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Wicked Women in Costume

Updated on September 13, 2014
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Hi, I am Adele, and I have run a large fancy dress shop in Essex, England since 1998. Happy to pass on my knowledge to help others.

The Movies/Hollywood Theme is a regular one for costume events, but not everyone wants to do the hero/heroine thing. For females, when it comes to villainesses and bad girls, one can call up a whole range of candidates - Annie Wilkes from Misery, Alex Forrest from Fatal Attraction, and so on, but here, we are looking more for characters who can be conveyed through the medium of costume, and lately there has been a bit of a new trend in fantasy villainesses, played by the famous.

In 2012 it was Charlize Theron and Julia Roberts as Wicked Queens taking on Snow White, in separate films. 2013 saw Rachel Weiss, Michelle Williams and Mila Kunis doing witches in Oz. In 2014, it is the turn of Angelina Jolie as she goes to the dark side with her portrayal of Maleficent.

So it seems villainesses played by big names are in vogue (or other fashionable magazines). In recognition of this, Pary Girl at Props n Frocks in Essex takes the opportunity to give an overview of some potential villainess looks, for girls who want to go bad for a bit.

The Basic Principles of the Villainess Look

With many classic villainesses being cartoons, what works on film does not always easily translate to real life. Nonetheless, look for these tell-tale signs:

Unsurprisingly, villainesses often use black, purple or dark colours in their ensembles – Cruella de Vil is exceptional in her use of black and white. Also look for use of high, raised collars (often with spiked bits), headdresses or crowns (also quite pointy), gloves (or gauntlets), spikes, studs and flappy sleeves or cloaks (to enhance the exaggerated gestures of the Evil One).

Facially, heavy use of the eyeliner and an overall goth look in shades of black and purple (again) is quite usual (sometimes contrasting with red lipstick), but work on the eyebrows can also pay dividends: A heavy, high-arched (or sloping) set of brows can create an instant sinister look –practice beforehand to ensure brows match and give the right level of menace.


In the original Sleeping Beauty story, a mere wicked fairy called Carabosse caused the problems, but for their cartoon version Disney built the part to create Maleficent, the shape-shifting fairy sorceress with attitude. The current official costume (pictured) involves a voluminous black dress with droopy sleeves and a horned headpiece (it also favours a blue-green skin colour for added impact).

The Angelina Jolie film shows a similar look - the headdress is hornier (and bigger) and Maleficent's face is a more normal colour (but with razor sharp cheekbones).

Doubtless there will be a new official costume, and although there is a new-style Maleficent outfit available in the US, it hasn't yet made it to Britain.

Cruella de Vil

One of the world’s favourite villainesses, with a distinctive black/white hairstyle. The cartoon Cruella and the ‘live’ Glen Close version differ slightly, but Cruella costumes (and lookalikes) come in a range of styles, and there are also a range of dalmatian-print accessories (gloves, hat, cloak) available. Cruella is a character who benefits from an OTT make-up look and she continues to be a popular choice for movies events and the like - perhaps you can persuade a companion to go as a Dalmatian!

Red Queen of Hearts

In the original Alice in Wonderland, the Queen of Hearts was the villainess, but the recent Tim Burton version of the story has amalgamated elements of both Alice books, to create a despotic Red Queen, although the heart motif is still strong throughout the costume. The large head effect achieved for Helena Bonham-Carter in the film is difficult to recreate, but with reference to our basic principles of a villainess, the look can be enhanced with high arched eyebrows (plus blue eyeshadow) and a heart-shaped cupid’s bow lip-look.

Poison Ivy

Originally she was a juvenile delinquent in the Batman comics, but more recently she was a bio-ecologist (played by Uma Thurman) out for revenge in the film 'Batman and Robin'. Having built her part, she is also now one of the 'Gotham Girls' character costume range, and a partner-in-crime to Harley Quinn, who also features on this list. The basic Ivy outfit involves a green stretch outfit with red detailing and leaf accessories, red gloves, green tights and shoes. Her hair is red to auburn and her eyemake-up is based on a green theme with the eyebrows styled as leaves (in some incarnations). She also wears toxic-looking lipstick - try something in green with some lip-gloss or shimmer to give the leaf-shine look!

Harley Quinn

A 'sister in crime' to Poison Ivy is Harley Quinn. Formerly a doctor at Arkham Asylum at Gotham City. she was ‘turned’ to become the partner and counterpart to The Joker. Not yet seen on film, but she features in many a Batman comic and video game. Her look, not surprisingly, is based on a red/black harlequin jumpsuit (sometimes featuring diamond designs) and jester-style head-dress. She has a whitened face and wears a black eyemask (although some find painting the black mask onto the face works better). Several versions of an official costume are available, including a few in the sexy/short style. Meanwhile, back at the 'source' graphic novels we have seen some more corset-based edgy Harleys.

Some 'villainesses' are victims of circumstance, such as Stephen King's Carrie - originally a book, then a successful film. As with many successful movies, there is a less successful remake (and a sequel) available.. In the meantime, the currently available costumes (one of which is illustrated) goes under variations on the 'Prom Queen Nightmare' theme, although 'official' costumes for the newer film may also be found.


There have been several different versions of Catwoman (not including Halle Berry’s ‘street-wise’ version, illustrated, which had nothing to do with the Batman genre) and some people debate whether, in some incarnations, she is really a villainess: In the original comic and ‘The Dark Knight Rises’, she’s a cat-burglar, so the criminality is there. However, in the 1992 film she’s seeking vengeance against an employer who tried to kill her, and in one parallel universe comic book story, she has a child by Batman!. No matter. In her various guises, she’s a popular choice, with the 1992 Michelle Pfeiffer PVC catsuit outfit the most favoured by those who can carry it off. Nonetheless the lycra variations, based on the original and Anne Hathaway versions, are also popular.

Wicked Witch of the West

The evil witch of Oz has recently received a new boost of popularity, thanks to the musical ‘Wicked’ and the film 'Oz-The Great and Powerful. In 'Wicked' she is identified as Elpheba which (and a film of the musical is currently due in 2014). Meanwhile, in 'Oz- The Great and Powerful', the names are different and there is a different take on how the Wicked Witch came to be.

Costume-wise, she can be the classic cackling black-clad witch with the added feature of having a green skin. The newer incarnation in 'Oz- The Great and Powerful' had to be 'upgraded' by Disney, with a sharper, more angular (and greener) concept than the original 1938 version because Warner Brothers (who 'inherited' the film rights from MGM) still have copyright on that look! Incidentally, for those wishing to ‘do’ Elpheba at an event, you might want to consider a Flying Monkey (monkey outfit plus aviator helmet) as a potential companion.


Mystique is the shape-shifting member of the X-Men villains and ally to their leader, Magneto. (The more recent 'prequel' X-Men films tell her back-story). For the girl who wants to make major impact, and has some preparation time to spare, this head-to-toe blue look with strategically placed latex appliances and a short red hairstyle should fit the bill.


For a character from Greek mythology, with a snake-style hairdo and looks to kill (well, turn you to stone), Medusa is a surprisingly popular costume choice. There are a number of different outfits available on the market. The costumes usually come in greyish-green fabrics, possibly with some snake-print texture in deference to Medusa being essentially a human snake! There may also be snake-orientated accessories in the form of belts and head-dresses. Whether you choose to go for a complementary skin colour and stylised make-up, to enhance the snake effect, or just let the outfit stun on its own is up to you.

Incidentally, for those wanting a more off-beat snake-lady villainess in a different style, look no further than Lady Sylvia Marsh in the 1988 film ‘Lair of the White Worm’. She is a sort of cross between Medusa and Mystique of X-Men.

And finally, some evil female ‘counterparts’

Just in case you feel that there are not enough villainesses available ‘in their own right’, there are a number of female versions of established male villains (mostly in the horror field) on the market. These include:

Miss Voorhees - The counterpart to Jason from Friday 13th, but with a rather natty chainsaw handbag (available as an accessory).

Miss Freddie Krueger - Freddie of ‘Nightmare on Elm Street’ has been around for many years. Who knew he had a lesser known sister with the same striped distressed dress-sense?

Miss Chucky - Chucky was a ventriloquist doll who, in the film ‘Child’s Play’, became possessed by the spirit of a serial killer through voodoo. Although the Chucky films subsequently did feature a Bride of Chucky, and a son, this seems to be his identical twin sister.

Miss Beetlejuice - Supposed female counterpart to the bio-exorcist played by Michael Keaton in the 1992 film.


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