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The house of Van Dyne: Defining Marvel’s superhero fashion designer

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Marvel Comics superhero and founding member of The Avengers Janet Van Dyne, the Wasp, has been portrayed as an in-canon fashion designer not just of superhero costumes but also of civilian clothing. Through her continuous usage as a narrative device that functions as an authority on style and taste, the proliferous designs depicted as created by Van Dyne over her almost sixty-year history have expanded to be worn by so many heroes across the Marvel Universe that they subconsciously define our overall conceptions of superhero fashion. This article evaluates Van Dyne’s fictional fashion designs from the perspective of real-world fashion criticism in order to define Van Dyne’s design aesthetic. Through comparisons with key designers and movements within the fashion industry, this article asserts that the history of luxury fashion is the best model for placing Van Dyne designs into context and that the long-standing visual representations of Van Dyne fashions offer a unique case study to explore the narrative implications of luxury fashion within comics. This focus on fashion designs rather than iconographic superhero costumes creates new opportunities to emphasize discussions of the integrality of clothing to conceptions of superhero characterization and identity.

Keywords: DuPont fabrics; Janet Van Dyne; Marvel; The Avengers; fashion house; superhero costume; superhero fashion; the Wasp

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Independent Scholar

Publication date: October 1, 2020

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  • Film, Fashion & Consumption is a peer-reviewed journal designed to provide an arena for the discussion of research, methods and practice within and between the fields of film, fashion, design, history, art history and heritage. The journal seeks to stimulate ongoing research on these topics and to attract contributions not only from scholars researching in these areas but also from practitioners, who are traditionally excluded from academic debate. The journal thus aims to unite and enlarge a community of researchers and practitioners in film, fashion, consumption and related fields, whilst also introducing a wider audience to new work, particularly to interdisciplinary research which looks at the intersections between film, fashion and consumption.
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