August 23rd just passed, so you know what that means…it’s WandaVision time! Now brace yourself because this may come as a shock, but I must confess that I’ve never seen WandaVision. I know it’s a shame. Even my little 6-year-old cousin has watched it and talks about how great it is. So I decided to turn my embarrassment into a fun article!
For context, WandaVision is a sitcom-style show centered around two Avengers: Wanda Maximoff (played by Elizabeth Olsen), also known as Scarlet Witch, and Vision (played by Paul Bettany). After getting married, Wanda and Vision move to a suburban area where they attempt to conceal their superhero identity and blend in with the rest of the “normal” community — or so they think. In this premiere episode that we’ll be talking about, titled “Filmed Before a Live Studio Audience,” Wanda and Vision see that their calendar is marked with a heart for August 23rd. Wanda and Vision can’t remember what special event is happening, and they continue throughout their day trying to figure out what it is.
WandaVision has been nominated for an Emmy for Outstanding Fantasy/Sci-Fi Costumes, specifically for this episode, so I thought it’d be cool to share my first thoughts and impressions of some of the costumes and, after further research, see if it connected to costume designer Mayes C. Rubeo’s actual thought process while creating them.
It’s important to note that this episode takes place all in one day. First impression: The first costume that Wanda is seen wearing is a stunning wedding gown as she and Vision are moving into their new home. It’s also in black and white, so it’s hard to tell what exact color each costume is, but I tried to imagine what color they were, and for this one, I came up with white. As soon as I saw this dress, I couldn’t help but notice the shape. It has your typical voluminous skirt, but from the waist up, the silhouette resembles a trapezoid, reminding me of the style of clothes from the 1950s. Combined with her tight curls and pearl necklace, I believe that the 1950s inspired Rubeo.
Wanda has the most outfits in this episode, sporting three more costumes I call: the kitchen dress, the lingerie gown, and the fancy bow dress. Wanda wears the kitchen dress for a while, specifically around the house while Vision is at work and when their new neighbor, Agnes (played by Kathryn Hahn), comes over to welcome her. At first, I thought this dress was one entire piece, including the apron-like piece, which I assumed was attached to it. It also gave me 1950s-inspired vibes, especially with the A-line skirt and outline of the collar and sleeves. As for the color, I imagined that the main dress was pastel yellow and the apron was white.
Now let’s step away from the 1950s for a little bit and travel back to the 1920s-1930s. That’s the period I thought of when I first saw the lingerie gown, which I also assumed was white. While Vision is at work, Agnes comes over and chats with Wanda for a while. Wanda and Agnes conclude that the day is special because it’s Wanda and Vision’s anniversary (even though they don’t have one) and decides to treat Vision to a special night.
After a classic sitcom miscommunication on the phone, Wanda comes downstairs to greet Vision in this intimate look, only to find out that it’s not their anniversary but the day where Vision’s boss Mr. Hart (played by Fred Melamed and Mr. Hart’s wife (played by Debra Jo Rupp) are coming over for dinner. Wanda is surprised by the sight of Mr. and Mrs. Hart and quickly closes the plunging neckline.
The dress has a different shape and looks from the first two dresses, stepping away from the shapely silhouette and bringing more movement and flow to the costume. It seems like it was inspired by the glamourous Old Hollywood, mainly because of the fur on her cuffs. It also looks like Marilyn Monroe had some influence on the costume, looking similar to Monroe’s infamous white dress with the plunging neckline. This revealing gown is the complete opposite of the conservative style of the 1950s, which she quickly changes to with the snap of her fingers as soon as Vision explains to her what’s going on.
Wanda finishes off the rest of the episode wearing an off-the-shoulder dress, the same shape as the wedding and kitchen dress. It has a bow in the front, and I imagined that it’s pastel pink. This happens to be the part where I learned that the apron-like piece on the kitchen dress wasn’t attached to it because Wanda can be seen wearing the apron with this dress. This dress, along with the lingerie dress, were my top two favorite costumes of this episode!
The Truth: It turns out that the 1950s inspired Rubeo in this episode! As the show progresses, each episode takes on a different decade and pulls from popular sitcoms of each period. According to an interview with FIDM Museum Associate Joanna Abijaoude, Rubeo states that the director Matt Shakman and the creators of WandaVision already knew what sitcoms each era was going to be based on. The team was influenced by The Dick Van Dyke Show I Love Lucy, The Brady Bunch (which I watch every Sunday), and Bewitched, all of the 1950s and 60s. Rubeo grew up watching these sitcoms in Spanish, so she was already familiar with them!
She also talks about how Wanda’s wedding dress was inspired by a late 1950s movie called Funny Face. Rubeo wanted to portray Wanda as actress Audrey Hepburn, and she did an outstanding job! Wanda’s wedding dress has the same structure and trapezoid shape as Hepburn’s.
As for the kitchen and fancy bow dress, I was incorrect about them being inspired by the 1950s. The dresses were based on the 1960s, as mentioned by Rubeo in an interview with the Gold Derby editor Rob Licuria. Rubeo talks about the process behind the kitchen and fancy bow dress and her relationship with vintage fabric, stating, “I’m a huge fan of using real vintage fabric when you’re creating a vintage costume. And that helps a lot when you’re making something with the real fabric. It’s going to fall in the same way that you imagine or stays in the same way that you imagine, like the 60s dresses for Wanda when we got the housewife dress and the dinner dress, and they were made with the wonderful vintage fabric. It makes a difference.”
Something that I also got wrong was the color of the costumes. With the kitchen dress, it wasn’t yellow as I imagined. It’s mint-colored with a beautiful pastel yellow, green, and white apron. Rubeo mentioned to Licuria that this particular costume almost blended with the set of the show. She had to work closely with the production design team to ensure that costumes didn’t disappear in the background. For this specific dress, she ended up having to outline the collar on the dress, which is where the black outline came from.
Since the show is in black and white, Rubeo used a very creative technique to get the costume colors just right on the screen – mainly to avoid that from happening again. She would take a picture of the fabric using her phone and put it on the monochrome filter, which gave her the same shade of gray that you would see on the screen.
Along with the kitchen dress, the party dress also isn’t what I thought it was. There wasn’t much information about the lingerie dress or if it had any exact inspiration, but I was able to confirm that it’s white! It was also mint-colored but made with a vintage taffeta fabric from India, staying true to Rubeo’s belief of using vintage materials.
First impression: Vision’s costumes were the complete opposite of Wanda’s. His suits looked darker, almost as if the costume designers wanted there to be a stark contrast between the two. It’s important to note that since Vision is a robot and needs to hide his identity, he transforms into a human several times throughout the episode, which is why it may seem as though two different figures are wearing the exact same outfit.
Vision wears his first suit only in the sitcom-style introduction as he and Wanda are first moving into their new home after getting married. What’s very interesting about the suit (which I assumed was gray) is the pattern. It didn’t give me a 1950s feel, but it made me believe that there was some modern influence.
The next suit, however, did remind me of the 1950s. Vision wears this suit for the rest of the episode, including while he’s at work and when he comes home for dinner. There didn’t appear to be a pattern on this suit, but I also assumed that it was gray. The tie was also unique. It had a rectangle with two dots inside and one dot outside of the rectangle on each side. I’m not sure what it represented, but I feel it was significant to him being a superhero. I also thought it was funny how Vision wears Wanda’s apron while trying to help her cook dinner. It challenged the stereotypical ideals of the 1950s. What a nice touch!
The Truth: I guessed the costume right again! Both Vision’s wedding suit and work suit were gray. And although I didn’t guess the colors of the ties, the work suit tie turned out to be burgundy. Not much has been said about the possible superhero design, but it matched the tie that the Vision POP! figure wears, and there have also been speculations about ties to Doctor Strange 2.
Along with Doctor Strange, Vision’s costumes have connections to other shows as well. As mentioned with Wanda’s costumes, Rubeo was influenced by many sitcoms, including I Love Lucy. There is a significant reference from I Love Lucy where Vision cooks and wears Wanda’s apron while she’s in the main room entertaining Mr. and Mrs. Hart. In the episode of I Love Lucy titled “Job Switching,” Lucy’s husband Ricky and his best friend Fred switch roles with Lucy and her best friend Ethel after arguing over whether earning money or being a housewife is harder. In one specific scene, Ricky and Fred can both be seen wearing aprons while cooking in the kitchen, which perfectly mirrors Vision’s scene in WandaVision. I love these references! Long with Doctor Strange, Vision’s costumes have connections to other shows as well.
First impression: I don’t know what this dress is, but it perfectly describes Agnes’ character. Agnes is Wanda and Vision’s new neighbor. She and Wanda first meet when she comes over to welcome Wanda to the neighborhood. The bold plaid pattern perfectly aligns with her personality as she’s very outgoing, nosy, funny, and loves to gossip. She also wears what looks like a black belt. Even though this is Agnes’ only look, she doesn’t seem like a person who would wear very bright colors or anything similar to Wanda’s style.
With that, I assumed that this dress was either black and white or navy blue and white. When she returns later on the episode to deliver a pineapple for their upside-down cake, she wears what I assume is a black capelet. This dress has the same silhouette as Wanda’s wedding, lingerie, and fancy bow dress, so I felt the 1950s inspired this look.
The Truth: I was thrilled to see Rubeo’s process behind Agnes’ costume because it was very similar to what I guessed! Agnes’ dress is darker, just as I imagined. According to the same interview with Joanna Abijaoude, Rubeo states that she made Agnes have very strong contrast in comparison to Wanda and that she “made it [the contrast] in a subliminal way so when she knocks on the door, and you see this like powerful contrast, it’s ominous that this person is not going to bring out peaceful contribution.” It’s so fascinating how Rubeo conveyed the specific energy or mood just by their clothes. And the fact that she does so without the audience even being able to see the actual colors of their costumes is incredible.
One aspect of her outfit that I did completely miss, though, was Agnes’ medallion. Rubeo was asked about any hidden easter eggs or details in the costumes of WandaVision that she could tell everyone about to which she says is the medallion. Rubeo mentioned that she designed and created the medallion intending to hint into the future of Agnes’ character, stating that, “The medallion is a classic cameo medallion, and it has a figure of two ladies. Usually, this kind of medallion portrays the three graces in life. But if you look closer, these three ladies are burning. They’re at the stake, and this represents the three witches that she was burning with.”
Later in the season, Agnes turns out to be Agatha Harkness, a powerful Marvel witch. Rubeo’s ability to provide that subtle hint and foreshadow is admirable. And what’s even more impressive is that this medallion is in almost every costume that Agnes wears throughout the show, except for an aerobic scene they did; what a well-thought-out detail! That shows how much thought was put into her look.
My little cousin was right. This show has won me over. I’m absolutely in love with these costumes and cannot stress enough how extremely talented Mayes C. Rubeo and her team are! I am a huge lover of symbolism and storytelling, and I am in awe of how Rubeo and the entire creative team conveyed that. With television shows and films being full of vibrant colors nowadays, it’s not usual for shows to be black and white. But this was such a unique experience, and being able to imagine each costume and envision what they look like in real life opened my mind and enabled me to be even more creative. If you haven’t seen this show yet, please stream it now on Disney Plus! And for more information on the costumes throughout the entire season, please click here to listen to The Art of Costume Blogcast!
Check out these sources for more on WandaVision!
Bojalad, Alec. “Wandavision: The Sitcom Influences of Episodes 1 and 2.” WandaVision: The Sitcom Influences of Episodes 1 and 2, Den of Geek, 9 Feb. 2021, www.denofgeek.com/tv/wandavision-sitcom-influences-dick-van-dyke/.
Chitwood, Adam, and Adam Chitwood (15911 Articles Published) . “See How ‘Wandavision’ Was Filmed in Front of a Live Audience in New Featurette.” See How ‘WandaVision’ Was Filmed in Front of a Live Audience in New Featurette, 15 Jan. 2021, collider.com/how-wandavision-was-filmed-in-front-of-an-audience-explained/.
FIDM/Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising. Creating The Costumes of WandaVision, With Costume Designer Mayes C. Rubeo. YouTube, YouTube, 24 June 2021, www.youtube.com/watch?v=RZNQeTX2JRs&t=33s.
Howard, Kirsten. “Wandavision May Have Already Shown Us Its Doctor Strange 2 Connection.” Den of Geek, Den of Geek, 18 Jan. 2021, http://www.denofgeek.com/tv/wandavision-doctor-strange-villain-theory/.
The Costume Designers Guild. “Design through Time: The Costumes of Mayes C. Rubeo.” YouTube, YouTube, 24 July 2021, www.youtube.com/watch?v=PSVwYS6jS5A&t=400s.