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Incongruously Dressed Zombie

Most zombie encounters in fiction get their shock value from gore, ambush, or the pathos of seeing a named character arise from death to attack the surviving cast. But not every horror scene takes itself that seriously; sometimes, when pacing or tone demands a tension-breaker, filmmakers will toss in the visual gag of a zombie that's dressed in an ironic or amusing outfit: a Halloween costume, an unusual profession, nothing at all, etc.

While undead in goofy outfits seldom stay on screen for long, they provide a bit of a breather for the audience, while giving the production's costumers and make-up crew a chance to exercise some creativity. Their presence can also remind viewers that zombies, however mindless or indistinguishable in undeath, used to be unique, living individuals: that they're creatures to be pitied as well as dreaded.

Not necessarily exclusive to zombies: vampires, ghosts, biped werewolves, and other human-derived monsters may also be examples of this trope, provided their outfit is unexpected and/or goofy enough to surprise and amuse the audience. Distinguished from Our Zombies Are Different in that the Incongruously Dressed Zombie only looks unique; functionally, it's usually (though not necessarily) your standard-issue Night of the Living Mooks drone.

If an undead creature's clothes look odd because they date from a past era, that's Outdated Outfit. If the outfit was goofy back then, these tropes overlap.

Examples:

Anime & Manga
  • In High School Of The Dead, a sniper looks at a zombie that she's about to shoot to clear an airport runway. The zombie is dressed in a nice swanky white suit. Her sniping spotter points out that he used to be an actor, and still maintains his egotistical mannerisms even in undeath. Then she blows his head off.
    • This became an issue during the airing of the anime since said zombie had a remarkable resemblance to a famous Korean actor, which combined with the nationalistic undertones of the story and the general antagonism between Korea and Japan caused a kerfuffle.

Comics
  • One Hack Slash arc had a slasher who resurrected a bunch of dead animals as zombies, including a circus bear in a tutu. There were also zombie football players in Hack/Slash meets Zombies vs. Cheerleaders.
  • Chances are, if a superhero or villain is brought back as a zombie or something, they will be wearing their costume (or what's left of it). See Marvel Zombies or Blackest Night.
    • Which makes a kind of sense - superheroes would be quick to don suits and respond to something like a zombie apocalypse. They would also be less likely to be taken in surprise in the early stages of said eldritch epidemic (due to superior fighting skills, senses, having fortresses, that kind of thing), and so go down fighting later on, in their fighting gear.

Film
  • The Ur Example is the nude female model, adorned only with a morgue ID tag, who was included in Night of the Living Dead.
    • In the 1990 remake, Ben and Barbra acquire a handgun from a zombie cop's belt holster. Barbra later uses it to shoot a female zombie that clutches a baby doll under one arm.
    • In Dawn of the Dead, the Hare Krishna Monk zombie in his bright orange robes.
    • In Day of the Dead, one of the zombies that invade the military base is dressed in a clown costume.
    • In Land of the Dead, the zombie "leader" Big Daddy wears a gas station attendant's denim jumpsuit, with a patch that bears his name. Other examples include another zombie clown, an undead boy in an upper-class school uniform, a marching band complete with instruments, and a zombie cheerleader still clutching her pom-poms.
  • In Waxwork II: Lost In Time, the alternate-reality that featured zombies had several dressed in over-the-top disco outfits.
  • A zombie clown attacks a children's birthday party in a video clip from Diary of the Dead.
  • In Return of the Living Dead, a zombie priest is seen gnawing on a dead paramedic, then calling Dispatch to ask that more be sent. Trash becomes an example when she re-animates in the nude, having been killed after stripping in the cemetery.
  • Several examples (a stripper, a bunch of little girls in ballerina outfits, one that's on fire) chase people around in the opening credits of Zombieland. One of the last ones we see is a clown.
  • The first zombie seen up close in Dead Heat is dressed as a biker.
  • There is a pair of zombified topless strippers very briefly seen in Resident Evil: Apocalypse. They manage to distract a guy long enough to make him crash the car he was in.
  • The short film Zombie in a Penguin Suit puts this in the forefront.
  • The only-technically-not-zombies from Legion had a few funnily dressed "zombies";
  • In Porn of the Dead, one of the zombies was a waitress, while another was a mental patient still stuck struggling with a straitjacket.
  • Non-zombie example: Some of the recently-dead from the afterlife waiting room in Beetlejuice are dressed in amusingly-odd outfits (a headhunter, a Vegas showgirl).
  • Some ghosts in The Frighteners wear outfits that rated as weird even in their decade of origin.
  • A number of the Zombies in Warm Bodies. The amnesic and zombified main character uses his hoodie to determine he was unemployed in life, for one. M is careful about maintaining his suit, and another member of the hunting party appears to be wearing a Sikh turban. Worst is the character named in the credits simply as TSA Zombie, who carefully waves his metal detector over every zombie inhabitant of the abandoned airport, when not busy eating brains.
  • Zombie Strippers, though there the emphasis is more on what the zombies aren't wearing.
  • L.A. Zombie had a group of undead leathermen.
  • Scooby-Doo on Zombie Island: The titular zombies are dressed as pirates, Civil War soldiers, and tourists who were past victims of the movie's Big Bad.
  • There are a few examples in Shaun of the Dead, although perhaps 'distinctively dressed' would be the better description. The first zombie Shaun and Ed interact with is dressed in a supermarket uniform, complete with name-badge. Also qualifying is Zombie!Tyres - a zombified cameo of "Series/Spaced" character Tyres, in his full, brightly coloured bicycle-courier gear (and cap) amongst the otherwise drab dead walking the streets.
  • In Night of the Creeps, many of the slug-infested living dead were young men killed on their way to a formal dance, so arrive at the sorority house to menace their dates in tuxes.
  • Many of the initial wave of living zombies from Devil's Playground are dressed as first responders, illustrating the rapid breakdown of law and order, as well as how their heroic attempts to assist the drug-test volunteers got them bitten for their trouble.
  • In Cockneys Vs Zombies, two herds of zombies in the colors of rival soccer teams stagger towards one another and start clumsily shoving and punching each other in the street. A matronly zombie pushes a stroller with a zombie baby in it.
  • Detention of the Dead has a zombie in a fast-food server's uniform, complete with dorky cap and hairnet.
  • One of the worm-possessed walking corpses from Slither is a local clergyman, dressed in a long black pastor's coat and carrying a handbell.
  • The dead spirits from the film adaptation of Clive Barker's Book of Blood include a firefighter, a geisha, and an emaciated man in a concentration-camp prisoner's striped clothing.

Literature
  • In the short story "I Am A Zombie Filled With Love", the nameless protagonist becomes attracted to the female zombie because she's wearing a food-service name tag, so he can actually call her by name (Emily).
  • Among the many weird characters glimpsed on the streets or subways of the Nightside was a zombie surfer in a torn wetsuit, who carried a coffin lid as his surfboard.
  • World War Z plays this trope for drama. One character recalls seeing a horde of zombies, many of which were naked or in pajamas. He determines that most of them were infected at night, and briefly reflects on the chilling thought of being woken by a ravenous bunch of zombies breaking into one's home.
    • The book also averts this by pointing out that, while many people expect to encounter zombies in suits and fancy dresses, most of the time zombies either got their clothes badly damaged when they were first attacked, or were wearing hospital gowns (hospitals having been epicenters of early outbreaks where many bite victims were taken to be treated). Between that, further clothing damage during a zombie's attempts to navigate terrain, and clothing eventually rotting (as the story takes place over the course of nearly a decade), after a certain point in the timeline most zombies encountered are more likely to be naked than to have any clothing.
  • The lesser Black Court vampires that attack the shopping mall in the Harry Dresden short story "It's My Birthday, Too" are newly-transformed security guards, and therefore dressed in their mall-cop uniforms.
  • Day By Day Armageddon has it's moments. In the first book Kilgore spots a grocery store employee with the phrase "If you can read this kill me!" written on his shirt in blood (who he obliges, noting he'd have probably liked the guy had he met him alive), and the third book has him fighting the urge to laugh at zombies dressed in Hawaiian shirts in Oahu.

Live-Action Television
  • The series The Walking Dead had one "walker" dressed in a Santa Claus suit.
    • Odd clothing on zombies actually has plot implications when the survivors take over the prison, as some of the walkers there are wearing prison riot-gear and therefore have helmets which logically serve to protect their brains.
    • Later in that same episode, Daryl points out that one of the zombies in the prison is dressed like a civilian, thereby raising fears that the prison might not be as secure as they had hoped.
    • Lizzie becomes emotionally attached to a particular walker on the fence because it's wearing a name tag, which gives her something to call it.
    • Michonne, traveling with leashed walkers in the midst of a herd in "After", gets creeped out by a black female walker with the same hairstyle as hers.
  • The mob of extras made up as zombies as a foundation challenge on season 4 of FaceOff were mostly dressed in everyday street clothes, but a couple of the men wore surgical scrubs, one of the women had on a ragged wedding dress, and a chef's hat is visible in one of the group shots. Contestants regularly dress their own undead creations in odd outfits for spotlight challenges, to make the finished products distinctive and capture the judges' interest.

Tabletop Games
  • Vampire: The Requiem has Larvae: a transitional stage between human and vampire that are functionally zombie-vampires, usually still dressed in the rags of whatever they were wearing when abducted and turned. Their sourcebook suggests that Game Masters employ this trope as a way to ramp up the creepiness. (Yes, that guy in a mailman uniform or the woman in the torn, fuzzy pink bathrobe is about to eat you!)

Video Games
  • In Armor Games' Web Game The Last Stand, a few of the zombies attacking your character wear clown costumes.
  • In Darksiders, you have the very smartly dressed Wicked K, a zombie with a British dialect in a tuxedo.
  • One of the zombies in Dead Rising 2 wears a wedding dress, as a result of being almost forced into marriage before being turned.
  • One of the zombies in Medievil 2 sports a beard and wears a suit, which Dan must steal from it to use as a disguise.
  • Left 4 Dead 2 has your usual hordes of zombie masses, but there are also "Uncommon Commons", a step below the Special Infected. They all look different from usual, but also have unique properties about them. Depending on how you encounter them, they can be either hilarious, creepy, or utterly depressing.
    • Hazmat zombies found in "Dead Center" run around in their still fully-sealed yellow and green hazmat suits. You can hear the air leaking out of them like a balloon if you kill them with a melee attack.
    • The Clown zombie is found in "Dark Carnival", running around with large clown shoes and a big red nose.
    • Mudmen are, well, covered in mud.
    • Riot Gear zombies, found in "The Parish", gain some measure of protection from this trope.
    • Worker zombies in the "Dead Rain" campaign wear bright yellow reflective vests, making them easy to see in the torrential downpour. They also wear personal protection equipment that increases their overall health and ear protectors that mean they neither hear nor chase thrown pipebombs. It can be said that the concrete dust accumulated in their nostrils before they turned makes them unable to smell bile bombs eithernote .
    • Fallen Survivors from "The Passing" still wear their survival gear, so they can drop a med kit, pills, adrenaline shots, pipe bombs, or molotovs.
    • Zombie Jimmy Gibbs Jr. used to be a famous stock car racer, and still wears his racer's uniform and helmet.
    • Other examples include hospital patients and staff, Midnight Rider fans, wedding guests (including a bride), and airport personnel.
    • The custom Campaign "Suicide Blitz 2" gives us Tanks decked in football gear in the finale, which happens in a stadium.
    • In The Passing a special Witch is in a wedding dress, sobbing at the altar (apparently the zombie apocalypse happened right on her special day). You have to get past her, but if she's startled it triggers a panic event, causing the zombified party guests to charge you and your party.
  • Plants vs. Zombies has several examples. Common zombies all wear the remnants of a shirt, suit coat and tie, but the "special" zombies all are dressed in a way that identifies their particular attack method. The "dancing" zombie used to look like a Thriller-era Michael Jackson, up until he died and his family requested that they change his appearance. He's now a "disco" zombie with bell-bottom pants and big hair. The crazy Jack-In-The-Box zombie wears a straightjacket and carries an exploding Jack-in-the-box with him. The Zomboni is a guy driving around a Zamboni, and the ice he lays down is used by Bobsled Zombies, who carry their bobsled with them and wear identical team uniforms, zombies who attack over water wear snorkels, digging zombies have carbide lamp helmets and so on....
  • Zombi U has zombies dressed as Buckingham palace guards and Beefeaters.
  • In Fallout: New Vegas, the Courier's Ghoul companion, Raul will change into his old Vaquero outfit if convinced to become a gunslinger once more.
  • All the cadaver-level undead in the Facebook flash game The Last One are incongruously-dressed, including a short-order cook, a fireman, a lady mechanic, a legless granny with a walker, and a construction worker who'd died lying in wet cement and now has much of his body encased in chunks of concrete.
  • Resident Evil 4 has 'Oven Man': A ganado that bursts from an oven in flames for a solid Jump Scare and a cheap laugh. Ada's scenario also has the ganado who swiped Leon's bomber's jacket.

Web Original
  • In webisode clips spun off The Walking Dead, two child zombies wear paper birthday-party hats. Another (adult) zombie wore the day-glow yellow vest of a parking-lot attendant.

Western Animation


Horror HungerTropes of The Living DeadMarionette Motion
Improvised ClothesCostume TropesInside Shoes
Land of the DeadImageSource/Live-Action FilmsLeslie Nielsen Syndrome

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