'"But the guests will mistake me for a present!" she cried.'
Some people like fancy, detailed clothing, but it's not always easy to make such clothes look good. This trope is when it's clear In-Universe
that the clothing tried to be fancy, but ended up a mess.
It could be that the character/dressmaker/culture
has no taste (and also why some right people prefer Simple Yet Opulent
clothing). Or that the outfit was really rushed and this is the unfortunate result. Or the writer/designer is making a point about fashion trends
. This last may involve caricatures of Real Life
Often occurs with bridesmaids' dresses in sitcoms - they're ugly but the bride thinks they're beautiful or the bride knows
that they're ugly, and picks them so that she looks better by comparison.
This is not when the viewer thinks an outfit is bad.
That's WTH, Costuming Department?
. This trope is when the writer/designer deliberately states
that a costume is bad, either in direct narrative voice or via the reactions of the characters in the story.
Can overlap with Rummage Sale Reject
, Rainbow Pimp Gear
, I Was Quite a Fashion Victim
(where the clothes are tacky in hindsight), Impractically Fancy Outfit
, Lounge Lizard
, Fashion-Victim Villain
, Disco Dan
, Pimped-Out Dress
, Fairytale Wedding Dress
(the latter two when overdone), Costume Porn
(as in the loads of detail is still tackynote
A Super Trope
to Tacky Tuxedo
, Homemade Sweater From Hell
Compare Scenery Gorn
, Fashion Dissonance
, Uncanny Valley Makeup
Contrast Impossibly Cool Clothes
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- An advert for UK men's clothing store Jacamo, in which the Style Police went after badly dressed men, suggested that guys who didn't shop at Jacamo wore outfits of carefully crafted hideousness, rather than just pulling on a T-shirt and a pair of jeans.
- The Hideous Bridesmaid Dress version shows up in a commercial for Progresso soups. A woman calls to praise their low calorie soups, saying she can eat well while slimming down to fit in her bridesmaid's dress for her sisters wedding.
Anime and Manga
- Kuniya's gimmick in Sayonara, Zetsubou-Sensei is his absolutely atrocious fashion sense, which he demonstrates whenever he's out of his school uniform. It's bad enough that when the class is watching a field news report on a crime, they spot him in the background with an incredibly gaudy t-shirt and get so distracted that nobody can even remember what the crime that was being reported was (and one of them even asks if it was a guy wearing a gaudy t-shirt and staring at the camera.)
- Garfield's owner, Jon, frequently dresses in gaudy outfits for dates.
- In the Astérix album Obelix and Co., the familiar-looking Roman economist Preposterus, who is trying to introduce free-market capitalism to the village (hoping to cause their decadence with money), buys lots of Obelix's stock at inflated prices and tells him that he should now put some of the money back in the economy by spending it on expensive clothes more appropriate for a businessman. Obelix is so rich that he buys an entire peddler's stock of fabrics and then pays a lot of money to the village seamstress to make his dream outfit from them. This turns out to be strange-looking purple and blue breeches and a huge yellow bow. Obelix is convinced he is a Sharp-Dressed Man, but everyone else hates it, with only Asterix retaining the good humour to laugh at him instead of just shooting him waves of contempt. Then he gets everyone else into the menhir craze, and they all start dressing like that, too.
- One of Kitty Pryde's outfits, which was very short-lived and lampooned whenever she wore it.
- Luke Cage used to wear a open-chest yellow silk shirt with a high collar and a tiara. In The Pulse, Janet Van Dyne is trying to design Luke's new outfit, and most of them make his old outfit look like an Armani suit. When Spider-Man mocks him for it Cage's response is "It was the 70s!"
- Black Canary's '80s costume has received much lampooning since she got rid of it, including one issue of Birds of Prey where she sees action figures of herself in it and immediately buys all of them so no-one will know how ugly it was. Not to mention the one cover that showed her gleefully burning the thing◊ when she returned to her classic look.
- In Divided Rainbow, Applejack, as the proprietress of the Carousel Boutique. Of course, she's not herself...
- Navarone gets a set of tacky armour in Diaries of a Madman, as a way of Celestia getting revenge on him for spoiling one of her plans.
- A Brother's Price. When he is dressed for a royal ball, Jerin complains that he feels like that fantasy world's equivalent of a Christmas tree.
- Cheery Littlebottom embraces that she is a female, against Dwarven traditions of looking gender neutral. In The Fifth Elephant she and other dwarves like her make some dresses to show off their newfound femininity, but their dresses look silly. Others are too polite to point it out. The dresses are described as going all-in on gaudy girliness, because when you're breaking out of a thousand years of tradition, subtlety doesn't come into it. At the end of one novel, Cheery admits that that one green dress does make her look like a big cabbage.
- Happens in the Discworld novel Pyramids. Ambassadors to the Djelibeybi court have tried to look their best, but because many items of clothing from Djelibeybi's seven thousand year history are sometimes employed only in very specific circumstances, they end up looking like utter fools. The effect is described thusly:
"If a foreign ambassador to the Court of St James wore (out of a genuine desire to flatter) a bowler hat, a claymore, a Civil War breastplate, Saxon trousers and a Jacobean haircut, he'd create pretty much the same impression."
- The Discworld Diary for Unseen University describes UU scarves and other apparel in the school colors as being an eye-watering mix of colors, allegedly intended to approximate octarine for non-wizards' eyes.
- In To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis, all of Tossie's over-designed dresses tend towards this, at least in the eyes of the time-traveling protagonists, who are pretty put off by most Victorian design. But especially Tossie's dresses. Girl loves ruffles.
- Vorkosigan Saga:
- Near the end of Barrayar, Miss Droushnakovi had in mind a lacy wedding dress, but - fortunately, as it turned out - Lady Alys Vorpatril took an interest in her case and averted this trope.
"No, no, no!" she cried, recoiling. "All that lace—you would look as furry as a big white bear. Silk, dear, long falls of silk is what you need—"
- Taura's civilian wardrobe also tended to this, which was why Miles had her consult his Aunt Alys when she arrived for his wedding. Alys' first stop in giving the bioengineered supersoldier a makeover was to have her previous wardrobe burned.
- Hepzibah Smith in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince wears a large pink dress to impress Tom Riddle that makes her look like a "melting iced cake".
- Rita Skeeter is also described as dressing in ridiculously tacky fashions such as magenta robes with maroon furs at the collar and sleeves.
- Ron Weasley is not at all happy with the second-hand dressrobe his mother bought for him. It is unclear whether it actually is this trope, but apparently there is lace involved, which Ron thinks looks very unmanly.
- In the Louisa May Alcott novel Eight Cousins, the Naïve Everygirl Rose showcases a very "fashionable" outfit. As it's a book, much is left to the imagination, but the narrator and characters comment on how overdone and awful it looks on her, except for the slave-to-fashion aunt who put her in it in the first place. Rose's uncle even lambasts the aunt on how unhealthy it is (then again, whalebone corsets? he has a point.) This is a case of Writer on Board, as Alcott has Rose showcase a much more modest and simple outfit to emphasize the simple, modest young lady she is (and that all her readers should strive to be).
- Early in Duty Calls, Ciaphas Cain is attacked by followers of Slaanesh, one of whom wears a jacket so hideous that Cain claims wearing it is a capital offense. He refers to the man thereafter as "Vile Jacket". He also mentions that local fashion is so hideous that even a Slaaneshi cultist would look down on it.
- The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy: Zaphod Beeblebrox was voted "Worst-Dressed Sentient Being in the Known Universe" seven times.
- In the Wild Cards series, Dr. Tachyon is frequently described as dressing like this whenever he has the opportunity to dress himself. Canary yellow, emerald green, royal purple, cardinal red, and sky blue can all make an appearance in the same outfit. Apparently, this is considered a normal Takisian wardrobe, but since he's living on Earth, almost every human who looks at him comments on how ridiculous he looks. It's compounded by his metallic-red hair.
- In Alexandre Dumas's novel the Forty Five Guardsmen we are informed that they have no uniform and, since they are just arrived to Paris, they are provided with money to buy new clothes, the results were a motley assortment of styles and decorations, "generally in bad taste".
- In the Shadow Grail series by Mercedes Lackey, the main character has to attend the school's New Year dinner and formal dance, but doesn't have any formal wear. She goes to the storage room of dresses that Oakhurst Academy has to find something suitable. Unfortunately, as a friend puts it, it's where 'bridesmaid dresses go to die'. Fortunately, said friend is a good seamstress and is able to make a nice formal dress out of two terrible ones from the 'Little Closet of Horrors". The boys apparently have their own version of said closet, with secondhand rent-a-tuxes.
- In the Acorna Series, Acorna finds the traditional costumes of her people to be far too ostentatious, modifying them to be more discrete. Her kinsfolk react by thinking she is still in her underwear.
- The Bartimaeus Trilogy: Nathaniel's fashionable, very tight trousers in The Golem's Eye are mocked by Bartimaeus and Kitty.
- In Wheelof Time, the Tinkers, wandering Actual Pacifist expies of the Romani, tend to wear rather blandly-designed clothes compared to some of the other cultures that Robert Jordan indulged his Costume Porn tendencies with, except that the color choices are best described as eye-searing.
- The combinations could be described as having been picked by someone who was completely colorblind, but they're so hideously clashing, and uniformly so, that you can't get there by mere chance.
- A few examples from the X-Wing Series:
- In Wraith Squadron, three members of the squadron (Wedge, Face, and Donos) are attempting to slip past customs on an Imperial world by disguising themselves as Agamarians — people from Agamar being a byword for stupid yokels throughout the galaxy. To "blend in", when they land, they hang out at a tourist resort in some of the most appalling clueless clothing ever, including one outfit that contains a shirt with thin horizontal stripes in clashing colors, shorts with thin vertical stripes in different clashing colors, and a ten-gallon hat.
Face: I recommend you keep the hat. It really completes the image of an Agamarian stereotypical with no taste and no sense.
Wedge: (ruefully) I wish I didn't agree with you.
Donos: (looking over the outfit Face prepared for him) Sir, permission to kill Face?
Wedge: Granted. But keep your hat, like Face says.
- In Starfighters of Adumar, the four pilots of Red Flight are serving as ambassadors to the eponymous planet and decide to honor the local traditions by wearing Adumari clothing. Wedge and Tycho have fairly reasonable-looking ensembles. Janson wears an all-black outfit and a floor-length, nebular purple cloak with twinkling star lights in it. Hobbie, however, surpasses him with an elaborate fringed tunic outfit colored entirely in bright primary red, yellow, and blue. He explains himself thusly:
Hobbie: There are three types of dress clothing: the kind that offends the viewer, the kind that offends the wearer, and the kind that offends everybody. I'm going for the third kind; fair's fair.
- Later, Janson has to find a new cloak. (His first one was lit on fire.) It's composed entirely of flexible flatscreen displays, so that he can display whatever he wants on it, like a CGI image of a chorus line of Jansons doing high kicks. It's so appalling Wedge considers spacing it.
- The entire point of "Weird Al" Yankovic's "Tacky" music video.
- Also mentioned numerous times in the song itself, such as wearing socks with sandals, florescent orange pants, or stripes 'and' plaid.
- Jericho of the Whateley Universe wears clothes so horrifically glaring and mismatched that people tend not to notice that he's hanging with one mutant who's mostly velociraptor and one mutant who's mostly anaconda.
- In the Doug Walker video "Reverend Nutjob", he encountered a man wearing a light yellow suit and declared "Lord, heal this man's fashion sense!"
- After a picture of Wil Wheaton wearing a clown face sweater became an Internet meme, he started using the image as his photo in his columns and on his site.
- In Welcome to Night Vale Cecil's attire apparently includes furry pants, a tunic, and a fanny pack. Quote Carlos on the fanny pack (albeit adoringly)
Carlos: I tell him it makes him look like a baby bomer mall mom on a cruise vacation.