This summer, we’re dressing like horror video game protagonists, like this TikTok with over 100 thousand views recently declared. But not in the sour browns or bloated hoodies you see men wearing in games like Alan Wake or Silent Hill — we need to start dressing like the girls.
The girls, people are noticing, have a definitive style. The most recognisable female horror protagonists — Ashley from Resident Evil 4, Maria from Silent Hill 2, the cast of the Fatal Frame series — were all created at a high point of both Japan and the U.S.’ fascination with horror, in the sunrise hours of the 2000s. As necessitated by this global appreciation for all things morose, whether it be in films like The Grudge (2002), R.L. Stine’s Goosebumps books, or the dead fish sighing of post-punk revivalists like Interpol, female horror game protagonists dress like they wanted to be haunted.
They wear spring-tone mini skirts with knee-high boots, as in the case of both Silent Hill 3’s Heather and RE4’s Ashley, so that they can splash in mud while maintaining the intrigue that an exposed thigh affords. They wear milkmaid blouses with sleeves puffed like bluebell flowers on top of pastel skirts, looking sunbleached from sitting too long inside a china cabinet. Lace softens all of their edges, so that if the monster does come to rip their tongue out, dust can collect on their corpse elegantly, like powdered sugar on a strawberry shortcake.
While I disagree with the popular equivalency of womanhood to pain, and the entire concept of a tormented, female horror protagonist inherently makes that comparison, I also think horror protagonist fashion marks resilience.
I like imagining that these women, despite players deliberately putting them in harm’s way, keep their dignity by dressing cute. No matter what prophecy or ghost commands them, they look like they brush their hair and put on lipgloss, maintaining control of their lives in small, but observable, ways.
We can all benefit from finding control in chaos, and luckily, their sartorial cues are easy to imitate. With the help of some iconic characters, I can give you a few tips on how to dress like a horror protagonist.
The perfect ponytail (Inspo: Resident Evil 2 remake, Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem)
Though many female horror protagonists opt for a sprightly, above-the-shoulders bob (discourages poltergeists from hair-pulling, I presume), I’m a fan of the relaxed, but polished ponytail Claire Redfield wears in the Resident Evil 2 remake and of Alexandra Roivas’ updo in Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem.
While gathering your hair into a ponytail with a wide-tooth comb, slide out two slices of your hair so that your face is framed. Batiste dry shampoo is helpful in building volume and shape for this, and you use your favourite lightweight lotion, like Nivea Creme, or even dryer sheets to flatten flyaways without any hair gel gooeyness.
A little lip balm (Inspo: Resident Evil 4 remake)
I saw a TikTok a few months ago that guessed which lip products Resident Evil 4 characters used, and now I’m convinced every horror protagonist has a fastidious lip care routine.
Though we rarely, if ever, see lipstick on a female horror game protagonist, sometimes characters have a bit of a red or pinkish tint, like Ada Wong does in the RE4 remake. Try something like Vaseline’s Rosy Lips balm, Glossier’s Berry Balm Dotcom, or (my favourite) Smith’s Rosebud Salve for the same, just-bitten effect.
Not-so-innocent milkmaid (Inspo: Fatal Frame series)
The Fatal Frame games take cues from the most ghostly, girly facets of Japanese street style, Lolita, and antiques-inspired Dolly Kei. You can look like Ruka (Fatal Frame: Mask of the Lunar Eclipse) or Rei (Fatal Frame III: The Tormented) with ribbons and corset lacing by scouring eBay for vintage Betsey Johnson, or the fairytale netting on old Claire Pettibone lingerie.
For more sting, I’d recommend looking out for the sexy black and purples you find often in vintage and modern Tripp NYC, a goth brand since 1984.
You’re not a babydoll (Inspo: American McGee’s Alice, Fran Bow)
Alice and Fran in their eponymous games prefer not to look like blood-spattered doilies, but possessed dolls with wide eyes and butcher’s knives.
“Evil little girl” is a timeless trope, one that spans The Shining (1980) to M3GAN (2022), and as such, it’s racked up clothing options, making it a simple look to recreate. Reach for ‘30s-style dresses from ModCloth or, better yet, your local vintage shop, for school-appropriate, high-neck button-up dresses and pair them with psychedelic tights from Maison Soksi, or Calzedonia. Self-diagnose with hysteria for best results.
Do you prefer leather? (Inspo: Parasite Eve, The Path)
Evil little girls have to grow up, too. If you’re bored of lace, you need 1970’s leather halter tops to look like Aya from Parasite Eve, or Proenza Schouler pleather to feel as heavy and sullen as a sister in The Path.
Hit ‘em with the miniskirt (Inspo: Silent Hill 2, Silent Hill 3, Resident Evil 4 remake)
SH2’s Maria, SH3’s Heather, and RE4’s Ashley are not fussy about their skirts, as long as they’re short and darkly coloured enough to melt into the forest during a chase. Los Angeles Apparel’s fitted tennis skirt satisfies both these cravings, but for a louder print like Maria’s cheetah skirt, Roberto Cavalli is your man. Reach into your soul and find Christina Aguilera to let the true transformation take place.
I was today years old when I learned that Maria from Silent Hill 2’s outfit was based on Christina Aguilera’s outfit from the 1999 Teen Choice Awards. pic.twitter.com/hWbxD1wR5H
— DJ ACCIDENT REPORT (@eric_shorey) December 2, 2020
Break in your boots (Inspo: Resident Evil 4 remake, Silent Hill 2)
All horror protagonists own Frye’s Campus Boots in the colour “saddle.” I swear, they told me.
Bring a backup bathing suit (Inspo: Fatal Frame: Mask of the Lunar Eclipse remaster)
I was mad that the Fatal Frame: Mask of the Lunar Eclipse remaster included non-sequitur swimsuits in its game, at first. But, now that I’m thinking about it, it does seem important to have a suit handy. What if the physical manifestation of my fears pushes me in the pool?
What’s your favourite horror protagonist outfit?
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