The goal of most horror movies and TV shows is to frighten viewers so much that they have to hide their eyes and look away. But with some scary movies and TV shows, you can't tear your eyes from the screen—because the fashion is so good.
These are the lookers, inspiring both Halloween costumes and everyday ensembles. Sartorially bringing to life the goth of vampires and their slayers, the chicness of sociopaths, the non-chalant coolness of witches—and the pre-death, unaware style of their victims.
This fall brings at least three lookers: Scream Queens and American Story: Hotel have invaded our TV screens and Crimson Peak hits movie theaters October 16th. Scream Queens embodies the over-the-top preppy style of naive, self-centered sorority sisters. American Story: Hotel takes a stab at sexually disturbed murderous glamour in an eerie California hotel. While Crimson Peak does what many classic horror does so well: Victorian goth (think: Bram Stoker's Dracula or Penny Dreadful).
In celebration of Halloween—and the glorious fashion on film and TV this fall—we rounded up some of the best fashion moments from 29 horror movies and TV shows.
Ryan Murphy's kitschy horror TV show revolving around potty-mouthed sorority sisters (the Chanels) attempting to solve the murders on their college campus just debuted this fall. While the verdict is still out on whether Scream Queens will be deemed critically acclaimed like Murphy's American Horror Story series, the fashion should definitely be applauded. Chanel suits, sequined mini skirts, lots of fur, pink, and knee-high socks; the costume designer's inspiration can be seen instantly: Clueless, Mean Girls, and Heathers. But, unlike Cher or Regina George, Chanel Oberlin (Emma Roberts) is likely wearing her Valentino pumps while dragging a corpse.
It wouldn't be a '90s movie about teenage witches without an angsty grunge take on witch style. Sarah, Nancy, Bonnie and Rochelle may wear uniforms to school, but they each have an individual sense of style, and meshed together it forms one pretty chic-ass coven. There's no shortage of black, more black, rosaries, dark lipstick, and chokers.
The 1935 sequel to Frankenstein understood exactly what a bride needs: A statement dress and a eye-catching hairstyle. Elizabeth Frankenstein owned minimal goth bride with her cape-like Margiela-ish dress, up-to-the-shoulder gloves, dark lip, and cone-shaped up-do, complete with white streaks.
While Stanley Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange isn't technically a horror film, it is terrifying and disturbing, due to the extremely violent and sociopathic nature of the main character Alex (Malcolm McDowell). With its quintessential '70s ensembles, the film has influenced musicians like No Doubt and fashion designers like KTZ, Jean Paul Gaultier and Antonio Azzuolo.
Stigmata is a twisted, religion-oriented horror film filled with crucifixion imagery. While the movie received bad reviews from critics and was both hard to look at and hard to look away, there some glorious fashion moments: Nia Long's purple hair and Patricia Arquette's dark green patent leather trench coat with a fur collar.
Alfred Hitchhock's The Birds was about every New Yorker's worst fear: Getting viciously attacked by fine feathered friends. Sure, Tippi Hedren got pecked by a flock, but she did so in style: A plush fur coat and green suit (a color that Hitchhock choose to relay the idea of her being a "cool girl").
Once you get old enough to realize that Tim Burton's Beetlejuice is more dark humor and less horror, you also can't get past the disturbing idea of an underage girl (Winona Ryder) getting married off to some guy twice her age. Also unforgettable: Winona Ryder's amazing goth style from the black lace veil she wears at the dinner table with her parents to the spiked hair and red tulle dress she wears to her wedding.
Queen of the Damned was the last film Aaliyah appeared in before her death in 2001. The R&B singer played a vampire queen (obviously) with regal, warrior-like post-Cleopatra style, who is awakened by music (duh) from another vampire.
This horror-comedy film is about an overprotective mother who, aside from stalking her son and his girlfriend, obviously knows a thing or two about style: Look at her discreet-but-chic sunglasses. Unfortunately, she accidentally gets bitten by a rat-monkey, is turned into a zombie, and then turns their whole neighborhood into zombies, so the sunglasses only make a short cameo.
The myth was: Say Candyman in the mirror five times, and the urban legend (who had a deep-seated history in racism, bullying and slavery) would murder you with his hook hand. The Candyman spends the entire movie in a really fly shearling jacket murdering people to prove to everyone in Chicago that he's actually real.
Essentially Carrie burned down her high school and killed all her classmates, but it was disturbingly nice to see her stand up for herself, specifically to the awful kids who ruined the perfect, pretty, light pink slip dress she wore to prom.
The Belgian vampire horror film revolves around an empty hotel, murder, a creepy obsession, newlyweds and masochism. It also features Delphine Seyrig, who is hands-down the best dressed vampire I've ever seen on screen; she manipulates in black veils, a sequined turtleneck dress, fur (obviously), head-to-toe red, a velvet, feather-trimmed robe, and perfectly finger-waved blond locks.
Rosemary (Mia Farrow) spends most of this movie wondering what is going on, and if she's pregnant or not, and eventually finds out that her child is, in fact, alive, and the spawn of Satan (dark). She does this while clothed in various mod shift dresses, and also gets a legendary pixie haircut. Ruth Gordon plays her odd and eccentrically stylish neighbor, in polka dot head wraps, psychedelic prints, and pearls.
American Horror Story allows Ryan Murphy's genius to shine season after season, delivering intriguing plot lines and unforgettable characters. He also has a gift of meshing huge celebrities (Lady Gaga, Naomi Campbell) and well-known actors into the plot in a very chill way. As the series has moved from a house to a circus to a California hotel, the fashion just keeps getting better. From Frances Conroy's Grace Coddington-esque style in AHS Coven to Angela Bassett's 50s glamour style in AHS Freak Show, and now Lady Gaga, who murdered someone while clad in sequined gloves with silver metallic stiletto nails.
Alfred Hitchcock's Rear Window is about a photojournalist confined to a wheelchair who creeps on his neighbors and ends up witnessing a murder. This movie calls attention to both the importance of curtains and to Grace Kelly's impeccably chic wardrobe. She owns classic style on the screen in a black organza dress, a black and white tulle party dress (that she wears to dinner because she's classy), and a eye-catching mint green skirt suit.
Season 1 of Buffy The Vampire Slayer introduced us to Sarah Michelle Gellar as badass Buffy, her unconventional teenage life at a high school that doubles as a supernatural epicenter, and her affinity for boots (which she didn't wear as much after season 2) and neck accessories (chokers, scarves, string).
In Wes Craven's Scream, Sidney Prescott (played by Neve Campbell) might have mastered '90s high school teenager style (denim jackets, mini-skirts, football jerseys, chokers) and, to some extent, murdering people, but it's reporter Gale Weathers (Courteney Cox)who steals the show with her bright, camera-ready power suits. One of my favorite moments in the film is in the end, where despite being attacked and shooting one of the suspects, Gale's outfit stays clean and camera ready—and she reports the news the next morning in the exact same outfit.
Though Twin Peaks only had two seasons, it's a spooky cult television show about the murder of a homecoming queen that everyone should attempt to watch, for the music and fashion alone. When Blackie (a heroin addict/madame of a brothel) steps into the scene in Season 1, she commands your attention with her thigh-high-slit dress, va-va-voom hair, and overzealous early-'90s shoulders.
This Italian film is like a murderous, supernatural version of Center Stage that really shows the impact good wallpaper can have on a home (well, in this case, a creepy dance school). Every room in the German dance academy is filled with bright or graphic wallpaper and carpet, serving as a backdrop for the muted, tonal clothing of the cast. So stylish.
Eddie Murphy plays a very dapper Caribbean vampire (slicked-back hair, precisely chiseled beard, pinstriped suit and a high-collared dress shirt) in Wes Craven's 1995 movie Vampire in Brooklyn. He spends his time turning people into vampires who are definitely not as fly.
Neil Jordan's horror-fantasy movie envisions the classic Little Red Riding Hood fairy tale, but this time Little Red Riding Hood (and lots of other people) are eventually turned into wolves. The British film, released in 1984, features a great wedding party scene where all of the guests are dressed in the fashions of 18th century France (think: Marie Antoinette) and eventually turned into wolves.
Another Alfred Hitchcock film (clearly the guy had a thing for well-dressed blonde women). In Vertigo, Kim Novak clearly understands the importance of a statement coat. Novak plays two different women, distinguishing each with a drastically different wardrobe.
There's a scene with women dressed in floor-length fur coats and lingerie in front of burning cars! The costume design in Eyes of Laura Mars was so brilliant that it was featured in an exhibit at The Museum of Art and Design in 2011. The film centers around Laura Mars, a famous New York fashion photographer known for her graphically violent images, who eventually begins to see murders through her lens and tries to figure out who the serial killer is.
Post-Beetlejuice, Winona Ryder embodied gothic style again, in Francis Ford Coppola's adaptation of Dracula; this time, true-to-the-period Victorian style. Count Dracula's (Gary Oldman) top hat and mini, round, tinted sunglasses and Lucy Westenra's (Sadie Frost) avant-garde Gothic wedding dress (with oversized collar) are also a stand-out looks from this film.
The vampires in this 1983 British film about a love triangle between a research doctor (Susan Sarandon) and vampire couple (Catherine Deneuve and David Bowie) are impeccably dressed. The classic '80s styles include leather jackets, Art Deco silhouettes and sharp cat-eye sunglasses.
This weirdly erotic (and kind of sexist) French horror film from 1971 centers in on two young women who somehow get lured into a haunted vampire castle. They only wear one outfit (except when they're dressed as clowns or without clothing) during the whole movie—mod-ish mini skirts, knee-high socks and pigtails.
In Stanley Kubrick's The Shining, Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson), his wife (Shelley Duvall) and son (Danny Lloyd) mirror classic ;ate '70s/early '80s suburban style (effortless layering, plaid, chunky knits, corduroy, turtlenecks) as they move into a nearly vacant hotel—only to be terrorized by their own family member. The film has inspired several fashion collections, from the Jack Nicholson dress at The Blonds fall 2013 show to Coach's re-make of Danny's Apollo sweater in their fall 2014 collection.
In a tied-up shirt, chunky headband, choker and arm-band, Sarah Michelle Gellar once again nails '90s cool-girl style in the 1997 movie I Know What You Did Last Summer, this time in the form of pageant queen.
The British-American TV show Penny Dreadful, which brings to life various literary characters from novels like Dracula, Frankenstein, and The Picture of Dorian Gray, has only been around for one season, and already the Victorian gothic costumes featured on screen have scored it an exclusive collection with Hot Topic.
Have more fashion moments from horror movies to share? Comment below or find me on Twitter, let's discuss.
Tahirah Hairston is a style writer from Detroit who likes Susan Miller, Rihanna's friend's Instagram accounts, ramen and ugly-but cute shoes.