Dressing the Part
Vampires in folklore, fiction, and film have many commonalities and just as many obscurities and eccentricities. For most of us, the mere mention of the word vampire conjures up the traditional Dracula ensemble of a black tux and/or tails, a long opera cloak, and the occasional hint of red so as not to end up on Mr. Blackwell's worst-dressed list. While this image of Dracula is almost entirely attributed to Irish playwright Hamilton Deane and his 1924 adaptation of Stoker's novel (see Chapter 14), it has also been reinforced by a number of films, not the least of which is Bela Lugosi's Dracula. Whether he's known as a Count or Prince, the mere designation of Dracula as royalty — as with many other fictional and celluloid vampires — lends itself to his wearing attire befitting an aristocrat. After all, who would suspect an impeccably dressed vampire to be a deviant, bloodthirsty jugular junkie?
In literature, especially in historical horror and vampire romance, that trend continues, with vampires ranging from Count St. Germain to Lestat costuming themselves with the styles of their era, as any intelligent undead predator would do in order to blend in with the general public. Some vampires, however, refuse to go with the flow. Anne Rice's Marius, for example, wears rich velvet jackets no matter the era. Where vampires tend to get more specialized with their attire is in film, especially in the action crossovers. In the Underworld films, Kate Beckinsale's Selene is a cool drink of water in her black skintight leather unitard and long coat with accentuated capelike flow. In Ultraviolet, Milla Jovovich does her comic book alter ego justice with her instantly interchangeable slick attire and haircolors reminiscent of Sydney Bristow in the series Alias. Even Van Helsing has rolled with the fashion punches. In the 2004 blockbuster Van Helsing, dashing protagonist Hugh Jackman is fabulously clad in an ensemble harkening back to the heroes of the Wild West with a black hat and a long, black leather coat and duster.
What's with the Cape?
One of the most instantly recognizable traits of the vampire, aside from the gleaming, blood-dripping fangs, is its cape. Typically long, heavy, and black with the occasional red lining, the cape is highly symbolic in its representation of the bat. As previously mentioned, the adding of a cape to the Dracula persona is the brainchild of playwright Hamilton Deane, who no doubt felt that such a cloaked gentleman fiend would make for great impact in theatrical performances. He was spot on. The cape has become an iconic part of the Dracula legend, its long swishy fabric allowing him to move with ease and giving rise to one of the vampire's most famed positions — that of pulling the cape up to his face and over his head so as to completely hide himself and blend into the shadows. It's a brilliant concept made more permanent by Bela Lugosi's performance on stage in 1927 and in the 1931 film.
For those who have an aversion to vampire bats, here's one more thing to give you the willies. Meet Calyptra thalictri, otherwise known as the vampire moth. No lie. It's said that a bite from the moth gives it the ability to fill its stomach with human blood, leaving swelling and pain in its wake. No doubt a bug zapper might help drive off the latest and greatest in vampiric predators.