Silk Spectre Costume History
Silk Spectre’s costume history is a little different from other heroines’ costume histories. Normally a superhero’s costumes change over the years to either reflect the times, revitalizing the character, or even tell part of their story. However, Silk Spectre lives within a 12 issue miniseries called Watchmen. Yes, a spin off limited series called Before Watchmen was created, but it still lived within this fictional world’s short time span.
Watchman was published from September 1986 to October 1987. The story takes place in an alternate reality very similar to the 80s in which it was released. The biggest difference is that superheroes came into existence during the late 1930s and changed some key historical events. Doctor Manhattan, with his godlike powers, working for the United States completely changed the Cold War with the Soviet Union. However, by the 1970s, heroes become unpopular and in 1977 a law is passed to make it illegal for “costumed vigilantes” to operate independently. Some heroes work with the government, others retired and a few continue their work illegally. Although this is a fictional world, the heroes have very real human flaws and emotions. The story tackles adult issues of ego, sexuality and even humanity.
Bored with being a waitress and dancer, Sally decided to fight crime as the Silk Spectre. Although she started off on her own, she quickly joined a group of other heroes and helped create the original Minute Men. Interested in fame and fortune as much as, if not more than, doing good, Sally hired a publicist named Laurence Schexnayer. After the team had been together for a year one of its members, Edward Blake (The Comedian), attempted to rape her. He was stopped by Hooded Justice. Her manager encouraged her to remain quiet so that the group’s future fame was not be put in peril. The Comedian was asked to leave the group, but the situation was never addressed. She would later pretend to date Hooded Justice, in an attempt to help him hide his homosexuality from the public. During this fake relationship, Sally would have relations with Edward Blake that would lead to the birth of Laurel Jane Juspeczyk (Silk Spectre II). She quickly married Laurence Schexnay, before people would become suspicious. Sally’s need for attention almost always overrode her sense of decency. She pushed Laurie to be a hero and when Laurie became successful, Sally became resentful. She drank too much and would cling to any fan who remembered her old glory days.
When Carla Gugino was describing her costume for the much anticipate Watchmen movie, she said it was “Bettie Page meets Alberto Vargas”. That really sums up the original Silk Spectre’s costume perfectly. Here is a quick history lesson, Alberto Vargas is a legendary Pin-Up Artist and Bettie Page was considered the “Queen of Pin-Up” models. Pin-ups are images of scantily dressed women, in suggestive poses that were meant to be hung up on walls. These images had conflicting interpretations by different parties. Some saw the images as a positive move from the shame women were supposed to feel over their bodies and the elaborate clothing used to hide their natural forms. The other side of the argument believed these images were corrupting society and degrading women.
The Silk Spectre’s costume does look like it was taken right from a Pin-Up girl of the 40s or 50s. Her yellow skirt was so sheer it could have been a nighty and short enough that it might just have been a long shirt. The large black belt/cummerbund around the waist was probably the most modest piece of this costume The thigh high stocking worn under the lace up boots were very similar to something Bettie Page might have worn in her photo shoots. The long opera gloves were a pin-up girl staple. Although this costume may seem more model than superhero, let us not forget that Sally desired fame more than justice.
As the daughter of the original Silk Spectre, Sally pushed her into the superhero business. Laurel does not stray far from her mother’s image and fights evil under the name Silk Spectre II. She falls in love with Dr. Manhattan while on a mission and when they are forced to retire, after the government makes it illegal for costume vigilantes to take the law into their own hands, she moves into Dr. Manhattan’s underground lab. However, they find themselves growing apart as Dr. Manhattan became further removed from his humanity and struggles with his godlike powers. Laurel leaves and becomes romantically involved with Nite Owl. Her and Nite Owl find themselves donning their costumes again and working outside the law.
Silk Spectre II
Some of Silk Spectre’s original inspiration came from the character of Nighshade. Not satisfied with how the character was coming out, Moore began taking more traits from Black Canary and Phantom Lady, for his illustrations. Although the Silk Spectre II costume is risque, if you look at these other heroine’s costumes you might think her costume is more modest.
While Sally’s costume was a reflection of the stars of 50s, Laurel was a celebrity of the 80s and would need a costume upgrade. At this time the bathing suit style superhero costumes were all the rage. This costume takes the yellow and black color and adds its own style. The bathing suit uses yellow as its base and then adds black to accentuate the female form. The yellow arms blend into the long black opera style gloves. Although the entire outfit appears to be made of the same latex material. While Sally had laced up boots, Laurel went with the thigh high pull up boots. With the boots going all the way up, there was no longer a need for stockings, but they still needed a garter belt to help hold them up.
This costume was created for the movie. They wanted to create a more modern look, but still reflect the timeline that the story takes place. Rather than fans complaining about the changes, they embraced it. This is now the costume most people reference and create fan art for. The prequel comics, that were released after the move, would use this design as their inspiration for her “earlier” wardrobe.
For some reason, Superheroes love to wear their costume colors when out in their regular street clothes. It does not matter if they have a secret identity or not. I guess they just know what colors work best with their complexion. Silk Spectre II is no different, she prefers to wear yellow dresses that was very similar to her superhero costume. However, her superhero costume could have been worn for a fun night out on the town or fighting crime. Sally is obviously very proud of her legs, because her costume consisted of a very short dress, but had long sleeves. She could be self conscious about her arms, but it might just be to help keep her warm.
In 2012, DC Comics released a series of comic books that would act as prequels to their highly successful Watchmen story released back in 1986. Different series and one shots would focus on the different characters. Silk Spectre was given a 4 issue series that told the story of Laurie Jupiter and her training to carry on the family tradition and becoming the new Silk Spectre.
Her costume was perfect for the 60s or 70s and looked like she was ready to fight crime or go to a disco club on a moments notice. She stuck with the yellow and black coloring, but added her own flair. A large black line curved down the front her costume, almost creating an S. However, the waviness of the design helped blend in with the psychedelic patterns of the time. Being a female superheroine, it is important to show off how in shape you are, so rather than wearing baggy clothing, Laurie chose the monokini design. That way her top could remain decently covered, but the little bit of fabric covering her stomach would not completely hide jer washboard abs. To make sure people would not think she was too conservative in her short skirt, slits were added to the sides. Finally, a superheroine costume would not be complete if it didn’t have thigh high boots.
The movie rights to the Watchmen were originally acquired in 1986 by 20th Century Fox. In 1991, Fox sold the rights to Warner Brothers. Paramount purchased the rights from Warner Brother in 2004. Warner Brothers would soon retrieve the rights and a Watchmen film started production in 2007. It would not be till 2009 that fans were finally be able to see the Watchman on the big screen.
Carla Gugino: Within the course of the movie, we see Sally Jupiter from her younger years as the Silk Spectre to an old woman. A 37 year old Carla Gugino was able to play both ages to perfection. Not an easy task for a role that requires the transformation of a vivacious vixen who dresses like a lingerie model, to a haggard old woman that has been beaten down by life. Fun fact, Carla is only 7 years older than Malin, who played her daughter.
Malin Akerman: To train for her role as the Silk Spectre, Malin went on a rigorous workout and fight training program. Her hard work did not go unnoticed, Malin was nominated for a Saturn Award for Best Supporting Actress. It can’t be ignored that casting involved finding somebody who could fill out the Silk Spectre costume and having Malin consistently make Maxim Magazine's 100 Hottest Women list probably didn’t hurt.
Silk Spectre Halloween Costumes were very popular when the movie came out in 2009. Although not as easy to find anymore, they can still be purchased in specialty costume shops.
Despite being a character from the 1980s, the Watchmen is essential reading for any comic book enthusiast and fans are still creating their own costumes and dressing up as the Silk Spectre decades later.
Google Images (Images appeared on several sites and was unsure of original)
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