DIrector: Wes Craven
Costume Designer: Cynthia Bergstrom
I know that horror fans might dispute the inclusion of Scream as a “horror” film… well, I’m a wimp. And I love it but it still scares me. The costumes in Scream have little attention paid to them (the trials of contemporary costume design) but they do deserve it. There are not many costume changes because the film takes place within three days. I’ve chosen to focus on Sidney because, well, she’s the star. Sidney is the heart of the film and also the unintentional catalyst.
The first time we see Sidney she’s dressed in a nightie. But this is definitely not a sexy nightie. This is a shapeless Laura Ashley style nightie. From this poor screenshot you can just see the gathering at the yoke. This means that any shape over the bust is negated immediately – this nightie clings to nothing. The The tiny pattern on the white fabric does more to symbolise ‘virgin’ than anything that gets revealed once Billy comes into the room. (And then we see the trim at the bottom – all adding to this innocent and naive impression.) We’ve already started with the stereotypical female lead. One move? The “PG-13” moment. But this is still off camera.
Next we see Sidney during the day for the first time. Although her clothes are less childlike they are still covered up and leaning more towards the tomboy sphere. Notice the blue and grey colour scheme. We also have the first time Sidney’s seen in denim which is pretty much her staple for the rest of the film – we had previously seen her father wearing a sheepskin trimmed denim jacket. We never see Sidney before her mother’s murder but the impression is that the death affected her and caused her to dress to “protect” herself. Throughout the film there are references to Maureen having affairs and her “nature”:
Billy: That woman was a slut-bag whore who flashed her shit all over town like she was Sharon Stone or somethin’.
Stu: Yeah, we put her out of her misery, ’cause let’s face Sidney, your mother was no Sharon Stone, hmm?
What better way to distance yourself from the town’s impression of your mother than to cover up any overt signs of femininity?
Just a quick glimpse of Sid at her house having put on the jumper that was tied round her waist during the day. Her protection has built up – just in time for the first attack.
This screenshot is more about Dewey than Sid. We never see Dewey give her his jacket but as the only police officer not wearing a jacket it was clearly his. This little act sets up their relationship further from their short scene in the principal’s office.
This screenshot wouldn’t be out of place in a standard teen flick. Tatum has always been seen as the sexier of the two but here she seems much younger than her worldly attitude would have you believe. (She has been set up as an early victim – especially if you believe Randy’s rules.) Sid’s t-shirt is a sexier option than her first nightie but that’s not really a stretch. It still is nowhere near a negligee and fits with something that you would grab quickly for staying at a friend’s house. The colour is also a slight move away from white and closer to a nude skin tone…
The next day at school. The brown blazer is a much better form of protection than a jumper – especially as the news of her attack would inevitably have spread throughout the school and brought Maureen’s death closer to the fore than it was the previous day.
It is important to notice that the second attack on Sid happens when she isn’t wearing her outer layer of protection. She’s left with her jeans and a pretty patterned t-shirt. The small tight pattern reminds me of her nightie at the beginning. (As someone who was bought a lot of Laura Ashley as a child and hating it I might be more likely to fixate on it than others.) The t-shirt is also slightly longer than the first t-shirt (those short tops of the ’90s) so any femininity gained through the pink and pattern isn’t pushed with a fitted top.
Sid’s party outfit definitely contrasts Tatum’s (just visible behind Dewey). Tatum has an obligatory short skirt and super tight jumper on. This is Sidney’s most feminine costume so far. The tight purple vest top but then we still have the denim protection plus some sturdy boots.
Having Sidney put on Ghostface’s cloak and mask wasn’t entirely necessary for the plot. She could have easily stabbed Billy dressed normally but by putting on the costume Sidney was taking control of the situation and being more proactive in her life. For the year following her mother’s death she has been obsessed with it but now she knows the full truth and can make peace with it. She overcame the obstacles and saved the day.
But Sid doesn’t end the film in any part of the Ghostface costume. She ends in her own clothes, covered in blood and supporting her father (about one second after this shot). Sidney has taken over the parent role and come into her own. But she had to lose most of her friends to accomplish this.