Horror movies are filled with mesmerizing scenes—mostly of gore, paranormal thrills and violent deaths, but, pray tell, what about...the fashion?
Along with the slasher villains, vengeful demons and evil creatures, there are some truly stylish moments, whether they’re being worn by final girls, horror hostesses or the monsters themselves. So if you’re looking for a last-minute costume idea, or just want to revel in the clothes, here are some of the most fashionable ladies in horror seen throughout the decades.
Scream queen Linnea Quigley stars as a punk rocker named Trash in this zombie horror flick. She’s most remembered for an infamous scene in which she performs a striptease dance on top of a gravestone, removing all clothing except for her baby blue thigh-highs. Before that, she’s donning black leather shorts, a leopard print top, red leather vest, gloves and a single skull earring dangling from her left lobe, while engaged in a conversation about “the most horrible way to die.” During Quigley’s long career in B-rated horror flicks like Night of the Demons and Silent Night, Deadly Night, she also released an exercise video called Linnea Quigley’s Horror Workout.
Mia Farrow plays Rosemary Woodhouse, a pregnant woman unknowingly carrying Satan’s spawn in this creepy film by creep Roman Polanski. While Farrow’s iconic pixie cut was a scene-stealer in itself, her outfits—dreamt up by Oscar-nominated costume designer Anthea Sylbert—are still as inspiring today as they were back then. Every look was impeccable: Peter Pan collars, turtlenecks, brightly-colored tent dresses, tartan skirts and even a red pantsuit. There was also one notable accessory, the “tannis root” necklace, given to Rosemary by her dubious neighbors.
Everything about the debut film in Italian horror master Dario Argento’s “Three Mothers” trilogy is stylish. The art nouveau set design is filled with vivid hues, Argento having cited Disney’s Snow White as inspiration for the movie’s color scheme. Jessica Harper plays aspiring ballerina Suzy Bannion who comes to a prestigious dance academy. Little does she know, the joint is secretly run by murderous witches. Suzy’s wardrobe consists of virgin-white dresses, brown cardigans and black leotards. The neutral palette is juxtaposed against the blood-red hallways of the school. There’s also a light-up peacock (pictured above), which would make an amazing hat, IMHO.
Two sisters named Regina (Catherine Mary Stewart) and Samantha (Kelli Maroney) find out their lives have been spared when a comet wipes out most human existence in this post-apocalyptic horror-comedy. Regina was saved from the comet’s effects because she was busy boning her boyfriend, which is a nice change from every other horror movie where the horny characters are the first to die. Unfortunately, the only other remaining characters are zombies. Regina wears her ‘80s best (mom jeans, skinny belt, button-up shirt) but her sister’s “Rebels” cheerleading outfit takes the cake. Seems like something Lazy Oaf or UNIF would be keen to reproduce. There’s also a scene where the two go buck wild in a deserted mall and drape themselves in expensive furs. Zombies will have to wait because glamour clearly comes first.
Jean Rollin made terribly awesome, erotic French vampire films in the 1970s. This one is about two young women named Marie (Marie-Pierre Castel) and Michelle (Mireille D’Argent) who are dressed like clowns and are on the run. Later, they change into mini skirts, knee-high socks and saddle shoes, then find themselves within the grasp of a vampiric cult.
When I first watched Elvira bust open a gate with her boobs in a scene from this movie, I said, “Mom?” I knew right then and there I had found my life idol and style icon. In the film, the television horror hostess quits her job and heads to a small Massachusetts town when she finds out her late, great-aunt Morgana has bequeathed all of her possessions to Elvira. Of course, there is only one look for this mistress: she wears a low-cut black dress, with her long black hair worn in a sort of half-beehive and her lips painted red. She accessorizes with black talons, a magical ruby ring, jeweled knife and her cleavage. Fun fact: Cassandra Peterson originally wanted Elvira to be modeled after Sharon Tate in The Fearless Vampire Killers, since she was a redhead like Peterson herself. Thankfully, the studio rejected the idea. Could you imagine?
Ginger and Brigitte Fitzgerald (Katharine Isabelle and Emily Perkins) are teen sisters who are obsessed with death. After Ginger gets her first-ever period, she is attacked by a werewolf and subsequently turns into one herself. Teenage angst is usually never this gnarly. There’s a lot of ‘90s-era, teen goth style here that would comfortably fit in with today’s trends, such as chokers, crop tops and lace-up boots.
In what I believe is the best film in the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise, a group of teenagers living in a mental institution come together to become the Dream Warriors to try and defeat Freddy Krueger. One of the teens, Taryn White, has a history of drug abuse. In her slumber, she transforms into a badass punk with a mohawk and a head-to-toe leather outfit. I’m talking catsuit and spiked shoulder pads. “In my dreams I’m beautiful... and bad!” she exclaims. Aren’t we all, Taryn. She succeeds in wounding Freddy with her knives, but he comes for her with his fingers turned into heroin needles, no less.
Two college bros plan to hire an exotic dancer in order to get accepted into a fraternity. Instead of meeting a blonde dancer in lucite heels, they become entranced with Queen Katrina, who is actually a vampire. After they watch her perform, she seduces one of the guys and turns him into a bloodsucker. Two words: Grace Jones. Per Jones’s M.O., she’s decked out in some pretty striking costumes—the most memorable being the one in which she gives a strange, alluring stage performance. Keith Haring, who was a key contributor to Jones’s iconic style, painted her body in tribal patterns for the scene.
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Images via Screenshot/NBC Productions, Orion Pictures, Paramount Pictures, International Classics, Thomas Coleman and Michael Rosenblatt Productions, Les Films ABC, NBC Productions, Lions Gate Films, Heron Communications/Smart Egg Pictures, Balcor Film Investors/Planet Productions.