What do Tim Burton’s artwork and characters teach us about fashion?
Who doesn’t love spooky season? There’s something so special about putting on comfortable clothes, cuddling up with hot cocoa, and watching a Tim Burton film. Tim Burton is an artist who’s created groundbreaking movies, plots, and yes, fashion styles. In fact, his film, art, and fashion designs are so unique that the style phrase “Burtonesque” has been named for him. His artistic style tells us it’s okay to be who you are and wear what you want—whether you have scissors for hands or a detachable head. Let’s get into the spooky spirit of the season by taking a look at some of the fashion lessons we can learn from Tim Burton’s most beloved characters and scenes.
1. Black is always in.
When you think Tim Burton, you probably think black, black, and more black. And that’s one of the elements that makes Tim Burton’s films so era-less and timeless—black!
Black isn’t just for the macabre and spooky. Black is a classic color that flatters most skin types, body types, and events. The little black dress is a wardrobe must-have, a black blazer is a work essential, and a plain black tee can be dressed up or down for any occasion. One of the biggest fashion myths of all time is that pink (or any other color) is the “new black.” Black is—and always will be—the only color that will never go out of style or season.
So, whether you’re channeling Lydia from Beetlejuice or Edward Scissorhands, don’t be afraid to incorporate as much black as you’d like into your everyday look.
2. Flaunt your favorite leather pieces.
Speaking of Edward Scissorhands, let’s talk about leather. Edward knows how to rock the full leather look. Colleen Atwood, the esteemed costume designer, chose to dress Edward Scissorhands in all leather with lots of belts and loops to reflect how constrained he feels due to his scissor hands. This look also differentiates him from the other characters in the movie who judge and reject him for the way he looks.
While the movie is a good lesson on not judging someone based on his appearance, his look may be a bit over the top for everyday wear for us non scissor hands. (However, I do think his look would be a hit on some designers’ runways!).
That doesn’t mean you should neglect leather, though. Quite the contrary! Leather is bold and edgy, while also being timeless and elegant. A black leather jacket will always look cool. You can dress it for more of a gothic feel, a rocker vibe, or even paired with a pink dress for a feminine aesthetic. Our Current Boutique designerslove putting black leather jackets on our shelves because we know it will be a hit and sell quickly. Oh, and don’t forget the everlasting beauty of an elegant leather purse!
Not only is black leather timeless, but it’s also become trendy for fall and winter 2021. There are a lot of leather pieces (both real and faux leather) hitting the market, from jackets to skirts to pants to shoes and beyond. So, get your Tim Burton vibes on and make leather a staple in your closet.
3. Play around with stripes.
Stripes don’t always work, but Tim Burton definitely knows how to use them to his advantage. Black and white stripes are a Burton staple, from Beetlejuice’s suit to Jack Skellington’s pinstripes to Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum and more. Burton loves using black and white stripes to create a striking contrast amidst his darker color palette. And you can do the same!
Stripes get a bad reputation because of their visual impact. Horizontal stripes, for example, can have a widening effect that can make you look broader than you are. Like Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum’s costumes, the horizontal stripes make them look even more short and stout. Vertical stripes, on the other hand, can make you look taller, like Jack Skellington’s long and thin pinstripe suit.
But stripes can be a fun print to try out, particularly vertical stripes for a lengthening effect or pairing stripes with various thicknesses for an artistic statement. If you like playing around with different prints, don’t neglect stripes as a possible option. They can work beautifully as an accent against a more neutral color palette to create a bit of visual intrigue.
Check out this great article by The Golden Girl blog to learn how to wear stripes (and get outfit inspiration).
4. Don’t worry about fitting in.
Tim Burton is all about celebrating and embracing the “misfits.” So, if you’re a fashion misfit and don’t feel like you fit into traditional trends—we feel you, girl! Or, if you feel like you love following trends but are also constantly looking for new ways to express yourself, we feel that too!
What you wear has a direct impact on your psychology, so wear something that makes you feel good. Whether you’re a rebel star, classic beauty, boho babe, or a sexy siren, don’t be afraid to lean into your style and what makes you happy. Definitely try out new looks as well—you don’t know what you love until you try it!
Psst… We have a style quiz to help you find your ideal style. But remember, you may be a mix of styles or something totally unique, and that’s awesome too!
5. Focus on timeless silhouettes.
Tim Burton uses a lot of Victorian-style costuming in his films, particularly in contrast with bright, modern colors. Sweeney Todd and The Corpse Bride are the most Victorian, but you can find these influences in almost all of Burton’s movies in some way. Like his use of black, the use of this classic style creates an agelessness to his films that make them instant classics.
Take a page out of Burton’s book and try out some Victorian silhouettes yourself! You don’t have to throw on a corset, but you can try high necklines, puffed sleeves, long flowy skirts, or tailored shapes. For example, the trending cottagecore aesthetic pulls from Victorian styles to create modern looks that function as a fashion escape from our day-to-day urban lives. Playing around with these kinds of Victorian-era fabrics, silhouettes, and accents opens the world to traditional styles with a contemporary flair.
6. Use color as a bold accent.
Tim Burton movies have a lot of black and white, but he strategically uses color to create brave and daring statements. For example, bright purple and lime green are classic Burton, with these full-bodied colors creating a visual masterpiece that pops off the screen. He also uses a lot of pops of red, like the Queen of Hearts’ hair or Lydia’s wedding dress, because red is bold, bright, and eye-catching. You’ll even notice that Sally’s dress has a lot of colors in opposition to Jack’s black and white suit in the Nightmare Before Christmas.
The contrast of neutrals like black and white paired with saturated colors creates a stunning scene—or an equally beautiful outfit. Try out a bright color as an accent piece to a more neutral outfit, or color block with contrasting colors to create an entirely new look. Saturated hues are “hot” for fall and winter 2021, but no matter the season, a strong pop of color will always make a splash.
7. Don’t forget the accessories.
Willy Wonka’s glasses, the Mad Hatter’s top hat, Lydia’s hair, Jack Skellington’s bowtie, Coraline’s hairpiece, Edward Scissorhand’s – uh—scissor hands… The list goes on and on. These accessories bring the characters to life, and they’re why these characters are so notable and memorable.
So what about you? What accessories make you “you?” Is it your favorite pair of sunglasses, or a dainty chain that sits on your collarbone? Maybe you wear a charm bracelet or anklet? Or maybe you love dressing up with different statement necklaces, gorgeous scarves, fun hats, and other accessories every day!
Accessories pull an outfit together to create a more cohesive fashion story. Don’t skimp on accessories that make you smile and help you express your individuality.
8. Dress up!
Have fun with fashion. Tim Burton didn’t get to where he is now by following structure or rules. He was fearless and creative in his artistic pursuits, and he had fun in the process. In the same way, his characters are also unique, and that’s what makes them so special. (Even if they are “strange and unusual.”)
So, be daring and artistic when you get dressed in the morning, too! Use fashion as a meditation or a way to channel your creative juices. Have fun putting on clothes!
You never see an underdressed Tim Burton character. Even Beetlejuice has his best suit on. So don’t be afraid to get dressed in your best, play around with fashion, and wear clothes that make you happy to be un-dead.
Happy Halloween, fashion lovers!