Wonder Woman 1984 finds Diana Prince aka Wonder Woman in 1980s Washington, D.C., working in artifacts at the Smithsonian Museum. Living under the radar and longing for her lost love (Chris Pine), she’s brought into full force again as power-hungry Maxwell Lord (Pedro Pascal) attempts to greedily take over the world and superhuman Cheetah (Kristin Wiig) aids him.
When it came time for Academy Award winner Lindy Hemming to design the costumes for Wonder Woman 1984, there was only one outfit that Diana Prince (Gal Gadot) would wear that was a holdover from Hemming’s designs from the first Wonder Woman (2017): her bodice—or war armor, as Hemming and writer-director Patty Jenkins prefer to call it. It’s the stalwart blue, red-and-gold sartorial standard look of Wonder Woman, though Hemming’s design for the 2017 film is thankfully higher on the chest and lower on the legs than the overly revealing bodice worn by Lynda Carter in the 1970s television version of the comic book series.
Because Wonder Woman 1984, which is still the pandemic box office’s biggest hit in weeks following its Christmas Day release, takes place in the (you guessed it!) 1980s, Hemming had to redesign Diana’s look to fit the era. And though the war armor’s silhouette stayed the same, Jenkins did request that the color be brightened and the material be given more depth.
“This is the time when we started seeing metallic dresses,” says Hemming, who’s designed the Dark Knight trilogy, numerous Bond films, both Paddington films and one Harry Potter, in addition to her Oscar-winning outfits for 1999’s Topsy-Turvy. “Everything was blingy and flashy and big, so we wanted to give the armor that extra oomph to fit into the circumstances [Wonder Woman] was going to be in.”
Hemming dug through her usual fashion-based research into the ’80s, but she also found the obscure and fantastic series of videos and photographs online called “American Malls in the Eighties”—a mix of professional photographers and ordinary folks’ homemade footage of the time. Still, dressing Diana for the 1980s was a delicate balance for Hemming since the character needed to be both of the era and outside of it. Hemming was cognizant of that when she chose outfits, wanting to make her fit in.
“You can’t really make [her look like] the fashion version of an era,” says Hemming who, along with her team, handmade all of the film’s costumes. “It has to be a slightly calmed down or accessible to modern people’s versions of the ’80s. Because of her character moving effortlessly from time to time in the world and in history, she needs to be classic and acceptable and able to merge easily among people, otherwise she’d raise questions.”
Hemming stuck with the American-look classics Calvin Klein, Ralph Lauren, Claude Montana and Giorgio Armani. In her opinion, they designed ’80s clothes, but more tastefully than others. And she wanted the viewer to not know whether Diana was wearing her armor necessarily, so they never revealed too much of her (besides that white dress during the party scene). This landed Diana in an impeccably tailored, classic shirt and pants getup.
“We decided on trousers for Diana because they were really nice for women in that period,” says Hemming. “Chopped off length and pleated hips, or you could go full length and baggier. [The whole ensemble] gave her a serious, classic and active feeling.”
“Diana—she’s always going to be in a higher heel. She really is a goddess, and she is always going to tower over everybody.”
On the flip side, the villainous Barbara aka Cheetah (Wiig) was allowed to embody the outré parts of the ’80s—the big and bleached frizzy hair, baggy, high-key color clothing, a switch toward the punk-side with studs and black leather and then all the way to a superhuman cheetah being (though, that costume was all computer generated). As a designer, Hemming says, evolving a character like that is the fun part of her job.
“At first, she’s quite bookish and trying very hard to look cool,” says Hemming. “As the story unfolds, you get to give Barbara’s version of herself trying to look trendier—like when she pulls down that top to be a tube dress. And as she looks at Diana and longs for more simplicity, if you like, she goes into the dark clothes. Once [she gets] into the punk realm, her attitude is really affected by anger.”
The shoes are a big part of that transformation. In the first scene with Barbara, she can barely walk on a low heel, and later on she even trips over them in the park at night as she’s being stalked. Barbara clocks Diana’s animal print heels in that very first scene, and Hemming—who worked with GINA in London to create all of Barbara’s heels and some of Diana’s—feels they’re what triggers her animalistic, angry side. She links that with Barbara’s mid-film punk phase and gives her the animal-print giant platforms, which, by that point with her growing powers, she can walk on like a catwalk pro supermodel.
And yes, Hemming knows that the heels in the movie are more spindly and higher than ’80s heels traditionally were. It wasn’t a documentary or a period costume drama, it’s a comic book movie, and she never felt the need to stay exactly in line with the decade’s looks.
“You don’t have to stick to [a time period],” says Hemming. “But you do have to give an overall impression. And especially with Diana—she’s always going to be in a higher heel. She really is a goddess, and she is always going to tower over everybody.”