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Harley Quinn’s New Suicide Squad 2 Costumes Explained: Changes & Influences

Margot Robbie is back as Harley Quinn in The Suicide Squad and her latest costumes have evolved much like the character has since her live-action introduction in 2016’s Suicide Squad. Harley’s outfits in James Gunn’s The Suicide Squad are a departure from her previous costumes in Suicide Squad and Birds of Prey (The Fantabulous Emancipation Of One Harley Quinn). Following Harley Quinn’s widely criticized costumes from Suicide Squad, and the major aesthetic shift that followed in Birds of Prey, her costumes in Suicide Squad 2 is a welcome return to the comic book character, both of which are red and offer a distinct personality that is as unique as Harley herself.


With the announcement that director James Gunn would helm Suicide Squad 2, fans hoped that he would make a movie that succeeded where the previous Suicide Squad failed. David Ayer’s 2016 film might have been a widely hyped addition to the DCEU, but it failed spectacularly upon release following several months of extensive reshoots. After Gunn’s success with Guardians of the Galaxy, a high-profile Marvel movie about a band of misfits that stayed true to the source material, he was the perfect choice for Suicide Squad 2 (despite its box office failure).

Related: The Suicide Squad Leaves 11 Big Questions Behind About Task Force X

Margot Robbie played Harley Quinn in Suicide Squad, quickly becoming a standout character. However, Harley Quinn’s costumes in Suicide Squad were condemned for hyper-sexualizing the character and downplaying her toxic relationship with Jared Leto’s Joker. Erin Benach, the costume designer for Birds of Prey, attempted to correct Harley Quinn’s costumes in the standalone film — but steered even further from her original look. Her costumes in Suicide Squad 2 are yet another transformation for the character in the DCEU. Here’s why Harley changed things up once again and what inspired her two new looks.

Harley Quinn’s New Costumes In Suicide Squad 2

In the Suicide Squad 2, Harley Quinn finally sees a return to her traditional jester-inspired look. She wears two new costumes in the film that mark a major aesthetic shift from her previous films, channeling the original design from Batman: The Animated Series. While her previous DCEU costumes were modern and punk-inspired, her first Suicide Squad 2 costume references her iconic full-coverage bodysuit, but here it’s reworked as a three-piece fit with a corset top, a jacket that reads “Live Fast, Die Clown,” and stretchy, leather-like pants to go along with combat boots and goggles. Designed in her classic red and black, the Task Force X costume is a more tactical shape than the previous costumes and mixes practicality with comic book accuracy and design.

But that’s not Harley Quinn’s only costume in Suicide Squad 2. Instead of her corset, pants and jacket, Harley later dons a red dress and a pair of heavy boots. Much like the Task Force X armor, her dress is also in Harley Quinn’s iconic red; however, Harley doesn’t choose the outfit. The red dress is forced on her when she’s kidnapped, and she continues to wear it largely because she never gets the opportunity to change. Still, the increasingly tattered red dress has the right balance of being bold and whimsical, making it fitting for the character. In Gunn’s film, Harley wears the red dress for most of the movie, but both costumes strike the right balance between her costumes in Suicide Squad and Birds of Prey.

How & Why Harley Quinn’s Costumes Are Different In Suicide Squad 2

Harley Quinn’s memorable costume in Suicide Squad launched a thousand Halloween costumes when the movie was released in 2016. Both visually striking and a departure from her typical jester-inspired look, Margot Robbie’s version of the character was immediately distinct from Harley Quinn in Batman: The Animated Series. Kate Hawley, Suicide Squad‘s costume designer, traded Harley’s red and black bodysuit for a modern, punk-inspired look, citing inspiration from Courtney Love and Debbie Harry. However, there was a massive backlash to the design, and Suicide Squad was criticized for portraying Harley Quinn as a hyper-sexual sidekick while downplaying her abusive relationship with the Joker.

Related: The Suicide Squad: How Every Returning Character Changed From The Original

In Birds of Prey, costume designer Erin Benach – who had previously designed costumes for Drive – reacted to the criticism of Suicide Squad and attempted to course-correct Harley Quinn’s costumes. Trading the dark and jaded aesthetic of Suicide Squad for a much brighter one, the Harley Quinn in Birds of Prey wears more fun, colorful and practical clothes, while deviating even further from her origins in the comics. With costumes that reference the electric whimsy of Jeremy Scott, creative director of the luxury brand Moschino, Benach’s version of Harley Quinn prefers playful and utilitarian clothing, but not her circus-inspired roots.

Harley Quinn’s costumes in Suicide Squad 2 are different from both of her previous DCEU iterations. She returns to her iconic red and black design and is influenced by her jester-inspired bodysuit from Batman: The Animated Series. Although the colors might be similar to her costume in Suicide Squad, Harley Quinn’s new costumes are significantly more tactical and far less revealing. Harley Quinn in Suicide Squad 2 finally found a happy medium between the iconic design of the character and the sharp whimsy of Margot Robbie’s portrayal in the films.

Harley Quinn’s Suicide Squad 2 Costumes Influences

Injustice 2 - Harley Quinn artwork

Harley Quinn’s costume in Suicide Squad 2 might be a new look for the character, but it also references her history. James Gunn confirmed that Harley Quinn’s new costume was partially inspired by her appearance in the video game Injustice 2. Replicating the card suite designs on her red and black pants and the layered belts around her waist, Harley Quinn’s costume in Suicide Squad 2 is more of an armored version of her video game counterpart. The Suicide Squad 2 costume also references her outfit in the comic Suicide Squad #11, which turned her original jester-inspired bodysuit into a heavy, fitted suit. Both references bring Harley Quinn’s costume back to her original character and remake her famous look so it’s more practical in the DCEU.

Harley Quinn’s other costume, her red dress, ties the character back to her origins, and to other iconic women in film. While the bold color is a signature for Harley Quinn, red dresses are frequently used to highlight femme fatales in cinema — such as Jessica Rabbit, or Marilyn Monroe in the opening sequence of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (a movie that was also referenced in Birds of Prey.) Harley’s red, tiered dress references her place as a woman in the film canon and is an example of Suicide Squad 2′s aesthetic departure from previous comic book movies. The feminine silhouette and layers might be stylistically different from the more tactical bodysuit, but the dress reinforces Harley Quinn’s vulnerability and gentleness while staying true to her character. However, unlike her first outfit, which she presumably chooses to wear herself, the red dress is given to her to wear by Corto Maltese dictator Silvio Luna, who intends to marry her and give her a life Harley has only ever dreamed about. The red of the dress later comes to represent the blood spilled and, despite being an elegant fashion statement at first, gets ripped at the bottom and dirtied to reflect Harley’s survival. The dress, now less layered and paired with black combat boots Harley steals to wear, gives her a sense of freedom while also maintaining her duality as a character.

Harley Quinn’s new costumes represent a departure from her previous, controversial iterations in the DCEU, and a return to her origins. After Harley Quinn’s soft reboot in Birds of Prey, Suicide Squad 2 progresses her arc, one that shows her growth and evolution as an individual outside of being dependent on the Joker. She recognized what a toxic relationship actually looked like and went to great lengths to ensure she didn’t end up in another one again despite the allure it brought. Pulling references from her original introduction in Batman: The Animated Series and her more modern appearances in both the comics and the video game Injustice 2, her costume redesigns in Suicide Squad 2 pay homage to the character while also developing her outfits to reflect her journey thus far. The designs for Harley Quinn maintain the classic red of her ensemble while also giving it new meaning.

Next: How The Suicide Squad Still Works As A Sequel To 2016’s Movie

  • The Suicide Squad (2021)Release date: Aug 06, 2021

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