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About the Author
Kyshah Hell is an accomplished chameleon that dreams in color not black and white. This somewhat Celtic Yankee W.A.S.P. fancies herself a Gothic Glamour Punk. “I could never pigeon hole myself into a single category. I have too much fun playing dress-up across the board.”

Ms. Hell lives in Danbury, CT. with the love of her life, Steve, and her soul mate Glamour Puss, the pre-requisite black cat. Send accolades and anti-Goth slurs to her via e-mail.
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Photo | Retroscope Fashions

Retroscope Fashions
Kyshah Hell
Retroscope Fashions is an Internet company specializing in Japanese Elegant Gothic Lolita clothing and accessories for the American market. Not only is the merchandise high quality, but the staff is super friendly. Laura, and her family-run company, will bend over backwards to see that you are happy with your purchase(s).
The Lolita skirts, dresses, tops, and jackets sold on this website are Victorian influenced in style, and come in a variety of colors from black or white to red or blue. The clothing is manufactured with the Japanese EGL scene in mind, using top quality fabrics; the cotton is superb and will last a lifetime, becoming softer and more supple with each washing.
Retroscope Fashions specializes in clothing, but they also sell jewelry, costumes, petticoats, hosiery, and of course hats and parasols. Every Lolita needs a parasol to keep the sun at bay and to complete her look. The parasols come in several different colors and many styles. And most importantly they cover a reasonable price range. There are parasols constructed of real Battenberg lace, and parasols hand made in New Orleans. The EGL mini-hats are absolutely adorable and are so popular Retroscope can hardly keep them in stock.
The skirts, such as the “Gothic Victorian Long Bustle Skirt” and the “Gothic Victorian Single Bustle Skirt,” are ingeniously designed to be worn a few different ways. There are hidden laces that can be tied up to create a bustle effect, or left alone for a more streamlined shape. This creates the possibility for more than one fashionable look using the same garment. This same idea follows into the shirts, with one style exhibiting a detachable capelet and another including a separate collar to create two different looks using the same shirt.
There are no refunds offered at Retroscope Fashions, but if something does not fit you are more than welcome to return it for the correct size. This may not be an issue though, because the size charts are impeccably accurate and the clothing is all uniform in size. I have it on good authority that this company has taken painstaking efforts to hunt down production facilities that can handle the high expectations of both quality and fit that Retroscope Fashions is currently building their reputation on. This is a company that is perfect to begin building an EGL wardrobe from, and then continuing to watch on a regular basis because they are consistently updating the website with new designs, colors, and style variations.
We took the time to ask Laura more about Retroscope.
Laura, please give our readers some information on your background as a designer/artist.
I have not had any training as a designer or as an artist. I simply have had an appreciation for certain eras of clothing through my interest in music and movies. My favorite styles are: Victorian, 1920’s, 1960’s Mod, late 1970’s Punk and classic Gothic. I was very poor growing up, so I had to make do with old clothing and anything I could get from the thrift stores. I used to take these clothes, tear them apart and re-sew them by hand since I didn’t know how to use a sewing machine. I also taught myself how to make chainmail, but these days I just don’t have the time to do it.
How did the idea for Retroscope Fashions come to you?
I had been trying to think of a way that my family would be able to work together and no longer have to work for someone else.
About 5 years back, I was walking around Carnaby Street in London, lamenting the fact that it had at one time been the center of fashion in the 60’s and now it was a mecca of crappy mainstream stores. I love 60’s mod fashion (Rudi Gernreich is one of my favorite designers) and thought that it might blend well with the Gothic culture if done right. Strangely enough, I fractured my knee a couple of months later. This meant my long-time career as a retail manager was pretty much over. I couldn’t stand 8 to 11 hours at a time anymore and wasn’t trained to do anything else. I took it as a sign to continue with my idea.
The 60’s clothing we started with looked great but, unfortunately, that look can be a bit limiting. I wanted to do something that could change and grow with us, yet keep that retro feeling. About 10 years ago, I discovered the band Malice Mizer. I loved the look of the band and the Lolita fashion that was sprouting up in Japan. At the time, it was just something I thought was really cool and tried to emulate the look when I went out to clubs. A few years ago, I started thinking again about Malice Mizer and a Morbid Outlook article I had read about the Lolita style. I thought that this style may be an interesting source of inspiration. I read everything I could get my hands on and scoured the Internet for pictures and resources. We tried many ideas (some worked, most failed) before we got to the point we’re at now. In 2006, at Bat’s Day, we unveiled the new clothing and it just took off from there. We were amazed at the positive reception we received and immediately started working on more ideas.
What is your vision – what do you wish to accomplish with Retroscope Fashions?
Retroscope was always about bringing my love of the Gothic culture and fashions from the past together. I have been in the Gothic scene since High School, but have seen the “style” degrade into what I call “Hobo Goth.”
Goths used to really dress well from their hair to the tips of their stilettos. It was really sad to see the new Goth kids dressing like Gangstas with wide leg pants hanging down to their butts and arm warmers. I wanted to get these kids (and oldsters like me) excited about dressing up again, but make it affordable enough to be accessible.
Please tell us a bit about the people who make Retroscope Fashions what it is.
Retroscope Fashions is a family-run company. While I am usually the one customers and vendors deal with online, my family has many other important roles. When we are vending (at Convergence or Bat’s Day, for example), you will see my sister Alexis and brother-in-law Jason. They are the ones who mostly interact with the public, as I tend to be very shy. They are my live models for the clothing and are great faces (and personalities!) for the company. Jason also designed our new business cards, banners and some new men’s shirt ideas currently in the works. Another family member (designing under the name Lucretia) is my concept designer and seamstress. She creates the mini hats, executes all of the commissions and is the one I go to to draw up our ideas to send to the manufacturer. I can’t draw, so it always amazes me at how well she interprets our ideas. She is incredibly talented and we couldn’t do half of what we’ve done without her.
Is Retroscope Fashions an ode to the Japanese Gothic Lolita scene, or do you wish to create a Victorian inspired Gothic Lolita style within the American Goth scene?
Actually, I hope that I am doing a little of both.
My hope is that the traditional Lolitas understand that I have nothing but respect for the Japanese Lolita Fashion and that certain rules (ie: length of skirts, traditional fabrics and modesty in general) must be adhered to with our clothing. I always keep this in mind when buying items to resell or creating new pieces.
What about the rest of the world, ie: Europe, South America, Canada?
We have been lucky enough to gain loyal customers all over the world. The UK, Canada and the US are some of our best customers. I’ve been told that it is difficult to find anything new to wear in the UK and that what is available is expensive and all too common. I am assuming that it is a bit like the US in that the top “Goth” brands (ie: Lip Service, Tripp, Morbid Threads, etc.) are available everywhere, so you see yourself coming and going when you go to events or clubs. Everyone wants a new outfit that is different or inspires them in some way. I am hoping that our clothing will do this for our customers.
With your uniquely American vision of the Gothic Lolita and Victorian Aristocrat styles, you are inspiring me and others in the US Goth scene to follow a new direction fashion-wise. Is this your intent? Do you feel the US Goth scene is in need of a new style of dress to compliment the many styles that already exist?
I am very flattered that we may have inspired a new direction in Gothic fashion. Victorian fashion is something that I honestly don’t think is new in the Gothic scene, but I hope that we are helping to bring the focus back on “style”. I feel that there has been a great dichotomy in gothic clothing styles for the last ten years. There are designers out there who make simply gorgeous traditional Victorian style clothing and corsets, but are rather expensive for the average person. At the other end of the spectrum, there are the top commercial “gothic” brands that have not changed at all over the years or have taken a turn for the worse by offering sloppy Skater Punk styles. Of course this is more affordable, but there is no imagination, no “wow” to be had.
The Gothic Lolita style is cute and youthful, while the Elegant Gothic Aristocrat is very stylish and more sophisticated. I feel that Goths will be attracted to these styles, as they are a different take on traditional Victorian fashion and still have some room for innovation.
How do you feel about the current state of Gothic fashion that has been infiltrating the mainstream? When skulls and wearing all black become trendy, is it always disheartening to those who live the look full time?
I think it is pretty much like anything that becomes a trend... it goes away and another horrible trend takes its place (ie: UGG boots!!). Those of us who really like the Gothic style and music will continue wearing what we like even after the “poseurs” are long gone. I have heard lots of people say that they have been frustrated when they are looking for clothing online (especially on Ebay). Put in the word “gothic” and you have to sift through thousands of black t-shirts and things that have a skull on them before you run across one item that might be interesting.
I also haunt many Lolita lifestyle boards and believe me, they have the same concerns. I see clothing loosely inspired by “Sweet Lolita” in all the malls. Lots of ruffles, fruits and knee length bell-shaped skirts. Many alternative-clothing companies are also touting that they carry “Gothic Lolita” or “EGL” clothing, but these pieces are usually way too short, made from fabrics that are never used and/or their models are shown in provocative poses. Lolita fashion is all about looking like a Victorian doll or modest young Victorian lady. It is in no way supposed to conjure up images of Nabokov’s Lolita. This is why I am so adamant about sticking to the rules of traditional Lolita fashion, while trying to appeal to Gothic sensibilities. It is a fine line to tread, but I’d rather stick to tradition and integrity than make a few extra bucks.
Upon browsing the website, it is immediately apparent that you wish to cater to both the male and female audiences. Was this so from the beginning? Would it be fair to say that you feel both sexes are equally important to your business?
Of course we want to cater to both sexes. The biggest complaint we’ve heard at events and through our email is that there are never enough choices for men. Women’s clothing is typically more diverse in the fashion world because we are also the ones who buy the most. Men tend to keep things that they like forever, while women are constantly buying new things.
My brother-in-law Jason would say that there are relatively few places to buy interesting clothing for men. He shops for Gothic and period style online more than anyone I have ever known. He has purchased from the best alternative companies all over the world, but his complaint is not the quality, but rather that there is very little, in general, to be had. Unfortunately, men have few choices. You get the poet shirt, the black button down (plain, tattered or with skulls) or a t-shirt.
Little by little, we have been trying to add to our scant men’s section. It is difficult, but something we are committed to doing. We have some new shirt ideas that are being made into samples at the moment. It takes about 4 to 5 months to have something made from conception to the actual product since we have our items made in Asia. Unfortunately, many of our ideas are also used by the company that makes our items, as there are no trademark laws there. We are currently trying to find a company here in the states (preferably in Los Angeles) that will make our clothing for us. This will ensure quick turnaround time and help to keep our prices low.
How do you get inspired artistically? Especially when it comes to the male Gothic Lolita style. I ask this because there is no cohesive male Lolita look in Japan; it could be argued that the male Gothic Lolita does not exist.
One thing about having a home-based business is that you have plenty of time for research. I am a visual person, so I spend many hours inputting words or phrases [into search engines] that mean something to me, and I look at pictures. I cannot draw, so I have to have pictures of things that inspire me. Then I go to our designer and tell her what I would like to see made. She usually takes my ideas and improves upon them.
As for male Gothic Lolita style, it exists mainly in the Kodona and Dandy looks. Kodona is reminiscent of the painting “The Blue Boy”, with knicker-style knee pants, jackets and lace-sleeved shirts. Dandy is a more mature version of Kodona and can have ruffled or lace front shirts, velvet coats, twill tail jackets, vests, lace cuffs, etc. There is a blending of Edwardian, Victorian and Restoration era styles. The rules for the men’s styles are less rigid than the women’s, but it must be stylish. The only limit is your imagination.
Is there anything else you would like to let our readers know?
There are two things:
a. I will be adding a “Concept” section to the webpage so that customers will be able to see our drawings of the clothing and commission items we have created. I think it might be interesting for people to see the design on paper and how it translated into the final product.
b. I’ve had a lot of people ask me where I got the name Retroscope. I actually thought I had made it up! I decided to combine the words:
“retro“ (relating to, reviving, or being the styles or the fashions of the past)
“scope“ (space or opportunity for unhampered motion, activity, or thought)
because it felt right for what I wanted to do. One day I put the name into Google and this is what came up:
“A ‘Retroscope’ is a fictional television-like camera that allows one to see what an old, worn object used to look like. ” – Tom Swift and his Electronic Retroscope (children’s book).
Either way, both definitions seem right.
Please take the time to visit Retroscope Fashions and discover for yourself what a wonderful world of EGL style they are creating. They “love what [they] do and are excited about what [they] bring to the Gothic community” – and it emanates from every garment they lovingly create for their customers.
Photos courtesy of Retroscope Fashions