amwriting, genre, Pagham-verse, Uncategorized, world building

Pagham-on-Sea: Undead Fashion

Guest Post: Clementine Wells

Miss Clementine Wells was alive [or, as she prefers, a member of the Ante-dead community] for twenty-two years and has been dead since 1793. She prefers the term ‘Revenant‘.1 This is a type of undead which does not require the blood of the living, but is known for its violent rages. Anti-Revenant propaganda of the Middle Ages has painted a dark picture of this kind of undead, and when the Slavic ‘vampire’ entered the consciousness and imagination of the British public, Revenants who had managed to overcome their anger issues and live relatively peaceful and productive afterlives with the aid of regular herbal infusions and the ingestion of animal blood and spinal fluid, found themselves hopelessly confused and lumped together with their blood-drinking cousins. 

Miss Wells is the CEO of Open Casket Clothing, and is an advocate for Undead issues and the founder of #RevenantAwareness, which promotes better understanding and appreciation of Revenant issues within the Undead and Ante-dead Communities. 

On Clothing and Corpses: An Inside-the-Coffin Perspective

It’s an absolute pleasure to be blogging here on the subject of ‘Undead Fashion’, as I’ve returned from Paris Undead Fashion Week with some new ideas for next season, and casket clothing is on my mind!

Open Casket Clothing and its range of ‘Gothic Streetwear’ came out of a desire to give Revenants like myself a proper range of day, evening and night options using a range of natural and synthetic materials. You don’t always want to look like you’ve come straight from pulverizing someone at the gym, even if you have. Sometimes, just leaving your grave knowing you’re ‘open-casket-ready’ is a real mood-booster and is in itself a way to lessen the aggression!

On this subject, a lot of the Ante-dead community ask me about Revenants and the ‘distressed-sporty’ look. While that’s very popular aesthetically, it’s primarily a pragmatic choice. This is for a couple of reasons…

Firstly, one of the biggest problems that we have is staining.

Blood is one of the ‘problem stains’, and needs to be soaked in cold water, or put on a cold wash. For some of us, staining is inevitable no matter how careful you are, and if you find your body reacting badly to malnutrition then you will almost certainly find yourself soaking your clothes after every wear! Fabrics need to be durable and colour-fast. Additionally, for Revenants such as myself, anger management is key and we need to undertake physical exercise to regularly rid ourselves of pent-up aggression. The obvious thing is to go about exclusively in sports’ wear, and with such a range of gym clothing on the market today, many of us choose to do so.

Boxing and/or Mixed Martial Arts is ideal, and many Revenants have gone on to have successful cage fighting careers. However, Revenants are also known to spread contagion, which is why it is vital that our opponents have been vaccinated against such things as polio and scarlet fever. It is a peculiarity of our undead flesh that viruses and bacteria will populate us quickly and ruthlessly – fortunately, with so many of the population now vaccinated, we can go about our business without fear of spreading these eradicated diseases. This is another reason why the fabrics we wear must be able to withstand a great deal of punishment – if not cold washes, then hot ones.

Another curious fact about Revenants which is still under-researched is the way metal reacts to our flesh, or rather, to the stagnant blood in our veins. The anonymous medieval Scottish monk who wrote The Chronicle of Lanercost reported the following incident regarding a Revenant (I’ve used Maxwell’s 1913 edition here):


The Chronicler exhibited the usual ignorance, of course, but on this point he was entirely accurate. Being punctured with metal or metal alloy creates a chemical reaction that results in the object being destroyed – not quite ‘to ashes’, but it is rather spectacular.

Of course, this kind of chemical reaction ruins even the hardiest of fabric. There was very little one could do about this, of course, until the mainstream adoption of the ‘distressed’ look. This trend was a godsend for Revenant fashion, since it meant that a few extra holes and tears could be artfully incorporated into designs, and ‘ruined’ dresses, shirts, trousers and other articles of clothing could simply be recycled and rejuvenated with more holes, rips and tears, or patched up using other fabrics.

Streetwear fashion is not something everyone feels comfortable in, but with the blend of ‘period’ styles and black as the main (and safest!) colour, it provides an antique twist on a modern trend.

Open Casket Clothing opened its first shop in Hastings in 1999, expanded to Bexhill-on-Sea (2005) and Pagham-On-Sea (2008), and now has several branches across the U.K., including Brighton, Bristol, Cardiff, Eastbourne, Llangollen, Whitby and York. A new Edinburgh branch is opening in Feb 2020.

1. In his French-language compendium, Treatise on Vampires and Revenants (1746), revised in 1751 and re-edited and translated into English by Rev. Henry Christmas in 1850 when it was also re-named The Phantom World, Augustin Calmet argued that although Western Europe had witnessed troublesome revenants in the past, the vampires of Eastern Europe were a unique type of undead-corpse. This is now a classic but problematic text for the Undead communities. For more, see Keyworth, G. David. “Was the Vampire of the Eighteenth Century a Unique Type of Undead-Corpse?” Folklore 117, no. 3 (2006): 241-60.