Loki, Gender and Costume Design in Thor: The Dark World

Loki, Gender and Costume Design in Thor: The Dark World

This post will probably be long, but I was asked to write it (and I’ve been wanting to since I went to see this film), so at least I know I have one reader interested enough to read to the end. Oh, and there are lots of pictures.

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I am by no means the person best qualified to write this post. I’m not a long-term Marvel fan who grew up reading the comics and I still haven’t read them. I jumped on the Marvel bandwagon when the Avengers came out, like the majority of ‘new fans’. But I am very interested in mythology, and I’m also currently researching gender roles in history and myth, so I’ve been looking pretty closely at interpretations of those stories.

I’m also interested in costume design, diversity, and LGBTQ characters. Thus, I walked out of Thor: The Dark World with a slightly different impression than the majority of the audience, and while I was fangirling over Loki like the best of teenage fangirls, it was mostly about his costume.

Disclaimer: I am well aware that Marvel’s Loki is by no means the same as the Norse mythological figure of Loki, and cannot be directly compared.

Second disclaimer: This post will not have ‘spoilers’ as such, but if you have not yet seen the film and would prefer to know nothing about it whatsoever, it may not be the right place for you, as it includes screenshots and some discussion of characters and their actions.

A few weeks ago, Marvel confirmed that Loki is canonically bisexual and genderqueer. This is great, because he’s a popular character and anything that increases awareness of LGBTQ folks is important, but it’s also not a surprise to anybody who is familiar with the Loki you’ll find in the eddas, the source material for the majority of Norse myths.

He’s a shapeshifter. So why would he be limited by his biological sex? He takes female form several times, including that one incident with a horse. He’s fairly problematic as far as Norse perceptions of gender were concerned, because he can be proven to do exactly what they accuse guys of to shame them: he gets pregnant and gives birth. That’s right, mpreg was considered to be totally a thing, and if you wanted to diss somebody, you tried to make out that they’d given birth. Which is mildly hilarious, but when you think about Loki, makes a lot of sense. It’s been theorised that this sort of attitude originates from a one-sex system which is super complicated and goes into the realms of anthropology and things, but is interesting nonetheless.1

If you want to read some interesting analysis about gender roles regarding both myth!Loki and Marvel!Loki, I can recommend this Livejournal essay on the subject, since it’s both informative and accessibly written. For those interested in other analyses (including books like LotR and the Hobbit among others), the rest of the site is also a good read.

Given that I went to see Thor 2 only about two days after reading this statement from Marvel and the above essay, it was in my mind at the time. And, because I’m a cosplayer, I was looking carefully at the clothing of every character, trying to figure out exactly which ones I’d be capable of making and whose outfit I most wanted to wear. The film was beautifully designed, and all of them were wonderful. And I started noticing something.

I’ve known for a long time that costume design can show character development as much as anything those characters can say. Just look at this comparison of Loki in the first Thor film and in Avengers Assemble.

loki armour comparison

In the first one, he looks youthful, as though he’s not quite reached his full strength. His collar is too large, making him look dwarfed by it; he is slender, and we can tell that he’s more about brains than brawn. But in the second one, the cut of his shoulder panels makes him look wider. The colours are more muted and threatening, with the bright green changed to a darker tone. The collar now fits, and the metal edges give it a threatening feel. He’s also changed his awesome fabric-and-leather sleeves for metal wrist guards (it’s less clear in this image, but I love the design of his sleeves in the first film).

Therefore, it’s instantly obvious that this is no longer “little brother Loki”. This is “supreme evil overlord Loki”.

And of course, there’s a contrast between Loki and the other Asgardians (are we calling them that, or the more accurate ‘Aesir’? I never know with Marvel) that’s instantly noticeable: colours. Most of the time, we see them in red and gold and bright, striking colours, while he’s dominated by more muted tones with green accents. The Les Mis fandom is fond of the red/green dichotomy as portrayed by Enjolras and Grantaire (vision and revolution versus cynicism and alcoholism), and it’s a similar duality here.

Looking at the costume design in Thor: The Dark World, however, what I noticed was something else.

heimdall armourThis is Heimdall’s armour. It’s clearly defensive, because as gatekeeper his role is dangerous and he might well be attacked, but it’s also ceremonial. Its colours are contrasted with his skin but reflect thor armourhis golden eyes, proving that for the Aesir, it’s as much about aesthetics as anything else. Notice the perfect symmetry of everything from the body armour to the sword.

Then, on the right, we’ve got a still of Thor while he’s fighting. His armour is, again, functional but also attractive. It guards all aspects of his body, but allows him movement. Like Heimdall’s it is symmetrical, giving a sense of completion and order.

Okay, so we have two examples of some armour design. Great. Now let’s look at Odin and Thor together – and what do we notice?

thor and odinWe notice symmetry. Completion. Functional but aesthetically pleasing, the armour has no uncertainties.

Due to difficulty in acquiring screen caps in the early stages of the film’s release, I can’t provide a whole host of examples, but other viewers may be able to observe that the only time the male characters are shown in asymmetrical clothing is when they are away from their duties, such as Thor’s rather charming outer garment while he’s talking to Jane that basically looks like he’s wearing a curtain. But an artfully draped curtain.

frigga armour

Now let’s take a look at Frigga’s costume. This one is unusual for the majority of female characters in the film because, Sif aside, they don’t tend to wear much in the way of armour. Can you see how, despite its functional breastplate and wrist guards, the rest of the outfit is asymmetrical? From the skirt to the single shoulder guard to the decoration and design unique to each sleeve, we can see that it’s not about mirroring itself.

This design pattern isn’t limited to Frigga. Jane’s outfit while on Asgard is likewise asymmetrical, including a fairly nonsensical breastplate that only covers one side of her torso and therefore only any use if the guy stabbing you is on your right.jane foster armoured outfit

It’s especially nonsensical because, you know, her heart is totally exposed… but whatever. It looks pretty cool and it helps me to prove my hypothesis.

While I’m examining the female characters, it’s obviously vital that I include the Lady Sif, who is not only extremely attractive but also totally badass on the battlefield. She disproves my theory that female characters are costumed asymmetrically, as her armour is symmetrical. But if you subscribe to the theory that the Norse perceived sex as irrelevant and behaviour or gender as relevant (which is set forth in the academic journal I referenced earlier), then Sif is in fact a ‘masculine’ character.

sif armour

Although evidently female she fulfils the masculine gender role of fighting, and thus is dressed accordingly. Her armour is her entire outfit, rather than an occasional necessity in the way it is for Frigga, and helps constitute a large aspect of her personality and characterisation because we perceive her as one of Thor’s band of fighters rather than joining Frigga and, in this instance, Jane as one of the “ladies” of Asgard.

It’s hard to tell from the screenshots I’ve found, though, but it strikes me that her skirt may in fact be asymmetrical. It’s hard not to read that as a reminder: while her heart may be ‘masculine’, her female biology is still there under her skirt. (Friendly reminder than in myth, Sif and Thor are a couple.) But I may be reading too much into an artfully posed photo.

loki closeupSo where does this leave Loki? Because by now I’m sure you’ve all made the connection I’ve been hinting at: his armour, though at a first glance basically masculine, is asymmetrical. The lapels vary from one side to the other. The shoulder pads are different. The overlapping leather pieces that form the flexible torso armour aren’t centred, and the metal ornamentation there is only shown on one side. Where the tunic splits to allow movement, it does so on one side, rather than on both like Thor’s.

And not just his armour. To my annoyance I was unable to obtain a decent picture, but towards the beginning of the film Loki is in a cell beneath Asgard. He is wearing a rather attractive green long-sleeved top beneath a dark outer layer, which you can mostly see in the picture below. (Edit: I’ve now updated this post with a clearer image thanks to the availability of images.) One sleeve is ordinary while the other has a winding pattern a little like a vine which wraps around it and creates variation, much like Frigga’s outfit shown above. Even in this apparently simple outfit there is a degree of asymmetricality.


Throughout Norse mythology, Loki is put into situations where he undermines his own masculinity to help the Aesir get what they want, whether that’s turning himself into a mare and getting pregnant or tying his testicles to a goat. As described in that Livejournal essay, the nature of his magic is perceived as, essentially, effeminate.2

In the Lokasenna, a truly hilarious part of the Poetic Edda (it’s basically an insult contest between Loki and everybody else), Thor’s favourite phrase to try and shut Loki up is “Unmanly one, cease!” before he then threatens to smash his face with his hammer if he won’t be quiet. Admittedly, in other translations “unmanly one” is rendered as “cock-craving creature” which while it has some wonderful alliteration, carries slightly different connotations, but the essence of the insult is there: Loki doesn’t fulfil the Norse ideal of manliness.

Regardless of whether his self-debasement is on their behalf, the Aesir still see fit to use it against him. And it’s kind of fair enough, since most people would find other ways of abducting / distracting stallions and making people laugh than Loki’s preferred techniques.

In short, Loki is ‘genderqueer’. He refuses to conform to their ideals of masculinity and has no qualms about taking on feminine traits. He is as ambiguous when it comes to gender as he is with loyalty – and anyone who has seen Thor: The Dark World will know that it’s very hard to see whose side he’s on at any given moment. The safest bet is to say he’s on his own side; in this film the self-loathing he portrayed in the first Thor movie is far less evident, so perhaps that’s even true, though I don’t believe he’s fully reconciled with himself and I think he’s hiding his emotions completely. But that’s another essay.

And this costume design is screaming to anyone who cares to listen: Loki transcends your gender boundaries. He’s not wearing a dress of asymmetrical design. He’s not wearing symmetrical armour. He’s wearing armour that’s asymmetrical, gleefully dancing over the line between masculinity and femininity. Perhaps it’s more pronounced in this film, or perhaps I was paying more attention, but Marvel’s confirmation that Loki is in fact genderqueer as well as bisexual within the canon of the comic books and presumably the cinematic universe too suggests to me that it’s nothing if not deliberate.

It’s subtle, but it’s undeniable, and more importantly than any of this: it’s beautiful.

The whole film is so well designed with fantastic world building, as well as costume and set design to rival anything I’ve seen. The constant use of colours was just unbelievable, and even if you have no interest in the plot, I recommend seeing it for that.

I’m going to end this epic essay-post here, because it’s already over 2000 words long (longer if you include the hovertext on the pictures), but I hope somebody finds it interesting. My hypothesis may be disproved by a second watching of the film, or by a costume designer stepping in to correct me, but this is simply the evidence I’ve collected to support an idea I’ve come across with regard to Loki’s role.

Is there anything you noticed about design that particularly stood out to you in the film, or can you think of anything I’ve missed? Please don’t leave any spoilers in the comments – I want them to be safe for anyone who hasn’t seen the film yet. :)

References / further reading (because this is totally a proper essay)

1. If you want to read more about this, I can recommend “Regardless of Sex: Men. Women and Power in Early Northern Europe” by C.Clover, but it’s from an academic journal so you may need a university login or something to access it.

2. I recommend “The Function of Loki in Snorri Sturluson’s “Edda”” by Von Schnurbein for more on this topic, though again it’s an academic journal. You may just wish to read the Lokasenna and the Prose Edda (Snorri’s Edda) to observe it yourself.

55 thoughts on “Loki, Gender and Costume Design in Thor: The Dark World

  1. Awesome…one thing however…can it be argued that Loki’s costume is more like Frigga’s because he was closer to her than to Odin…which also may explain why Thor’s is symmetrical like Odin? I don’t know if this too plays into the gender roles of the characters…but i felt like the relationship between the parents and their children could play into costume design also?

    As you said (on facebook) however, since the fashion is widespread throughout Asguard it can be considered a ‘deeper-rooted gender basis’ behind the fashions…but also as you said, ‘Kings and Queens have always instigated fashion trends’.

    1. Indeed. Loki might be imitating Frigga (or maybe she makes his clothes? Aww, now I’m imagining a little baby Loki being measured for his first armour. ADORABLE) but if that’s the case, he’s certainly not the only one. I think it’s more likely to have an origin in the perception of gender, but now that you’ve made that point, I’m intrigued, and I wish I’d thought of it.

      Though bringing it back to Sif, I think she has a lot of respect and admiration for Frigga, and we see them talking together at the end of ‘Thor’ in a way that suggests they’re often in counsel, so her armour would contradict that idea, as she’d be more likely to have the queen’s style than the king’s — I don’t think we ever see her interact with Odin.

      1. You never know maybe she does have a Frigga-esque dress for when she is not kicking butt??

        Another idea that has just appeared to me while reading your reply…Perhaps the symmetry is only shown in those who are fitted for battle? Since of course Odin and Thor are the father son team of awesome…they would be wearing the armour of battle 24/7? Same with Sif as she is part of Thor’s band of adventurers…Frigga (aside from one scene I do not want to re-live) doesn’t get any butt kicking time. Maybe…the symmetry and asymmetry is almost akin to a sign of your job? The warriors all get the symmetrical clothing and those who do not war get asymmetrical?

        This could explain the lack of symmetry in Loki? He isn’t brought up to be a warrior…his talents lie in trickery not swordplay…thusly his clothing shows this? Maybe the clothing isn’t a symbol of gender identity, as you said it was considered irrelevant by the people at the time…Perhaps is was a symbol of social identity?

        So perhaps if Frigga decides to battle it up with her hubby…she too dons the armour of symmetry? And if Thor ever wants to go fishing for the day he too has an asymmetrical drape?

        1. One clarification — gender identity wasn’t irrelevant because it dictated your social identity. Biological sex, on the other hand, was less important than what you did with it. It was easily overruled by how much of a badass you were.

          But that is an interesting idea. What’s intriguing about Loki is that he has asymmetrical ARMOUR — he’s in both Odin’s sphere and Frigga’s. He transcends the boundaries of roles. If he wore ordinary ‘street’ clothing, it would be a different matter; the fact that it’s armour is what’s so interesting.

          It’s noticeable that the symmetry idea does carry over to Fandral etc when they’re celebrating in the tavern, so they’re not actually fighting at the time, but as it’s a war victory that’s a debatable point.

          Thanks for your contributions.

  2. I’m such a fan of the costuming for the Aesir in these films, and love this essay. One note re: gender as it pertains to Sif. There is a line in the first Thor film that strongly suggests that it’s very, very unusual for her to be a warrior, on account of also being a woman. We also don’t see any other women, that I can recall, among the general Aesir troops that appear in the films. So, while in the Norse mythos perhaps perceived sex among the gods wasn’t a big deal, in the MCU films it certainly is, and her costuming sets her apart from the other women of Asgard in a very deliberate, isolating way.

    Shorter version: I love Sif omg let’s talk about her forever.

    1. Yes — I did remember that line while writing, and in my attempt to main the balance between mythology and the MCU, neglected to mention it. Which may have been a mistake. :)

      However, I think perhaps that emphasises my point rather than contradicts it. Because the role she’s fulfilling isn’t just male-dominated, it IS a male role, she has to take on their characteristics and appear like them. So she dresses like them. But you’re right, I should have mentioned that.

      Yes, please let’s. I love her.

        1. Those are wonderful! I love the Loki designs, and the huge variation of ideas. They actually mostly support my theorizing too, though I based it more on Thor 2 than the first film. Thanks for sharing!

  3. *hasn’t seen this movie yet but loves this post* Don’t worry, I wrote a 3200-word post once. Although actually I didn’t get many comments on it, it may have been overwhelming. But hey, write for yourself.

    I love analyzing this sort of thing. I’m usually less concerned with the movie itself (especially if it’s based off a book and I already know the story) and more with design. One of the reasons The Hunger Games is a favorite film of mine is that the design is so good.

    And yay for LGBTQ+ characters! No yay to not protecting the left boob, though. Ouch.

    1. LEFT BOOBS ARE IMPORTANT. Though maybe it’s harking at the Amazonian myth of cutting off one breast? (The Amazons were real, that story is a myth. Just to be clear.)

      I try to stay below 1500, most of the time. For a start, long posts just take so long. But sometimes it’s necessary.

      1. I CONGRATULATE YOU FOR KNOWING THAT BOOB MYTH. (No srsly, you’d think people would know more about mythology but I’ve embarrassed myself geeking out over the Amazons and Hippolyta and my friends looked at me strangely. So yeah.)

        *pats* I get really excited about what I write, sometimes.


          1. OOH. I’d love to read that.

            I’m disappointed that they didn’t keep the same theme, though… I don’t know what it’s called, but I think of it as the Asgard theme? It’s in “Sons of Odin”, “Can You See Jane?”, etc.
            I do love the vocals in this one, though.

          2. OK!
            I got to cite Maggie Stiefvater’s blog as a source for the paper the other day. (“So, I see I’m a girl” and I was doing gender stereotypes.) It was very satisfying, and possibly the only part of the paper I was passionate about.

          3. Interesting :-)
            The majority of my essays, I can find something I’m passionate about. I tend to view blog posts as mini-essays and I write those on topics I truly care about, so when analysing a novel I think about what I’d pick out from it to discuss on my blog, and I look at that. And I try and truly adore a book before writing about it – even if I hated it when I started the module. It’s different for Classics, where essays are exam-style so they’re generally timed, there’s very little choice of question, and they’re not as relevant to my immediate interests, but if Achilles is in there I can usually get a Patroclus comment in ;-)

          4. I guess for me, the issue with academic essays vs. blog posts is the style. It’s not so much what I write about, just how I do it. I have to cite everything in a paper, and I can’t be sarcastic. :(

            ….oh. I googled who composed for Thor: TDW and it’s not Patrick Doyle anymore. No wonder it sounds different. Hmm.

          5. Nope, it’s by the fellow who wrote Iron Man 3. They seem to do films in pairs, the Marvel composers.

            I suggest if this conversation is to continue much longer, we ought to relocate it to an email thread, rather than obstructing the comment section of this post.

    1. Well, to put it shortly, no. Several people pointed out that the long lingering gaze between Sif and Jane that was probably supposed to show them as rivals for Thor or whatever actually just made it look like Sif wanted to sleep with Jane and she was confused but totally up for it. Admittedly, Tumblr interprets most things like that… But I wouldn’t say her masculinity is a clue to her sexuality – gender identity’s a totally different thing, and some lesbians are incredibly feminine. It’s important not to stereotype. Not that she couldn’t be gay – just that her clothing etc isn’t the evidence. A shot of her with a female partner or her saying so is the only proper evidence that she’s queer in any way. :-)

  4. Ahaha, what a fantastic post! I do feel it worth mentioning in the comics, too, that Loki spends a portion of it being female – his gender flexibility is complete insofar as he works well both as a female and male villain, without changing a scrap of his methods, intents, or behaviour.

    That’s part of the reason why I love this franchise, in that they work things in that way – and that they had the balls to make a point of saying that, yes, Loki is canonically fluid in both gender and sexuality because it supports his character and nature, and they don’t care about backlash.

    I guess you could call it . . . MARVEL-LOUS?

  5. this was a fascinating read. however, if i may point out a few things:

    your essay isn’t complete. it isn’t (i actually excel at essay writing and this is not a criticism but a critique; i think you would benefit from learning how to conclude your points rather than letting them kind of fall by the wayside, and so would your readers. we would be able to make sense of everything and really feel like you’ve satisfied our curiosity, not just piqued it!) as cohesive as it should be.

    first, i’d really like to know where you meant to end up with your major themes. none really feel finished, but the big points are more important. i know you think you have finished, since you discussed male and female armor and what loki wears, but it’s kind of a loose connection.

    secondly, i’m very curious as to why you seem to accept the attitudes toward loki that you present as terribly negative, shrugging them off as funny. you don’t seem particularly concerned about a good representative of genderqueer characters. you think it’s all right for loki to be abused and told that he’s pathetic for not being as built/masculine as the other males. you say that it’s okay for him to be portrayed as weakly as he is because otherwise there would be an even funnier, even weaker resolution of issues if handled by other characters. basically, you think it would be more about slapstick comedy or words rather than the personification loki brings to solving issues.

    also, i find your descriptions of the female characters/their attire entirely befuddling and muddling in their brevity. it’s really not easy to follow your ideas; essays aren’t supposed to be written as if everyone’s seen what movies and read what books you have. they’re supposed to be concise, direct and so clear that one point carries on to the next to a big finish. i wanted to enjoy this but was left intensely dissatisfied.

    1. Thanks for your comments. The fact that it’s not as ‘complete’ as an essay would probably be because it’s a blog post and not a formal academic piece of work, and was never intended to be a full study of every aspect of the costume design. Having only seen the film once and with no access to any additional knowledge (such as interviews with designers or whatever) I couldn’t provide a complete analysis.

      In addition, because it’s a blog post rather than a full essay, it was indeed written with the assumption that most readers would at least be acquainted with the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the first Thor film, although I was careful to avoid explicit spoilers in case they hadn’t seen this film yet. Because of this, I didn’t worry too much about explaining everything, seeing it as unnecessary.

      I’m sorry you view my interpretation or discussion of Loki’s gender identity as insensitive in the way you’ve described. That was by no means my intention, and I do not believe I ever said it was acceptable for him to be abused, simply recording several events from mythology where these things might have occurred. By identifying his status as genderqueer I was only attempting to alert others to this layer of his identity and personality, not offer judgement on it in any way.

      I appreciate the time you have taken to give me this response. Please bear in mind, however, that this is a blog post (as evidenced by the overly informal language and the use of gifs to illustrate it) rather than a full academic criticism and I never claimed that it was a ‘complete’ piece of work, inviting other contributions. Had I been intending to write an essay on a topic as large as this I would certainly have spent more time researching it, as well as editing what I’d written!

      I hope you still enjoyed what I had to say (and I direct you to the further points put forward by the various commenters on this post, as they’re fascinating). I don’t pretend to be an expert and as I mentioned, my only resources were observation having watched the film once, and it was more a remark upon that than anything else.


  6. Hi! just a though about the Frigga breastplate issue, i suspect it is inspired by archery. Women with breasts over a c-cup tend to wear a protective plate over just one breast depending on which hand they use to hold the bow…

    1. I considered that – for example the old Amazon myth. But I do archery and nobody I know or train with ever wears different protective gear to the boys, and I’ve certainly never felt that my chest was at risk, so I think it a little unlikely…but only the costume designer truly knows, of course.

  7. Having the breastplate over only one breast would be something an female archer would do. I’ve always had to wear one when I shoot to protect my chest from getting snapped with the string when I release. (Otherwise it REALLY hurts) The same reason you would wear a forearm protector.

    1. Interesting. What sort of bow do you use? Because I do archery, and I’ve never worn any form of chest protection, nor have I needed to, but it might be that different archery styles and therefore different techniques have different requirements in terms of protection.

      1. I use a recurve (like a long bow in looks – single string) I used to shoot tournaments. They can get pretty complicated when you start adding stabilizers and stuff to them. Not practical for hunting once compound bows were invented. But, probably more accurate to a period bow. The string is loaded with all of the weight placed on the arrow, so if you pull 25lbs that is the amount of force placed on the arrow. Unlike compound where the amount of force is something like double or triple what you’re pulling. So if you smack yourself with the string, you get every pound of that force smacking into your chest. (Again REALLY hurts LOL) I forgot it a few times for practice, but learned really fast it was not something I wanted to forget.

        1. Hmm, I use a recurve as well. It’s only a 30lb bow and I shoot it right handed but nevertheless nobody at my club wears chest protectors, nor have there been any injuries of that sort. Very odd. We must have a different technique or something; probably we’re doing it wrong, but it saves us the effort of wearing more protection!

          Thanks for contributing your experience :)

      2. BTW I shoot left handed so I cover my right breast. Same as in the photo above. So the armor she’s wearing is for a lefty.

  8. My reaction may be a bit late, but I feel the need to point something out aside from telling you I really liked reading this.

    In the first Thor film (the 2011 one) Loki is seen wearing two different outfits; the asymmetrical one you descibe and one that looks very symmetrical to me (please do correct me if I’m wrong). Here’s a link to the clearest picture of the outfit I could find: http://images4.fanpop.com/image/photos/21900000/Loki-loki-thor-2011-21916698-333-591.jpg

    I’m interested in how you would explain this outfit keeping your theory in mind.

    1. Interesting! Obviously, I was primarily looking at the second film, but this strikes me as intriguing simply because at this stage — I think, though correct me if I’m wrong — Loki was unaware of his heritage as a Jotun and still believed himself a son of Asgard. While this may be off the mark, perhaps his increased dependence and use of magic and illusions is his attempt to assert his identity, the one that was kept from him, while earlier he was trying to ‘fit in’. I also think that was possibly the outfit he wore to Thor’s coronation (again, I may be wrong; I haven’t seen the film enough times to say with any authority the exact point from which the still is taken), in which case he would probably have been obliged to wear traditional Asgardian clothing, it being an important ceremony.

      However, this might be complete nonsense, and is only some ideas I came up with upon seeing this picture, so don’t take it as any sort of fact. I’m just extrapolating on incomplete data and a few half-formed threads of evidence.


      1. I see, I understand your point. However, annoyingly (I apologise), the symmetrical outfit/armour is also what he’s wearing as he lets himself fall from the Rainbow bridge, which is after he found out about his heritage.

        But then again, that’s right after he tried to prove himself worthy of the Asgardian throne…

        Interesting, interesting….

        1. That is interesting. (And of course, it takes time manufacture a new wardrobe…)

          I don’t know, if I’m perfectly honest: I wrote this primarily focusing on the second film, so didn’t costumes like this one into account.

  9. This is fascinating stuff! I think I love Loki even more now. Unfortunately, the Livejournal entry you linked to is now locked. Any chance of it being mirrored elsewhere (with author’s permission)?

  10. All I was trying to do was get a better look at the details of Loki’s outfit for cosplay purposes and I stumbled on this.. I love this. And I love Loki for fully going by his own rules.

    1. Ha ha, thanks! A lot of people stumble here looking for pictures — I see them in my stats. But very few of them stay to comment, so I wonder if any of them actually read the post. It makes me glad that you did. :)

      Yep, if there’s one thing you can say about Loki it’s that he follows his own rules and nobody else’s. That’s pretty much the essence of his character.

  11. Awesome essay and one that brings out a lot of things that I didn’t really notice or pay too much attention to – and as a cosplayer, shame on me. I wonder though if it’s gender or unpredictability that the costume design harkens to? In the first Thor movie all the character costumes are pretty symmetrical except for – Loki AND Thor. And, depending on the costume incarnation, Loki is actually more symmetrical than Thor.

    Loki has three costumes in this film – the casual one he wears at home in Asgard whose wide shoulder pads echo his later Avengers/Thor 2 look:


    However that’s just the overvest and sleeves – his breastplate/skirts are very assymetrical and this look will likewise be echoed in the Avengers/Thor 2 versions.

    His second look is the Jotunheim battle costume which is a lightly armored cross between his full armored costume and the casual at-home look. This is very symmetrical – for the most part, except for two straps, one over and one beneath it, that cross in opposite directions.


    Then in Jotunheim, of course, the frost giant grabs his left arm – interestingly the arm in Thor 2 that has the folds/design – and not only shatters his armor but reveals his Jotun origins.

    Finally there is his royal/full battle armor. This is the most symmetrical look he has and, interestingly, it is even more symmetrical than the mighty Thor’s!


    I never noticed this until I started collecting and putting together the Hot Toys Thor 1, Thor action figure in 1/6th scale. To my surprise – especially since I’d cosplayed Thor in Avengers and Dark World, both of which have very symmetrical costumes for Thor – Thor in the first Thor movie has a VERY assymetrical look.


    Thor wears mismatched silver steel vambraces and only wears the red cloth that goes under them wrapped around his hand at his right – the ‘pointy’ vambrace – he also wears a single silver steel thigh guard at his right thigh. Like prison cell Loki’s left sleeve in Thor 2, the assymetrical look slipped totally under the radar for me and I was really surprised when I saw the action figure had mismatching left and right side parts.

    Another consideration is, as in the old Norse tale of Thor losing his hammer and having to dress up as Freya, Thor in the first movie loses his hammer and is deemed unworthy of it. If the hammer functions as a phallic symbol, Thor’s assymetrical look could be seem as a clue that he is in some way ‘unmanly’ or at least ‘not as manly as he should be’.

    Anyways, all food for thought and once again, great article!!

    1. Thanks for your very detailed comment! Loki is definitely an ambiguous figure: leaving aside gender, his loyalties are never certain and he is a law unto himself, so there could definitely be an element of that. But yes, Thor having lost his hammer and therefore being relegated to “unmanliness” is a really interesting theory. I wasn’t looking much at the first film, so it hadn’t occurred to me to consider that, but it’s a really good point. Thanks! :)

  12. I love what you have written. As a designer I can tell you that this is very much how good designers work. Our job is to give visual clues about the character and even the plot. To link characters in subtle ways. I adore the figure of Loki (both MCU & myth) and I wanted to share some thoughts I’ve had because I think Loki’s costumes are some of the best designed pieces ever.

    An important note is that magic (and healing) is considered a female skill or trait in both MCU & myth. It is one more way that Loki straddles gender and makes use of all tools available to him. There is an amazing scene that shouldn’t have been cut in “Thor” in which Thor says, “some of us are warriors and other just do tricks.” This shows Loki’s standing in the culture. Despite the fact that he is a very accomplished warrior (we see this in many scenes) he is still considered less because of his dual bent. Sif, a female that rejected magic arts in favor of physical prowess, is held in higher regard than a Prince of the realm who is a warrior that uses magic. Class, cast, and gender are hard at work here. *now onto costumes*

    You’ll notice that the clothing for both genders shifts as the realm moves from peace to war. Fabrics give way to metals & leather. I felt that the mix of textures in the ladies clothing in Thor 2 showed that they, while being the ‘softer’ sex, were more balanced: mind & physical / peace & fighting. While the men (& Sif) had minds fixated on one thing. Odin was firmly in the war/whack’m camp along with all the other male Asgardians by Thor2 – and that is the problem. (Thor1 he wears has a bit of asymmetry & all fabric outfits, but this is lost asap & armor becomes his thing).

    Perhaps it is better to think of it as organic and mechanical or fluid and fixed instead of symmetrical/asymmetrical. But those are hard to visualize so a designer uses symmetry. Loki’s costumes run the full spectrum from the very organized symmetrical warriors costume on Jotunheim and when he is king to the ripped and torn clothing showing his emotional chaos in prison. Also, when he is king he’s wearing both metal and fabrics – showing that he likely would be a balanced king. It’s not till Avengers (after Thanos) that this softness or peacefulness seems burned out of him. Although I would argue – like his mother – that it’s still there and that we see it in the design/fabrics of his prison garb, but it’s buried.

    I loved the cloak Frigga wears in the coronation scene – it links her well with Loki. A light green gold, but if you look it’s all these intricate crossings and braid like textures that are echoed in Loki’s clothing. Indeed the stones found on many of her dresses are the same size and shape as the armor scales on Loki. With that said there are elements in Odin’s armor that Loki carries: the horns, the curving lines on the sleeve like the prison shirt (see Odin’s shirt in the coronation scene & the overseeing warriors in T2). He’s linked to them.

    I also felt that the layers in Loki’s costume showed us someone who thought outside the box. Someone with many skills who didn’t pick a single path. His multiplicity is out there. Thus the fluid/asymmetrical design to his clothing. We don’t know which side he’s on and he may not even know at this point, but you are right in that his clothing conveys this. That he – like the myth Loki – is seeking to remake the world, possibly by destroying the old ways he was never allowed to be a part of. He is someone who can see intricacies & subtleties. Whereas with Thor…well when you wield a hammer everything looks like a nail. (“Hitting doesn’t solve everything”~Loki) I think that’s why I’m loving the new Loki in the comics. He is not an in your face bad guy like the Old Loki.

    I’m hoping to see more of THAT in the MCU and less the strait up villain. We have enough of those…and they don’t dress nearly as well.

    Thanks for reading my babel. I LOVE well designed meaningful costumes.

    1. Thanks so much for your comment. I really enjoyed hearing your thoughts. The idea of organic giving way to mechanical is really interesting and reflects what I noticed about Loki’s wrist guards as they changed from more delicate fabric and leather to the engraved metal, so I can definitely see that. When I first posted this a few people said I was overanalysing a design that was probably purely aesthetic but your comment made me feel I was justified in my examination of it. :)

  13. This is a wonderful essay, it has definitely changed the way I look that the characters. Something to point out though is women often wear armor over one breast for archery, to protect them from the bowstring hitting them an to help prevent the breast from getting in the way of aiming. So the armor over the one breast is a homage to their warrior culture and a womans ability to fight.
    Thank you again for this essay.

    1. Yeah, a few people mentioned that. It seems odd to me because I never wore or needed any chest protection when I did archery (and I don’t have a small chest), but perhaps it varies according to archery disciplines and techniques? I’ve done very modern-style recurve, so maybe it’d be different with more traditional / longbow archery, I’m not sure.

  14. Wow, this is super fascinating. This is why Asgardians are my favorite. Will definitely be looking more into clothing details in future movies.

  15. I love Loki already, and to know that he and I identify under the same labels is amazing. I myself am bisexual and genderqueer

What do you think? I'd love to hear your thoughts.

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