Halloween is coming! Horror films have given us some of the most iconic images of evil that ever wore clothes. Since fashion and film (and character) have been a recurring theme on this blog, I thought it would be fun to take a quick look through some iconic horror costumes.
Women in White: ghosts, madwomen, and brides
The women in white of our imaginations come from two Victorian novel sources: Wilkie Collins’ “Woman in White” (1859) and Charles Dickens’ Miss Havisham, from “Great Expectations” (1861). In Wilkie Collins’ novel, his woman in white is a mentally ill woman who insists on wearing white. Her first appearance begins the tale of tragedy and betrayal. She appears at crucial times in the book, wandering in the wild and giving scandalous information about other key characters.
This has just been remade into a mini-series:
Miss Havisham was a sad woman in the Dickens story who was jilted on her wedding day 40 years ago and sits haunted in the cobwebbed remains of the wedding feast, still wearing her white wedding gown. This cultural theme is so influential that it has been reborn as runway style and publicity stunt.
The five “Miss Havishams” sent out as a publicity stunt for British Drama’s 2011 mini-series “Great Expectations”.
Since the Victorian era, white has also been the color of brides, which brought it into collision (collusion?) with the horror film early. In the 1931 film “Frankenstein”, his bride wore the ethereal but slinky wedding dress popular that decade, sealing the waifish look as mysterious and dangerous simultaneously.
The 1930s brought a bunch of memorable movie monsters. King Kong’s beautiful abductee Fay Wray is remembered best as a woman in white, screaming and struggling in the beast’s giant paw, from the film “King Kong” in 1933.
Frankenstein’s bride was remade especially for him in the 1935 film “Bride of Frankenstein”, starring Elsa Lancaster in the title role. Her image of perplexed innocence, swathed in white draperies, with a very tall hairstyle has evolved as an iconic cultural meme.
The horror of becoming a monster is a continuing theme as well, seen here as the Lucy Westenra character in the 1992 “Bram Stoker’s Dracula”. The costumes for this film were designed by Eiko Ishioka and remain some of the most lush fantasy images of feminine evil and evolution ever created.
Alexander McQueen manipulated these associations when he projected a hologram of model Kate Moss surrounded in ghostly white (couture gown) draperies into his Autumn/Winter 2006 collection. (see video opener)
The “Woman in White” continues to be a theme of haunting and loss, much beloved in fantasy and horror stories of all kinds. Here is a brief history that ends with the character’s use in the TV show “Supernatural” in 2005.
Tune in next week for the Women in Black…