Costuming Philosophy: What Kind of Footwear Does it Take to Kick Ass?

Cosplay daughter and I just completed a shopping juggernaut looking for sensible, Victorian-style boots for an Elizabeth (Bio Shock) cosplay.

Elizabeth2

This was hardly my first rodeo when it came to trying to buy, borrow, beg or build cosplay footwear.

I wrote a post a couple of weeks ago about Cosplay Daughter’s odyssey to construct Chell’s boots from Portal 2:

long fall boots

And when I showed the essay and photos to my writing group it provoked a discussion about the whole “superheroine in heels” thing* that drives Cosplay Daughter (and others) nuts.  There are clearly some particular challenges for women in cosplay in this area.

Full disclosure: both my teenage self, and later, Cosplay Daughter as an 8-year old (watching on dvd) loved the Lynda Carter Wonder Woman program.

Wonder Woman TV show

It was fun, and fantastical and certainly never, never accurate- historically -or in any other way. And I doubt either one of us noticed her boots.

So with those warm, early-childhood memories. Cosplay daughter and I were excited to hear about a reboot of Wonder Woman as a television program:  a new Wonder Woman for the twenty-first century.  You may have never heard of this show, and that’s because it never got off the ground, in part because of the outfit:

adrianne-palicki-wonder-woman-tv-show

There was a LOT of public criticism of this supersuit- from the rubber pants, to the provocative pose-  (there was significant repetition of the words “cheap” and “porno” in the online descriptions).

But for me, it’s the boots. Those look like at least 4 inch heels. How, exactly, does one fight the bad guys whilst standing on tiptoe stilts? (Even if one IS an Amazon).

Suspend disbelief! You say. 

It’s a comic book! You say. 

Men are represented in equally unlikely and anatomically impossible fashion! You say.

And all of that is true.  But all of this makes it much harder to cosplay.

(As an aside, Cosplay Daughter and I had a wonderful conversation in Bed, Bath and Beyond, of all places, with a friendly young sales guy who would love to cosplay Brick, from Borderlands,

Brick

but expressed tentative self-consciousness about being buff enough. Obviously, NO ONE is buff enough).

I have to say though, that at least the exaggeration in his muscles makes sense for his character-  the physique looks like it was built to kick ass. 

So we’re back to the question, which is apparently limited to female characters- What Kind of Footwear Does it Take to Kick Ass?

I cannot say, with a straight face, that Cosplay daughter is in favor of sensible footwear on femme heroes.

(Remember, I have an entire post dedicated to trying to construct the ridiculously elaborate footwear pictured at the beginning of this post).

But she certainly IS in favor of footwear that makes SENSE for fighting, questing and saving the day.

She notes that Harley Quinn sometimes wears high heels- but in that case, the heels are knives that she uses to stab people. The rest of the time, it’s sensible (evil) booties:

Harley_Quinn_Vol_1_19 Watch out, Superman! (The shoes look comfortable though…)

Katara wears warm leather boots and of course, Chell has the boots that are specifically designed for jumping and falling. Notably, Hit-Girl, in the Kick-Ass universe, wears combat boots.

So why the heels?

Sex appeal, clearly.

In my day job, I research beauty and physical attractiveness for women around the world, and I know that there is ample and compelling research that high heels on women increase their attractiveness to men. (The scholar in me wants to give about 14 footnotes here, but I’ll content myself with this one link).

And that’s fine. More power to anyone who works the (limbic) system to achieve personal or professional success. Succeeding in life or work is a type of kicking ass, certainly.

But for the superheroines, the first-person shooters and the supervillans, for the game characters, and for a young woman like cosplay daughter, who is seeking to achieve her goals and demonstrate artistic, intellectual and skill-based power and effectiveness, I come down in favor of the logical footwear.

What kind of footwear does it take to kick-ass?

The kind that shows your skill and highlights your strengths.

Whatever those are.

*(Many thanks to dear writing friend Katie who asked the question that provoked this essay)