Chun-Li and the Female Gaze - High Fashion Retreads of Video Game Characters

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Danielle Meder is a fashion illustrator, and herself says that she is not a gamer. But for Double Flawless, an exquisitely well-researched look into high fashion trends on classic gaming heroines, she took a fresh look at these heroines and what their styles represent. 

"I approached this project as a total outsider. Video game heroines, to a fresh eye, are very peculiar indeed. The way they behave and dress reflects the male majority of their beholders. So how would they appear if they were style icons, appealing to the female gaze."

For each character, Ms. Meder chose a style icon to act as inspiration for their specific look, as well as a designer collection to dress them in. 

Lara Croft

Lara Croft is one of the most iconic figures of gaming, and when you ask someone to list a heroine, Lara is undoubtedly on the list. Described as intelligent, beautiful, and with a very wealthy background, she is usually dressed in some variation of short shorts and tank tops, with her characteristic hip holster. 

For inspiration, Ms. Meder chose style icon Sienna Miller, who herself comes from a wealthy background, but dresses in a characteristically bohemian way. Meder described the collection she chose in a way that sort of describes Ms. Croft: 

"I've chosen one of the controversial Saint Laurent Paris collections by Hedi Slimane - his rich girls also reject their European blue blood by dressing inspired by "the streets" of California, and notoriously not even carrying handbags." 

The look on Lara Croft is interesting. It still plays up her sexuality, a frankly key part of her character, but it still plays into that female Indiana Jones thing that is important to her character. Also, I really dig the hat. 

Chun-Li

Another one of the most recognizable characters in gaming is Chun-Li. Featured in the classic Street Fighter, Chun-Li is typically seen in a Chinese style gown, slit up the side, with her hair in dual buns. 

For this look, Meder chose to avoid putting her in classic "oriental" fashions that she typically wears in game. Instead, Meder associated Chun-Li with style icon Anne Hathaway and dress her in classic luxury brand Burberry. 

Meder researched Chinese beauty standards and came to the determination that a decidedly Western look would suit the classic fighting character; "Modern Chinese fashion favours familiar luxury brands, however the overtly logo-ed branding of Louis Vutton is now falling out of favour for the more subtle...Burberry. The Chinese conception of glamour is hyper-feminine, wealth-driven, and yet also understated, and you never see Chinese actresses wearing "oriental" fashions on the red carpet."

It's an interesting look. Fighting games almost infamously choose to highlight cultural differences in their characters, often with a character "representing" an entire country, which is why you get so many stereotypical characters in fighting games. However, Chun-Li's look is very editorial and high fashion, and still takes into account her ability to do the high kicks she is so well known for.  

Commander Shepard (FemShep)

In the exceptionally popular franchise Mass Effect, you are allowed to choose your gender. If so, then you got to play as Fem Shep. Much like the other military officers in ME, Fem Shep is often depicted wearing skin tight body suits and armor. 

Meder took reference from designer Gareth Pugh, as well as fashion icon Daphne Guinness;

"Daphne Guinness is both an aristocratic authority figure and an artistic iconoclast; I think her style is suitable for Commander Shepard because she champions individuality over 'robotic' sameness (paralleling Shepard's mission), while at the same time affecting costumes that are aggressive and strong." 

Meder's decision is both futuristic and strong, it's definitely one of the more aggressive looks she put together for her collection. 

Mileena

The pink clad, fairly naked Mileena of Mortal Kombat is known as a monstrously deformed and mentally unbalanced clone of Kitana. Due to this mental instability, Meder related Mileena to infamous train wreck Lindsay Lohan. 

In her words; "Lohan's got this scattershot fashion sense that occasionally veers towards the overly-revealing." Meder's version of Mileena looks delightfully unhinged in an appropriate way, allowing the clothes to tell elements of her character. 

Meder chose Balmain Spring 2011 as the collection of inspiration, saying it "is the perfect collection for Mileena because it's essentially made for a hot mess of a rich girl, outrageous tastelessness rendered uber-fashionable by the fact that it's very, very expensive." 

Princess Zelda 

The oft-kidnapped Princess Zelda is often in royal garb, and appropriately Meder chose to associate her with fashion icon Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge (also known as Kate Middleton). 

Princess Zelda is the most demurely dressed of the group, and appropriately so -- after all, that is her character. Still, the outfit is very different from the traditional princess-wear and was a part of subversive designer Alexander McQueen's Fall 2008 line. McQueen is the designer of choice for over-the-top fashions (Lady Gaga is known for wearing runway McQueen) and in fact the Duchess of Cambridge wore a McQueen get-up for her royal wedding. So, really he's the perfect designer for a character like Zelda. 

"McQueen's clothing plays on ideas of female submission and corrupted power, which I think makes it suitable for a permanently kidnapped heroine." 

What do you think of these re-imagined video game heroines? Who do you wish Meder had chosen to reinvent? 

Published Aug. 26th 2013

Former Staff Editor

Former rugby player, social media person, and occasional writer.

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