Do you like scary movies? What's your favorite? Or, better yet, which one introduced you to the horror genre and got you hooked? For me, it was The Craft — the original, not the 2020 remake.
I was only five years old when The Craft was initially released back in 1996, but you can bet I snuck a few glances at scenes whenever my sisters watched it every Halloween. I've always been intrigued by magic and the paranormal. In elementary school, I asked for a cauldron for Christmas. In middle school, my cousin bought me a spellbook for my birthday. Ergo, when I was finally granted permission to watch the film in its entirety, I was unsurprisingly obsessed with its supernatural elements.
What I wasn't expecting, though, was a lesson in personal style.
Viewers are first properly introduced to the witches of St. Benedict's Catholic School through the lens of Chris Hooker (played by horror film genre heartthrob Skeet Ulrich). In the scene, he warns new girl Sarah Bailey (Robin Tunney) to stay away from the three young ladies who are staring at her from across the quad. Nancy (Fairuza Balk) is sitting on the right, hunched over and stone-faced, dressed in a black cardigan and white button-down. There's a beaded cross hanging from her neck, a cigarette perched between her fingers, and a ring of black eyeliner fogging her lid and waterline. If I had to put her into a category, she's clearly the 'dark' one. Next to her is Bonnie (Neve Campbell, also of Scream fame), cross-legged in her checkered skirt and black tights. Her white turtleneck and navy windbreaker are both a few sizes too big, and her hair falls haphazardly in her face. She's the 'tortured' one.
Then, there's Rochelle, played by the iconic and real-life mystic, Rachel True.
Hooker ends his counsel with no explanation of Rochelle's backstory, although we later discover her storyline is an important one, dealing with racism and bullying. On the lighter side of things, it's clear the teen has impeccable fashion sense from the start, and her style needs no introduction. In my opinion, she's the best-dressed of the trio, and throughout the movie, her outfits are the ones that consistently stand out.
At the beginning of the film, Rochelle embraces the school dress code in a way that's smart but effortless, sophisticated but not stiff. She wears a pleated checkered skirt with a matching blazer, and underneath, rotates between tailor-fit button-ups and pretty white blouses. She also keeps her accessories color-coordinated, adding high socks and a tie. In 2021, Rochelle would be considered the queen of dark academia, and I still bow down to her aesthetic.
However, once the character ventures off into the woods with Nancy, Bonnie, and Sarah, to drink the wine (and blood) of her sisters, seal their magical circle, and establish their coven, she wears an outfit that could almost be described as angelic. It's such a a stark contrast to her school uniform that it throws me for a curve.
The iconic white maxi dress features a floral pattern — eye-catching red roses with twisted green stems — and when paired with white sneakers, it becomes a '90s look that I'm ready to bring back. To complete the outfit, Rochelle accessorizes with layered necklaces, silver cross earrings, and a statement stone ring on her pointer finger. In a way, it's something we might see a top model wear today.
During an interview with Dazed Digital, The Craft's costume designer, Deborah Everton explained that, as a boarding school alumni, she understood uniforms can be "soul-crushing" and challenge individuality. In order to establish a sense of personality in each of the girls' looks without sacrificing the sense of their occult, she "very loosely gave each of them an element" to go back to. For Rochelle, it was the tartan skirt. But clearly, the costume designer had another vision for the character outside school.
It's impossible to say whether the dress was actually an ensemble outside Rochelle's comfort zone, but at this point in the film, it's definitely outside her character. And yet, all that radiates from the witchy teen witch in this scene is confidence, even as she asks Manon for the ability "not to hate those who hate me."
I now notice that this scene acts as a turning point of sorts in terms of Rochelle's clothing choices. As time goes on and the girls' magics become more powerful, their fashion sense also evolves. From the beginning, it's clear that Rochelle knows how to dress and dress well. But she eventually becomes less inclined to stick to the status quo once the coven starts to make the unexplainable happen (like when her racist bully, Laura Lizzie, can't stop her hair from falling out).
From cute denim overalls to sexy suspenders, we start to see Rochelle experiment with different forms of fashion. By the end of the movie, she's outgrown the strict school girl aesthetic and developed a look all her own, which cannot be defined as one thing or another. It's a style that involves a mesh cardigan decorated with butterflies and a grey stadium coat. She does stick to some signature pieces, though: her beaded choker necklace, for example, and, to Everton's credit, an array of tartan skirts.
In the same way that Rochelle goes from an amateur witch, to a sorceress, then regresses to a teenager with no supernatural powers, her fashion also goes through a tranformation. It represents one of the lighter takeaways this movie has to offer — forget the rules and just have fun with your clothes. Experiment. Dare to stand out in a crowd. Find the pieces that make you feel your best and continue rock them.
And while you're at it, don't mess around with dark magic.
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