Coveting Sissy Spacek’s Wardrobe in Badlands

The words “covet” and “Sissy Spacek” do not generally go hand in hand. However, her wardrobe in Terrence Malick’s beloved 1973 film, Badlands, is enough to make you feel positively livid with your own closet. From pastel colored prairie dresses to Jacobean ruffs, Spacek’s character, Holly Sargis, pulls out all the sartorial stops.

That ruffled grace
That ruffled grace
Based on the true story of Charles Starkweather and Caril Ann Fugate, the 50s-era version of Bonnie and Clyde, who liked to kill people for reasons that occasionally related to robbery, Fugate gets a stylized makeover that renders her innocent, yet unwittingly fashion savvy. Her naïveté gives her clothing choices a less punk rock edge, but also imbues her with a sense of preternatural style that seems somehow out of place with the time.
Keeping it simple and childlike at the beginning of the film, before the corruption
Keeping it simple and childlike at the beginning of the film, before the corruption
Perhaps because the film came out in the early 70s, the costume designer, Rosanna Norton, couldn’t help but be influenced by the shifting aesthetic of that time. Trapped between the voguishness of mini skirts in the 60s and the sudden shittiness of the economy that always connotes longer hemlines, Norton could have easily been experiencing a crisis of fabric in determining her selection for Holly’s wardrobe.
Another amazing Little House on the Prairie Dress
Another amazing Little House on the Prairie Dress
Whatever the inspiration, Holly manages to make dowdiness chic. As the plot continues, her outfits shift with the erosion of her innocence. The more people Kit kills, the more emboldened her clothing choices become (e.g. jeans with a button-up white shirt featuring a Jacobean ruff down the center–très androgynous). And the more out of touch with reality she becomes as a defense mechanism, the less quaint and more emboldened her outfit choices become. But in both the school marm and nymphet incarnations, her varied garments rival most of the pieces people pay seven hundred dollars for at Opening Ceremony.