Michael Keaton as Betelgeuse, boorish “bio-exorcist”
Connecticut, Summer 1987
Release Date: March 30, 1988
Director: Tim Burton
Costume Designer: Aggie Guerard Rodgers
As delightfully and unapologetically weird as its director, Beetlejuice was Tim Burton’s follow-up to his directorial debut, Pee-wee’s Big Adventure. The darkly comic story about a recently deceased couple summoning an unprincipled poltergeist was developed by Michael McDowell, Warren Skaaren, and Larry Wilson, with Burton channeling the cheap B-movies of decades past in his interpretation that balanced humor and horror.
In less than a decade of screen roles, Michael Keaton had already established a range of versatility between zany comedy (Night Shift) and thoughtful drama (Clean and Sober) before he took on the outlandish quasi-title role as the uh, well, Julliard-trained Betelgeuse.
What’d He Wear?
Betelgeuse goes through several costume changes—sometimes in the blink of an eye—though he may be most associated with the ratty duo-toned striped suit for his grand appearance during the film’s climax, following his being hesitantly summoned by Lydia Deetz (Winona Ryder).
Thanks to the bold black-and-white awning stripes, there’s little mistaking Betelgeuse’s suit for anything that would be worn by a gent of good—or even questionable—taste, but it has become one of the most popular Halloween costumes in the decades since Beetlejuice was released… and also popularized as a meme thanks to the ripoff “Juice Demon” costume.
Betelgeuse may have lived through the Black Death “and had a pretty good time during that,” but his fashion sense is surprisingly en vogue with some ’80s-specific trends present like the dropped gorges on his boxy jacket’s notch lapels. The ventless, single-button jacket has no breast pockets, and the set-in hip pockets alternate between Betelgeuse wearing them with the flaps tucked in or out. The sleeves are bumped at the shoulders, and the cuffs left plain with no vents or buttons… all the better for unfurling them when he makes his carnivalistic entrance in the Deetz family foyer.
With such garish suiting, wearers would have presumably little concern for clashing but Betelgeuse sticks to the black-and-white color palette with a plain—albeit stained—white cotton shirt and a black tie with a strip of lights down the center that brighten when he presents himself to the Deetzs.
The shirt has a front placket and narrow point collar worn unbuttoned at the neck. As we see when Betelgeuse pulls his mangled comb from the shirt’s breast pocket, the shirt appears to be sleeveless, though perhaps worn over a short-sleeved T-shirt.
Betelgeuse’s self-suspended flat front trousers match his suit, with plain-hemmed bottoms that he tucks into the tops of his boots. Apropos his aggressive nature and lack of regard for sartorial decorum, he wears black leather lace-up combat boots with a cap-toe box and black laces up the shaft. As seen in some set photography where the trouser bottoms are pulling outside the boot tops, he appears to be wearing white crew socks.
Betelgeuse wears a chaotic trio of rusty watches on his left wrist, each in varying styles, sizes, and states of disrepair, as well as a turquoise-filled silver bangle-type bracelet.
He also wears a large gold ring on his left index finger, similar to a class ring with a large ovular blood-red stone.
How to Get the Look
If you’re looking to avoid costumes of the “Juice Demon” variety, the Rubie’s Beetlejuice Deluxe looks like your best bet. Just don’t wear it for a job interview… your 167th viewing of The Exorcist, however? More acceptable.
- Black-and-white awning-striped suit
- Single-button jacket with low-gorge notch lapels, straight set-in hip pockets, plain cuffs, and ventless back
- Flat front trousers with plain-hemmed bottoms
- White cotton sleeveless shirt with point collar, front placket, and breast pocket
- Black tie with lighted dots down the center
- Black leather 7-eyelet cap-toe combat boots
- White crew socks
- Gold class-style ring with red oval stone
- Rusted retro wristwatches
If you think there’s a place for bold black-and-white striped tailoring in the real world, just remember that Robin Thicke thought the same thing before the 2013 VMAs… though it was hardly the only inadvisable decision made that night.
Do Yourself a Favor and…
Check out the movie.
Go ahead, make my millennium.