Look of the Week: the style rules of Scream's not-so final girls

Contributed by
Dec 23, 2018

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!

It doesn’t exactly spell festive cheer, but in 1996 Wes Craven gave horror movie fans a fantastic gift for the holidays with the release of Scream. From the opening scene, Kevin Williamson’s script both pays homage to and pokes fun at this genre with a string of seemingly never-ending references to movies such as Halloween and A Nightmare on Elm Street.

Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell) follows on the Final Girl sartorial legacy of Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) and Nancy Thompson (Heather Langenkamp) by wearing a range of garments you can find at the Gap or JCPenney. However, this time around, it is the not-so Final Girls that this Scream retrospective is celebrating. 

Killing off the big-name star soon after they first appear is a move Alfred Hitchcock made his own back in 1960. Janet Leigh’s daughter, Jamie Lee Curtis, is the OG Final Girl, but the shot of Leigh’s screaming face in Psycho as Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins) stabs her in the shower is a legendary Scream Queen scene. The word iconic gets used a lot — I am guilty of this too — but this is truly an iconic cinematic moment. Flash forward 36 years to Scream, where Drew Barrymore gives great Janet Leigh in the opening sequence.

Barrymore’s blunt blonde bob with heavy bangs is a contemporary version of Leigh’s curly short ‘do. She is also the headline name, so there is assumption she will be fine, no matter the danger levels.

The first thing that should clue an audience into Casey’s fate — other than the fact that she is home alone out in the middle-of-nowhere — is the color of her sweater. Anything cream or white is an instant visual clue it will soon be covered in blood. Casey, like Sidney, does have a girl-next-door vibe, but the berry lip color and pale lavender jeans are pure popular girl touches. She is dating a football player after all — RIP Steve (Kevin Patrick Swalls). If the ‘90s could be summed up in one lipstick shade it would be this one.

Her blue eyes and bangs appear on all of the posters, a hand placed over her mouth in shock. Beneath that image is the cast, all dressed in black. Barrymore, specifically, looks like she has just come from hanging out with Twin PeaksLaura Palmer (Sheryl Lee) at the Black Lodge.


Of course, this is all a huge misdirect; instead, Casey screams in a sea of cream. I’d also be upset if my house was that vanilla. The once cute "staying at home to watch a video outfit" is a mess, covered in blood, grass stains and torn to shreds. Her blood-splattered clothes are probably the last thing on her mind as she makes her futile crawl for survival across her parents’ well-manicured lawn.

Casey's knitwear is not the only example of light clothing that will end up covered in blood. This rule comes into play during the climax of Scream, first when Billy (Skeet Ulrich) is fake-stabbed, followed by Billy and Stu (Matthew Lillard) stabbing each other for real, part of their master plan to get away with murder. The white tee is a classic look, but it also makes the scarlet shade of pig’s (and then human) blood pop on-screen. If Billy was wearing a dark top he would just look wet and sticky, and the same goes for Stu’s beige sweater.

Sidney's best friend Tatum (Rose McGowan) may not be in white, but her costuming points to her low survival chances because she is far more on point when it comes to ‘90s trends. Tatum is clearly much cooler than her best friend, and she's also more comfortable in her own skin. Both these factors help when surviving high school, but not a horror movie. A plaid mini skirt paired with white boots and a yellow rollneck is a Clueless and Empire Records mash-up, aka the look I tried to perfect when I was 14 and a look I probably wouldn't say no to as we head into 2019.

Costume designer Cynthia Bergstrom would later work on Buffy the Vampire Slayer from Season 2 through to Season 6, so this is a great jumping-off point for high school fashion. There are plenty of horror movie references throughout Scream, right down to the clothes worn: A Nightmare on Elm Street is, of course, referenced in the opening scene, but Tatum’s number 10 cropped silver football shirt is also a nod to what Johnny Depp is wearing when he is killed by Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund).

Coincidentally, this style of shirt also made an appearance in Chilling Adventures of Sabrina as worn by Harvey Kinkle (Ross Lynch) in bed, but fortunately, he doesn't get sucked into his mattress.

Tatum is not someone who opts for a subtle aesthetic, as red pants and a zebra print bag are part of her school attire. But these have nothing on the psychedelic mini skirt she wears to boyfriend Stu’s house party. I always appreciate a costume repeat, so Tatum pairing this with the white boots and same lemon rollneck from a previous day is welcome. She might have a plaid skirt like Cher Horowitz (Alicia Silverstone), but she also doesn’t have the same clothing budget as that Clueless character does.

All fashion is cyclical and referential; the ‘90s is currently having a style comeback, but this decade also turned to the ‘60s and ‘70s for inspiration. Tatum looks like she could audition for Quentin Tarantino’s Manson murders project, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, in this particular ensemble. It is a really funky look, and it sucks that Tatum ended up stuck in a cat flap. Not everyone can be a Final Girl, but that doesn’t mean she went quietly or without putting up a fight.

It wouldn’t be a costume Look of the Week retrospective without also taking a quick look at the clothes from the Scream premiere.

Scream premiere


Skeet Ulrich let a bad hat happen to him. F.P. Jones would never, even in the flashback episode of Riverdale. Super thin spaghetti straps on Neve Campbell’s slip dress and Matthew Lillard’s silk shirt are here to remind you this was 1996 — if you weren’t already clued in by the hat Ulrich is wearing.

Scream premiere


Also at the December 1996 Los Angeles premiere, Courteney Cox’s friends showed that they are there for her (I’m sorry), even if they can’t look at the camera at the same time.

On the London premiere red carpet a few months later, Drew Barrymore’s hair is the cooler version of Casey’s — super blunt short bangs and a choppy bob.

Scream premiere


And when I think of Barrymore, this is the version of her style that always pops into my head. This is definitely the best look from the cast.

The Final Girl has a classic look that doesn’t necessarily stand out; jeans and a tee or button-down is a wardrobe staple, from Laurie Strode to Sidney Prescott. Fashion that takes risks, is more fun, or comes in a shade that will complement blood is more often worn by those who sadly won’t survive the bloodbath. Maybe Randy (Jamie Kennedy) should add that to his running list of horror movie rules.

Make Your Inbox Important

Get our newsletter and you’ll be delivered the most interesting stories, videos and interviews weekly.

Sign-up breaker
Sign out: