The last few years have seen Marvel Studios push the boundaries in terms of their costume designs, reinventing familiar looks while adapting new clothing from the comics. However, each Phase of the MCU has boasted a standout suit, which not only includes plenty of character-driven details, but also looks amazing and heavily draws from the source material.
When judging a costume therefore, it’s important to take into account the artwork on the page, how those attires actually interact with the narrative, their functionality on screen, and how iconic they have become. Each of these costumes bring something unique to the wider wardrobe of Marvel, and are standout pieces because of the nuanced choices the incredible costume designers made; a team of people that continue to be the unsung heroes of the entire franchise.
10. Ms. Marvel
Kamala Khan originated in the comics in Captain Marvel #14 in 2013 with her trademark look coming into its own in her spinoff run. The character has become a mainstay on the page, with a look inspired largely by her hero Carol Danvers. She was first brought to screen in the Ms. Marvel Disney+ TV show in 2022, and her costume was an excellent reflection of what fans had seen on the page. Headed up by lead costume designer Arjun Bhasin, the suit is a colorful mixture of Kamala’s personality and influences from the original Captain Marvel. The costume itself holds a special place in Kamala’s heart as it represents her own culture and heritage.
In the context of the show it’s a family affair, with Kamala’s closest relatives coming together to help craft this embodiment of who she wants to be as a hero. Of course, what can’t be overlooked is the gorgeously crafted bracelet which helps to channel Kamala’s powers, the intricacies of the design helping to tell the story of this mysterious origin. On top of that, from the classic logo that now defines Ms. Marvel, to the scarf/belt that came from the Red Daggers, the costume has been topped up with plenty of easter eggs that rely on Kamala’s journey. It’s an excellent origin costume that utilized unexpected materials to add a sense of realism.
9. Captain America – WWII
Historical context is massive here, with Captain America hugely impacted by the cultural need for an icon during the Second World War in the comics. America desired a hero and Steve Rogers would provide just that. His patriotic costume wasn’t necessarily battle ready, but regardless it reflected the design choices of the time period within the industry. The Marvel Studios movie, Captain America: The First Avenger did a fantastic job of recreating that look on screen in 2011, but it was his second look that has become far more important.
Under the tutelage of designer Anna B. Sheppard, a more militarized look was designed for Steve Rogers. Tactical and functional but full of that American spirit, the WWII attire continues to be called back to in each successive design for Captain America. While it’s treated like a relic of the past in the current day MCU, it was highly effective, and included all of those subtle nods to the comics, from the wings on the helmet to the body armor. Although many would point to the gear worn in The Winter Soldier as one of the best, there is a back-to-basics feel to this piece that is clearly inspired by the clothing worn by real-world soldiers.
8. Doctor Strange – Earth-616
Doctor Strange’s initial appearance on the page looks a lot closer to Defender Strange which audiences saw in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, albeit with the familiar yellow gloves and belt, alongside the Eye of Agamotto. The famous look for Doctor Strange, including the Cloak of Levitation, wouldn’t appear for some time later. The main wardrobe seen on screen for Strange has continued to be consistent and was first defined in Doctor Strange in 2016, designed by costume veteran Alexandra Byrne.
The costume in the MCU has been complimented by the addition of the yellow/brown gloves as seen in Thor: Ragnarok, but has largely been framed by the traditional blue robes, gorgeously detailed red cloak, vitally important Eye of Agamotto and the nostalgic broken watch. It’s the combination of these effects that tell the story so seamlessly; the work that went into the Cloak of Levitation in particular standing out so that it would animate so effortlessly, the comical collar helping the material to emote. A useful leather belt to hold items like the Sling Ring finishes a timeless piece that has stuck with Stephen Strange, evoking imagery seen throughout magical fantasy.
7. The Mighty Thor
The Mighty Thor was created from an incredible run that saw Jane Foster transform into the thunder god. The Mighty Thor #1 kicked off in 2015 and helped to sell this transformation of the doctor into the warrior. The costume that was designed on the page played upon the look of the original Thor, but ingeniously included an Asgardian helmet to hide the identity of Foster within. That same look has been taken stunningly from the source material into Thor: Love & Thunder in 2022, by costume designer Mayes C. Rubeo.
Vibrant, elegant, protective, practical, full of magic and Asgardian symbolism and evocative of the comic books, the look was pretty perfect. The mask itself would have been incredibly challenging to adapt in a way that didn’t look goofy, but the team pulled it off fantastically, moulding the metal to Foster’s face in a way that still allowed her emotions to read on film. It’s hard to ignore the nods to Thor’s costuming including the circular plates and red cloak, but the designers have made the look Jane’s own by playing with hard and soft edges, thematically combining her strength and adaptability.
6. Spider-Man – Civil War
Spider-Man has sported various costumes across the decades, with the Multiverse providing opportunities for the hero to be reinvented. But fans know that from his first adventure, the look of Spider-Man was set in stone. The Peter Parker of the MCU had to live up to expectations, with a suit that not only paid homage to the comics, but also rivalled the previous on-screen appearances of the character; notably from both the Spider-Man trilogy and The Amazing Spider-Man duology.
The result felt like a combination of all of those elements, with Captain America: Civil War and Spider-Man: Homecoming’s costume designers, Judianna Makovsky and Louise Frogley respectively, ensuring that the fabric felt wearable and sleek but also very practical. While a special mention should go to Spidey’s suit at the end of No Way Home for its homemade feel, the level of detail in the original that shouldn’t be overlooked. It introduced the brand new logo, established the emotable eyes which were a genuine game-changer and, from a narrative perspective, helped to tell Peter’s storyline involvement with Tony Stark.
5. Thor – Marvel Now
Although Thor Odinson would first appear in Journey into Mystery #83 in 1962, the original look would somewhat stick with the god of thunder no matter how many attempts were made to shift things up. Thematically, that first suit was always the one fans remembered, but his viking look first debuted in the Marvel Now run in 2012. The suit was a big departure from what fans were used to, boasting a much sleeker design, with protective body armor, sleeveless arms but the trademark red cloak nonetheless.
Thor: Love & Thunder adapted this look by Mayes C. Rubeo, with a viking feel added to the piece, to set it apart from Jane Foster’s mighty Thor look and ensure that fans were reminded of that initial Gorr the God Butcher graphic novel narrative. While it didn’t appear in the film long, it’s easily recognizable thanks to its completely unique, darker plating and huge fur collar on the cloak. For storyline purposes it was used to keep the god warmer when investigating the icy death of Falligar the Behemoth, but in truth it was taken directly from the imagery on the page that depicted that exact same event. Every so often a costume is so simple and yet so effective and this Norse look helps to define Thor’s status as belonging on the fields of battle, rather than as a more regally dressed king in New Asgard.
4. Classic Loki
1949 saw Journey into Mystery #85 which marked the debut of the Norse trickster god Loki. His costume certainly feels dated and somewhat comical at this point, the overly-long horns and garish and tight suit surely never accomplishable on screen. When Loki made his first appearance in Thor 2011, it was a very different costume that fans were greeted with, established from the modernized look of the deity from costume designer Alexandra Byrne.
But the 2021 Disney+ show, Loki took viewers to the Multiverse where Classic Loki was revealed. The character was the spitting image of the comic books, almost to a laughable degree; and yet it completely worked. The coloring was absolutely excellent with the design calling back to those early days, while the materials felt ancient and weathered, as if Loki had survived dark days in the attire. Costume designer Christine Wada had to craft something that felt recognizable but so different from what had been established previously in the MCU and they absolutely managed that. Plus, they finally committed to the horns!
3. Scarlet Witch – WandaVision
Readers are well accustomed to Scarlet Witch’s traditional and iconic look in the pages of Marvel Comics. The attire has continued to evolve, but the core characteristics are the same, from the decorative headpiece, to the red colors and flowing cape. The MCU has brought Wanda Maximoff to life, beginning in Avengers: Age of Ultron. But none of the suits had truly captured the essence of the character, never fully playing into her magical background.
WandaVision was indeed visionary in its approach to costume though, thanks to the work of Mayes C. Rubeo. While the Halloween wardrobe of Scarlet Witch might have teased the final look, it wasn’t until she had broken free of Agatha Harkness that she could embrace the powers she held within. The costume was so intricate, featuring a range of runes and symbols speaking to her mystical origins. The headpiece was finally perfected, but the look also built on what had been seen before, rather than moving rapidly away from what had been established with audiences, complete with the waist cape. This wardrobe worked so effectively once corrupted by the Darkhold too, the tones clashing ominously.
2. Black Panther – Civil War
Black Panther has been an important character since his arrival to the Marvel Universein 1966. The general look of the King was defined from that initial art and has grown far more complex with each illustrator’s eye. T’Challa made his appearance in Captain America: Civil War and the costume that he wore for the occasion continues to be Black Panther’s best attire on screen and a fantastic example of what Marvel can create with their vast tools.
It has a physically powerful quality, radiating strength from the Vibranium it’s made of. It’s durable and feels like a true suit of armor, while also adorned with plenty of Wakandan symbolism that speaks so highly of his culture and the legacy that he represents. The Black Panther helmet is perhaps one of the most vital pieces of headgear in the whole of the MCU, the look effortlessly evoking the goddess Bast while also never looking out of place or silly. Each suit since has continued to be influenced by that first design from Judianna Makovsky’s team but conversations would have also been had with Black Panther’s designer, Ruth Carter to ensure a visual continuity with the rest of Wakanda.
1. Iron Man – Mark III
The original Iron Man armor started out far closer to the MCU’s Mark I than this iconic suit. However, the modernized iteration of the Iron Man suit as seen in most of the character’s major arcs is a lot more similar to the iteration in 2008’s Iron Man. The film itself set the tone for the MCU and thus the costuming had to ensure that the visual style moving forward would be one that balanced realism with the comic book world audiences were familiar with.
Rebecca Gregg and Laura Jean Shannon are the credited costume designers for that first film and the suit is actually one of the most CGI-heavy pieces featured on this list. But the armor is Tony Stark’s power and so it was important that there was a strength and battle-wary feel to the piece. Technologically it’s an absolute marvel, with the color design finishing the armor perfectly. The way the components slot together and the silhouette of the helmet which has forever come to identify this hero and the MCU as a whole, talks to the timeless nature of an armor that might never be bested. In the years since Iron Man there have been other great armors, but none come close to the long-term appeal of Mark III.