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The Practicality of Female-Action-Hero Fashion

Resident Evil: Afterlife, the fourth movie in the franchise, comes out this weekend, and, in it, Milla Jovovich kills undead beings as happily as ever, except now she’s got her outfit figured out. Remember in the first Resident Evil, when she wore that bizarre red half-severed prom dress? It was just one of the many memorable and sometimes hilarious ensembles worn by female action heroes in the movies. Because they can’t just wear grubby combat boots and greasy machine-gun vests like the action men — no, the action women must wear their violence attire alluringly. So, in the pantheon of female action heroes, who strikes the best balance of sexy and utilitarian? We take a look. And please let us know who we left out.

As Ripley, Sigourney Weaver went badass and un-girly with a gas-station attendant jumpsuit over a collared shirt. Utilitarian and pockety, yet neither unflattering nor bulky. A fine choice.
Sarah Connor says, “I have no need of a bra. Give me my weapon belt, my high-waisted pants, my machine gun, a random tank top, and my obscenely ripped body and that will suffice.” Proving, again, that physique trumps fashion.
The original Buffy — not Sarah Michelle Gellar but Kristy Swanson — wore her cheerleading uniform to murder her opponents. The Lycra leggings and belt allow for movability without sacrificing allure, although the skortlike area detracts from the appeal.
As Trinity, Carrie Anne Moss wisely chose hair gel and black leather as the pillars of her signature style — both allow for slippery getaways and sleek impressions.
Lara Croft — so sexy, so unafraid of zombies. Her skin-tight T-shirt, belt, hot pants, and garter-style gun holsters are hot yet functional, revealing yet not gratuitous. Plus, she actually tied her hair back.
At the dawn of the Resident Evil era, Milla Jovovich wore a bizarre asymmetrical red dress (more a red camisole with a hip banner) — braless — over black spandex and patent-leather boots. Practical? Not really. Hot? Nope, not particularly!
A bobo yellow tracksuit somehow suits the Bride’s murderous vengeance-seeking perfectly. Because clothes don’t make the killer.
Milla wised up a bit for Resident Evil 2, but the skin-baring asymmetrical look was still in full force, except now it appeared as a grungy fishnet tunic layered over an orange tank top and black pants missing a thigh. Interesting!
As assassin Aeon Flux, Charlize Theron sported a full-body spandex catsuit with wedge heels and breast … strings. Just in case she needed to strap down some cash, Kleenex, or tampons. Although presumably she never went to the bathroom.
Sexy assassin Jennifer Garner eschewed normal clothes entirely, opting for a red Miracle-bra corset, matching red leggings, a red leather belt emblazoned with Asian characters, hilarious red “gloves,” and a bicep bracelet in the style of a Bodybugg calorie/step counter. These ladies need to tie their hair up.
As Cherry Darling, Rose McGowan made losing one’s leg to zombies look sexy, by replacing it with a funky machine gun and pairing it with a cute rubber bra, miniskirt, and black wedge boots. Bang bang bang!
Okay, terrific progress. Maybe TOO much progress. From the lopsided, dirty-looking male-stripper ensemble from RE2, Milla advanced to a trench coat, an unbuttoned henley, a bodysuit, and, in lieu of pants, canvas thigh-highs strapped with artillery. Oh, and fingerless gloves and badass boots. First it seems dowdy, but then you see the peekaboo thighs. No need for the scarf, however.
Purple wig, crappy mask, heavy cape, ridiculous belt — it’s amazing Hit Girl wasn’t killed, Isadora Duncan–style, before she ever learned to hit. But hit she did, again and again.
In a fantastically clingy black unitard, moccasin-style boots, and preposterously unrestrained hair, Scarlett Johansson is Black Widow — an alter ego she inhabited only slightly less uncomfortably than her regular ego, in which she teetered around awkwardly in stilettos and pencil skirts.
Finally. Militaristic bustier, awesome crotch straps, wrist guards, black leggings, and a black T-shirt. The perfect marriage of sexy and utilitarian. She doesn’t even need a ponytail holder.
The Practicality of Female-Action-Hero Fashion