Brooding, maudlin, full of woe: Wednesday Addams is an icon for pandemic times. Who better to express our existential malaise with a world gone horribly wrong than the seven-year-old antiheroine of Charles Addams’s much-loved TV and film franchise? If Wednesday was around today she would probably infect her brother Pugsley with Covid, then observe him sickening with clinical detachment. And she would do it in her signature uniform: black lace dress, white collar and plaited hair.
These are bitter days indeed, and fashion has gone over to the dark side. Simone Rocha’s much-anticipated collection for H&M – featuring gothic black tulle ballgowns and a children’s range modelled by preteens with Wednesday plaits – sold out in hours after its launch on 11 March. Lisa from the K-pop supergroup Blackpink appeared on the cover of Elle in September 2020 in a high-necked, white-collared black dress with a petulant, Wednesday-like expression on her face. And the blood-red cherry on the Black Forest gateau: it has just been announced that Tim Burton will direct a live-action Addams Family reboot for Netflix, centring on Wednesday herself. Wednesday is all around us, our very own venomous little sister. But what is driving this macabre revival?
“The likes of Daria, Wednesday Addams and Emily the Strange have long been the beloved figureheads – and style icons – of weirdos and oddballs everywhere, so it’s interesting to see the masses catch on,” says Emma Davidson, digital fashion features editor of the youth publication Dazed. She says the current trend is a nod to the early 2010s vintage look: Peter Pan collars, mini kilts and the like.
“It feels like a lot of people are looking back right now,” agrees Ione Gamble of the intersectional feminist publication Polyester, “because we haven’t had anything to look forward to for such a long time. And that’s reflected in the clothes we wear.”
I’ve always sought alternative icons when constructing my personal style and Wednesday definitely feeds into that
It is dispiriting to realise that a trend you remember distinctly the first time around – the early 10s’ penchant for vintage-style blouses – is already back in fashion. Overlaid on to this is the Little House on the Prairie revival, brought on by the puff sleeves, big collars and voluminous dresses of brands such as Batsheva and The Vampire’s Wife. Such is the popularity of the big collar trend, brands including 46 Stitch, La Veste and Ganni even sell standalone collars, with which to accessorise jumpers and tops.
The modern Wednesday Addams look pulls from both trends: the pinafore dresses of the early 00s vintage trend and the modern big prairie collar, so popular in a Zoom-call world where a neckline is the main event. Gamble herself is a fan of the Wednesday look: a recent picture posted on Instagram shows her in a Vampire’s Wife smock with long plaits. “I’ve always sought alternative icons when constructing my personal style,” Gamble explains, “and Wednesday definitely feeds into that.”
The fashion PR Daisy Hoppen, who represents clients including Molly Goddard, Shrimps, The Vampire’s Wife and Rocha, has long favoured the Addams aesthetic. “Wednesday and Morticia,” Hoppen says, “they’re my most iconic mother-daughter duo.” Hoppen will pair a Molly Goddard black smock dress with sneakers and long plaits, for a contemporary, dressed-down Wednesday aesthetic. “It’s a feminine look,” she says, “with some toughness to it.”
Wednesday Addams memes are ubiquitous on social media. “They definitely encapsulate the malaise of day-to-day life right now,” Davidson says. In the slang of the internet, Wednesday is “a mood” in this pandemic era, when many feel apathetic and negative about the outside world – like Wednesday, to be precise. “Wednesday Addamses have been floating around since Tumblr, and have now made their way on to Instagram. Wednesday lives in a very abnormal way, and people can relate to that [now].”
In truth, the Wednesday revival has been around since long before coronavirus took hold. The creative consultant and fashion writer Kate Finnigan identified the Wednesday revival in a piece for British Vogue in 2019, citing Miuccia Prada’s AW19 presentation, which featured sombre-looking goth girls in black with – you guessed it – plaits.
“Wednesday’s style was cool back when she was a few strokes of Charles Addams’s pen,” says Finnigan. “The plaits, the black dress, the white collar. She’s a design classic.” She notes that Simone Rocha’s AW21 presentation, shown in February, “immediately made me think of Wednesday Addams”. Davidson chalks up the enduring appeal of the Wednesday look to the influence of one woman. “Never underestimate the power of Mrs Prada. Having laid out her intentions almost two years ago, it’s now trickling down into the mainstream.”
And let us not forget the greatest part of the Wednesday aesthetic: it is accessible. All you need are some hair ties, a black dress, white collar and an attitude. Easy.