Welcome to the OCD costume analysis of the Joker’s costume from Tim Burton’s Batman!
This iconic costume, designed by Bob Ringwood, was a fabulous and memorable piece, still instantly-recognizable decades later.
Perhaps the most interesting characteristic of the Joker’s costume was its quintessentially Victorian inspiration: shirt and tie, high-waisted trousers (supported by suspenders), waistcoat, and tailcoat (also called a “dress coat”).
There’s something theatrical about a Victorian-era costume in mainstream entertainment, and Jack Nicholson’s Joker was, indeed, a very theatrical villain.
There’s also something about a Victorian-style costume that seems to lend itself to eccentric characters, perhaps with a touch of timelessness about them, so in my opinion, going Victorian with the Joker’s costume in Batman was a great artistic decision – especially considering the somewhat ambiguous time period during which the movie was set.
(This would also be the approach for the Penguin’s costume in the sequel, Batman Returns, and both of these villains in Batman: The Animated Series. However, Victorian-inspired costumes were largely abandoned for the remainder of the film franchise, and Nolan’s “reboot” movies.)
In addition to Nicholson’s brilliant performance (and Danny Elfman’s terrific music), the Joker’s costume was part of what made the villain so fun, and I’ve been delighted to study it and share my research with you here.
I’d like to thank Paul Wares for being kind enough to share some excellent museum display photos of the Joker’s costumes and allowing me to share them with you here.
One set of photos is from the BFI display, and the other is from the DC London Exhibition.
I’d also like to thank my Ko-Fi supporters for helping me be able to produce sewing/costuming resources like this analysis and share them online.
If you enjoy this costume analysis, please support my costume research on Ko-Fi. 🙂