“Life is intrinsically, well, boring and dangerous at the same time. At any given moment the floor may open up. Of course, it almost never does; that’s what makes it so boring.” -Edward Gorey
If I am ever a grade school teacher, parent, nanny, or strange lady in the park who yells at young children while wagging her stick at pigeons, I will recommend the works of Edward Gorey to my young, impressionable listeners.
Edward Gorey told it like it is. He cut to the chase. He knew life was awful and did not hesitate to let everybody know. Know why Kate hasn’t been in math class this week? She was struck by an axe, guys. Deal with it.
Oh, and your buddy Prue? Trampled flat in a brawl. Just like that.
Ida? WEAK-ASS SWIMMER.
Et cetera. As you can see, Edward Gorey was pretty dark, and genuinely, too. He once said, “My mission in life is to make everybody as uneasy as possible. I think we should all be as uneasy as possible, because that’s what the world is like.” You and I have that in common, Ed. As far as the morbid and the gothic go, this guy was the real deal.
But he made most of his stuff from the 1950s through the ’70s, all the while referencing the ’20s, and so his characters were not only wonderfully weird, but also wore really cute clothes. Our secret style icon for October is every mind baby of Edward Gorey.
The adults wear fur coats and draping dresses, all to match their dreary eyes and deadpan reactions to things like house-party murders and strange giant reptiles coming to visit.
The children have little uniforms and tartan coats and adorable collars, like they’re all ready to go to a playground, only to just stand around moving dirt with the tips of their Mary Janed toes while the wind moves the empty swings ever so slightly.
You’d imagine Edward Gorey characters are set in their dressing ways the way Ron Swanson is set in his burger preferences. Especially those with fur coats. Gorey himself collected 21 over the course of his life and liked to wear them with Converse sneakers, never totally ready to become one of the bored adults of his illustrations.
Moral issues of fur aside—in the ’80s, Gorey befriended some raccoons in his home and then felt guilty about his past, locking all his coats in storage, and upon his death gave his entire estate to the welfare of animals—there is a nice character quality to the idea of it, the way it really takes someone with character to wear a hat, or smoke a pipe, or carry around a camera on their neck.
Try any of these faux fur coats if you wanna pay tribute to Gorey and his characters. $220 at Topshop, $190 at Topshop, and $60 at Delia*s. (That last one is a bit ROWDY compared to the rest, but I think you can handle it.) As far as vintage goes, you’ll find exactly what you want on Etsy for kind of a lot of money, or enjoy the thrill of the chase trying to find one in a thrift shop. You’re more likely to find fur coats in the thrift stores of wealthy towns. Saying so is morbid, but at least that’s in the true spirit of Gorey.
In fact, vintage is probably your best bet when it comes to other matters of Gorey-like dressing, as well, and thrift will be cheaper than any of the items you’re about to see from the sites below. Some of your key Etsy search terms might be “peter pan collar,” “navy dress,” “tweed coat,” or maybe a combination of all three! (That would be adorable.) Some of Leeann’s “Because You Can” tips from September apply pretty well here too, like the knee socks and yarn laces.
If you’d like a solid fall coat that honors Gorey but isn’t furry, honor his children characters with these playground-appropriate ones. Clockwise from upper left: $196 at Topshop, $150 at Topshop, $160 at a store that starts with “T,” ends in “opshop,” $145 at Modcloth, $196 at Topshop, and $113 at both Modcloth and Fred Flare.
Besides vintage, there are lots of cute-but-dark newer dresses, too, such as: a Peter Pan–collared lace dress (Topshop, $72), a plaid Rachel Antonoff pocket dress (Modcloth, $370), and a lace-sleeved shift dress (Topshop, $100). Please note the cat-shaped pocket on the Rachel dress. Mr. Edward once said, “Books. Cats. Life is good.”
For the essential underlying layer of darkness, these crocheted and lace tights and socks from Urban Outfitters should do the trick, though you can basically get black lace tights from any lady clothing store. $14 here, here, and here.
For shoes, brogues and oxfords are interesting enough but also versatile enough. Even Keds would make sense with the more children-of-Gorey stuff. Or CONVERSE, obviously! Rachel Antonoff for Bass pump (Shoe Mall, $109), Rachel Antonoff for Bass loafers (Modcloth, $129), Wanted crochet oxfords (Urban Outfitters, $39), and Dr. Martens Mary Janes (Urban Outfitters, $99). I wish there were some way to show a sampling of things at your local thrift store though! I got my pair of Doc Martens Mary Janes for $5 at the Village Discount.
If you find yourself more inclined to feel like a Gashlycrumb Tiny than a scary detective, might I suggest this striped long-sleeve (Delia*s, $20); some bicycle socks (Fred Flare, $13); a simple-patterned graphic cardigan (this one will feed your Coraline needs, too!) (Delia*s, $35); a knitted heart jumper (Topshop, $76); Converse, which are usually $40-$50 at basically any shoe store (the star on the high-top adds the schoolyard vibe in a weird kinda way?); and this cartoony Knitted Dove coat (Modcloth, $120).
And, some random accessories that might do the trick: red embroidered gloves (Modcloth, $20), a snappy buckle satchel (Fred Flare, $48), and a faux-fur collar. (Modcloth, $18). To make your own Peter Pan–style detachable collar, try this DIY we posted earlier this month.
So! Feel like taking a walk in the rain yet? Like a more mysterious person? Like you could start reciting witty but creepy limericks at any moment? I myself would like to go join Edward and his cats in a nice nap. ♦