#TheadTalk Halloween: Ghostly Garb

1 – 🎃 Welcome to #ThreadTalk! It's the spookiest month & we're jumping right in with a look at ghostly garb👻!

Thrills, chills & blood-curdling horrors await as we take a trip through history & ask the question: "Okay, but what would that ghost *actually* be wearing?" 🎃

October 3, 2021 - @nataniabarron - #ThreadTalk - Ghostly Garb. A woman sitting in a chair with a book, looking frightened. She is wearing a gown with puffy sleeves and has ringlets.

2 – We're starting in Japan. Because Japan has the best ghosts & my favorite art. Yūrei (幽霊) are closer to a Western concept of ghosts, but spirits of all kinds are common through Japanese folklore.

This one is from the incredible Bakemono no e, dating from around 1700.

3 – The Yūrei are often depicted as women with long, black hair. By the date of this print, I'd say a kosode (a kimono precursor) would be a good match.

The colors are natural, pale, haunting. You see in the embroidered closeup, too, all the sea grass & shellwork. Just wow.

4 – Tsukioka Yoshitoshi (月岡芳年) 1839-1892 was known for many prints during the Meiji period, including his 36 Ghosts.

I cannot tell you how much I love this one, The Spirit of the Komachi Cherry Tree. Perhaps not technically a "ghost" but like ::incomprehensible sounds::

A female figure draped in a kimono with purple and pink, with red underneath. Her black hair is pinned up with gold in a coronet, and she has an almost smile on her face.

5 – I can get lost in kimonos, but I was going for color here. This outer layer kimono might have been a courtesans or possibly for the stage, but the colors and composition seem about right. Dreamy, gorgeous.

©Victoria & Albert Museum, London - The thick, heavy hem of this kimono denotes that it is an outer kimono, or uchikake. It is embroidered with two shishi, mythical lion-dogs characterised by their fierce expressions, large eyes and curly mane and tail. They are shown fighting across a bridge over a waterfall surrounded by peonies. The eyes of the shishi are of glass and the embroidery is padded, giving the scene a very three-dimensional quality. The dramatic design relates to a famous play, Shakkyo (Stone Bridge) which suggests that this kimono is a stage costume for kabuki, the popular theatre of Japan. Designs on stage costumes are rarely so literal, however, and this garment might have been worn by a high-ranking courtesan.

6 – You can't get far without folks talking about Hamlet's father's ghost. The play was written just around 1600, stage adaptions loved dressing the cast up like this.

Which, well. Certainly historical, but for the king of the Danes? Not quite. Fuseli can't be blamed for this.

From Wikipedia: "Hamlet and his father's ghost" by Henry Fuseli (1780s drawing). The ghost is wearing stylised plate armour in 17th-century style, including a morion type helmet and tassets. Depicting ghosts as wearing armour, to suggest a sense of antiquity, was common in Elizabethan theatre.

7 – If King Hamlet was a Dane, his helmet (haha Hamlet's helmet) would have looked more like this 10 C example from Norway.

He also probably had a lovely beard. The Danes were quite fastidious about their grooming, & buried their grooming kits with them in the afterlife.

A danish helmet of the period, with almost alien-like eyes. A ridge along the top and sides.

8 – In Europe, it seems like everything is haunted. But you hear about the "dames blanches" (white ladies) often (and I don't mean Karens).

One such is Perchta von Rosenberg, 1429–1476, rumored to haunt Český Krumlov Castle in the Czech Republic and/or Stockholm Castle.

A portrait of the Dame Blanche, Perchta von Rosenberg. She wears a marvelous gown of white silk, has ringleted hair, and stands in a circle, writing something at the bottom.

9 – The dames blanches are very popular in France, but they also made their way to Quebec, where my folks are. It's said Mathilde Robin haunts Montmorency Falls, where she perished after hearing her fiancé died in the 9 years war in 1759.

She even has a commemorative stamp.

A Canada stamp of Quebec's la dame blanche, a portrait of a woman submerged in water from her bust up, with long black hair. Her reflection is a skeleton. Behind her are the falls.

10 – Reports say she wears a white wedding gown and can still be heard crying. Now a) Mathilde was probably not wearing white & b) was probably not wealthy enough to afford an expensive gown. BUT.

Maybe if she had the $$, she could have worn something like this. We can dream.

Ivory silk brocaded with silk; cream linen sleeve and bodice lining; cream silk lining; ivory silk facings at front bodice opening. Woman's closed-front gown of ivory silk brocaded in pink, purple, and blue flowers and green vines and leaves. Gown has elbow-length sleeves, an open v-shaped front for wear with a stomacher, and a pleated skirt with drop-front panel. The bodice has 2" robings at the front, which would fasten to a stomacher to close the front bodice. These robings run over the shoulders into the back, which has a square-shaped neck edge. The sleeves are slightly pleated at the armseye, and end at the elbow with a 5" cuff that is pleated and narrowed into 1 1/2" on the inside elbows. Via Colonial Williamsburg Collection.

11 – Pushkin's famous ghost story, The Queen of Spades, features a most terrible main character who tries to woo the heiress of a wealthy old countess.

He threatens the countess with a gun & she dies of shock, which propels the rest of the story (which also includes her ghost).

Hermann pointing his gun at the old countess, in a lithograph, dressed in his military attire.

Originally tweeted by 🦇 Natania Barron 🦇 (@NataniaBarron) on October 4, 2021.

12 – Taking a page from an earlier contemporary, I imagine that the countess might have looked a bit like Catherine the Great, circa this portrait ca 1792.

I just also like the idea of her chasing down the absolute dickhead who tried to take her fortune w/a yapping dog, too.

Catherine the Great in a portrait with a long blue walking coat of satin, trimmed with gold. It has a high collar, and she has a frilly hat. She has a small whippet-type dog with her.

13 – Speaking of dogs, apparently there are some ghost dogs–along with quite a few others–on Edith Wharton's estate. The Mount in Lenox, MA, was designed with profits from her writing career.

She famously wrote: “I do not believe in ghosts, but I am afraid of them.”

The expansive home of write Edith Wharton, and the garden grounds around it. It is up on a hill, and it is where she spent years of her life.

14 – You can take a ghost tour of the Mount, but one of Wharton's stories, "The Lady Maid's Bell" features the ghost of a lady's maid & a country estate.

For early 1900s ghost, this striped dress is it: Simple, crisp, but still a bit eerie out of the corner of your eye.

This dress is one of two domestic service dresses kept in the collection at Preston Park Museum and Grounds. It’s a heavy garment made from red and white striped cotton twill, a robust material made to take lots of wear and tear. It has 6 pearl buttons down the front with a high neck fastening.   Image courtesy of Preston Park Museum and Grounds.

15 – Now, away from fiction, we come to the Greenbriar Ghost. In Greenbriar County, WV, a woman named Zona (Heaster) Shue was found dead shortly after marriage, her husband saying she died of childbirth, in 1897.

But her mother claimed she saw Zona's ghost saying otherwise.

Elva Zona Heaster Shue, the Greenbriar Ghost.

16 – It turns out the hunch, or spirit, was right.

The body was exhumed, an autopsy was performed, and lo and behold, Zona was most assuredly murdered. Shue was sentenced to life in prison.

Her mother might have worn a mourning ensemble like this.

A mourning accessory set, from 1895. A gauze shawl and cap, worn over an outfit, for a woman to wear over her clothing for her mourning period. Via the Met.

17 – We're not quite done with books, because I never am. William Windham III was a known bookworm and British Whig statesman. In 1810, he went to help rescue books from a friend's burning library, and injured his hip doing so.

He perished a few weeks later, alas. And yet…

A portrait of a man with hair on the sides of his head, a high neck scarf, and a very dark outfit. He has a long nose and a cleft chin. William Windham by Sir Thomas Lawrence.

18 – It's said that he still inhabits Felbrigg Hall in Norfolk. Well, the library, of course. Residents claim to have seen him sitting in chairs, or hanging out at the tables. No time like the afterlife to catch up on all that reading.

He might be wearing something like this…

©Victoria and Albert Museum, London - Man's coat of purple silk velvet with a triangular and chequered woven figured pattern. The top of the cuff and pockets and collar are covered with looped gilt braid. The coat is lined with silk quilted at chest and shoulders. The buttons are self covered and only the two on the apex of the very convex chest can be fastened. Hand-sewn.

19 – And yes, there are ghosts in the thread. APPARENTLY. I've done over 30 of these and this is the first I've had break.

WELL. Here are some creepy pictures I came across that I just needed to share before I get to sources for tonight.


20 – Here's some more ghosty sources!



21 – Hamlet/Danes

Mathilde –

22 – Queen of Spades

Edith Wharton

William Windham


23 – I hope you enjoyed the first of my #halloween #fashionhistory #threadtalk editions! Next week we'll be checking out…

All things MOURNING! Including some debunking. Because of course.

Meanwhile, be on the lookout for ghosts, & be sure to tell me your favorite stories!

Originally tweeted by 🦇 Natania Barron 🦇 (@NataniaBarron) on October 5, 2021.

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