Costume, character and connotation: the legacy of leather pants

Activity: Academic Talks or PresentationsOral presentationResearch


‘We’d rather have you evil. Then, at least, leather pants.’ (Lorne to Angel, ‘Epiphany’ Angel 2.16) The Whedonverses have consistently offered complex views of morality, and the character of Angel in particular can be viewed as part of a broader trend in TV and cinema for dark heroes with dubious histories. Angel’s dual nature as Angel/us has been studied in some detail but this paper will focus on costume as part of character. Certain iconic items of clothing such as Spike’s leather coat have been the object of scholarly analysis and, developing this idea, this paper focuses on the use of leather as a signifier of particular character traits. Changes in costuming are a neat visual shorthand to register or suggest a shifting personality or moral direction, and this can be traced in Buffy, Angel, and Dollhouse, as well as in subsequent telefantasy and TV horror. Examining particular examples of characters wearing leather, this paper will primarily focus on constructions of masculinity and femininity in relation to moral positioning. The connotations of different items of leather clothing (coats and jackets v. leather pants) will be analysed as will the interactions of leather with different periods and styles (fetish wear, the Gothic and the more contested Goth, dandyism, historical attire, fantasised period style in fairytale drama). Whedonverse characters such as Angel, Darla, Drusilla, Faith and Wesley will be compared with more recent and ongoing TV characters like Dean Winchester (Supernatural) and Regina (Once Upon a Time) and series including Sleepy Hollow and Dracula.
Period21 Jun 2014
Event title6th Biennial Slayage Conference on the Whedonverses (SCW6)
Event typeConference
Degree of RecognitionRegional


  • Television
  • Costume
  • Character
  • Storytelling
  • morality