Unmasking Sidney Prescott Through Her Signature Style in the ‘Scream’ Series [Final Girl Fashion]
Sidney Prescott is an unsung fashion icon.
This piece contains spoilers for Scream (2022).
When Scream (2022) finally hit theatres in my home country of Canada this month, I had many questions I was dying to have answered. Would the original Scream team of Gale Weathers (Courteney Cox), Dewey Riley (David Arquette) and Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell) actually make it to the end this time? What roles are these new characters playing in the latest round of Woodsboro Murders? Who would be unmasked as the new Ghostface? And, more importantly, what would Sidney be wearing when they do?
Okay, maybe that last one hasn’t been the No. 1 thing on everyone’s mind. But it’s been on mine after revisiting the first four films in the franchise over the past few weeks in anticipation of Radio Silence’s stab at one of the most beloved horror franchises of all-time. As someone who spends their free time analyzing the killer costumes of women in horror (see my Instagram account @finalgirlfashion), it’s hard not to rewatch these films and not want to slice and dice its sartorial choices; especially when it comes to shared survivors and frenemies Sidney and Gale.
The bold looks of Woodsboro Murders author Gale Weathers have been the subject of many heated debates over the years (*insert bangs joke here*). Meanwhile, Sidney’s wardrobe is less celebrated, perhaps because it is more toned down color-wise and thus, less instantly memorable. But if you look closer, Sidney’s outfits really tell a story from film to film. They give us a peek into the inner workings of a respectfully guarded woman who has been forced to stay in the spotlight against her will.
While every Scream film sees Gale wearing something entirely new, but true to her style (see: the many variants on the suit set she wears throughout the franchise), Sidney is clearly a creature of habit when it comes to what she pulls out of her closet in times of need. The first film, for example, has our hero hiding her demons behind her long brown hair, looking both too youthful and too mature for her age.
While Scream (1996) costume designer Cynthia Bergstrom has the sassy and sexually liberated Tatum (Rose McGowan) experimenting with colorful pants, patterned skirts and playfully meta crop tops, Sidney’s uniform is mainly plain tees or tanks, bootcut jeans, and sensible light jackets in muted tones. This juxtaposition between Scream’s two leading ladies is, of course, quite purposeful. Sidney fills the virginal, final-girl-next-door role and “helpless victim”. On the other hand, Tatum personifies the bimbo with big boobs stereotype that Sid herself calls out when on the line with Ghostface.
Sid’s fashion in the finale of the first film also nods to the slasher survivors who came before her. Her jean-on-jean look harkens back to Laurie Strode’s iconic outfit from Halloween (1978), one of the films Randy (Jamie Kennedy) puts on during the party that provides the backdrop for Sid’s final showdown with psycho killers/secret boyfriends Billy Loomis (Skeet Ulrich) and Stu Macher (Matthew Lillard).
Since Scream is a series that constantly straddles the lines between the past and the future, Sidney’s focus on clothes that are more practical and less provocative can also be seen as a gut response to the controversy that followed her mother’s own murder one year prior. With the media still following her around (perhaps even more now), it makes sense that Sid would want to appear as put-together as possible, so as to not attract too much attention towards herself or her father as they continue to grieve an unthinkable loss. What’s more, we know how critical the press can be of women’s appearances, with the ‘90s being an especially challenging time to be a femme-presenting person in the public eye.
Throughout the Scream saga, Sidney doesn’t stray too far from her signature style, with the occasional detours a result of the constant negotiation of her image. In Scream 4, for example, costume designer Debra McGuire dresses Sidney in several body-hugging dresses as she promotes her autobiography, Out of Darkness. When she’s not on the clock, she’s wearing cozy cardigans and layered tank tops. Meanwhile, the last sequence of Scream 3 features a seemingly free Sid wearing a v-neck tank and figure-hugging wrap skirt as she settles in for a movie night with Gale, Dewey (David Arquette), and Detective Kincaid (Patrick Dempsey).
Scream 2 is the first time Sidney really experiments with her appearance. She chops her long hair off into a sexy bob and trades her minimalist makeup for heavier eyeshadow and dark lipstick (hello, Goth Sidney!) as she attempts to start a new life at the fictional Windsor College. While still mainly seen in simple tanks, jackets and pants (this time with costume design by Kathleen Detoro), this more grown-up version of our heroine does put on a sexy, see-through top to go to a sorority party with her new best friend, the feisty and feminine Hallie (Elise Neal). Alas, her efforts to fit in with the “normal” girls are thwarted when Ghostface shows up to stalk her yet again.
After this brief brush with “Father Death,” Sidney retreats back to covering her body as much as possible. The only exception is when she is on stage, rehearsing to play Cassandra in the Greek play Agamemnon. Her costume—a sleeveless, deep red toga and matching lipstick—is not enough to disguise her from Ghostface, however, as the masked figure shows up to terrorize her alongside other masked actors on stage. It is in this moment that we realize that no matter where Sid goes, or what she wears, “fate’s vengeful eye is fixed on [her].”
In the finale of Scream 2, Sidney turns to her most protective gear yet, leaving the soft suede jackets from the first part of the film behind for a sturdy brown leather one, as well as a high-necked olive green top and black jeans. She is also seen wearing the fraternity letters given to her by her boyfriend Derek (Jerry O’Connell in full himbo mode) before his brutal murder, subtly honoring his memory as she goes up against the people who took his life before her eyes: Billy Loomis’s mother, Debbie Salt (a perfectly cast Laurie Metcalf), and movie-obsessed Windsor student Mickey (Timothy Olyphant).
The end of Scream 2 is just the beginning for this Sidney look, with costume designer Abigail Murray putting Sidney in a nearly identical version of the outfit (down to Derek’s letters!) in the Hollywood-set climax of Scream 3. It’s not surprising that Sid might want to turn to these old standbys as she reenters the world after years of working from her isolated home and not having to cater to anyone’s tastes or expectations other than her own (see: early scenes of her in cardigans, tie-dye tanks and wide-leg loungewear). And given how meta Scream 3 is, it seems fitting that it is in this Sidney Prescott cosplay our Scream queen is able to defeat the latest man behind the mask: her half brother and Stab 3 director Roman Bridger (Scott Foley).
Although we don’t get to see Sidney recreate this exact look again in Scream 4, she does channel it briefly when she visits Woodsboro High’s Cinema Club. Wearing jeans and a bronze leather jacket, she gives this crowd of movie nerds exactly what they’re hoping to see from the woman who inspired their favorite scary movie.
It’s worth noting that Scream 2 and Scream 3 did not take place in Woodsboro proper, giving Sidney the space to develop her style without being possessed by the spirit of her former self (although, Scream 3 does briefly conjure the ghost of her mother outside her window). Back in her hometown again in Scream 4, she looks like an older, wiser and more maternal version of the girl we met in the first film. She even rocks the long hair and bangs again as she watches her cousin, Jill Roberts (a scenery-destroying Emma Roberts), attempt to turn herself into the series’s new sole survivor. Maybe if Jill had worn a replica of Sidney’s/Laurie’s Canadian tuxedo right she might have succeeded, too.
In the final moments of Scream 4, Sid is in nothing more than a hospital gown as she, Gale, Dewey and new addition Judy Hicks (Marley Shelton) put the murderous Jill to rest for good. Stripped of her usual armor, Sidney is still able to come out victorious yet again, reclaiming her rightful place as the No. 1 survivor of the series while reminding us of the first rule of remakes: “Don’t fuck with the original.”
Sadly, we don’t spend too much time with Sidney in Scream (2022), with her only really coming into play in the film’s third act, which purposefully mirrors the end of Scream (1996). But when we do finally see her return to Woodsboro following Dewey’s brutal death (RIP), costume designer Emily Gunshor chooses to put Sidney back in that killer combo she’s turned to time and again: a brown leather jacket, jeans, and a v-neck tee.
It’s hard to say whether Sidney’s return to her tried-and-true uniform in Scream (2022) is a power move, or simply her falling into old habits yet again. After all, we don’t have many other modern Sidney outfits to compare it to (the workout gear we see her in briefly doesn’t say much other than she remains a comfort queen). But seeing as this latest look has some modern touches we haven’t seen before (the beachy bob, the wider pants), I like to think that she’s finally found a happy medium between her public and her private persona, her past and her present.
Either way, after everything that Sidney has gone through, she deserves to wear and do whatever the hell she wants. Especially since the faceless shadow who follows her everywhere hasn’t had the decency to update their look since 1996.