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 of the early Action Comics issues, back in the days when it wasn't entirely Superman stories, had a short story of a criminal who tried this to break out of prison by clinging to the underside of a truck. A pendant he was wearing got caught in a moving part and strangled him.
- One 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.
- Another golden age story was about three outlaw brothers who all wore chainmail Bulletproof Vests. Two of them die as a result of the vests. One is knocked overboard and drowns when the vest drags him down, and the second is crushed when his vest is caught by the electromagnet in a scrapyard. (The third brother, who never wanted to a criminal, suffers Redemption Equals Death when he removes his vest and uses it to patch a broken power line so a surgeon can finish an operation, only to be shot by a vengeful gang member.)
- 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 Weird Western Tales #17, Jonah Hex shoves a Corrupt Hick Hanging Judge off a cliff. However, rather than falling to her death, she suffers a Karmic Death when her scarf snags on a tree sticking out of the cliff and snaps her neck.
- Wonder Woman (1942): It doesn't actually kill her, but after she and Steve Trevor led a successful Saturnian slave revolt the Saturnian slavers managed to poison Wonder Woman's boots while looking for revenge, which knocked her out and left her unconscious for at least a day.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- In Elizabeth, one of Elizabeth's ladies-in-waiting dies after she tries on a poisoned silk dress that was intended for the queen.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 he is dragged into the workings where he is Ground by Gears.
- 1000 Ways to Die:
- #55: Cardiac A-Breast: A horny woman shows off her brand-spanking new metal-lined bra at a party in the hopes of getting a date. Not a good idea when there's a lightning storm in the area...
- #143: Bad Laps: A former drill sergeant teaching swimming to plus-sized women cranks up the pool's temperature and promises to turn it back down if any of the students can outrace him. He succeeds in beating the students, but dies of hyperthermia due to his wetsuit trapping his body heat.
- #146: Belly'd Up: An aspiring belly dancer practicing for an upcoming contest gets her scarf caught on a ceiling fan and accidentally hangs herself.
- #147: Splat-Formed: We go back to that dangerous era known as the 1970s, where a coke dealer hits the disco and does some lines. He trips over his platform shoes and slices his jugular on a pointy end of his male symbol necklace, bleeding out quickly due to an accelerated heart rate from cocaine.
- #284: Hang Dunked: In the 1980s, a bullying basketball player pulls off a slam dunk and hangs from the rim for a moment, putting his head through the hoop to rub it in. He inadvertently hangs himself on the rim by his chunky, hip-hop necklace.
- #313: Rolled Death: A new bride has her head ripped off when her bridal veil snags in the wire wheels of the vintage open convertible she is riding in.
- #319: Domin-A-Dead: A virgin hires a dominatrix who makes him wear a latex suit and ball gag. The man discovers he has a latex allergy, but can't say anything due to the ball gag and the dominatrix thinks his groaning is from him enjoying it. He eventually succumbs to anaphylaxis.
- #328: Treadkilled: An overweight Peeping Tom spies on his good-looking neighbor while running on a treadmill. He accidentally cranks up the speed, falls, and gets his hoodie's drawstrings caught in the treadmill, choking him.
- #330: Paper or Spastic: A Jerkass grocery store shopper (suffering from "Little Emperor's Syndrome" as she was an only child in a Chinese family and was spoiled rotten) throws a tantrum when the clerk and manager tells her that they don't take checks for purchases. When they finally relent, the scarf she planned on shoplifting gets stuck in the checkout conveyor belt and strangles her.
- #331: Wet Dream: A coke fiend from The '80s celebrates New Year's 1986 by doing lines, dressing in drag, and having sex with several women. He awakes to find himself half-naked, smeared in make-up, and cuffed to a waterbed. In a panic, he punctures the waterbed with his stilettos. He drowns when he can't keep his head above water.
- #366: Strang-Girled: A cheating wife swipes her husband's neck massager for herself. The massager catches on her necklace and strangles her.
- #578: Corset Killed Him: An arrogant, vain ballroom dancer who gained weight from eating doughnuts uses a corset to make himself thin. He ends up tying the corset so tight that it breaks his ribs and punctures his heart.
- #606: Wet Dream: A man with a deep love of fish constructs a fish suit out of waterbed material. Excited, he puts it on as he runs to a lake to test it out. Unfortunately, excess heat builds up in his body since he couldn't sweat with the suit on, resulting in a fatal heat stroke.
- #612: Gone Green: A rich socialite named Sharon throws a St. Patrick's Day party and plans to show off the $3,000 antique green dress she shoplifted, which contains Paris Green dye (a poisonous dye containing a chemical called copper acetoarsenite, common in rat poison). During the raucous party, everyone gets drunk and hurls champagne all over Sharon and her dress. In the morning, while everyone wakes up with severe hangovers, Sharon wakes up to find that she's been dyed green, then vomits green slime, and finally dies of organ failure from the dye seeping into her skin.
- #614: Dead on Arrival: A drug runner (who eerily looks like Russell Brand) tries to sneak LSD through an airport by absorbing it into his tie-dyed shirt. His perspiration causes the acid to get absorbed into his system, enough to fry his brain, but not before rambling and making a scene at airport security.
- #726: Dough!!!: A pervert baker who's been sexually harassing a coworker challenges her to swallow a spoonful of cinnamon (the infamous "cinnamon challenge"): if she can do it, he'll stop harassing her, but if she can't, then she has to go on a date with him. She coughs it back up in his face, causing him to stumble towards a dough mixer. His tie gets caught in the machine, and his head is pulled into the mixer's blades and crushed.
- 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.
- 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.
- This trope and an urban legend based on it were 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 gown could be stolen for resale.) The episode ends with Mac interrupting another wedding to save the groom from suffering the same fate from his suit.
- In General And I, Bai Ping Ting attempts to kill Chu Bei Jie by soaking one of his outfits in poison.
- Chris narrowly averts this trope twice in The Goes Wrong Show:
- In "The Spirit of Christmas", during his solo number as Mr. Snowman, a spin move causes his scarf to be caught in a toy-making machine, which nearly consumes him. Fortunately, he slips out of his costume right before it's engulfed, leaving him in his underwear for the rest of the play.
- In "The Pilot (not the pilot)", his tie gets caught in the crank mechanism of the phone he's calling a warning into. His next line delivery ends up sounding constricted until Sandra could cut him free.
- Midsomer Murders: In "Till Death Do Us Part," the first Victim of the Week is murdered when the killer tightens the laces of her corset to the point where her chest cannot expand enough for her to breathe and she asphyxiates.
- 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.
- Mythbusters: The build team looked into the story of a person being killed when the jeans he (or she) is trying to shrink skin-tight cut off blood circulation. After six hours, Grant was showing no sign of impaired blood flow.
- In one episode of NewsRadio, the action revolves around a person who had just died from having a tie snagged in a copier.
- On Orphan Black, Aynsley is strangled when her scarf catches in a garbage disposal.
- Supernatural: In "My Heart Will Go On," Anne Witting is strangled to death by a scarf caught in a copy machine.
- 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.
- 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.
- Medea killed her ex-husband's 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.
- 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 Awards 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).