Wings Not Included: Faerie Costuming

Detail, Simplicity 8629 by Firefly Path. Image: Simplicity.

This Halloween, a look at faerie costumes.

Jareth’s fairy ball in Labyrinth (1986) Costume design: Ellis Flyte and Brian Froud. Image: The Atlantic / TriStar Pictures.

Part Tinkerbell, part Titania, today’s fairy look can be traced back to Brian Froud and Alan Lee’s 1978 book, Faeries. Froud collaborated on the costumes for Jim Henson’s cult fantasy, Labyrinth (1986), while Lee became best known for his conceptual design work on the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

The year before Labyrinth, Ridley Scott’s Legend (1985) introduced the Tinkerbell-like Oona. Costume designer Charles Knode had previously worked with Scott on Blade Runner.

Annabelle Lanyon as Oona in LEGEND (1985)
Oona (Annabelle Lanyon) in Legend (1985) Costume design: Charles Knode. Image: Pinterest.

The ’90s soon brought Steven Spielberg’s Hook (1991), with Julia Roberts as Tinkerbell. In this Dream-inspired couture editorial by Koto Bolofo, the opening image channels Peter Pan — or is it Puck, with a McQueen-clad Titania?

At the Jardins de Giverny in Atelier Versace and Givenchy haute couture by Alexander McQueen, L’Officiel, September 1998. Photo: Koto Bolofo. Editor: Guylaine Tilleau. Image: jalougallery.

At the end of the decade, Michael Hoffman’s big-screen version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1999) — the first in over sixty years — featured costumes by the award-winning Gabriella Pescucci (The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, The Age of Innocence).

Michelle Pfeiffer as Titania in A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1999) Costume design: Gabriella Pescucci. Image: IMDb.

Froud and Lee’s Faeries was reissued for its 25th anniversary in 2002, the same year as Koto Bolofo’s “Tinker Belle’s Forest” editorial in Vogue Nippon.

“Tinker Belle’s Forest,” Vogue Nippon, March 2002. Photo: Koto Bolofo. Editor: Nikki Brewster.
Vogue Nippon, March 2002. Photo: Koto Bolofo. Editor: Nikki Brewster.

Founded in 2005, Faerie Magazine recently featured Los Angeles’ Firefly Path on the cover. (Free download here.)

Faerie Magazine issue 39 - summer 2017
Firefly Path with Fancy Fairy Wings on the cover of Faerie Magazine, Summer 2017. Photo: Ether and Smith (Ellen McGowan). Image: Enchanted Living.

In the new millennium, fairies became an otherworldly ingredient in the urban fantasy subgenre. Holly Black’s children’s series saw a film adaptation as The Spiderwick Chronicles (2008). HBO’s True Blood introduced “the Fae” a few seasons into the show, with costume designer Audrey Fisher dressing her fairies — Claudine, Maurella, even Queen Mab — in ethereal pieces from designers like LA’s Sue Wong and Marianna Harutunian.

A glimpse of Claudine (Lara Pulver) in True Blood, season 3 (2010) Costume design: Audrey Fisher. Image: HBO.
s3 e12
Lara Pulver as Claudine in True Blood, season 3 (2010) Costume design: Audrey Fisher. Image: IMDb.
"Soul of Fire" (s4 e11, 2011)
Maurella (Kristina Anapau) wears Sue Wong and Marianna Harutunian in True Blood, season 4 (2011) Costume design: Audrey Fisher. Image: Marianna Harutunian on Etsy.

In 2015, the New York Times’ T magazine featured Faerie Magazine in its Holiday issue:

"The Faerie Fantasy," T magazine, Holiday 2015
“The Faerie Fantasy,” T magazine, Holiday 2015. Photos: Marko Metzinger, Lynn Theisen. Image: The New York Times.

The next spring saw a new BBC production of Shakespeare’s Dream, adapted by Russell T Davies and with costumes by Ray Holman (Torchwood, Fleabag).

Maxine Peake as Titania in A Midsummer Night's Dream
Maxine Peake as Titania in A Midsummer Night’s Dream (2016) Costume design: Ray Holman. Image: BBC.

And now the Seelies, as the Fair Folk are known in Shadowhunters, have their own spinoff trilogy.

The Fair Folk (season 2 e14)
Lola Flanery as the Seelie Queen in Shadowhunters, season 2 (2017) Costume design: Shelley Mansell. Image: fandom.

Fairies have long been a fancy-dress standby, but a more recent trend is fairy costume patterns for adults. This empire maxi dress from Andrea Schewe adds wings, cape, and a crown for tissue lamé.

Simplicity 9454 by Andrea Schewe (2000) Image: Etsy.

Disco fairy rings are in store with this Simplicity design from the mid-aughts. From Elaine Heigl Designs, it has a ruffled skirt, corset, and top for sheer knits. Wings not included.

Simplicity 4902 by Elaine Heigl Designs (2004) Image: Etsy.

Also from Elaine Heigl, this fairy costume has several variations, including trousers. (“Purchased Wings.”)

Simplicity 3632 by Elaine Heigl Designs (2007) Image: Etsy.

In the teens, Cosplay by McCall’s released patterns for a horned headdress, and DIY fairy wings with matching hat and stockings — this last by cosplayer Becka Noel.

M2101 Hornery (2017) Image: Cosplay by McCall’s.
Cosplay by McCall's M2104 - Ala Glow by Becka Noel (2017)
M2104 Ala Glow by Becka Noel (2017) Image: Cosplay by McCall’s.

Simplicity has licensed several Firefly Path designs, including this highly detailed fairy princess ensemble. For your faerie wedding, designer JoEllen Elam Conway also sells Firefly Path bridal gowns and capes in her Etsy shop.

Firefly Path pattern Simplicity 8629 (2017)
Simplicity 8629 by Firefly Path (2017) Image: Simplicity.

How on-trend is faerie dressing? Out this month, Vogue’s latest book is Fantasy & Fashion.

Happy Halloween!

Saoirse Ronan in Chanel bridal couture by Karl Lagerfeld, photographed by Steven Meisel for Vogue, December 2011
Saoirse Ronan wears Chanel couture on the cover of Vogue: Fantasy & Fashion (Abrams 2020). Photo: Steven Meisel. Editor: Grace Coddington. Image: