Parents pose with their deceased daughter. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)
Halloween’s ghouls, goblins, ghosts and skeletons — we may get dark and creepy about death one day a year, but we’ve got nothing on the Victorians. While people of the 19th century were wildly repressed about many things, their comfort with death was a far cry from modern sentiments.
Nowhere is this more evident than in British mourning etiquette during the time of Queen Victoria’s reign (1837 to 1901). The death of her husband, Prince Albert, in 1861 ushered in a rigorous display of mourning that set the stage for the general culture to follow. What became customary mourning, by today’s standards, seems downright macabre and morose. So in honor of the upcoming All Hallows' Eve, when all things turn spooky and spine-chilling, here’s a look at what was once the ghoulish norm.
1. Postmortem portraits
Prior to 1839 portraits were painted, but with the invention of the daguerreotype photograph, portraiture become more affordable and accessible. This meant that the middle class could now afford to have pictures taken to memorialize their loved ones — their dead loved ones, that is, and particularly infants and children. With the invention of the carte de visite in the middle of the century came multiple prints so that families could share pictures of their dead children with other family members and friends. Since most children would not have had their images captured prior to their untimely deaths, it makes perfect sense; although the practice would seem utterly taboo in contemporary Western culture.
2. The living dead
Since the idea of postmortem portraits was to have something to remember the deceased by, there was often staging and post-photo work done to achieve the effect of life. Bodies were posed in lifelike positions, surrounded by family, children holding favorite toys, and eyes often propped open. Sometimes, pupils were painted on in the studio and rosy cheeks were added to the image of the corpse.
3. Coal for jewelry
The material most prized to show grief was lignite, also known as jet, a fossilized form of coal. Jet is deep, dark and somber. In the first phase of mourning, jet jewelry was the only ornamentation women were allowed to wear.
4. Wearing the hair of the dead
While women were only supposed to wear jet for the first stage, during the second stage of mourning one could wear a piece of jewelry if it contained, or was made of, hair. That would be human hair. That would be human hair taken from the deceased love one. Brooches, bracelets, rings, chains and buckles were all made of hair; sometimes there was just a bit enclosed in a hollow band or brooch, other times, the hair was crafted into a piece of its own.
5. Cloaked in heavy veils and bonnets
A widow was to wear a bonnet of heavy crepe and a veil to cover the face for the first three months. At the end of three months the veil was to be worn from the back of the bonnet for another nine months. Altogether, restrictive mourning dress, known as widow's weeds, was to be worn for a minimum of two years, although many widows chose to shun color forever.
6. Haunted houses
Once a member of the house died, all of the mirrors in the house were to be covered. If a mirror in the house fell and broke, it was thought that someone in the home would die soon. When someone died in the house, the clock was to be stopped at the hour of death or bad luck would ensue. When a body was removed from the house, it had to be taken head-first so that it could not beckon others to follow.
7. Saved by the bell
Calling Edgar Allen Poe. Not really a mourning tradition, but a good sign of the times: Coffin alarms. The fear of being buried alive was so severe that a device known as a coffin alarm was invented. The contraption was simply a bell attached to the headstone with a chain that connected to a ring placed on the finger of the corpse. (Gives the term "dead ringer" a whole new meaning.)
Let's face it, there are not as many Goth clothing products for men in the world as there are for women. While there could always be more for either gender, there has most definitely been quite a gap in the men department of the macabre. I aim to rectify that today. I have compiled a list of possible sites that our male readers could use to either purchase, or get ideas from. Before we start, don't ever forget that sometimes the best products could simply be found at a local thrift shop, all it would take as an addition would be some creativity (although, a knack for sewing would not hurt either).
1. First up is Enigma Fashions. Based out of San Diego, California, it has a handful of great selections for men to choose from.
2. The Gothic Shop. Based out of the UK, here is the description on their website: "Gothic Clothes for Men: A selection of buckle and laced
eyelet black cotton gothic trousers and longsleeve formal and pirate
romantic shirts adorned with eyelets, cord lacing, ruffles and buckles.
Also plain and printed short-sleeve workshirts and T-shirts. The
Gothic Shop also sells men's gothic accessories including shirt
cuff-links, trouser buckles and ties."
3. Spiral Direct. Another one from the UK. This one may have a larger selection of T-shirts than one may be used to from a Goth clothing site, but some of these designs are amazing. The website is pretty interactive too, so don't be surprised if you find yourself playing around on the site for a good amount of time.
4. Rivethead. I'm not going to lie; when I look at this site, I have to keep my credit card far away when browsing their collection of boots. Too tempting. If I had a bit more money . . . actually, I don't want to imagine how that would turn out.
5. The Black Angel. Another site with a superb collection of shirts, among other things. Very creative designs.
6. Kinky Angel Clothing. Another site I have to keep my wallet locked away while I view. Great selection, but (needless to say) certain parts on the rest of the site may not be safe for work.
7. Shrine of Hollywood - I have a love / hate relationship with Shrine clothing. I have gone to their location in Hollywood a few times, along with other stores that carry their merchandise. So, I can say from first hand experience just how great these items are. The fabrics used are perfect. The caveat, however, are the prices. It is a very expensive brand. I often tell people that I do indeed have great fashion, I just can't afford it. Someday though, those Red & Black Tapestry Pants will be mine.
8. Secret Secret - This link does not go to a shop for Gothic clothing for men. Instead, it is a vast compilation of links for that exact purpose (and for the ladies as well). The band behind it did a great job gathering all these links together (be sure to give them a listen as well).
Know any other good sites for Gothic male clothing? Be sure to let us know!
I was born in a very small town in Oklahoma. However, my step-dad was in the Army so I traveled all over the Southern US and Germany. I actually consider Texas my home state.
GTS-Childhood and Family?
My childhood was kind of hard at times. I really don’t have a very close connection to my extended family. I spent time living with my parents and my grandparents. Whenever I was “too hard to handle” or “too much trouble” I was sent to live with my maternal grandparents who live in a small town in Oklahoma. I hated living there because I never fit in with the locals. However, I did learn a lot from my grandparents that I have carried with me into adulthood such as how to cook, bake, and garden, and appreciate the little things in life.
My personal Favorite!
GTS- Have you always had a Dark Aesthetic?
I have always been fascinated with the darker side of life. I don’t really remember how it started, but I might have adopted my love for all things dark due to the sadness and/or anger I felt during my childhood.
GTS-How did you get started?
I am 100% self-trained in all of the creative areas that I work. I cannot read a store bought pattern to save my life. Hahaha…sad, but true. I actually started sewing when I was very young. My Mom bought me a toy sewing machine that actually worked, and I started making purses for me and my friends. I think I was about 9 years old. When I was a teen, I started using my Mom’s Singer sewing machine to make my own clothing. I was very much into the punk rock scene at that time, and I couldn’t find (or my mother wouldn’t buy it because my father wouldn’t allow me to wear it) clothing that I liked. Once I graduated, I stopped sewing for a while. Life happened. However, every few years I was pulled back to the machine. I really had no intention of ever selling any of my wares, but my friends and family encouraged me to try it out. As for my art, I’ve been drawing and creating since I was very young. Throughout my early teen years, I was heavy into illustration, but moved away from that area when I started school for graphic design. Over time, I realized I preferred mixed media and collage art. I like to get dirty when I work!
I adore her religious art and expression!
Lily has lately been creating these marvelous Wood burning art pieces.
Lily also makes clothing and does custom work!
GTS- How do you work? Special Music? Mood?
Hmmmm…this is a tough question for me. It really depends on what mood I’m in. Usually I crank what I call motivational music to get my mind going. Other times, I prefer absolute silence. I cannot write if there is a lot of noise in the background. So, when I write poetry, I need silence so my mind doesn’t wander.
GTS- Name something you love, and why?
Nature. I find absolute peace when I’m alone in the woods. I love to look up at the sky and just feel the flow of the wind and the energy flowing around me. It makes me feel safe.
Evil Lily and Macabre Noir. My favorite bad girls!
Blood Spatter Skirt
GTS- Name something you don’t love, and why.
This list could get long! Hahaha…anything too trendy especially people who buy into the myth. The main stream media with their propaganda. McDonald’s. I loathe that place! Negativity. (Which seems funny since I just said I loathe something.) More specifically, negative people. Slow drivers because it isn’t always time for a Sunday drive. Should I continue?
GTS- What’s the best piece of advice you've been given?
I would have to say that the best advice I've been given is to understand that I cannot fix everything, and that I cannot control the actions of others. I had to learn to let go of other people’s baggage, and not to take their crap personal.
GTS- Where would you go in a time machine?
I would love to have a time machine just so I could go back in time to see the fashion from the Victorian era! However, if I had to choose a time and/or place, I would go to a speakeasy to hang with the flappers.
Time to order some skirts!
GTS- You have a lot of Tattoos. When did you get your first Tattoo?
In 1990, I was 20 years old. It’s a skull and cross-bones on my upper left shoulder. It looks like shit now, but it was my first so I won’t get it covered up.
GTS- What do you struggle with?
My inner demons. I’m bipolar, and some days the past is hard to deal with. I used to go through periods of complete self-loathing for no real reason. I’m learning to deal with those demons, and I’m slaying them one by one.
GTS- Do you like to swim?
No. It’s weird because I love to go to the ocean. I have a phobia about drowning though, so I never go too far out.
GTS- Where did the name Evil Lily come from?
Evil Lily is a play on words. My favorite flower is the calla lily. The evil refers to darker things being presumed to be bad, while the lighter colors (white) are presumed to represent purity and goodness. I prefer the darker side of things such as the dark purple/black calla lily. Therefore, Evil Lily.
The diversity of this artist is amazing! Multiple mediums and all of it fantastically spooky!
GTS- What inspires your style of clothing and art pieces?
Years ago, I could say that my clothing was inspired by the Victorian and Edwardian eras. My inspiration has grown to include flappers, carnival, burlesque, etc. I’m also drawing my on my Pagan roots, as well, in my clothing and my art. Much of my art is inspired by religion, and revolves around the (Christian) Devil and his shenanigans. I like to have a sense of humor when it comes to my art. The more serious art is inspired by my spirituality.
GTS- What would people be surprised to learn about you?
All of my life, people have told me that I look like I’m a snob or stuck up. Once they got to know me, they were surprised at how nice I am. I come across as some psycho bitch, I guess. Hahaha…I’m actually very very shy. It’s hard for me to get out and attend anything social without preparing myself first. In the past, I needed alcohol just to chat with someone new. Nowadays, I’m doing better. I don’t need the alcohol, but my anxiety levels go sky high, and I really have to focus or I get upset. I don’t talk on the phone very often just because of the anxiety.
GTS- What are you doing when you’re not creating? What (other) hobbies do you have?
Reading! I love to read. I, also, spend too much time online. That’s something I’m working on changing though. I enjoy walking and riding my bicycle.
Evil Lily original as modeled by Ugly Shyla
There are also Evil holiday ornaments available
GTS- There is Evil Lily's Originals and now 'The Softer side of Evil' Why? What are the differences?
I started the Softer Side of Evil so I could make skirts and jewelry that don’t really fit into the “dark” category. I plan on using natural fibers and lighter colors in the new shop. However, I’m not really getting a lot of traffic in the new shop, so I’m considering combining the new shop with the Evil Lily Originals shop. I may just create a section within the Evil Lily Originals shop to showcase The Softer Side of Evil’s items.
What are you waiting for? Visit Evil Lily's shop HERE
The Gothic Tea Society contributers are a collaboration of interesting and eccentric personalities, with a Gothic focus on the Odd, Mis-Matched, Bizarre and Unusual.
While we try our best to use public images, give credit, as well as including links referring the reader to an originating web site, for some of the posts published here, occasionally there may be a faux pas. It is not intentional. Our purpose is to share about Gothic Culture.
If you have an issue with a posting, especially if you are going to claim some sort of infringement, please send a detailed e-mail to the address below, and refrain attempting to post it as a comment.
Several of the contributers maintain fabulous personal Blogs which guests to the Gothic Tea Society are encouraged to peruse at will.