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The Creepy Yet Kooky Costuming of Wednesday (Part I)

Updated: Dec 9, 2022

“I know I’m stubborn, single-minded and obsessive

but those are all traits from great writers… and serial killers.”

Wednesday Addams is one of the most recognisable characters from pop culture, having appeared in 1964 and 1991 adaptations of The Addams Family cartoons. Her cynical, expressionless, know-it-all demeanour with a closet full of black clothing and light weapons has become iconic — not to mention her plaits and collars becoming a classic costume every Halloween.

The 2022 Netflix show portrays a new version of Wednesday, where Jenna Ortega’s iteration of the character moves to a boarding school, solving mysteries with her new friends (even if she wouldn’t use such affectionate terms). Here, we look how her style changes from a classic, conservative look to a more expanded version of herself.

1st look

Jenna Ortega’s first look is an elegant homage to her 1991. She wears every staple recognisable as Wednesday, honouring not only the former adaptations, but the classic characters Addams fans love.

Colleen Atwood, the costume designer, stated “My vision of Wednesday is her trying but not quite fitting in.” She wears dark colours to a seemingly colourful American school. Whilst Wednesday honours previous portrayals in a collared black dress, it is updated to be floral. This gives the outfit a mournful energy, as she wears this to avenge her brother against his bullies. By the first scene, the audience knows how serious and revengeful Wednesday can be.

2nd look

Wednesday arrives at Nevermore Academy, the boarding school for outcasts, mid-semester, which doesn’t help her fit in. She wears a large coat with preppy details, mimicking her first look and telling us she’s settled in her habits and opinions. We may notice she doesn’t care for fashion and doesn’t mind repeating outfits. Jenna Ortega is relatively petite but with this coat on, the heavy presence of her character is felt. The character of Wednesday steps towards fashion the same way as her speeches: straightforward, sharp, and functional.

3rd look

Wednesday is quickly introduced to her roommate Enid who has a very different aesthetic from her. The polarizing aspects between the two are eye-catching: while Enid radiates colour and warmth, Wednesday wears strictly greyscale, making her look paler and spookier by comparison. Wednesday wears a black hoodie over striped t-shirt with slippers, perhaps foreshadowing that she’ll grow to feel comfortable around Enid.

4th look

Wednesday wears the standard fencing outfit, but stands out amidst her classmates, wearing all-black rather than their all-white. She purposefully rejects social norms, painting herself as her personal brand of outcast. Her unwillingness to associate herself to others is a critical flaw of the character, which comes back to bite her throughout the show. In this scene, Wednesday defends a classmate targeted by Bianca, the popular girl at school, by challenging her to a fencing battle. While coming from good intentions, she easily overvalued her capabilities, her arrogance making her lose, something that haunts Wednesday again at the Winter Dance Ball.

5th look

The fifth look, her school uniform, is recurrent throughout the show. The outfit, supposed to make her comply with rules, is altered from purple stripes to black. In a school full of outcasts, Wednesday chooses to be the black sheep.

The usual uniform, worn by other students of Nevermore, has stripes radiant purple, a colour typically associated with royalty and creativity, as well as magic. As outcasts are marginalized in society, wearing purple is a power move, showing their pride in their abilities and differences. Wednesday rejecting this mark of union symbolizes her aversion to school systems ‘discriminating’ other’s differences by making their students wear an uniform while she is unable to see the meaning of showing off in purple.

8th look

Nevermore students are instructed to volunteer in the local town as part of an assignment; many turn to Pilgrim World, a historical Piligrim village kept as a museum, revealing the traditionalized way of living of former colonists in “Plymouth colony”. Transformed to the 1620s, Nevermore students wear similar garments as their ancestors.

Historically, Pilgrims are depicted as wearing strictly black and white, with large golden buckles on their shoes and hats, and long white collars. This is what the show replicates by having women wear squared-looking collars and an entire black attire. This stereotypical Pilgrim, however, is not historically accurate, with real Pilgrims wearing a variety of colours. This open air museum aids the show’s wider theme around colonial settlers, a sweet homage to Wednesday’s disdain for Pilgrims, as seen in Addams Family Values.

9th look

The Rave’n, Nevermore’s winter ball named after the Poe story, shows Wednesday in a gorgeous Alaïa dress. Costume designer Colleen Atwood dresses Wednesday in a ruffled dress, its weightless movement reminiscent of smoke. The black collar reflects her classic black-dress-with-white-collar situation, whilst appearing as a breath of fresh air for the character.

For the first time in the show, she only has one button up, establishing she opens up to her love interest, Tyler, slowly building trust with him. Wednesday experiments with her style by trying a new look and wearing accessories as a leather belt. Her usual plaits are wrapped over her head into a milkmaid style, giving full attention to the dress. She looks softer, trusting, almost huggable if she dared to smile, whilst the black keeps a serious energy. In this scene, she is beginning to value her friendships.

Words by Johanna Payet

(@meetmeindetention_ on IG)

Edited by Lucy Eaton

(@llucyeaton on IG)


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