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Harley Quinn's Costume Changes and Why They Need To Stop

Updated on July 19, 2012

Harley Quinn is a character from DC Comics. She is one of my favorite, and in my opinion, one of the best villains in Batman (if you can't tell by my user name). She is strong, agile, witty, sexy, insane, and kind of hilarious. She's just a great character.

To give everyone a brief run down of who she is: Harley Quinn is a villain from Batman most commonly associated with The Joker and sometimes teams up with Poison Ivy (there is actually a debate about the “relationship” they have). Harley Quinn made her first appearance in Batman: The Animated Series episode 22, The Joker's Favor. The Batman graphic novel: Mad Love was the first to depict her complete origin. She began as Harleen Quinzel, a psychiatric intern at Arkham Asylum. Harleen was an exceptionally bright student plus she was a dedicated gymnast, which won her a scholarship to Gotham City University. During her study of the lunatics at Arkham, she became obsessed with the Joker. So much so that she begged the doctors at Arkham for 3 months before they would let her to treat him. He told her stories of his terrible childhood and gained her sympathy, followed up by her unending love when he seduced and slept with her. Harleen helped the Joker escape several times and eventually her license was revoked by authorities and she was placed her in her own cell. However, an earthquake hitGotham City and she was able to get out. She then returned as Harley Quinn. Though she's always at his side and would do anything for him, the Joker remains abusive and manipulative. But there are times where the Joker seems to show genuine affection for her, which is nothing he has shown towards anyone else. She's also the only person who has been intimate with the Joker for an extended amount of time (though he does try to kill her sometimes but never succeeds).

The point of Harley Quinn is that it's a pun on the word “Harlequin”. A harlequin is a type of clown, originally from the Italian Commedia Dell'arte and the Halequinade. They are comedy characters, usually servants, who wear diamond-patterned tights that are multiple colors.

Harley Quinn's outfit and personality match that of a regular harlequin. She has had the same outfit since her debut in the Animated Series. Recently though, DC took a new spin on Harley's costumes and basically, I don't like them.

First came Batman: Arkham Asylum in 2009

Harley Quinn wore a mix of a nurse's outfit and multicolored leather. Her hair was not tucked under a jester hat, but instead was just in pigtails. Just look at the photo. Granted, its “sexy” but its not Harley Quinn. It doesn't even resemble a harlequin save it has two different colors. One of the colors being purple, which her outfit is supposed to have black instead. She just looks ridiculous. She looks like a crazy person, yes, maybe even a hooker, but not a villain. They gave her the paint around the eyes like a mask though, which was a good touch. However, it looks like they tried too hard to make her appeal to a punk and/or goth audience. She even has a choker around her neck and fishnet stockings, why? And let's be honest, her boots look like platform shoes from the 60's. It's not even that they altered her costume, it's that they took it to this weird level that they shouldn't have. I also understand they took over the asylum, so she's dressed as a nurse. Yes, I get the joke. But she isn't in a nurse's outfit. She's in an outfit someone dressed as a nurse for Halloween would wear.

Second came Batman New 52: Suicide Squad in September 2011

This one is tied at number 1 for worst. I don't even know what DC is doing right now. I saw this and a big “WTF” slapped me in the face. Why is she wearing a corset that's about to come undone? Why is she wearing panties and a belt? Why is she wearing thigh-high socks instead of tights? And most important, why is she wearing a cape that's attached to a ruff (the thing that looks like it popped out of a Shakespeare play)? The arm guards are kind of cool, but other than that it's all absurd. Her hair is also a cool concept, I'll give them that, but I do like the hood better. Her make-up also looks like a goth girl got a hold of her eye-liner and put it on for her. Harley's make-up is supposed to resemble a mask, like many harlequins wore. They also made her fully pale, not just in white face paint, she is just fully white as a ghost and it looks awful. It's I will also say I like the giant mallet she has for a weapon. That's funny, that's clown like. She looks like a prostitute you'd find on a street corner, not an insane woman who worships the Joker. There is almost nothing redeemable about this choice in outfit and I'm absolutely against it. Not just because I'm a female, but because I'm a fan.

Third came Batman: Arkham City in October 2011

This outfit I actually like pretty well. Still, her original will always be my favorite. I like the modern touch they're going for, but I don't think they've found it. Her original suit is a body suit and it makes sense because she's a gymnast. She needs to be able to move around easily, even a skirt or pair of panties provide easier ability to do high kicks and back flips than leather pants kept on with a belt (Catwoman's makes more sense because again, body suit). Her boots have a heel, but at least it's not super stiletto style and the outfit is sexy without making her look like a prostitute. Still, I don't think they needed her bra sticking out. We got the point that her vest was red and black, and the tank-top underneath was opposite of the vest, we didn't need the extra bra to be opposite the tank-top but match the vest. It was a bit much. Also I liked her tattoo of the Joker, I thought that was a nice, subtle touch. Her hair style is also tweaked with the red and black colors which I enjoy, though again, hood will always be my favorite. They also did the same thing as Suicide Squad where they didn't make her make-up look like a mask so much as over-done eyeliner, which takes away from the “harlequin” theme.

Finally, there is a new game coming out called Injustice: Gods Among Us to be released in 2013

This is the outfit tied for first in horrible costumes for Harley Quinn. If the picture wasn't labeled “Harley Quinn” I wouldn't have even guessed that's who it was. It looks like they stole Chun Li's outfit from Street Fighter and tried to make it into something Harley would wear. She looks more like a pirate than a harlequin. They did bring back the mask and they did the hair dye thing, which is great, but everything else is just a big “no” for me. Her boots make no sense, and her tights look silly with just her panties being on. It also looks like they attempted to give her a trench coat but then gave up and just put buckles on it. I'm so displeased with the outfit that I hardly even have anything to say. I think the picture says everything. It just doesn't look good. It completely destroys the harlequin concept aside from the color scheme and few designs. The joker card necklace is a nice touch too. Even so, the costume just falls short in every aspect.

Harley Quinn's original outfit will always be the best in my eyes. Maybe I'm bias because its the first costume of hers I saw, but even so. It makes the most sense and in the right comics, it has been made to look sexy. That's not the point of her outfit though. She isn't trying to look sexy, she's trying to match the Joker's theme. That's what she's about. She's a lunatic like the Joker and she makes herself as much like him as possible. I think that lately DC has lost sight of that and have only been focusing on how to make their women sexy, not realistic.


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    • profile image

      Robert 2 years ago

      I must say that I loved the look of Harley in Arkham City. The hair I like more than the classic hood but they also dyed it to match. I liked the more modern punk-ish look it gave to her while still sticking the closest to her original costume. The Joker tattoo I thought was pretty cool too. I do agree she needs a full painted mask instead of eye liner though.

      All that said, the original is the best. Arkham City is a close second for me but only because I feel it keeps the original idea with a few modern tweaks.

    • Amanda Bright profile image

      Amanda Bright 3 years ago from California

      I agree as well, these costume changes need to stop, it's distorting her character. I love the original costume (although the Injustice Harley isn't half bad). I also agree with ironangel89, her new sexual appearance in the New 52 Suicide Squad makes me very hesitant to read, as I know I won't enjoy it if her character qualities are wrong. Overall, I do miss the original Harley Quinn.

    • ironangel89 profile image

      Aaron 3 years ago from United States

      I agree for the most part. I was more forgiving for the Arkhamverse look because it's a gritty take that wasn't canon with the comics. But the New 52 Harley Quinn is ridiculous. Between her oversexualized appearance/character, her Deadpool-esque personality, and her marijuana scratch and sniff cover: it's just not the Harley I used to know.

    • profile image

      Mariana 3 years ago

      I agree with you in all your opinions, but there's another outfit on this injustice game that is very cool

    • profile image

      Kristin James 3 years ago

      Harley had red and purple to start with. It depended on who was inking, because some artists used black. The whole outfit had minor changes through the comics/BTAS due to artist swaps.

      Even DC said she alternated colors.

    • profile image

      Laura helsby 3 years ago

      I'm sorry but I have to completely disagree about the new 52 I think it's perfect for a Harley that's on her own, the original was made to match Mr j and now he's not there. I'm a girl, I don't find the costume offensive, I find it awesome, okay the suicide squad is a little revealing but Amanda Conners New 52 Harley is perfect, I love the outfit and the fact that her skin is all white,... she is a more mature (though still not) more modern version of Harley and she's still really hot-which is important

    • profile image

      Hayley 4 years ago

      Harley's old looked matched her old identity She dressed like that to go along with the joker however the New DCU is trying to come away from that , Harley Quinn has gained so much popularity that DC decided her own comic book series titled Harley Quinn. In Fall issues of Suicide Squad Harley was beginning to pull away from Joker , this time without influence for her best fried Ivy . The reasons for her costume changes was DC was finding who they want Harley Quinn to be without Joker Harley Quinn #0 is a contest that revels who Harley Quinn is and will always be ; A smart ,sexy villain with a damaged and rough past who will yearn for Joker in spite of his abuse forever.

    • profile image

      TJ 4 years ago

      Your right the first costume is the best ,but at times I did find myself thinking that wearing the hat was kinda stupid not crazy enough even though the costume does make for an ironic joke.She's the joker's harleqin of his fool

    • profile image

      Andrew Limewall 4 years ago

      What a great Article! We have put together all of the Harley Quinn Costume ideas and accessories from around the internet onto one website. Your readers can find everything they need at I thought this would be a neat addition to your post for your readers to easily find the costumes you talk about.

    • profile image

      vitarnii 4 years ago

      I have always loved Harley, she is my favourite villain for many reasons; and her costume always suited her personality and the Joker's. The points you raise about the changes that have been made to her costume recently; I completely agree with. She has been made to seduce a new male audience without the designers realising that she was seductive before. When I cosplay as Harley, I always keep true to her traditional outfit, and when people ask me why I'm wearing that design, I tell them exactly why!

    • Rae Saylor profile image

      Rae Saylor 4 years ago from Australia

      Yup! Nothing will ever come close to Harley Quinn's original costume. Great hub :) Voted up!

    • profile image

      Kman720 4 years ago

      Could not agree more. Harley Quinn's original costume is the best one bar none.

    • seigfried23 profile image

      seigfried23 4 years ago

      This is a beautiful and comprehensive hub - very well written with great pictures. Great job! Might I make a small but hopefully unobtrusive suggestion: break some of the wording up into smaller paragraphs to facilitate web-reading....

    • profile image

      € HarleyQuinn€ 4 years ago

      What is the name of the purple green and black outfit she wears I'm trying to find a pic of it to 1. Make it or 2. Find it online

    • harliquinn profile image

      harliquinn 5 years ago

      Thanks for the comments everyone! I was very overwhelmed recently with school and work, however, I'm going to try to start updating again :)

    • profile image

      Ivan Merier 5 years ago

      I agree on your comments about the costumes. The reason why you see her with fully pale white skin in the new 52 is that they tweeked her origin and had joker throw her in a vat of the same chemicals that altered him. Supposedly he had done this to others and she was the first one to survive. Just thought you'd like to know.

    • Andy McGuire profile image

      Andy McGuire 5 years ago from Los Angeles, CA

      I loved this article. I'm a big fan of Harley and I haven't liked any costume other than the original from the animated series.

      Well done, it makes me want to write a comic book-related piece next on mu hub. I voted this up.

    • profile image

      Menace 5 years ago

      The costume on DC Universe Online was done brilliantly and i can't think of a reason why they would have strayed from it. It is clearly the best and I would of love to have seen it in Arkham City and Asylum instead what they have replaced it with. They are just trying to make her as sexy as they can without caring how little she looks like a clown.

    • profile image

      The Evil Nerd 5 years ago

      I kinda of agree with you harliquinn on most of the things you said. I think with a few alterations the Arkham City costume could be my new favourite. First her face needs to have the painted on mask instead of the eye liner. Second a full body suit with the same colour scheme that she has already. However I love what they have done with her hair (Arkham City). I prefer that over her original headgear. I also hate what they have done to her in the new injustice game with exemption from the bells at the end of her top thing.

    • davluz profile image

      David Luzader 5 years ago from Phoenix

      Harley's design was so great when it was conceived! It had that clown like quality that would really seem to attract The Joker. He doesn't seem like he would be interested in a girl for her, ahem, physical assets, but for her chaotic nature. It also destroys her as an intelligent character. Instead of a doctor who became obsessed with The Joker, she seems like nothing more than a fan girl.

    • cperuzzi profile image

      Christopher Peruzzi 5 years ago from Freehold, NJ

      I agree completely.

      I loved her original black and red... it said it all. Harlequinn with a Joker. The idea wasn't new (going back to the original "Joker's Daughter" (Duella Dent) back in the early eighties). It made being a clown villain an ally of the Joker and not some imitation or copycat.

      I liked the version in Arkham Asylum. It worked for her while keeping a new identity for both she and the Joker for the game. It was edgier.

      But you're certainly right - they're really getting off the spirit of the character and the name.

    • FatFreddysCat profile image

      Keith Abt 5 years ago from The Garden State

      I retired from comic collecting years ago so the only Harley costume I'm familiar with is the original from the Animated Series. Looking at what they've done to her since then, I'd say they should've stuck with the original look.

      On a side note, my kids (age 5 and 10) have been watching reruns of "Batman: The Animated Series" lately and they LOVE Harley Quinn, they get all excited when a Joker episode comes on because they think Harley's hilarious. Especially when she calls the Joker "Puddin'."

    • Stevennix2001 profile image

      Steven Escareno 5 years ago

      Wow, your right about the last costume, as i never would've guessed that was harley quinn until you mentioned it was. Yeah, I think your right that the original costume would probably be the best one by far. Very informative hub, as I can tell you put a lot of research into this.

      Although on a different note, I know it's kind of sad Heath Ledger died after making "The Dark Knight", as I know Christopher Nolan originally said in an interview that the Joker was meant to be a recurring character in the third film; where he'd get teamed up with Harley Quinn, as most of the film would've taken place in Arkham. Sadly, Heath died, and Nolan didn't want to recast the Joker role to anyone else out of respect to Ledger, so they ended up writing a different story for "The Dark Knight Rises." Kind of sad too.

      Although I did like Nolan's take on Bane and Catwoman, I would've been more interested to see his take on Harley and her relationship with Joker even more if you ask me. Anyway, sorry to hijack your hub, as you did a great job writing this. Keep up the good work and all that stuff.

    • profile image

      ScooterPie 5 years ago

      I love this article. Harley Quinn has always been one of my favorites, but lately all my friends have started noticing her because of her new sexy updates. Whenever I mention that she is my favorite they all look at me funny, like I should oppose her and hate her because she gives females an even sluttier name, but that isn't the case at all. I will always love the original.

    • profile image

      Beucose 5 years ago

      nice article, i definitely agree, though i'm curious of your opinions on the altered harley quinn's revenge costume

    • profile image

      Brynelle 5 years ago

      Wow this is amazing! I finally found someone that has the same idea as I do about Harley Quinn. I just hate all the new costumes. I wish dc would just stick to the same simple design as the original. Thank u so much for writing this!

    • JBrumett profile image

      JBrumett 5 years ago

      Bummer, I missed the whole PS3 generation apparently. I was sucked into MMO's on PC a few years ago, and never really bothered with consoles since. Now, I'm all about trying to build a nice gaming PC every year. *drools* =-P

    • harliquinn profile image

      harliquinn 5 years ago

      Sadly I have it for PlayStation 3 :(. My computer can't handle games like that very well. It ends up freezing a lot, I need a new graphics card but I've been lazy about it haha

    • JBrumett profile image

      JBrumett 5 years ago

      Right on. I switched over from LoTRO because they had a six month sub deal in DCUO that goes to November. My gaming PC died, but I should have money to fix it in a few weeks. I got up to a CR of 42 if I remember on my main toon. If you're on the PC server maybe I'll see you around once I get my gaming PC fixed. =-P

    • harliquinn profile image

      harliquinn 5 years ago

      Thanks for the comments!

      And it must have been something along those lines because everyone is baffled haha. I play DC Universe too and they did a great job with that game and then stopped trying.

    • JBrumett profile image

      JBrumett 5 years ago

      Heh, seems like a few people are mad at DC Comics. This is the third or fourth article I've read where people are criticizing updated hero/villain costumes. I haven't read any comics in a few years, but I do play DC Universe Online and she still wears the jester type outfit you have as your first and last picture on that game. So, maybe all the better quality DC people were transferred to making content for that game and lower quality staff was hired on to do comics afterward. Just a guess though.

    • DonkeyKongKiller profile image

      DonkeyKongKiller 5 years ago from Texas

      "Maybe I'm bias because its the first costume of hers I saw"

      I don't think so. The original outfit is the perfect match to the joker. Iconic while still being recognizably clown based. Even the best designed outfits out of the ones that you had on the list don't stress the clown aspect enough. Every other outfit is just like a slutty Halloween costume that adds a couple hearts and diamonds in a few places. You've summed everything up better than I can though.