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When it comes to iconic movie villains, there’s none more recognizable than Cruella de Vil of 101 Dalmatians fame. Many would remember her as the evil “dognapping” socialite whose two-toned hair and high-glam get-ups stole the show in the 1996 movie full of cardis and tweeds. This year’s origin story Cruella reinvents the title character as a 70s punk feminist icon with ambition to spare and talent to burn. Charismatic, conniving and always stunningly decked out in her own goth punk creations, the young grifter originally named Estella Miller proves to be a style legend in the making.
Even as she ditched the gritty, D.I.Y. aesthetic of her store assistant days for more luxurious one-of-a-kind looks to fit in the moneyed world of high fashion, Cruella stayed true to her punk roots by opting for alterna workwear – think sharply tailored ensembles as macabre as they’re romantic. It’s the villainess’s extravagant party wear, however, that lifts her from aspiring fashionista to style maestro. Ranging from a sequinned biker ensemble to an evening gown with a train made of trash, Cruella’s style is far from conventional, and all the better for it.
Here, I’ve assembled three looks inspired by our anti-hero’s bold and edgy wardrobe. I swapped the winter fabrics of Cruella’s key looks for more lightweight and summer-appropriate options, but maintained the minimalist palette dominated by black, red and white − a color combination that screams punk!
Cruella’s workwear may be sleek and elegant at first glance, but the outfits exhibit maverick touches and gothic undercurrents. A typical ensemble involves exquisitely tailored tops in materials such as lace, silk or leather, paired with bottoms ranging from the utilitarian to the deeply femme – balloon skirts, combat pants and pencil midis. These understated ensembles are laden with quirky flourishes, such as a deconstructed cut, a peplum effect and oversized buttons. The finishing touch? A pair of horn-rimmed glasses, which hints at nerdiness but also signals Cruella’s alterna cred. Needless to say, all the looks are predominantly in black – with the occasional hint of charcoal and a pop of gold.
For a wearable, summer-ready take on Cruella’s work uniform, style this one-shoulder crop top in slate gray with a classic combat boots and black-rimmed glasses for just the right balance between sexy secretary and goth-punk goddess.
Party wear gets a punkish makeover with Cruella’s dark, luscious and edgy take on evening frocks. Dressed in a series of ball gowns that merge old-school Hollywood glam with a rebellious touch, she repeatedly threw down the gauntlet at her arch-enemy, Baroness von Hellman, to head-turning effect. Case in point is the fiery red satin gown Cruella wore at a pivotal ball scene, which was only revealed after she set her floor-length ivory cape on fire. With its one-shouldered design, ruffled collar dripping with period drama vibes, and ruched, silhouette-enhancing bodice, the outfit stole the spotlight in a room full of cookie-cutter dresses in muted tones.
My take on Cruella’s party wardrobe is anchored by a shorter, sassier and more flirtatiously-cut version of her red dress. Radiating prom dress vibes but with a punkish touch, the one-piece is best paired with chunky platform Mary Janes and dotted mesh socks for soft-hard contrast. I also added a faux pearl headband into the mix for a dose of haute couture!
Whether it’s pairing a military jacket with organza skirts or cutting a ball gown in an angled silhouette, Cruella revels in avant-garde details. The fashion designer’s penchant for subversion, however, is reined in by her crucial sense of sartorial restraint. For every ruffle, epaulette or sequin she adds to an outfit, there’s also a streamlined silhouette, a sparing use of color, or a strategic placement of jewelry.
Taking a page from Cruella’s love of the unexpected, I selected a bold yet sophisticated white shirt with a banded, cinched-in waist and flared hems, and paired it with a grungy pencil skirt featuring a thigh-high front slit and plenty of grommets. Tread the fine line between dramatic and OTT by adding these spiky earrings before slipping into red block-heel pumps oozing vintage vibes.
A makeup look anchored by red lips, smudged liner and chipped black nails is Cruella’s calling card, especially in her earlier, more overtly punkish days. Cop this look in its entirety for a dash of Disney villainess glamor, or simply indulge in a good red lip tint to complete a summer gothic ensemble. For those who wish to pay further homage to our anti-hero, there’s always the option of a two-toned dye job in black and white.
Mad, Bad and Brilliant?
In her own words, our villainess is “brilliant, bad and a little bit mad.” As Cruella navigates the movie’s cut-throat fashion world and her tragic past, the punk anti-hero proves that she’s a little bit mad and more than a little bit bad. In embracing her inner monster – and learning to live with it – she starts hitting ever greater sartorial heights. Misunderstood? Pure evil? I say Cruella’s just a fashion genius with a penchant for breaking the rules and a knack for making an entrance.