All Ratted Up Like a Teenage Jezebel

How to dress like a John Waters character.

There are so many obscenely stylish characters in Uncle John’s movies that it’s A DIRTY SHAME to narrow them down to a mere eight, but after some intense analysis, I believe these are the chosen few. First, we must give MAJOR props to Van Smith, who was both the costume designer and the makeup artist for a lot of these films. (Some of his tricks included egg whites, potato chips, and dirt!)

In Pink Flamingos (1972), Connie Marble is one half of a criminal, Technicolor-coiffed duo. She will do anything to be the filthiest person alive, including selling babies on the black market and sending dookie as a birthday gift. Yet she always looks ready for a night at the opera! She’s a walking contradiction in classy silks, fur coats, animal prints, sparkling jewels, and those signature diamond-rimmed cat-eye spectacles. When it comes to bird-themed accessories, we’re usually inundated with peacocks and sparrows, so her feathered swan barrettes are extra cool. I found these vintage swan clips on Etsy ($15), but I gots to encourage the magic of DIY! Maybe your parents have some old plastic bird favors left over from a wedding they went to? Just add feathers and glue them to these alligator barrettes to make your own! You can find some cute cat-eye glasses at any costume store, but if you want to be Connie 24/7 (without the murder and mayhem) look for vintage frames (Etsy, $50-$158). Decorate yo’self with this Betsey Johnson statement necklace ($125), a tiger print top (Pinup Girl Clothing, $58) and a bold skirt (Pin Up Girl Clothing, $52). Finally, dye your ’do a bloody, bright crimson color using Manic Panic’s Pillarbox Red ($12), and match your lipstick and nails with Revlon’s Really Red ($6.50) and Milani’s Rapid Cherry ($5).

Drag queen Divine found the perfect combo of glamour and trash required for his roles in the Waters films that made him famous, but 1974′s Female Trouble featured many of his most iconic looks: colored leopard print, black lace slips, a VERY see-through wedding dress, ratted-up hair, chola eyebrows, and of course, those infamous heels! Divine’s character Dawn Davenport runs away from home because her parents didn’t buy her any fancy footwear for Christmas, with her dad delivering the famous line “Nice girls don’t wear cha-cha heels!” I suggest you do the same when December rolls around again. Just kidding, although I did get cha-cha heels for Christmas once from my friend Lenora because of this movie. Consider adding these bedroom slippers to your wish list this year (Pleaser, $50). For the red top with a heart-shaped cutout, you can make your own by following Rookie’s tutorial or check out this polka-dotted number from ModCloth ($85). For a more demure ode to Divine’s animal instincts, there’s this leopard-print dress (ModCloth, $100). In terms of makeup, you’ll need a good eyeshadow, like Revlon’s Venetian Blue ($5). Fill in your lips with Milani’s Shimmer Lipgloss ($7.50) and Lip Flash Pencil ($7), both in Hot Flash.

Hairspray‘s Tracy Turnblad, played by Ricki Lake in the 1988 film, is so cool and confident when she busts a move at an audition for the local Corny Collins dance show that she ends up being the star. In the process, she wins the affections of an Elvis-looking hunk, who just happens to be the mean girl’s popular boyfriend. Oopsie! When the bitter bitch tells everyone that Tracy had roaches in her hair, Tracy responded with an F.U. in the form of a ROACH DRESS, which she debuts at the Miss Auto Show pageant! If you don’t want to work a whole outfit dedicated to a common household pest, these cockroach earrings from Girlprops ($6) are pretty awesome. But I am REALLY feeling Tracy’s fake-flower-covered blouse. I can’t wait to make one for myself. Any craft palace will have fake flowers, but check out a 99-cent store first. This cage dress from Trashy Diva ($163) is Tracy-esque, as is this pencil skirt from Pinup Girl Clothing ($64). And you will definitely need a proper bow collection, so practice making your own or pick up this cute one from Starry Eyed ($6).

Cry-Baby (1990) is probably the most influential film in terms of my personal style thanks to rebel girl Wanda Woodward (played by ex-porn star Traci Lords), who runs away from her square parents and likes “hot boys with roaming hands and rushing fingers!” If my bangs were able to make their own shrine, they would definitely have candles surrounding pictures of Wanda (although I don’t recommend putting your hair that close to an open flame). Use Urban Decay’s 24/7 Waterproof Liquid Eyeliner in Perversion ($19)—check out this tutorial if you need help with the application—and then find a trustworthy red lipstick, like Urban Decay’s Revolution ($22). Her style is basically bad girl pinup, so in terms of dresses, both this one and this one would work (Pinup Girl Clothing, $125 and $88, respectively). Then throw on a leather jacket (Nasty Gal, $88), perfect your snarl-face, and you’re ready to join the Cry-Baby Girls.

Sugar-addicted Little Chrissy is a secret style icon. In Pecker (1998), she wears, HELLO, shirts with classic Universal monsters on them and is a natural genius at mixing colors and prints, pairing a Halloween-orange striped shirt with red, Christmas-y plaid pants. I feel like Little Chrissy would dig Lazy Oaf’s T-shirts, particularly this one ($70), and this awesome Bride of Frankenstein purse ($39.50). Obviously, she’d also covet these sweets, both real (Fred Flare, $12) and fake (Tatty Divine, $47), and I’m particularly fond of these lollipop earrings from ModCloth ($15).

Cecil B. Demented (2000) has such a well-dressed ensemble, I couldn’t pick just one character! Here’s a movie about a group of renegade filmmakers who kidnap an A-list actress and make her shoot an underground movie as a protest against mainstream cinema. With this motley crew, you can expect A LOT of insane fashion. First, you have famous actress Honey Whitlock (Melanie Griffith), who was kidnapped by crazed director Cecil (Stephen Dorff) and forced to wear striped stockings, deconstructed Chanel jackets, and eyeshadow in every color. Next to Little Chrissy, she is my favorite pattern mixer. Pair this floral print jacket from Nasty Gal ($48) with colorful striped tights from We Love Colors ($10-$12.50) and some chunky wedges from ASOS, ($80.50). Try M.A.C.’s Gorgeous Gold ($15) for an amber-hued shadow, Urban Decay’s Goddess ($17) for a glittery blue, and Estee Lauder’s Cyber Silver ($24) for a gunmetal look.

Cherish (Alicia Witt) is the salacious ex-porn star whose wardrobe consists of a cow-print blazer with a huge Misfits patch and a striped bustier with matching stockings. I’M SO INTO IT. Troll thrift stores for a vintage cow-print fur jacket like this one on Etsy ($16). Also, I’m in love with these black and white Motel pants ($86), and these gun earrings from Girlprops ($4) will top the whole thing off!

(Maggie Gyllenhaal) is the resident makeup artist and Satan devotee. Her bejeweled skeleton-bone jumpsuit feels like something Jeremy Scott would make. If you can’t find a full skeleton suit, get a shirt like this one on Etsy and glue your own gemstones to it! For even more evil, get this Devil Tarot Pendant (Goddess Gift, $64) and skull ring from ASOS ($14.50). For her goth makeup, try Make Up For Ever’s Intense Lipstick in Satin Black ($19) and their Pure Pigment Eyeshadow in Bright Red ($19).

If you ever think you’re taking your obsession with your favorite John Waters’s characters too far, just remember Pecker’s toast to Little Chrissy: “Life is nothing if you’re not obsessed.” ♦


  • Susann February 22nd, 2012 3:07 PM

    Such incredibly fabulous style tips! Tracy Turnblad has the best out of these styles!

  • rosiesayrelax February 22nd, 2012 3:10 PM

    Wanda Woodward is my favourite!

    who’da thought she was played an ex – porn star. (That was supposed to be sarcastic. It doesn’t come across very well in the written word.)

  • AllieBee February 22nd, 2012 3:40 PM

    I got that giant gummi bear last year for Christmas, and it was SO TASTY. I wish I had candy inspired clothes like Little Chrissy!

  • Celiabow February 22nd, 2012 3:56 PM

    I love Connie Marbles style it’s gorgeous and I also really love the fake flower top Tracy and her Mum are wearing in that picture. I bet you could go crazy on a hot glue gun rookie flower top.

  • Stefania February 22nd, 2012 4:36 PM

    Connie Marble has killer style!! Thanks to her, I often fantasize about dying my hair and eyebrows neon red, and painting my lips and nails to match…..And don’t even get me started on my high school obsession with Wanda Woodward!

    Just a word of caution to readers who may be interested in seeing Pink Flamingos: its VERY graphic. If you are you human, you will be offended, probably even disturbed.

  • Cosmo Beatrix February 22nd, 2012 4:45 PM

    My giddy i love all this john waters!!!

    i do hope this is not the end yet….

    OMG he could be like a regular! like rookies’ UNCLE JOHN and we could ask him stuff !!!! paaaa-llllaaa-eeeeeessseeeee.. THIS IS THE BEST THING EVER!!!!

  • darksideoftherainbow February 22nd, 2012 4:45 PM

    i love this so much OH.MY.GOD. i rarely go out unless i’m “painted up like trash”

  • vanessa February 22nd, 2012 4:47 PM

    I’m in love with this whole list, but the addition of Little Chrissy is making my eyes sparkle extra hard. I only wish I had time to make a roach dress to wear to see John Waters tomorrow!

  • isadora February 22nd, 2012 4:59 PM

    BY FAR the best beauty articles on Rookie.

  • Emi February 22nd, 2012 5:23 PM

    FUN FACT! Uncle John once said in an interview that because products like Manic Panic didn’t exist back then, they used highlighter markers and sharpies to dye Raymond and Connie Marbles hair!

  • QuaintHollie February 22nd, 2012 5:26 PM

    I love these sorts of posts, it’s great to gain inspiration from, so magical x

  • Fash Flood February 22nd, 2012 5:31 PM

    Marie! I wanna be Wanda too. One of my 2012 goals is to find the perfect vintage Wanda leather jacket. Not too tight, not too big…
    My friend Erica does burlesque in Portland under the tribute name Wanda Bones. SO GOOD.
    xo, Sarah

  • MissKnowItAll February 22nd, 2012 6:22 PM

    Just watched Pink Flamingo. More disturbing than Battle Royale… and that’s saying a lot

  • queserasera February 22nd, 2012 7:20 PM

    This is too cool. I love wanda woodward and her style and everything! I did a post about her in my blog a few weeks ago:

  • Chloe Elizabeth February 22nd, 2012 7:21 PM

    Studying this fashion? Love it! Wearing it? Yeah, no.

  • Jenay February 22nd, 2012 7:27 PM

    I love this in so many ways!

  • Hunter February 22nd, 2012 7:59 PM

    Should have included Taffy Davenport…the ORIGINAL kinderwhore…

  • Margaret February 22nd, 2012 10:32 PM

    this post is so perfect! I’m Velma in my school’s production of Hairspray and tomorrow is opening night! I love when things like this happen. :)

    • MissKnowItAll February 23rd, 2012 9:34 AM

      Break a leg! (well not literally…)

  • Ysabel February 23rd, 2012 12:16 AM

    I was so excited when I saw the striped pants, I’ve been looking for a pair for weeks!

  • tina February 23rd, 2012 2:42 AM

    Don’t you find it a wee bit ironic to be hawking rather expensive products, if your look is–essentially–thrift store gaudy? Like, John Waters’ characters are the epitome of cheap/trashy/kitschy. I highly doubt any of them would spend $125 on a shirt, ha.

    • Tavi February 23rd, 2012 2:58 AM

      Right, but how many times can we say “you can find it at a thrift store!”? When I see that too many times on fashion sites I think it’s lazy. Plus some people like knowing exactly where they can find something, at thrift stores you have to dig.

  • witchnymph February 23rd, 2012 4:19 AM

    brilliant! i love this so much. they’re all my kinda girls!

  • KarolinaLeFay February 23rd, 2012 11:56 AM

    I LOVE Wanda! shes influenced my style for so many years! It’s currently out of stock but I’m eyeing this polka dot wiggle dress that screams Wanda! From Pinup Girl Clothing:

  • Hayley February 23rd, 2012 3:01 PM

    I’d heard of Cry Baby but never seen it, After reading this I went out and got it but haven’t watched it yet. Wanda is basically everything I want to be style wise just judging from the pictures!

  • welp February 23rd, 2012 7:51 PM

    nice article, but maybe don’t throw around the world chola?

  • MichyMich February 23rd, 2012 9:29 PM

    Cry-Baby has the best outfits for a movie so far – in my opinion. I LOVE Wanda Woodward’s outfits! It’s Lolita meets pin-up girls from the 1950s with a hint of rockabilly. Plus, I feel that Wanda’s hair kinda reminded me of Katy Perry: since both of them have the baby bangs.

    I’ve never watched the movie before and I can’t wait to watch it!

  • duckie February 24th, 2012 1:13 AM

    this is so great of course, and i’m glad you gave Van Smith credit, people tend to forget about costume designers

  • Jenn February 24th, 2012 6:44 PM


  • CreatureLagoon March 23rd, 2012 5:46 PM

    Wow… I have the style of John Waters movies. Yesssss