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Saturday 14 April 2012

Pre-Movie Avengers post: Loki's costumes, armour, and image-consciousness.

Related: Movie Costumes I Have Loved: Thor.

I suppose I could apologise for making another Avengers-related post, but I ain't sorry. Nope. I need to get rid of all my Avengers excitement somehow, otherwise I'll just run around in little circles waving my hands in the air until the top of my head comes off and steam comes out of the hole. (<--- actual example.)

So here we go: Hello, Tailor's first ever pre-movie costume review, brought to you by the many clips and trailers Marvel has helpfully provided in order to whip fans into the maximum possibly frenzy prior to the movie's release. Thankfully none of these trailers contain any information about what actually happens in the film itself, so this blog (and my brain) will remain gloriously spoiler free until April 26.
Picture of Loki and Thor grinding Get Low by Lil Jon, from The Art Of Thor.
Thanks to my recent introduction to Game Of Thrones, I had armour on my mind as I perused the various Marvel teasers. For the most part, the battle costumes in Game of Thrones are quite closely modeled on the kind of medieval armour we expect to be worn by jousting knights, and is reasonably practical. The armour we saw in Thor is pretty much the opposite -- showy, sparkly, and inspired by comicbook illustrations drawn by people who were making it up as they went along. Which is totally fine! The fact that the costume designers for Thor managed to make the Asgardian clothes look even remotely like something worn by actual people in real life is enough for me. Thor and Loki are both alien princes. For all we know, the non-metallic bits of their armour are laser-proof and knitted from meteor rocks, as opposed to being the slightly cheap-looking pleather they appear to be. Haters to the left.

Loki's ceremonial armour from Thor.
The Asgardian armour in Thor was very clean and polished, fitting in with a rather over-the-top, cartoonish aesthetic that worked in the context of the film but looks pretty cheesy in pictures. From what I've seen of Loki's Avengers costumes they're similar on what he wore in Thor, but are a lot more lived-in and have better detailing. The Avengers is altogether a bigger movie with high production values, plus the costumes from each of the individual Avengers' own prequel movies presumably had to be tweaked a little in order to mesh the different looks. Also, since one of the Loki's outfits from the Avengers trailers seems almost identical to the one he was wearing at the end of Thor, I think it's meant to be that one, just looking a bit the worse for wear after a few days/months/untold millennia floating through Yggdrasil's Space-Vortex (or whatever it is he was doing while he decided to take over Midgard and stop washing his hair).
screenshot from The Avengers promo material.
The main difference I've noticed is that Loki's armour in The Avengers gives the appearance of being more battle-ready. There's more wear-and-tear as if he's actually encountered some fighting and dirt (which Magical L'Oreal Prince Thor never seems to, even after he launched himself directly through the skull of a giant monster in the Thor movie), and at least one set of his gauntlets have been replaced by something a little more practical and less like an Asgardian Prince party costume.
screenshot from The Avengers promo material.
The addition of a single shoulder-piece (that's called a pauldron, armour-enthusiasts!) suggests duelling, as there's generally more armour on a person's exposed side -- ie, the side that's presented towards the enemy. However, in the case of Loki this is kind of tricky because a) his main weapon isn't his spear, it's his ability to make you so annoyed you chop your own head off in frustration, and b) he's a master of illusion. So he can basically look like whatever the hell he wants. This makes Loki's costume and appearance the most interesting of any character in The Avengers, because you know that the way he looks is always going to be a conscious choice. I'll be on the lookout to see how Loki presents himself to different characters over the course of the movie, since the trailer already shows several costume variations. For example, the impressive gold armour and helmet (as pictured below) is from a scene where Loki addresses a crowd of fearful civilians, whereas when Loki visits Tony Stark he tones it down to a more sedate black get-up, possibly because he knows Tony would laugh at him if he showed up wearing eighteen-inch gold goat horns on his head.
screenshot from The Avengers promo material.
The real question, though, is if he's ever actually wearing any of this stuff. Most of the time when he's in armour it's not because he thinks someone's going to come at him with a halberd, it's for performative reasons. And when we see him in Midgardian clothes (ie, a suit and tie) the implication is that that's an illusion, so... what is real? Will he turn out to have been wearing pyjamas throughout the entire movie, just using his magic to throw on a few dramatic Emo God outfits from time to time to remind everyone that there's an evil overlord in town? I hope so.


This gifset is handy for comparisons between Loki's (similar) costumes in Thor and The Avengers. He definitely looks broader and tougher in the new movie, mostly due to the widened shoulders. In Thor his costumes tended to emphasise how slight he was in comparison to Thor, but in The Avengers he needs to present a more aggressive image because he's the primary antagonist rather than the hero's misunderstood little brother. While in Thor Loki often looked vulnerable and delicate, the costumes and visuals in The Avengers need to emphasise the more angular aspects of Tom Hiddleston's features.

This is another good look at how Loki's Thor costume is a lot more cartoony than the scraped and dented metal we see in The Avengers.
The Mary Sue: For anyone still wondering, yes, women can wear full armour too. Although not directly related to Thor or The Avengers, this article has a lot to say about body-shape, practicality and aesthetic, and how they relate to the type of body armour we see worn by sci-fi/fantasy characters.

Finally: The best Tony Stark/Loki costume commentary you're ever likely to find.


  1. Several people were bitching about how bad his hair looks in the promos, and I finally figured it out yesterday--it's helmet hair combined with a lack of bathing. Epically bad helmet hair that produces the curly-at-the-bottom, flattened-at-the-top look he's sporting.

  2. In regards to ceremonial armour vs. more battle-ready garb, I think it's quite interesting that the grungier battle stuff is also more ornately decorated. Even though the shine is dulled and he has lost his bitching cape, the forearm protecting bit and pauldron (thank you) are still covered in more decoration than the relatively plain, but shinier dress armour. Another result of going for the good old shock and awe in your subordinates, do you think? Because nothing says twisty, turny shape-shifting bad man like a snake engraved on some leather hanging down by your lapel!

  3. i think the detailing might purely be because this is a higher-budget movie with more at stake WRT visuals. in thor, loki mostly only appeared in armour while he was in asgard, and since most of asgard was a giant sparkly palace of fake gold, he didn't look too weird. but the material they used for his helmet, armour etc is too bright and chrome-y to work very well in the context of a supervillain we're meant to take seriously in the context of The Avengers. They didn' change much about the general design of his costumes, but the detailing made it "realer" and less like the weirdly smooth cartoon armour in Thor. it's more reminiscent of the kind of armour we see in other fantasy movies as well, now, because you can see flaws in the metal.

  4. VERY ACCURATE. helmet hair! although this wasn't a problem he had in the first movie...

  5. I suppose being a super-villain is dirty work, and you're right, he would look properly out of place to still be super shiny, but he still has to be eye-catching. I haven't seen the Thor film myself in a while, but I reckon it would be interesting to contrast the new armour with the less ostentatious stuff worn to Jotunheim. Because, by dint of the designers keeping the costume the sameish, the implication is that Loki is sort of building on top of the sort of stuff he used to wear. Though, I'm definitely going to be crossing my fingers for jimjams from now on.

    (And, you can be the one to tell Odin that his giant sparkly palace is made of FAKE gold! Don't worry though I hear he's really understanding, no terrifying over-reactions or anything. I'm sure with the poisonous snake and the whole lips sewn shut thing that he's just a victim of bad press. Or something...)

  6. Loki’s “Avengers” outfit is kinda actually a heavy armour version of his light armour/normal clothes we saw in “Thor”. Not the one he wore for the trip to Jotunheim, but the other one. It looks like he made his normal clothes/light armour more suitable for battle. For me anyway.

    And the one about his ceremonial/formal armour looking cartoonish and not battle-ready is probably because those were not meant for battle. They are ceremonial clothes, one you wore for special occasions, like Thor's coronation ceremony. That was obviously his “Prince of Asgard” attire. He only wore it for the ceremony and after he was made king. Not for war, but formalities. It's meant to look shiny and regal and all that.

    Every other time he wore these other clothes, which are probably more to his liking, and something he chose to wear, and not a formal royal armour he wore because of his title in Asgard.
    Even his golden heavy armour in “The Avengers” looks like it is nothing but an extra coat/cape , extra gauntlets (etc.) and a helmet added to this new outfit.

    Why would one wear ceremonial/regal clothes for battle? You don't wear a smoking to war, but an actual battle-wear. So I see Loki consciously choosing his outfits. And of course you are right about, how he shows up differently to different people (e.g. the crowd and Stark). Loki leaves nothing to chance, even his appearance is calculated, I am sure of that.

    Besides he doesn’t consider himself an Asgardian (Æsir) anymore, so he probably doesn’t want to wear that other armour. The one he wore as a prince, because he is no longer a prince.
    I think it’s as a simple, yet very symbolic separation from Asgard. So no more formal royal armour. Like Hiddles said; "He is not an Asgardian Prince now, but an Asgardian Pirate."

    Oh and the "helmet-hair" makes perfect sense in regards of his new hairstlye, and it only shows because again, he doesn't live in a palace anymore, with servants who clean his clothes and with probably a personal barber who cuts his hair etc.
    He just didn't cut it, because why bother and yeah, it's totally "helmet-hair".

    I think it looks badass. I like the new hair, he doesn't looks so "disney prince" anymore, like he did in Thor :)

  7. something i did notice about loki's main outfit for avengers is that it more closely resembles the original costume design for loki's casual outfit in thor (there was a production design drawing somewhere -- possibly in the thor book?) with more detail, etc.

    with regards to what you said about formal/ceremonial dress, i totally agree. the armour we see him wear in thor IS very much official royal dress (i thought i put that in the post, but i guess not) and less practical -- although it is worth pointing out that thor's armour is as well, but he still wears it throughout.

    re: "Aesir", when i rewatched Thor i was a little nonplussed when people kept saying "asgardian", but i guess i understood why they made that script choice.

    HELMET HAIR. kill me. definitely a good decision for his transformation to villain in the avengers movie, because in thor he's a sweet bambi-eyed little baby most of the time, and spends the latter half of the movie looking like he's about to burst into tears. however, the fact that he doesn't have servants to was his hair, well... if he can magic up outfits and disguises out of nowhere, why can't he magic himself the appearance of clean hair? unless it's a specific rebellion against thor's l'oreal advert perfection. ;) which brings us back to the "is he secretly wearing pyjamas and uggs all along" theory.

  8. I still want to run my fingers through it... Ahhhh x_x

  9. I just discovered your blog the other day, and am enjoying it a lot. My memories of Thor had grown fuzzy so I didn't notice the change in Loki's hair until I read this, but it got me wondering. Since they bulked up his shoulders, do you suppose the hairstyle was partly to keep his head from looking too small? After all, Loki's greatest weapon is still his brain, so they wouldn't want him to be proportioned like a Transformer.

  10. Do you (or anyone else you might know of) happen to know if the asymmetry going on in Loki's lapels was on purpose? I swear, the rounded edge vs. squared edge/lots o' lapel vs. tiny lapel distracted me almost every. time. he was on screen. Did someone screw up with a serger or what?

  11. i have no idea. most of the rest of his costume is assymetrical so it seems likely that it IS on purpose??

  12. good point! i kind of assumed it was helmet hair, but who knows. either that or they just wanted to give some sign that time had passed -- like thor's longer hair.

    glad you're enjoying the blog! :) there are other avengers costume reviews up now.

  13. I have no words for how awesome this analysis is. I think I'm addicted to your blog now!

    Regarding the lack of symmetry in the armor, my theory (not confirmed, just what I think) is that it's a subtle way to show that he's not quite all there anymore. There's no uniformity in his clothing because there's little to none in his head now, whereas with Thor, everything is symmetrical. If that made any sense.

    Figured you might appreciate this - its a gif set comparison of various parts of Loki's armor between Thor and the Avengers

  15. From the museum scene onwards I wondered whether Loki was actually prancing around naked in the way a peevish four year old does when they think they can get away with it and just projecting the illusion of clothes. So I support the idea he was chilling in something more comfy rather than somehow put that armour on magically.
    (As a side note and knowing you haven't really touched anything outside these movies, the silhouette of Loki's helmet (especially from a 3/4 angle) is surprisingly similar to the silhouettes of some of the 'horned headband and wimple' designs from the comics, particularly Blood Brothers.)

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