It’s that time of year when we ask our fans and Kickstarter backers to vote on which new “wild card” costumes they’d like us to do. The wild card costumes, or TBD costumes, are the ones that backers get to pick. They’re extras on top of the regular costumes already promised as part of the Kickstarter (Elizabeth I, Nefertiti, etc.—the full list is on the Kickstarter page).
There are 30 Costume Candidates on this page, and we plan to do 5 of them this year. If you’re a Kickstarter backer, you should have received a formal voting ballot by email. If you’re not a Kickstarter backer, we still want to hear from you! We’re inviting all of our friends and fans to vote in the public poll here:
The public poll is super important because it gives us a sense of what people would like to see. We count every single vote, and use the public poll to break any ties in the Kickstarter vote.
We’re asking everyone to choose 10 costumes from the candidates on this page. We’ll do 5 this year, and carry over any other popular choices for next year. The candidates are organized by category, but you can vote for whichever 10 you like. (By the way, you’ll notice that our candidate list is heavy on Glamour Grrls. That’s because we need more in that category!)
2014 Costume Candidates
Marie Antoinette (1755-1793): Poor Marie Antoinette. She never said “let them eat cake,” and she wasn’t a bad or cruel person at all. True, she was incredibly extravagant, but that was royal life in the 18th century. As for the awful social conditions in France, she really had no control over that; as queen she had no formal political role at all. Nevertheless she became the focus of revolutionary resentment, and her reputation has never recovered.
Tsarina Alexandra (1872-1918): Alexandra is another tragic queen toppled by revolution. The Russians hated her—even more than they hated her husband, Tsar Nicholas—and believed every bit of salacious gossip about her and Rasputin. None of it was true, but Alexandra did treat Rasputin like a messenger from God and remained blind to his venality. Unlike Marie Antoinette, Alexandra was serious about politics and exercised significant power. But she was, alas, dreadfully misguided.
Anne of Austria (1601-1666): The dazzling Queen of France in The Three Musketeers was just as fascinating in real life. No guillotines or firing squads here: Anne outlived her husband and Cardinal Richelieu to become Regent of France, ruling the country until her son Louis XIV came of age. (By the way, she was actually Spanish. The “of Austria” was because she was a Hapsburg.)
Empress Dowager Cixi (1835-1908): Cixi’s reputation is finally being rescued from Confucian and Western prejudice. She ruled China for 47 years, and far from being an incompetent and corrupt old dragon lady, she was in fact a gifted leader of remarkable vision. She ushered China into the modern age, bringing in everything from railroads to feminism to the first moves towards democracy.
Artemisia I of Caria (ca. 480 BCE): The ancient Persian empire has not been treated well by Hollywood. First the appalling 300 depicted Persians as goblins and giants with a serious thing for facial piercings. Then the sequel, 300: Rise of an Empire, went full-bore with the misogyny and turned Queen Artemisia into Bondage Nymphomaniac Revenge Barbie. The real woman was none of those things. She was the queen of Halicarnassus (then part of the Persian empire), a famous naval commander, and a wise military strategist whom Xerxes respected very much. She survived Salamis quite handily and was honored for her contributions. A movie about her would be interesting.
Seondeok, Queen of Silla (606-647): She was the greatest queen in Korean history, renowned for her wisdom, scholarship, and patronage of the arts and sciences. The oldest surviving astronomical observatory in the world, Cheomseongdae, was built during her reign. (Seondeok was a costume candidate for 2013 but didn’t quite make it.)
Rani Lakshmibai of Jhansi (1828-1858): Rani Lakshmibai is a national heroine of India, revered as the country’s first great figure in the struggle for independence. In the Rebellion of 1857 she bravely defended Jhansi against the British, rallying people of all faiths and castes to her flag. (Rani Lakshmibai is another returning costume candidate from 2013.)
Goddesses and Legends:
Bastet: The beloved cat goddess of ancient Egypt was originally a lioness. Up until about 1000 BCE, Bastet was pictured as a lion or lion-headed woman protecting the people of Lower Egypt. But as domesticated cats became more common, Bastet was increasingly associated with these smaller members of the feline tribe. By the Late Period she had been transformed into a small cat herself, and the popularity of her cult soared. Meow.
Guinevere: People can argue til the cows come home that King Arthur was a real person, but it’s difficult to make the case for his lady, Queen Guinevere. Her name, Gwen-hwyfar, means “white fairy/spirit,” and everything about her suggests a classic sovereignty goddess from Celtic mythology. When she marries different men or falls in love with a younger knight, she’s just awarding the kingship of the land. Deal with it.
Morgan le Fay: Raise your hand if Morgan le Fay is your favorite character in Arthurian legend. Is she an evil sorceress? A benevolent healer? A Celtic goddess? All of the above?
La Llorona: The ghost called La Llorona (“The Weeping Woman”) haunts Mexico and the southwest United States, wandering around at night and crying for her children. The children she killed, that is. According to legend she drowned her babies for love of a man, and is now doomed to roam the earth until she finds them. That’s the modern version, at any rate; in more ancient times La Llorona may have been an Aztec goddess. (She’s also been linked to La Malinche—the woman who interpreted for Cortez and has been vilified as a traitor—but that’s another ball of wax.)
Vampire (non-sparkly): What’s up with sparkly vampires? When we think of vampires, we think of the original Eastern European variety: terrifying undead monsters who rise from the grave to feast on the blood of the living. Like Count Orlok up there from the silent classic Nosferatu. Not really somebody you’d want to snuggle up with, is what we’re saying. Vampires are female as well as male, so why can’t we have a lady vampire who’s just as scary as the guy in Nosferatu?
Lucrezia Borgia (1480-1519): Her Dad was the Pope, which gives you an idea right there of the state of affairs in Italy at the time. Lucrezia was born into the most scandalous family in Europe, notorious for its corruption and debauchery. Lucrezia herself was rumored to be fond of using poison to dispatch her enemies, though it’s possible this was just slander and guilt by association.
Charlotte Corday (1768-1793): The folks behind Assassin’s Creed seem to think that a female assassin is some bizarro anomaly that could never happen in real life and is therefore way too much work to put into their new game, Unity, which is set during the French Revolution. Except you know what? The most famous assassin of the French Revolution—indeed, one of the most famous assassins of all time—was this here female right here: Charlotte Corday. She murdered Jean-Paul Marat, a leader of the Reign of Terror, in his bath. You know, that painting that everybody in the world has seen except apparently the people at Assassin’s Creed.
Florence Nightingale (1820-1910): “The Lady with the Lamp” was the founder of modern nursing, establishing it as a trained medical profession and not just an amateur mission of mercy. She was also a pioneering statistician, and did more than anyone to demonstrate the overwhelming importance of sanitation in healthcare. (The germs in the Crimean War killed four times as many soldiers as the weapons did, and the reason we know that is because Florence Nightingale figured it out.)
Clara Barton (1821-1912): She was often called “the American Florence Nightingale,” which she didn’t much like. But in fact the two women were very similar: only a year apart in age, both committed to nursing as a modern profession, both famous for their heroic efforts in wartime. Clara Barton served as a front-line nurse during the Civil War—the first woman to do so—and went on to found the American Red Cross.
Calamity Jane (1852-1903): She was born Martha Jane Canary (or Cannary), and after that things get fuzzy. Almost every detail of her life is disputed, mostly because she told quite a few tall tales (as did all the other Wild West figures who were interviewed back then for newspapers and dime novels). What’s certain is that she lived and dressed as a man and raised a lot of hell.
Ida B. Wells (1862-1931): She was one of the greats: a civil rights activist, a suffragist, a pioneering journalist, a fighter against injustice in all its forms. Her fearless campaign against lynching marked a watershed in American race relations. She was also a prominent feminist, and was one of the first women in the United States to keep her own name after marriage.
Emmy Noether (1882-1935): Now that a woman (Maryam Mirzakhani) has finally won the Fields Medal, it seems like a good time to remember Emmy Noether. She was a towering mathematical genius who discovered one of the most profound theorems in physics: Noerther’s theorem, which links symmetry in nature with the universal laws of conservation. It’s absolutely fundamental to modern physics—one writer compared it to the Pythagorean theorem—and Noether herself ought to be as famous as Einstein.
Eleanor Roosevelt (1884-1962): Eleanor Roosevelt was the greatest First Lady in American history, single-handedly transforming the role from a social position to one of public activism and leadership. She was also a leading humanitarian on the global stage, and after FDR’s death became the first U.S. delegate to the United Nations. Her crowning achievement was the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Mary Pickford (1892-1979): Hollywood’s first superstar and one of its most influential women.
Bessie Smith (1894-1937): the legendary Empress of the Blues.
Marlene Dietrich (1901-1992): one of the most luminous stars of the 20th century.
Dolores del Rio (1905-1983): the first Latina to become an international star.
Louise Brooks (1906-1985): the fabulous flapper with the bobbed hair.
Maria Felix (1914-2002): La Doña herself, the queen of Mexican cinema.
Billie Holiday (1915-1959): the incomparable Lady Day.
Dorothy Dandridge (1922-1965): the first African American nominated for a Best Actress Oscar.
Marilyn Monroe (1926-1962): Goodbye, Norma Jean.
Madhubala (1933-1969): the greatest star of Bollywood’s Golden Age.