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Dressing Down: The 15 Worst Female Costumes In Superhero Cartoons

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Dressing Down: The 15 Worst Female Costumes In Superhero Cartoons

Comic books have a very, very long history of silly costumes that fans can look back on with teasing and regret. Fashions change at the drop of a hat, so the relatively outrageous outfits worn by superheroes and supervillains alike are the most extreme examples. However, there are some examples that can’t even be excused by the decade. Animated television shows, for all of their virtues, tend to fall into the same traps as their comic book counterparts. Since they don’t have to create the costumes to be practical for a human actor, they can get pretty crazy with the costume designs for their characters. By crazy, for female characters anyway, this usually means needlessly turning everyone into weird pin-ups.

RELATED: Heroine Chic: 8 Costumes That Are Super Hot (And 7 That Are Super Not)

However, these 15 female characters from animated television represent the worst costuming design that the genre has to offer. In order to be fair, this list has no repeat offenders and will only be focusing on what the character is actually wearing. Even though character design can be just as bad from head to toe, these characteristics will not be taken into consideration. With all that in mind, it’s time for a serious dressing down.

15. EMMA FROST (WOLVERINE AND THE X-MEN)

Wolverine and the X-Men  first aired in 2009 as a direct follow-up to X-Men: Evolution  with Steve E. Gordon, Boyd Kirkland, and Greg Johnson coming back as directors and head writer, respectively. As you can see, there’s not a whole lot to complain about with the X-Men’s costumes since they favor the classic yellow and blue of their leader, Wolverine. However, there’s at least one exception… if you can find it.

Dressing up female villains as weaponized sexuality isn’t anything new but that just makes it a tired trope. Still, we get Emma Frost in the combination of a cape that’s also a strapless bra with opera gloves. Because nothing says “threatening” like a barely-restrained bosom and polyester pants. At the very least, a stiff breeze probably won’t bother her too much.

14. JUBILEE (X-MEN: ANIMATED SERIES)

Jubilee was the chosen audience surrogate for X-Men in 1992, and has suffered in the following decades from being added to several “Lamest X-Men Ever” lists here on the internet. However, it’s the bad combination of pink and yellow statement pieces that allows this costume to make this list.

There could be an unwritten rule that a regular costume should not include jean shorts, but especially not tucked into a pink turtleneck with a belt so hilariously late 1980s, it’s hard to look at. But this could be on any teenager who didn’t have a crystal ball to see how fashions would age. What really took this costume to the next level of cringe was the canary-yellow trench coat with matching rubber gloves; y’know, the kind your mother would use on the dishes.

13. SPIDER-WOMAN (SPIDER-WOMAN 1979)

The Spider-Woman cartoon from 1979 ran for 16 episodes in the same universe as the earlier 1960s Spider-Man series. But while Peter Parker got the iconic blue and red suit, Jessica Drew was saddled with the an odd assortment of aesthetics. First off, the mask looks incredibly uncomfortable. Clearly the idea was to have a similar all-over mask like Spidey’s, but in order to show she’s a woman, the lips and hair had to be emphasized. Not that the skin-tight catsuit would have done that for you or anything.

Furthermore, it’s clear that the cowl/mask and the catsuit are completely separate pieces, just for the benefit of having a deep V-neck down to Jessica’s sternum. Then there’s the logo. Jessica couldn’t be a carbon copy of Spidey, that’s fine, but why have the shape of either a men’s tie or inverted hourglass covering her stomach?

12. JEAN GREY (X-MEN: ANIMATED SERIES)

Technically speaking, X-Men ran from 1992 to 1997, but Jean Grey’s battle suit has the 1980s all over it in all the wrong ways. Let’s start with that headdress, which goes completely under her hair (uncomfortable), yet for some reason exposes her entire face and ears! It serves absolutely no purpose other than trying to distract from the massive shoulder pads made out of sheet metal.

Those would be kind of okay if they didn’t blend into a chest-plate, which is indiscernible from the peach colored catsuit that makes up the rest of the outfit. And oh yes, that includes, for some reason, footies with boot heels at the end of said catsuit. The gauntlets match the shoulder pads to add to the 1995 Judge Dredd aesthetic, but that movie was remade for a reason.

11. ROGUE (X-MEN: ANIMATED SERIES)

After this entry, X-Men will get a break from fashion criticism, but this fan favorite character can’t be ignored. Pro tip for aspiring costume makers: try not to have two clashing shades of green in one outfit. Lime green and army-surplus olive green do not complement each other. But even that could have been forgiven if the two shades weren’t on two different pieces of clothing.

Rogue is supposed to stand out from the X-Men, so she’s got to show some personality. The bright catsuit is ostentatious, but so is Wolverine’s mask and nobody complains about that. So pick the catsuit and commit and don’t try to dress down with an army jacket and a Rambo headband. Usually one layer of clothing is perfectly adequate to defend against Rogue’s powers.

10. BLACK CAT (SPIDER-MAN 1994)

black cat

Black Cat’s outfit in 1994’s Spider-Man might seem toned down in comparison to others on this list, but this outfit manages to be equal parts boring and ridiculous. Given that Marvel was probably trying to avoid drawing a Catwoman look-alike, she couldn’t adopt overt costume details like cat ears and tail. That doesn’t mean it was a good idea to make the only distinctive part of her outfit furred boots and gloves, complete with claws.

Other than that, the entire outfit is a generic black catsuit with a mask that’s vaguely reminiscent of a Mexican wrestler; then again, come to think of it, that would have been a way cooler source of inspiration. Nevertheless, luckily for us all, Black Cat had personality to cover what she lacked in the costume department.

9. SCARLET WITCH (AVENGERS: UNITED THEY STAND)

It’s time to come out and say it — Wanda Maximoff’s headdress/tiara situation has always been a terrible idea. Unfortunately, it’s only the tip of the iceberg for this series of fashion mistakes. The cape and boots would be fine complements to any other costume, but the torso is where things start to go wrong.

Avengers: United They Stand aired at the dawn of the new millennium, so there’s no excuse for why the bodysuit is shaped like a Jazzercise uniform from 15 years earlier. There’s even two shades of purple to make Wanda look like she’s wearing a bikini and Spanx at the same time. Adding three gold hip bracelets did not improve that situation. This costume looks more like Wanda was supposed to sporting a bikini all the time, but the creators backtracked at the last second.

8. SHE-HULK (AGENTS OF S.M.A.S.H.)

Prepare yourselves: the curse of superhero hot pants is upon us. The first example is here with She-Hulk in Hulk and the Agents of S.M.A.S.H., and before anything else is said, it’s got to be a nightmare to design something for someone who can turn green and giant in a moment. But if the Hulk can get away with ripped purple pants, this two-toned polyester situation shouldn’t be happening.

Nevertheless, it’s the accessories that makes this outfit stand out. First, the gauntlets are too small to look like they’d deflect anything so they look more like sweatbands. Second, making her boots end right about the knee makes it look like She-Hulk is an enthusiastic soccer player rather than a threat to evil all around the world.

7. STARGIRL (JUSTICE LEAGUE UNLIMITED)

Unfortunately the awesomeness that is Stargirl’s staff can’t undo the star-spangled uniform that has become so iconic to the character. First of all, the white accents (stars and stripes, respectively) makes a stark difference between the black hot pants and blue top. As a result, both colors clash against and cheapen each other. Furthermore, the black is off-brand for Stargirl, and that’s everything for superheroes.

Like the hot pants, the cowl that stops under her long hair is another example of how femininity is used poorly. If you want a mask use a mask, and a cowl should cover the top of the head. Going halfway in between is the mullet of superhero masks. Plus, it’s not like the red gloves and red prize-winner belt are helping her in any way. If it’s not utility, belts should be avoided in such costumes.

6. BIG BARDA (BATMAN BEYOND)

This outfit is would be pretty scandalous to wear around even more liberal folks, but the main issue is that practicality has been set by the wayside. Nonetheless, it should be noted that Big Barda has a pretty sweet set of armor in Batman Beyond, so this entry will be concerning the red leotard contraption pictured above since she wears it the most in her appearance.

Given that Big Barda is one of the strongest beings in the universe and her durability makes protective clothing somewhat unnecessary, it’s the ill-advised sex appeal in a cartoon for kids that gets Big Barda on this list. Cutting holes in the torso piece of her uniform won’t make her seem more empowering to the people watching at home. Plus, for someone with such a rich history of at very least eye-catching duds, this was just a… well, a dud.

5. SUPERGIRL (JUSTICE LEAGUE UNLIMITED)

Supergirl in "Justice League Unlimited"

Supergirl has had a lot of questionable costumes over the years, but the Justice League Unlimited version gets a spot on this list because its main objective seems to be cuteness. She’s pretty young in this incarnation, so it’s understandable that Supergirl’s costume is more comparable to street clothes than anything else. Costumes like that have worked in the past, after all; just look at Smallville!

However, it’s adding more classic costume details that cheapens the look. The boots, skirt, and top are just like anything else a young woman would wear. The cape’s length is troubling, since it’s far too short to seem imposing or elegant, looking instead like someone dressing up in too-small clothes. Adding white gloves makes her look more like a Disney cartoon character than a legitimate hero. Luckily, she rules in this incarnation, so we can (somewhat) overlook her clothes.

4. TIGRA (AVENGERS: UNITED THEY STAND)

The artists working on Avengers: United They Stand clearly had a tough job on their hands. Tigra is a character whose design matters so much more than her costume. Anything you put her in can’t distract from her feline traits, so what do you do? Apparently, a black bikini is in order. Seriously, that’s it. A black bikini with a red insignia on the hip is her entire costume. We get that she’s supposed to be savage, but give the girl a little flare!

This is another example of how a minimalist approach can sometimes backfire if  it’s taken too literally. Frankly, this look is way too boring. Beast from X-Men has a similar look if in a different hue, and he has no problem wearing clothes. The difference here is that she’s a woman, and that means she has to be some kind of sexy all the time.

3. CATWOMAN (THE BATMAN)

The Batman always had a distinctive art style, but here it was pushed a little far. Catwoman has almost always had some kind of black suit with added features like ears and claws, making her at least look super, despite not usually having powers. Although here, each of those feline features is exaggerated to the point of absurdity.

The cat ears are supposed to be subtle because she’s a thief. Catwoman is supposed to get away unnoticed, but those ears are easily the same size as her head, making them look more like bat ears than anything else. Also, the goggles have got to go. Catwoman has often had some kind of protective eyewear, but nobody’s quite gotten it right. It was certainly just plain wrong here, where the bulbous orange glass sticks out like a sore thumb.

2. MAGPIE (BEWARE THE BATMAN)

Magpie has the distinction for being the only character on this list who is 3D computer generated, but that’s not why she gets her own spot. Her name is inspired by birds so she has feathers, we get it. Cliche, but fine.  So why-oh-why did someone decide that she should be in so much shiny pleather? As if that material wasn’t cheap looking enough, Magpie is stuffed into a tiny corset and bikini bottoms that’s only barely allowed to appear legally in public.

Even her gloves aren’t quite right. They’re not actually even gloves, just unattached sleeves that hover on her arms. Magpie’s nail hands look threatening enough on their own, so there’s no need to weaponize her sexuality in such cliche way. This kind of “statement” is just so tiring.

1. BLACK ORCHID (BRAVE AND THE BOLD)

Batman: The Brave and The Bold definitely leaned into the campier parts of the Batman canon, and Black Orchid was no exception. Unfortunately, her limited appearance showed there were downsides to pushing a show’s tone down that road. For such a mysterious figure, she’s hard to miss in that garishly fuchsia bodysuit with a cape that is supposed to mimic a flower’s petals. Here, it just looks too campy and ridiculous, and we’re talking about capes for goodness sake.

Finally an entry has an actual cowl, which is an improvement that immediately detracted in a whole new way, because the entire outfit seems to be ribbed in order for the wearer to look more like a peeled onion than an actual orchid. Even the brooch that allows pieces of fabric to stretch upwards from her collarbone makes her look less like a flower and more like an exotic insect.

What are your least-favorite female costumes from superhero cartoons? Let us know in the comments!

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