Secret Style Icon: Sissy Spacek in Badlands

Inspiration from a not-so-innocent bystander.

In Terrence Malick’s movie Badlands, Sissy Spacek plays a teenage loner living in South Dakota during the late 1950s. Her Holly falls for a 25-year-old greaser named Kit (Martin Sheen), who quickly charms her with his James Dean hair and extra weird brand of boyfriend devotion (at one point, he writes his vows to her on a piece of paper and sends it into the sky with other love tokens in a big red balloon). When her father forbids their seeing each other, Kit shoots him and sets his house on fire. They pack their bags (and her schoolbooks so she doesn’t fall behind) and escape on a cross-country road trip-turned-violent killing spree. (The movie, which came out in 1973, was loosely based on the Starkweather-Fugate murders of 1958.)

The lovers’ lives as fugitives start off cutesy and quite charming. In one scene, Kit and Holly dance barefoot to “Love Is Strange” in front of a tree house they built together (complete with a rudimentary security system of complex booby traps to thwart off intruders). HALLO, don’t we ALL want to dance barefoot with our lovercrushes in front of our very own booby-trapped TREE HOUSE?! Their life in this Swiss Family Robinson-esque hideaway is reminiscent of scenes in Moonrise Kingdom and Pierrot le Fou, suggesting romance-in-isolation, living-in-a-daydream-type vibes, when you feel like there’s no one else in the world but you and your #1 Boo.

With her strawberry blonde hair and face full of freckles, Holly looks like the classic innocent, and at first she doesn’t really display much of a personality, going along with whatever Kit tells her to do—e.g., join him on a cross-country killing spree. (ANNOYING. WAKE UP TO THE SITUATION MY SISTA.) But even though Holly never pulls the trigger on any of their victims, her quiet (non)reaction to these events actually makes her a somewhat creepier character than her blood-spilling boyfriend.

Clockwise from top left: Lydia of Style is Style; Andi B. Goode; Elsa Billgren; Mary Van Note

Despite her vida loca, the girl is always looking good. Her on-the-run wardrobe consists of ruffled bibs, flared skirts, Peter Pan collars, chambray shirts, rose-printed tea dresses, layered eyelet blouses, penny loafers, and the occasional kerchief–feminine touches that insist that Holly’s a sweet li’l angel when she’s anything but. Even though I wanted to shake Holly by the shoulders multiple times, there’s something unnerving about her presence. She stayed on my mind for days after I first watched the movie. Maybe there was something about her passivity that was familiar to me, like the tendency we all sometimes have to “go along for the ride” when experiencing things for the first time, until finally, we figure out exactly what we want.

Clockwise from top left: dress, $53, ModCloth; Rachel Antonoff for Bass loafers, $129, Bass; denim top, $38, ModCloth; Milani Peaches Cream eyeshadow, $7, Milani; vintage bandana, $3, Etsy

Clockwise from top left: dress, $57, Asos; L'Oreal lipstick, $6, Target; white loafers, $65, Asos; top, $65, ModCloth


  • Elizabete August 14th, 2012 3:24 PM

    Woh, the movie seems awesome, i haven’t watched many movies with Sissy Spacek, but i can not forget her haunting beauty from the “Carrie” – innocent yet terrifying!

  • minnow August 14th, 2012 3:35 PM

    This is my favourite movie ever! I’m so glad Sissy is being appreciated – that scene where she puts on makeup for the first time in the field is mesmerizing. Thanks Marie xx

    • Marie August 15th, 2012 12:30 AM

      I feel like she is underrated and is on Meryl Streep-type talent levz but didn’t do enough movies. I want to read her autobiography to get all the Badlands gossip!

  • darksideoftherainbow August 14th, 2012 3:50 PM

    LOVE this and thank you for reminding me to re-watch badlands!! it’s been way too long.

  • firstcomestherain August 14th, 2012 4:46 PM

    I need to see this movie. It seems awesome! I love dresses and skirts.

  • faithdarwin August 14th, 2012 4:49 PM

    Badlands is my FAVORITE MOVIE EVER. Everyone go watch it RIGHT THIS SECOND.

  • Naomi Morris August 14th, 2012 4:51 PM

    this film rips my heart out and stamps on it.
    meanwhile sissy looks amazing!! my fave is this: and her baton twirling outfit:
    also i have a worrying crush on kit

  • Aubrey August 14th, 2012 5:07 PM

    Just — absolutely the best. Badlands is one of my all-time favorites and UGH Sissy Spacek is a goddess.

  • GlitterKitty August 14th, 2012 5:17 PM

    The clothes are beautiful!! I want to watch the movie just for this

  • Susann August 14th, 2012 5:18 PM

    Such a lovely style!

    Fashion in Pepperland

  • FiveDimesForNineLives August 14th, 2012 9:01 PM

    This is great. I love the dresses (and I’m very fond of a good greaser).

  • jill August 14th, 2012 10:34 PM

    LOVELOVELOVE this movie to bits

  • missblack August 15th, 2012 12:23 AM

    I am a huge Sissy Spacek fan. I wish she was in more movies now because I’m pretty sure the older she gets the more awesome she gets. And I must admit that my favorite movie of hers is Coal Miner’s Daughter. She was SO GOOD.


  • emmarble August 15th, 2012 12:45 AM

    SO excited you finally did a Badlands article. It is my favorite movie without a doubt and I totally appreciate that you did this article.

  • Tasya August 15th, 2012 5:47 AM

    ever since Rookie, i’ve paid more attention to clothes in films. yesterday i was watching ‘single white female’ and there was a silver metallic trench coat and i immediately thought “THAT’S SO ROOKIE OMG”

  • sparkles August 15th, 2012 6:24 AM

    this is so rad!

  • simplebutchic August 15th, 2012 9:25 AM

    I love these dresses!

  • Sea goddess August 15th, 2012 1:06 PM

    I’m watching this movie asap!!♥

  • Lucille August 15th, 2012 1:29 PM

    LOVE this!Few months ago I became addicted in watching movies and series and getting fashion-inspiration from all of that stuff from TV!

  • maryv August 16th, 2012 5:22 PM

    Thanks for the shout-out, Marie! I can’t believe I haven’t seen this movie. I’m putting it on my queue pronto.

  • andibgoode August 25th, 2012 8:28 AM

    Thanks so much for putting my photo in the post! :D And I haven’t seen this movie either but I must. I love Sissy. Coal Miner’s Daughter is a favourite of mine.

  • TessaTheTeenageWitch September 11th, 2012 9:03 PM

    The First Picture up there looks just like where you guys were on the Road trip… where ever that lake was.