Happy Hallowe’en from Lady Lazarus!


Myself dressed as “Death the Bride”. Halloween 2013.

My Hallowe’en costume this year is channelling the melancholic romanticism of a tragic, Edgar Allan Poe heroine*. On October 31st, I shall fall into a despair that leads to madness, succumbing to a death-like trance. This will prompt my bereaved loved ones to prematurely bury me in the family crypt. Afterwards, my restless ghost shall arise for revenge, and chocolate.

Happy Halloween, everyone!

*my costume is also channelling the morbid romanticism of the Pre-Raphaelite painter Thomas Cooper Gotch — a morbidity best captured by his 1895 painting entitled (as you may have guessed)  Death the Bride.

"Death the Bride" by Thomas Cooper Gotch. 1895. Oil on canvas

“Death the Bride” by Thomas Cooper Gotch. 1895. Oil on canvas

Lady Lazarus: 2012 in review.

Wow! This blog Lady Lazarus: dying is an art received exactly 47,512 visits in 2012. That’s pretty impressive for a personal blog fuelled by the writing powers of just one individual. Many thanks to those amongst you who “follow” me and add your comments to my posts. It takes at least two to make a conversation, so keep those comments coming in 2013. This blog is a pure labour of love, and I plan to keep it that way. The drive that keeps me researching and writing about all things dark and macabre is a genuine, unslakable curiosity. I’m just a big nerd that way.

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

4,329 films were submitted to the 2012 Cannes Film Festival. This blog had 47,000 views in 2012. If each view were a film, this blog would power 11 Film Festivals

Click here to see the complete report.

“Look at you, don’t you look like Siouxsie Sioux.”

Oh, baby, look at you
Don’t you look like Siouxsie Sioux
How long’d it take to get that way
What a terrible waste of energy
You wear black clothes say you’re poetic
The sad truth is you’re just pathetic
[…] Don’t try to tell me that you’re an intellectual
Cause you’re just another boring bisexual
[…] 80 pounds of make up on your art school skin
80 points of I.Q. located within

–Selected lyrics from the song “Instant Club Hit (You’ll Dance to Anything)” (1987) by the American satirical punk rock band, the Dead Milkmen.

Funny guys, those Dead Milkmen. That song made me laugh back in the day, even as it did thoroughly insult my tribe. Mind you, Siouxsie Sioux became a Goth fashion icon with an indisputable legacy of music and style…the Dead Milkmen, not so much. At the end of the day, the art school kids came out on top.

That classic look of Siouxsie Sioux.

It’s early September so — of course — I’m already thinking about Halloween and my possible costume options. That’s just how I roll, gentle readers. As you’ve no doubt already guessed, I’m considering a transformation into Siouxsie — by which I mean ‘Classic Goth’ Siouxsie, back in her early days with The Banshees. So, what does an outfit like that entail?

Without a doubt, one of the essential elements to the successful deployment of the ‘Siouxsie-look’ is heavy, dramatic make-up. Her signature style, which paired a pale complexion with dark, exaggerated eyes, derived from a few different sources: the actresses of the silent film era — most notably, the Cleopatra as portrayed by exotic screen siren Theda Bara — and the mask-like appearance of Japanese kabuki theatre. To begin, whitened your skin tone with a powder one or two shades lighter than your usual. Once you’ve attained that perfectly pallid, cadaver-like complexion, you can reach for your black kohl eye pencil. Now the fun really starts. OK…I’ve decided not to bore you with detailed, step-by-step instructions on makeup application, as there’s many video tutorials out there showing precisely how to achieve this ‘Siouxsie-look’ with cosmetics. Here’s one if you’re interested. Suffice to say, the process involves a shitload of eyeliner and eyeshadow, dark-red lipstick and some precision work with lip liner. If you closely resemble Cleopatra when all this is done, you’re on the right track.

Ok, the hair. A big bird’s nest of black, backcombed hair. I’m not entirely confident that I’ll be able to achieve this hairstyle with my naturally curly hair, but I’ll give it a try. Perhaps with enough backcombing and hard-as-shellac hairspray, this’ll work. Either that, or I’ll borrow a black wig.

Fishnets, studded wristbands, leather and a lot of hairspray.

The clothes should be — what else? — black. The Classic Goth look borrowed heavily from late-1970’s British Punk, so lots of fishnet, combat boots, studded wristbands and collars, leather, PVC and/or vinyl. The London-based punk fashion shop SEX, co-owned by Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm McLaren, was fundamental to the development of the Classic Goth look. According to Wikipedia, SEX sold fetish and bondage wear supplied by existing specialist labels such as Atomage, She-And-Me and London Leatherman, as well as designs by McLaren and Westwood. Siouxsie Sioux, incidentally, was a shop regular.

Here’s a trick I learned the other day: take an old pair of fishnet pantyhose and cut off both feet. Then, cut out the crotch and pull over your head. Place arms in the (former) stocking legs and — viola! — instant fishnet shirt.

So, that’s it. I’m either going to dress-up as Siouxsie for Halloween, or a zombie. Or….Zombie Siouxsie.

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.

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.


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.