Costume designer Stephanie Maslansky talks how Marvel’s The Defenders turn civilian clothes into their superhero costumes. The eight-episode mini-event is Netflix’s Avengers-like gathering of its street-level heroes, and by now many are likely well into their binge-watch. This will be the first time Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and Iron Fist have gathered together to combat a common foe, and for some of them, it will be the first time they have met. That opens the door for certain comparisons to be made among the heroes, and one of them, eventually will have to do with their costumes – or in the case of everyone but Matt Murdock, the lack thereof.
Sure, in early going Matt is mostly fighting the urge to run around at night and punch criminals until they fall down, but it’s a good bet that when the time comes for the heroes to form a united front, he’ll don his familiar garb. But a red suit of armor is a far cry from a hoodie, a leather jacket, and a relaxed business professional look that screams, “I inherited a multi-national corporation and have no idea what I’m doing.” In other words, with the exception of one person, The Defenders don’t dress like your traditional superhero. As far as Maslansky is concerned, though, the civilian attire preferred by Luke Cage, Jessica Jones, and for the time being, anyway, Danny Rand, is specific enough that it becomes their costumes.
With her costume work appearing on all the Marvel Netflix series, Maslansky is in a unique position to understand the thinking behind Luke Cage’s hoodie and Jessica Jones’ leather jacket. And to hear her say it, the attire speaks volumes about how the characters see themselves as heroes. Maslansky says:
“One of the things that our superheroes have in common that makes them very grounded and real is that they all struggle with their abilities. And they all, to a certain degree, have chosen to hide themselves and not put themselves on display. They’re not necessarily out there getting a lot of attention and demanding a lot of attention. They’re doing their superhero work fairly quietly and they don’t want the kind of attention that normally people with abilities might achieve.
The choice of a hoodie, for example, is something that Luke Cage wore so that he could hide; he didn’t really want to be recognized on the street. And remember when the show first started he was a felon who’d escaped from jail so he definitely didn’t want to be recognized. And Jessica Jones, she’d been through this horrible trauma with Kilgrave and she was also trying to reinvent her life. So one of the things they did was to shield them and hide themselves. The leather jacket gave Jessica Jones a sense of being hidden. She’s not a people person. Her leather jacket and her clothes protect her from having to deal with the outside world. And it is the same for Luke Cage.”
Maslansky is also aware the cultural significance of Cage’s hoodie, one that was brought to light during Luke Cage season 1.
“[Luke] wears the hoodie when he breaks into places and beats up bad guys. And also when he’s walking down the street and keeping himself from being recognized. And, of course, coincidentally, at the same time the hoodie became incredibly significant due to Trayvon Martin being killed while wearing a hoodie. And that became very iconic in the African American culture. So that was kind of a coincidence, but not one that was lost on us. We knew what we were doing. We knew that making a black man wear a hoodie, especially a bullet-ridden hoodie, was going to have a lot of resonance. It did, and it still does.”
As for what the future holds, the characters’ looks have changed a great deal in the comics, and that’s something Maslansky believes will hold true for their live-action counterparts. As far as Danny Rand donning the green and gold costume of the Iron Fist, she’s not at liberty to say.
“I really can’t tell you that. There will be… I think The Defenders will be full of surprises and it will be exciting to see how these characters evolve.”
Marvel’s The Defenders is available in its entirety on Netflix.
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