Domestikia: An Account of Some Strange Disturbances. The Incident in the Nursery.

Domestikia: The Incident in the Nursery. from Jennifer Linton on Vimeo.

At last, I’ve completed my second stop-motion animated short film. Domestikia uses paper cutouts and articulated paper puppets in a stop-motion animation to explore the strange, dreamlike and uncanny realm of the Domestic Gothic.  With a healthy dose of black humour, it tackles the anxieties and challenges experienced by parents of young children. The ‘Domestic Gothic’ as a motif developed through the writing of 19th-century women Gothic novelists, such as the Brontë Sisters, and dealt specifically with the horror of confinement felt by women who were ‘imprisoned’ within the home and unable to move freely in Victorian society. With contemporary women still predominantly acting as primary caregivers to their children — and thus financially penalized by either remaining at home or opting for employment that allows for ‘family friendly’ work hours — this sense of confinement is still present. The realm of the domestic has become infiltrated by strange creatures — a giant butterfly, an octopus, and bird-headed children — whose presence suggest a level of discomfort within the home. These creatures are the physical manifestation of Freud’s das Unheimlich (translates to English as ‘the uncanny’), a term which literally means ‘unhomely.’

All images and animation were done by me, in my basement.

The haunted ‘Island of the Dolls.’

Some of the derelict inhabitants of “La Isla De La Muñecas”, located on Teshuilo Lake, Mexico.

Ghost stories. Every culture around the world has them and, whether they arise from ancient folklore, the Gothic novelists, or the humble campfire, they continue to both frighten and fascinate. What is it about the ghost story that has held our collective fascination from time immemorial? I have a personal theory that, beyond their chilling narratives, there’s a psychological comfort to be derived from the ghost story. The very idea of a ‘ghost’ fundamentally supports the belief in an afterlife and that something exists beyond the grave. In spite of geographic, political, or cultural differences, an intrinsic fear of death is the one thing we all have in common.

So, if a good ghost story gives you a cold sort of comfort, then you might consider packing your bags for a trip to Mexico. Located on Teshuilo Lake in Mexico’s ancient Xochimilco district, the remote island dubbed La Isla De La Muñecas (or, ‘the Island of the Dolls’) has become a curious tourist destination for fans of the macabre. Festooned about this quiet and uninhabited island are thousands of dolls, supposedly left by the island’s former occupant to weather and decay. A tale of tragedy accompanies these dolls, offering a possible explanation as to their placement here:

In the late 1950s, Don Julian Santana Barrera came to inhabit the nameless island on Teshuilo Lake, which [was] then a lonely, overgrown spot and seemingly perfect for his hermit-like requirements.

But, unbeknownst to Julian, the quiet island has a dark history. Local legend maintains that in the 1920s three young girls were playing on the island, only for one of them to drown, falling into the canal’s murky waters close to a small jetty. The nearby residents claimed that the dead girl’s spirit refused to pass on and remained tethered to the island. The area soon gained a degree of infamy and few dared to venture near the supposedly haunted land, especially at night.

Now, with Julian’s arrival, the girl’s spirit once again had someone to talk to. She told him of the manner of her death and asked him to find dolls for her to play with; adding that they would also help to ward off the ancient and evil spirits that still wandered the prehistoric wetlands. Evidently, Julian listened to the girl’s appeal, and began to search the area, scouring the rubbish dumps and plucking any discarded dolls that floated on the gently lapping waters of the cloudy canals.

Some of the thousands of dolls that haunt “La Isla De La Muñecas”.

At first Julian was thought to be something of an oddity; a crackpot who would gather unwanted dolls because he thought they were actual children that he could nurse back to life, but eventually people realized that he was simply a harmless old man with a rather peculiar past-time. In time, Julian accrued so many dolls that the island came to be called La Isla de las Muñecas (The Island of Dolls) but according to Julian, no amount of plastic companions seemed to satisfy the spirit’s thirst, and soon thousands of the toys festooned the island’s every square foot. Julian even constructed a modest hut for the purpose of housing a shrine dedicated to the dead girl’s spirit and the most special dolls he was given.

On April 21st 2001, Julian and his nephew, Anastasio were fishing on the island. Julian told his nephew that strange voices had been calling out to him from the waters of the canals, beckoning him to enter the water and join them. He explained that he had often heard weird voices, but had always been able to resist their calls. The two men carried on fishing together until Anastasio left to undertake some errands. When he returned he discovered his uncle floating face down in the canal near the small pier – at the same place that the girl had lost her life in the 1920s.

— Source: ‘The Mexican Island Haunted by Evil Dolls‘, on the Environmental Graffiti blog.

Of course, the cynic in me says that the story of Julian Barrera and the drowned girl are completely apocryphal, and some enterprising locals collected discarded plastic dolls and decorated the island, inventing this ghost story in the hopes of attracting tourist dollars to an off-the-beaten-path region of Mexico. Whatever the truth behind the dolls, it’s still an impressive and effectively eerie sight to behold. Click on the link above to view more creepy photos of the ‘haunted’ Island of the Dolls.

Horror Films 101: 5 vampire films you may not have seen.

The beautiful Delphine Seyrig stars as the bloodthirsty Countess Báthory in Harry Kümel's "Daughters of Darkness" (1971).

1. The stylish Daughters of Darkness (1971) from Belgian director Harry Kümel continues to be one of my favourite indulgences when it comes to eurotrash vampire films. I’ve already dedicated an entire blog post on Kümel’s film, but a recently discovered quote from “dissident feminist” Camille Paglia has reminded me of my great admiration for this lesbian-vampire classic:

“A classy genre of vampire film follows a style I call psychological high Gothic. […] A good example is Daughters of Darkness, starring Delphine Seyrig as an elegant lesbian vampire. High gothic is abstract and ceremonious. Evil has become world-weary, hierarchical glamour. There is no bestiality. The theme is eroticized western power, the burden of history.”

— Camille Paglia, Sexual Personae: Art and Decadence from Nefertiti to Emily Dickinson. Yale University Press, 1990, p. 268.

Vincent Lannoo's mockumentary "Vampires" (2011).

2. Yet another Belgian vampire film, although the ‘found-footage’ hand-held camera-style of Vincent Lannoo’s Vampires (2011) could scarcely be more of a departure from Kümel’s meticulously crafted film. Touted in the media as “Spinal Tap meets the Munsters”, Lannoo’s mockumentary delves into the culture of contemporary Belgian vampires, all with a wonderfully deadpan, blacker-than-night sense of humour. After several unsuccessful attempts to document the vampire community — as the film crews kept, um, getting eaten — the crew that purportedly filmed Vampires manage to locate an amenable vampire family that allow them to document their daily routines. Even though the found-footage schtick has grown very, very tired in the horror genre, I found myself enjoying the detailed accounts of vampire customs and culture.

Director Larry Fessenden plays Sam, a world-weary bartender in "Habit" (1999).

3. The low-budget indie film Habit (1999) was written, produced, directed, and edited by genre fave Larry Fessenden. This is a grungy and unglamorous revisionist-vampire film that uses vampirism as a metaphor for addiction. Fessenden plays Sam, a world-weary bartender who struggles with alcoholism and the recent death of his estranged father. When Sam meets the mysterious Anna at a friend’s party, things eventually go from bad to worse. While this film offers little in terms of fanged neck-biting, it has an effectively moody atmosphere and some fairly erotic sex scenes.

4. Cronos (1993), written & directed by Guillermo del Toro, was the cinematic debut of the Mexican filmmaker better known for his later film Pan’s Labyrinth. A fairly unique treatment of the vampire mythology in which an ancient and mysterious mechanical device is used to transmit the virus of vampirism. An old antique dealer unwittingly discovers the scarab-shaped device in his shop and becomes infected. Fans of del Toro’s work will recognize his characteristic black humour and fondness for grotesquery.

The priest Sang-hyun saves his dying love interest Tae-ju by rendering her a vampire in "Thirst" (2009).

5. Another clever twist on the vampire legend is Chan-wook Park’s Thirst (2009). Sang-hyun is a devout Catholic priest who, for all intents and purposes, opts to martyr himself by subjecting his body to some radical medical experiments. When these medical experiments result in vampirism, the priest wrestles not only with a heightened desire for carnality, but also a thirst for human blood.

The Gothic Lolita, examined.

A Japanese 'kurololi', characteristically dressed entirely in black.

Back in August of 2011, I wrote a blog entry about my fascination with the Goth subculture, an entry appropriately entitled Goth like me; or, why does little Jenny mope in her bedroom all day, wearing black and writing bad poetry? Indeed, for several years I have held an interest in Goth-inspired art, music and fashion, even before I was aware of that particular label. As my earlier post explained, there are several different fashion styles that fall under the broad category ‘Goth’, all with their own distinct rules and conventions. One of the most interesting and — for some Westerners — difficult to understand modes of Goth dress is the Japanese Lolita.

One of the most common misunderstandings of the Lolita subculture is the belief that the associated costuming somehow relates to either sex and/or cosplay. Neither, however, are true. The Japanese use of the English name “Lolita” is likely a case of wasei-eigo, or Japanese-derived English, and does not refer to the novel by Vladimir Nabokov nor its titular 12-year-old “nymphette” heroine. The Lolita mode of dress places a strong emphasis on Victorian-era elegance and modesty, and is not intended to be ‘sexy’. Nor is Lolita garb derived from anime or manga characters, like the cat-ears and spiky blue-hair of cosplay costumes.

Lolita fashion grew out of the 1980s-90s Japanese music scene, inspired by flamboyantly-dressed pop music icons such as Princess Princess and the cross-dressing Malice Mizer. Much like Goth dress in general, the Lolita also has several different fashion incarnations:

The Gothic Lolita

A Western version of the Gothic Lolita, from the Canadian-based fashion label Gloomth & the Cult of Melancholy.

Gothic Lolita (or ‘gothloli’) fashion originated in the late 1990s in Harajuku (region in Tokyo). This style is characterized by the wearing of black and white clothing, though black + another colour (red, purple) is not uncommon. Clothing generally includes ruffled blouses with bows and puffed sleeves, knee-length skirts (often worn with crinolines or petticoats for that classic bell-shaped silhouette), stockings or knee-high socks, and girlish mary-jane shoes or Victorian-style boots. Hats, ornate headbands, gloves and parasols are common accessories. The Westernized versions of the Gothic Lolita tend to downplay the ultra-feminine ribbons, ruffles and bows of the Japanese look, while still adhering to the Victorian doll-like Lolita aesthetic.

The Sweet Lolita

A small pack of Sweet Lolitas. So sweet, your teeth might ache.

Similar in dress to the gothloli, this style adopts saccharine-sweet, lighter colours — often pink or baby-blue — and childlike motifs like Alice in Wonderland, hearts, strawberries, cupcakes and teddy bears. I firmly believe that there are some modes of dress that can only be successfully worn by 16-year-old Japanese girls. This is one of those. The Sweet Lolita attempts to emulate the porcelain skin and blonde ringlets of a European, Victorian-era doll.

The Pirate Lolita

Not a particularly common Lolita style, but certainly a fun and flamboyant one. The fashion label Alice & the Pirates (a side-project of Baby, the Stars Shine Bright) offers all an aspiring pirate needs to look to part. Ahoy, maties!

Gurololis compare their wounds.

The Guro Lolita

This style is one of the most curious of the Lolita fashions. The Guro Lolita dresses as a “broken doll”, with band-aids, eye-patches, and bloodied gauze bandages. Often, they wear white — a colour that provides the perfect canvas on which to splatter pretend blood and gore. It is common for the gurololi to carry around an equally bandaged & bloodied doll or teddy-bear.

Shiro & Kuro Lolita

Shiro Lolita, or ‘White Lolita,’ is a Lolita outfit made entirely of white/cream/off-white co-ordinates, while its counterpart Kuro Lolita, or ‘Black Lolita,’ is an outfit made-up of entirely black co-ordinates. Shiro and Kuro Lolita can be taken from any style of Lolita, whether it be Gothic, Sweet, or Classic. If the co-ordination is completely white, then it is accepted as Shiro Lolita, while if it is entirely black it is accepted as Kuro.

Wa Lolita

The Wa Lolita.

The Wa Lolita combines traditional Japanese clothing — namely the kimono — with the Lolita style. The kimono-style garment is modified to accommodate the fullness of a petticoat and Japanese wooden sandals (called okobo) sometimes replace the typical Lolita boots or platform mary-janes. Another East-meets-West Lolita mashup is the Qi Lolita. This style uses Chinese clothing and accessories in place of Japanese, and usually this includes qipao dresses modified to accommodate a petticoat.

Even though I’m going to end my blog post here, by no means should you consider this list an exhaustive account of all of the Lolita styles. For the complete list, visit this Lolita Style Handbook.

My Demon Lover: the mythology of the incubus.

“Inkubus” (photograph, 2005) by contemporary German visual artist Michael Hutter.

The incubus is a demon in male form — the female equivalent is called a succubus — who, according to different mythologies and legends throughout the world, lies upon women whilst they sleep in order to have sexual intercourse with them. In the Middle Ages, belief in demons who sexually preyed on humans assuaged a sleeping person’s shame and guilt over nocturnal emissions and other physical evidence of erotic dreams. Primarily, however, the incubus legend functioned as a convenient means to conceal incest and other types of sexual assault upon girls and women who had no unchaperoned access to men outside the home, but had nonetheless become inexplicably pregnant.

In contrast to the sleeping rape victims of medieval yore, the women that populate the photographic work of contemporary visual artist Michael Hutter are both wide awake and engaged in consensual coupling with their respective incubi. In the sepia-coloured photo-collage entitled Inkubus, a nude woman sporting a 1920’s flapper-style bob receives an amorous lick from the tiny demon lover perched on her shoulder. In The Alien Nurse, the erotic-grotesque combines with Victorian fetishism as a blindfolded “wet-nurse” offers up her breast to a curious intestinal/tentacled alien blob. In subsequent photo-collages, the wet-nurse discovers new and even more intimate uses for the alien tentacle, recalling shokushu goukan or ‘tentacle erotica’ of contemporary Japanese hentai.

“Die Alienamme (The alien nurse)”, photograph, 2006 by Michael Hutter.

The work of German artist Michael Hutter ranges from ink drawings on paper reminiscent of the Victorian kinkiness of Aubrey Beardsley’s Lysistrata, to the retro-inspired photo-collages you see here.  Visit his online gallery to see for yourself, though perhaps not whilst at the office.

“Domestikia: An Account of Some Strange Disturbances”, stop-motion animation project.

My latest creative project is “Domestikia: An Account of Some Strange Disturbances”. Continuing my interdisciplinary approach to artmaking, I have created jointed, movable paper cutouts from my lithographic prints for use in a series of stop-motion animations. This project will include several short stories linked together by an overarching narrative, all taking place within an imagined dollhouse. The narrative is non-linear, so scenes are not “shot” in sequence.

I’ll readily admit to being a complete neophyte when it comes to animation, but thus far I find the process a rewarding one. Painstakingly tedious and laborious, but rewarding nonetheless :-)

Quoth the Raven, ‘Nevermore.’

Open here I flung the shutter, when, with many a flirt and flutter,
In there stepped a stately Raven of the saintly days of yore.
Not the least obeisance made he; not a minute stopped or stayed he,
But, with mien of lord or lady, perched above my chamber door–
Perched upon a bust of Pallas just above my chamber door–
Perched, and sat, and nothing more.

Then the ebony bird beguiling my sad fancy into smiling,
By the grave and stern decorum of the countenance it wore,
“Though thy crest be shorn and shaven, thou,” I said, “art sure no craven,
Ghastly grim and ancient Raven wandering from the Nightly shore–
Tell me what thy lordly name is on the Night’s Plutonian shore!”
Quoth the Raven, “Nevermore.”
— an excerpt from the narrative poem “The Raven” by Edgar Allan Poe. First published in 1845.

In North America and most of Europe, the raven is a bird that symbolizes ill-omen and doom. Due to its jet-black plumage, eerie call and carrion-eating tendencies, the raven and its smaller cousin, the crow*, have haunted the imaginations of mankind from time immemorial. American Gothic writer Edgar Allan Poe famously employed the bird as a harbinger of doom in his poem “The Raven,” an excerpt of which is offered above. The poem tells of a talking raven’s mysterious visit to a distraught lover, tracing the man’s slow descent into madness. The narrator — whom, it’s been suggested, represents Poe himself — mourns the loss of his dead love Lenore. The raven flies into the room through an open window and perches itself (permanently, as it turns out) upon a sculptural bust of Athena that rests above the door. It then proceeds to torment the narrator to the brink of madness simply by repeating the poetic refrain “nevermore” at the end of each stanza. For his part, the narrator engages in a curiously self-defeating game of “20 questions” with the raven, peppering the bird with questions to which — he’s fully aware — it can only answer “nevermore.” In true Gothic tradition, Poe’s “The Raven” is epic, highly theatrical, and steeped in a melancholia characteristic of that literary genre.

The crows begin to assemble on the play equipment behind the local school in Hitchcock's "The Birds" (1963).

The crow, the raven’s smaller yet equally foreboding cousin, gets its moment in the spotlight in British film director Alfred Hitchcock’s 1963 film “The Birds”. A profoundly intelligent and resourceful bird, a flock of crows is called a murder because “…the group will sometimes kill a dying cow.” Hitchcock capitalized on the silhouette of the menacing crows — not to mention their violent reputation — in his classic horror film in which birds inexplicably attack humans. Oh sure, the idea of violent attack from a single budgerigar seems ludicrous. However, as one character in the film points out, birds significantly outnumber humans on this planet, and if they did group together to get rid of us…

Mrs. Bundy: Birds have been on this planet, Miss Daniels, since Archaeopteryx, a hundred and forty million years ago. Doesn’t it seem odd that they’d wait all that time to start a…a war against humanity.

Salesman: Your captain should have shot at them… Gulls are scavengers anyway. Most birds are. Get yourselves guns and wipe them off the face of the earth.

Mrs. Bundy: That would hardly be possible… Because there are eight thousand, six hundred and fifty species of birds in the world today, Mr. Carter. It is estimated that five billion, seven hundred and fifty million birds live in the United States alone. The five continents of the world…

Salesman: Kill ’em all. Get rid of them. Messy animals.

Mrs. Bundy: …probably contain more than a hundred billion birds.

Drunk: It’s the end of the world.

Sebastian Sholes: Those gulls must have been after the fish.

Mrs. Bundy: Of course.

Boy: Are the birds gonna eat us, Mommy?

Mrs. Bundy[explaining that birds of different species never flock together] The very concept is unimaginable. Why, if that happened, we wouldn’t have a chance! How could we possibly hope to fight them?

Like the drunk guy said, “It’s the end of the world.”

*What’s the difference between a raven and a crow? Read more here to find out.

A Diabolical Decadence: Charles Baudelaire, Félicien Rops and the “Flowers of Evil.”

Come on my heart, cruel and insensible soul,
My darling tiger, beast with indolent airs;
I want to plunge for hours my trembling fingers
In your thick and heavy mane;

In your petticoats filled with your perfume
To bury my aching head,
And breathe, like a faded flower,
The sweet taste of my dead love.

I want to sleep, to sleep and not to live,
In a sleep as soft as death,
I shall cover with remorseless kisses
Your body beautifully polished as copper.

To swallow my appeased sobbing
I need only the abyss of your bed;
A powerful oblivion lives on your lips,
And all Lethe flows in your kisses.

I shall obey, as though predestined,
My destiny, that is now my delight;
Submissive martyr, innocent damned one,
My ardor inflames my torture,

And I shall suck, to drown my bitterness
The nepenthe and the good hemlock,
On the lovely tips of those jutting breasts
Which have never imprisoned love.

— Geoffrey Wagner, Selected Poems of Charles Baudelaire (NY: Grove Press, 1974). English translation of the poem Le Léthé by Charles Baudelaire from Fleurs du mal (1857).

Mysterious occult rituals, orgiastic parties and experiments with hallucinatory drugs: sounds like one of the notorious “acid test” road trips by Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters, right? While this does neatly summarize the wild merry-making of the Pranksters and the 1960’s hippie counterculture, what I’m describing above is instead the naughty behaviour of a much earlier group of non-conformists and bohemians: the Decadents of the late 19th-century.

Etching & aquatint by Félicien Rops (1896).

The Decadence Movement was a fin de siècle artistic and literary style of Western Europe, primarily France. Fin de siècle or “end of the century” refers to the latter two decades of the 19th-century that were characterized by boredom, cynicism, and pessimism as well as an anxiety over the change that is inevitable in the ending of a century. While the term “decadent” was originally applied as a pejorative by critics of the style, writers and artists such as Charles Baudelaire and Félicien Rops eagerly adopted this label as a further act of defiance against the restrictive social mores they perceived in contemporary European society. For the most part, the Decadents were influenced by the tradition of Gothic novels and by the poetry and fiction of Edgar Allan Poe, and were associated with (but distinct from) Symbolism. The progenitor of Decadence was Baudelaire, and his poetry collection Les Fleurs du mal (‘The Flowers of Evil’, 1857) is considered by literary historians as a seminal work of Decadent writing. Steeped in a fashionably brooding melancholia and an almost morbid eroticism, Baudelaire’s poetry was targeted by French censors for its bold lasciviousness:

 

The author and the publisher were prosecuted under the regime of the Second Empire as an outrage aux bonnes mœurs (trans. “an insult to public decency”). As a consequence of this prosecution, Baudelaire was fined 300 francs. Six poems from the work were suppressed and the ban on their publication was not lifted in France until 1949. These poems were “Lesbos”, “Femmes damnés (À la pâle clarté)” (or “Women Doomed (In the pale glimmer…)”), “Le Léthé” (or “Lethe”), “À celle qui est trop gaie” (or “To Her Who Is Too Gay”), “Les Bijoux” (or “The Jewels”), and ” Les “Métamorphoses du Vampire” (or “The Vampire’s Metamorphoses”). These were later published in Brussels in a small volume entitled Les Épaves (Jetsam). — from Wikipedia.

Lithograph known alternately as “Black Mass” or “Calvary”, by Félicien Rops.

The Belgian visual artist Félicien Rops met Baudelaire towards the end of the poet’s life, and this meeting had a great impact on the career of the young artist. An accomplished printmaker, Rops illustrated many literary works including Baudelaire’s Les Épaves, a selection of poems for which he created the frontispiece. Like the works of the authors whose poetry he illustrated, Rops work tends to mingle sex, death, and Satanic images. He held a lifelong fascination with the femme fatale, an image of womankind that served as a dark and sinister Muse to that generation of Decadent artists. Of his views of Woman, Félicien Rops wrote: “Therefore it is his era, the end of the 19th century, that he [the artist] expresses through his graphic work, structured mainly around the themes of love, suffering and death, with the central unifying theme of the woman, la femme fatale in the full meaning of the word. Through her he portrays his vision of his era. Woman is Satan’s accomplice, and becomes the supreme attraction which provokes the most extreme vices and torments in Man, a mere puppet.” (an English translation of a quote taken from the Museum of Félicien Rops web site.)

Counting myself amongst the legion of “Satan’s accomplices”, I can easily admire the lewd and grotesque aspects of Rops, even as he does occasionally verge on a kind of vulgar kitsch. The unabashed sexuality of Rops lends a quality of surprising modernity to the work and gives it a contemporary feel, even as it dates from well over 100 years ago.

Goth like me; or, why does little Jenny mope in her bedroom all day, wearing black and writing bad poetry?

I have a theory that some people are simply born to be Goth. Long before I knew of such a subculture, I was, by virtue of natural inclination, compelled to seek out the dark, the morbid, and the theatrical. These are the mainstays of ‘the Gothic’, a darkly romantic movement within art, music, fiction and fashion.

My gateway music into all things Goth was The Cure’s 1989 album Disintegration, back in my undergraduate art school days — which is, as far as anyone is concerned, precisely the right place to discover the angst-ridden wails of Robert Smith. Similar bands, such as Bauhaus, Joy Division, and the Sisters of Mercy, soon followed. While I was not then– nor am presently — a daily devotee to dressing exclusively in the Goth style, I have held a continued fascination in all things related to the Goth subculture ever since those early, fateful days of art school.

Fashion is critical for the Goth, with adherence to a particular mode of dress strict, to the point of orthodoxy. There is, as it turns out, not one type of Goth, but several. These include the Classic Goth, the Romantigoth, the Cybergoth, Fetish Goth, Vampire Goth, Glitter (or Perky) Goth, Victorian Goth, Steampunk, Gothabilly, Gothic Lolita, and…well, the list is long, indeed. Below is a brief description of some of my personal favourite modes of Goth dress.

Classic (or Traditional) Goth

Siouxsie Sioux, lead singer of the seminal ’80’s Goth band Siouxsie & the Banshees, and the figurehead for the first generation of Goths.

The Goth subculture evolved from Punk in the early 1980s, with the London club The Batcave ostensibly functioning as its musical and stylistic home base. Famous club regulars included musicians such as Robert Smith, Siouxsie Sioux, Steve Severin, Marc Almond and Nick Cave. Collectively, their dark, moody and often somber music and penchant for theatricality shaped this new subculture, creating its very distinctive look and feel. While Punks were angry anarchists, Goths were melancholic fatalists.

The fashion of the Classic Goth was heavily influenced by British-based Punk. Fishnet, leather, and piercings were prominent, and the colour black was worn, head-to-toe, with slavish devotion. BDSM paraphernalia, such as black leather slave collars, corsets and harnesses, was also common. Hair was very big and very, very teased (it was the ’80s, after all) and make-up was heavy and often exaggerated. Trendsetters like Siouxsie Sioux served as models for the uniform of the Classic Goth female: black, spiky-teased hair, fishnet, leather, studded belts, wristbands and collars, dark, heavy eye make-up and thickly lined, deep red lips.

Victorian Goth

One of the biggest influences on Gothic fashion has been the imagery in Gothic literature and their movie counterparts, particular that of Victorian writers such as Edgar Allen Poe and Bram Stoker. Victorian fashions like corsets, lace, frock coats and pale skin are popular throughout the scene, but maybe none wear them with as much style as the Victorian Goth.

A Victorian Goth wearing a contemporary version of the Victorian “mourning dress”.

Like their Victorian role models, the Victorian Goths wish to convey an image of decorum and dignity. Clothes must be elegant and, for many, historically accurate. Ball dress and mourning garb are particularly prominent in the scene.

Victorian Goths may also indulge in activities that were popular in Victorian high society, including theatre, masquerades, tea parties and poetry. And, naturally, any kind of Dickensian or other Victorian festival that gives them an excuse to parade around in costume.

As for music, opera and classical are the true Victorian Gothic genres, but Victorian-inspired bands such as Rasputina are also acceptable.

Typical Steampunk outfit, complete with waist coat, pinstripes and the omnipresent goggles.

Steampunk

The antiquated, refined elegance of Victorian Goth and a rough, edgy futurism may seem a completely incompatible combination. But, thanks to a particular genre of fantasy, the two have been successfully wedded to create the Steampunk Goth.

Steampunk is, in essence, science fiction that takes place in the low-tech setting of the past — very often the Victorian era. In Steampunk, you may find steam-powered robots, clockwork computers and complex contraptions made from wood, brass and wheels. The merging of Victorian imagery with quirky technology is doubtlessly of huge appeal to many Goths, but perhaps the most important links between Steampunk and Goth culture are the Victorian writers who inspired the genre, including Mary Shelley and Edgar Allen Poe.

Steampunk Goth fashion is highly creative, incorporating elements that evoke Victorian technology such as clocks, keys and cogs. Although Steampunk is not a music scene, acts such as Rasputina, Emilie Autumn and Abney Park have all been cited as having Steampunk appeal.

Gothic Lolita

A Gothic Lolita proudly displays her subculture fashion sense in the Harajuku region of Tokyo.

While largely inspired by the Western Goth movement, the Gothic Lolita is a wholly Japanese creation. Inspired by Visual Kei and cosplay, the Lolita tries to closely emulate a demure, doll-like Victorian girl. Modesty and elegance are critical, and little or no skin should be exposed in Lolita costumes.

The Gothic Lolita is the darker sister of the frothy-pink Sweet Lolita, and typically dresses in a combination of black and white, or entirely in black. Eyes tend to be dark and smoky but, on the whole, make-up tends more towards the natural tones rather than the theatricality of Goth “white face” — which wouldn’t work on Asian skin, anyway.

This style has recently come full circle, with Westerners now borrowing fashion elements from the Japanese. Westernized versions of Lolita fashion tend to minimize the girlish frills and add an element of coquettish sex appeal.

A classic retro 1950’s “Gothabilly” look.

The Gothabilly

What do you get if you mix Elvis Presley, The Cramps, a bunch of old horror movies and a splash of lounge?  Bizarrely, you get Gothabilly – a rare and exotic breed of Goth with rather eclectic tastes in both music and wardrobe.

With styles originating from “Rockabilly” (American 1950s rock n roll) and “Psychobilly” (1980s punk with a heavy rockbilly influence), Gothabilly is visually and musically a play on retro, kitsch aesthetics – but with a dark twist.  Like Deathrock, which often shows many overlapping traits with Gothabilly, the  music and imagery is frequently tongue-in-cheek and deliberately cheesy.  As such, many Gothabilly bands sport such creative names as Nacho Knoche & The Hillbilly Zombies, Cult Of The Psychic Fetus, and Vampire Beach Babes.

Gothabillys tend to be some of the brighter Goths out there, with their vivid tattoos, cherry accessories and ubiquitous polka dot clothes.