Gothic Council Rules on Halloween Costumes

There's a pretty sharp divide between goths over Halloween. While all of us can agree on the sanctity of the holiday, and many can trace our current interests back to an obsession with the 31st of October and all the hoopla that surrounds it, the actual mode of celebration is hotly debated.

Some believe that Halloween belongs to us, since black and skulls and spiders are things we adorn ourselves with all year long anyway. Therefore we don't dress up in costumes so much as just wear the finest of what we already own. Others, and we're included in this category, believe that we owe it to the holiday to craft an amazing non-goth costume to shine in.

Which is the real eel though? To answer that we summoned the Gothic Council. Joing us this week is fashion designer Batty, blogger at Night's Plutonian Shore Sarah Fanning, living historian Morrighanne Burns, stylist Carol Dauemer, webmistress of Morticia's Morgue Becky Plexco, our EBM activitist Jason Hebert, doll maker Ugly Shyla, co-founder of the Age of Decay festival Alethea Carr, and DJ Martin Oldgoth

Gothtopia: How do you feel about goths who dress in their usual garb on Halloween? Are they phoning it in?

Batty: I don't think they are phoning it in. For a lot of goths it's probably easier, and cheaper to "shop your own closet" for Halloween. While I always dress more fancy for Halloween or in some sort of period style ball gown, it's never really a specific costume, it's just a fancier version of my normal dress. However I think it's also fun to dress in specific costumes, I don't think there should be rules for Halloween for goths or norms. However, I do find it irritating that "that guy that dresses like a giant joint or a lewd piece of male anatomy" is the one that wins costume contests every year. I think goths should have our own category, because really we win, hands down.

Sarah Fanning: Not only is it easier and cheaper, the stuff we have in our wardrobes is of better quality than the garbage sold as costumes. Besides Halloween may as well be Goth's day. And as such we should be ourselves exactly as we are and celebrate it; just like moms celebrate their parent status on Mother's Day.

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Morrighanne Burns: Scotland and some parts of Ireland have celebrated Halloween for a very long time. We're probably a bit less commercial than the United States but it's slowly getting there. Trick or treat is called guising here, a play on being in disguise. I usually dress as something completely hideous for Halloween, for me that is anti-goth so this year I'll be wearing bad fake tan and nasty clothes. When it comes to themed events, goths can use their wardrobes or fabulous creative skills (like Batty) to make beautiful outfits, sadly Halloween for the masses is about tatt and tacky. Thank goodness for club nights and decent venues where like-minded folk can appreciate brocade from nylon.

Carol Daeumer: I end up making other people's costumes and never find time for my own, so I have to shop my closet. Having the Orange Show Gala a week after Halloween every year puts extra stress on my costume rush. I've managed to pull three costumes out of my closet this year. I usually try to go for really garish color combinations and giant hair. One day, I will actually start costume planning in July and finish it before October starts. I'd rather see a well-put-together goth look than the whore-in-a-bag costume.

Becky Plexco: Batty made me a period dress last year for the Anne Rice Halloween ball and I'm being "lazy" this year and wearing it twice a in a row, but I have three to four parties to go to this week. I like to make my own, assemble something from my closet. I don't want to look like everyone else or like I'm wearing anything that could be bought at a store. I like to find pieces throughout the year that will work for Halloween (and goth event) everywhere from department stores to thrift shops to craft stored, etc.

Jason Hebert: It's a matter of perspective. If you are wearing your same old same old then I do believe that's phoning it in. If you have something special in the wardrobe that really turns heads then its fine. If you wear a Cradle of Filth t-shirt and a Slipknot mask, not only are you phoning it in, you're calling collect on fashion and Halloween and you deserve to have lightning strike your land line.

Ugly Shyla: Halloween actually confuses the hell out of me. I get to dress up year round. So the concept of getting to dress up crazy once a year is sort of perplexing, and it's a busy time of year so all the really elaborate things I'd like to make I never get to. Since I already have the red contacts and lots of clothes I've cut holes in I'm going as the Mothman or a sort of drag queen type Mothman.

Alethea Carr: I totally phoned it in last year, as I was lazy. And why not simply celebrate the idea that everyday is Halloween for us? There's no shame in not putting on a costume. That's only one way to celebrate the holiday. Now, if you don't hand out some good candy to the trick-or-treaters, you should be very, very ashamed!

Sarah Fanning: I miss dressing up and going to parties for Halloween. But these days it is all about making it magical for my kids. I do dress up as best as I can with clothes I already have, but I always add special makeup or accessories for Halloween.

Martin Oldgoth: From a UK point of view, Halloween just isn't as big as it is in the US, so the whole idea of "dressing up" is a very small part of it. Certainly from where I stand as a club DJ it just means the chance of a bigger turnout, but only then if you go out of your way to give the night a "Halloween" theme, and advertise the "fancy dress" side of it. Otherwise for Halloween is business as usual.

One of these days though we plan on making it out to the US for the holiday and seeing how its done, and getting some shopping in as well. You guys have far cooler stuff to buy than we do!

Morrighanne Burns: Martin, I'm in Scotland and it has always been big up here, not in the dressing up houses part but we certainly celebrate it. We didn't have Christmas as a public holiday until the 1950's so our big celebrations were always Halloween and New Year. I remember English friends thinking that guising was begging when I was younger.

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