Lessons in Strength and Style From The Witches of Eastwick

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The Witches of Eastwick, 1987(Film still)

This Halloween we take a masterclass in dress, decor and desire from Cher, Susan Sarandon and Michelle Pfeiffer – cinema’s most fabulous occult trio

Of all cinema’s great casting combinations, it’s hard to find one more fabulous than Cher, Susan Sarandon and Michelle Pfeiffer in George Miller’s cult classic The Witches of Eastwick (1987). It is the tale of three disillusioned women in the small town of Eastwick, Massachusetts, who meet up each Thursday evening to engage in various craft activities, quaff cocktails and talk about men. All three are single: Cher as ceramicist Alex is a widow; Sarandon as music teacher Jane is a recent divorcee, who is seemingly unable to bear children; Pfeiffer as journalist Sukie, meanwhile, has six young daughters – a fact which apparently sent her husband running.

One wet and windy Thursday, while discussing their fantasies over multiple Martinis, the trio unwittingly conjure up their dream man, who arrives in town the very next day in the form of Daryl Van Horne, a diabolically gifted womaniser, whose money and charm appear to know no bounds. With Van Horne – played to perfection by a paunchy, ponytailed Jack Nicholson – the women find themselves living a hedonistic life of luxury, but things soon spiral out of control when they wise up to their beau’s devilish intentions, and their newfound liberation and occult powers are dramatically put to the test. Not only a gleeful fable of female empowerment, the film is also a visual delight, boasting killer costumes to signify the friends’ transformation into women of leisure (and pleasure), as well as many a lesson in decor and desire. This Halloween, we present our top five takeaways from the inimitable movie.

1. Let your hair reflect your mood…

Perms have never looked as good as they do in The Witches of Eastwick, where they represent a shedding of inhibitions; a literal manifestation of letting one’s hair down. Alex was always the most laid back of our three heroines, sporting naturally curly hair right from the start, thus after her reluctant yielding to Van Horne’s charms, the extra buoyancy that lifts her locks isn’t as easy to spot. But when Jane gets her electrifying cello lesson from the lustful lothario, her tightly bound plait is soon replaced by an abundance of bright red ringlets – an unequivocal expression of her sexual awakening. Sukie undergoes a similar, if slightly less dramatic, hair transformation after her dalliance with Daryl, her tousled tresses bursting into bountiful curls.

2. Tennis should be played in polka dots

Similarly, the women’s choices of clothing pre- and post-Daryl reflect their inner-metamorphosis. And again, it is Jane whose look is most radically changed – undoubtedly for the better. When Sukie and a dungaree-decked Alex arrive at the Van Horne mansion for lunch, they are startled to find Jane already there, her uber-conservative school teacher attire ditched in favour of a bum-skimming, strapless mini dress in black lycra, punctuated by white dots. Her red curls frame her exalted face, her large spectacles swapped for chic sunglasses. “Sukie! Alexandra!” she exclaims, reclining on a deckchair, cocktail in hand, “are you here to fix the plumbing?” Her friends suitably riled, the trio partake in a doubles tennis match, at Van Horne’s behest, where Jane demonstrates the indisputable prowess of polka dots on the court, especially when accompanied by a white visor. Not even slow-motion tennis balls can detract from her scene-stealing combo.

3. Harness the power of pink decor

Van Horne may be the devil in disguise, but that doesn’t mean he lacks appreciation for a well-placed pink highlight in his interior design scheme. From the pink silk canopy that shades his elegant outdoor dining area, with bunches of fuchsia anthuriums and pink-cushioned chairs to match; to the peachy sateen quilt that covers his elaborately gilded kingsized bed; to the vast quantity of pale pink balloons with which he decorates his hall to entertain his beguilingly ball-gowned (or in Sukie’s case, monochrome pyjama-ed) guests, there’s much to be gleaned from Daryl’s decorative devotion to the rosy hue.

4. Revenge is a dish best served in black

When the three women become aware of Van Horne’s murderous capabilities, they dream up a plan to regain control over their bodies and minds. First, they don their most amazing all-black ensembles, arriving at the mansion in a complementary vintage Mercedes – Alex in a revealing crop top and skin tight, cut-out skirt; Jane in a strapless, close-fitting LBD and Sukie in a black dress and tailored black jacket, complete with sizeable shoulder pads. Later the witches strip off into lace and satin undergarments and sprawl themselves across Van Horne’s bed in their final act of seduction, but it is in the darkest shade that they prove their most spellbinding, and potent. Soon Van Horne will find himself writhing all over the ice-cream shop in a delicious dose of his own medicine.

5. Never let a man come between you and your bffs

Jealousies in love can threaten even the most indelible of bonds, and our protagonists almost forgo their friendship in their bid for Van Horne’s affection. But these three are at their strongest when they’re working together, as their ability to make things happen when wishing collectively attests – be it a torrential downpour to put an end to a boring speech or the capacity to make someone violently vomit cherries. They also look their most radiant when in each other’s company. Case in point: when they blow a synchronised kiss to an unsuspecting Daryl from an upstairs window, wearing pyjamas and silk dressing gowns, their hair all a frizz, faces glowing and triumphant as he ventures towards his doom.