Devil In A White Dress: Why Femme Fatales All Look Alike


From ‘Basic Instinct’ to ‘The Last Seduction,’ erotic thrillers have one thing in common

One of the oldest, most clichéd fashion rules in the book tells us not to wear white after Labor Day, summer's unofficial end. With that in mind, it's a good time to revisit some of the finest white ensembles ever seen onscreen. Earlier this season, a tweet I posted about women wearing white in erotic thrillers of the 1980s and '90s became surprisingly popular, and my crowded notifications convinced me that these women have truly created a stylish legacy.

Erotic thrillers would be nothing without their femmes fatales, and the femmes would be significantly less fatale without their gloriously subversive wardrobes. White, of course, is the color of virginal purity, of wedding dresses and cherubs. When the women of erotic thrillers wear white, the color (or lack thereof) becomes a blank slate ripe for being covered over with aberrant sexuality and mystery. The subversion of purity is nothing new—any art history scholar will tell you as much—but as they do all things, femmes fatales truly take it to the next level.

The most famous outfit from an erotic thriller, and maybe one of the most iconic in modern cinema, is Sharon Stone's white dress in Basic Instinct (1992). The dress—short, body-conscious, and turtle-necked—both conceals and infamously reveals. A turtleneck may not be traditionally thought of as sexy, but this one lends polish. It's a look of absolute control.

The costume designer for Basic Instinct, Ellen Mirojnick, also did the costumes for Fatal Attraction (1987). Mirojnick is truly the unsung auteur of the erotic thriller. Glenn Close also wears a white dress, but in a narrative device emblematic of the differences between the two films, she doesn't take control and exude sexuality wearing it. She gets murdered in it. The dress is off-the-shoulder (the opposite of a turtleneck) and pleated at the waist—a classically '80s silhouette. The film makes it very clear that a white dress will do nothing to protect her, and she begins to resemble a horror movie bride.

In The Last Seduction (1994), Linda Fiorentino, scheming and delightfully rotten to the core, pretty much only wears black-and-white ensembles. Her outfits are smartly tailored and businesslike, in a subtly old-fashioned way. A woman in a sharp white collared button-down and coordinated blazer is clearly not one to be messed with.

An all-white ensemble is perfect for seducing an unwitting man in sweltering heat. In Body Heat (1981), everyone's always talking about how hot it is, and Kathleen Turner saunters into the night in her crisp white outfit, ready to get what she wants.

There are other examples of white-clad women in erotic thrillers, but no exploration of these modern-day femmes fatales would be complete without a nod to their forebears in the films noirs of the 1940s and '50s.

In Double Indemnity (1944), in the role that launched a thousand scheming women, Barbara Stanwyck wears an elegant white jumpsuit, designed by Hollywood legend Edith Head, with a perfectly '40s trouser cut and a nipped waist. Wearing this kind of chic lounge look while up to no good is the ultimate power move, and, of course, an all-white outfit looks particularly fabulous shot on black-and-white film.

The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946), like Double Indemnity based on a novel by James M. Cain and featuring a similar plot, offers its first glimpse of Lana Turner in a white turban, a white crop top and high-waist shorts, and white shoes. Each element is perfectly meant to go together, and while her smoldering expression is serious, her outfit feels somewhat leisurely.

The over-the-top Technicolor but spiritually noir drama Leave Her to Heaven (1945) features Gene Tierney in a number of white ensembles, most memorably a draped, robe-like coat she wears while committing an unforgivable act. Tierney cuts an imposing figure, and the dramatic shape of the jacket wouldn't be out of place in an erotic thriller some 40 years later.

These women in white are not the figures of purity convention might have us expect. White can be a hard color to wear, and all of these women do it with panache—the last thing they're going to do is worry about stains. White may sometimes seem boring or safe, but these performances show that when worn with the right sense of menace it can be anything but. So beyond this Labor Day, don't follow conventional wisdom: Take a note from these unforgiving dames and try a white outfit. If the femmes fatales of erotic thrillers and film noirs are known for anything, it's breaking the rules.

Screenshot via Youtube

While the song should serve as a reminder to your exes

Just a day after dropping new single "Nunya," featuring Dom Kennedy, Kehlani has released the winter-wonderland visuals to go along with. The singer, NYLON November cover star, and mother-to-be rocks some of the best winter 'fits I've seen in a while, including a glorious puffer jacket that could double as a down comforter that I absolutely need in my life right now.

Kehlani is clearly living her best life up in some snow-filled forest hideaway, vibing on the beach at sunset and sipping on something bubbly as she coolly reminds nosy exes that who she's with is "nunya business." There's not much of a story line (unlike her recent "Nights Like This" video); the main takeaway is that Kehlani is busy dancing through a forest, missing no one and chilling amongst people who are clearly not the subjects of the song.

Kehlani is only two short months away from bringing baby Adeya into the world, who she thanked for helping her get through the video process. "Shot that 7 months pregnant in da snow..." Kehlani wrote on Twitter, adding, "thank u baby for da motivation, mommy was FROZE."

Even from the womb, Adeya has been hustling hard alongside her momma. Twitter user @ODtheMC pointed out that this is already her second music video appearance, and she's not even been born.

Get some mulled wine ready and escape into Kehlani's winter getaway, below. Stay tuned for her forthcoming mixtape, While We Wait, out on February 22.

Kehlani - Nunya (feat. Dom Kennedy) [Official Music Video]



Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez / Getty Images.

As in Black Panther Political Party leader

It's been a running joke that the Black parents/grandparents of millennials were really confused about all of the Black Panther hoopla ahead of its 2018 release. Many of them were anticipating a movie about members of the Black Panther Political Party and didn't know who the hell T'Challa was. Well, those people are about to have their moment, and we're about to have another one.

Variety is reporting that Fred Hampton, the Black Panther leader at the center of the upcoming biopic Jesus Was My Homeboy, could be played by none other than Daniel Kaluuya. Apparently, he is in negotiations for the role. And he's not the only Black Panther alum in the mix. The Warner Bros. project is being produced by Black Panther director, Ryan Coogler. The same article reports that the forever swoon-worthy Lakeith Stanfield—who appeared with Kaluuya in Jordan Peele's Get Out—is also in negotiations, to play William O'Neal, an FBI informant who infiltrated the Black Panther Party.

Coogler and Charles King are putting together a dream cast to tell a difficult story. Hampton was killed by the Chicago Police Department, while his pregnant girlfriend lay next to him, thanks in part to information they received from O'Neal. Whenever it's out, I strongly recommend having Black Panther queued up as a palate cleanser.