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The unbroken spell of witchy fashion

Style writer Polly Vernon on Stevie Nicks, American Horror Story and the other cultural figures that have defined witchy style

6 September 2022

The Witches of Eastwick – "1980s cocktail party witches"

Summer ends, but don’t worry, because next up is… witching season! 

Darkening nights, vast, potent moons, knee-high pointy boots with gossamer maxi skirts, velvets and purples, cobweb knits and lace: even if Hocus Pocus 2 weren’t about to hit cinemas, you’d feel it in your bones. Of course you would! 

We’ve all got a little witch in us, and we welcome the chance to honour her every once in a while. If not with actual spells, then definitely with our aesthetic.

Witch is such a good look, no? It’s boho, but with added power. Absolute femininity grounded in sexiness is as alarming as it is alluring. There’s nothing girly about witch style; it’s the distilled essence of womanhood in outfit form: significant, adult, trembling eternally on the brink of causing some bother – or maybe just having a dance.

Fleetwood Mac’s Stevie Nicks defined it in the mid-’70s, of course – grappling the concept of witch fashion back from Bewitched’s 1960s housewife Samantha and reimagining it as a sort of mystical, formidable flamboyance. The shawls, the tiered skirts, the massive, flowing sleeves, the top hats, the low-low cleavages, the platform boots, the bangles, the repurposed kimonos, the beading, embroidery, fringing and flounce! Nicks’ outfits have always performed as consummately as the woman herself; in their energy, their movement, their multi-dimensional flare, they have literally bewitched.

If Nicks started it: others would lean in, offering their own take on fashionable witchery through subsequent decades. First, Kate Bush (Top of the Pops ingenue witch), then Michelle Pfeiffer, Susan Sarandon and Cher in The Witches of Eastwick (1980s cocktail party witches). After them came The Craft girls (Clueless with added evil emo teens), then Nicole Kidman and Sandra Bullock in Practical Magic (Friends’ Monica and Rachel get powers), Eva Green as Vanessa Ives in Penny Dreadful (sexy tortured governess-style witchiness), Melisandre of Game of Thrones, and Florence of ‘the Machine’ fame, and the exquisite American Horror Story: Coven (multi-generational witches, every last one of whom is as chic as dark devoré-velvet in flickering candlelight. Special props always to Jessica Lange). Then there are the Sanderson sisters, who will return to screens in Hocus Pocus 2 this month for another lesson in fantastical corseted witchy dressing, and another reminder that Sarah Jessica Parker is a fashion savant in her own right.

Witch style evolves with the musicians and film (or, Netflix) stars of the day, sometimes lying low for a season (or four), slinking off into a quiet corner to regenerate while neon, logos and sportswear take centre stage, before rising proudly up again when the cultural moment – tired, say, of reality, war, sickness, political uncertainty, soaring inflation – reaches for the refuge of something weird and fantastical, tarot and ley lines, crystals and old, old wisdom.

Witch is such a good look, no? It’s boho, but with added power.

What defines New Witch Styles now, in the autumn of 2022?  

Definitely The Vampire’s Wife’s lilac lamé Sky Rocket dress at Harvey Nichols: so pretty, so purposeful, yet so fun. Black lace and corset belts at Dior, where the fashion witch veers off into the realm of the fashion dominatrix (for some reason, the two are often quite closely intertwined. It’s a question of feminine power, probably). 

There’s also: Gucci’s zodiac-print scarf, ‘higher vibration’ perfumes like Le Labo at Harvey Nichols’ Thé Noir 29 and Vyrao’s Witchy Woo (designed to dissipate negative energies), mood rings, and leggings with artful cut-outs (particularly when worn in combination with Chanel’s black patent slingbacks: business-appropriate witch). 

For a more directional-grade spookiness, a look one might call ‘Full-Future Witch’ or ‘Straight-Out-Of-Central-Saint-Martins Witch’ (for the kind of thing which challenges and inspires, though can also wind up making the other witchy ladies feel a touch one-season-behind-already), there’s Balenciaga’s Prototype Dress, part of the label’s The Lost Tape collection. It is an extraordinary confection of black technical chiffon, featuring the sort of sleeves around which Stevie Nicks builds entire set lists. 

For a light touch of spook, smoke up your eye makeup with Charlotte Tilbury at Peter Jones’ Mesmerising Maroon eyeliner (purple kohl is much witchier than plain old black, for some reason), re-read Diana Wynne Jones’s Charmed Life (available at John Sandoe Books), curse your ex, whack a protection incantation on your labradoodle, then stream a little Fleetwood Mac through your AirPods.


Polly Vernon is a features writer, author and columnist. She has contributed to The Times, The Observer, The Guardian, Grazia and more. Her debut book, Hot Feminist, was released in 2015.
The Vampire's Wife at Harvey Nichols 'Sky Rocket' gown, £2,500
Stevie Nicks
Dior lace top, £1,550
Hocus Pocus 2
Charlotte Tilbury at Peter Jones 'Magic Luxury' palette in 'Mesmerising Maroon', £40
Practical Magic
Dior 'D-Trap' leather corset belt, £2,550
American Horror Story
Balenciaga 'Prototype' dress, £4,150

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