A Very Thrifted Halloween (#3): How to Dress Like the Villain of the Piece

We have arrived at our third installment of ‘A Very Thrifted Halloween.’ For those who are just tuning in, this series takes an ethical approach to costuming or everyday/casual cosplay with thrifted pieces for three different looks related to a particular theme. For example, Buffy Summer’s 90s Teen-spiration for How to Dress Like a Final Girl or Lydia Deetz’s Paranormal Magnet threads for Dress Like You Got the Power.


This week we examine “How to Dress Like the Villain of the Piece” (props to one of my favorite IT Crowd lines for inspiring the name). The curated collections for this piece include Fantasy Courture, Not Your Average Joe, and Animated Evil.  


How to Dress Like the Villain of the Piece: Fantasy Couture 

Jareth the Goblin King (Labyrinth, 1986)

Villains of fantasy stories usually have best outfits, but they tend to be outlandish, over the top, not your typical choices for thrifted or everyday casual cosplay. However, with some key pieces you can pay homage to any character casually. Take, for instance, David Bowie’s Jareth, who definitely put the glam into glamours villainy thanks to Labyrinth.  

The Goblin King was a sparkly Oscar Wilde character who had you humming, “You remind me of a babe” every time he stepped on screen” and agreeing that he asks for so little (“Just fear me, love me, do as I say and I will be your slave”).

One does not need a costume designer to pull off Jareth’s villainous style. A thrifted ruffled shirt, a sequins jacket, plus a black and crystal brooch can you give this rock baddie status no matter if it is for a costume party or a random night out out with friends. The spiky 80s hair is up to you.

Other "How to Dress Like the Villain of the Piece: Fantasy Couture" options: Queen Bavmorda (Willow), Jean-Baptiste Emanuel Zorg (The Fifth Element), and White Witch (The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe).


How to Dress Like the Villain of the Piece: Not Your Average Joe

Patrick Bateman (American Psycho, 2000

American Psycho is one of those films that left me feeling genuinely uneasy. Most characters that look like your average Joe, but are actually evil to the core, have a tendency to do that.  

The persona of a wealthy, materialistic, sleazy Wall Street mergers and acquisitions investment yuppie type - Bateman - could already be a villain in his own right. However, on top of all of this, he is a serial killer, preying on those he feels are inferior and inadequate. He also does this in an over the top, stylized manner which elevates the horror of it all ("I like to dissect girls. Did you know I'm utterly insane?")

American Psycho mixes the serial killer horror genre with not only Gordon Gecko-esque greed (Wall Street), but also the fashion that seems straight out of American Gigolo. Nice suits, clean pressed shirts, sharp ties. The question one might have is how to make this stand out in a world with so many suited up characters.

Again we returning to thrifting, in particular finding accessories, to obtain the visual essence of this devilish yuppie. The right “Bateman” tie (designer - in primary color) is key. Even more than say a pair of polka dot blue suspenders (which he also dons in the film). If you pair this with any suit you have, the next step is layering the whole ensemble with a clear vintage raincoat. Then to top the look off, add a little touch, such as an axe label pin, to signal the true attentions of this Wall Streeter who is more into "murders and executions" than investment work. 

You can also level this look up from everyday to costume, by thrifting some very dark 80’s shades and a ridiculous large portable phone. Now you are ready to enjoy some Huey Lewis and the News, but please do avoid ATMs that say "Feed me a stray cat."

Other "How to Dress Like the Villain of the Piece: Not Your Average Joe" options:  Nurse Ratched (One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest), Norman Bates (Psycho), and Annie Wilkes (Misery).


How to Dress Like the Villain of the Piece: Animated Evil

Ursula (The Little Mermaid, 1989)

One of the most memorable baddies of the Disney's animated world, is without a doubt Ursula, the cecaelian sea witch. She is a mix of human and octopus, but a 100% baddie. She uses sweetness only as a ploy, a tactic to get what she wants ("Well, angelfish, the solution to your problem is simple. The only way to get what you want is to become a human yourself"). Yet, she is loved by so many. Manipulative, wicked, and loved.

Her look at first glance seems simple and difficult all at once. Her style is simple, but she is half octopus after all.  

Like Jareth, thrifting can be the perfect way to bring her to life in every day fashion and avoid the costume elements of adding tentacles. My suggestion starts with an 1980s cocktail dress, preferably one with ruffles or tiered skirt. This will give you the look of volume, but without eight additional appendages. Then all you need is a few vintage shell jewelry touches. You could follow the exact look of Ursula (as shown below) or glam it up even more with such options as this vintage multi-shell necklace). There are tons of dress and jewelry pieces available online and most likely in your local thrift stores.

Style your hair just so and maybe throw on some purple eyeshadow along with some red lipstick and you are ready for a costume party or night out. You will be singing "I admit that in the past I've been a nasty... they weren't kidding when they called me, well, a witch.”

Other How to Dress Like the Villain of the Piece: Animated Evil:  Lady Eboshi (Princess Mononoke), The Monarch (The Venture Brothers); and Beldam / Other Mother (Coraline)

Hope this installment has inspired you to to pay homage to some of your favorite villains either for Halloween or for your everyday fashion (please note - I only mean fashion, not attitude. Here at Cardigan & Cravats, we have a good feeling / nice policy). Thrifting is environmentally friendly and ethical, but it is also fun. When you find that right piece to go with a look, especially when putting together a costume, it is exhilarating. I hope you enjoy your searches. As always, I would love to hear some of your favorite villain looks below in the comments. Otherwise, I will see you back here next week for the fourth installment of the series.