Horror films are universally loved by fans for a plethora of reasons, from their ability to terrify and thrill us, to their enduring franchise domination, to their iconic characters. While plenty of infamous costumes appear in stores every Halloween, most wouldn't classify the genre as heavily fashion-focused. Beneath the gore, chills, and pulse-pounding moments, however, lies a surprisingly illustrious list of horror films with noteworthy and awe-inspiring wardrobes. Here are six featuring seminal fashion choices that have stood the test of time:
1. The Lost Boys
If you're looking for quintessential '80s glam rock style, look no further than The Lost Boys. Their wardrobe is dripping with the iconic rocker/surfer vibe felt throughout the movie, setting its own identifiable aesthetic. Kiefer Sutherland's character, David, was specifically based around the likes of Billy Idol and Ric Flair, and once you know that, you can't unsee it. Thanks to the style found in this movie, vampires are often categorized into two different fashion ideologies: Victorian gothic (more on that later) and the leather-adorned, bad-boy alt-rock motif sported by our Lost Boys. Costume designer Susan Becker was steadfast in wanting to create a look for the vampires that was a mixture of sexy and intimidating in stark contrast to the seemingly ordinary wardrobe that the rest of the characters don. The end result has left an indelible mark in the history of horror cinema fashion.
It's only been in recent years that the term "cottage core" has found its way into pop culture lingo, and if you aren't sure exactly what it means, we'll help you understand. In essence, it's a style defined by a simpler, more traditional way of life, rooted in the rural countryside and European flair. Imagine living in a small home in a flower-adorned field, baking your own bread, and wearing flowy cotton dresses. That, in a nutshell, is cottage core. No film embraces this concept more than Midsommar. Ari Aster's 2019 folk horror hit about a dysfunctional couple who travel to Sweden and get embroiled in a Scandinavian pagan cult is renowned for its costume design.
The movie itself is eerily beautiful in both look and feel, but the clothing really sets the stage and tone, from the Swedish folk dresses down to the crowns of colorful flowers. Midsommar's costume designer, Andrea Flesch, created a look of pure, crisp white, which is a stark contrast to the story's dark undertones. Even more impressive is the fact that much of the clothing was hand-embroidered, with many of the pieces made from linen that was 100 years old. You'll be hard-pressed to find a movie that is able to expertly combine the beauty and simplicity of virginal, unblemished cotton and bright colors with the sinister, disturbing plot more so than this one.
3. Rosemary's Baby
The 1960s are often considered the epitome of blended styles when it comes to fashion. Fully entrenched in the free love, hippie look of flowers and beads, the decade also held onto the more traditional feel of tailored pencil skirts and color-blocking, boxy dresses. Released in 1968, Roman Polanski's psychological horror starring Mia Farrow about a satanic cult hellbent (pun intended) on using her unborn baby for ritualistic purposes is an undisputed classic. Noted for its themes of women's liberation, it's also become an emblematic standout in the commemorated wardrobe that was synonymous with the times. Rosemary's Baby starts with Farrow adorned in an innocent white, impeccable garb paired with sensible shoes and quilted purses. As the movie progresses and the plot becomes more malevolent, her wardrobe shifts to bolder statement pieces. The pinnacle of this is her now infamous funeral outfit, complete with chiffon sleeves and Peter Pan collar. It's been replicated by fashion designers for decades and helped propel Farrow into the annals of 1960s (and beyond) fashionistas.
4. Bram Stoker's Dracula
As mentioned earlier, one of the most recognizable aspects of vampirism is their clothing. We already explored one end of the spectrum with The Lost Boys' glam rock appeal, but there's also the more common, recognizable gothic romance that's prevalent in Bram Stoker's Dracula. Steeped in luxurious Victorian lace and ornate gowns, Francis Ford Coppola's characters combined tradition with progress by uniquely representing an already famous tale. It was the first time we saw the titular character in something other than the stereotypical black cape, placing Dracula in more progressive clothing that bordered on a mixture of steampunk and alluring sex appeal. Designer Eiko Ishioka, who won an Oscar, created landmark pieces that paved the way for countless vampire media that followed. Suddenly, vampires in top hats and stove pipes became a synonymous staple for the subculture, one that remains prevalent today.
Dario Argento's groundbreaking 1977 supernatural horror film is largely known for its Giallo-style use of colors and cinematography, but it's also a standout in notable fashion choices. Main character Suzy (Jessica Harper), spends much of the film wearing rich satins and frills, which is a surprising choice given the amount of time centered around the movie's German ballet academy. From mint green nightgowns to chiffon pastels, to a sequined scarf paired against a stark white dress, Suspiria fully encompasses the Gucci-inspired 1970s runway motif. Argento's method of expertly matching characters' clothing to the bold backdrops of the film only heightens the eye-popping palette it's now famous for.
6. The Craft
It's impressive when you consider the staying power and cultural relevance of several key aspects synonymous with the 1990s. There's no arguing that, whether you love it or hate it, the fashion that emerged from this decade is iconic and instantly recognizable. This cult classic teen horror about four girls who dabble in witchcraft has gained a considerable fan following since its release two decades ago. Teen films from this era often suffered under the weight of unoriginality, portraying high schoolers in the same ubiquitous, preppy, ultra-mature way. A large part of The Craft's popularity and fandom comes from the wardrobes of its four leads. Their quasi-goth, plaid skirt, and choker-laden fashion choices inspired an entire generation of young girls to emulate the bold clothing and accessories. Designer Deborah Everton has said that it was her primary goal to give each character individuality that is shown through their different styles. The fact that these characters spend the majority of the film in school uniforms and still find a way to make them unique is part of what has led to its place in movie culture history.