Woman in Black


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 an Anti-Heroine.

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 Bastard, Wicked Witch, Vain Sorceress, Manipulative Bastard, or The Baroness.

On the other hand, if she's wearing black, perhaps the answer is nun. Nun more black.

A Sub-Trope 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. Contrast Widow's Weeds


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    Anime & Manga 

    Comic Books 
  • X-Men adversary Selene plays this dead straight. Longtime X-Man Storm? Not so much.
  • Madame Hydra from Captain America (with a green tint to it).
  • Batman has the modern incarnation of Catwoman, following her traditional green-and-purple look.
  • Winnowill in ElfQuest almost always wears black, and her personality fits nicely into this trope. Attractive, but you'd be better off courting a scorpion.
  • Raven from Teen Titans, although it was initially rendered as blue, and sometimes white.
  • Ava Lord in Sin City.
  • Death of the Endless in the Sandman series openly subverts this.
  • Mary Marvel during Countdown to Final Crisis, after she becomes an Evil Magical Girl via acquiring Black Adam's powers.

    Films — Animated 
  • In TMNT, new Foot Clan leader Karai is garbed entirely in black, save for her mask.

    Films — Live-Action 

  • 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 Phèdre'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 an Action Girl 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.
  • Angel:
    • 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.
  • Game of Thrones. In season 4 of Sansa becomes Littlefingers Bastard Understudy, and dons a black dress in an Evil Costume Switch. In the following season, Ellaria Sand wears black mourning clothes, which also befits her Adaptational Villainy as a War Hawk.
  • 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.
  • Beyond The Walls has Rose, who dresses in a lovely, all-black victorian dress. She is very old and has the uncanny habit of just standing straight and staring at you. Rose is courteous, but it is clear from her very first appearance that she is bad news, and indeed she turns out to be the most effective trick the House plays on Lisa.

  • 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
  • The aptly named Hidden Track from Perturbator's "I am The Night" "Girl In A Black Dress". Combines this tropes with Sexophone and gives the impression of you're either having a wet dream, or a really romantic scene with a girl with black dress.

    Newspaper Comic Strips 

    Tabletop Games 
  • In Dungeons & Dragons, some Suel deities such as Wee Jas or Shar apply. Many she-devils and demonesses also wear all black garments.
  • One of "Lorwyn Five" of protagonists for Magic: The Gathering is Liliana Vess. She represents black magic—the magic of necromancy and self-interest, gained her power by dealing with demons, and wears nothing but black. As a bonus, her name is an anagram for "a villainess."

    Theme Parks 

    Video Games 


    Web Original 
  • 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.

    Western Animation