Comics/Graphic Novels

Fashion Disasters: Wonder Girl

Jessica Plummer

Contributing Editor

Jessica Plummer has lived her whole life in New York City, but she prefers to think of it as Metropolis. Her day job is in books, her side hustle is in books, and she writes books on the side (including a short story in Sword Stone Table from Vintage). She loves running, knitting, and thinking about superheroes, and knows an unnecessary amount of things about Donald Duck. Follow her on Twitter at @jess_plummer.

Some comic book characters who have been around for decades have iconic costumes that have stood the test of time. Some have progressed through a series of stylish ensembles to reflect their ever-changing time periods.

And some, apparently, get dressed in the dark.

Here on Fashion Disasters, we’ll showcase those poor slobs who just can’t seem to get it right. Today: Cassandra Sandsmark, Wonder Girl!

Cassie first appeared in Wonder Woman v2 #105 (January 1996), the teenage daughter of an archaeologist who was friends with Wonder Woman. When Diana ended up in peril, Cassie “borrowed” some magical artifacts that gave her superpowers so she could fight beside her hero. She ended up so impressing Zeus with her moxie that he granted her real powers. (Later it turned out that Zeus was her biological father. Then he was retconned to being her grandfather. As of this writing, it is unclear which of her origins is the canonical one.)

Here’s the thing about Cassie: she dresses consistently poorly, and I adore her for it.

Cassie’s fashion woes are very clearly those of a teenage girl who is trying really really hard to be cool and has no idea how to go about it. There is something inherently relatable and endearing in her sartorial floundering, and so please take all the teasing I’m about to subject her to as coming from a place of love.

But also, like…yikes.

I mean, honestly, how completely adorable is this? Her bike shorts! Her million layers! Her punky little haircut! She has no idea how to use those winged sandals! It’s not in any way a good costume, but it’s absolutely what some dorky little Greek mythology nerd would have worn in 1996. Bless.

(Fun fact: as I was researching Cassie’s past costumes, I learned that apparently DC staff at the time she debuted referred to this precious, awkward child as “Cassie, the Horse-Faced Wonder Girl.” Ha! Ha! Comics are a nightmare!)

Once Cassie decided to fight crime regularly, she realized she needed something to hide her secret identity, so she chose…this:

Oh kid. My favorite thing about this is how visibly ratty that wig is. Usually comic book wigs are implausibly perfect plot bouffants that even a fight with a supervillain can’t dislodge, but this thing clearly cost her $9.99 at Party City the day after Halloween, and Athena bless her for it.

She eventually gave up on the wig and went in a more S Club 7 direction:

The dialogue really makes this panel, because she’s talking about her previous costume and oh, sweetie pie, this is not better. Well, maybe a little. But not much. And yet she’s still so cute!

As Cassie got more confident, her look became more polished. This is my favorite of her costumes, and only partially because it’s what she was wearing when I first started reading comics. But the shirt and the hair are fab!

However, it does highlight what I’ve always had an issue with vis-a-vis Cassie’s superheroic wardrobe, and I’d like to thank Loki and The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl v2 #43 for a reaction image that I suspect I will be using many, many times in the future:

There are heroes who rock the hell out of civvies, but they’re usually antiheroes or street level types. Ex: Misty Knight’s costumes are largely atrocious but her streetwear game is flawless, John Constantine should never wear anything but a cheap suit he has clearly slept in, etc.

But Cassie is part of Wonder Woman’s franchise. She’s an offshoot of DC’s Trinity. She should be wearing something polished and superheroic looking, not…jeans and leisure wear, even thematically appropriate ones. (Her sometimes-boyfriend Conner Kent similarly does not get a pass for his eight years of sporting jeans and a Superboy T-shirt, by the way.) It was fine and even endearing for her to cobble something together out of whatever she found in her closet back when she was starting out, but by this point she should have a real costume, not assorted items from the Wonder Woman section of the Hall of Justice gift shop.

Things changed when she graduated from Young Justice to the Teen Titans, but in a deeper sense, they didn’t really:

Okay, first off from here until like a year ago Cassie is waaay more sexualized, which, she’s still only 16, gross, send the entire comics industry to jail. I don’t totally hate this—I love the headband and even though I just complained about sexualizing teens, I also buy that the crop top is a choice that an invulnerable teen girl would make in 2003. (It’s not the crop top, it’s the increasingly creepy art. She wore crop tops a-plenty in YJ and it didn’t matter because she was still treated like a kid. But at least she’s not horse-faced anymore, amirite fellas? P.S. GO TO JAIL.)

But why don’t the pants match? Oh right, because they’re just random red jeans and not part of a legit costume, and Loki and I are side-eyeing them (and the careless afterthoughts that are the belt and the boots) hard.

I like this tank top! I would wear this tank top (if I could be guaranteed that it was entirely fabric with no weird metal cups)! It’s still not a superhero costume.

I don’t even know what I’m looking at here.

…Oh great Hera, I just noticed the heels.

This look was known among fans as “the Christmas sweater.” My main question is: how does she move her arms? The gold is clearly hard metal.

Again, I buy that a teen would wear a crop top. Probably not with a suit of armor, though.

As lackluster as all of these looks were, we were still in the post-Crisis era and thus like little babies who had no idea what awaited us. That is, until the New 52 launched:

Yeah. A TUBE TOP. I mean, I guess I’ve been put in my place, because there’s nothing remotely streetwear about a…sparkly tube top with attached pants worn three sizes too small, plus gold robosleeve? I mean, the minute she inhales the whole thing is going to roll down to her waist, which I guess is supposed to be part of the appeal, if you’re gross. (SHE’S STILL SIXTEEN.) Note: this cover (by Kenneth Rocafort) actually caused some controversy at the time, when former DC editor Janelle Asselin called it out and got barraged with online harassment for doing so.

Oh, also, this costume had a hood. Don’t ask me what it’s attached to.

Sometimes the costume turned into “silent armor” which was still tight enough to let you see Cassie’s belly button through whatever it was made of:

After a few years of absence from comics, Cassie recently returned in the current Young Justice series, which appears to be retconning away not only the New 52 history of its lineup, but large chunks of canon from 2003–2011. Cassie in particular looks much younger than she has in a while, and is back to “whatever vaguely goes with a Wonder Woman shirt” as an aesthetic:

YJ has been incomprehensible for over a year at this point, but I’m just so charmed to see Cassie back in a terrible costume that’s terrible because she’s a kid who has no idea what she’s doing and not because someone is getting off on it. Bless this mess.

Bonus: Here’s Cassie’s look from the Young Justice cartoon, which clearly took its inspiration from her last pre-Titans ensemble:

I would not wear this to fight crime in but I would absolutely wear it to Soul Cycle. So that’s something?

With Cassie back in regular monthly appearances, I’d love to see her don something a bit more…considered, but honestly? If she wants to keep up the thrift store look, I won’t be mad at it.

…Still gonna make fun of it, though. Sorry, Cassie. I do it out of love.

Previously in this series:

Roy Harper
Guy Gardner
Power Girl