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What. The. Hell.

So you're watching a movie, and, hey, maybe it's pretty good. The writing is snappy, the actors really seem to have settled into their roles, and all in all it's shaping up to be an enjoyable experience. And then the hero walks in wearing a gorilla suit, a Fu Manchu moustache, and high heels.

And the thing is, it's not for the sake of a joke. The costuming department thought -- mistakenly! -- that this combination would make the character look Badass, and somehow managed to persuade the director. No, they're not being sarcastic, comical or parodic (at least not at the time): it's an entire team of costume designers being totally, completely 100% damn serious about it. The audience, however, remains unconvinced.

That is the essence of What the Hell, Costuming Department. Maybe it's an adaptation of another work where the costumers decided, for no apparent reason, to make the character look entirely unlike he or she does in the source material. Maybe it's an original work where the costumers were evidently insane. Either way, confusion and dismay ensue.

Related tropes include: Rummage Sale Rejects, where the characters at least have the excuse that maybe they got dressed in the dark; Costume Porn, which provides a possible explanation for some examples; Fashion Victim Villain, a bad guy whose costumes attract WTH moments; and WTH? Casting Agency, where the confusion arises over who's in the costumes.

Compare Impossibly Tacky Clothes, which is when the work treats the costumes as bad.

Examples of WTH Costuming Department include:

Comic Books

  • Power Girl has had several particularly hideous costumes, as shown here. The one fourth from the right deserves special mention for having way too much going on at once and making the usual Cleavage Window look downright tame in comparison, and as one blogger wrote, making her look like "an X-Men reject from the 90s."
  • And speaking of the 90s, they spared no one in comics. Not even gods. Yes, that's Thor.
    • The 90s were quite bad for hair styles when it came to hair. Beast Boy and Nightwing with mullets. And those are considered iconic.
  • The assorted attempts to design Kryptonian formal garb, especially from the Byrne era, have caused more than a few snickers.
    • Parodied in All-Star Superman, where "Kryptonian formalwear" apparently consists of wearing your underwear outside your pants. Either that, or Bar-El was screwing with Jimmy Olsen's head. (Leo Quintum's borrowed outfit is just as silly, but not in the same way, something he's grateful for.)
  • Vartox. Not too surprising, since he's an Expy of Sean Connery's Zed from Zardoz (see Film below). This gets thoroughly mocked when he shows up in the Power Girl series.
  • Some of the clothing Luke Skywalker's worn in Marvel Star Wars and other contemporary works is... amazing. Like what he wore in The Return Of Ben Kenobi. Then there's the absurdly tight outfit that is honestly referred to as a miner's uniform in Splinter of the Minds Eye.
  • In Elf Quest fandom, the nipple-baring outfits of Rayek and Mender are not the most popular.
  • Mike Grell's rather infamous Cosmic Boy costume from The Seventies. Tyroc was pretty Stripperific too.

Fan Fic


  • Batman and Robin's Batnipples became so infamous that they received a nod in Ozymandias' costume design in the Watchmen movie, and Spartan 3000's costume in Empowered.
  • Yes, most of the costumes were gorgeous. Yes, the film won the Oscar for costuming. But the genius who translated "stylized suit of armor" in the opening scene of Bram Stokers Dracula to mean "big, shiny red lobster suit" is either a madman or a comic mastermind.
    • The armor was actually designed to look like human muscle; whether or not you find that badass is individual but during the time period when the opening is set people probably did wear armory based on that idea. Doesn't explain the red lacquered look, though.
  • Tim Burton's take on Superman Returns would have featured Superman in a black, Borg-inspired suit, designed by Jon Peters. Check it out.
    • This was probably inspired by the similar costume he wore in the comics during Reign of the Supermen. Still, when they got then-lead actor Nicholas Cage into their concept suit for a photo shoot, the results...were not pretty.
  • In the words of Jay Pinkerton, the Catwoman film "boldly [reinterpreted] the heroine as some sort of crime-fighting badger." With shredded pants and Too Many Belts.
  • Damodar, The Dragon from the execrable Dungeons and Dragons movie. He was rocking a pretty reasonable villainous look, but man, what was up with the blue lipstick?
  • Neal McDonough in the also execrable Street Fighter the Legend of Chun Li. McDonough really does resemble M. Bison from the games, except for the beard and business suit. And even if the pseudo-Nazi uniform was deemed too silly for the movie -- and that'd take some doing -- there's no real excuse for the beard.
    • The usual comment on McDonough-Bison is that the costumers appear to have gotten him mixed up with Geese Howard.
      • While we're on the subject: Ray Park's Rugal in the King of Fighters movie. While it's forgiveable that they couldn't convince Park to grow a foot taller and gain a hundred pounds of muscle for the role, they could've at least thrown a dinner jacket and a blond wig on the guy.
    • The go-go boots that Kreuk wore down the "wandering montage" of Chun Li in Hong Kong resembled Chun-Li's outfit, but the character who had well-defined legs and those boots helped show off her rather legendary physique. On Kristen Kreuk, they just look awkward and stupid as her legs lacked the appeal of her namesake's. Meanwhile, when she goes to the club and seduces Cantana in one of the most devoid-of-chemistry dances ever, she has her hair styled in the iconic "side-buns" style of Chun-Li...and they look downright atrocious.
  • Amidala's outfits and hairstyles in the Star Wars prequels would qualify. And this is coming from fans who are totally OK with the Cinnabons that Leia wears on the side of her head in the original film.
    • Sure, she is a queen, and it is the galaxy's golden age of prosperity, etc., but you'd think it'd be difficult to find time to rule when your hair alone requires eight hours of work every day.
      • Although Star Wars: The Clone Wars seems to imply that most of her ridiculous hairstyles are actually wigs.
    • In metapracticality, the hair and costumes hide that her double doesn't actually look much like her. Of course, that could have easily been accomplished with just her heavy make up, rather than all the wigs and ridiculous clothes.
    • It should be pointed out, though, that many Real Life courts have had similarly over-complicated outfits, makeup and hairdos for their royalty. It's true that there are no signs of Naboo being a Deadly Decadent Court there's no reason to think that it isn't, or that it wasn't.
  • Jocelyn's hairstyles in A Knight's Tale have certainly evoked this response from many viewers. As someone on the movie's page put it, "It's time for me to style my hair. Handmaiden, fetch me the fork and the royal toaster!"
    • Several of her dresses also qualify, making one wonder why she wasn't thrown out of the courtly areas after being mistaken for a street walker.
  • The dreary Starfleet pajamas from Star Trek the Motion Picture. Compared to those, the red-tunic-black-trousers getup is practically the height of style.
  • Erik's pitiful excuse for a deformity in the film musical of Phantom of the Opera -- a story that revolves around Erik's hideousness.
    • Also most of the costumes from the operas within the film, leading Cleolinda Jones to refer to them as "giant pink poodle-lady" and "The Dread Pirate Roberts Corps de Ballet"
    • Then there's the costumes for "Masquerade." The lyrics, which describe the ball with lines like "every face a different shade" and "grinning yellows, spinning reds" are being sung by revelers...dressed almost entirely in black and white.
    • Most of the Phantom's outfits accentuate instead of conceal his figure (especially the Red Death suit, which in the stage version was huge and included a full death's head mask).
    • All the womens' costumes, except Madame Giry's, somewhat anachronistically show a lot of cleavage, and the slave girl outfits are altered from those of the stage show such that they show midriff.
    • All of this may be attributed to the fact that the director is Joel Schumacher, whose work in the Batman franchise is exhibited in this trope's image.
  • David Bowie's entire wardrobe in Labyrinth was bizarre even by 80s standards. Whoever put him in extremely form-fitting leggings in a kid's movie either really really liked him or were doing a few too many drugs. Then again, much of the movie is so surreal it's hard to believe a few other people weren't taking them, too. The whole point of the movie is about growing up and coming to grips with adult issues, and the rampant sexuality displayed by Bowie-in-tight-pants was entirely deliberate and intended as somewhat disturbing for the heroine/viewer, famously inspiring new and unfamiliar stirrings in all who watched him.
  • Richard Burton's film version of Marlowe's The Tragicall History of the Life and Death of Doctor Faustus involves some of the absolute silliest costumes known to man. Particularly narmful: when Envy, Wrath, and Pride show up in the garden of the Seven Deadly Sins, they are wearing... interesting... helmets. They're huge and oddly shaped. It's very hard to see how Pride could possibly be persuaded to wear something that requires that little dignity.
  • Puma Man features the world's cheapest superhero costume ever, including slacks and loafers. Some viewers were shocked he wasn't wearing a bath towel for a cape.
  • The Wild World Of Batwoman: Batwoman. See here. The best part? Actress Kathryn Victor assembled that thing from her own personal wardrobe.
  • Clash of the Titans, specifically, the 2010 R Emake, has made viewers both laugh and cringe at the utterly baffling plastic-looking "armor" of the Olympian gods. It looked like the production team raided the local costume shop. The constant bombardment of Lens Flare in these scenes doesn't help matters.
  • Zardoz has this in spades. Sean Connery + thigh high boots + what looks like a red diaper and suspenders made out of pipe insulation = Brain Bleach. For this, John Boorman has no excuse, but he does have an explanation (paraphrased): "Um, it was The Seventies, and I was doing a lot of drugs. Frankly, even I'm not entirely sure what parts of the movie are about."
  • The John Wayne version of True Grit. Not only does she have an obviously 1960's hairstyle, Mattie also wears black nylon tights at the end of the movie.
  • "Weird Al" Yankovic mocks the Green Goblin's design from Spider Man in "Ode to a Superhero" thus:

 And he's ridin' around on that glider thing

And he's throwin' that weird pumpkin bomb

Yes, he's wearin' that dumb Power Rangers mask

But he's scarier without it on

  • Averted in the first X-Men 1 movie, where the team wears black outfits. Cyclops Lampshades the change by saying could be wearing "yellow spandex" as seen in the comics.
    • Played straight in X Men First Class, with the costume Erik wears in the last scene of the film. He has a bright purple cape and modified the helmet so that it's magenta and has little horns. Fanfic has not missed out on mocking this.
      • The little horns are straight out of the comics, as seen here, but the costume department did make them more prominent.
  • In Harry Potter and The Half Blood Prince the twins at Slughorn's Christmas party can be seen wearing two ghastly green outfits that appear to be pear costumes.
  • For some reason, somebody thought it would be a good idea to the have the villain of Killer Party, which occurs during a college frat party, dress as a deep sea diver. And no, it wasn't a costume party.
  • Dune. Behold the majesty of Sting's bronze speedos! (The miniseries is below in the Live Action TV category.)
  • In Twilight New Moon, when Alice shows Aro her vision of Bella being a vampire, Bella and Edward are seen running through the forest in slow motion... wearing clothes that look like they came right out of 18th century Colonial America. Needless to say, this scene drew much unintended laughter from the audience.

Live Action TV

  • Ugly Betty is supposed to be a fashion victim, but Season 3 took it way too far when Patricia Fields took over as costume designer. Betty went from frumpy to looking like a deranged clown. And though she's supposed to be poor, the pieces of these monstrosities were obviously expensive designer items, which she never wore more than once. Also, the people on the show who are supposed to be fashionable didn't look much better.
    • Pat Fields is notorious for putting the stars of the shows she costumes in bizarre clothes. Before Ugly Betty she did Sex and the City -- it was even worse.
  • There was a long-running joke on Television Without Pity about the wardrobe bag game on Buffy the Vampire Slayer: one bag had a list of ridiculous wardrobe items, the other had a list of cast members.
    • There was a theory at one point that the costuming department were so used to wardrobing the stick-thin supermodelalikes that populated most of Hollywood that they literally had no idea how to clothe the Hollywood Homely Tara. Poor Amber Benson got some absolute horror in S4 ("Where The Wild Things Are" is usually held up as the worst attempt).
    • Angel had a similar problem, but apparently after Doyle left they ditched the second bag and gave everything to Cordelia.
  • Almost every costume of the nobles in the Frank Herbert's Dune miniseries looks completely insane. This has led to it being dubbed "The Funny Hats version" of Dune.
    • Theodor "Dodo" Pistek, the film's costume designer (he really lives up to that name), also did Those Hats in Amadeus, designed the uniforms of the Czech Castle Guard... and was a Formula 1 driver.
  • Doctor Who runs into this sometimes, especially in the old series. Alien fashion or no alien fashion, some of those costumes were just plain hilarious. Usually it just adds to the show's Narm Charm.
    • The Doctor himself has often worn some fairly ridiculous outfits. He generally gets away with it, with the exception of the Sixth Doctor, whose costume is universally regarded as being too crazy and hideous for even the Doctor to pull off.
      • Even Colin Baker realized this, arguing for a basic black ensemble for the Doctor to showcase his darker persona in this regeneration. He was overruled by John-Nathan Turner, who felt that the "Technicolor Nightmarecoat" fit Six's "fractured personality". Judging from the other Time Lords it seems to be a racial trait.
    • Lalla Ward said later that the costume department let her wear pretty much whatever she wanted. This got her into a little bit of accidental embarrassment, as in City of Death, she decided to wear a Catholic schoolgirl's outfit. Ward did not realize that qualified as Fetish Fuel for some.
    • Somewhat lampshaded in the episodes featuring the Eleventh Doctor - after proclaiming that "bowties are cool" and "fezzes are cool" in series five, the fandom embraced those statements and now the Doctor's penchant for ridiculous headgear is a running joke.
  • So You Think You Can Dance has frequently suffered from this since season one.
  • The "Cyberwoman" episode of Torchwood, features the eponymous character in a metal... thing... and high heels. What the costume department were likely going for is a sort of metal version of the 1950s evil dominatrix leather wear. If so, it's painfully misfire. It gains bonus demerits for making absolutely no sense whatsoever for the people who designed it in-universe. One of the things the Cybermen want to remove is gender distinctions. A sexy dominatrix look would not exactly be in line with that aim.
    • The outfit is a Shout-Out to the work of the Japanese BDSM/cyborg-fetish erotic artist Hajime Sorayama, which sadly points out how those outfits wouldn't work in real life.
  • A lot of fans had pointed out that Sherlock's title character seem to be dressing rather expensively for man forced to seek out a flatshare. The signature long coat costs £1,350.00, the gloves cost £175.00, and the purple shirt costs anything between £100 to £400.
    • In a bit of Fridge Brilliance, maybe his expensive wardrobe is why Sherlock needed a flatshare.
  • On The X-Files, for some unknown reason, Scully spends the first few seasons wearing some incredibly boxy, unflattering pant suits in outrageous colors--including brown plaid and various shades of maroon. It got better over the course of the series, where the odd colors were traded in for mostly black and gray.


  • Slipknot wears matching uniforms with bizarre masks for each individual member of the band.
  • Lady Gaga is notorious for appearing in her videos, and occasionally in public, in silly outfits .
    • Which "Weird Al" Yankovic poked fun at with his riff of her "Born This Way" entitled "Perform This Way".
    • Before Lady Gaga, there was Björk.
  • Peter Gabriel, especially during his days with Genesis, where he would dress as a flower or elf on occasions. He said he did this to conquer his stage fright, since he wasn't afraid of people having a laugh at the costume, because the costume isn't him. A lot of musicians create personas for themselves on stage to compartmentalize the fear of performing.

Professional Wrestling

  • Even if The Shockmaster (Fred Ottman, a.k.a. "Typhoon" and "Tugboat") hadn't face-planted in his debut entrance at WCW's Clash of the Champions in 1993, it's hard to believe that anyone would have taken him seriously when his costume consisted of a black vest, a pair of jeans, and a silver-painted Stormtrooper helmet covered in glitter.
  • A lot of Layla El's more recent outfits where the theme seems to be a combination of snake skin and coloured tinfoil.
  • Maxine from NXT season 3 was introduced to us wearing an open blouse with a neon bra underneath, topped off with a skirt and suspenders. Then her ring gear for the evening appeared to be an ice dancer costume.
    • Speaking of NXT, Naomi deserves a mention from the Halloween Episode. For the costume contest, she showed up dressed as the Hamburger Helper hand - yes she wore a giant foam hand. And she wrestled in that very costume. First of all, if she knew she'd be wrestling in her costume why didn't she wear something more sensible? And secondly, has she never seen a WWE costume contest before? Less is generally more in those things.
  • Tori's cat bodysuit deserves honourable mention from Wrestle Mania XV. She should have just worn one of Sable's catsuits.
  • When Goldust became "The Artist Formerly Known As Goldust" he wore some very disturbing outfits including his infamous silver body suit at Wrestlemania XIV complete with silver and red face paint and a black leotard.
  • Alicia Fox and her piñata gear.
  • MVP's infamous purple and silver "Power Ranger" costume.
    • Justified however, as MVP has several potentially inflammatory tattooes that needed covering up.


  • The National Hockey League has seen its share of uniforms that teams would like to forget. One of the most notorious examples is the New York Islanders 1995 uniform change from this to this.
  • The St. Louis Blues would have worn THIS during a game in 1996 if it weren't for their head coach stepping in and refusing to let his players wear that. Score one for good taste.
  • The Vancouver Canuck's V Jersey
  • Coventry City FC's 1970's away strip. Liverpool FC's late '80's home strip wasn't much better.
  • The 1994 FIFA World Cup uniforms for some national teams. Particularly for Brazil, Spain, and the hosts themselves, the USA.
  • Because many baseball fans and owners are so stuck in the past, teams think it's a good idea to hold "Turn Back the Clock Day" and make the players dress in baggy, oversized old-fashioned uniforms for one game. Most fans born after 1950 can only roll their eyes at them.
  • The late 1970s and into the early 1980s was not a good time for cricket uniforms, specifically the one-day format where coloured uniforms are the norm. New Zealand's beige and brown (image link if a modern recreation) and the West Indies grey pajamas (with the maroon fading to pink fairly quickly) are considered the low points.
  • Because the University of Oregon football team has the support of alum and Nike founder Phil Knight, it has become infamous for breaking out new, outlandish designer uniforms every single game." Listing the number of ridiculous combinations they have worn may require its own page.
  • The Fremantle Football Club entered the Australian Football League in 1995, and for the next 15 years had the team colours of purple, green, red and white, with their uniforms having a huge anchor on the front. In 2010, the club thankfully changed to a more conservative purple and white chevron design.
  • The Houston Astros' infamous "Rainbow Guts" uniforms. which they wore for almost two decades.
  • The San Diego Padres, since 2008, have trotted out on the field every Sunday home game in camouflage.
    • Most likely Pandering to the Base, as San Diego has a significant Naval base just across the harbor from Petco Park, with a large Marine Corps presence just up the road at Miramar and Camp Pendleton.


  • The costuming for the Broadway version of The Lion King is largely fantastic and truly captures the Savannah feel of the show...until you get to the hyenas and Timon; the former are all decked out in painted hillbilly longjohns with horrible paper maché masks (they're supposed to be ratty and ugly, but couldn't they do with a more primal version of the native garb the other characters had?), while the latter was essentially a 4 foot Timon plushie sewn onto the front of a man in green hillbilly longjohns and clown wig (it kinda looks like Timon is being molested by the Jolly Green Giant). They are really jarring when put beside the fantastic costumes of the other characters.

Video Games

  • In Plumbers Don't Wear Ties, the narrator suddenly dons a chicken mask for no reason.
  • Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. The player can take over this role. Utterly serious cut scenes can have the protagonist standing around in any number of insane outfits. The possibilities are in the hundreds such as; boxers only, a Groucho Marx face mask and tuxedo pants or even a gimp suit. This last, in a business meeting with his sister.
  • The Soul Calibur series has been getting worse and worse in this topic with each new entry. It reached its lowest in Soul Calibur IV, specially with Ivy's ridiculous strip-bra. In Soul Calibur V they seemed to recover from it, although there are still some characters with ludicrous outfits.
  • Similarly, the Saints Row series, with its insane degree of Character Customization, features equally insane wardrobe choices depending on the player's whim. Including hot dog suits and gladiator helmets.
  • In both Dead Rising and Dead Rising 2, the player can make some questionable wardrobe decisions. Nothing says intense zombie fighting action like a pink women's business suit and a servbot helmet.
  • Who sends a bunch of mercenaries to fight, probably to the death, with paper bags or rubber gloves on their heads? Team Fortress 2 in a nutshell.
  • Save very few exceptions, most of the armors from Xenoblade Chronicles are so ridiculously ornamented that a lot of players prefer to stick with the standard outfits, even if it means to have lower stats.
  • Mortal Kombat 9 has a few of these. Specifically, Sonya Blade's primary costume. Does Special Forces not require their female operatives to at least wear bras or something? Ok, ok, ok, maybe I'm missing the bigger picture here. But HIGH HEELS too? Seriously?
  • Similarly, in Blaz Blue, we have squirrel girl Makoto Nanaya. Her Stripperiffic battle outfit is ridiculously impractical. Example: here is her costume in Calamity Trigger, here is her NPC costume in Continuum Shift, and here is her playable character costume. The impracticality of it is even lampshaded in one episode of Help Me, Professor Kokonoe!

  Kokonoe: Who the hell goes around dressed like that!? How do you live knowing you're always one slight breeze or sudden cough away from a massive Wardrobe Malfunction!?


Western Animation

Real Life

  • The definition of "fashion" (at least in the context of "the fashion industry" and "fashion shows") seems to be "wearable modern art that no one would be caught dead wearing
    • That's haute couture. Fashion is a watered-down, more affordable version with saner makeup (and sizes meant for real human beings).
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