Costume Party #2, Horror–Bram Stoker’s Dracula

Bram Stoker’s Draculadracula-e-mina
USA, 1992
Directed by Francis Ford Coppola
Starring Gary Oldman, Winona Ryder, Keanu Reeves
Costume design by Eiko Ishioka

Available to stream on Netflix


Vampires have been regulars on the silver screen for over a century, beginning with Vampire of the Coast in 1909 . Now there’s a new vampire movie practically every year, and from this myriad of bloodsucking tales there are over 50 movies with “Dracula” in the title. Francis Ford Coppola’s version may not be the best movie about vampires (that title has been held by Nosferatu for 93 years now), but it is the best movie about Dracula.

Most people know at least the basics of the infamous count’s story, about the monster who lurks in Transylvania, feasting on the blood of unsuspecting victims. Sunlight kills him, he hates garlic, blah blah blah. Bram Stoker’s Dracula has all the details but pushes further. This isn’t a simple monster movie, it’s a dark, twisted love story. Here we have the Dracula who has been suffering for centuries, and the story that leads to the legend. In this way, the movie is more faithful to the novel. It’s a human story before it’s a monster legend.

Coppola creates a thick, dark atmosphere with this movie. He fills his frame with shadows and rich symbolism. As you can imagine, the color red plays prominently. But it never feels like a forced comparison to Dracula’s bloodlust. Rather, it seems to naturally fit into the opulence of his castle. It smacks of richness, nobility, and excess.

But red is not the only color present. In fact, costume designer Eiko Ishioka dressed lead actress Winona Ryder predominately in green to identify with the love, lust, and desire embedded in the story. She also featured a number of leaf-motives on these costumes as symbolism for love and fidelity. Ishioka was initially hired as the art director for the movie, but was reassigned as costume designer after Coppola saw her sketches. She went on to win an Oscar for her work, and it’s easy to see why. Her Japanese kabuki theme is somehow perfect for Dracula’s personality. It gives that touch of theatricality and eccentricity that is needed for a character that lives alone in his castle and gets pleasure from sucking blood. The details of the wardrobe are stunning, the colors are perfect, and the costumes have just the right amount of unique flair for a story as strange as this.They help make Bram Stoker’s Dracula a helluva sexy, disturbing, and stylish ride–a smorgasbord of blood and fashion.

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