Today I’m guest posting over at Floral Prints and Common Sense, teaching y’all how to make and style blood-spattered shoes. Head over and check it out (and I highly recommend following Floral Prints and Common Sense while you’re at it!)
We opened last night. And, of course, Murphy’s Law dictated that I left my camera battery charging away in my bedroom. As such, I have no evidence of the glory that was my costumes. I’ll do my best to snap some tonight, though. (But seriously, fuck Murphy.)
I took these photos last week, but I haven’t had a single spare moment to edit and post them until now. “After Halloween” has become my stock answer when invited to do anything. From now until the 31st, I operate on three settings: work, haunt, sleep. Last night Josh and I stumbled in at around 1 (his haunt opened last night too), glanced at the pile of clothes on the bedroom floor – let’s be real, they’re mostly mine – and agreed “we’ll clean it up after Halloween.”
I wanted to show you guys what a haunt in progress looks like, though. To most people, haunted houses are perfectly polished spook, but it’s funny how normal it becomes when it’s your bread and butter. The unusual nature of the work kind of gets lost when you’re clomping around all “where’s that goddamn coffin?!” I suppose the same is true for any unusual occupation: our work looks exotic, but we’re just people. And I appreciate anything that humanizes the absurd and the larger than life.
The Forest consists of a series of self-contained scenes all united by a single theme. This year’s is Merry Olde England; particularly inspired past themes include Twisted Fairy Tales and Creepy Carnival. Groups of audience members are led by cloaked guides through a meandering trail, with scenes installed along the way. Actors do each scene 40 times on a light night.
The entire Forest is lit by pumpkins, carved by a crack team of volunteers. That’s mine second from the right.
Our venue serves as a series of bike trails for most of the year. During Forest time, the lodge’s racks of helmets and rows of spare tires are swapped out for greasepaint, pumpkins, and capes by the dozen.
Our super haunted headquarters, filled with super haunted things like…uh, couches, and snacks, and floorboards.
I love that I work in a place where no one bats an eye at this label.
My super spooky sweater. One day I will own tacky sweaters for every holiday, even the obscure sectarian ones.
I’d really like a pet ghost.
It’s just like any other volunteer event, except for the coffin sneaking into the frame. No biggie.
The wax museum is one of our classic scenes, though with content modified to fit each year’s theme. As this year’s theme is Merry Olde England, the museum features the first three wives of Henry VIII. I filled in last night as Catherine of Aragon, and I got a few good scares by periodically disrupting my frozen stature to beckon to the audience.
It’s still running! Get tickets here.
I took these photos a month ago yesterday. Even Cernunnos is scratching his horns over why I never posted them. I love the outfit, and I love the slightly surreal, thoroughly witchified setting. But I tried at least three times to pull these together into a coherent post, and it just wasn’t coming. And now I’m thinking that I just plain don’t have much to say about these pictures. There’s not much words can add here, really. Sometimes I’m tired of making statements. Sometimes dragging up deeper meaning behind every glance of light and turn of phrase stops being astute and becomes unbearably, obnoxiously po-mo. Hell, the fact that I just unironically used “po-mo” in a sentence is a testament to my analysis lobe needing a break. Enjoy some beauty for the sake of beauty. Enjoy a pretty outfit on a pink-haired witch, and I’ll be back soon with your regularly scheduled pretension.
It’s delightful to find two pieces that were clearly meant to go together – e.g. this dress and blouse. The silhouettes match seamlessly, and the black-and-white is classic, but the textures are just different enough to keep things interesting.
My friend Lizzie took this one. Thank her instagram filter for the sepia. A storm’s a-coming.
Dress, Blouse, Boots, & Brooch: Battery Street Jeans Tights: Gifted
Cindy won’t forget herself that easily. You don’t spend two decades scrounging scraps and counting every moment of peace only to slide painlessly into luxury. Cleanliness feels too naked, finery too bright. Trust doesn’t come so fast, not even for Prince Charming. Too many nights she finds herself pulled hearthward, hypnotized, drawn to some semblance of her old life.
Lace doesn’t go with ashes. She aches for a way to hide.
I love fairy tales. I hope that’s obvious by now. I love the archetypes inherent in them. Their demonstration that humans have always been the same. More than that, I love how many ways exist to twist and queer and bastardize them. The goth in me doesn’t want to let anyone have a happy ending.
How much sense does it make for Cinderella to sail right into royalty without even a nod to her crippling PTSD? Exactly none. Part of her probably wishes she still slept beside the cinders every night. She knows embracing her new life is the clearest way forward, but she can’t let go of the rags and ash.
Under her gold and lace, she still wears that filthy frock close against her skin.
At least as a slave she was Someone. Now she is Other.
Dresses, Shawl: for sale at Downtown Threads Mask, Pearls, Ring, Belt: Gifted
It’s not Halloween without a little Voltaire. You’re welcome.
Welcome to my second costume tutorial for Downtown Threads! My goal with this project is to design my own versions of a few classic costume ideas. Yesterday I wrote about my obnoxiously literal take on the French maid. Today I’m putting a conceptual spin on a Halloween staple: the raven.
Too many animal costumes resort to big honking masks and bulky fur suits. I’ve never found much excitement in exact duplication. As you saw in yesterday’s post, I much prefer to costume the idea of something. I might not literally resemble a raven, but I resemble the common cultural shorthand of what ravens represent: mystery, cruelty, seduction.
Basically, I like designing costumes that look like outfits and outfits that look like costumes. There’s so much more overlap than many people realize. It’s why I love designers like Westwood and Schiaparelli. This costume would work pretty well at a black-tie event. And most of my everyday outfits look at least a little like Halloween costumes. There’s history and semiotics in everything.
To symbolize the cruelty and indifference commonly associated with ravens, I used this earpiece as a breastplate and layered the necklace over it. My raven proudly wears effects – a skull and a wing – from members of her own species. I might as well wear a bracelet of human teeth.
My other goal with this look was a sexy costume for those who’d rather not show skin (or are just too damn cold to do so. Let’s be real; it’s OCTOBER). Not that there’s anything wrong with wearing a micromini, but it’s sure as hell not the only way to turn someone on. This costume is sexy in a menacing, I’m-gonna-eat-your-heart-for-breakfast kind of way. It’s always interesting to witness the marriage of sex and death, especially at this time of year.
Remember that all these pieces will be for sale within the next few days! If you’re inspired by my costumes and want to steal them for your lovely self, check out Downtown Threads on Church Street.
Dress, Shawl, Necklace, & Earpiece: for sale at Downtown Threads Fascinator: Battery Street Jeans Mask: Homeport Shoes: Dirt Chic Tights: Sox Market
Earlier this month, I approached Downtown Threads about doing a series of costume tutorials. They loved the idea. I currently have a whole chairdrobe of loaner clothes languishing in my bedroom. Until Halloween, I get to borrow interesting/eccentric/eyesore-tastic clothes from their main store and have my costumey way with them. I get blog traffic, and Downtown Threads gets free promotion. A win-win if I’ve ever seen one.
With two weeks to spare ’til that day of days, the first post drops today. Behold my own painfully literal take on a classic costume: the French maid.
This dress reminded me instantly of a French impressionist painting. It got me excited to design a concept rather than a character. I did some research into the artistic dress movement and discovered that this dress fits it not only symbolically but more literally as well: its structure and texture are very much in keeping with the loose, muted, medieval-inspired dresses of the pre-Raphaelites and their ilk. I love it when pieces work on multiple levels.
For accessories, I turned to staples of the Impressionist period: summery hats, gold jewelry, and heeled shoes with narrow toes. The white tights have little historical precedent, but I think they still work. Most of the time, I’d rather capture the feeling of an era than go for strict accuracy.
I’ve been meaning for years to get into the Society for Creative Anachronism. My friend Holly promises to drag Josh and me to an event sometime this winter. I need some motivation to refine my knowledge of historical dress. I can date pretty much anything from 1900 on, but I’m ashamed to say I’m utterly lost in older times.
My hair would probably scandalize the entire Society, though. Holly says they’re sticklers. I really enjoy having a few obviously-not-vintage things about me, though. My hair, my tattoos, the stud in my nose. It keeps my costumes fresh. No matter how timeless the rest of my look, there will always be something that breaks the flow. And I’m all about shocking people out of their collective comfort zone.
Dress & Shawl: Currently for sale at Downtown Threads Bangles: Old Gold Hat: Gifted Shoes: Goodwill Tights: Sox Market
Josh’s work is currently being exhibited in a show called Art of Horror. We attended the opening last Friday night. Of the event, I will say that 1) it was very nice not to be the only person wearing a cloak, 2) THERE WERE FINGER-SHAPED COOKIES, and 3) after oohing and aahing over Josh’s piece, I spent most of my time browsing the room devoted to Beth Robinson’s Strange Dolls.
Beth Robinson might be my favorite local artist. Her work is one hell of a spice in my glitzy, gothy glop of inspiration stew. Today I took advantage of the abandoned shed in Josh’s backyard and delivered my own rendition of a Strange, Strange Doll.
I really like the visual mindfuck of a broken old doll wearing an antique cameo. It suggests a matryoshka quality, an infinite recursion of uncanny-valley porcelain skin. If the miniature human has her own miniature human, how far can it go?
I considered whitening my neck and hands too, but I think I prefer the look isolated to my face. I would much rather stylize a costume than precisely duplicate its source material. I like the allusive and the heavily symbolic. My whole body needn’t be stark white, as long as the parts I do whiten clearly scream “creepy-ass doll”. The cracks needn’t be photorealistic, as long as it’s clear what they’re supposed to be.
Often, though, I wonder whether my takes on classics are too subtle. Too lacking in obvious, translatable tropes. As a costume designer, I think way more obsessively about clothes than most people do. And I want to make sure I’m designing for the more casual onlooker as well as for Srs Fashion Ppl. That’s the challenge I have in designing for the Haunted Forest. Each scene is only three or four minutes long. Any exposition time is precious stuff and will sure as hell not be spent examining the costumes. My task is to rustle up clever, innovative costumes that don’t require more than a cursory glance to understand. And I think I’m doing all right, but only opening night will tell.
(I’mma take this opportunity to plug the Haunted Forest. We run at the Catamount Center in Williston, VT, from the 25th to the 27th. This year’s theme is Olde England – prostitutes, plague doctors, and all.)
Jumper: Battery Street Jeans Blouse: Downtown Threads Necklace: Vintage Marketplace Bow: Spirit Halloween Tights & Shoes: Gifted