Weddings and wedding costume have been powerful cultural symbols throughout history. To see their fundamental purpose twisted is disturbing and especially in a horror film…
With all the recent postings about bridal fashions, I thought I would throw this into the mix…:-) We’re looking at Lucy’s wedding dress from Francis Ford Coppola’s 1992 Dracula and it’s quite a fright (and that’s before Lucy makes her dramatic transformation into a vampire). Supposedly, the film is set in 1897 and thus it would be reasonable to assume that the costuming would follow. However, in reality it’s more like the mid to late 1880s, at least for some of the dresses. For the Lucy wedding dress, it’s a bit more uncertain, to say the least…
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.
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.
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:
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:
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.