Fashionable women in horror movies excite and inspire us. Film fashion has always influenced us. But this is especially true of the horror genre. It’s a pairing that has always translated into the real world. A few years ago Coach created a line based on Danny’s sweater in The Shining. Prada’s 2019 collection was inspired by iconic horror images. Gucci even created Friday the 13th style hockey masks.
Women in Horror month is over. But we don’t need a specific month to honor them. They’re a varied bunch. Layered characters who strike a chord. Both villains, and victims. Each with their own trademark style that is iconic in film history. Or, will become so over time.
One of the first to leave a mark on me was in Supergirl. In 1987, my mom took me to see it for my seventh birthday. It’s a known flop. But I was enamored with the villain, Selena. Played by Faye Dunaway. A feisty red head (like me), with cool vintage style.
Since then, I’ve been fascinated by stylish women in horror movies and thrillers.
Fashion has played a pertinent role in these movies. Especially in the case of the femme fatale. A fixture in the genre.
She’s evolved from the beret loving vixens of the 40’s and 50’s. To the all white wearing seductress that defines the 90’s sexy thriller. Then transformed again for a modern world. Now with the ability to be anything she wants.
Whether that’s Promising Young Woman’s Cassie who wears colorful clothing with intention. Or Dakota Johnson exuding innocence, and sexuality through dress in 2018’s Suspiria.
These stylish women remain timeless and effortlessly memorable:
Susie – Suspiria.
Dakota Johnson controls her every scene in Luca Guadagnino’s masterful remake. The style is imperative, not inconsequential. The perfect blending of horror and fashion in film. An key example of style and set being integral to the story.
The Stepford Wives.
The prairie dresses of The Stepford Wives have surpassed the impact of the movie itself. Today, they’re still relevant. Living on through seasons, and designer collections like Batsheva Hay.
But this year, the prairie dress rose again. Due to the unavoidable need for comfortable, at home fashion.
Catherine Tramell – Basic Instinct.
Some on this list are more thrillers than horrors. But it feels like the two are intertwined at times. And we can’t talk about femme fatales without including the most famous one of all. Catherine in Basic Instinct. Because Sharon Stone plays the icy blonde to perfection.
Wearing Eileen Fisher in a way that no one else ever can. The interrogation scene is notorious. But it’s her white sleeveless turtleneck dress that makes it a pivotal moment in film fashion history.
Rosemary Woodhouse- Rosemarys Baby.
Rosemary’s look is as famous as her ill fated marriage. And Mia Farrow’s epic haircut catapulted her further into fame. Husband Frank Sinatra was reported to hate it so much, he filed for divorce. Something the actress later debunked.
But her berets, full dresses and peter pan collars showcase her perfect 60’s style. And paired with that pixie, they are perpetually iconic.
Elaine – The Love Witch.
When it comes to fashionable women in horror, it’s hard not to recognize The Love Witch. Director Anna Biller’s quirky and alluring indie movie.
Beautiful witch Elaine commands the screen in a rainbow lined coat. In another scene, at tea, she’s in a show stopping pink number. Also complete with matching hat. Elaine’s style feels intertwined with her magic. Something she uses to help her wield power. From her piercing blue eye shadow to her technicolor wardrobe.
The women of Black Christmas.
When I first saw the horror film, Jess’s famous top stood out immediately. It’s a Christmas sweater ahead of its time. There was also Barb’s classic denim button down with black choker. Black Christmas is a horror classic. But one of its best features is the memorable collegiate style.
Ellen Berent – Leave her to Heaven. Gene Tierney plays Ellen in the 1945 thriller. A woman who embodies the femme fatale. And one of the best in film noir. Ellen wears sheath dresses, and monogrammed house robes. All designed by Kay Nelson.
So, this character may be evil. Her actions, vile. But her style is unarguably impeccable.
Cassie – Promising Young Woman.
It’s impossible to talk about Emerald Fennell’s film without also noting it’s eye for style. Themes like grief and vengeance take center stage. But it’s complemented by enticing aesthetics.
Cassie’s uniform tells a significant story. She has a penchant for candy striped sweaters, and pastel colored tops. Portraying the innocence of a girl. But worn like a woman. A line the film carefully balances. Using Cassie’s clothing to illustrate some of the depth to her pain.
Delia Deetz – Beetlejuice.
Today, Catherine O’Hara is known for Moira Roses’s funky outfits. But before Moira, there was Delia Deetz.
Delia’s style in the 80’s horror comedy is eclectic. Not just her hair in the dinner party scene. The way her curls stay slicked to her head. Or those long black gloves. It’s a confidence, a swagger. A red tulle dress, though worn by her stepdaughter Lydia plays a role in the annals of movie fashion as well.
Liesel – Death Becomes Her.
When we meet Liesel, (Isabella Rossellini), the immortal temptress is wearing a jeweled necklace across her bare chest. Later, she dons a gold bathrobe dress with giant collar. She’s also fashion forward with a sleek bob.
Melanie Daniels – The Birds.
Hitchcock used clothing to help tell his story. In Psycho, Janet Leigh first wears white undergarments. Later, she’s in black. Hitchcock did this to showcase the shift in Marion’s mentality.
In The Birds, Melanie (Tippi Hedren) is a gorgeous socialite. She wears a tight, perfectly done blonde chignon and designer suits. A lime green one; synonymous with the role. But Melanie’s perfection will be tested by her arrival on Bodega Bay.
The girls of Slumber Party Massacre.
A campy 80’s slasher so perfectly exemplary of it’s moment. It’s cult status has also grown over time. It’s dated, but the fashion is still relevant today. Proven by the power of a simple graphic t-shirt.
The Chanels – Scream Queens.
Ok, it’s not a movie. But when it comes to fashionable women in horror, the Scream inspired series comes to mind. The Chanels are Heathers– style sorority sisters with an eye for designer dressing.
Ryan Murphy’s show is sharpest in the first season. Sadly, the show was cancelled after two. However, fans are trying to get it back. But the standout was always the fashion. And colorful coordination made for a fun backdrop.
Jessica Jones – Invitation to Hell
This Wes Craven directed made for TV movie isn’t well known. But it’s getting a second life with the magic of streaming. Susan Lucci gives us big hair and a treasure trove of 80’s fashion. Including ornate pins and shoulder pads.
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