Ready-to-Wear Superhero: Spider-Man


My five year old daughter just became obsessed with Spider-Man. I don’t know how it happened. Now she is being Spider-man for Halloween, plays the Spider-Man 2 PS2 game at every opportunity and goes around singing the theme song. While observing this new found love for Spider-Man in my daughter I noticed a few things:

• Spider-Man’s look is truly iconic. You know who you’re looking at when you see his costume.
• Spider-Man’s costume has almost nothing to do with spiders as far as I can tell.
• It is a pure ‘costume’. You could never wear anything like it and be considered fashionable.

Since I’m always up for a challenge, I started thinking about how a modern woman could dress as Spider-Man and not get laughed off the streets. I think I came up with some cool alternatives.

First, let’s look at Spider-Man’s silhouette. The guy is in a skin-tight full bodysuit with a full hood, not something you’d see outside a bondage dungeon. Hood aside for a moment, Spider-Man is sleek, form fitting, and has no extraneous accessories. One of the more fun elements are the spider web ‘wings’ you see on early Spider-Man costumes. Perhaps we can work those in somehow.

If you wanted to do a head to toe look, you could. I really think you could. But for the entry-level spider-fan, you might want to pick one or two of the items below and work them into your regular wardrobe. Even the most experienced fashionista should approach the head to toe look with caution. Here’s what I’m thinking:

A red/blue long sleeved top with black ‘webbing’ overlay
Blue leggings with fishnet overlay
Red shoes or boots
Big sunglasses
(diamond net poncho)

Alone these ideas are really fashionable and trend setting. Together, it might be a train wreck. Let’s give it a try.

The Basics:

For Spider-Man, and really most male super-heroes, the element that sets it a part from regular street clothes is the tights. The only time you’ll ever see a guy wearing tights is if he is fighting crime or is your ballet instructor. While tights are a rarity on guys, luckily we are designing for women and tights are not all that strange.

In order to capture Spider-Man’s look you will need two pairs of leg coverings. One that is dark blue, and one that is black fishnets. I know this is a radical 80’s move, but in 2010 I think it will work. The blue tights could just be simple blue leggings, but something a little shiny might be nice:

I really think that is all you need for a blue legging. As long as its long, tight, dark blue, and thick (leggings here, not tights) I think it will work. Leggings are everywhere these days, so if you want something more interesting, you could go with something like this:

The metallic blue is on trend and really accents your curves. Whatever leggings you choose, avoid the ones with detail accents (rhinestones, lace cuffs, gold beading, etc.) because the fishnet over-layer will probably not mesh very well (haha) with that under-layer detail.

Which brings us to the fishnets. If you plan to wear the leggings with no other leg covering, which I recommend for the Spider-Man look (no skirt, no shorts) the fishnets you buy need to be net all over. Some stop at the crotch and are shear leggings or support hose from the hips up. This will look horrible. Black fishnets with the big “diamond net” or “fence net” holes will work best, but standard fishnets will also get the point across.

With the fence net tights you could also go with a light grey or silvery color if you wanted to embody the Spider-Man movie costume, but I prefer the classic black. Lace leggings with plenty of shear (so you can see the blue underneath) could work as well.

There are literally hundreds of interesting lace and net leggings to be found online. Find something that really speaks to you and that you feel comfortable in. I’d steer clear of the literal “spider tights” you’ll find everywhere around Halloween, as these will look too costumy. But if that’s your look, go for it!

The next thing we need are the boots. Superman and Spider-Man are both superheroes in blue tights and red boots. Besides the webbing design on Spider-Man, and his dark blue to Supe’s bright blue, the main difference is Superman is wearing real boots while Spider-Man is kinda wearing little booties. For our ready-to-wear look, the red booties are essential to make it work, but try to find a sleek short boot or shoe, rather than a full-on ‘boot’.

Another thing to keep in mind is that these don’t have to be Jessica Rabbit heels. Spider-Man is athletic and ready for action and your shoes can be too. If you must wear heels, a practical heel will work fine, or go all out like the suede platforms above.

Something about the shape and size of auto-racing shoes really says Spider-Man to me. I don’t know how practical they are for day-to-day wear, but they sure have a unique look.

Now that the bottom half of the body is covered I think you can guess where we are going with the top. Right away I think “long sleeved blue top under a red sleeveless shirt with some fishnet-thing over it”, but I think we can find some subtle tops that don’t hit you over the head with the look but still capture the essence of Spider-Man.

The first and perhaps most obvious look is the traditional raglan sleeve baseball shirt, in red and navy. You could wear this by itself or layer it with an extra-long t-shirt worn over the leggings. You could even get one with some sports logo on it and the colors still scream Spider-Man. Don’t get a Boston Red-Sox shirt though (even though they are perfect), Spider-Man defends the people of New York, not Beantown. The last thing you want is a rabid Yankees or Red-Sox fan on your case! If you want to do layers (which I always seem to see these days) don’t think so literally about the red over blue. I think it’s far more fashionable to have a peek of red show our from under something blue.

Even this something as versatile as this blue cardigan sweater when matched with a red cami or t-shirt begins to look like Spider-Man. Try to have the red underlayer be reasonably long so it pokes out at the bottom of the cardigan too. This is especially important if your doing the head-to-toe look. Blue cardigan over blue leggings without that break of red might be too much for the eye.

This is my favorite I think. A long red t-shirt under a form-fitting dark blue Henley shows just the right amount of red and keeps your layers thin and close to the body.

Keeping things form-fitting and thin is especially important when you start layering on your layering. I think for the ultimate Spider-Man look, we still need a black lacey layer. If your going for the head-to-toe look, you don’t need to worry about matching your black fishnets to your black lacey top. In fact, that might look a little too costumy. What you should do is try to match your blacks pretty well in weight. If your leggings are thick, intricate lace and your top is an airy sheer material, that doesn’t really work as a cohesive look. Here are some good options:

Your basic goth shrug. I’m not crazy about the skulls, but I like the overall look.

This is a great shirt for layering even if you aren’t going for a Spider-Man look. I don’t recommend wearing it with nothing underneath like this, but it’s still perfect.

The best open lace shrugs are one-of-kind crochet masterpieces that you’ll need to find and buy quickly, as this look is very trendy right now. My favorite is from Maison Martin Margiela and is sadly sold out everywhere.

Another webbing option I like is the idea of a poncho. Usually a poncho doesn’t scream fashion or Spider-Man, but these days they kinda scream both.

This is the basic poncho. It kinda evokes the spider web wings for me and adds some softness to the otherwise sleek silhouette we’ve been building.

I absolutely love this one. It’s so open and shapeless that you can see the sleek silhouette underneath. Perfect.

I don’t know how well this little one will go with the rest of the look, but I like it.


Finally, you should set off your Spider-Man look with some big sunglasses. The ideal shades will have red frames and large dark lenses.

These are surprisingly easy to find and come at just about any price range.

So you can dress like Spider-Man, not look ridiculous but actually be on trend, and not resort to wearing a bunch of spider jewelry. When you put it all together it doesn’t even look that strange, but is still best in pieces I think. The tights and booties with a black long t-shirt would look amazing, or the layered top with the sunglasses with some jeans could be an every-day look. Just remember “with great power, comes great responsibility” and just because you CAN dress like Spider-Man from head to toe now doesn’t necessarily mean you SHOULD. Wear the elements that make you feel beautiful and as always, have fun.

Click on images for purchasing information. Red Carpet Superhero is not affiliated with any retail organization.

Design Image by Christian Milik.


4 Comments on “Ready-to-Wear Superhero: Spider-Man”

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