probably - and then take the bottle cap and put on her necklace. There's feminist iconography in there in a female symbol, in a bust of a woman, and then she's got her Bruce tag for her pet hyena.
When images of Harley’s jewelry first leaked, many fans assumed that the “Bruce” tag was in reference to Bruce Wayne, but it actually turned out to be a shout out to her pet hyena - who happens to be named after Bruce Wayne.
Shazam’s Outfit Is Heavily Influenced By Antiquity - And An Anthropomorphized TigerPhoto: Shazam! / Warner Bros.
Though he’s one of the newest additions to the DCEU roster of superheroes, Zachary Levi’s Shazam is a character with some serious history behind him. Not only has he been around since 1939, the former “Captain Marvel” also draws his power from an acronymic pantheon of ancient gods - the wisdom of Solomon, the strength of Hercules, the stamina of Atlas, the power of Zeus, the courage of Achilles, and the speed of Mercury.
As such, it was important for costume designer Leah Butler to reach into antiquity for inspiration when creating Shazam’s suit, and she spoke at length to Den of Geek about her myriad ancient influences, including a “Greek key pattern”:
In Ancient Greece, gold was a metal that was precious to the gods, to the extent that they were dressed in gold. The color and luster of the gold continues to be associated with the sun and the sacred masculine. The approach to costume is also borne from organic elements, and will feel sacred and true as opposed to machine like, severe, or manufactured.
All that ancient iconography also allowed for a shout out to one of the character’s most ridiculous comic book compatriots - Mr. Tawny, an anthropomorphized tiger. Obviously, such a character has no real place in the DCEU, but Butler was able to include a sly reference to him on Shazam’s buttons because “we started going through history and different genres and symbolism... I was thinking of lions and something strong.” At that point, the Mr. Tawny reference practically wrote itself.
Wonder Woman’s Outfit Is All About Conveying Her Ancient Warrior Status
In DCEU canon, Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman was born in the year 3000 BC, and has been living in the isolated warrior community of Themyscira pretty much ever since. As such, her wardrobe in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice needed to look anything but modern, while still working alongside the ultra-modern Dark Knight and Man of Steel - and so the filmmakers looked to the ancient past for inspiration.
As costume designer Michael Wilkinson told The Hollywood Reporter:
We wanted to create something incredibly strong and portray her as a legitimate fighter, so we looked back... because we wanted her to look like she’s been wearing the same costume, in a sense, for thousands of years - since she’s immortal, after all. We were inspired by the metal armor of Greek and Roman warriors and gladiators. It seemed like a good fit for her. We created a costume that looks like metal armor, but of course, in these films the fight scenes are very intense and challenging so I had to come up with a solution that would allow her to move and breathe, but also to have this very iconic, sort of hourglass shape in a modern and interesting way. We used a combination of old and new technology.