Secret Style Icon: Edward Gorey and Everyone He Has Ever Drawn

Dressing like a Gashlycrumb Tiny.

“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.


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.”

Stuffy and gloomy (both of which I mean positively): a polka-dotted sheer blouse (Fred Flare, $48), a tweed pleated skirt (Gap, $50), and a plaid pleated skirt (Gap, $50).

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’re craving added gloom, this knitted macramé vest (Topshop, $92) kinda resembles Gorey’s etchings, and this cape (Topshop, $170) will make you feel dark and mysterious.

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. ♦


  • norienoire October 27th, 2011 7:04 PM


  • Lucas October 27th, 2011 7:08 PM

    Great job!

  • Anna F. October 27th, 2011 7:15 PM

    SO GOOD.

    At Worn Fashion Journal (the place I hang out when I’m not chilling with the Rookies), we did a photoshoot in this issue [] where we dressed up a whole bunch of lovely ladies as story book characters. We turned our graphic designer into a Gorey girl – she had the best face for it. And yes, that’s a compliment.

  • marypee22 October 27th, 2011 7:17 PM

    yaay this post is amazing! Ed is like the love of my life.I’ve always said he should illustrate my poems… He illustrates my dreams… BEAUTIFUL!

  • ometembe October 27th, 2011 7:20 PM

    Edward Gorey is so great, and his biography is a worthwhile read!

  • unicorn October 27th, 2011 7:37 PM

    these are amazingly glorious in the most disturbing way.

  • Kathryn October 27th, 2011 7:39 PM

    I’ve stumbled upon his dead children illustrations before and have always loved them! This was a really great post. I will definitely dress like a morbid, sickly child this winter, and I couldn’t be more excited!

  • allydoubleyou October 27th, 2011 7:57 PM

    FANTASTIC! Time to share an awesome thing: My college roommate, Vicky, memorized the Gashlycrumb Tinies in the first grade and recited it to her class when they had a “memorize something and present it to the class” day. Her father is the one who got her to do it. You know you wish you were in her family.

  • missblack October 27th, 2011 8:17 PM

    Ohmigod I LOVE THIS!
    I think his drawings are the basis for the opening credits on PBS’ Masterpiece Mystery (which I adooooore); I always watch them twice because I love the illustrations.
    And now I see that this guy has done loads of other stuff; this is the shit! Too bad I didn’t know about this when I was seven, I would have died from happiness.


  • Nomi October 27th, 2011 8:22 PM

    why is this not literally the best thing ever???

  • bufflehead October 27th, 2011 9:01 PM

    Have you ever heard of/seen/read The Shrinking of Treehorn? It is one of my favorite Gorey-illustrated books…

  • moonchild October 27th, 2011 9:35 PM

    So. Amazing.

  • LydiaBird October 27th, 2011 9:53 PM

    This reminds me of Tim Burton’s drawings and his book “The Melancholy Death of Oyster Boy,” which is amazing.

  • Madeleine October 28th, 2011 12:05 AM

    @missblack Yes, the drawings that flicker by in the background of the intro sequence to Masterpiece Mystery are by Gorey; originally the entire opening sequence was a Gorey drawing/animation that was truly wonderful in his uniquely disturbing way! It’s probably out there on YouTube somewhere.

    My first Gorey purchase was The Eclectic Abecedarium (do not cram the dog with Jam; forbear to taste Library paste) but my favorite is the Epiplectic Bicycle. Although The Willowdale Handcar is pretty good, not to mention . . .

  • Raebbies October 28th, 2011 1:09 AM


  • October 28th, 2011 8:29 AM

    After looking at and loving all of the (beautiful but a bit disturbing) drawings, and nicely matched clothes, I found myself wondering what Edward Gorey music might sound like? I decided that “Golden Brown” by The Stranglers was a good fit. And as luck (or misfortune) would have it, I even find that the video carries a certain gloomy Goreyesque vibe. Creepy.

  • girlhero October 28th, 2011 12:23 PM

    holy omg I’m in love with this.
    I’m about to vom because now I need a whole new wardrobe (…again…)

    also lol @ rowdy delia*s leopard print coat for the middle schooler in all of us

  • ShockHorror October 28th, 2011 3:47 PM

    Oh wowee, those illustrations are beautiful. I’ll definately be remembering his name!

    Just two tiny but fairly unrelated notes, one more lighthearted than the other…

    The Topshop cape (black with brown piping)…×153/episode/b00r8z4r.jpg?nodefault=true
    That man’s cape? :L

    And also, I was wondering if anyone else heard of the t-shirts Topman brought out that had ot be recalled because of the message they gave out.

    Much as I adore Rookie, and understand they night not have heard about it because it hasn’t really been mentioned anywhere… But maybe it isn’t the best shop to point us towards?


  • fizzingwhizbees October 28th, 2011 4:15 PM

    Rookie, you are literally the best website ever. Better than Tumblr. Every time I think you can’t get better, you do. You DO. I’d seen the Gashlycrumb Tinies illustrations before and was absolutely dying to know who did them…you read my mind, Tavi.

  • erin October 28th, 2011 4:50 PM

    Oh, this is so great! Really creepy, but great! and I don’t know if I would have liked to sit down and talk with this guy, or to run away in fear of him… anyways, speaking of fur coats, there’s this place in Salt Lake City, called Decades, that just has soooooo many fur coats (amongst other vintage gems) like fur, fur, fur coats. It’s insane! And I think they are reasonably priced too. Not that I’d buy one, it’d be weird. Also, those urban outfitters crochet oxfords? I totally have some identical to them from a different (prob cheaper) brand. So yeah! Love this post!

  • koolkat October 29th, 2011 5:22 PM

    yess! Look at all the cute cats! This is me in the future! :P

  • Lady Celia October 30th, 2011 10:10 PM

    It was the day after Tuesday and the day before Wednesday. Embley and Yewbert were hitting one another with croquet mallets.


  • cancercowboy November 1st, 2011 1:06 PM

    if you like his way of drawing you might also enjoy Aubrey Beardsley.

  • serena November 1st, 2011 3:12 PM

    Edward Gorey is my favorite person who ever lived. My favorite of all his characters is the little creature who never leaves the house and only wears Converse and a scarf. Best thing ever. I also love how Gorey was obsessed with ballet. Anyway, this ruled.

  • Pippi November 2nd, 2011 2:14 PM

    I love Edward Gorey and have 2 books by him. Thanks for reminding me to read him again and enjoy the sketches! Also, thank you so much fur suggesting ETSY to your readers. I am a seller and love to see others sharing that many of us are skilled professionals selling on that site.

    Stay glamorous!