Fictional companions and goth concerns.
If you’re here in the Unwinnable universe, you’re probably familiar with Hammer Films. The legendary British production company is best known for their streak of Gothic horror movies released from the 1950s to the 1970s. These movies are very popular amongst goths, vampire enthusiasts, sexploitation fans and Anglophiles, so you can imagine how frequently I watch them. While Hammer Films are often praised for their lush set design and incredible casting (Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee are all over the place), one element of Hammer’s legacy deserves more love: nightgowns.
It’s easy to get lost in the aesthetic pleasures of Hammer’s smooching Draculas and bangin’ 1970s haircuts on 19th century characters; you might gloss over the more ethereal wardrobe choices. So, I’m here to provide you with my personal ranking of the best nightgowns Hammer Horror has to offer.
- Mademoiselle Perrodot (Kate O’Mara)’s nightgown in The Vampire Lovers (1970)
The Vampire Lovers (1970), the first in Hammer’s Karnstein Trilogy, is based on J. Sheridan Le Fanu’s 1872 novella, Carmilla, about a lesbian vampire. I will tell you right now that I am going to overrepresent the Karnstein Trilogy in this list, because they have a lot of nightgowns and every one of them is straight fire. Let us begin with the nightgown of a more minor character, the governess Mademoiselle Perrodot (Kate O’Mara). One night, Perrodot hears her ward, Emma (Madeline Smith), scream. (Note: We are talking about nightgowns in horror movies, so get ready for a lot of women waking up screaming.) Perrodot runs to Emma’s side wearing a mostly transparent white nightgown with very subtle lace bordering the neckline. This is not the best nightgown of the film, but we will get there.
- Laura (Pippa Steel)’s nightgown in The Vampire Lovers (1970)
Laura (Pippa Steel) wakes, screaming, from a nightmare of a giant cat. Her white nightgown features delicate eyelet lace with a light blue ribbon around the neck. This is also not the best nightgown of the film, but it’s pretty solid.
- Lucy (Carol Marsh)’s nightgown in Dracula (1958)
In Dracula (1958, released in the U.S. as Horror of Dracula), Lucy (Carol Marsh) wears a high-necked, button-down blue nightie with long, puffed sleeves and eyelet lace trimming the collar. This is demure for a Hammer nightgown, and thus provides the perfect cover for Lucy to sweetly bid her family goodnight, then remove the crucifix from her neck and welcome Christopher Lee’s Dracula into her bedroom.
- Countess Dracula (Ingrid Pitt)’s lace robe in Countess Dracula (1971)
17th century Countess Nádasdy (Ingrid Pitt) bathes in virgin blood and spins around in a blue lace robe. Does a robe count as a nightgown? I vote yes. While there is, sadly, no actual vampirism in this movie, we still have fine sleepwear to gaze upon.
- Maria (Mary Collinson)’s nightgown in Twins of Evil (1971)
Twins of Evil is the final installment in Hammer’s Karnstein trilogy, and stars identical twins and one-time Playboy Playmates Mary and Madeleine Collinson. The story follows Maria (Mary Collinson) and her sister Frieda (Madeleine Collinson). In the original theatrical trailer, over a shot of the Collinsons in their nightgowns, the narrator says, “Two identical beauties – but one of them has the very devil in her.”
- Frieda (Madeleine Collinson)’s nightgown in Twins of Evil (1971)
- Carmilla (Yutte Stensgaard)’s purple nightgown in Lust for a Vampire (1971)
In the second installation of the Karnstein Trilogy, Carmilla (Yutte Stensgaard) wears several incredible nightgowns, but I will limit myself to the best: a sleeveless lavender gown with a dark purple ribbon encircling its Empire waist. Carmilla wears this while strolling through the cemetery at night, as one should.
- Emma (Madeline Smith)’s nightgown in The Vampire Lovers (1970)
Like Laura (Pippa Steel) before her, Emma (Madeline Smith) wakes, screaming, from a nightmare of a giant cat. She leans forward as she screams, and while one might (understandably) focus on her considerable décolletage, she also reveals a lovely square-necked white nightgown lined with puffed sleeves, ruffles and a pink ribbon. Charming!
- Carmilla (Ingrid Pitt)’s nightgown in The Vampire Lovers (1970)
Later in The Vampire Lovers, Emma chats with the mysterious Carmilla (played this time by Ingrid Pitt) while wearing her aforementioned square-necked nightie. Carmilla’s nightgown is a low scoop-necked affair with ruching above its Empire waistline. Emma mentions a handsome man, and Carmilla gets jealous: “You chat on like an old peasant woman sometimes,” Carmilla says, “always of death and tragedy!” She storms to the open window and stares at the full moon, white nightgown glowing in the moonlight.
- Isobel (Yvonne Furneaux)’s nightgown in The Mummy (1959)
My personal favorite nightgown appears in Hammer’s 1959 film The Mummy, starring Peter Cushing as archaeologist John Banning, Yvonne Furneaux as his wife Isobel and Christopher Lee as the Mummy. In the movie’s most aesthetically satisfying scene, Isobel swans into her husband’s study wearing a wafting lavender gauze contraption. As John stares into Isobel’s eyes, he realizes she bears a striking resemblance to the Egyptian high priestess whose tomb his archaeological team desecrated years before (thanks, colonialism!). “[The high priestess] was considered the most beautiful woman in the world,” John says.
“I am flattered,” says Isobel.
“Mind you, the world wasn’t so big then,” John adds (rude).
“Oh, don’t spoil it all.”
Personally, no matter how big the world is or was, I do not believe there could be anyone more beautiful than a person in Hammer sleepwear. Truly, these nightgowns are the unsung heroines of Hammer Films.