As with everything in the movie, the graphic novel served as inspiration for the superhero suits and civilian clothes that spanned five decades. Costume designer Michael Wilkinson ("300") had to stay true to the book and the eras, yet use modern materials and constructions that made the costumes as comfortable as possible for the actors. Nevertheless, the stars found them pretty unbearable.
Matthew Goode winces when he describes the black nylon "onesie" that was covered in powder before he could don Ozymandias' supersuit. Jeffrey Dean Morgan's Comedian costume was equally complicated, and included a muscle torso prosthetic under foam latex and leather. Nite Owl's cape, made of layers of sprayed latex, weighed 10 pounds (about 4.5 kilograms) alone.
Wilkinson made every effort to lessen the discomfort by constructing the costumes "so that we were able to take the torso or the bottoms off and let the actors breathe between shots. And we always had fans on them between scenes and cooling rooms just off the set where the temperature was a lot lower."
Wilkinson and his team spent several months designing, building and fitting the costumes in Los Angeles during pre-production. "The 1980s superhero costumes were definitely the most challenging because they went through the most in terms of stunt sequences and close-up work and had the most time on screen so they had to be 100 percent spot-on." he outlines.
Meanwhile, actors were digitally scanned, and the information was used to create body casts. "We sculpt on top of that in clay and make molds. Foam latex is injected into the mold and we fit the various pieces into a body suit," Wilkinson continues. The process takes about three months once the design has been approved. "You get the one and them start making the multiples," nine or 10 for each principal actor. That covers wear and tear and unforeseen calamities.
Supersuits aside, Wilkinson's main task was dressing hundreds of actors and extras in period garb, including hippies, soldiers, disco dancers and some pop culture figures seen in the opening sequence. "Mostly we gathered costumes from existing stock, but the key icons, we did those from scratch."