Superheroes are known for two things: their powers and their costumes. Like fashion in general, the styles of these costumes have changed over the decades. During the Golden Age of comics, there were very few female superheroes and the ones that were featured were fully clothed. Male superheroes, for the most part, mimicked an almost militaristic style. It wasn’t until the Silver Age, which ran from the late ’50s through 1970, that costumes became more fashionable and individualized. By the time we get to the ’90s, frequently considered the height of the comic book boom, female superheroes were often scantily clad or in skintight catsuits. Male characters still had a militaristic theme, but eventually focused more on practicality and utility.
Perhaps some of the most well-known, and certainly most artistic, illustrations of superheroes in costumes often involved the X-Men. This was especially true during the Jim Lee era, whose images were used in the first set of X-Men trading cards. While the team had a humble fashionable beginning with yellow and navy blue suits, the characters, particularly the female X-Men, would go through a variety of costume incarnations. In fact, during the ’90s, the mutant superhero team pretty much set the standard as far as costumes go, influencing the look of other teams like the Avengers and Fantastic Four. Not all of these costumes were hits, there are quite a few misses over the years, with some being downright uncharacteristically drastic. CBR takes a look at some of our favorite drastic costume changes for our merry mutants.
When we first meet Jubilee, she was depicted as the typical mallrat turned adventurer. Her costume reflected that, with its pastel and neon colors paired with her signature shades and long coat. Not only did the outfit compliment her personality but also her colorful energy blasts.
However, that all changed following her encounter with a vampire during the “Curse of the Mutants” storyline. Jubilee is stripped of her mutant powers and instead gains vampiric abilities and a taste for blood. This transformation alters her personality to become darker, reflected in her now all-black costume, except for her trademark long coat.
Paige Guthrie began as the typical overachiever in her class during the initial run of Generation X. With the ability to shed her outer layer of skin to reveal a different substance underneath, like stone or metal, Paige tried desperately to earn the respect of the X-Men and her peers, eventually becoming a full-fledged X-Man.
Now a carefree young adult who began a May-December romance with Angel, her costume consisted of a bomber jacket paired with a skirt and thigh-highs with a Medieval feel. Paige would eventually assume a counseling position at Xaver’s School and adopt a more practical uniform.
22. EMMA FROST
Known for her blunt personality and risque white costumes, Emma Frost ruled as the Hellfire Club’s White Queen for decades before tragedy put her on the side of good. She became a mentor to a group of young mutants called Generation X and then eventually joined the X-Men.
While Emma had always been direct, there was a period of time where her aggression took over more and more. This was reflected in her altered costume, which was just as risque as past incarnations, but was now in all black. She also adopted a shorter, blunt hairstyle during this time.
When Meggan first joined the British X-Men team Excalibur, she was a shy but brave individual who was still trying to figure out her place in the world. She was modest and almost child-like, even though she was the love of Captain Britain’s life. A shape-shifter, she would also later develop elemental control.
After Captain Britain is lost in the timestream, Meggan developed into a much stronger character and leader of Excalibur. Confident in her newfound elemental abilities, this change was reflected in her uniform by having a more streamlined, minimalist look, which had a lot less material to it.
When Havok first appeared as Cyclops’s long-lost brother, he eventually joined the X-Men with his lady love, Polaris. Havok’s first, and most recognizable, costume can only be described as a black adult onesie with circles on his chest. Over the years, he kept this look, along with the occasional complimentary headgear. However, that all changed in the ’90s.
After a brief absence from the X-Men, Havok resurfaced as part of a new, government-sanctioned X-Factor team. In his new leadership role, the onesie was gone, replaced with a colorful blue and yellow costume that paid homage to the classic X-Men uniforms.
With an origin backstory that varies depending on who you ask, there’s no question that Shatterstar is a fierce warrior. Essentially created to be the ultimate fighter, he was typically shown in white battle gear with a long ponytail and twin swords. Shatterstar would later change the style of his costume as his fellow teammates of X-Force changed theirs.
When Dazzler first appeared in the ’80s as a professional hero, she wore a silver disco pantsuit with roller-skates. Thankfully, her style has evolved throughout the years to become more practical for an adventurer and X-Man. She typically had long, blonde hair, although there’s been a couple of times she’s sported a shorter ‘do.
After a long absence from the X-Men, Dazzler reappeared as a member of the newly reconstituted Excalibur lead by Captain Britain. However, this Dazzler was unlike one we’ve ever seen before, with a punk aesthetic that included pink hair, baggy pants and a leather jacket.
Tabitha Smith has gone through about as many costumes as she has codenames. When she first appeared as a later member of the New Mutants, she went by Boom-Boom, a nod to her mutant ability to generate plasma “bombs.” When she became part of X-Force, she adopted a more militaristic costume.
Tabitha’s “Boomer” phase was marked with new confidence in herself along with her relationship with Cannonball and it showed. Her costume was pink and yellow with starbursts and all ’90s, clearly wanting to be seen for the fierce superheroine she had become, and also included wrist launchers.
Captain Britain, aka Brian Braddock, was a founding member and leader of Excalibur, the X-Men’s UK counterpart. Brian was also in love with his teammate Meggan, and it would be that love that would keep them connected for eternity. On a fateful return from a dystopian future, the team lost Captain Britain in the timestream, seemingly lost forever.
With the help of Amanda Sefton, Rachel was able to switch places with Brian, sacrificing herself to return him home to his love, Meggan. When Brian emerged from the time-stream, he assumed the new identity of Britannic, complete with a new costume.
The second female mutant to become a member of the X-Men, Polaris has the ability to manipulate magnetism, just like her father, Magneto. Her original costume was a combination of Storm and Jean’s at the time, complete with head gear and a capelet. She left the superhero life behind, but resurfaced later as a member of the government-sanctioned X-Factor.
After the disbanding of X-Factor, Polaris rejoined the X-Men, which also included changes in their costumes. Polaris adopted a look almost similar to the Goblin Queen’s, with a corset and jagged-edged cape. She was almost unrecognizable, except for her green hair.
We all know the story of Wolverine’s “daughter,” a young genetic clone of his who developed the same mutant healing factor and underwent the same adamantium-grafting procedure. While she initially started off as an antagonist, Laura Kinney would later become a member of Wolverine’s new black-ops X-Force team, where the two would bond.
Still, it came as a surprised that whenever Wolverine dies, Laura assumes the mantle as well as a version of his blue and yellow costume. Laura became the all-new, all-different Wolverine, taking up where Logan left off, even becoming a member of the resurrected Jean Grey’s team.
The aging of comic book characters still provides somewhat of a conundrum for writers. Kitty Pryde, the New Mutants and the kids from Generation X have all remained teenagers for decades at a time. However, when Magik ended up becoming a full-fledged member of the X-Men, it apparently was time for her to grow up.
Previously seen wearing the classic New Mutants jumpsuit, Magik now sported a revealing black leather costume that included a mid-drift top. Readers were simultaneously shocked and impressed with this turn of events, which also came with a hefty new Soulsword.
The original field leader of the X-Men, Cyclops would lead the team through some of their most treacherous adventures. He would fall in love with his teammate Jean Grey, only to (albeit temporarily) lose her. Upon her resurrection, the two would marry in one of the most celebrated weddings in Marvel history.
Cyclops always wore the traditional blue and gold with the rest of the team’s costumes modeled after his, this was especially true when the X-Men’s costumes were revamped to be all black leather. Gone was his ruby quartz visor, replaced with a big red “X” across his face.
Kitty Pryde, aka Shadowcat, has a varied history whenever it comes to her costumes. As the original youngest member of the X-Men, Kitty always wanted her costumes to be more fashionable than practical when she was younger. It wasn’t until after Wolverine took her under his wing, training her to fight like a ninja, that she adopted a more uniform style.
During one of the many X-Men revamps, the team was re-branded as X-treme X-Men, complete with new bright and shiny skintight outfits. Kitty’s was the most dramatic, as she sported black leather pants, crop top and jacket.
Rogue’s costumes changed about as much as her skill-set over the years. When Jim Lee took over as illustrator of the X-Men in the early ’90s, this included costume updates for everyone. Rogue’s bodysuit paired with a bomber jacket was an instant hit for our favorite Southern Bell.
Another unfortunate casualty of the X-treme era, Rogue adopted another bodysuit look, this time being red and blue. Her hair was also cut in an unflattering, shorter style than her usual long locks. And don’t even get us started on the goggles.
9. DANIELLE MOONSTAR
One of the main members of the original New Mutants team, Danielle Moonstar has gone through a variety of identities throughout the years. She’s been a mutant, a valkyrie, a team leader, a depowered mutant and a villain.
After a long absence, Moonstar reappeared later in the original run of X-Force as a Mutant Liberation Front member, wearing a new masked costume. She would fight against her friends for a few issues before everyone found out that the real story was she was asked by S.H.I.E.L.D. to infiltrate the organization to help bring them down.
8. YOUNG JEAN GREY
We were all surprised when a time-displaced team of the original X-Men appeared in the main timeline. It took a while for everyone to figure out exactly why the team was here and how exactly they would fit in, if at all, to the current X-Men’s mission.
The young Jean Grey showed a real interest in becoming an official X-Man and doing things better than her older self. After starting off with the original blue and gold uniforms, the younger X-Men would eventually adopt more individualized costumes. Young Jean Grey modeled one after older Jean’s former green mini-dress uniform.
The former Avenger turned X-Man has a rather checked history in the Marvel Universe. His origin was retconned as him being one of the first modern-age mutants to be born, rather than being just the Prince of Atlantis. His strength and speed were matched only by his arrogance.
Namor recently resurfaced as a member of Jean Grey’s Red team, even offering for them to use Atlantis for a safe base of operations. Traditionally known for wearing not much more than a thong, Namor surprised readers by actually wearing a red and black wet suit with the “X” insignia on it.
6. RACHEL GREY
Originally going by the last name of Summers, Rachel is the powerful daughter of future versions of Cyclops and Jean Grey. She became a member of the X-Men, before following Kitty Pryde and Nightcrawler to England to become founding members of Excalibur.
Rachel would eventually give up the Phoenix Force and rejoin her friends as members of the X-Men. She changed her last name to Grey in honor of her mother, and changed her codename to Prestige. Rachel’s latest costume is somewhat worrisome due to its similarities to her hound costume she wore while imprisoned by Ahab.
The X-Man who is the best at what he does, Wolverine sported a mostly brown uniform for the majority of his early years, complete with a pointed mask and slots for his claws. It wasn’t until Jim Lee took over as X-Men illustrator that all of that would give way to one of the most iconic costumes in X-Men history.
Debuting a new blue and gold costume with strike-marks on the sides as well as pointed boots to match his mask, Wolverine donned an outfit that would appear in a variety of media outlets that featured the character.
4. JEAN GREY
Between being killed and resurrected and then killed again then being cloned then being resurrected again, Jean is like the Meredith Grey of the X-Men. One a host to the celestial entity known as the Phoenix Force, Jean struggled for years dealing with identity issues. However, she would eventually grow into a stronger, more confident hero in her own right.
One of the founding members of the X-Men, Angel was named after the feathered wings he used to fly. Not that exciting, is it? Perhaps that’s why writers eventually changed the rich playboy into one of the most troubled characters in the X-Men’s history. Following a run-in with Mr. Sinister’s Marauders, Angel lost the use of his wings after being crucified in the Morlock’s tunnels.
The battered and defeated Angel was taken by Apocalypse and changed into his Angel of Death, Archangel. Now with blue skin and razor-tipped metal wings, Archangel become a serious threat on the side of good.
The first African-American X-Man, Storm has been a stalwart member since first appearing in the ’70s. Storm’s costumes were usually very regal, since she was worshiped as a god in Africa, complete with head gear and a cape of some kind to help her fly.
That all changed when Forge accidentally robbed Storm of her powers (albeit temporarily). After briefly considering leaving the X-Men, she turned a negative into a positive and fought Cyclops to become leader of the team. This new confidence shown as Storm shaved her long, lustrous white locks into a mohawk and adopting a punk aesthetic.
One of the most controversial X-Men ever, Psylocke is a British telepath who joins the X-Men. She would switch bodies with an Asian member of the Hand following her journey through the Siege Perilous. Psylocke adapted and became one of the fiercest fighters on the team.
She remained an Asian ninja for almost 30 years, before recently reverting back to her old body following a run-in with Sapphire Styx. A team of X-Men were sent to Madripoor looking for the newly resurrected Wolverine, where Psylocke was killed in her Asian body, only to be reborn in her Caucasian one.
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