It’s hard to believe, but it has been 35 years since we summoned Michael Keaton’s Betelgeuse, err, Beetlejuice, to appear. The Tim Burton-directed horror/comedy film turned 35 on March 30, 2023, and those who can still repeat its lines all these years later remain just as obsessed with the film’s fantastical vibe today.
As expected, many Beetlejuice fans will be rewatching the beloved film thanks to HBO Max. During the trip down memory lane, the movie’s outlandish costumes still stand out decades later. Keep reading to see the history behind the fashion choices that made Beetlejuice a classic movie.
Michael Keaton worked closely with the ‘Beetlejuice’ wardrobe team to create his character’s iconic style.
Beetlejuice holds a special place in Michael Keaton’s life. When Michael booked the ‘80s classic, he was on the rise after a few supporting roles in Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood and Maude. However, his role as the witty, inventive ghost is one of his most memorable performances.
Michael even admitted to Entertainment Weekly that Beetlejuice is one of his favorite roles and played a significant part in the character’s kooky style.
Although Beetlejuice had several costume changes in the film, his white and black striped suit is what many replicate during Halloween. Like all of Beetlejuice’s costumes, the suit was designed by costume designer Aggie Guerard Rodgers with Tim’s assistance.
Once Michael booked the role (one that Tim originally wanted Sammy Davis Jr. to play), he said he worked closely with Aggie and the movie’s makeup artist, Ve Neill, to master the villain’s distinct style.
“It was off to the races,” Michael told EW about dressing Beetlejuice. “I called the wardrobe department, and I said, 'Send over racks to my house, clothes [from] all time periods.’”
“I went to the makeup artist, Ve Neill, and said, 'I want mold on my face,'” the actor continued. “'My hair has to look like I stuck my finger in an electric socket.'”
Winona Ryder’s character was always supposed to be a fashion icon.
While Beetlejuice is undoubtedly the 1988 film’s star (thus the title), even Michael admits he isn't in the movie very long. During most of the movie, viewers follow the Maitlands — played by Geena Davis as Barbara and Alec Baldwin as Adam — being terrorized by the Deetzes — played by Winona Ryder as Lydia Deetz, Catherine O’Hara as Delia Deetz, and Jeffrey Jones as Charles Deetz.
Winona’s character, Lydia, was a gothic icon, and, like Beetlejuice, fans still replicate her style decades later. In 2015, Aggie spoke to Elle about the character’s off-beat fashions, from her schoolgirl outfit stuffed with crinoline to her painter’s smock. Aggie said Winona was a teenager during Beetlejuice production, but the Oscar winner was dedicated to perfecting Lydia’s look.
"When we started filming Beetlejuice, Winona was so young that her mom and dad had to come to the fittings. I don't think she was even driving yet. I could be wrong, but I think she was quite young,” Aggie said of the then-16-year-old actress.
Aggie added: “We would go into American Rag and start looking at the racks. Winona looked at one rack; I looked at another, and then I would say, 'Here, try this on. Try that on.'"
Winona’s famous red wedding dress was intentionally made to fit Geena Davis’ dress.
While Lydia’s everyday style was an ode to ‘80s goth girls everywhere, the costume that gets discussed year after year is her insane red wedding dress. The dress was part of the film’s famous wedding scene when Beetlejuice attempted to marry Lydia in front of the Maitlands and her parents.
Aggie said the red dress was an actual wedding gown, but she made a few alterations for Winona. She said the idea came when she showed Tim Geena Davis’ dress, which she bought from a downtown Los Angeles wedding dress shop, Brenda’s Bridal.
After she bought a few dresses for Geena, Aggie pulled a few gowns for Tim to choose from. She searched for gowns that were “outrageous and stupid” to fit the kookiness of the film. Once she found Geena’s dress, Aggie came up with the idea to find a matching dress for Winona, but in red. She then pitched the idea to Tim, who she said was “shy” then, and he approved of her vision.
“I didn't want to scare him too much,” Aggie admitted to Elle. “I said, 'This wedding dress of Geena, how do you like it?' It was just a series of photos of people in bridal dresses that Brenda's always cranked out.”
She continued: “He picked one, and I said, 'How about for Winona, we make her this same dress in red?' And that is how we got that ridiculous dress. At that time, it was like a quinceañera dress.”
Although Aggie said “no one knew what to do with me” at the time due to her wild ideas, her hard work paid off since we’re still discussing the movie’s fashion all these years later.