Costume Plot: ‘The Cabin in the Woods’


I was one of those fans that first heard about The Cabin in the Woods back in… 2009 I think. So I’d been waiting for this for quite a while! I am not a big horror film fan (I’m mostly a big wuss) so I can’t base my enjoyment on it for the ‘horror history’ – I just find it hilarious. I recently listened to a Costume CafĂ© podcast interviewing Cabin‘s costume designer Shawna Trpcic (where they discussed her work on Power Rangers, illustrating for Albert Wolsky’s designs for Bugsy, Firefly and referencing Dollhouse and Torchwood) and felt inspired to write about Cabin‘s costumes. This time I am going to look at all of the characters together because there are so few costume changes. From the order we see the characters in the film, here goes…

Sitterson (played by Richard Jenkins)

So we start with these two. So far, so average seeming. Two men in white shirts and ties. But even this shows their differences. Sitterson has a short sleeved white shirt, skinny black tie, unbuttoned top button. What does this tell me? He is a much looser character than you would first think. This becomes more apparent through scenes in the film, and also comparing his costume to Hadley’s.

Hadley (played by Bradley Whitford)

So, I’ve said that Hadley is a looser character than you would originally think, implying that Hadley is super serious (due to his buttoned up long sleeved shirt). I’m not. Look at that picture. Neither of these are serious people. They have a serious job to do, but they have fun through the rest. (Judge as you choose.) There does not seem to be a clear separation between these two – they are equal bosses of the control room. To me, it appears that Hadley takes more of the general responsibility and choices, leaving Sitterson with slightly less responsibility. This is how I read it, but I could be completely off the mark. I think this is how it is written and played – like in the scene where Hadley is left in charge of the control room while Sitterson deals with the cave in. This could show Sitterson being in charge but I see this as job allocation. Big boss stays in charge, assigning jobs to other staff members…

Lin (played by Amy Acker)

Lin is the scientist working in the chem department. She has worked with Sitterson and Hadley for years and has developed a noticeable working relationship with them. She is the only other member of the staff we see in the control room and it is through her interactions with new man Truman that a lot of exposition is given. Her costume sticks to the subdued “office wear” that we see the rest of the departments wearing. The most obvious part of her costume is her white coat – a quick link to the fact that she is a scientist before the joke about the chem department is made. The rest of her costume is not that easy to see. She is seen wearing a light blue shirt (to differentiate from the white coat and Sitterson and Hadley’s white shirts), a dark skirt with a slit up the front, sensible shoes (perfect for running…) and it also looks as though she has a cardigan or at least a darker jacket on underneath the coat. I can’t see! Lin takes her job seriously and, through little smiles and bets, enjoys it – although she downplays that side to Truman. Having a new character involved makes her change her perception…

Dana (played by Kristen Connelly)

The first scene of Dana is her dancing in her underwear. This was included for the stereotypical horror purpose. And, as someone who has listened to White Knuckles by OK Go while getting changed, it is perfectly reasonable to dance around in your underwear. But I never did it with curtains and the window open. Be aware of your surroundings. The reason for Dana in her underwear is also as a way of subverting ‘The Virgin’ character she ends up playing – the incorrect character we know her to be from the beginning.

These pictures show the rest of her costume (with coat worn for one scene only). Dana is wearing cool colours. These help her red hair to stand out but also mean that she fades a little when compared to Jules. After dancing in her underwear the rest of her costume is fairly covered up – again playing to the stereotype but also perfectly fitting for an average college student.

The lake scene – this is all you get. Wearing the red bikini that Jules threw at her at the beginning. At this point, the characters have not completely travelled to their stereotypes and so still dress and act mostly as their actual personalities.

Dana’s change for the party is very limited. Denim cut-offs that she wore earlier, a blue cardigan of very similar colour to her top during the day and a light pink shirt. I’ve tried seeing what the print is but haven’t been able to – yet. The important fact is that it is a light coloured shirt that is reminiscent of a young girl’s top. At this point everyone is fulfilling their stereotypes according to the company’s plan.

Jules (played by Anna Hutchison)

Our first introduction to Jules is with her “newly dyed” blonde hair in a white highly flowered dress. She is wearing the “skimpier” outfit of the two girls but this really isn’t overtly sexual. It is a self-assured dress that expresses confidence rather than sex. She wears an emerald green cardigan so she stands out from the more muted colours of the rest of the students.

Jules’ bikini at the lake is pretty small and its mismatched nature shows some fun in her character. She is self-assured to wear whatever she wants – she can choose to match her own bikini and not rely on manufacturers designs!

This is the costume that Jules is remembered for. She starts off simply enough, then goes on to make out with a “mysterious creature” (wolf), dance seductively in front of the fire and paw at every guy. We have now officially met ‘The Whore’. The main costume point for Jules here is the pair of teeny tiny Daisy Dukes. The shirt is not particularly “slutty”. The pink is darker than that of Dana’s shirt so there’s an instant separation there. It is a girly colour but not an innocent tone. The main reason for the buttoned down nature of the shirt is for the sex scene with Curt. There is build up to Jules taking her top off and having to unbutton it slows the process down – leading to suspense in the control room.

Curt (played by Chris Hemsworth)

Curt’s first costume is very plain – a simple grey jersey and jeans. In the above picture you can see him carrying his letterman jacket. It is important to note that he is obviously carrying it from the start (as comments are made to him playing in a football team – where he met Holden) but never wears it until he has become ‘The Athlete’.

Curt’s trunks are again very basic. So far, he has worn very muted colours. Even here, the white on his trunks is limited. The style of his trunks very much keeps the idea of sportswear.

The party starts and the letterman is on. Here the attitude noticeably begins to change. As audience members we are not fully aware of the extent of the change – Marty makes us aware of it. We have seen Curt discussing books with Dana at the beginning so we know that he’s intelligent – possibly smarter than Dana – but we have very little interaction with him. The whole of his costume is brighter here. There’s the v-neck white t-shirt and light blue checked shirt. He stands out a lot more than earlier on – he is a more powerful figure in the group.

Then the colour gets completely saturated by blood. Par for the course in a horror film.

Holden (played by Jesse Williams)

We first see Holden catching the football thrown by Curt – clarifying that he has “the best hands on the team”. His clothes keep the muted colours but with bright tones coming through. On the navy blue hoodie there’s the white zip and bright turquoise drawstrings. These help Holden to stand out when we first see him as our view is from Dana’s room. Later on we see that he’s wearing a navy blue and burgundy jersey underneath – the burgundy (blood?) stands out more than the navy blue.

Holden’s trunks are white with black checks. Everything is light in colour and fun and happy.

Now the colours are softer. Although the light blue shirt is fairly light, the white top under the dark brown/grey top with brown trousers make it seem darker. Compared to his earlier heavily patterned clothing this is all subdued. Although it can be seen that the blue shirt is checked, the check is very small and can only really be seen in close-ups. Holden hasn’t changed completely so he still wears patterned clothing, but ‘The Scholar’ has less noticeable patterns.

After the cellar, when they have chosen their fate, Holden suddenly has glasses. He can read Latin and becomes the “egg-head”.

Marty (played by Fran Kranz)

Marty’s costume is the most interesting due to its almost lack of change. He wears many layers – we first see the white shirt, the dip-dyed t-shirt, the turquoise shirt, the dark brown hoodie and the big dark yellow cardigan. Marty has earthy colours with a touch of brightness just for the early scenes. The layers are a form of protection – adding to his “womb of reefer”.

For the lake scene Marty has removed his outer layers and changed into cargo shorts. He’s carrying a towel, despite the fact that he has said repeatedly that he is not going to go into the lake. The towel helps him “belong” with the rest.

It is important to note that for the party scene when everyone has become their new character and Marty should be ‘The Fool’, he is still wearing his costume from the beginning. The big yellow cardigan has gone, but the turquoise shirt and brown hoodie have returned from after the lake.

For Marty’s return to save Dana he has lost his two outer layers. The first layer of protection was taken off while he was reading ‘Little Nemo’ in bed before “going for a walk”. He still had his turquoise shirt when Jonah Buckner attacked him, but through killing Buckner and returning for Dana the shirt has gone. He now has limited protection from his clothing and has to rely on himself.

Ronald the Intern (played by Tom Lenk)

I’ve included Ronald the Intern mostly because I love Tom Lenk. The fact that he is separated from the rest of the control room is made obvious by his constant reference to being ‘The Intern’ and his knitted tank top. It is almost as if he’s wearing it because he thinks that a mature grown up would wear it. He just wants to fit in!

The Director (played by Sigourney Weaver)

The director has a very important role to play at the end of the film – to give out the rest of the exposition. Her costume needs to set up that feeling of her being ‘the boss’. We see her wearing a grey fitted, tailored suit – almost like it’s from the ’40s. The jacket has a wide collar, fairly low neck, with a top underneath matching the colour of the suit. The rest of the costume is made up of long black leather gloves and, I think, knee-high black leather boots – I can’t see! The leather is a strong form of protection and also fits with the business woman impression you get. Also, leather – dominatrix-y?

Well, those are my thoughts on The Cabin in the Woods. I love the film and looking at the costumes made me appreciate it even more. I love when this happens – the subtle art of costume design.

And I leave you with this:

S x


2 thoughts on “Costume Plot: ‘The Cabin in the Woods’

  1. Pingback: What’s The Score? – Cabin In The Woods | Damn, That's Some Fine Tailoring

  2. Old post but just read it. I’ve been thinking so much about this movie lately and especially the clothing so I was thrilled to find this post you wrote on that very subject and a few points I’d missed too!

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