As we congratulated ourselves on rescuing an amazing black and red silk 1950s dress from a vintage store near Waterloo, Cylene explained to me her progression through Goth style since abandoning shapeless skater-boy tee-shirts and jeans at about 17. ‘Once I was reconciled to the fact of actually being female, that was it. Dresses from then on’.
‘I brought Gothic Lolita style back from Okinawa. In Albuquerque in 2001 nobody else was dressed like that. Nobody thought I could manage it practically, as a way of dressing the whole time rather than just club gear, but I did. But then it got taken up by the wrong crowd and I had to move on, and went more Victorian. By the time I was in Portland I had a bit of an identity crisis. I said to a friend, ‘I dress Victorian but I like Industrial as well’. I think he thought that by ‘Industrial’ I actually meant machines and technology rather than stompy music, and he thought and said ‘Hmm, it sounds as though you should go Steampunk’. This was 2006, nobody had heard the word in Portland. So I tried it – and it was the real thing then, not just putting machine cogs on everything. But for some reason it was the Neo-Nazis took up Steampunk and again I had to leave it behind eventually.
‘Then I came to England and everyone does Victorian. I suppose you guys invented it, after all. And half these girls make their own clothes! There’s no way I can compete. And anyway, it’s not always practical. I wanted a style that I could actually wear all the time and you can’t drive a truck in a shelf-bustle! I like vintage, but the thing about ‘vintage’ is that everyone immediately thinks ‘Psychobilly’, polkadots and Bettie Page bangs, and that’s done to death already. And I thought, well, I want to be a 1950s housewife, and nobody else is doing that. You can make anything Gothic, so let’s try’ – she says, sat at Costa Coffee in the dark blue house-dress with lace collar, small black gloves, and big dinner-plate silk hat kept on with a hatpin.
‘Trouble is, how long will it be before this gets popular too? I’m already planning the next move. I haven’t got a name for it yet, apart from “Inpatient Gothic”. What I’ll need to do is work out some way of doing straitjackets and bandages that’ll actually be wearable day-to-day …’