The Addams Family started as a cartoon created in 1938 by Charles Addams. Later on, the family starred in a live-action television show for ABC from 1964 to 1966, and after a couple more productions in the ‘70s, the family hit the silver screen in 1991. For the 30th anniversary of Barry Sonnenfeld’s adaptation, we are looking back on the creative minds who brought these spooky, hilarious, and freaky characters to life and The Addams Family costume design!
Left to right: The Addams Family by Charles Addams (1938), The Addams Family (1966)Photo: © ABC
Since its origin, Morticia’s black tight-fitting dress and Wednesday’s black dress with a white collar have been staples that have only gotten stronger with time. The impeccable legacy and aesthetic of the family, we owe it mainly to the incredible costume designer, Ruth Myers. She based her designs on the original illustrations by Charles Addams. By bringing together his aesthetic and combining it with stunning textiles and silhouettes, Ruth created the looks for the characters that have stayed with us for three decades. She also received an Oscar nomination for her outstanding work.
The designer thought the family of being their own kind of aristocracy with an inclination towards Eastern European fashions. Their wealth, taste, manners, and culture made them stand out from the rest and gave them these mysterious but respectable looks. The costumes incorporate Edwardian and Victorian details. Each character has a particular silhouette and texture that make them unique but at the same time look like a group. Ruth used a lot of vintage fabrics, mainly because she didn’t want the family to look contemporary. In addition, many of the pieces were built for the film, which allowed Ruth to achieve her exact designs.
Anjelica Huston as Morticia Addams, The Addams Family (1991) Photo: © Paramount Pictures
Morticia’s black tight-fitting trumpet dress covered with semi-precious stones has undoubtedly become a staple, in addition to having the outstanding Anjelica Hudson play this character. Her costume included a corset, which was necessary to achieve the desired silhouette. It restrained her movement a little bit, but Huston used this in her favor for the character’s movements. Ruth ended up designing over 20 dresses for Morticia. Her costumes include jet trimmings and intricate embroidery that make her look elegant and exclusive.
“I always had this fantasy that Morticia…would have a day dress, [a] dress for the afternoon, and a dress for dinner. It was always the same silhouette, but there were slightly more subdued ones for the morning. By the afternoon, she was getting more exotic and by the evening, she was a peacock encrusted in jet and beautiful lace.”
Costume Designer Ruth Myers shared with ELLE magazine
In addition to her dresses, her jewelry and shoes were carefully designed and picked for her. The velvet cloak she wears also resembles a coronation cloak used in the Edwardian period in Russia. It was an impeccable design that made her look absolutely stunning.
Anjelica Huston as Morticia Addams, Raul Julia as Gomez Addams, The Addams Family (1991) Photo: © Paramount Pictures
On the other hand, Gomez has a very lavish and eccentric wardrobe. He has the most colorful costumes from the entire family and always mixes different patterns and textures. His elegance and fun details give the character the complete appearance of the wealthy leader of the crew. Ruth incorporated tunics, suits, robes as well as velvet, striped and floral patterns. Gomez, played by Raul Julia, balances Morticia’s black wardrobe, and together they have become a timeless couple.
Raul Julia as Gomez Addams, The Addams Family (1991) Photo: © Paramount Pictures
“Women are beautiful props all the time. Quirky teenagers, all the time. But to have men … with that sort of male elegance, it was a very fun job.”Costume Designer, Ruth Myers. The Rogue Runway.
Wednesday Addams, played by Christina Ricci, has indeed bewitched us all with her unique obsession for death and darkness. It is impossible not to feel the empowerment of this little girl and love her outfits. She also had different designs that she would wear throughout the day, all allusive to the same silhouette of a black patterned dress with a Barrymore collar.
Christina Ricci as Wednesday Addams, The Addams Family (1991) Photo: © Paramount Pictures
The pattern of her dress gave Wednesday her own identity. Ruth didn’t want to put her in all black mainly because she was still a little girl and because there was so much black in the other characters. The only time Wednesday is wearing all black is at the ball, where she wears a mini version of Morticia’s gown. Pugsley has his own identity, too: his black and white striped t-shirt. Even though it is a relatively simple piece, we immediately recognize Jimmy Workman as Pugsley Addams when paired up with his shorts. Both the kids balance each other and undoubtedly have their unique identities.
Christina Ricci as Wednesday Addams, Jimmy Workman as Pugsley Addams, The Addams Family (1991) Photo: © Paramount Pictures
Lastly, we have Uncle Fester and Granny. Both characters have a broad silhouette which is rather simple but complemented with a unique hairstyle look. Uncle Fester, played by Christopher Lloyd, is characterized by his black, long sleeve, collared velvet coat, and bald head. As he was playing around to pretend to be Fester, his costume is working more as a disguise. He doesn’t have many textures, or details except for the costume he wear on the ball scene: Mumushka!
Grandmama, Judith Malina, has a long black dress with tons of bits and pieces hanging from her. Since she is all the time cooking or searching for something, she certainly needed somewhere to hide it or hang it. Her dress looks hundreds of years old and with time she has added more interesting pieces that complement the costume. Finally, Lurch the sinister Butler, portrayed by Carel Struycken is always wearing a too small suit. The odd way in which the suit was fitted and styled gives him a much more weird appearance.
Left to right: Christopher Lloyd as Uncle Fester, Carel Struycken as Lurch the Butler, Judith Malina as Grandmama, The Addams Family (1991) Photo: © Paramount Pictures
With the use of dark colors and timeless pieces, Ruth Myers created icons. Each costume is so well thought and tailored that it flawlessly contributes to the story and brings this freaky family to life. The costume legacy of The Addams Family has undoubtedly pushed the boundaries of time and has become a classic.