Gothic Skin

So, I survived my first term on the PhD…

I was required to submit a more in-depth proposal, project timeline and a multitude of forms I hope I don’t have to revisit anytime soon!

By the time it got to Christmas I was slightly frazzled, and to be honest I’m still in a slight daze three weeks into January.  My time is split almost exclusively between reading and re-watching the key text series, which isn’t a bad thing but it does mean I’m already finding it incredibly difficult to ‘switch off’ from all things Gothic.  In fact, I think I vaguely remembering answering Ciaran (partner) by replying to his question about what to have for tea with a vague muffled response, followed by a musing on Tae Gon Kim’s vacant dresses (link here if you are interested, unlike Ciaran

So aside from going slightly round the bend, I am really enjoying the direction the research is going, and I’m awaiting feedback from my proposal in the next couple of weeks…

Also in the next few weeks I will be continuing to plan my trip to Japan at the end of March! Although I am still finding excuses to look at Haunted Tokyo tours and Halloween themed tsum tsums so it’s not quite off Gothic-topic completely, and the amount of kawaii stuff I am dying to experience over there isn’t probably helping with my sanity!

I’m slowly re-learning about how to timetable myself in terms of the Phd, I know I am a master of distraction, not so much procrastination as I very much go off on (vaguely) related tangents but ultimately still NOT what I usually should be doing.  Nevertheless I’m learning that even at the age of 24 I still DO NOT do mornings, and to attempt work before 9am is fairly futile… I can work quite happily till the twilight hours and as long as I can continue working this way it is proving to be the most efficient.  Similarly I must allow time for said-distractions so I don’t feel crippling guilt for my ‘intellectual’ wanderings and ‘lost time’.  Finally, I love lists.  Lists work, they channel me, and I LOVE ticking things off.

Next week I’m going to pencil in all the upcoming events and conferences I want to attend this year and organise my calendar for the upcoming months.  One thing I’ve learnt is that the University like multiple events/seminars/skill sessions/talks/lectures/meetings advertised in a variety of different places, so it’s important to write things down as I see them as the likelihood of retrieving the information is akin to chasing a rabbit down a hole, and back again!

All in all, feeling positive, somewhat organised, accepting and accommodating of my dwindling attention span, and ready to march on!


Skinny Gothic begins…

I’m in the first few weeks of my PhD and still a bit in awe if I’m honest.  It’s so surreal when something that you’ve been working towards for so long actually happens and then it’s a little bit like wow, what next?

Currently I’m working on refining my proposal- basically it changes every day as I edit so it definitely resembles something of Frankensteins’ monster.  Aside from that I’m reading/pinning/noting and trying to keep up with my boxsets of course!

I went to my first informal meeting with the other new PhD students and it was interesting to hear about everyones research ideas, and it helped that there were a few other Gothic PhD’s so we’ve got quite the club going at MMU.  Speaking of which I also attended the Gothic North Symposium, which is part of the Manchester Gothic Festival.  I went on my own, although I knew some of the speakers as it was organised by my Supervisor Linnie, even so I took the opportunity to make some new connections and ended up swapping info with a student who is starting her PhD on plastic surgery in the Gothic! So it ended up being quite the confidence boost that I actually successfully networked at one of these events and swapped some interesting conversations with like-minded Gothicists!

So aside from the usual stuff I’m going to be posting some updates on my research, along with my experiences as a fledgling PhD student… wish me luck!



Dead Dolls

‘…the greatest beauty was seen to arise at the cusp of a society’s destruction[1]

I feel dolls say a lot about beauty in the modern age; each doll goes through rigorous design testing in reach of finding the essence of the perfect look.  

Dolls are essentially inanimate, yet clothing is transportive; they gain movement and meaning through the clothes they wear.


This Vampire Barbie is part of the ‘Haunted Beauty’ Halloween collection, her cape is actually inspired by a 2008 Alexander McQueen coat which was created with the past Queens of England in mind.

McQueen Red Cloak

Another obvious shape inspiration is Lucy from Coppola’s  Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992) and her similarly lizard-like collared wedding dress.  These references tie this Barbie’s style to both the past and the vampire, and she is very much fashioned out of our time, and the era of Barbie herself.


Vampire Barbie’s sources of inspiration are very strikingly styled to express a ‘Gothic’ mode, one that is predicated on allusion, feeling and senses; McQueen’s dead Queens emotively impact the catwalks as spectral reimagining of elusive women no living man today could ever accurately conjure.  Similarly, Lucy Westenra has been so diluted as a pop cultural reference in her own right, that it seems only fitting that a glimmer of her essence is reborn in Barbie.

Barbie itself has long been critiqued for depicting only the shallowest flickers of what contemporary girls, and women, represent.  It was only recently that Mattel launched a doll with more realistic proportions.  The body of Barbie continues to be picked apart, socially dissected, and refashioned; the irony of the ‘infallible vampire’ reborn upon a doll that has so long been impervious to change, or decay.

Despite this being a new direction for Mattel- and Barbie, the monsters of contemporary Gothic remain a patchwork of bodies, each incarnation possessing something of their ancestors.

However, making monsters is not new and certainly not a dying art.

“…I beheld the wretch-the miserable monster whom I had created” 

                                                                            -Victor Frankenstein


[1] Dennis Denisoff, ‘Decadence and Aestheticism’ p. 33 in. G. Marshall, ed, The Cambridge Companion to the Fin de Siècle, pp. 31- 53, Cambridge University Press, 2007.

Penny Dreadful – Final Thoughts

It’s been a while since the finale of Penny Dreadful and a while since news broke that this really would be the last episode. Ever.

I think this is why it’s taken so long for me to process my thoughts on what actually happened in ‘The Blessed Dark’- I wasn’t ready to say goodbye to these characters, or their stories.  Whereas I feel the men within the series found resolutions or at least some light at the end of their dreadful tunnels- of some description, it is the women who are truly condemned to the blessed dark.

*spoilers ahead*

Between Lily, Vanessa and Hecate it comes as not much of a shock, on reflection, that Lily is the only to to make it out ‘alive’ (albeit a reanimated corpse) and but the fact Victor only gave her freedom because he felt she had demonstrated ‘humanity’ by spilling her past-horrors of loosing a child felt like a massive step back for the character.  This is not to say that Billie Piper gave a bad performance; it was emotional, painful and full of sorrow – but it was very predictable.  It didn’t feel so much as a monstrous woman, but rather this revelation of failed motherhood was an easy box to finally close off her storyline, and see Lily clad in black, saunter through a graveyard into the narrative abyss.   The final image almost literally ghosted her, she is left unconnected from anyone, or anywhere.

Vanessa’s death was a shock to many viewers and yet death came to her in the arms of the man she loved, a simple bullet that simultaneously ended, and brought, her darkness.




The lightness of her dress, the almost whiteness is significant as white is both the colour her friend Mina Murray died in, the colour of Vanessa’s hospital gowns, and the colour she and Ethan were dressed in during a vision of an alternate future wherein they were happy with children.  White for Vanessa images pain.  Pain is also evident upon her skin after her transformation into Dracula’s ‘bride’- or the Queen of Darkness; the skin beneath her eyes is bruised and dark and there are visible marks on her body.  Her dress, tightly bound, and layered in draping fabric becomes a bandage of sorts.  When Ethan shoots her “with love” there is a relatively small amount of blood in contrast to the shots of the other heroes who are all covered due to their battles with Dracula’s vampire minions.



The blood that does flow is contained by her dress, which instead flows out itself, upon the floor.  In death the physicality of her body, the blood, the wound, is relatively concealed and her material form creates a final image of transformation from darkness to light.  It is merely tragic that light finally comes for Vanessa only in her death.

RIP Vanessa Ives.

She Lives!!

I’ve been really bad at blog stuff for the last month or so – it’s been really busy not least because I was in Disney world for two weeks (and got engaged =many celebrations!)

Today I did something monumental for me; I submitted my PhD application and research proposal.  This is something I’ve wanted and worked towards for a long time, but something that especially last year I just didn’t think would be possible for many reasons.

I’m now back, focused and ready to blog!


She-Wolves, Witches and Gothic Radio

A few lazy Sunday listening recommendations:

Interesting Q&A on female werewolves in popular culture with Manchester Academic, Dr Hannah Priest.


Another podcast, this time by Hannah Priest from her radio show ‘Hannah’s Bookshelf’ with special guest Dr Xavier Aldana Reyes (Manchester Metropolitan University – and one of my fabulous MA tutors)

Speaking more broadly about Gothic-including The Manchester Centre for Gothic Studies at MMU and the wider field of Gothic academia.


A debate surrounding Witches in popular culture, specifically their recent film domination, with Marina Warner, Catherine Spooner and Suzannah Lipscomb. 

Penny Dreadful – Impatience is my virtue

I cannot wait any longer for Season Three of Penny Dreadful, it plays on my mind relentlessly.

I really enjoyed the evolution of Penny Dreadful’s monsters last season, with the witches tying nicely to the vampires as evil cogs on the Devil’s wheel.  Bodies throughout the series are refreshingly unique, as is the extend to which all bodies in the show are presented as transformable, corruptible, and monstrous to varying extents.  Even human Sembene had striking ritual scarring on his face, his skin betraying his alleged history as a slave-trader, and thus signifying the permanence of a dark past.  No bodies are sacred, quite literally, in Penny Dreadful.

The vampires drew together a mutated, animalistic, vampire body that is vaguely recognisable (visually akin to films like Priest 2011) and yet distinctive in the way in which their skin is etched, scarred and hairless.  They are connected to a primal and much deeper mythology than European folktales, instead descending from the Egyptian undead, and therefore provide a distinct vampire body in contemporary television, than the glamourised humans in True Blood,  and The Vampire Diaries, as examples.  I particularly liked that Mina did not take on this body, although she too went through a transformation, instead her skin became a contagious surface- infecting her styling as her undead skin mirrored her spectral clothing to give her the appearance of a hybrid vampire-bride.


Witches were introduced in season 2, and these two did not have one true ‘form’ but rather existed in various states of transformation, masquerade, and monstrosity.  Not only taking the form of ‘normal’ human women, they also have a body that asthetically seemed like an evil relation of the series’ vampires; a hairless, pale, atavistic form, except the witches blend into walls and seep through mirrors like liquid, not flesh.  The lucidity of their bodies is a topic I plan to go into more detail on in a later post – so much to say on the unstable, abject witch!


Finally I’m excited to see how Lily and Dorian (the beautiful un-dead) far in the next season, and whether they once more test the limits of their immortal bodies.  As the apparent ‘big-bad’s’ of the next Season I’m interested to see just how their ‘undead-army’ will be birthed… We have never seen a backstory for Dorian in the series – although we are aware of his literary origins, and of course Lily was made by Victor, but something tells me he won’t be wanting to rush back to his scalpel anytime soon!


So roll on 1st May and whatever the darkness has in-store for us this time…

Gothic to Goth: Romantic Era Fashion and its Legacy

Just read about a recent exhibition in Connecticut which I SO wish I could get to but unfortunately I’ve not yet sprouted wings/invented a teleportation machine.  The accompanying book will have to suffice, sigh.

This exhibition fully explores the Romantic era fashion in detail and its relationship to costume history, and representations of Romantic fashions today.

In showing the garments alongside prints, literary works and art pieces, the exhibition really gives an impression of how fashion-as-art inspires a moment, and how that moment then visually resonates through the ages.

“Gothic to Goth illustrates how early nineteenth century costume—just like fine and decorative art, architecture, interior design, literature, and music—moved away from the order and rationality of the previous half-century to embrace imagination and emotion, originality and vision, and individuality and subjectivity as guiding principles”

The timing of this exhibitions really comes to life when you link it to my recent posts about Marc Jacob’s latest collection, and the sudden resurgence of witch-inspired styles.  The Romantics gave themselves over to nature, to the Sublime, and to art; as ever, fashions today are continuing to retread these themes and inspirations from the past, albeit embellished by new touches.  It becomes very poignant that yet again these themes have returned at this particular time, a time that is quickly becoming synonymous with terror, war, and cruelty.

The Romantics were incredibly skilled in their infusion of absolute beauty and terror and in contemporary fashions this conflict continues to thrive.  Alexander McQueen’s latest offering (read my review of this collection here) overtly clashes soft, feminine textiles and shapes with harsh accessories and embellishments.  The loud prints are threatening, yet transfixing- the details encouraging you to look closer…closer.  The silhouettes are defiant in their Victorian heritage, as many McQueen forms are, but the exposure and transparency  of the clothes still retain a distinctive twenty-first century touch, a perversion of their ancestral design.

AM F:W 2106

It certainly appears there is a call for this exhibition, so if you’re lucky enough to be able to visit please let me know what it was like!  I look forward to receiving the exhibition book and delving further into the continuing relationship between Goth and Gothic fashion…

Runway Gaga

I completely forgot to write about Gaga’s walk for Marc Jacobs A/W 2016 show- the last show of New York Fashion Week.

I liked that Lady Gaga made an understated appearance, and added to her building ‘Goth-Girl’ credentials- along with the news that Gaga has signed on to the next series of Ryan Murphy’s American Horror Story.

What kinds of ‘gothic’ were at work here?

  • anachronistic Victoriana fashions – giant skirts, overcoats, lace, ruffles, over the top feathers, long gloves that recalled a ‘haunted Downton Abbey’, delicate sequins and beading
  • ‘pop-goth’ – checkerboard design, an ‘eom-cat’ print, oversized tops, wide-leg trousers, spiderwebs, rats, dyed bright fur – blending Punk and Goth with sheer maxi dresses and clomping platform boots, the inclusion of Gaga herself (most recently starring in the very Gothic American Horror Story: Hotel)

It’s an eclectic mix of old and new forms of Goth fashions, forcing a convergence of past and further past fashions, into this new collection.  Despite all these nods to historical pieces; flares, mourning coats, stripes tights, this still felt very current.

Gothic today has shifted even since the fashions of the 1980, and further from the Victorian Gothic, of which Jacobs paid homage to.  The mash-up of both of these periods suggests something intrinsic to what Gothic more broadly has come to represent (also identifiable in fashions read as ‘Gothic’); that is to say that Gothic as a mode survives because of its inter-referential relationship with itself, constantly reviving images and styles and colliding them together to create something new.  Gothic doesn’t have to be haunting, but it seems always haunted– at least, by itself.  Now, Gothic can also be much lighter as a mode than previous incarnations of the Gothic, references to rats and cobwebs are camp signifiers of ‘traditional Gothic’ with creaking castles and fleeing maidens.

Regardless, Gothic is as captivating today as it ever was.


The Walking Dead Attraction

Clear your schedule for Summer 2016 and start saving those pennies because you might just want to book a holiday to California and visit the new The Walking Dead interactive walkthrough attraction!

Sadly, I don’t think Norman Reedus will be a fixture at the exhibit, but wouldn’t that be amazing?

I’d love to visit if only to get up close to the amazing make-up effects – not close enough for a bite though…

Here’s a link which also features the promotional video: