Diana Prince, better known as Wonder Woman, is a DC Comics superhero as “beautiful as Aphrodite, wise as Athena, stronger than Hercules, and swifter than Mercury.” Today her iconic costume received a super duper makeover. Among the highlights: the addition of leggings and a jacket.
Before the Amazon princess dons her new duds, let’s pay tribute to the semantic quandary that is her classic costume. Since 1941, it has been incredibly difficult to find accurate words to describe Wonder Woman’s outfit. Is this trait one of her superpowers? Perhaps the amazing abilities of the dictionary can overcome befuddlement.
Starting with what we know, Wonder Woman wields the Lasso (derived from the Latin for “noose”) of Truth, also known as the Lariat (another word for lasso) of Hestia (Greek Goddess of the home.) She wears a magical tiara, “a jeweled, ornamental coronet (crown) worn by women.” And she wears the talaria, or winged sandals belonging to Hermes, the Greek messenger god. She also has bulletproof bracelets and an invisible plane, but those items don’t offer as many opportunities to explore fun vocabulary.
Her attire is where the naming challenges begin. She wears a top that sometimes seems metallic and sometimes like fabric, somewhere between a bikini and armor. Let’s explore some of the great terms that may help:
A breastplate is “a piece of plate armor partially or completely covering the front of the torso.” Cuirass may be the perfect word: “defensive armor for the torso comprising a breastplate and backplate, originally made of leather.” But that definition feels too bulky.
Maybe she really is just wearing some kind of magical leotard, “a skintight, one-piece garment for the torso, having a high or low neck, long or short sleeves, and a lower portion resembling either briefs or tights, worn by acrobats, dancers, etc.” The origin of the term leotard is the French trapeze artist Jules Léotard, who was one of the first to wear the skintight clothing. (“Trapeze” is related to trapezoid, by the way.)
Looking at her whole outfit, one might be moved to just give up and say that she’s wearing some sort of baroque bikini. Take a moment to consider the dramatic origin of the fashion term bikini. The creators of the two-piece swimsuit, Louis Réard and Jacques Heim, named it after the Bikini Atoll, an island where the United States tested the atomic bomb. The assumption is that the designers intended the suit to have the equivalent effect of a nuclear strike. Hardly an etymology fitting for Wonder Woman.
And here ends our quest for an accurate description. Perhaps the words don’t exist in the mortal dictionary, but can only be found on Paradise Island, the mythical comic book land Diana calls home.