Thursday, November 14, 2013

Horror in Dark or Goth Fashion: The Uncanny

heady post today: the uncanny. Freud's uncanny, which I'd argue is the cornerstone of dark fashion. The Uncanny is also the cornerstone of Horror as a concept+theory. The definition:
an instance where something can be familiar, yet foreign at the same time, resulting in a feeling of it being uncomfortably strange or uncomfortably familiar.

Corsets do this to some degree. Yes--she looks like a woman, but something seems slightly off. Even a basic corset is uncanny. Oh, her waist is exaggerated. "Cool! I love it!" says the dark fashion fan, who enjoys the uncanny more than most. But then you get to the more extreme corsetry, which becomes a form of body modification. Beautiful? If you like the uncanny, yes. If you're terrified of something appearing human and not at the same time, then probably not. 

When we talk about how "hardcore" someone is, we could be talking about where in the Uncanny Valley this person stands....literally:

normal feet looking normal: not uncanny, unless you've never seen anyone wear shoes
hey look! Feet. But natural feet don't look like this. this is somewhat uncanny. Unusual, but we've already become accustomed to this strange silhouette. Fashion mags, real life, the media. So this is very normal in the uncanny valley. But it IS uncanny--the slight uneasiness is translated into a more positive emotion: people who love heels feel sexy or empowered or whatever. 
helloooo uncanny. The uncanny is both familiar and strange at the same time. The oxymoron is unsettling. This looks like what normal feet do, but also not. If you look at the silhouette, it looks normal--feet planted firmly on the ground--just freakishly taller. I'd argue this is why dark fashion fans, who love horror and the uncanny, love platforms. lol. also comfortable. most bang for your buck if you want familiarity and creepiness. 
 this isn't just an uncanny human foot, but an uncanny high heeled shoe--which is uncanny to begin with. This is the last tier of dark fashion, I'd say. I'm sure a few would say that this isn't wearable. After this gray area, things get too strange and it goes to body modification/fetishism and no longer fashion....
Unless you're ok with your uncanny side, you might be creeped out by this.

Not everything in dark fashion is uncanny. Most of it isn't. Here's an example for nails (you knows I loves my nails):

dark fashion design : NOT uncanny
dark fashion symbols/icons/signifiers : NOT uncanny
literal interpretation of horror theme (zombie nails). gore is scary, but not (superficially, at least) uncanny
dark fashion-forward colors and shape: NOT uncanny

I'd argue that the uncanny manicure is the nude color manicure. The nails directly below this paragraph are mine...and this was probably the most negatively-received manicure I've done (and the inspiration for this post). long, pointed flesh-toned nails are creepy because it looks 1) natural and 2) unnatural. If you aren't paying attention, it looks normal. The second photo is from love aesthetics. I say both are uncanny.

color=natural; shape/length=unnatural
shape/length=natural; color=unnatural 
Well, that's it on that. Wasn't planning on writing a dissertation here. Got work to do!

What's this uncanny valley I keep talking about? It's an actual theory, though i've applied it to fashion. The original definition, from the wikipedia: The uncanny valley is a hypothesis in the field of human aesthetics which holds that when human features look and move almost, but not exactly, like natural human beings, it causes a response of revulsion among human observers.


  1. Wow, talk about going all scientific on us! Loved this post, I love when terms are being expand to detailed posts with pictures :) And your nails kick ass!!!

  2. Those toe-shoe heels are ridiculously cute for some reason. I'd wear 'em and use a nice cane to aid stability. Maybe for an hour.