Dracula A.D. 1972: Peter Cushing’s Vampire-Killing Suede
Peter Cushing as Professor Lorrimer Van Helsing, occult researcher and descendant of the famous vampire hunter
London, Fall 1972… A.D. 1972, that is
Film: Dracula A.D. 1972
Release Date: September 28, 1972
Director: Alan Gibson
Wardrobe Supervisor: Rosemary Burrows
Happy Halloween! Today’s post takes us back fifty years to 1972—A.D. 1972, to be exact—when Hammer Film Productions reunited Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing as the debonair vampire Count Dracula and his nemesis Van Helsing, respectively, for the first time since Dracula (1958), a.k.a. Horror of Dracula.
I was first made aware of Dracula A.D. 1972 by BAMF Style reader Alan, who had suggested Cushing’s wardrobe that remained timelessly tasteful despite the film’s setting at the dawn of the disco era. Cushing stars as Lorrimer Van Helsing, descended from the famous doctor who had slain Count Dracula during the Victorian era. A century later, Lorrimer’s granddaughter Jessica (Stephanie Beacham) joined her hippie pals for a bloody ritual that sacrificed her friend Laura (future Bond girl Caroline Munro) to resurrect the infamous vampire. Darn hippies!
Dracula gradually converts Jessica’s friends to vampires, seemingly saving her for last to complete his revenge against the Van Helsing family, leaving the self-described “crackpot” Lorrimer to save his granddaughter and finally—and funkily—defeat Dracula.
What’d He Wear?
Van Helsing dresses for his climactic confrontation in earthy layers that, while contemporary to the early 1970s, could double as a costume for the story’s original Victorian setting. He appropriately wears a hunting jacket, albeit one of elevated elegance with its olive-brown suede shell. Like a traditional oxford shirt, the long-pointed collar buttons down at the ends though Van Helsing wears the buttons undone. Five buttons fasten up from the natural waist to the neck, with buttons to close the pointed cuffs at the end of each set-in sleeve. Van Helsing foregoes wearing any of these buttons fastened as well as the buttons that would close the four flapped pockets. The jacket also has long side vents.
Van Helsing wears an ecru shirt with a long point collar, indicative of the era, and squared button cuffs. The front placket features narrowly spaced stitching flanking the buttonholes, suggestive of London shirtmaker Frank Foster, of whom Peter Cushing—like so many of his talented contemporaries—was a customer.
Within the open neck of the shirt, Van Helsing wears a day cravat in navy and burgundy paisley silk, adding a rakishly romantic dash of color to his kit.
Under his brown suede jacket, Van Helsing wears… a brown suede waistcoat! Also known as a vest (here in the U.S., at least), the waistcoat has six marbled shank buttons and two hip-level pockets. Van Helsing keeps his gold pocket watch in the left pocket, with a gold “single Albert”-style chain hooked through the third buttonhole with a hanging fob.
Van Helsing’s flat-front trousers are a more medium shade of taupe-brown, tonally harmonious with enough contrast to differ from the darker olive-tinted jacket and waistcoat. The trousers have side pockets and are finished with plain-hemmed bottoms.
There’s no rule that vampire-hunters need match their footwear to their jackets and vests, though Van Helsing’s brown suede ankle boots nicely complete his outfit. These simple plain-toe boots lack the laces of chukka boots or the elastic gussets of Chelsea boots, instead seemingly equipped with narrow gusseted strips along the side that expand to allow Cushing to slip his feet in. His chocolate-brown cotton lisle socks also match the ensemble’s palette.
It almost feels redundant to say so at this point, but Van Helsing’s gloves are also made of brown suede.
How to Get the Look
Though suede can be a vulnerable fabric that can require extensive treatment to keep in shape (as made famous by Jerry Seinfeld), its napped finish also suggests a romantic ruggedness that befits our vampire-hunting hero in his silk cravat. Van Helsing’s sartorial guidance seems to be “if it can be suede, wear suede,” reserving only his shirt, slacks, and socks to be different cloth.
- Olive-brown suede hunting jacket with long button-down collar, 5-button front, four pockets (with button-down flaps), pointed button cuffs, and double vents
- Ecru shirt with long point collar, front placket, and squared button cuffs
- Navy and burgundy paisley silk day cravat
- Olive-brown suede single-breasted waistcoat/vest with 6 marbled shank buttons and hip pockets
- Taupe-brown flat-front trousers with side pockets and plain-hemmed bottoms
- Brown suede slip-on ankle boots
- Chocolate-brown cotton lisle socks
- Gold pocket watch on gold “single Albert” chain
- Brown suede gloves
Do Yourself a Favor and…
Check out the movie.
This is my favorite of his Dracula AD 1972 outfits. Deeply impractical, but with a low-key swagger to it. If the red flannel vest/dark suit/dark overcoat combo from earlier in the movie is a homage to Van Helsing’s outfit in the later scenes of Horror of Dracula (where he sports a red velvet vest, dark suit and fur-collared dark blue overcoat), this is perhaps a callback to the tweedier, more countrified side of the same character’s wardrobe, mostly seen in Brides of Dracula and more briefly in his first scene in Horror.