During a visit to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, I chanced upon an exhibit of exquisitely beautiful super-heroine costumes. (There are some super heroes too, but that is another story -- these MMA essays are fascinating). The designs inspired me with an envious wish for a super-heroine alter ego of seductive power and strength. Many of the most passionate devotees of these female icons agree that most of the style sense they celebrate was first inspired by the Emma Peel character played by Diana Rigg in The Avengers TV series. (I imagine Mrs. Peel wore Bandit or Jolie Madame by Balmain). A few of the most extreme designs (and the baseline is extreme to start with) were based on the classic comic book characters but most are new and extravagantly imaginative creations produced by great designers (Thierry Mugler, John Galliano, Dolce & Gabbana, Gianni Versace, Jean Paul Gaultier, and Alexander McQueen) projecting the image of magically seductive strong women with mysterious special powers. These are very evocative images for us, because of the collective media imagery we all grew up with.
What specific superpowers do Catwoman and Batgirl have? I don't know that we even think about that part so much, we are so absorbed in the image of sexiness and energy and mystery. These extravagant depictions of the female form and its power shows how men have fantasized about the women who most enthrall them. Often super heroines have an animal nature, such as cats and bats. Their grace and hyper-sensitivity to the environment give them heightened perceptions on which they can react reflexively and instinctively, with stealth and cunning. That dream of a kind of animal union with our senses remains intensely appealing. I think we instinctively know that if we paid much more focused attention to our innate talents of sensory awareness, our consciousness and sense of presence would be heightened far beyond what we experience now.
What would Catwoman's perfume be? There was an incident where she used a drugged perfume as a weapon. For me this implies a heavy perfume that induces a kind of pleasantly sensual sleepiness, which I can imagine a cat would wear if cats were interested in such things as perfume (perhaps Shalimar or Mitsouko). Ironically, or perhaps not so ironically, the alter egos of these super-heroines of comic book fame are often self-effacing, shy and vulnerable (perhaps wearing Midnight Violet by Ava Luxe).
Superheros - Fashion and Fantasy is at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and runs between May 7-September 1, 2008. They are open until 8pm Friday and Saturday evenings. You will be treated to an amazing array of every conceivable permutation on the icons of feminine/masculine, yin/yang, and lots of spectacular machined defensive armor protecting a feral inner nature. These are the roots of our modern standards for beauty, style and allure.
Photos from Wikipedia -- top: Diana Rigg as Mrs. Peel; down: Michelle Pfeiffer as Catwoman; right: Yvonne Craig as Batgirl