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How costume design links the ‘Fantastic Beasts’ villains to the Salem witch trials
Is it just us, or did Mary Lou and Credence Barebone look kind of… puritanical?
There’s Queenie Goldstein and her trendy 1920s wardrobe, contrasting with her sister Tina’s sensible urban camouflage. There’s the dorky Englishman Newt Scamander with his tweedy suit and slightly-too-short pants. And then there’s Mary Lou Barebone (Samantha Morton) and her group of anti-magic extremists, the New Salemers.
There’s less difference between wizarding and no-maj fashion in Fantastic Beasts than in Harry Potter, perhaps because American wizards are so concerned about being discovered. Most of the film’s magical characters could pass for muggles, but there’s still plenty of variety and character in everyone’s costumes. Mary Lou Barebone and her children have a particularly distinctive look without looking too out-of-place in 1920s New York.
With their scrubbed-clean faces and subdued, grey-toned clothes, the New Salemers look very… puritanical. Costume designer Colleen Atwood didn’t go as far as dressing Samantha Morton like the mother in Carrie, but there’s a definite similarity between the modest caps worn by the Barebone girls and the bonnets you’ll see in productions of The Crucible, our most famous depiction of the Salem witch trials. Even Mary Lou’s perfectly normal 1920s cloche hat looks a little bonnet-y.
The Crucible (1996)
While Credence’s hat is similar to the homburgs and fedoras worn by other men in the movie, it stands out due to its stark rigidity. The rest of his costume also looks oddly old-fashioned compared to the suits worn by characters like Jacob and Newt, emphasizing Credence’s role as an outcast, and implying that he’s probably wearing secondhand clothes.
Fantastic Beasts doesn’t really explore the New Salemers religious affiliation, but their costumes and styling tie into their puritan inspiration. Conservative, old-fashioned, and modest, their appearance helps to illustrate the repressive environment created by Mary Lou Barebone.
Gavia Baker-Whitelaw is a staff writer at the Daily Dot, covering geek culture and fandom. Specializing in sci-fi movies and superheroes, she also appears as a film and TV critic on BBC radio. Elsewhere, she co-hosts the pop culture podcast Overinvested.