Tulle Skirts, Fur, and Tavi Gevinson: Style in Scream Queens
Scream Queens is nothing if not a wild ride from start to finish every week. For all the series’ criticisms, there is one thing it definitely always is: unpredictable.
On a weekly basis, I’m entertained by strange turn-of-events, such as killers wearing Antonin Scalia masks, ice cream cone mascots being killed, and — my personal favorite — Jamie Lee Curtis up against Rookie‘s Tavi Gevinson in a fight over a man.
When I’m not busy being taken by storm by the show’s twists, turns, and insane sense of wit and humor, I’m captivated by the odd sense of style of its characters.
Let’s take a look at some characteristics used in the fashion and style choices for Scream Queen‘s characters and what they represent.
The use of fur is clearly a power move on this show, as the fur is almost exclusively worn by the ladies in power: the Chanels of the Kappa house, especially Chanel #1, the original Chanel Oberlin herself.
Chanel is depicted wearing fur in almost every episode. Fur, historically, is an expensive material that is frequently worn by those with money and power. This goes along nicely with the theme that Chanel #1 is cultivating, which is echoed in her Halloween costume as the powerful and revered First Lady and fashion icon Jackie O.
Capes are another show of power from Chanel #1, which makes sense, given that the Red Devil himself (herself? themselves? who knows…) wears a glaringly bright red cape. Chanel #1 exerts her power in a low-key way by dressing herself in capes, a symbol of power, which can be seen flowing behind her as she struts.
Tulle skirts are mostly worn by Chanel #3 and, along with her earmuffs, these are a hallmark of her differentiation from the other Chanels. #2 is also seen wearing a purple tulle skirt, but she doesn’t stay alive very long on this show, which causes viewers to wonder: Is being different the key to dying? (Most likely, since all of the unwanted pledges are now dead.)
When Tavi Gevinson, editor-in-chief of Rookie magazine, appeared in a guest episode as Feather, her character also donned tulle. Feather was a clear outsider from the beginning, destined to appear as a rival to Dean Munsch and as a source of character development for Munsch as well. Feather’s style did not fit in with any of the other young female characters, including Zayday and Grace, who are also intended to be outsiders.
This odd trend, at least, has a canon rationale laid out in the show. Chanel #3 once broke up with a guy who was so obsessed with her ears that he threatened to cut them off when the pair broke up.
Beyond the canonical explanation for the earmuffs, they also serve as a barrier between Chanel #3 and the rest of the world. As a character, Chanel #3 is portrayed as distant and aloof, as if she cares about very little. She doesn’t even seem fazed when Sam dies, despite their burgeoning sort-of romance. The earmuffs, then, seem to represent her inability to connect with others and to be vulnerable. Her ears were once a vulnerable part of her — but not anymore.
It’s interesting, of course, that Chanel #3’s earmuffs and style of dress in general are still so fuzzy and pastel in color. She still dresses in a way that’s consistent with the fashion sense of the other Chanel Kappa sisters, which shows that she still enjoys fitting in to some extent, despite her outward attitude.
We can’t seem to get enough pastels on the Chanels, including entirely pastel outfits that almost scream “magazine fashion shoot.” It’s a little nauseating. The combination of pastels is meant to show the sisters as sweet and innocent — although the viewer knows this to be very untrue. The pastels also show how very similar they are to one another, even though the viewer has also been shown how different each Chanel is — despite all being called by a variation of one name.
Each of the Chanels is not a lesser clone of #1, but it’s clear that they each dress in a way that appears to follow her lead — just enough to seem intentional while still retaining their own sense of style. Chanel #2, before being killed off quickly, was known for her high ponytails (which #1 herself disses in a later episode) and her headbands. #5, meanwhile, wears sparkly clips and loud necklaces to distinguish herself.
Most of the Chanel sisters are frequently seen wearing pearls, although #1 is the one who most often wears them — usually as a small pearl necklace rather than a longer string of pearls. #1 wears her pearls in a more classic style in this regard compared to #5, who often wears longer strands that drape around her neck multiple times to have a layered effect. Chanel #5 has also been previously spotted in pearl bunny ears, which were a daring choice. She spends much of her time trying to copy the very classically powerful Chanel #1; but, really, #5’s fashion sense reveals that she has a distinct personality of her own.
The Muse at Jezebel calls out Scream Queens for its use of Grace’s hats, and it’s not wrong. I’ve noticed that Zayday and Grace both wear quite a few hats, but their hats — like their outfits — are very distinctly different from the pastel and furry hats that the Chanels often wear.
Grace is often seen in small, plaid newsboy caps, which have an “aspiring journalist” look to them — albeit, a very naive, student journalist. Which makes sense, given that she’s constantly working on figuring out who the Red Devil is and accusing everyone of murder like she’s Spencer from Pretty Little Liars. Grace is frequently dressed in a kind of alternative, demure style. She’s not scantily clad, she’s not usually dressed up, and she’s meant to look like a quirky, non-sorority type.
Zayday’s hats have a more clearly hip hop appeal, and she’s meant to be seen as much cooler and more laid-back than Grace is, which reflects in her casual but cute style. Zayday wears backward baseball caps, thick chain necklaces, large hoop earrings, and loud patterns. Her style shows that she knows who she is, she does not fit in with the crowd, and she’s proud of it. Add her flippantly independent attitude to that concoction, and it’s easy to see why a sorority of look-a-likes might claim her a killer.
I could go on forever about some of the thoughtful ingenuity behind the costume choices — particularly the scene where Feather is shown dressing in the exact same clothing as Dean Munsch — but let’s get real: This show is as wackily dressed up as its plots. We’d never be able to follow the style showcased down to the wire. There’s one thing that’s for certain: In the unlikely event that the plot ever gets boring, at least the outfits won’t be.