Just over a month ago, I discovered the lovely supplier of vintage and gothic finery, Wormwood & Gall, at a book launch of all places. You may recall from my review of Strangely Beautiful by Leanna Renee Hieber that I had planned on attending a launch event for the book at the Morris-Jumel Mansion in April. The event turned out to be even more amazing than I’d hoped for! The setting was well-chosen, with the house providing the perfect historic and haunted backdrop for Leanna’s reading. To top it all off, Wormwood & Gall contributed some delicious complementary absinthe and showcased their clothing line inspired by Leanna’s novel.
After Leanna read some passages from her recently re-released Gaslamp fantasy, Cas Wormwood took the stage, wheeling out a clothing rack and an elegantly dressed mannequin. Cas is the artistic force behind Wormwood & Gall, which he describes as “a carefully curated online thrift store that seeks to provide unique fashion for old souls.” A multi-talented entrepreneur, Cas wears many hats as a writer, designer, actor, photographer, cartoonist, and tarot reader. That night, his designer side was out in full force as he lovingly described how each piece in his Strangely Beautiful collection was inspired by a character in Leanna’s story and carefully selected to match elements of that character’s personality and aesthetic.
Having read the book, I found each accessory and article of clothing immediately recognizable as to which character it was meant to represent. Each piece was beautiful, of high quality, and extremely reasonably priced, but I was drawn most strongly to the mannequin decked out in a full ensemble in the fashion of Rebecca Thompson, the dignified headmistress in Strangely Beautiful. I wanted to take home the whole outfit, but satisfied myself with a single piece: an elegant blazer that perfectly complemented my outfit that night and also serves as a great addition to my professional wardrobe. I’m now one step closer to my dream of a CorpGoth aesthetic!
Now, several weeks after the event, I finally got a chance to sit down with Cas and ask him some of my burning questions about Wormwood & Gall and The Strangely Beautiful Collection. Read on for the full interview! You can also check out the shop for yourself on Etsy or Store Envy, and follow W&G on Tumblr, Facebook, or Twitter (@wormwoodandgall).
Can you tell me a little bit about the Strangely Beautiful line?
This line is all about ghostly, gothic glamour. I wanted to evoke the drama of the era and the magic of the series in the pieces that I chose. However, I wanted the attire to be functional as well as fashionable. I didn’t want to pick things that were too costume-y because I wanted people to be able to wear them to functions, on picnics, etc… So, I found things that had whispers of the 1880’s about them; corset lacing on the back of a blazer, a mermaid cut on a skirt as a nod to bustles, that sort of thing. I sought out brocades, velvet, and ruffles. There’s a lot of romance to it, really. And I knew I would be dealing with a lot of black if I was going to do anything involving Leanna Renee Hieber’s body of work, so I made sure that I found things with black fabric that had a significant amount of detail, so it wouldn’t all just be one note.
What is it about Strangely Beautiful that made you want to assemble a clothing line for it?
The imagery in the series is to die for. Leanna Renee Hieber has such a knack for completely transporting her readers to the 1880’s and in Strangely Beautiful she created such a lush and vibrant world. She provides such exquisite, little details about the clothing that her characters are wearing, as a designer, I couldn’t help but start dreaming. I’ve been waiting for an excuse to indulge in my Victorian fashion fantasies and Strangely Beautiful was the perfect one. Some of the pieces I selected with the spirit of particular characters in mind, but others I chose because they might have had patterns or textures that reminded me of other elements in the world of the books; London’s smog, gentle flames, ravens…
Who was your favorite character to find clothes for (and why)?
Ms. Percy Parker herself, I think! Every dress that I selected with her in mind was such a statement piece. I wanted whoever purchased them to feel like the main character in their very own gothic fantasy when they wore them. So, I set out to find really chicly theatrical things; in an attention-demanding, heart-stopping bleu de France, if possible. I usually gravitate towards all things black velvet, so it was a really rewarding challenge to seek out something so fresh and different. If I weren’t keen on finding that particular breed of blue, I don’t think I would have discovered the treasures that I did.
What are some other clothing collections you’ve done, now and in the past? Have you done any others based on books?
I always like to curate things for different seasons with a bit of a theme in mind. That way, if people want to mix and match different pieces within their purchase it all goes nicely together. Just before The Strangely Beautiful Collection, I was walking through Fort Tryon Park on a misty evening and really inspired by the rather gloomy foliage that was blooming at the base of the walls of The Cloisters Museum. I decided that I’d base my spring choices on that very dark, floral palette. The collection had a severe and delicate magic to it, so I robbed a line from Jane Eyre and called the collection Mademoiselle Is A Fairy. Late last summer, I was bit by the regency fashion bug and I paid tribute to Susanna Clarke’s Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell. I wanted The Raven King’s Collection to feel like a gray Yorkshire morning in autumn. It had a lot of beautiful fabric – rich velvets and corduroys – and plenty of raven imagery.
Where do you find the clothes for your collections and what do you look for when selecting your pieces?
I frequent independent resale shops, vintage and antique stores, estate sales and the occasional downsizing theater or opera house. I try to find pieces that strike the perfect balance between costume and casual, with a particular eye for classic designers, at price points that remain affordable while still attentive to the true value of the piece. I figure that if I would comment on it if someone walked into a party wearing it, it’s right for the shop. I always want to find things with a touch of the fantastical; things that look like they have a story, evoke another time, things that would be conversation starters between old souls.
And lastly, what’s your favorite book?
That’s quite the cruel question! Do I have to pick just one? Perhaps, since you’re The Gothic Librarian, I’ll offer my favorite gothic book, which is, hands down, The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde.