The Prop Store of London, which recently sold an original Superman costume with a Certificate of Authenticity from Warner Bros. (see “Authentic Superman Costume In The Marketplace – The Prop Store of London“), has recently showcased a complete costume on their website (currently on display at the Movieum of London – see related article).
Along with a photo of the suit is some background about the making of these original costumes for the Christopher Reeve Superman films for the 70s and 80s:
Perhaps the most iconic movie costume of all time. It would be hard to think of anyone, any age, anywhere who would not be able to tell you exactly what this costume is and who wore it.
In 1977 a 25 year old Christopher Reeve was plucked from obscurity to play the son of Jor-El in the 1978 Richard Donner film Superman – the Movie. At 6 ft 4 Reeve was certainly tall enough for the role but was described as “skinny” at the time. He refused to wear a muscle suit under this costume and with the help of Dave “Darth Vader” Prowse spent several months getting into shape for his legendary performance.
This costume was designed by Yvonne Blake and constructed under the careful supervision of Noel Howard for Bermans and Nathans costumiers of London. It was made from a radical, brand new, specially formulated fabric which had to be flexible and yet not show any sweat stains or any other marks from the rigours of filming. (This was before the invention of “Spandex” of course!) The material was made on a single, now defunct weaving machine in Germany which also produced the judge outfits for Judge Dredd!
Reeve reprised his role three more times and the costumes used on each production were invariably reused on the subsequent sequels. A hero costume from the first movie may have become a flying suit for the second film and then become a stunt costume for the third film and so on as its quality degraded. Sometimes only particular elements of the outfit that were in acceptable condition were used and the remainder discarded. And so it is that today, the surviving authentic costumes tend to be a mixture of components that have enjoyed service in more than one Superman movie. There are usually printed and handwritten revisions to the labels inside the garments with dates and noted alterations as required.
Of particular interest is the section discussing the manufacture of the “radical, brand new, specially formulated fabric” on the “single, now defunct weaving machine in Germany”. As shown in yesterday’s article, “Original Superman Costume Reference Archive: Fabric Comparison“, samples of fabric that is claimed to have been the same kind used to produce the original costumes for the films is very unique and distinct in weave, color, weight, and other attributes, and differs significantly from standard/modern spandex:
There were also striking differences between the “original” material and the material used to make the “Superman III” costume sent to me by another collector for examination (see “High Resolution Photo Reference Archive: “Original Superman III Christopher Reeve Costume”“). The ”original” fabric sample is top, the “Superman III” costume fabric is bottom:
The costumes with Warner Bros. paperwork sold by ScreenUsed (see “Superman III Body Suit“) and The Prop Store of London (see “Superman III Body Suit“) both appear to be made of material that resembles the “original” type shown in the photos above and other examples in yesterday’s article.
Here is a photo from the “Prop Store Collection” article page:
Higher Resolution Archive: The Prop Store Collection Christopher Reeve Superman Costume
I am interested to learn if any confirmed authentic (with Warner Bros. Provenance/Paperwork) Superman costumes are made of material the differs from the “original” type presented in yesterday’s article.
Jason De Bord
Additional Related Articles: Market Watch | Superman