The Girl of Steel is a successful character on television and has waxed and waned in popularity in the comics since her introduction in 1959. As a distaff version of Superman, she borrows her look from the basic Superman motif: blue costume, red cape, red boots, yellow belt, “S” shield front and center. But within that template, Kara Zor-El has been presented in a variety of ways to establish her as a distinct character in her own right, on the printed page and on the large and small screen.
Her original outfit seems rather prim today, but is very much a product of its time as something appropriate for a “chaste teenage girl.” Other versions of the Supergirl look from the 1970s go for the mod style of the day, which of course means many of them were terrible then and now look look terribly dated too. The ’80s post-Crisis look, with some variations, lasted for a good long while. Alternate versions of the character wore costumes that dispensed with the red-and-blue color scheme entirely, but still boldly showed that Supergirl, by any name, is a force to be reckoned with. Here are 16 of Supergirl’s best — and worst — costumes over the years.
16. THE CW SUPERGIRL
On TV, Supergirl’s costume was cooked up by know-it-all-jack-of-all-trades IT guy Win Schott. Off-screen, it is the creation of costume designer Colleen Atwood, who also works for Arrow and The Flash and won Oscars for Chicago, Memoirs of a Geisha and Alice in Wonderland (2010). “In designing Supergirl, I wanted to embrace the past, but more importantly, thrust her into the street-style action hero of today,” Atwood said in a Warner Bros. Entertainment press release.
The costume has a blue long-sleeved tunic and a miniskirt with a gold belt that comes to a point at the center. For TV, the costume has more muted colors than most versions in the comics. The “S” shield is a dark red outlined with yellow piping. The dark blue of the tunic shows through the shield’s negative space and the fronts of the red boots are rounded and extend above the knees.
15. POWER GIRL
Power Girl is the Earth-Two version of Superman’s cousin, but differs from him and from the Earth-One Supergirl in many ways. The most obvious difference is in her costume and physique. Instead of an outfit that is modeled on Superman’s, Power Girl instead wears a white long-sleeved leotard and bare legs. Her hands are covered in blue gauntlets, matching her blue buccaneer boots. She wears a red belt slung low on the hips and her red cape is held in place with a gold rope anchored by large knobs. She also has shorter hair, cut into a bob.
For better or worse, artists have made Power Girl’s most prominent feature her bosom, accentuated by a window that shows her cleavage. Famously, artist Wally Wood, who drew the character in her initial appearances in All Star Comics, tried to get away with drawing her breasts larger and larger until someone called him on it.
14. HOT PANTS SUPERGIRL
Adventure Comics #410 (November 1972) gave us Supergirl in mod clothing. Designed by fan John Sposato, this costume features a blue blouse with bishop sleeves. The blouse also has a plunging neckline, so the “S” shield is small, and placed on the left breast. She wore a yellow belt and bright red hot pants gathered at the hem. On her feet, Supergirl wore red pixie boots with pom poms and with laces that crisscrossed up her legs to mid-calf, although the laces went away by the next issue.
She also wore a red choker around her neck and a red cape with a full-sized “S” shield in solid yellow on the back. Supergirl kept this look into 1982. By then, the footwear changed to solid red boots that went up over the calf, with a notch in the center, just like Superman’s.
13. FUTURE SUPERGIRL
The time-traveling Supergirl from the future, Cir-El, had a short-lived presence in comics. She debuted in 2003’s Superman: The Ten-Cent Adventure #1. Initially, she was believed to be Superman and Lois Lane’s daughter from the future. Later, Cir-El was revealed to be a human named Mia who was genetically modified with Kryptonian DNA by Brainiac.
Cir-El’s costume was a departure from the Superman-derived look. She wore a black short-sleeved leotard with high, French-cut openings for the legs, black gloves that extend up the forearm, black knee-high boots and a light blue cape that extends to the knees. Instead of the traditional “S” shield, there was a large stylized red letter “S” covering the torso. Cir-El also had short black hair instead of long blonde tresses.
12. SMALLVILLE SUPERGIRL
TV’s Smallville (2001-2011) on the WB network introduced its version of Supergirl in the Season 3 episode “Covenant.” Played by Laura Vandervoort, her first superhero guise was much like ones Supergirl wears in the comics — a light blue tunic with a deep scoop neck that shows off her midriff, a red pleated mini skirt with a waistband that dips to a point below the navel, burgundy red mid-calf-high boots with yellow trim around the tops.
This outfit lacked two features common to most of Supergirl’s costumes: a cape, and the “S” shield. Vandervoort later appeared in bright colors — a yellow long-sleeved blouse, red jeans and a blue leather jacket. In another appearance, she wore a pale blue tube top, dark jean shorts with a red belt, the red boots and a light short-sleeved jacket.
11. DC SUPER HERO GIRLS SUPERGIRL
With DC Super Hero Girls, there’s a version of Supergirl made to appeal specifically to youngsters. This version of Kara, in the animated YouTube series and spinoff books and products, is a somewhat inept but eager and well-meaning teenager.
Here, Kara has flowing blonde hair worn with a light blue headband. She wears a light blue polo shirt with the standard “S” shield on the front, a white collar and dark blue short sleeves. Around her neck is a crystal pendant. On her left wrist is a light blue bracelet with a lightning bolt; on the right is a dark blue bracelet. She wears a solid red cape and a red cheerleader skirt with a yellow belt and a yellow stripe around the hem. On her feet, she wears white sweat socks and red and red high-top sneakers.
10. DC REBIRTH SUPERGIRL
At first blush, the DC Rebirth Supergirl’s outfit looks like the design of its predecessors. But it follows the mode of most post-New 52 costumes in that it isn’t form-fitting fabric but modified body armor, with seams between the sections. The bright blue tunic has extra-long sleeves with bell cuffs extending over the backs of the hands. The yellow belt goes to a point at the center, and the red skirt falls mid-thigh. The cape is long enough to fall mid-calf.
The “S” shield, which rests just under the collar, is far more stylized than most versions. It is duplicated in yellow on the back of the cape, with the red showing through the negative space. Meanwhile, the boots come up to mid-thigh, and come to a point.
9. MOVIE SUPERGIRL
Helen Slater embodied the Girl of Steel as the title character in 1984’s Supergirl, the spinoff from the Christopher Reeve Superman franchise. Although the movie was a box office disappointment and took a drubbing from critics, Slater got fairly positive notices for her casting and performance as the earnest Kara Zor-El.
The costume she wore was a close representation of the one in the comics, with a blue long-sleeved tunic, a red pleated cheerleader miniskirt with a hem that came to a downward point in the front, a yellow belt that also came to a downward point in the front, and a rounded red cape that falls to the back of the knees. The red boots come up to a rounded point at the knees and have yellow piping at the top.
8. HEADBAND SUPERGIRL
Before the Supergirl movie, she sported this look in the comics. It looks almost like the movie costume, but the “S” shield on the front of the blue long-sleeved tunic has red panels that extend upward from the sides and over the shoulders, coming to a downward point. The red cape also has a yellow “S” shield on the back. The hem of the pleated red miniskirt goes to a downward point in the front and in the back.
But the biggest variation is the red headband tying Supergirl’s long, curly shoulder-length hair. It was added to the costume in Supergirl #17 (March 1984), and she wore it right up to the moment of her demise in Crisis on Infinite Earths #7 (October 1985). The headband was supposed to be part of the look in the movie, but was dropped. Slater did wear it, however, in some test footage.
7. ANGEL WINGS SUPERGIRL
After Supergirl was killed in the Crisis on Infinite Earths, a version of her was introduced in the new reality, although this Supergirl went through numerous changes to her person, personality and history, thanks to DC’s insistence at the time that Superman was and should be the last survivor of Krypton. The 1996 Supergirl series focused on Matrix, a shape-shifter from a pocket universe whose headache-inducing backstory is far too involved to go into here.
To keep a long story short, Matrix encountered a dying girl named Linda Danvers and merged their forms and DNA together. This Supergirl was an “earth-born angel,” with different powers including levitation. Her costume was similar to the movie Supergirl’s outfit, except the boots were solid red with a notch at the top like Superman’s. But in flight, she sported giant wings of flame.
The super-powered female who appeared in Superman (Volume 1) #123 (August 1958) tested the waters for the ongoing presence of a Girl of Steel. In this story, Super-Girl was conjured up by Jimmy Olsen, who made a wish on a magic Native American totem pole to be a companion for Superman. Her costume set the pattern for several versions that followed: a blue long-sleeved tunic with the “S” shield prominently on the front, a red miniskirt, red high-heeled boots and a red cape.
Unfortunately, this Super-Girl sacrificed her life to save Superman, by exposing herself to green kryptonite. After Superman’s cousin Supergirl was established as a character, this story has shown up in reprints recolored so Super-Girl has red hair, and the costume is green and orange.
5. SILVER AGE SUPERGIRL
Following the Super-Girl story, Kara showed up in full flower in Action Comics #252 (May 1959), in the story “The Supergirl from Krypton!” She came to Earth in a rocket and quickly explained to Superman that she was from Argo City, which blasted away from Krypton intact. The denizens made a dome to cover the planetoid, and drifted through space, but the rock eventually converted to kryptonite, poisoning everyone aboard. Kara’s father Zor-El sent her to Earth.
Kara’s wore her hair in a short bob. Her costume was a long-sleeved minidress with a ruffled hem, although the ruffled hem eventually went away. She also wore a yellow belt, red boots with a notch at the top and a red cape with a yellow “S” shield on the back, all just like Superman’s.
4. MIDRIFF SUPERGIRL
Issue #8 (May 2004) of the Superman/Batman series from the mid-2000s introduced a new version of Supergirl who was younger — about 16 — and less encumbered by continuity. She sported a blue midriff-baring crop top with sleeves so long they extend over her hands almost to the knuckles. She wore a blue pleated cheerleader miniskirt with a thin yellow belt, and red boots with a notch at the top.
There was yellow trim around the shirt cuffs, lower hem and collar, and at the top of the boots. This theme continued in the yellow trim around the edges of her red cape. This Supergirl had long, rather unkempt hair, and soon graduated to her own series (Volume 5) in October 2005. Details like the yellow trim appeared and disappeared over the next several years.
3. NEW 52 SUPERGIRL
The New 52 revamped DC’s superhero lineup. Supergirl (Volume 6) #1 (November 2011) revealed the revised version of the character, and the changes in Supergirl’s look were severe. This version had a long-sleeved leotard that was armor-like with visible seams and had bare legs.
The costume had a red panel at the pelvis surrounded by gold trim and a small pentagon in the outline of the “S” shield about where a belt buckle would go. The red cape has gold trim around the outside hem, and is attached at the neck with a Mandarin collar. But the oddest, ugliest change is the boots — red thigh-high boots with the admittedly odd inclusion of a diamond-shaped hole in each knee and a notch at the front below the kneecap.
2. ANIMATED SERIES SUPERGIRL
Superman: The Animated Series (1996-2000) gave us a Supergirl in a truly awful costume designed by Bruce Timm. It consisted of a white crop-top T-shirt with a black band around the bottom of the short sleeves and the bottom hem, a blue miniskirt, bare legs and high, lace-up stormtrooper boots. She also wears white parade gloves cuffed at the wrists and a black headband.
This outfit debuted in the two-part episode “Little Girl Lost,” which gave the origin of animated series Kara. She wasn’t from Krypton, but its “sister world” Argos, placed into suspended animation and sent to safety when her home planet died. She was found by Superman and brought to Earth. The costume carried over to comics, used in the 1996-2003 Supergirl series (Volume 4) written by Peter David, first appearing in issue #52 (January 2001).
1. 1970s READER DESIGNS
In the 1970s, the Supergirl feature followed the convention of romance comics, in giving readers the opportunity to create new looks for the character. The cover of Adventure Comics #397 (September 1970) shows Supergirl considering multiple submissions from fans.
The one on the left appears on the cover of Adventure Comics #409 (August 1971), and is credited to Margret Berg. The one center right, with Supergirl in a blue tunic with a red band at the hem, thigh-high boots, red opera gloves and a mod belt, showed up several times. The blue jumpsuit with the “S” shield as a belt emblem was on the cover of Adventure Comics #412 (November 1971). Some designs lasted, like the one with Supergirl in hot pants and blouse with the plunging cleavage. Some appeared for only a few issues; some only once. Many of them were quite horrid.
Which Supergirl look was your favorite? Let us know in the comments!
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