I have no recollection of how Tim Burton’s Beetlejuice ended up in my family’s rotation of films to be watched while decorating the Christmas tree—Edward Scissorhands was also in the mix—but almost every second Christmas we’d call his name three times and wait for him to appear. Since I moved away from my childhood home and my parents started decorating the tree without me, the film’s plot has begun to fade in my memory. However, the costumes and make-up—from Lydia Deetz’s all-black, “Life Is A Dark Room”-style ensembles, to Beetlejuice’s wide-striped suit and altogether crazier-than-thou appearance—will forever be burned into my mind.
When we first meet Clementine Kruczynski (played by Kate Winslet) in Michel Gondry’s 2004 film, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, she has blue hair. Introducing herself on a bus to Jim Carrey’s Joel Barish, she explains her reasoning behind the dye job. “It changes colour a lot,” she says. “It’s called Blue Ruin…this company makes a whole bunch of colours with equally snappy names. I apply my personality in a paste.” In watching this movie for the first time I may or may not have yelled at my TV screen, “Geez Clementine, why don’t you just wear a sign around your neck that says ‘tra la la, I’m so quirky!’” (I might have a problem with contrived one-dimensional “offbeat” film characters – yeah, I’m looking at you, Natalie Portman in Garden State). Of course, to the film’s credit, Clementine turns out to be a well-developed character and the movie escapes many typical clichés, earning Oscar nods for both Winslet and the screenplay. The reasons behind its success are evident – but since we are on a fashion blog, I will be focusing solely on Clementine’s hair.
As the film unfolds in a non-linear fashion (hey, it worked hard for that best original screenplay Oscar!), Clementine’s hair colour changes from blue to orange to red to green. While I gotta love any movie that treats a personal styling choice as a plot device – the hair colour helps keep track of the movie’s constantly shifting timeline – more appealing still is the way that it is unapologetically treated as a realistic artistic outlet. Clementine isn’t the first film character to express herself via hair colour; honourable mentions go to My So Called Life’s Angela Chase, Ghost World’s Enid Coleslaw and Whip It’s Bliss Cavendar. However, there’s something to be said for a woman who is more than a couple of years past teenager-dom willing to repeatedly experiment with crayola-coloured hair.
My own adventures with hair dye start a bit younger; going to summer camp in the ’90s, hair mascara was all the rage. The smelly, sparkly, purple-y goop joined Bonnebelle lip smackers and Caboodles nail polish as the must-have beauty products for the preteen girl set. Once I got to middle school, I was met with a strict dress code that deemed any unnatural or dramatic hair colours to be an “academic distraction.” My mother used to take me to her hair salon to get blonde highlights (occasionally I would be able to sneak by with a little bit of red in there). I made it through the eighth grade with the secret knowledge that at the back of my closet hid a bottle of L’Oreal do-it-yourself hair colouring in Purest Black.
Trying to come up with a list of the five best dressed Winona Ryder characters is more difficult than one would imagine; it poses such challenging questions as, “do I include Mermaids or Little Women? Beetle Juice or Edward Scissorhands?”
Ryder is arguably the quintessential cinematic indie girl of the late 80s and early 90s, and narrowing down the list proved to be almost impossible. In the end, I had to cut some of my favourites (sorry, House of Spirits), to bring you the cream of the crop.
Lydia Deetz in Beetle Juice (1988, Tim Burton)
Before there was The Nightmare before Christmas, before the Johnny Depp collaborations, and long before the existence of any Hot Topic merchandise, Tim Burton was known in the cult film crowd as the director of a little film called Beetle Juice (well, that and Frankenweenie). Ryder was a relatively unknown actress at the time, but managed to hold her own alongside heavy hitters like Alec Baldwin and Micheal Keaton. Her character, Lydia Deetz, was the typical teenage outcast who dyed her hair black, dressed in macabre clothes – and befriended the household ghosts. With a sense of humour as dark as her wardrobe, Lydia was not one to be swayed by things like the paranormal or conventional styling choices.
“I’ve read through that handbook for the recently deceased. It says: ‘live people ignore the strange and unusual. I, myself, am strange and unusual.”