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Ready or Not horror comedy movie Samara Weaving
Still from Ready Or Not (2019)

How Ready or Not’s wedding dress becomes a weapon against the patriarchy

Costume designer Avery Plewes explains how the symbolic gown worn by Final Girl Grace became a weapon, a tool, a first aid kit, and a feminist emblem

One of the very first things you might learn when studying film is that, on screen, red equals desire and danger, and white equals virgin. With its origins rooted in the subjugation of women, the dazzling white wedding dress is perhaps the best-known example of this idea, given its historical use as a symbol of a bride’s innocence and purity as she walks down the aisle. 

When it came to creating the Alexander McQueen-inspired gown at the centre of new horror-comedy Ready or Not, though, costume designer Avery Plewes threw that convention out the window, with a garment she affectionately calls her “Swiss Army dress”. Where your average bride might be poured into a pair of Spanx and encased in ivory satin, protagonist Grace (Samara Weaving) sets a new precedent for what can be done with a wedding dress, and obliterates the long-established idea of the blushing, subservient bride in the process. 

With Grace facing a bizarre initiation into the Le Domas family, her in-laws – hugely rich off the back of a boardgame empire – insist the newly-wed draws a card and plays a ‘traditional’ midnight game of hide-and-seek. As she disappears to find the perfect hiding place in the Le Domas’s enormous, candle-lit mansion, the family go about selecting their weapons of choice; with shotguns, battle-axes, and crossbows among them. Soon, it dawns on Grace that this is no ordinary game.  

Quickly realising she is facing a fight for her survival, Grace’s dress becomes not only a weapon, but a tool, a first aid kit, and an emblem of the patriarchy and long-held class codes, which, over the course of the film, we see unravel before our eyes. Here, we dissect the meaning behind the symbolic garment and the ways in which it becomes a key player in its own right.


From the get-go, Grace is far from your perfectly poised image of a blushing bride. Rehearsing her vows, she lights up a cigarette and laments how she can’t wait to become part of her husband’s “fucked up family”. Little does she know just how far they push that sentiment. With Grace wearing only one look throughout the entire film, it was important Plewes got it exactly right: featuring a prim corset with a high neck and a full, calf-length skirt, the costumier drew inspiration from Grace Kelly and Kate Middleton’s famous wedding gowns, who both wore lace when marrying into royalty. 

In Ready or Not, though Grace isn’t marrying a prince, she is certainly joining a family dynasty with a long legacy, with her dress subtly reflecting that: its long sleeves and high neck providing a kind of armour for the bride. “Me, Sam (Weaving), and the directors were all on the same page from the start,” Plewes explains. “It’s this concept of someone being very covered up and looking to fit in with a family of very important people.” 


Upon discovering the Le Domas’s wicked plans, Grace dumps her satin heels in favour of a classic pair of Converse Chuck Taylors (“Yellow to signify optimism and resilience,” says Plewes) and rips off the bottom of her gown to gain some mobility, marking a shift in tone both in her attitude and the film itself. As Ready or Not enters its second chapter, Grace is no longer weeping in fear or tripping over the dress that symbolises the moment she was handed over to her new, bloodthirsty family – she is able to run, climb, and jump as she fights tooth and nail for her life. “Ripping the dress is an important character point as it shows, okay, this is survival now. Not so much a bride anymore.”

As the film progresses and Grace searches for a means of escape, she gets into a few bloody scrapes. The team made 24 versions of the dress to accommodate multiple takes and everything she goes through. “I made a flowchart of every single thing that happens to her and the dress, because all that stuff dictated the material, the length of the sleeves, all these different things,” says Plewes.  “It’s hilarious and so cool that people are calling her dress a ‘Swiss Army Knife’, as I worked hard to make it hyperfunctional. I sat down with the directors and we went through everything that happens to her to work out how she could use the dress to suit her needs.”


Grace is a refreshing subversion of the Final Girl. For those unfamiliar with the term, it’s a film theory coined by Carol Clover in her seminal book Men, Women, and Chainsaws. The widely studied idea suggests that most horror films (slashers in particular) have a sole survivor in the form of a young woman, typically virginal, who defeats the killer by renouncing alcohol, sex, and drugs – unlike her friends, who transgress and, more often than not, come to a sticky end (see: Rose McGowan in Scream). The none-too-subtle message to teens watching? Don’t do these things, or you will definitely die. 

In modern horror, the Final Girl continues to evolve deliciously, thanks to her resourcefulness, her fight, and her determination, and not because she stays pure and sweet. Following in the footsteps of Asassination Nation’s Lily, Sarah Bex, Em, and Midsommar’s Dani, Grace is a new breed of Final Girl, which marks a turning of the tide for women both in the horror genre and far beyond. “I’m actually so excited for Halloween,” adds Plewes. “So many girls have tweeted or messaged me saying they’re going to dress up as Grace and I’m dying to see how they interpret it.” With the costumes for the upcoming reboot of The Craft in Plewes’ hands, we can’t wait to see how she interprets the final girls of the witchy cult classic.

Ready or Not is in cinemas now.