Impossibly Tacky Clothes

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
'"But the guests will mistake me for a present!" she cried.'
"I'm a snow beast!"
Toula's reaction to her wedding dress, My Big Fat Greek Wedding

Some people like fancy, detailed clothing, but it's not always easy to make such clothes look good. This trope is when it's clear In-Universe that the clothing tried to be fancy, but ended up a mess.

It could be that the character/dressmaker/culture has no taste. Or that the outfit was really rushed and this is the unfortunate result. Or the writer/designer is making a point about fashion trends. This last may involve caricatures of Real Life outfits.

Often occurs with bridesmaids' dresses in sitcoms - they're ugly but the bride thinks they're beautiful or the bride knows that they're ugly, and picks them so that she looks better by comparison.

This is not when the viewer thinks an outfit is bad. That's WTH Costuming Department. This trope is when the writer/designer deliberately states that a costume is bad, either in direct narrative voice or via the reactions of the characters in the story.

Can overlap with Rummage Sale Reject, Rainbow Pimp Gear, I Was Quite a Fashion Victim, Uncanny Valley Makeup, Homemade Sweater From Hell, Lounge Lizard, Disco Dan, Pimped-Out Dress, Fairytale Wedding Dress (the latter two when overdone).

Compare Scenery Gorn, Fashion Dissonance.

Contrast Costume Porn, Impossibly Cool Clothes.

In-Universe Examples Only.

Examples of Impossibly Tacky Clothes include:

Fan Works

  • In the Harry Potter fanfic White Knight, Grey Queen by "Jeconais", Pansy Parkinson admits that she chose her outfit for the Yule Ball in year four specifically for its excessive tackiness, in a bid to keep Draco Malfoy at arm's length or farther.


  • Some of the dresses in 27 Dresses are considered this.
  • The costume department of 2011 movie Killing Bono clearly went to town in showcasing the absolute worst fashions of The Eighties.
  • In 101 Dalmatians, particularly the live-action adaptation and its sequel starring Glenn Close, Cruella's outfits are monstrously over-the-top and shock anyone who sees them - but nobody is brave enough to confront her about it. Cruella is in search of the "perfect" fur coat, and is convinced that it must be made from the skins of the titular dalmatian puppies.
  • Stanley Ipkiss' pajamas in The Mask - one even inspires Lt. Kellaway to use Bat Deduction to conclude he is the title character.

Stanley: This is... impossible!
Kellaway: Those pajamas are impossible. This actually happened!

  • My Big Fat Greek Wedding along with the wedding dress that inspired the page quote, has hideous bridesmaids dresses that her cousin Nikki picked out. While the rest of her family coos in awe, Toula's response is a horrified gasp.


  • Discworld:
    • Cheery Littlebottom embraces that she is a female, against Dwarven traditions of looking gender neutral. In The Fifth Elephant she and other dwarves like her make some dresses to show off their newfound femininity, but their dresses look silly. Others are too polite to point it out.
    • At the end of one novel, Cheery admits that that one green dress does make her look like a big cabbage.
    • Happens in the Discworld novel Pyramids. Ambassadors to the Djelibeybi court have tried to look their best, but because many items of clothing from Djelibeybi's seven-thousand year history are sometimes employed only in very specific circumstances, they end up looking like utter fools. The effect is described thusly:

"If a foreign ambassador to the Court of St James wore (out of a genuine desire to flatter) a bowler hat, a claymore, a Civil War breastplate, Saxon trousers and a Jacobean haircut, he'd create pretty much the same impression."

  • In To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis, all of Tossie's over-designed dresses tend towards this, at least in the eyes of the time-traveling protagonists, who are pretty put off by most Victorian design. But especially Tossie's dresses. Girl loves ruffles.
  • Near the end of Barrayar, Miss Droushnakovi had in mind a lacy wedding dress, but - fortunately, as it turned out - Lady Alys Vorpatril took an interest in her case and averted this trope.

"No, no, no!" she cried, recoiling. "All that lace--you would look as furry as a big white bear. Silk, dear, long falls of silk is what you need--"

    • Taura's civilian wardrobe also tended to this, which was why Miles had her consult his Aunt Alys when she arrived for his wedding. Alys' first stop in giving the bioengineered supersoldier a makeover was to have her previous wardrobe burned.
  • Hepzibah Smith in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince wears a large pink dress to impress Tom Riddle that makes her look like a "melting iced cake".
  • In the Louisa May Alcott novel Eight Cousins, the Naive Everygirl Rose showcases a very "fashionable" outfit. As it's a book, much is left to the imagination, but the narrator and characters comment on how overdone and awful it looks on her, except for the slave-to-fashion aunt who put her in it in the first place. Rose's uncle even lambasts the aunt on how unhealthy it is (then again, whalebone corsets? he has a point.) This is a case of Writer on Board, as Alcott has Rose showcase a much more modest and simple outfit to emphasize the simple, modest young lady she is (and that all her readers should strive to be).
  • Early in Duty Calls, Cain is attacked by followers of Slaanesh, one of whom wears a jacket so hideous that Cain claims wearing it is a capital offense. He refers to the man thereafter as "Vile Jacket".
    • And in another instance, one wearing clothing so hideous even a Slaaneshi cultist would look down on.
  • Zaphod Beeblebrox was voted "Worst-Dressed Sentient Being in the Known Universe" seven times.
  • In the Wild Cards series, Dr. Tachyon is frequently described as dressing like this whenever he has the opportunity to dress himself. Canary yellow, emerald green, royal purple, cardinal red, and sky blue can all make an appearance in the same outfit. Apparently, this is considered a normal Takisian wardrobe, but since he's living on Earth, almost every human who looks at him comments on how ridiculous he looks. It's compounded by his metallic-red hair.
  • In Alexandre Dumas's novel The Forty Five Guardsmen we are informed that they have no uniform and, since they are just arrived to Paris, they are provided with money to buy new clothes, the results were a motley assortment of styles and decorations, "generally in bad taste"

Live-Action TV

  • Mimi on The Drew Carey Show regularly dressed in outlandish clothes and overdone makeup, which of course got a number of jokes from Drew and his friends (although Mimi would have her own jokes to snap back with).
  • Friends did an episode that touched on these bridesmaid dresses. Rachel said she looked like something you drink when you're nauseous, and Chandler called her "Princess Bubble Yum."
  • Frasier had one episode when Roz mentioned she hated those kinds of bridesmaid dresses. Subverted when Frasier takes control of the wedding and chooses tasteful dresses for the bridesmaids, at which point Roz agrees to be Daphne's bridesmaid. Double Subverted when, after Roz has agreed, she convinces Daphne to take control of her own wedding, and Daphne says the first thing she'll change is the bridesmaid dresses: "They don't even have poofy sleeves!"
    • In another, she shows Frasier the dress she was supposed to wear for a wedding back in Wisconsin. After the typical cringing, Roz mentions that they're supposed to be awful "so the bride will glow." She then adds that "and standing next to this, she'll light up like a bug zapper."
  • The Puffy Shirt in Seinfeld. "I don't wanna be a pirate!"
  • Several contestants fell prey to this on Whose Line Is It Anyway?:
    • Colin Mochrie is especially remembered for his insanely tacky shirts. During one episode, his shirt was so eye-seeringly horrible he was dubbed "Tacky Shirt Man" during the opening Superheroes game, turning it into a Running Gag for the rest of the show. The shirts were chosen by the show's wardrobe department, not by him.
    • Ryan Stiles' custom-made shoes were also frequent targets, including a pair in leopard print, a pair in bright blue, and an impressive black-and-white pair with flames on the sides.
  • Poor Buffy and Willow. Anya's bridesmaid's dresses got called this.

Spike: It's nice to watch you be happy. For them, even. I don't see it a lot. You glow.
Buffy: That's because the dress is radioactive.

  • Benny Hill did a skit in which he was wearing a impossible tacky suit and he's strutting around,then they show a scarecrow wearing the same suit.
  • While the outfit worn by Six in Doctor Who was the subject of much fan derision, it actually got an In-Universe nod in "Big Finish Doctor Who", when Banto calls on how ridiculous The Doctor looks in it.
    • Also referenced in Short Trips and Side Steps, with the mind-manipulating Javaman stating flatly that there are only a handful of beings in the known universe to dress as tastelessly.
  • Paul Merton frequently wears these on Have I Got News for You (the rest of the time he wears a Fun T-Shirt). Once lampshaded when Paul wore a bright pink shirt with a yellow-gold dragon design on one shoulder.

Ian: I say, Paul, I think someone's thrown up on your shoulder.
Paul turns to the plain shoulder and brushes away an imaginary piece of lint.
Paul: Thanks Ian, I wouldn't have noticed otherwise!

    • Angus Deayton went in for this back when he hosted the show too. Most notorious was his bright brown suit...
  • In Entourage, Vince almost dismisses Aquaman because of the first costume design.
  • In a "Non-Denominational Holiday" episode of X-Play, Adam dissed the antlers he wore, while Morgan dissed his sweater.

Recorded and Stand-Up Comedy

  • In The Comedians of Comedy, Patton Oswalt talks about how he hates stand-up comics who start their bits by making fun of the clothes they're wearing. Not only does it require them to wear stupid clothes to every single gig, but it doesn't make any sense. Did someone forcibly dress them moments before they got onstage?
  • Robin Williams talked about these when discussing golf in his "Live on Broadway" special:

Robin: Where you can dress like a pimp, and no one will care! Where you can wear clothes that would make a blind gay man go, "Oh, dear Christ! That is loud! This isn't Carnivale; what the fuck are you people on?!"

Video Games

  • Brayko's clothing in Alpha Protocol. Thorton will repeatedly mock him about this depending on your conversation choices. This gets Brayko to like you.
  • Benny's checkered suit in Fallout: New Vegas. Once the Courier kills him, several NPCs will comment on how tacky the suit was.

Web Comics

You put on a few of your more ostentatious devices. Luckily (or unfortunately) you grew up alone, so there was never anyone around to point out how ridiculous you look.

Web Original

  • Jericho of the Whateley Universe wears clothes so horrifically glaring and mismatched that people tend not to notice that he's hanging with one mutant who's mostly velociraptor and one mutant who's mostly anaconda.
  • In a Doug Walker video, "Reverend Nutjob", he asked God to heal one guy's fashion sense (he was wearing a light yellow suit).
  • In the Regular Show Christmas Special Santa tells Benson

you should have tossed [your christmas sweater] into the lava pit.

Western Animation

  • One of the outfits Kim Possible tries after her regular mission duds are ruined is a mecha-style suit built by the Tweebs. The sight of it reduces Drakken and Shego to fits of hysterical laughter.
  • The My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic episode "Suited for Success" had Rarity, the local fashion designer, make dresses for her friends. Her first dresses were fine but her friends couldn't see it, and gave her strict directions for a second go. She finishes up the garish designs just in time for a fashion show for a world-famous designer.

Hoity Toity: Who is responsible for subjecting our eyes to such horrors?! Not to mention, wasting my valuable time!