By: Ashley Magenheimer
The aroma of incense hits my nostrils as soon as I enter the store. The walls are purple, the clothing is black. Intricately sewn corsets line one of the walls, next to an extensive collection of different stockings. A counter in the front of the store displays a multitude of colorful hair dyes, hundreds of buttons, patches and leather choker necklaces with metal studs. My eyes are immediately drawn to a gigantic pair of black platform combat boots. My brain is on sensory overload. I’m greeted by Cassandra Davis, the store’s co-owner.
Secret Oktober is a clothing store centering on Goth, dark wave, steampunk and other alternative styles. Davis began listening to Goth music at the age of nine, and continually maintained her involvement in the Goth scene: she’s deejayed, booked and hosted shows, played in bands, written zines and hosted a gothic radio show on community radio in Illinois. Davis opened the store back in 2004, and later brought on Mary Milton as a co-owner.
The two co-owners recently held their annual ‘Gothic Ball’ on February 13th at Elysium. The event urges people to “dress to the nines,” but there are no rules – people can wear whatever they want. Still, there are still plenty of frock coats, corsets and definitely lots of black.
SMEAR: Why did you name the store Secret Oktober?
Davis: When I was filling out the tax forms I didn’t actually have a name, and it wouldn’t let me continue without one. Secret Oktober was the first thing that popped into my head. It’s one of my favorite Duran Duran songs, I’ve listened to them since I was a small child in the ‘80s. I think the name has helped us and hurt us in a way. Some people associate Oktober with Goth/Dark wave, and other people think we’re a costume shop only open during Halloween.
S: How did the Gothic Ball get started?
D: Three or four years ago I was talking with my friend Alex [who Deejayed the past three Gothic Balls] about the heavy prevalence of dance music in clubs today. We missed listening to bands like Bauhaus and Sisters of Mercy, and so we wanted to hear that flavor of Goth music again. So we decided that rather than complaining about it, we’d just have a night and call it the Gothic Ball.
S: Has anything ever surfaced as a result of the Gothic Ball?
D: A marriage came out of it – and also a baby. A few years ago I invited my recently divorced friend Tracy to come out to the Gothic Ball. She typically goes to more industrial-type things, but I told her she had to come. She met someone at the Gothic Ball and now they’re getting married.! Two other friends of mine who are together, Hans Peter and Senna, have a son named Banazir [named after The Lord of the Rings] now thanks to the Ball—and that’s all I’m saying.
S: How is music associated with Goth fashion?
D: Fashion is influenced by music. In the ‘80s, fishnets and torn shirts became popular with the influence of punk. Years later, neon colors and fuzzy leg warmers became popular with the prevalence of synth pop EBM [Electronic Body Music]. A few years ago witch house music became popular and gypsy-esque clothing became trendy – lots of flowy fabrics like chiffon and lace. When I was growing up, Goth was a style of music. I don’t see any sort of disconnect, but there are definitely people out there who view Goth as wearing black and looking depressed. It’s always been about the music.
S: What’s the strangest experience you’ve had as a store owner?
D: A couple years ago a guy insisted that I poisoned him after he purchased a big frock coat from me two weeks prior. He claimed that I sprayed the inside of the coat with poison, and he believed that it gave him a disease and that he was going to die. He kept trying to show me some rash that didn’t exist. He was one of the nuttiest people who’s ever been in here. I truly think he believed I poisoned him.
In Photos: Secret Oktober
Photos By: Mason Endres
Model: Shannon Wiedemeyer
Makeup: Belicia Luevano