Wrapping It Up- Dracula, Part 4

We never realized that there was so much loaded in a horror movie from a costume perspective…so now here’s our fourth and last installment. 🙂 Dracula, like Bram Stoker’s book of that name and the legends surrounding vampirism in general, has a heavy erotic element to it that both excites and repels at the same time. While we tend to identify with the plight of the hero/heroes, we are also excited by the villains. In Dracula, we not only have the sometime suave/sometime repellant Count Dracula (depending on what guise he’s assuming), but we also have his minions. Dracula’s “Brides” definitely fill the bill as we see below:

Lucy Bridal3


Monica Bellucci

Michaela Bercu

Michaela Bercu

The above three “Brides” are dressed in outfits reminiscent of the Classical Greek Peplos, and Chiton, garments consisting of loose draped fabric. Naturally, the fabrics used in the movie are sheer that serves to heighten the Brides’ eroticisim. Below are examples of the Chiton:

a1330337094854 hopes-greek-ladies2

Peplos-in-Ancient-GreeceThe Brides’ headpieces have more of a Byzantine feel to them which is consistent with the film’s backstory. Here are some examples:

82c906e8090deb31af985b60c4413656We conclude with the following picture that sums up a lot of the themes running throughout Dracula in which we see both innocence and purity mixed up in evil:


Jonathan Harker and the Brides of Dracula

And after the story has unfolded, we are left with ultimate redemption and triumph of good over evil. From a costume perspective, we see the how the costuming helps to tell the story. This is not your old school Dracula wearing a tuxedo and top hat; no this is a more “real” vampire who has a story and a strong set of motivations for what he does. While we may have issues over historic authenticity of some of the wardrobe, it’s not a serious detraction from the movie and it still works.

In looking at the Victorian Era clothing of the film, we’re left with the feeling that while the selection of fabrics, colors, and styles were well thought out, it suffers from the tendency of people to mash the decades together and this is especially true when it applies to the late 19th Century. A bustle is not just a “bustle” as the decades pass and neither is a train and by the 1897, bustles and trains have for the most part disappeared. This is a key lapse that could have been corrected for in a number of ways. We hope that you’ve enjoyed this and we look forward to bringing you more commentary on other film costuming in future posts.


And For Some More Dracula- Part 3

In the past two installments, we took a really good look at Mina Harker’s wardrobe and pointed out the historical elements. Today, we turn our attention to Mina’s ill-fated companion, Lucy Westenra who is distinct contrast to the more virtuous Mina, oozing sexuality and breaking every rule of Victorian Era propriety. Naturally, Lucy’s wardrobe reflects this to varying degrees and we first start with two dresses that are somewhat tame, giving just a hint of what’s to come with the off-the-shoulder sleeves:



Lucy’s dress was designated as the “Snake Dress” by the Costume Designer because of the decorative trim pattern. Also, as an aside, Mina’s dress on the right only shows up briefly and there’s no other documentation or pictures of it. Here’s a better view of the Snake Dress:

cap009This appears to be an attempt at an evening dress and while it sort of reads “1890s,” it just doesn’t work. Combining a off-the-shoulder neckline with full Gigot sleeves appears awkward and simply looks like a wardrobe malfunction waiting to happen.


Day Dress, English, c. 1816 – 1821; Victoria & Albert Museum (T.55-1934)

d6590603c00bc9569ea24835bea4d348Lucy’s dress in the above picture is more reminiscent of the Romantic Era of the 1820s – 1830s with the sleeves which are a combination of the Demi-Gigot and Marie sleeves. The off-the-shoulder neckline would most likely be seen with evening dresses and ball gowns although it sometimes showed up in day dresses. Here are a couple of examples:

Demi-Gigot SleevesThe contrast between the demure Mina and the more forward Lucy and it shows in the dress. In both shots, Mina is covered up (especially in the one above).

Now, things escalate a bit with this completely fantastical dress:




Lucy Orange1

This dress is the perfect symbol of Lucy’s transformation in a vampire in thrall to Dracula and her dress screams this out to the audience. Color-wise, this is not really a good match for a red head but, as more than one commentator has noted, it was probably selected because it shows up nicely for the night scenes. In terms of Victorian morality, Lucy has definitely gone off the rails here. Can we say “Vamp”? 🙂

And now for what is probably what is the most disturbing dress (at least for us) in the whole film: Lucy’s wedding dress (we touched on a lot of this in a previous post so this may be a bit repetitious). Here are the concept sketches:

eiko_ishioka_dracula_1The dress is an ocean of layered white fabric, tulle, and lace topped off by an extremely wide stiff lace collar reminiscent of an Elizabethan ruff. This dress oozes the concept of the virginal white wedding dress and it’s impossible for the viewer to miss. In this picture, we see it in its most innocent guise when Dr. Seward visits Lucy while she is being fitted for the dress:

Lucy Bridal2

Lucy Bridal1

Unfortunately, because these are screen captures, the dress is not that clear but one can still see the elements and especially the close, upright collar that was typical of many 1890s dresses. Here’s a closer view of the collar:


The seeming very picture of innocence…

Here we see the pearl choker necklace, or “dog collar”, characteristic of 1890s style.

Now we shift to a darker guise after Lucy seemingly dies from being drained of her blood by Dracula. Lucy is then interred in a crypt wearing the wedding dress. However, as we find out, she’s now a vampire herself:

Lucy Vampire2

Lucy, now deceased…or is she?

Lucy Vampire1

The vampire Lucy stopped short by the crucifix.


Vampire Lucy attempts to use her charms on her helpless bridegroom Arthur.


These images pretty much demonstrate the horror that has befallen poor Lucy and the dress underscores this dramatically. From what is supposed to represent the epitome of innocence and beauty has been transformed into a grotesque garment of horror. Here, the costume designer has succeeded brilliantly and it definitely supports the impact of the story. In our next post we’ll be winding everything up so stay tuned and we hope we didn’t shock you too badly.  🙂

To be continued…


Some More Wardrobe From The Movie Dracula- Part 2

Today we further examine the wardrobe of the main heroine, Mina Harker. What’s interesting about her wardrobe is the use of green and blue, both cool colors and these serve to define the character’s primary personality- cool, practical, level-headed (especially when compared to her friend Lucy). Below is another green dress done in the same style as the iconic day dress that we discussed in yesterday’s post:


The costume sketch is a bit on the plain side when compared with the final product. The one feature that stands out is the bustle and once again, this is a dress that’s more appropriate for the late 1880s rather than 1897.


Three-Quarter view. The draping of the fabric on the skirt and the train are characteristic of the late 1880s.


Lucy and Mina.

It’s interesting how the tone of the green color changes, depending on the light and the quality of the picture. Also, note the creasing on the bodice underneath the bustline- either the actress wasn’t wearing a proper corset, or the bodice was too long and it got pushed up when she sat down (which is partly why you see women of the era perching on a chair or bench rather than actually sitting).

Now, while green does seem to dominate Mina’s wardrobe, it’s not the only color. For Mina’s more “passionate” or intimate scenes, and particular, the “Absinthe” scene, there’s this red dress that mixes Victorian and Medieval style elements and serves to emphasizes the sexually charged erotic relationship that Mina/Elzabeta has with Dracula. And of course, the red also serves to emphasize Dracula’s vampire nature. 🙂



Red Dress – Rear View.

What is interesting about the red dress is that with the train, it gives an early 1870s effect, at least when viewing from the rear.



drac_4From the above pictures, one can see that the absinthe dress is relatively unfitted in the front, almost suggesting a tea dress. This stands in stark contract to Mina’s other dresses.

In contrast to the above “absinthe” dress, below is another dress worn by Mina. This dress is a bit more restrained but unfortunately, it only appears briefly in the film, first in the shipboard scene when Mina is throwing Dracula’s love letters overboard and later when she’s marrying Jonathan Harker:

Shipboard Dress Sketch2



Mina Wedding Dress1

Read View; unfortunately there is no good frontal view of the dress in the film.

Mina Silver Dress2

Mina Silver Dress3

It would have been nice to have seen more of this dress, its lines are probably the closest to those characteristic of the 1890s silhouette although the sleeve caps are not really appropriate for 1897.

Now, for a complete change of pace, below is the “Elizabeta” dress from the movie. This is the dress that Dracula’s wife is wearing when she commits suicide after being informed falsely that her husband Dracula having been killed battling the Turks, thus setting the tragic chain of events in motion. Once more, shades of green:


The costume sketch.

And the final product:




Close-Up of the Elizabeta Dress; Here we get a good look at the embroidered dragon which is reminiscent of a double-headed eagle motif of the Romanovs.


From the Hollywood Costume Exhibition. It’s unfortunate that the lighting does not do justice to the dress and makes it appear more neon-like than it really is in reality.


The only good full-length view from the film itself.


And after Elizabeta’s tragic suicide.

This dress contains a combination of Western Medieval and Byzantine elements; the rich embroidered dragon motif especially stands out. Had enough of Mina Harker? Well, stay tuned for Part 3! 🙂

To be continued…


Taking A Look At The 1992 Movie Dracula

Yesterday’s post on the Lucy wedding dress seems to have struck a chord with our readers so we thought we’d re-post and update a series of posts that we did awhile ago about the costuming in the 1992 production of the movie Dracula.  We first saw the movie when it came out and we were entranced by the costuming, knowing full well of its theatricality- it was simply a visual treat. To this day we periodically watch this movie and not always at Halloween… 😆 So with that said, enjoy our deep-dive into the world of costuming for the movie Dracula…

For a change of pace, today we’re going to take a look at period costume in a horror movie and in particular, Frances Ford Coppola’s Dracula. Released in 1991, Dracula was a fresh take on the Bram Stocker’s 1897 novel of the same name. The costumes were designed by Eiko Ishioka and the film won an Oscar Award for Costume design. With the story being set in 1897, we’ll be focusing mostly on the Victorian side of the costuming although we note that many non-Victorian elements have been worked in. We’ll begin with what is probably the most iconic dress of the movie, Mina Harker’s green dress. First, we have the costume sketch…


And then, the finished product…



Looking at this dress, the most significant thing that stands out is that the dress style is about a decade too early. The bustle and train give the dress a silhouette more more appropriate to the late 1880s. By the 1890s, and especially 1897, the bustle/train had disappeared and the overall dress silhouette had become vertical.

The color choice, however is good one and it provides a clear, light color that stands in contrast to the people around her who are dressed in a dark, drab/muddy palette. It also must be noted that it picks up tones of the earlier dress worn by Elizabeta in the early prologue scene (although that is sometimes hard to immediately see in varying lighting):


From the Hollywood Costume Exhibit. Unfortunately, the lighting was not the best here.

From the Hollywood Costume Exhibit. Unfortunately, the lighting was not the best here.

 Below are a few more scenes with the green dress:


minawalking_smallHere we see more details of the front of the dress. The shirtwaist/coat combination was very common during the late 1880s mostly as a faux shirtwaist/jacket that was actually one unified bodice.

The other element that dates this dress style to the late 1880s are the sleeves. During this time, the sleeve caps either smoothly integrated with the bodice or there was a slight “kickout” or puff on the top of the sleeve cap, a precursor to the leg of mutton or “balloon” sleeves characteristic of the mid 1890s. Below are some examples of dresses from the late 1880s:

Petersons August 1886

Peterson’s Magazine, August 1886.

Petersons September 1886

Peterson’s Magazine, September 1886.

Fashion Plate, c. 1886

Fashion Plate, c. 1886

As can be seen from the above plates, the faux open outer jacket with a faux shirtwaist or similar was one characteristic of the late 1880s. Also, one can still see small bustles and trains and while the silhouette has become somewhat vertical, it’s not completely there yet, in much the same way with Mina’s green day dress.

Now, lets take a look at the 1890s:


The Delineator, June 1897


The Delineator, January 1897


The Delineator, December 1898

From the above, we can see that the sleeve caps have increased in size to the “leg of mutton” or “balloon sleeve” look. Moreover, the skirts are even and have an even, cone-like silhouette.

To be continued...


The Lucy Wedding Dress

Today’s post probably more properly belongs in the Halloween post category but well…it’s been a crazy year so we’re a bit belated…but more seriously, bridal fashions have always been an integral part of Western culture and especially more so in recent years as a whole multi-million dollar industry has been built around the act of getting married. When bridal fashion is combined with the horror movie genre, it becomes a commentary about society. In this post we do some deep-diving into Victorian Era social mores and while we may be admittedly reaching a bit with our conclusions, we hope it provides some interesting food for thought so we invite you to come along with us for the ride… 🙂

Bridal dresses have always been a basic part of our business and whether contemporary or old, bridal styles have always been fascinating to us. Today we take a look at bridal dresses from a slightly different perspective with the Lucy wedding dress from Francis Ford Coppola’s 1992 film Dracula and it’s quite a fright (and that’s before Lucy makes her dramatic transformation into a vampire). The film is supposedly set in 1897 and thus it would be reasonable to assume that the costuming would reflect this but in reality it’s more like the mid to late 1880s for at least for some of the dresses and for the Lucy wedding dress, it’s a bit more uncertain…

Our first take on this dress was that it underscores Lucy’s transformation from a seemingly innocent girl into a vampire, the epitome of pure evil and corruption. This is not an original interpretation on our part, it’s been put forward that Lucy’s fate is that of the Victorian female who dared to flout the dominant social conventions that dictated that females were to be subservient, compliant, and certainly NOT sexual in any way that was not connected with procreating children.


Lucy Before…

What is interesting in the above picture is how Lucy’s head appears to be disembodied, the rest of Lucy’s body hidden. It’s an interesting use of foreshadowing, given Lucy’s ultimate fate.


Lucy After…

However, Lucy “breaks” the rules and is “punished” by becoming a cursed, hyper-sexed creature motivated by a thirst for blood. The erotic overtones are hard to miss. At the same time, Lucy’s transformation into a vampire also mocks Victorian convention and especially when we see Lucy returning to her crypt holding an infant in her arms, no doubt her next meal. This is mockery at its most grotesque.

Turning to the dress itself, the dominating feature that one cannot fail to see is the large lace collar that’s vaguely reminiscent of a large Elizabethan ruff. Emphasizing the head, the first thing that came to mind when we first saw it was the head of John the Baptist on a platter. On one level it made for some interesting horror movie theatrics but on another level, it was a bit disturbing.


Turning to the dress itself, below is probably some of the historical inspiration for the Lucy wedding dress:


Michael Conrad Hirt, Margarete Brömsem, 1613

The above portrait captures many of the elements in the Lucy wedding dress although the collar/ruff on the Lucy wedding dress is circular. This is not a particularly flattering look but then again the 17th Century is not one of our most favorite periods for style so take this with a grain of salt.😆 And of course, things would not be complete without some more views of the dress:

Lucy, white funeral/wedding dress worn by Frost in Bram Stoker's Dracula. side front view.:

Once again, before…

Dracula Wedding/Burial dress:

And after…


Full Frontal View


Concept Artwork by Eiko Ishioka

While the Lucy Wedding dress is fairly ahistorical from a style perspective, it nevertheless achieves the primary goal of adding impact to the characters and moving the story forward- the goal of costuming in any production- and it does so in a spectacular way. No matter how we feel about the scenes with Lucy becoming a vampire, it cannot be denied that it has a powerful impact on the viewer. Ultimately, it’s only a movie but it still touches on some dark themes still linger on to this day.

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