For the Susan Hill novel and related works, see The Woman in Black.
Where the Woman in White
marks a mysterious but important character and the Lady in Red
indicates the sexy yet morally questionable one, the Woman In Black is almost always scary and menacing.
While black in itself is a pretty common colour to find in Real Life
's clothing, particularly among Goths
and similar cultural movements, there is still something unsettling to a woman in all-black garb, especially if she's an Eerie Pale-Skinned Brunette
. Extra points for red or dark lipstick and/or Femme Fatalons
Strangely, the more skin the outfit covers, especially if it's a long dress, the more ominous the woman will become. Stripperiffic
clothes seem to somewhat dim the effect of black, but don't outright negate it.
Not only does black outline the body even more than red, there are also all the ideas associated with the colour itself
, such as death
, night, evil
, great danger, or refusal of sexuality (that one particularly if the clothes hide the whole body). Thus, it's a rare woman who can actually wear an all black outfit and not be at least
Strangely, the trope is more the polar opposite of the Lady in Red
than that of the Woman in White
in terms of concepts. In fact, the Lady in Red
brims with offers of quenching one's lust and gratifying sex, whereas the Woman in Black clearly conveys that desiring her is outright dangerous or forbidden or a free ticket to certain death.
As can be assumed, this trope is mostly associated with The Vamp
, Femme Fatale
, Magnificent Bitch
, Wicked Witch
, Vain Sorceress
, Manipulative Bitch
, or The Baroness
On the other hand
, if she's wearing black, perhaps the answer is nun
. Nun more black
of Evil Wears Black
(barring the non-evil examples).
Not to be confused with the Little Black Dress
which is more a fashion item in itself than an indicator of character.
Compare Lady in Red
, Woman in White
, and Man in White
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Anime & Manga
- Lust from Fullmetal Alchemist
- Kanoe from X/1999
- Subverted with the female Shinigamis of Bleach, where Dark Is Not Evil and Light Is Not Good. The only exception is Unohana, who wears a white coat over her otherwise-black outfit.
- Miyo Takano in Higurashi: When They Cry, right before she kills Keiichi and all his friends. Also, the entire main female cast on the DVD covers.
- Celty Sturluson from Durarara!! goes around in a black jumpsuit. Subverted in that, not only is she not evil, she's really quite a sweetheart. Earthworm from volume 9, on the other hand, plays this trope very, very straight.
- Fate Testarossa-Harlaown of Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha is one of the nicest people you could ever meet despite (or perhaps because of) her introduction as a Dark Magical Girl, but is simultaneously one of the baddest ass-kickers in the multiverse.
- Subverted with Lenalee Lee from D.Gray-Man. Obviously, the Black Order's uniforms are black, but she wears a black dress as casual wear, but she's a sweet and kind girl nonetheless. Also subverted with Miranda, who's as far from your typical version of the trope as it's possible to be. Played straight with Lulu Bell though.
- Chane Laforet from Baccano!. Yet another subversion, as she is not truly evil.
- Misa Amane from Death Note wears black more than once.
- Utau Hoshina from Shugo Chara! is yet another subversion (moreover, she wears other outfits with other colors as well). She's just a little too willing to do bad things to save Ikuto from his commitment to Easter.
- In the Leijiverse, Maetel is a subversion of this trope since she is the kindest, gentlest person around despite wearing that famous black coat. That said, she has destroyed at least one planet and killed any number of people who threatened her or Tetsuro. From the same 'Verse, the merciless Space Pirate Queen Emeraldas is a straight example.
- Both Medusa and Arachne from Soul Eater.
- Haman Karn of Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam and Mobile Suit Gundam ZZ is a scarily competent Mobile Suit pilot and ruthless dictator who almost invariably wears black, though her Qubeley is white (the colour of death in East Asia).
- In Puella Magi Madoka Magica, Homura's magical girl outfit is black and grey. It serves to make her look menacing and suspicious especially combined with her Aloof Dark-Haired Girl demeanor, tendency towards Cryptic Conversation and mysterious powers. Subverted in that she previously was a Shrinking Violet whose mission is saving the main character
Films — Animated
- In TMNT, new Foot Clan leader Karai is garbed entirely in black, save for her mask.
- Helga from Disney's Atlantis The Lost Empire actually combines this with Blondes Are Evil where she is actually shown wearing a skimpy black dress during her introductory scene.
Films — Live-Action
- Michelle Pfeiffer in Batman Returns and Wolf.
- Kim Basinger in The Real McCoy and L.A. Confidential.
- Madame Giry in The Phantom of the Opera.
- Lana Turner in Madame X (1966).
- Anne Parillaud in the original Nikita (1990).
- Sophie Fatale, O-Ren's Dragon from Kill Bill. She wears a black, high-collared jumpsuit thing that the narration says makes her look like "a villain from Star Trek".
- The Rocky Horror Picture Show: Magenta wears a black French Maid uniform and a slightly more revealing black outfit throughout the film. At least, until the end when she and Riff Raff reveal themselves as aliens.
- Black Sunday: Princess Asa Vajda. She wears a long black gown and cape, and seduces and zombifies her victims. Averted with her descendent Princess Katia, who also wears a long black gown and cape but is the innocent heroine.
- Morticia and Wednesday from The Addams Family.
- Mal of Inception is only in black for the opening sequence, but it wholly defines her character as a recurring obstacle to Cobb's extraction work in the rest of the movie.
- The Dark Queen and Helena as the Dark Princess from Mirrormask.
- Lily of Black Swan, who is in competition for the role of the titular Black Swan with the protagonist, Nina, who is a Woman in White. The movie milks this for all it's worth.
- Played with in Violent City: Vanessa has been a Femme Fatale Woman in White for the whole movie, manipulating her lover while retaining a facade of innocence. At the very end, once she gets to a position where she no longer needs to work through the men, she changes to all-black.
- Matsu from the Joshuu Sasori series fits this to a tee, as an antiheroine out for revenge for her rape and humiliation in a Badass Longcoat done up to the neck, a Nice Hat and gloves, with only her face showing. The refusal of sexuality in particular is pretty unusual for 1972 Japan.
- La Femme from the French film Inside.
- China from Torque.
- In Iron Man 2 after Tony finds out that she's the Black Widow, "Natalie" starts dressing only in black.
- The grandmother in Flowers in the Attic, who wore gray in the novel. The black serves as a constant reminder that she is stern at best and dangerous at worst.
- The Empress wears either black or red for most of Legend Of The Black Scorpion. Black is worn particularly in scenes where she's quietly scaring the crap out of everybody.
- The Grim Reaper appears briefly in this form in The Empty Mirror, in which Adolf Hitler spends his time looking back on his life from his prison in Purgatory/Hell. She manages to terrify even Hitler.
- Mara Jade, in Star Wars: Allegiance, The Thrawn Trilogy, and the Hand of Thrawn Duology, tends to wear a black jumpsuit. To the point that when she does wear Jedi robes, the text often stresses it.
- Sword of Truth.
- Dragaera has Sethra Lavode: hundreds of thousands of years old, a vampire, a brilliant general, and a sorceress powerful enough to worry gods. Naturally, she lives in a mountain made of black stone, has black eyes and hair, and dresses head to toe in black. Bonus points: in Dragaera, the color black represents sorcery and is one of the House colors for both Great Houses with which Sethra is associated. And one of her hobbies is finding new ways to use black in interior decoration.
- Discworld averts the heck out of this one. Whether it's the witches or Susan Sto Helit, the Disc's women in black seem to be good. But not nice.
- Additionally, Nanny Ogg has pointed out that a black dress could signify anything: "Madam or Mother Superior, it was just a matter of details."
- Agnes Nitt is another variation- she starts wearing black when she's having a Gothic phase to fit in with the cool girls in Lancre, but she carries on wearing it, probably because she suffers from Weight Woe and hopes it makes her look thinner, or if not then less visible. (Of course, she's destined to be a witch anyway.)
- They might also be Assassins, which would make them, almost by default, Affably Evil with standards. Of course, very few female Assassins have actually shown up in the books.
- Semirhage in The Wheel of Time always dresses in black because she considers Lanfear, a Woman in White, to be her main rival.
- Kiki Strike is a kiddie version of the Anti-Hero variant.
- Lisbeth Salander in the Millennium trilogy by Stieg Larsson. Also leaning towards Anti-Hero.
- The title character of The Woman in Black.
- Arpazia's final noteworthy gown in White as Snow is black, symbolic of her becoming a crone and cementing her reputation as a witch at court. The sight of her is enough to scare her daughter witless.
- Tiphaine d'Ath of the Emberverse, who dresses all in black and begins her career as an assassin and quasi-ninja for Lady Sandra. She has a (deserved) reputation as being cool, nerveless, and lethal.
- Vin from the Mistborn trilogy often embodies this trope, especially in the later books when it's used as a foil for Elend's Man in White
- Melisande at the Midwinter Masque for the peerage of Kusheth in Kushiel's Dart. She wears rich black velvet as a stark contrast to Phčdre's sheer white gauze.
- Very much a trademark for Belinda Contague, Mafia Princess-turned-capa from the Garrett, P.I. novels.
Live Action TV
- The Vampira Show (1954) is one of the earliest representations of this trope on TV.
- Elvira, Mistress of the Dark
- In Doctor Who, when River Song returns in "The Time of Angels", she's got a lovely long black dress on that makes her look like a noir Femme Fatale. Considering it's hinted at that she served time in prison, has a secret she isn't telling the Doctor, and vandalized a home box with the message "Hello, sweetie" written in Old High Gallifreyan just to get the Doctor's attention, this probably fits. She may even possibly be the person who kills him, if the hints dropped at the end of the episode "Flesh and Stone" turn out to be as meaningful as they seem. So, it's safe to say this is intentional.
Contrast this with River's previous appearance dressed all in white, where she's an unambiguously good character, and her later appearance in the series 5 finale, where she again wears white and is very definitely on the Doctor's side. And then her appearance in season 6's mid-season finale, where some of her past is revealed — and this time, she's in grey.
- Grayza likes black (and Stripperiffic, coincidentally, at least when she's not pregnant) and she's quite dangerous. Although Aeryn from the same show also liked wearing black a lot (a black leather jacket and black leather pants, to be specific), and was an unambiguously good character. It's probably some remnant of her Peacekeeper training.
- When Sarah goes undercover with Volkoff in Season 4 of Chuck, she not only wears black clothing, but also has black hair rather than her normal blonde.
- Nikita had naturally black/dark hair and loves wearing black clothing. However, she is a deconstruction of this trope in some ways as she is the hero of the show as well as a complete Badass and Femme Fatale. Many other characters who were and are a part of Division favor this trope as well - in particular, Michael.
- Nicci in the season finale of Legend of the Seeker.
- Darla in an episode very symbolically goes from wearing white to donning a black outfit. In said outfit, she joins Drusilla and, together, they commit a massacre.
- Cordelia, while under Jasmine's control.
- The same thing happens in the Buffy the Vampire Slayer Two-Part Episode Surprise/Innocence. In "Surprise" Buffy is a virgin and wears white with obvious symbolism. At the end of the episode she sleeps with Angel, removing his soul so he becomes the evil vampire Angelus. In "Innocence" Buffy starts wearing darker colours, ending up in black when she stops angsting over her lover's Sex Face Turn and starts kicking ass with rocket launchers.
- Diana in Roar was a Woman In Black. Given her dark, manipulative, seductive nature, this is unsurprising.
- After embracing the Dark Side completely, Morgana in Merlin dresses from head to toe in black.
- In The Twilight Zone episode "Spur of the Moment," a young girl out horseriding is menaced by a strange woman in black, who chases her back to her family's house. It turns out the woman is an older version of herself, who was trying to prevent her from eloping with the man who would drive her family to destitution.
- The season one finale of Grimm is actually titled "The Woman In Black". The never-before-seen woman in question is seen skulking around town and kicking butt in little vignettes throughout the episode, until she turns up at Nick's house near the end of the episode and reveals herself to be his mother, who is also a Grimm and was believed to have died in a car crash several years ago. By the time she supposedly leaves town at the conclusion of the three-part episode, it's still unclear whether she exemplifies this trope or subverts it.
- Scandal: Abby, quite often.
- NCIS: Abby, quite often.
- One of the most defining moments of American Horror Story: Coven is when Fiona takes the girls on a class trip to the French Quarter and tells them to "Wear something...black."
- Salem: Mary.
- In season 4 of Game of Thrones, Sansa now becomes Littlefingers apprentice, and dons a black dress.
- In the Mexican horror show Hora Marcada a woman in a black dress (possibly Death personified) always appeared during the middle or the very end of the episodes, observing the characters from afar.
- Lady Wore Black by Queensr˙che
- "Cypress Grove" by Clutch. The women of cypress grove all dress in black.
- Evanescence: Yes, Amy Lee does this sometimes.
- Red Molly, the heroine of the tragic romance in "1952 Vincent Black Lightning", by Richard Thompson, may be primarily a Fiery Redhead, but her black leathers link her to the hero's doom.
- "Woman In Black" by Foreigner
Newspaper Comic Strips
- Larxene in Kingdom Hearts.
- Zerase in Suikoden V.
- Dee Vasquez from Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney.
- If you have the Handmaiden in Knights of the Old Republic 2 entirely dark-side, her normal white jumpsuit is replaced with a black one and her normal red lipstick is replaced with black.
- Nevan in Devil May Cry 3. Played dead straight. Trish also counts as well, and the trope is subverted near the end of the first game.
- Sareena in Mortal Kombat. Strange in that she is the only one to actually qualify in a series where you would expect plenty of them. Subverted as well in that she's not truly evil at heart. Her (former) partners, Kia and Jataaka, play this trope much straighter. While Sareena made a High Heel-Face Turn in Mortal Kombat Mythologies Sub Zero after the Elder Sub-Zero (and future Noob Saibot) saved her life (with Sareena later repaying the favor in the battle against Quan Chi) and went on to become something of the Younger Sub-Zero's love interest, they remained in Shinnok's Brotherhood of Shadow and were ultimately killed by Taven shortly before the battle of Armageddon.
- Princess Ishtar from Fire Emblem Jugdral, though she's much less of a villainess and more of a Dark Magical Girl.
- Izebel from Tears To Tiara 2.
- If you get a Game Over while playing Banjo-Kazooie, then Grunty will actually turn into this.
- Vivi, the charming, sexy vampiress in Brain Dead 13.
- Rouge, the vain, selfish Anti-Hero from the Sonic the Hedgehog franchise, although how evil she is depends on the incarnation.
- Twice in Shin Megami Tensei - the appropriately-named Lady in Black in Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne and the Herald of Yatagarasu in the Raidou Kuzunoha series.
- Perky Goth types are the deliberate subversion of this trope. Sometimes.
- Lady Ink from The Book of Stories OCT, a rare heroic example, though her personality fits the rest of the trope.
- Toki She's mostly a subversion since, most of the things she wears are black dresses but she's this trope when manipulative. Well, there's Brownie and she's also a subversion, naturally, and is rather harmless, unless doing what Toki tells her to do.