For the 10th anniversary of our Famous Dead Person’s Ball, I decided to indulge myself with a costume I’d dreamed of doing for years — a somewhat historically accurate Cathy in Wuthering Heights from the early scene where she’s a ghost scratching through the bedroom window. It’s the scene that Kate Bush‘s wonderful song “Wuthering Heights” is all about.
I’ve seen some interpretations of this scene where the costume was from the wrong historical era. Now, I’m not usually a costume nazi. I often take a liberal interpretation when I make historical costumes. But I am something of a literary nitpicker 😉 It’s the curse of the English major. Besides, Wuthering Heights is one of my all-time favourite books, and I was going to feature it in my half-finished Master’s thesis. So I’ve always wanted to see the ghost Cathy done in the era of the book.
According to the analysis in the back of my Norton Critical Edition, Cathy dies in 1784. Women’s clothing of the 1780s had full skirts and a fitted bodice with a square neckline. In the U.S., we often call this style Colonial, and all of the commercial pattern companies have Colonial dress patterns. I used Butterick 3071, combining bits of both views. The pattern went together smoothly, although the bodice fit was imperfect, and I didn’t have enough time to fuss with it.
Since I was making a gown for a ghost, I wanted it to look like the wearer had risen from the grave. Tattered, torn, faded, pale. So I made it out of unbleached muslin and ivory lace, all of which looked tea-stained and old. I also distressed the gown to look old and worn.
With the dress, I wore sheer white hose and white louie-heeled court shoes with bows on the front. I did heavy white-face makeup on my face and chest, using a green pre-base, then a pearlescent white MAC HyperReal foundation, topped with Perscriptives Magic Powder. On my eyes, I used lots of bruise-colored purples and shimmery greys, plus smudgy black liner, for a dead eye socket look. I wore Urban Decay Bruise lipstick (purple original formula) with hints of blue added. I ratted my hair up big and messy, as if I’d been rambling the wild moors.
My dear Thomas indulged me further by taking photos whilst I lip-synched melodramatically to the song!