Buffy Fashion Roulette: “Buffy Vs. Dracula”
“Buffy Vs. Dracula”, the first episode of season 5, displays a serious character shift in our Buffy Summers. It’s the first episode where, after encountering the First Slayer, we see her embracing the primal hunter aspect of her slayer identity. It’s a key weapon in how she defeats plenty of big bads to come. It’s equally relevant as an analogy for finding power in being who you are, in loving what you are put on this earth to do, and in doing what you do to the fullest extent possible. As far as television narratives with an empowering and individualistic slant go, you can track a great one right back to “Buffy Vs. Dracula”.
Also, in “Buffy Vs. Dracula”, Buffy wears multiple pairs of fanciful leather pants.
You know the drill.
How the game works: I choose an episode of Buffy, pore over it carefully, and judge compelling examples of the characters’ fashion by today’s standards. At the end of every episode, fashion winners and losers are nominated in a poll. The winners are announced in a future entry.
The rules: I only have three so far, although that is subject to change. Uniforms (work, military, etc) do not count. Neither do “period pieces” (i.e flashbacks to Ye Olde England, Ireland, China, etc) or costumes (sorry, Halloween episodes fans). Most of the dressed monsters on the show wore regular clothing, so their wardrobes are up for debate just like anyone else’s.
The last episode reviewed, “After Life”, gave us the most accurate results yet, as The Bitter Buffalo was linked on Whedonesque and the poll received a massive amount of votes. Despite the hundreds of votes cast, the winner and loser were very apparent. With around four-fifths of the vote, Buffy was declared Best Dressed in Sunnydale.
In an equally overwhelming un-victory, Willow handily won the Worst Dressed award with around three-fourths of the vote. I presume most of those votes were cast, as commenters have suggested, in memory of poor Elmo, who was skinned alive to make this outfit. (Kudos, sassy commenters.)
Ah, “Buffy Vs. Dracula.” After I finished viewing it I decided that it’s one of those rare episodes where the fashion has much to do with plot and, most importantly, theme. Much of the point of this blog is to complain about how the execution of fashion ideals on the show doesn’t fit with the vision of who the characters are, but I haven’t encountered much fashion that intersects with theme. Hmmm. Interesting. Let’s tackle it, shall we?
When we open the show, Buffy is unsuccessfully trying to sleep in her boyfriend’s arms. She’s wearing a cutesy, functional purple tank top.
Buffy gets her yayas out by sneaking out and beating up a punk vamp at the cemetery. Cool! I couldn’t get a good screen shot because she’s mostly a badass blurry fighting machine the whole time. Presumably most of these shots are of Sarah Michelle Gellar’s stunt double, so there’s a lot of hair in the face, headless body shots, et cetera. Here’s my best presentation of her outfit. (Sorry, guys.)
It’s a nice three-quarters length leather jacket, a green blouse and jeans that still fit well. Kudos, Buffy. You can’t see it too well, but the collar has some nice ruching detail going on.
I’m not quite sure why Buffy got all gussied up just to go out and stake some baddies, but she dressed all tough and mean and shit, or at least the Buffy version of that. I can get behind it. I also like the sly wink and nod of how she placates her boyfriend by sneaking back into bed in her girly pajamas.
Speaking of Buffy’s boyfriend, have I ever told you how much I hate Riley? Because I do. I freaking hate him. He’s a bossy, competitive, misogynist jerk. Luckily, I’m not alone in hating this guy. So follow me please, as I take you on a beautiful, dreamy photo montage through an ideal Buffy-Riley afternoon beach date.
Buffy has a football. The football is fun! She looks all cute and summery in her tankini and sarong, and with her hair pulled up in a knot. Buffy is really happy.
Then Riley, dressed like some nasty redneck who would have hit on me in sixth grade Vacation Bible School, decides to knock Buffy off of her Pedestal Of Happiness by telling her that she throws like a girl.
Buffy throws the ball back to Riley.
Meanwhile, Anya’s looking super adorable in a vintage-y pink shorts bikini, while Xander looks pretty typically Xander, but he’s definitely wearing one of his better outfits.
Can anyone explain to me why Willow and Tara aren’t wearing bathing suits at the beach? Willow may be wearing one under her outfit, but Tara almost certainly is not. Do these people think that lesbians do not swim, or that sun tans are only for the benefit of adoring male eyes? Willow’s outfit isn’t so terrible, although I wish she were capable of wearing shirts that don’t say dumb things on them. Tara has tween hair and she’s fully clothed. The whole thing is so odd.
I also think it’s really weird that in Sunnydale, people are allowed to construct cement grills on the beach. Is this a West Coast thing? No matter, because Willow tries to light it with magic and accidentally summons a rainstorm. (FORESHADOWING.)
Later that night, Buffy’s having some serious Mom time with Joyce, who is wearing Barbara Bush’s paisley-ed throwaways.
Later Buffy goes out to slay, where she runs into Willow, Xander, and Dracula, who introduces himself as Thacula.
Let’s go ahead and get out of the way that Buffy looks great. I know red leather pants aren’t really the rage anymore, but Buffy could bring them back. Her sweater is a little off when contrasted with the pants, but it looks really comfortable and tones the Red Leathah down a bit. Plus, her hair is pretty perfect.
Xander and Willow, on the other hand, look absolutely terrible. Willow takes a typical garishly colored, ruffled shirt and skirt set made out of Laura Ashley bedsheets and makes it look even uglier by throwing a clashing tie-dyed top over it. (Imagine a voice similar to Cindy Lou-Who’s when she asks The Grinch why he stole Christmas: ‘Why? Why did you do that, Willow? Why?’) Xander looks way, WAY worse than he usually does. Xander’s fashion typically fades into the background; here at Buffy Fashion Roulette he rarely receives any votes either way. That’s why this outfit is so shocking. Specifically, it’s all pretty acceptable until you get to the tropical shirt. Its colors are blinding- corals the hue of raw hamburger, lapis-colored bodies of water. Worst of all, although the capture I got doesn’t make it perfectly clear, this thing is bedazzled. There are rhinestones all over this thing, and you can see them twinkle whenever he moves. I think this costuming choice may have something to do with portraying Xander as a bit of a buffoon, someone who’s ripe to be made into Dracula’s butt monkey. I’ve gotta say though, this is taking things WAY too far.
Dracula looks like Dracula. I couldn’t get a good close-up shot, which is a shame because his collar is REALLY pointy. It’s almost disco-looking.
Back at Giles’ place, everyone’s gotten a little more comfortable. We can see how much Xander looks like a teenage grocery clerk on The Golden Girls, and what Willow’s shirt looks like without the tie dye jacket. It’s pretty awful. Those vampires from “The Freshman” should have come back from the dust and tacked her to the Monet wall. Anya looks alright, though a little atypically toned down. Poor Tara does not match at all, of course, and she’s stuck with dopey florals and that damn pastel tie dye she’s always relegated to.
Buffy’s wearing a roller rink shirt. She should be a derby girl. She wouldn’t even have to come up with a fake name; she could just be Buffy The Vampire Slayer. Anyways, even though the shirt is fake-vintage, I like it. The winged skate reminds me of a gigantic sign on top of a rink in my hometown that I grew up going to, and I’ll probably get a tattoo of it someday. That said, my sentiment may be clouding my judgment. You make the call, folks.
Grandpa Giles needs a nap.
Hey, check out Dracula’s pointy collar!
The next day, Buff’s looking a little hung over. Maybe she had a little too much Thrall the night before? I remember LOVING those pink leather pants, because they’re so Buffy- they’re pink and shiny, but Lord help ‘em, they’re badass leather pants. The cutout sleeves of her top are weird, but they’re okay. And she only wore the Pucci knockoff scarf because the Thrall voice told her to.
These days I still love the pants, but I notice on closeup that they have a weird pattern on the legs. That’s disappointing. Say, check out that withering Thrall hangover glare.
Xander is currently not in control of his facilities as he too is under the thrall of the Dark Prince, yet he’s NOT wearing a dumb-looking rhinestone Hawaiian shirt. Hmmm. Riley looks like a turd, as usual.
Willow looks…. well, let’s just stick to the basics, since we keep going over these same few points over and over again. Sheer sparkly hippie clothes. Ill-fitting pants. Corny, juvenile accessories. Clownish makeup. In other words, it’s a banner day for our Willow.
Meanwhile, back at the Summers abode Joyce is really upset because she let Dracula in. He was just so charming! And so are you, Joyce. Even though her clothes are nothing special, they’re just so Everymom. I love that in Joyce.
Joyce lets loose an accidental lesbian joke and Tara and Willow have some giggles. Look, they even have SMUDGE STICKS. How stereotypically lesbian is that? Maybe next they’ll cast a spell on Dick Cheney and brew some chamomile tea for their mountain dulcimer-making party.
I’ve gotta say though, as much as I hate Tara’s clothes, her hair and makeup looks really nice. She’s one of those rare people who’s really gorgeous without a lot of (as we say in the South) ‘doin’ up’, and being on a teen-targeted show didn’t do her any favors. She looks best when they give her simple hairstyles and either go easy on her makeup or make her look like a classic movie star.
Over at Xander’s, Anya is none too happy about being on Buffy babysitting duty. We only get a split second to check out her getup before Xander shoves her into a closet and jams the door shut with a chair. It’s a shame, because I like this outfit. It’s one of those things that would look stupid on most other people, but Anya pulls it off with her wacky housewife-y ways. (I love that pin!)
So Buffy goes to Dracula’s castle and defeats him and blah, blah, blah. He wears this outfit, which is fine, I guess. It’s very expected and he flat irons his hair and the collar is very pointy.
Then Buffy goes back to Giles’ to talk about how she feels like a killing machine these days. It’s a really inspiring speech, but remember how poor Jessica Simpson got raked over the coals for gaining a few pounds and wearing really unflattering high-waisted jeans during a concert? Yeah, Buffy wore ‘em first.
More awwwws; we meet Dawnie for the first time ever. What the hell does she have shoved in her pockets? Is she shoplifting already? Those pants are lumpier than a sack of Bezoar eggs. Moooooom!
Vote below! There are only a couple of clear-cut candidates for best-dressed, but the worst-dressed field is wide open. It should be an interesting poll.