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Look of the Week: The enduring sartorial legacy of The Addams Family
Welcome back to Look of the Week, celebrating the best in TV and film sartorial excellence, past and present across sci-fi, horror, fantasy, and other genre classics!
“Sic Gorgiamus Allos Subjectatos Nunc,” or “We gladly feast on those who would subdue us,” is the motto of the Addams Family, and if they were going to do a fashion line, this should be printed above the door of their flagship store — as it also represents their clothing tastes. Trends change, but there is always space for sartorial inspiration from one of American’s most recognizable families.
The new Addams Family animation hits theaters today, and to celebrate this continuation of this story, we’re going back to the beginning to show why characters like Morticia and Wednesday are just as fashionable now as when they first hit TV screens in 1964.
The Addams Family began life not on television in the '60s but as a satirical New Yorker cartoon in 1938. Charles Addams’ illustrations appeared in the magazine until his death in 1988 (with a two-year hiatus during the run of the ‘60s TV show). The Victorian mansion that could double for a museum, Morticia's signature form-fitting black dress, and Gomez’s double-breasted pinstripe suit were all part of the early character conception, as was their shared love of the macabre.
In 1964, ABC launched The Addams Family, and while it only ran for two seasons (a total of 64 half-hour episodes), Carolyn Jones brought Addams' illustrations of Morticia to life, laying the groundwork for Anjelica Huston, who would take on this iconic character nearly 30 years later. Luxurious long black hair matches her sleek signature black gown with a tendril hem in one of the most alluring costume designs of the 20th century.
A costume designer is not listed in the credits for the series, which is disappointing, as it is an instantly recognizable look and this person deserves plaudits for their creations. Nevertheless, the work of Ruth Myers on the 1991 movie starring Angelica Huston was Oscar-nominated, underscoring this achievement in costume design.
There is a reason why Morticia Addams is still a go-to costume for Halloween, as demonstrated by Game of Thrones star Sophie Turner last year (and, when paired with Gomez, makes for an excellent couples costume):
This legendary family is more than just Halloween dress-up ideas, as adults can also take inspiration from both Wednesday and Pugsley’s closets throughout the year. Sure, Pugsley’s shorts are a tad elementary, but a black and white striped T-shirt is a staple. The Addams Family was shot in black and white, but color promotional photos reveal Pugsley’s shirt is not as monochrome as it appears on television. Uncle Fester’s fur collar pops, but it is Morticia's crimson lipstick and manicure that stand out.
Another color shot of Jones getting in the Halloween spirit reveals why she is the unofficial patron saint of this holiday. Black isn't just for somber events or during the colder months, as best demonstrated at the recent Valentino S/S '20 runway show. There is a strong hint of Morticia in this plunging gown — long black sleeves can be worn throughout the year without looking too costumey. Saint Laurent’s F/W '19 collection puts a fun masculine twist on the Morticia Addams signature garment with a plunging tuxedo silhouette. This is how you wear contemporary Gothic attire that leans toward the Addams matriarch.
Morticia’s everyday style is high-end and high-maintenance, but for a character serving up day dress appeal, look no further than Wednesday Addams. In the TV series, 6-year-old Lisa Loring has a penchant for the darker side of make-believe, including the headless dolls that would later feature when Christina Ricci took on this character in 1991. The sharp white-collared black dress has Edwardian roots, which has recently been revived on Chilling Adventures of Sabrina — it was one of our best looks of 2018. Long before Prudence worked a variety of white-collared frocks, Wednesday Addams had the monochromatic witchy aesthetic down. Taking style advice from a child might sound strange, but in the world of this family, the stranger the better — particularly when it delivers such strong results.
As with Morticia, there has been a hint of Wednesday Addams on the runway this year. In February, Prada put a horror twist on ready-to-wear with a Bride of Frankenstein and Frankenstein’s Monster graphic sweatshirt. This might be a little on the nose for Wednesday (and lacking a strong collar), but the braided pigtails are straight from the Wednesday lookbook. Last month in Milan, Prada returned to the Addams daughter aesthetic with a spin on her signature collar and buttons.
The whole family has something to offer sartorially; Gomez's double-breasted pinstripe suit is also having a resurgence after the Saville Row styling of Taron Egerton in The Kingsman. With this type of ensemble, there will always be a desire to return to the classics.
Lurch's tuxedo is a standard as they come, which makes sense, as he is the butler. Even Grandmama gets in on the trend train with her tiny sunglasses as they all pack into the same car.
The new Addams Family returns to the animated roots of this story, but this does mean we don't get to see Charlize Theron and Oscar Isaac as live-action versions of Morticia and Gomez. For costume design and fashion reasons (among others), this feels like a missed opportunity. However, it is clear that after 90 years in print and on-screen, this family and their style aren't going anywhere. No one can subdue the sartorial power of the Addams family.