Dressing like a superhero doesn’t need to be tough, says Shelley Harris. And she’d know.
With summer round the corner, we’re all thinking of a style refresh. Perhaps we’ve got some new weapons to incorporate into our costumes, or maybe we’re pursuing a supervillain to a remote island and aren’t sure what to pack in our capsule wardrobe.
Masked and booted, I’ve been righting wrongs for years in the metropolis of High Wycombe. I know which looks will transition from the runway to the mean streets – and which are fashion kryptonite. Whatever your body shape or superpower, my top 10 tips will see you stylishly through SS16.
1. Hair colour is your friend…
…when you’re concealing your identity. People find it astonishingly hard to recognise someone after they’ve changed hair colour, even if that person has been handcuffed to them for three hours in a deserted warehouse by the docks. This season I’m working a red wig, but play with colour and find out what’s right for you. Tip: grey confuses people.
2. Avoid this common accessory mistake!
It’s easy to be tempted by the masks in fashion magazines or worn by our style icons. But don’t buy on impulse – be wise to your body shape. On my early patrols I wore a fashion-forward mask with eyeholes too small for me.
Result? In full pursuit of a street-harasser and with blinkered vision I tripped over a low wall, affording him more material for his nefarious activities.
Now I rock a leather mask that offers wide vision and generous face coverage.
3. Try a bold lip…
Because it’s the only bit of your face anyone will see once you’ve got the wig and mask on. You may as well make it stand out. What’s more, your lips won’t chap during a chilly night-time patrol.
If you’re a woman of colour, try this season’s neon brights. If you’ve got paler skin, blue-reds will pop against your… oh, fuck it. Just wear colours you enjoy and seem like fun. My favourite is red, but I’ve got one in orange too.
4. Wear gloves to draw attention away from your large hands
Those powerful hands are about to bring down merry hell on the bloke spraying the wall with racist graffiti, and you’ll make more of an impact if he’s not expecting it.
5. High heels are empowering…
…to no one, ever. Trust me, the first time you pursue a miscreant you will hate those heels like a bastard. And don’t even think you can use a stiletto as a weapon; by the time you’ve taken them off, your target will be miles away – along with the stolen nuclear codes you’ve spent months tracking down.
“Long gloves can double as handcuffs if you’re caught short on a mission – just remember to fasten them securely.”
As for their legendary leg-lengthening properties: that’s a style no-no. After hot new superhero Bookworm was papped kicking ass during a library closure it’s stumpy, muscled legs we’re craving this summer.
6. Experiment with a floral print…
…on your steel toe-capped Doc Martens. Mine are embroidered with roses because I like to work a more feminine look while I’m inflicting a yoko geri keage on my opponent.
7. Try these quick style fixes
• If your tights tear during a fight, don’t panic! The rips will make you look even more badass.
• Bad wig day? Copy Wonderwoman’s ageless style with a metal circlet.
• Long gloves can double as handcuffs if you’re caught short on a mission – just remember to fasten them securely. For an edgy look, ditch the square knot. The Surgeon’s Knot was a surprise London Fashion Week front row favourite.
8. Repurposing last season’s cape
For a retro touch in the kitchen, offer it to your partner as an apron. But don’t wear it – they’re rubbish. Instead, consider a cardigan for an all-purpose cover-up. On a cold night you can fasten the buttons, and when the action ramps up you can tie it round your waist. The hot label they’re all talking about: Marks and Spencer.
9. Summer-ready skin
Pay a little extra attention to your skin as the weather gets warmer. And there’s no need for expensive salon treatments – tap into our grandmothers’ wisdom for traditional remedies at a fraction of the cost.
A 15-minute soak in salt water solution toughens up knuckles a treat, so in the time it takes to listen to The Archers you’ve prepped your body for some one-on-one street fighting. Thanks, Gran!
Getting dressed is a ritual; too many outfits are spoiled by hurried dressing in a cramped environment, and we can all remember missions ruined by having to carry our everyday clothes round in a plastic bag. So avoid those drafty telephone boxes; hide your costume at home where no one will find it (I chose the place we keep the spare toilet rolls) and dress in comfort.
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Shelley Harris is a novelist, a relentless consumer of salted caramels and a proud mentor for @WritersCentre.