Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Superboots? An Analysis

The CBS show Supergirl starring Melissa Benoist debuted to very respectable ratings on October 26th, but thanks to advance publicity, fans knew months before what Supergirl's costume would look like.  I imagine that boot enthusiasts' reactions to Benoist's over-the-knee, low heeled red boots were decidedly mixed, but we have to look backward through the history of Supergirl's costume to get a sense of what might have been expected and why Supergirls boots don't necessarily disappoint.

We can start with Helen Slater's boots in the 1984 Supergirl film.

The more or less flat boots may have come as a disappointment to fans of the '70s Wonder Woman series in which Lynda Carter always sported iconic high heeled red boots (except in stunt sequences).  However, the low heels and pointed yellow borders at the top of the boots are taken directly from the contemporaneous '80s comic book representations of the character.

In fact, in the comics, Supergirl's boots were almost always flat, appearing almost as red knee-high socks, going back to her origins in the 1950s.

Some of the '70s variations on her costume didn't even include boots, which led Mego to ship the Supergirl entry in their classic action figure line with red slippers.

Hopefully this history illustrates why boot fans may have had some level of trepidation regarding the costume design for Benoist's Supergirl.  We could have gotten any of these variations supported by comic book art.  And hopefully it's clear why Benoist's costume may gain some level of approval to aficionados of sexier boots.

Most notably, the boots have the over-the-knee component, which always lends itself to increased sex appeal.  Though I personally have a mild preference for the look of sleek knee-high boots, the fetishized aspect of thigh-high boots usually flaunts the adventurous sexuality of the wearer.  Also note the narrow almond shaped toes which are more fashionable and stylish than utilitarian.

Secondly, Supergirl's boots clearly have a glossy soft leather or vinyl finish.  Less neutral than fabric or suede boots like those worn by Lynda Carter in Wonder Woman, glossy boots are eye-catching.

Finally, the boots do have some heel.  They are not completely flat or sock-like as they appear in the comics.  For someone who doesn't eschew non-stiletto heels, this could be an appealing look.

My preferences for knee-high boots and slightly higher heels notwithstanding, I do find that the boots  have an appealing, even sexy, silhouette.  I haven't found the storytelling aspects of the show to be dramatically interesting, but the costume designers take on Supergirl will probably keep me watching for the time being.

Monday, November 9, 2015

When Boots Trump Dowdy

In season two, episode two of the FX show Fargo, we see a lot of Kirsten Dunst's character wearing a wonderfully vintage pair of brown leather boots.  While finding the image below, I read that Dunst needed to gain weight for the role.  Her character is a working class, married woman who works in a beauty salon and these facts together makes me think that the casting director wanted her to look a bit frumpy.

But to a boot fan of any degree, the boots just accentuate Dunst's innate beauty, even as wardrobe tries to disguise it behind big '70s glasses and a bulky coat.

This is just the latest example of the resistance provided by fashionable boots to attempts at "frumpification" of an otherwise attractive actress.  We can look all the way back to 1976 and the character of Adrian in the feature film Rocky. Adrian's initial intentionally dowdy image (reinforced by her unisex name), is almost entirely spoiled by the choice of fashionable brown dress boots.

Was this a conscious choice on the part of the filmmakers? When we see Adrian's tall, glossy boots, we immediately re-evaluate her appeal and look more closely at the classical features of actress Talia Shire.  We get a glimpse of the transformation of the character as illustrated by her wardrobe changes throughout the film.  We see the potential that Rocky sees.

Whether conscious or not, the choice of putting an intentionally Dowdy character in boots necessarily adds an additional layer to the character.  The boots soften the image and add a spark (and sometimes more than a spark) of sex appeal.