Golden foliage flickering from the light of a sun setting too early, smiling pumpkins lining the porches of a friendly street, brooding skeletons adjusted into menacing positions. There are few aesthetics as provoking and identifiable as those of Halloween. It’s as much a feeling, a distant sort of nostalgia that haunts the present, as it is an aesthetic presence. Any good Halloween film bottles that distinct visual vibe, and Disney’s cult classic Hocus Pocus is perhaps the one that perfected it.
Taking place in Salem, Massachusetts, the famous location of the Salem Witch Trials, Hocus Pocus leans into the staples of the season. Trick or treaters, beautiful landscapes, and a spooky witches’ cabin. The aesthetics don’t stop there, they’re also reflected in the makeup and costuming of the film. Halloween is a holiday revolving around the idea of dressing up, but for some in the film, dressing up isn’t a matter of playing pretend.
The Sanderson sisters truly are witches and Billy Butcherson truly is a zombie. And so their outfits are essential for setting up tone and character, and in the years since have become iconic within pop culture. So, when developing Hocus Pocus 2, director Anne Fletcher was tasked with continuing the legacy of these iconic costumes.
Bringing Back the Sandersons
During the filming of Hocus Pocus 2, the original costumes from the first film were located at the Museum of Pop Culture in Seattle, Washington. They were in good enough condition to be appreciated on mannequins, but not enough to survive further filming. So the creative team had a clean slate to pull from, which they shared a bit about during a recent press conference celebrating the Disney+ streaming debut of the film.
Director Anne Fletcher sheds some insight into the process of deciding what to do, admitting that they “thought way outside of the bubble, like how all these big superhero movies change everything up.” Ultimately, while Captain America has a new suit in every Avengers film, the creative team behind Hocus Pocus 2 decided against it. Instead, they focused on “[staying] to the truth of what their witch’s clothes were, [giving] it new material.”
The costumes in Hocus Pocus 2 for the Sanderson sisters look very similar to the ones from the original. The silhouettes are intact, as are the color schemes. However, there are a few key differences seen in little bits of flare that the costuming department decided to splice in.
“The symbols on all three of the outfits, especially Bette’s [Winifred Sanderson], mean something,” Anne Fletcher reveals. The director describes how costume designer Salvador Pérez Jr. researched the Wicca of the 1600s and how their beliefs could be reflected in their costumes. “That version of witchcraft which was tethered to the earth, the ocean, the stars, it’s all tied together. And it’s all on [Winifred’s] cloak, as well as the bird… it’s all reflected in Winifred’s cloak and in Mary’s rings.”
Designing A New Era
Hannah Waddingham of recent Ted Lasso fame plays a new character known as the mother witch in Hocus Pocus 2. Her costume is new and extravagant, strikingly red with a dramatic tattered cape mimicking brightly colored plumes. Anne Fletcher says that she too “has a lot of the iconography of the movie.” Whereas symbols such as the star are present in her choker, perhaps the most obvious symbol is the eye emboldened onto her stomach. It resembles the open and sentient eye on Winifred’s precious spellbook, reflecting the wealth of knowledge she possesses and her gift to the girls.
While it’s a clever nod to the witches of the past, Hocus Pocus 2 welcomes a new era of witches. There’s a trio of girls played by Whitney Peak, Belissa Escobedo, and Lilia Buckingham. They share an interest in the occult and the bond of sisterhood that’s subtly reflected in their costuming. Mirroring the sisters, Fletcher details how “they also have these symbols [of 1600s wicca] as well as each witch’s color stone in their matching necklaces.”
Ultimately, Hocus Pocus 2 is about the undeniable bonds and loyalty that we have with each other. Whether that is between the Sanderson sisters or the parallels to them that exist in the new protagonists of the film, those bonds are reflected in the brilliantly bright, instantly evocative, and traditionally iconic costumes.