During the early days of the pandemic, one of the things I missed most was getting to see what everyone was wearing while out and about in the world. My refuge in this trying time was online shopping and fashionable movies, seeking out any every and any film with killer style I could find. With many films holding out for in-theatre releases, I dug into the archives, watching classic horror films and taking screenshots of their most memorable looks for my Instagram account @finalgirlfashion.
Luckily, as things opened up a bit more last year, we got to see more new horror films released in theatres and on streaming. And boy, did they ever make up for lost time, offering up a charcuterie board of tasty and well-tailored outfits for us to devour.
As we reach the end of 2022, let’s look back on the most stylish horror flicks of this year and the talented costume designers who earned them the title.
Daniel Kaluuya, Keke Palmer and Brandon Perea in Nope
Yes, Jordan Peele gave us quite the spectacle with his latest horror film Nope. But I want to give special credit to the film’s costume designer Alex Bovaird (also the twisted genius behind the Emmy-winning series The White Lotus).
From Steven Yeun’s glittery Star Lasso Experience get-up to everything Keke Palmer wore as queer icon Emerald Haywood, the styling of Peele’s most ambitious feature yet was truly out of this world. Much like the creature at the eye of this cinematic storm (named Jean Jacket, natch), every look cooked up by Bovaird was a perfect mix of fantasy and reality (see: Emerald’s playful t-shirts and accessories), making almost every scene, well, hard to look away from. Bonus points for the excellent use of faux movie merch, with the orange Scorpion King crew sweatshirt Daniel Kaluuya’s OJ dons in the film’s climax destined to be recreated for years to come.
X (and Pearl)
Mia Goth in Pearl
Inspiring an endless parade of Halloween costumes this fall, Ti West’s X and Pearl clearly stood out as two of the most sartorially compelling horror films of the year. Whether she had her rocking a pair of denim “shorteralls” with nothing underneath in X or covered head-to-toe in Pearl, costume designer Malgosia Turzanska (The Green Knight) did a stellar job at making sure we couldn’t keep our eyes of Mia Goth. Her attention to detail between the films was spectacular, as she found ways to link Goth’s characters through timeless touchstones (see: the return of the overalls in the farm scenes of Pearl).
I’m dying to see if Turzanska will be back for Maxxxine, doing for ‘80s glam what she so confidently did for ‘70s sleaze and the decidedly demure stylings of the early 20th century.
Orphan: First Kill
Isabelle Fuhrman in Orphan: FIrst Kill
Aside from Isabelle Fuhrman’s incredibly committed performance, one of the most memorable parts of the original Orphan film was the Victorian chokers and Laura Ashley-esque dresses Esther wore as she pulled the wool over her new family’s unsuspecting eyes. And we get to see the origins of not only Esther, but also her signature style in the killer prequel.
I won’t spoil the specifics as this is truly a movie that needs to be seen to be believed. But Orphan: First Kill costume designer Kim H. Ngo managed to successfully adopt the aesthetic set out by Antoinette Messam in 2009, while also carving out her own twists on it. Just wait until you see the scene where Esther puts on lipstick and sunglasses and goes for a joyride.
Jessie Buckley in Men
Alex Garland’s follow-up to 2018’s Annihilation may have divided audiences, but you have to admit that the cottagecore looks dreamed up by Lisa Duncan are on point for this current moment. Say what you want about the heavy knit sweaters and peasant dresses Jessie Buckley’s Harper wore, but I know many women who have paid a pretty penny for similar pieces from slow fashion designers.
At the very least, you have to appreciate how the earth tones of Harper’s closet melded with the film’s gorgeous countryside backdrop. The Green Man was no match for that trench coat!
The Black Phone
Mason Thames and Madeleine McGraw in The Black Phone
In case you haven’t noticed, the ‘70s are back in a big way. From the resurgence of wide-leg pants and platforms to the return of the middle part, it seems like everyone is dressing like a character from The Black Phone these days.
While the legendary Tom Savini did a killer job creating the masks worn by Ethan Hawke’s The Grabber, costume designer Amy Andrews Harrell was the one who truly captured the time period of The Black Phone, dressing The Grabber’s victims as well as psychic heroine Gwen (Madeleine McGraw) in pieces that take you directly back to the year John Carpenter’s Halloween first hit theatres. As Gwen looks for her missing brother in autumnal turtlenecks, ponchos, and jumpers, we watch assorted young men turn into literal ghosts of their former selves. All that’s left to identify these kids is the clothes they died in and Andrews Harrell did an excellent job at giving them all unique trademarks, ranging from well-worn bandanas to grungy gym socks.
Bones and All
Taylor Russell and Timothée Chalamet in Bones and All
As everyone was debating whether Timothée Chalamet’s premiere outfits were queerbaiting or not, I was busy admiring the femme fashions of his character in Bones and All. Melding gender-neutral classics such as ripped jeans (eventually turned into shorts!) with floral cardigans and dreamy blouses, costume designer Giulia Piersanti not only made Chalamet’s Lee stand out in the film, where his penchant for women’s clothing makes him a moving target for small-town homophobia, but also in the overall cinematic landscape of 2022. Meanwhile, Taylor Russell’s Maren does everything she can to stay hidden in her oversized leather jacket (once shared with her estranged dad) and muted floral dresses.
Unsurprisingly, Piersanti also worked with director Luca Guadagnino on Call Me by Your Name and the 2018 remake of Suspiria, two other films that had stunning style. Can’t wait to see what they collaborate on next.
Wendell & Wild
Raul and Kat in Wendell & Wild
Henry Selick’s fun and funky return to stop-motion horror feature filmmaking is a little rough around the edges in terms of plot, but, my god, does it ever look incredible. In particular, I loved the work by Wendell & Wild’s costume team, who not only had to come up with looks for the human characters (see: punk rock heroine and “hell maiden” Kat with her layered belts and knee-high platform boots), but also the undead ones from decades past. I’m sure I’m not the only person on who was disappointed to see (spoiler alert!) Kat’s stylish parents killed in the opening sequence of the film, denying us the chance to see the extent of their eclectic closets. Here’s hoping Kat gets as much play on the Halloween costume circuit as Sally and Coraline.