Secret Style Icons: The Witches of Hocus Pocus

Secret Style Icons: The Witches of Hocus Pocus
Lush looks from demented murderesses.


Oh, Hocus Pocus! This movie is a completely ridiculous tale set in Salem, Massachusetts, but don’t look to it for historical accuracy as far as the witch trials go; it’s a Disney Halloween movie with a 300-year-old cursed boy-cat that talks and Bette Midler shooting lightning bolts from her fingers. The film, not a box-office hit when it came out, has evolved over the past 20 years into a beloved holiday tradition, thanks to repeated TV airings in October. If you embrace the silliness of the film, it’s a lot of fun, and it definitely sets the mood for the season with shots of leaf-covered streets, trick-or-treating, and, of course, a bunch of over-the-top witches with excellent style.


It occurred to me while rewatching Hocus Pocus recently that I wanted to buy essentially everything the three Sanderson sisters–Winifred (Bette Midler), Mary (Kathy Najimy), and Sarah (a pre”“Carrie Bradshaw Sarah Jessica Parker)–were wearing. Winifred’s cloak is a magnificent mix of purple and green velvet; Sarah’s maroon lace dress and deep purple cloak are a gothy dream come true; and Mary has that stunning bright red cloak that clashes with her super-rad violet-tinged hair. All three of them are meant to be from the 1690s, but they manage to look timeless–if you saw them on the street, you might not be sure if they were going for an ancient look or a super-futuristic one, which to me is a sign of great style.

I mean, sure, the Sanderson sisters maintain their youth and beauty by sucking the life out of children, and that’s totally uncool. But credit where credit’s due: Their overall look is on point. I especially love their makeup, exemplified by Winifred’s Clara Bow”“esque lips and Sarah’s vampy eye shadow and dark lips. All three ladies have completely great hair–have you ever seen anyone with a ’do quite like Winifred Sanderson’s? Total icon status. (You know, aside from the whole evil, demented murderess thing.)


The abilities to fly, cast spells, and raise the dead are accessories that many of us would love to have, and it’s fun to watch the sisters work together to cause such mayhem. They each carry their own sense of style, but as a trio they look like they belong together. The shades of purple in Winifred’s dress, Sarah’s cloak, and Mary’s hair pick up the vibrant colors in the layers of lace, velvet, and wool. It’s a bit like seeing a picture of the Spice Girls–every one has their own identity, yet they all sort of match, in a weird way.

These are easy looks to pull off on a daily basis. You don’t have to go all-out Sanderson, but the staples–wool capes, plum lipstick, rad hair dye–can all make their way into your wardrobe without giving off too much of a costume-y effect. Their dreamy witch look has never really left pop culture, and there’s a lot of room for variation. The Sanderson sisters are bright and campy, but there’s also a cool Stevie Nicks vibe in their lace tunics and capes and hints of mid-’90s D’arcy Wretzky all over their makeup. And as far as I’m concerned, velvet is eternal–it’s really up to you whether you want to take it to the extreme or just incorporate little hints of Hocus Pocus magic in your everyday style.

I realize that Hocus Pocus isn’t representative of Wicca, or witches, or Salem whatsoever, but what makes the movie so fun is that it’s absolutely absurd and cartoonish. It has to be, otherwise the fact that these horrid women are killing and cursing children from the start doesn’t quite fly in a PG setting. There’s something delightfully creepy and great about a trio of women who hold great powers and don’t try to hide them by blending into the crowd.

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