Clothing can be functional or ornamental. It can be distinctive, dramatic, or symbolic.
It can also kill you.
Killer Outfit is when a character dies as a direct result of the clothing they wear. Note that the clothing must be directly responsible (if an inanimate object can be described as responsible) for the death. If Bob is shot because he's disguised as one of the Big Bad's henchmen, that would be Mistaken Identity. If Bob dons the disguise, catches the hem of his longcoat in his spurs, and breaks his neck in the resulting fall, that's Killer Outfit.
Cape Snag is a specific subtrope. Any examples with capes/cloaks should go on that page, not this one.
Compare Fashion Hurts and Clothing Combat. Depending on the situation, the wearer might avoid death by Giving Them the Strip. This trope can overlap with Hoist by His Own Petard if the clothing was intended to protect the wearer.
This is a death trope — expect spoilers!
- In the first episode of Noir, Kirika grabs a mook's tie and snaps his neck with it.
- One Batman story from The Golden Age of Comic Books had Batman pursuing four escaped killers, sentenced to die by different means of execution in different states. Each dies in a way that mirrors the way they were due to be executed. The one sentenced to hang dies when his tie gets caught in a generator.
- Judge Dredd: PJ Maybe's parents killed themselves during Necropolis with special pants that sort of serve the same function as a Cyanide Pill—coat them with water and they release a poison that kills the wearer. He then tricks a neighborhood boy into wearing them so he can take his place.
- The EC Comics story "Death Suited Him!" (Tales From the Crypt #22, Feb/March 1951) uses the urban legend about embalming fluid in a suit taken from a corpse (and worn by his murderer, so very much a Karmic Death).
- In the movie Happy Birthday to Me, Etienne is killed when the killer feeds his long scarf into the running rear wheel of the dirt bike he is working on, strangling him.
- In Law Abiding Citizen, one of the characters mentioned that Clyde Shelton can kill anyone he wants, any time he wants. The example he uses is how Clyde managed to kill some terrorist hiding in a bunker, completely locked away from the word in a totally secure environment.
One time we're tasking this tricky target. I mean, we're using cruise missiles and predators and we even had a B-2 bomber flatten this guy's villa with a JDAM. All right? We're burning up millions in ordnance and we're getting nowhere with this guy. So we call Clyde and we ask him to solve our problem. Clyde develops a Kevlar thread with a high-tech ratchet made of carbon fiber put in a necktie. Two days later, Mrs. Bad Guy comes home, finds Mr. Bad Guy dead on the bathroom tile, choked to death.
- Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. While fighting Indiana Jones, the Giant Mook's sash is caught in the rock crusher and he's pulled to his doom.
- Deep Red has this with jewelry rather than with clothes: the murderer is killed when her necklace gets stuck in a moving elevator, which beheads them.
- The obscure 1973 movie Arnold has Roddy McDowall's character killed by a suit that shrinks and strangles him (and possibly dismembers him, though we don't see that). An odd little fansite for the film has some stills of the death scene in question.
- As part of the Trauma Conga Line in the "Mondo Condo" segment of Amazon Women on the Moon, Arsenio Hall is almost strangled when his tie gets caught in the garbage disposal.
- Averted (so far) and lampshaded by Victarion Greyjoy in A Song of Ice and Fire. He is fully aware that fighting sea battles in full plate is Tempting Fate but finds nothing unreasonable about it. After all, he is a faithful of the sea god (the baptism of his religion is getting drowned unconscious and then resuscitated) and he would be no true warrior if he feared going under. So far his plate has served him better than the lighter garments did to his enemies.
- Medea killed her ex-husband new wife this way: she sent her a poisoned dress who caught on fire when she wore it. The dress is so murderous, it killed two people: the poor wearer and the wearer's father, who tried to suffocate the flames and got engulfed in them instead.
- In The Dresden Files, Nicodemus wears the Iscariot's Noose like a necktie. The Noose's power makes Nicodemus Nigh Invulnerable against everything... except the Noose itself. Harry nearly manages to strangle him to death with it. Nicodemus has a healthy respect and/or fear of Harry Dresden from that point forward.
- In Tim Dorsey's first novel, Florida Roadkill, a man is murdered by fashion. His girlfriend drugs him, slips a pair of tight jeans onto him, and then carefully soaks and dries out the pants until the fabric shrinks to the point where it cuts off all blood circulation below his waist.
- Matthew Hawkwood: Combined with Death by Materialism in Rapscallion. Hawkwood tells Morgan that he will let him escape, provided he can swim for it. Hawkwood then shoves him off the side of the ship; knowing full well that he is wearing a waistcoat with a fortune in gold sovereigns sewn into the lining. Morgan sinks like a stone.
- Mentioned in The Elenium as the reason why the Genidian Knights wear chainmail instead of the other orders' traditional platemail: a previous precentor tried to order them to align with the other orders. Thalesia has a lot of rivers, so the majority of the order refused, as platemail is a bit hard to remove when you're drowning. The precentor, in his platemail, and another knight in chainmail were dumped into a river. The latter shucked off the chainmail and swam to the surface. The former... didn't. They then elected their current precentor, who was smart enough not to suggest something so foolish.
- Young Sherlock Holmes: In Red Leech, Grivens is killed while fighting Sherlock in the engine room of a steamship. His coat snags on the cams of a gear and his dragged into the workings where he is Ground by Gears.
- This trope and an urban legend based on it was used in an episode of CSI: NY. The first victim was a bride on her wedding day. It turned out that she had bought her wedding gown used, and it was severely contaminated with formaldehyde. (The gown's original owner had been buried in it, and then dug up so the the gown could be stolen for resale.)
- In Criminal Minds, the modus operandi of the UnSub in one episode was to sew his victims into nicotine-laced dresses and wait for them to die.
- In one episode of NewsRadio, the action revolves around a person who had just died from having a tie snagged in a copier.
- In one episode of Monk, a woman got strangled in an elevator, when her scarf got caught in the closing door ...supposedly. She was strangled in the elevator before, and the accomplice of the murderer appeared as her double.
- In "Mr. Monk Meets His Dad", Ben Glaser starts to cut Kenneth Woods' tie loose when it gets caught in a running semi engine, then stops. (The two were co-owners of the same trucking company, and had just found evidence that Ben was defrauding the company by buying used parts and pocketing the difference.) Ben ultimately kicks Kenneth's feet out from under him, just to be on the safe side.
- Zig-Zagged in Canada's Worst Driver (and presumably the other series) when it comes to shoes: Several drivers have played it straight with high-heeled shoes, they're taught to avert it, and some drivers have defied it when they say (correctly) that wearing high-heels robs them of their pedal control. In fact, in Season Eight, Cam Wooley explained that if wedge-shaped shoes are considered a contributing factor in an accident, the driver can be charged for that.
- On Orphan Black, Aynsley is strangled when her scarf catches in a garbage disposal.
- The Twilight Zone (1959): The episode "What You Need" has it twice. The little man has a case that gives a person what they will need in the near future, and his ability is proven when he gives a gambler a pair of scissors, which narrowly averts this trope when his scarf gets caught in an elevator. Played deadly straight later when said gambler tries to kill the peddler, only to be tripped up by the new pair of shoes the peddler gives him, which leaves him to be killed by a speeding car. The shoes, you see, were what the peddler needed to escape.
- In General And I, Bai Ping Ting attempts to kill Chu Bei Jie by soaking one of his outfits in poison.
- Putting this solidly into Older Than Feudalism, we have the death of Heracles. After the centaur Nessus tried to kidnap Deianira, he survived long enough to assure Deianira that if Heracles' attention ever wandered, Nessus' blood would act as a love charm. Different myths differ on whether he gave Deianira his bloodstained tunic, or if he told her to save his blood and put it on one of Heracles' tunics. The end result is the same in both versions: because Nessus' blood was poisoned by the still-potent hydra blood that Heracles had used on his arrows, Heracles died an agonizing death upon putting the tunic on.
- Many if not all fantasy role-playing games include "cursed" armor/clothing that can be this, but one of the purer examples (in that it's an item that has no reason for existing other than to screw with the players) is the Cloak of Poisonousness (despite the name, any item of clothing could potentially bear the enchantment), from Dungeons & Dragons. In a nod to the Heracles myth, the description of the item in the first edition rulebook noted that DMs could, at their option, have such a cloak bear a small label reading "Nessus Shirt Company" that would only become visible after the cloak killed somebody.
- Flagrante of Gaia Online died because a sequin from one of his suits broke off into his bloodstream, leading to sepsis.
- Dancer Isadora Duncan died when her long silk scarf caught in the rear wheel and axle of the car she was riding in, breaking her neck.
- Several Darwin Award have been won with the help of Killer Outfits.
- One burglar, while trying to break into a store via a window in the roof, caught his sweater and accidentally hanged himself.
- Two Darwin Award winners killed themselves by wearing ridiculously high heels - one by trying to drive a car in them, the other simply by falling over and smashing her skull on the pavement.
- Cracked featured an article on various fashion trends throughout history that have killed people.
- This is why auto mechanics NEVER wear a necktie at work. Many of them will also call their office-bound boss's tie a noose.
- Office machine repairmen often don't wear ties (or wear clip-ons) from concern that it could catch in the machine they're working on.
- In Canada, police and security guards, if their uniforms include ties, are legally required to wear clip-ons specifically to avert this trope.
- A belly dancer accidentally hung herself after throwing her scarf into the air, and getting caught on a ceiling fan.
- At least one lady was killed thanks to her lovely green dress, dyed with arsenic.
- According to some fan sites, this trope was averted with the Fourth Doctor's trademark scarf. The original scarf wrapped snugly around Tom Baker's neck. The switch to a loosely-wrapped scarf supposedly happened after the original scarf snagged on a set piece and almost choked Baker.
- Yermak Timofeyevich, the Russian Cossack explorer and military leader, drowned in a river because of his heavy plated mail armor (a special gift from the tsar for conquering Western Siberia).