'Superman' Costume Designer Yvonne Blake Dies At 78

Yvonne Blake, who helped make Richard Donner's Superman costume into reality, has passed away at the age of 78.

A spokesperson for the Spanish Film Academy, an academy where Blake had been president since October 2016, told THR that she passed away in Madrid on Tuesday night. Current president Mariano Barroso issued a statement on Blake's passing, saying "I met Yvonne when she called me to accompany her in the presidency of the institution. I witnessed her enormous generosity, her passion and her dedication, and at her age, she chose to work for all of us. She took the Academy in difficult times, and her work has been decisive for the new stage of modernization that we are experiencing."

Blake is best known for her work alongside Richard Donner on the original Superman movie starring Christopher Reeve. Blake was responsible for adapting the iconic costume from the comics into something tangible and real for the film, but she had to do so before Reeve had actually been cast.

Her written annotations of the costume read "Leotard in shimmering blue two-way stretch fabric worn over false muscles & harness for flying. Capes to be made in various flowing fashion for resting. Boots in glove leather or elastic with small heel. ‘S’ motif in red & gold on breast & again in all gold on back of cape. Gold metal belt with ‘S’ buckle."

Adapting the suit came with its challenges, but Blake was more than up for it. "It was a question of reproducing what looked like a pretty silly costume into one that could be worn by an actor that would look attractive and believable to Superman fans," she said. "It was important that the tights and shorts did not look like ballet dancers', so the problem of lumps and bumps was solved by wearing a plastic protection shield normally used by boxers."

Blake learned quite a bit on Superman, as she explained during a Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology presentation in 2013.

"I started prepping long before there was a director or an actor," she said. "I worked solely with the production designer, director of photography and the special effects director. These were then innovators on special effects on a grand scale. Now it seems very familiar, but in those days, pre-digital, we were like Christopher Columbus discovering the New World. A voyage into unknown territory. "


In addition to Superman and Superman II, Blake worked on many other projects and netted an Oscar for her work in The Four Musketeers (along with Ron Talsky) and a nomination for her work in Nicholas and Alexandria (alongside Antonio Castillo).

Blake also worked on projects like What Dreams May Come, James Dean, The Reckoning, Carmen, The Bridge of San Luis Rey, and Goya's Ghosts.