Can We Take a Moment to Appreciate Olivia’s Gowns in The Haunting of Hill House?


Emily Linstrom


Inspired by Shirley Jackson’s novel of the same name and released last month on Netflix, The Haunting of Hill House struck a chord that reverberated well beyond decaying things that go bump in the night. The series isn’t perfect; the frequently patchy dialogue, drama school audition monologues, and Henry Thomas’s distracting neon blue contacts ring dissonant in an otherwise flawless portrait of familial trauma, how it follows one into adulthood, making a home for itself in addiction, isolation, and protective narcissism.

Crain family matriarch Olivia, played by the beguiling Carla Gugino, is the embodiment of bohemian-earth-mother-meets-ethereal-diva.


Her spiral into possession — egged on by spectral flapper Poppy — is an achingly familiar metaphor for mental illness.


Moving through Hill House in an array of elegant dressing gowns, velvet robes, and vintage peignoirs (all henceforth referred to as ‘gowns’), Olivia and her trailing numbers left an iconic impression on this viewer, and I suspect many more.

I recently came across an intriguing fan theory that Olivia’s gowns are actually Poppy’s, donned in a darkly subtle nod to the house’s intensifying influence. In a recent interview with Refinery29, Hill House costume designer Lynn Falconer lent her own perspective: “If you were to line up their actual linear sequence, the robes signal what might be happening to Olivia until she perishes. She starts out in a super-rich teal velvet robe, mediates with the green printed robe, and dies in something very light and whisper-thin.” She adds, “[Olivia’s] red robe is the green robe. It turns red when she becomes a ghost.”

Regardless of their intended origin and symbolism, I’m still drooling over those gowns, and feel they deserve a fanciful little tribute of their own.


The Green Floral Gown



This is my favorite of Olivia’s dressing gowns. When I look at this I see a Green Witch who makes potions in her kitchen and walks barefoot among the night blooming roses, who rises at dawn looking like she just stepped out of Botticelli’s Primavera or a Crabtree & Evelyn label.


The Teal Gown



To quote a friend and fellow Piscean, this gown is the color of a mermaid’s thought. The fact that Olivia pairs it with flesh-colored wedge heels to stride across a haunted manse in the middle of the night and comfort one of her kids is just pure water sign werkage IMO.


The Crimson Gown



This is some Scarlett O’Hara realness.


This is sex and blood rites before 10 a.m.


You could totally strut this on the red carpet because this gown IS the red carpet. Wherever it takes you is exactly where your presence is desired, be it a Belle Époque boudoir or the coffee pot.


The Pink Peignoir



I can absolutely believe this is Poppy’s peignoir, and Olivia’s tragic finale only strengthens that fan theory. This gowns breaks my heart. The shade and fragility of rapidly fading petals, this is the gown of a woman who knows she will haunt the halls for all eternity in it.


⭑ Let’s raise our cup of stars to  Lynn Falconer, shall we? ⭑




Emily Linstrom is an American writer, artist, and Pagan soul residing in Italy. Her work has been featured in a number of publications including Three Rooms Press, Nailed Magazine, A Women’s Thing, The Wisdom Daily, and Carve Magazine. She was the first prize recipient of Pulp Literature Press’s 2015 The Raven short story contest, and is a regular contributor for Sabat Magazine, The Outsider, and Quail Bell Magazine. Additionally, Linstrom is a member of the faculty at November Sage Herbarium. You can view her work at: and follow her adventures on Instagram at betterlatethan_em



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