For the Wilkie Collins novel and related works, see The Woman in White.
"A fellow will remember a lot of things you wouldn't think he'd remember. You take me. One day, back in 1896, I was crossing over to Jersey on the ferry. And as we pulled out, there was another ferry pulling in. And on it there was a girl waiting to get off. A white dress she had on. She was carrying a white parasol. I only saw her for one second. She didn't see me at all. But I'll bet a month hasn't gone by since that I hadn't thought of that girl.
There's something about a Woman In White that just draws the eye and sets the imagination alight. Not just a blouse or skirt, but a completely white ensemble. We're talking shoes, dress, scarf, purse, hat, lipstick and sometimes even hair
Maybe they're eccentric, mad, evil (this one especially), possibly even already dead
, but they're always important to the plot, usually powerful in one way or another. And most importantly: they've got style
All the symbolism behind the color white
may be involved, but it might just be fashion. If it's just fashion, then it implies a fastidious neatness, and an ability to "keep clean" even if one is not, usually by "not getting their hands dirty". If symbolism is to be had, it can range from purity to death.
may be used to make the white even more vivid.
Age is not important; even quite young girls may feature as the Woman in White
, which tend to make them the Creepy Child
as well. And while this trope is almost Always Female
, lately, there are more and more male characters that fit in as well
. Compare to Lady in Red
and Little Dead Riding Hood
, where the age difference produces a very different trope.
A Winter Royal Lady
is often a Woman in White
, as is a woman in a traditional Fairytale Wedding Dress
The woman in white is usually the before of the Blood-Splattered Wedding Dress
. White Shirt of Death
is also possible. The Bedsheet Ghost
is related. Ghosts are often portrayed as silent women in white, known as Grey Ladies.
Compare Pink Means Feminine
, True Blue Femininity
Contrast Princesses Prefer Pink
, Little Black Dress
. Compare/Contrast Man in White
, Evil Albino
, Woman in Black
, and the more explicit about significance Gold and White Are Divine
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Anime and Manga
- When portayed in color, Athenas personal assistant Nike in Appleseed is always dressed in white and is blond as well.
- Sawako of Kimi ni Todoke dons a white dress, pretending to be a ghost during her school's courage test. Combined with her pale skin, black hair, and semi-creepiness/fierce determination to make her peers happy, she manages to look like Sadako.
- Lind in Ah! My Goddess.
- Magical Shopping Arcade Abenobashi: Arumi wears a white summer dress when she isn't decked out in some crazy, alternate-dimension local attire. As the more mature, down-to-earth co-protagonist, she doesn't really fit the typical Woman in White persona, but the white dress does bring out her dark complexion.
- Lua Klein in Baccano. Although the reason why she does so is because her Ax Crazy fiancee insists. Y'know, so the blood (from his victims) will show up better.
- There's a scene at the end of Kotomi's arc in Clannad in which she wears a white dress.
- Also, the Girl from the Illusionary World/Ushio Okazaki is shown only in a white dress.
- Aura, from .hack. She's got the white hair, too. It's actually a very pale lavender but it's close enough.
- Helba as well. She takes the darker forms of this trope. Within the setting, she's an infamous hacker, though she is portrayed as one of the protagonists as, unlike most of CC Corp, she actually knows and cares what's going in in The World (the game the series takes place in) and takes it seriously and works to find a true solution rather then just shutting the game down. Her name is also pulled from the Queen of Darkness in the Epic poem The World is based on.
- Madlax and Margaret, final episodes, the white cocktail dress.
- The evil Society of Light in Yu-Gi-Oh! GX has both male and female members.
- The Wili Maiden in Princess Tutu, the ghost of a woman who committed suicide and now tries to bring young men into the afterlife, dresses in an all-white tutu with white tights. Of course, she's based on a character from a ballet which shares the name of the episode—"Giselle".
- Athena in Kidou Tenshi Angelic Layer, who Misaki refers to as "the white angel".
- Bleach: The arrancar wear a white uniform to contrast with the black shinigami uniforms. As a result, the female arrancar fall into this trope. The white uniforms symbolise evil and, therefore, death, as a somewhat ironic contrast to the "death spirits" (Shinigami) who actually protect life, or at least the ability of souls to continue being reborn into new lives.
- Rei Ayanami from Neon Genesis Evangelion.
- Shiho Munakata from Mai Hime, as the girl clad in a bridal kimono.
- Cyborg 009 loves the trope, since the 2001 series has several: Artemis, Hera, Princess Ixquic, little Arisu and three of the five Pu'Awak sisters (Aphros, Deena and Daphne).
- Sailor Cosmos from Sailor Moon is a sailor senshi from a future where Chaos has destroyed nearly everything and she is the last hope. She transforms into Sailor Chibi-Chibi to assist Sailor Moon in the present to prevent her bleak future from occurring. Sailor Cosmos is actually Sailor Moon in the future. Her costume is all white, including her hair. Of course, this isn't the case in the anime.
- C.C. from Code Geass.
- Pretty much every girl in ARIA.
- Kirakishou from Rozen Maiden originally had white hair and a white dress, though sometimes she is also shown with a pale pink dress, pale pink hair or both. Kirakishou only exists in the manga and is the seventh doll. In the anime she only appears for a few seconds in the last episode of Rozen Maiden Träumend.
- Miyu from Vampire Princess Miyu usually wears a white short kimono with an either red or lilac sash.
- Meiko "Menma" Honma of Ano Hana The Flower We Saw That Day. She's a Cute Ghost Girl, and she was wearing a white dress when she drowned and died. She even has white-blonde hair!
- Oriko of Puella Magi Oriko Magica, at least in her Magical Girl outfit.
- Kanzeon Bosatsu from Saiyuki is a Man/Woman in white.
- Horribly subverted in a filler Detective Conan case, where the Woman in White is the actress Akiko Kinoshita... who only wears white clothes when her lifeless body is found in the snow. She was killed by Yoko Asanuma, her envious Body Double, who also briefly wears white while impersonating Akiko and making everyone believe she was still alive.
- Black Butler: Angela wears a True Blue Femininity Meido outfit in her first few appearances. After The Reveal (that she's an angel), her wardrobe shifts to white and remains so in all her subsequent appearances.
- In Peacemaker Kurogane, although male, Okita Souji plays the woman in white when out-of-uniform, using feminine speech patterns and invoking the innocence aspect of white with his cute pet pig and a fondness for sweets and playing with children. Of course, to those who know him it's a double-entendre of sorts, with the death-and-mourning aspects of white evoking his deadliness as a swordsman.
- Seika "Mariana" Akishima from Amakusa 1637. When she and her friends became Time Travelers stuck in the Amakusa area before the Shimabara rebellion, she was wearing a white Pimped-Out Dress instead of their school uniforms, so said white gown becomes her trademark clothing.
- Austria's Nyotalia form is often portrayed as one, in contrast to Fem!Prussia.
- Denpa Onna To Seishun Otoko: Erio often wears a lacy white, sleeveless dress (when she isn't wrapped in a futon, that is). To represent her unearthly beauty and pure, childish personality.
- Formerly known as "The White Queen", X-Men's Emma Frost is seldom seen costumed in any color that isn't white. Civilian clothes are a different matter (or at least used to be).
- This was probably her dress preference long before becoming the White Queen of the Hellfire Club, which is why the uniform of office suited her for over a decade. Other White Queens also fit the trope.
- More Marvel Comics examples:
- Silver Sable's costumes are pale enough to pass for white, only slightly darker than her hair.
- Dagger from Cloak and Dagger wore all white in contrast to Cloak's black.
- In recent appearances, Sharon Carter, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D., has taken to wearing an all-white spy suit for missions.
- Done with Elisa Cameron, the protagonist of the Dark Horse comic Ghost.
- At the end of the first issue of the new Birds Of Prey series, an Asian woman in white called "White Canary" has shown up. Given her Badassitude, two possibilities for who she is spring to Black Canary's mind: Cassandra Cain or Lady Shiva. Oh Crap...She turns out to be the sister of the Twelve Brothers in Silk, who Black Canary fought years ago, and in a bit of Fridge Brilliance, wears white in mourning for her brothers, who she killed to uphold their father's honor after their defeat.
- Wonder Woman, in her "New Wonder Woman"/"Diana Prince" stories from the early '70s, frequently (though not invariably) wore all-white outfits, including a Spy Catsuit that came to visually define that version of the character. She owned a mod clothing boutique in these stories, so it was probably a fashion statement.
- The Stunt-Girl Counterspies of Jet Dream wear all-white jumpsuits on the job.
- Galadriel in The Lord of the Rings is described as "wholly clad in white" by Tolkien, and faithfully depicted as such in the films.
- There's also Eowyn, the White Lady of Rohan. (Though the films show her, sensibly enough, wearing plainer, dull-coloured clothes sometimes for practical reasons.)
- Aredhel in The Silmarillion, also called 'The White Lady of the Noldor'.
- In C. S. Lewis's Narnia series, the White Witch.
- Lanfear in The Wheel of Time usually wears white.
- In the novel of Welcome to the NHK, Misaki is introduced wearing all white.
- The Woman in White is the title of Wilkie Collins's Victorian mystery novel, the plot of which revolves around a mysterious woman in white.
- In The Secret Garden, Mary wears white. This is because her mother has died, and her guardian finds black too much for such a young child. (In Victorian times, children could wear white, though no colors, in mourning.)
- In G. K. Chesterton's The Tales of the Long Bow, Owen Hood fell in Love at First Sight with a woman he met in the woods, wearing white. When he sees her again, coming out of a tea-room, in blue, it is a shock to him to realize that she could wear blue (and be seen out of the woods).
- Ravenclaw's house ghost in Harry Potter, Helena Ravenclaw, known as The Grey Lady.
- Admiral Ar'alani of Outbound Flight by Timothy Zahn isn't strictly all in white. She wears a white admiral's uniform, contrasting to the other Chiss - politicians wear their family colors, other members of the Defense Force wear black - which is implied to have the standard decorations. Plus, she's a Chiss, with blue skin and glowing red eyes. Interestingly, she's an ascension of Ari Roselani, a fan who first met Timothy Zahn while dressed as Thrawn, a (male) Chiss admiral all in white.
- In Jim Butcher's Dresden Files novel Turn Coat, Harry observes that when they meet Madeline, she is "of course" all in white.
- The Ghost In The Third Row by Bruce Coville features a ghost called the Woman In White, an actress who had been murdered in the theater fifty years ago. The fact that the protagonists in the book were putting on the play of her origin story gets her attention...
- Lily Weatherwax in Witches Abroad always wears white as part of her plan to cast herself as "the good one."
- Lydia, the mother of Rosilda and Arild and Carolin in Maria Gripe's ...och de vita skuggorna i skogen ("...and the White Shadows in the Forest") only ever dressed in white or black, depending on her mood (a trait she took over from her mysticist mother), and usually carried a bouquet of white roses as well. The "white shadows" Rosilda sees in the forest around the castle turn out to be Lydia, who is watching over her children after faking her own death.
- Kahlan Amnell of the Sword of Truth series. She is introduced as a very mysterious woman who is obviously very important, matching the archetype. It is later revealed that a white dress is the official dress code of the Mother Confessor, the most powerful woman in the Midlands.
- Sephrenia, in the Elenium trilogy by David Eddings, always wears a white robe, somewhat clerical in nature. As she eventually explains, she is a member of the clergy, being the High Priestess of the Styric goddess Aphrael.
- Camilla from The Secret History is mentioned as often wearing white, in contrast to everyone else at Hampden, who generally wears black. (She frequently borrows Charles' clothes, too. The two are described at one point as looking like "long-dead celebrants from some forgotten garden party".)
- There's that poem/ghost story - I think it was by Lord Byron, but he might have just been reciting it - about a woman in white.
- Highlander: The Series has Rebecca Horne, Amanda's mentor.
- The pilot episode of Supernatural features a Woman in White.
- There are also all the girls in white nightgowns who get killed by the Monster of the Week, or the girl in the white hospital gown who caused people in her town to act out fairy tales... Let's just say that women wearing white on Supernatural are either going to be the victim or the villain.
- The Crow Stairway To Heaven Shelly Webster's primary costume is the floaty white dress she was wearing for her commitment ceremony to Eric, during which she was brutally attacked and killed.
- Dollhouse. Dr. Saunders (technically Whiskey) in Epitaph One.
- Battlestar Galactica:
- Although usually a Lady in Red, Head-Six wears white on Kobol (home of the Gods) and in the Opera House visions.
- D'Anna (the Cylon 'Three' model) wears white in the Season 3 episodes where she becomes obsessed with the connection between life and death. Eventually, her religious fervour, plus her forbidden inquiries about the Final Five, cause her entire line to be boxed.
- Servalan in Blake's 7 always wears white until late S2, when they changed the costume designer.
- Doctor Who:
- A mysterious woman wearing all white and credited only as "The Woman" appears in "The End of Time", giving mysterious messages mostly to Wilfred Mott. She is eventually seen among the Time Lords who turn out to be behind the near-disaster the episode is named for, as one of the two who voted against it. After the last meeting with her, Wilfred mentions her, and the Doctor looks significantly toward Donna. However, Word Of God said she was originally planned to be the Doctor's mother - and that we should also pay attention to the other Time Lord who voted against the plan.
- River Song, the mysterious woman hinted to play a hugely important role sometime in the Doctor's personal future, first appears in the two-parter "Silence in the Library"/"Forest of the Dead" dressed in a white spacesuit. She ends the two-part story dressed in a white gown.
- When we first see Monica, the main character of Touched by an Angel, she's barefoot and wearing a simple white dress.
- A one-shot character in Farscape has white skin, hair, and clothes...and turns out to be the bad guy.
- Smallville, Season 10, episode 12, Collateral: Chloe Sullivan returns, seemingly with magical powers, dressed all in white. As it turns out, the cast are actually trapped in a virtual world and her white-clad status indicates that she is hacking in from the outside.
- That version of Chloe Sullivan appears to herself in Masquerade, but this time as an illusion of Desaad preying on her sin of Pride.
- In True Blood, Sookie Stackhouse in season one (particularly before she sleeps with Bill for the first time) is often dressed in white. Her waitress uniform includes a white t-shirt (where she first meets Bill and frequently afterward); in episode two, where she and Bill take a walk together and share their first kiss, she wears a white dress; during both of her dream sequances about Bill, her night gown is white (and so is her dress within one of the dreams); the night of her grandmothers funeral, just before losing her virginity to Bill, she removes her black funeral dress and puts on a long white one. A few days prior to this she and Bill go to Fangtasia, the local vampire bar, and she meets her other love interest Eric Northman. On the ride over to the bar, Bill says she "looks like vampire bait". She is wearing a white and red floral dress.
- In Once Ipon A Time, Snow White often wears ivory outfits.
- In Merlin, Prince Arthur sees the spirit of his mother Queen Igraine wearing a very, very pale gold dress - it's practically white, and the costume colour was no doubt chosen to acknowledge the supernatural aspects of this trope.
- Scandal: Olivia.
- Buffy wears white in the Two-Part Episode where she loses her virginity. When she decides to stop moping over Angel's Sex Face Turn and start kicking ass again, she's Back to Black.
- She also wears a white prom dress when confronting the Master in "Prophecy Girl", and likely for the same symbolic reasons. As a Virgin Sacrifice, Buffy's 'death' allows the release of an evil monster.
- Liara T'Soni wears a rather stunning white combat outfit during and after Lair of the Shadow Broker in Mass Effect 2.
- Namine in the Kingdom Hearts series.
- Yorda in Ico is a good example of this trope, even if her dress does have brown accents. Also, Mono in Ico's spiritual successor/prequel Shadow of the Colossus to an extent - again, despite non-white accents on her dress.
- In the game Summoner, there is a mysterious Woman In White who turns out to be Flece's mother and the Empress of Orenia. In her first appearance, King Belias mistakes her for a ghost.
- Merrill's upgrade outfit in Dragon Age II is white and polished silver.
- Hotel Dusk Room 215: Mila, pictured above.
- In Final Fantasy VIII, Rinoa's first appearance is in a short white dress.
- In one of the endings of Silent Hill 1, one of the names of the End Boss is Women in White.
- KAEDE Smith in Killer 7, with the Carmilla Smiles being some twisted variant of that. They are both examples, as Garcian below is, of the theme that white tainted with red is the sign of a traitor.
- In The Path, there's a mysterious girl in white who inhabits the woods.
- "Scarlett O'Hara" in Uninvited. (Yep, evil ghost.)
- Schala in Chrono Cross.
- Saya in Ragna's flashbacks, and conversely Noel when we first see her in the prologue of Blaz Blue Calamity Trigger's storymode.
- Fina from Skies Of Arcadia.
- Let us not forget the lovely Kirie from Fatal Frame, as well as the second game's Sae somewhat- she's got quite a bit of blood on her...
- In the Touhou fan game Concealed The Conclusion, the final battle with Reimu has her dressed in white, mainly because Gensokyo is her dream, and she's waking up, causing Dream Apocalypse.
- In The Path, a girl literally named Girl In White by the game developers leads you back to the path to Grandmother's house if you stay still long enough. Some speculate that she is a spirit who wants to protect the granddaughters from meeting their Wolves while others suggest she is a long-lost sister to the granddaughters or perhaps the grandmother herself. Curiously, while the Girl in White does indeed wear all white and is young, her skin tone and hair color are fairly dark.
- Zelda in her Shrine Maiden dress in The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword.
- Mildred Avalon of Arcana Heart, also a case of Light Is Not Good.
- The Nameless Sister from Turgor.
- Fire Emblem has numerous examples:
- Rena, Elice and Maria in Dark Dragon and the Sword of Light / Mystery of the Emblem.
- Edain, Tailto, Lana (or her expy Manna), Deirdre, Yuria, and Linda in Geneaology of the Holy War.
- Safy, Selphina and Linoan in Thracia 776.
- Ellen in The Sealed Sword. Also, when Lilina is promoted to Sage, her sprite changes into a Woman in White one, despite official artwork showing that she's dressed in red and blue instead.
- Ninian, Isadora and Eleanora in The Blazing Blade.
- Natasha and L'Arachel in The Sacred Stones.
- Leanne in Path of Radiance, and Micaiah in Radiant Dawn after her second class change.
- Gardevoir from Pokemon Ruby And Sapphire resembles a beautiful young woman wearing a long, flowing white dress. Subverted by the fact that Gardevoir can actually be both genders.
- One shows up in The Seventh Guest from time to time.
- Princess Peach in the original Super Mario Bros game, but only because of technical limitations. She was always meant to be seen wearing her (now) trademark pink dress.
- The Boss in Metal Gear Solid 3 wears a mostly-white sneaking suit that makes her look like a ghost in several scenes. In this case, white probably symbolizes her impending death, but it also foreshadows the field of white flowers where you will fight and kill her at the end of the game.
- In Hellsinker we have the human form of Lost Property 771.
- In Nie R Kainé wears a white negligee which sets off her white hair and pale skin.
- Deus Ex Human Revolution's Megan Reed fits the trope to a tee, up to and including her ambiguous loyalties.
- In Dishonored, the young future Empress wears an all white outfit, symbolizing both her royal status, and her as a prize every powerful man in the world is plotting and scheming to possess and control for their own ends.
- In Gunnerkrigg Court, there's a ghost lady in white haunting the Annan River.
- In Girl Genius, the Geisterdamen (German for "ghost maiden") are a race of female monsters (it's not mentioned how they reproduce) who are entirely white, including hair, skin and clothing.
- Zoophobia's Adina is literally a glowing, white and blue angel.
- Completely subverted and contrasted with KayCee.
- Melissa in Anti Hero For Hire.
- As in the original, the T-Girls of the Remix Comic version of Jet Dream wear all-white outfits. Harmony Thunder doubly so, as she is also often represented by artwork from the "Diana Prince, Wonder Woman" stories (see above).
- In The Water Phoenix King, Commander Corva's usual working clothes, which are her vestments as a priestess of a storm god, make her this; the outfit also has a ''very'' nice hat. Off-duty, she tends to wear earth tones.
- In Sluggy Freelance, Gwynn's counterpart in "the Dimension of Lame" mostly wears a white robe (and when she does, that's almost invariably the entirety of her outfit that you can see), which goes with her status as a good wizard of sorts whose power still came at a price.
- The murdered queen in "Brother and Sister" at Erstwhile.
- In Teen Titans, Raven becomes this from time to time.
- There's also Rarity, whose coat is a very light gray, emphasizing her refined nature as well as her cleanliness.
- Celestia is also white coated, as she is a princess/goddess.
- Emily Dickinson became something of a local celebrity in her town, as during the few times she ever left her house, she would always wear completely white outfits.
- Death is considered to wear white in some places in Asia. White is also the traditional colour of mourning in Islam.
- La Llorona, a Mexican myth about a crying ghost, is also called this.
- Just about every Spanish-speaking country has mythology related to La Llorona, even Spain. Generally speaking, though, the story is usually the same: she was a beautiful young mistress who tried to permanently win the heart of the man she loved by drowning her own children because she knew he wasn't all that fond of kids. It wasn't until he called her out on it that she realized how horrifying her actions were and promptly drowned herself in an effort to find her children. Naturally, she's a ghost said to haunt riversides calling for her children.
- There is another myth about white dressed women, it's about the Mulher de Branco (it means exactly the trope name), in Brazilian North / Northeast. She is the ghost of a bride that died (mostly killed) before entering the church to marry, and now, searches for her groom near the place she died, usually in a dark, creepy forest. If she finds a man she thinks is like her groom, she takes him to the world of dead with her... Unless said man runs like hell, which they promptly do.
- A more recent one was "la rubia de Kennedy" ("blonde woman of Kennedy Avenue"). In The Seventies, a young Chilean woman named Martha Infante died in an accident in said Avenue, and for several years, her ghost supposedly haunted the corner where she perished. The "ghost" was a blonde girl wearing a white coat who would ask for a ride, then tell the driver 'please don't drive so fast' and vanish.
- People who want to enter into Yoruba and Santeria "priesthood" must wear white clothes for a full year (minimum) before being officially invested, the only color element being their necklaces. Albeit this is done for both sexes, but women stand out more.
- Newark, NJ has a local legend about a lady in white haunting Branch Brook Park. Story goes that a car accident killed a girl whilest her boyfriend/fiance/husband/prom date was driving and she haunts the place to this day.
- The standard description for female ghosts in the Philippines is a woman all in white with long black hair that obscures her face. Often believed to be virginal and the subject of a violent death (probably rape), she's commonly known as a "White Lady".
- In Oberlin, Ohio, there is a story of a woman in white that haunts the lake in a local park.
- In Bohemia, there's the legend of the White Lady, the ghost of Perchta of Romberk.
- In the Netherlands, there are legends of Witte Wieven, "White Women". They're spirits of women who were kidnapped by other Witte Wieven. Depending on where the story is set, they're either Always Chaotic Evil or just want to be left alone. A version of the tale this city girl was told tells of a drunk farmer walking home through the forest when he meets a woman dressed in white, and he asks her to dance. Which she does, all night long, until daybreak rolls around and the farmer drops dead at her feet.
- Mary Queen of Scots was famous for her frequent use of white within her wardrobe. This is thought to be in part because she was often in mourning for either her father in law, mother, husband or second husband, and in part that she looked very good in white (and apparently wanted to marry her first husband Francis in it, during a time when white was not commonly worn in weddings, red being the preferred choice, long before she entered her period of mourning.
- Both St. Bernadette and the kids at Fatima, Portugal initially reported seeing "a beautiful young lady all in white". Considering all these legends about terrible ghost women, it's no wonder their parents got upset, although some people figured Bernadette was seeing a harmless revenant spirit.
- Although it's well known that the Victorian era had a predominance of using blacks and shades of gray as mourning colours, what's less well known is that it had been traditional to wear white as a mourning colour. This started dying out during the Victorian era but continued to be a colour worn to funerals and to visit the graves of loved ones right up until WW 1. However, Queen Victoria, who always wore mourning black while in Britain, would change to all-white attire when visiting France due to the tradition of white being the mourning colour of French royalty.
- White was resurrected for royal mourning in 1938, when the then Duchess of York (Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, best known to us as the Queen Mum, or as Bertie's wife) was scheduled to make a visit to France five days after her mother's death. Norman Hartnell remade her dresses in a fortnight; they became known as the white wardrobe.
- The White Tights of Russian urban legend: An Amazon Brigade of blonde, white-clad expert snipers with a hate-on for the Russians. They have been rumored to be fighting for the enemy side in almost every conflict Russia has been involved in for the last several decades.