Sequential Sartorial: Human Clothes Are Good Actually

Jean Grey, House of X, Marvel Comics, 2019

I’m sure you’ve heard:

A disagreeable notion, in my opinion. An apparently limited set of parameters—especially when Jean Grey is back wearing “green long-sleeved skater dress, with fairly loose, wide, brown belt.” But let’s not wither these tones too far, fashion babies. Instead we’ll play my favourite weekend game: spot the superheroine in the ads in Vogue! (British Vogue, September and October editions. But any issue will do~)

It’s a fun game, this game, because it expects you to be flexible with your interpretation while also very confident. Like improv hones your ability to joke or tell stories, paging through a magazine allows brief impressions to flicker up and either harden or be discarded. What registers, at its most basic, with you about whichever given character? What calls to you from within a modelled outfit that connects to your impression of “an icon”? For visual workers, it’s very good practice.

Emma Frost in Ferragamo

Salvatore Ferragamo advert in British Vogue, September 2019
An Emma Frost from Salvatore Ferragamo

Emma Frost: an icy blonde, big on monochrome. Debuted with a cloak and boots; steadily in need of thinking wider than “can I get away with drawing this?” As WWAC EiC Nola Pfau and I discussed, when I spotted this ad in the September edition:

Claire & Nola discuss Ferragamo Frost

Jubilee in ChanelChanel advert in British Vogue, October 2019

Jubilee has been pretty true to her debut steez for pretty much her entire published history, give or take a bob or two. And fair play: it’s a classic. But you don’t have to die on every hill you’ve ever lived on: maybe it’s not always time for yellow. Maybe a high-necked pink jacket, and sunnies with a familiar shape in a more refined colour scheme still hit that button. Maybe a rose on a bow has enough of the shape of the earrings she wore when she was ten to remind us how cool she was while we enjoy the idea of a girl being able to grow into a woman. Whaddaya reckon? Possible?

Harley Quinn in Zandra Rhodes

vintage Zandra Rhodes spread, British Vogue, October 2019

Harley is a fun girl, right? She likes to gad about. She’s worn a lot of things but has rarely been given the chance to try out the avant garde—in fact she’s rarely (never?) been tried in a dress. The black and red boots make this outfit less of a departure, but check out the splotches of colour (like her hair in comics and film!) and all that voluminous mischief. The tiny flowers in her hair battling with the messaging of the armour-like structure of the oversized dress. There’s a pierrot-ish sheen to the fabric—it’s not just the model’s spirit that’s enlivening this comparison. Encourage the fantabulous emancipation of one Harley Quinn’s wardrobe? Don’t mind if I do.

Laura Wolverine in Fendi

Fendi advert in British Vogue, October 2019

Alright I’ll admit this first up: I don’t really know Laura Wolverine well. I am aware of the basics; I’m aware of her costumes. This dress just kind of matches the colour schemes and the Logan Wolverine slash-detail that she seems to often carry, and there’s a sad yet stoic aloofness in the model’s face and posture that chimes for me. Kind of a cheap one, but if Laura needs to go to any fancy parties or on any romantic dates, all I can say is: take her to Fendi, my good bros. OK.

Duella Dent in Versace

Versace advert in British Vogue, October 2019

Duella Dent is the ultimate Joker, as-proven by the guy who made a fuss about a Duella cosplayer because he didn’t recognise the character that one time. Ha ha ha! Her whole thing seems to be “look really bad, like, on purpose,” which is so fashion! She’s into colours that are a whole lot together; she’s into the inclusion of a certain boudoirish element. Both of those boxes are so ticked. Big shoulder detail? Present! This model’s raffish posture gives me more of a character hit from Ms Dent than I have ever gleaned from a panel excerpt, so well done them. Last of all, every character should probably have at least one costume that isn’t entirely 100% about the waist and boobs.

Namorita “in” Bottega VenetaBottega Veneta advert in British Vogue, October 2019

This isn’t really, like, a suggestion. You get that, right? This is just an observation. This is the Namorita of a Tulay/Ellis relaunch mini. This is a Namorita who is also Lana Del Rey. This is just me saying hey, look. Naked blonde woman with something notable about her feet. That reminds me of: Namorita. I’m glad we all understand this.

Poison Ivy in Valentino

Valentino advert in British Vogue, October 2019

Poison Ivy has some pretty stringent visual standards: she’s always been a thin but voluptuous white woman with red hair and green clothes, often but not always growing actual leafy vines. I can respect a character sheet, but I can also get a little bit bored of it. What about an Ivy that’s apparently human but also clearly ethereal; an Ivy surrounded or backed by plants, always, but we’re not really sure where they come from, or if they’re attached, or if it’s just a funny coincidence. What about an ivy who wears a dress that’s not bodycon, so we don’t know what’s growing beneath, or what might be. An Ivy in red, with reddened eyes, instead of an Ivy who must have red hair. An Ivy who’s not so much looking at you as through you, who’s not swayed by human matters. Just a thought, inspired by this ad.

Youngblood’s Vogue in Louis Vuitton

Louis Vuitton ad in British Vogue, September 2019

Vogue, the Russian model/gymnast turned American government-hired superheroine, is a character who enduringly rues me. What a great character that could be. What a realistic concept “beautiful Russian teen exported to be famous” is! It could get so DEEP. Hope springs eternal. Vogue’s white and purple colour scheme, her shock of hair and heavily made up eyes, the extreme triangularity of her illustration during the years when her books were more relevant—they’re all there in the Vuitton advert above, from the September issue. The black leather accessory details… even the association-by-co-creator with the pouch the stylist put on their belt. The model even has the #attitude. A genuine high-fashion model looking genuinely congruent with Vogue-the-character’s establishing style principles… it’s a sad sad dream I have, to see this character really take off.

Bix Walton as Livewire in various, in the Bring it on Home photo story in October Vogue

Livewire rides hard on orange, which is cool for two reasons: it suits her, and it’s rare in the wider superhero landscape. Amanda McKee’s main signifier beyond her orange toned suit is her locs, which Bix Walton also has, styled here in two different headwraps. This example is a rarer pick: a named model appearing in a Vogue-created photo shoot, featuring looks styled (by Poppy Kain) from garments by various different brands (listed in the captions below the outfits), for the purpose of art, rather than the other pictures in this article—those are branded adverts created by the companies and placed in Vogue for marketing. The Livewire costume has pointed shoulders, which are pleasingly echoed by the collars in the two outfits above—they both also have a black section down the middle of her torso. The right-hand, pale shirttail detail on look two is a pleasant echo of the glowing module on Livewire’s sternum. both of these looks are more rakish and on the masculine side of tailoring than Livewire is usually placed—it’s fun to see a new potential take on this character, as she goes through growth and changes in her own book.

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Claire Napier

Claire Napier

Critic, ex-Editor in Chief at WWAC, independent comics editor; the rock that drops on your head. Find me at and give me lots of money

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