Gothic Lit Clothing Lines: An Interview with Wormwood & Gall

the Strangely Beautiful CollectionJust 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.

Cas Wormwood with the Rebecca Thompson mannequin
Cas Wormwood with the Rebecca Thompson mannequin

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!

Me in my brand new Rebecca Thomson blazer at the Strangely Beautiful launch event
Me in my brand new Rebecca Thompson blazer at the Strangely Beautiful launch event

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)?

A dress inspired by Miss Percy
A dress inspired by Miss Percy

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?
Screen Shot 2016-05-31 at 2.11.52 AMI 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.

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