All Dressed Up And Ready To Go: A WiH Interview With Nez Wilburn.

There’s something in the water down in Florida.
No, I’m not talking about the bath salts (or lack thereof).

Tonight’s Woman In Horror spotlight hits the Sunshine State for the fourth time, which makes it one of the busiest states in the US, outside of California, when it comes to ladies who love the red stuff. I can now officially begin my petition for a Mount Rushmore of Women In Horror in the state.

Nez Wilburn is the founder and goddess behind DarkSpectre, one of the most beautiful and downright awesome custom design companies for costumes. When she isn’t devouring horror films and spreading her love for the macabre to those close to her, Nez is hard at work creating some incredible pieces that have been used for everything from weddings to stage shows in Disney World.

Not only is she as dedicated to her craft as humanly possible ( Nez once spent 280 hours creating one of the most intricate outfits in the history of cinema. What did you do on your summer vacation?), but she’s also one of the kindest and fun loving women I’ve ever come across.

So, without further ado, keep hands and feet inside the car at all times and let’s take a trip down Memory Lane with Nez Wilburn.

Photo by Laura Dark Photography
Make-up Artist: Deanna Roberts

1. DarkSpectre is a gorgeous, stunning site full of incredible pieces. Who or what inspired you to do what you do for a living?

That’s an incredibly broad question that seems to get harder to answer every time it’s asked of me.  Initially I started doing this gorgeous thing I do because I needed a product that I couldn’t find in this market.  Back in the days of early internet, the closest you could get to these really awesome gothic gowns was at Hot Topic (when they carried Lip Service and Eternal Love, that is) or by perusing the UK goth designers like Jeannie Nitro with giant pricetags and huge waiting lists for product.  The few items I would find in the smaller boutiques were outrageously priced and even so, not well made and not “perfect”.  I started out modifying existing fashions and up-cycling thrift store finds, and then going even further to create these huge affairs to wear as Halloween costumes.  A group of long-time Halloween addicts in the email forum known as the Halloween-L were the individuals who lauched me from behind my computer and into some sort of limelight…which only took on a life of it’s own after I became involved with the Parade of Fatal Fashion at the yearly event Ironstock in Tell City, IN. From the years of 2005-2007 I paraded Darkspectre up and down the catwalk and basically really got my start there, amongst the creepy people of the haunt industry. 

2. You’ve carved quite a niche in the Halloween fashion scene, touching on a number of styles including horror, sci-fi, Victorian and anime. Is there one particular style you enjoy creating most?

Oh…it’s Victorian, hands down!!  There’s nothing I love more than to take historical designs, twist them, corset them, distress the HELL out of them, and then top it all off with a dash of blood as an accessory!!  ALL of my favorite imagery is from that time period when romance and death walked hand-in-hand…picnics in graveyards were en vogue and so was ghost hunting and seances!  It also has it’s “naughty bits” that I can appreciate as well, and you occasionally see peeking through in my work if you look closely enough.  I love the fact that in THAT particular time period death wasn’t taboo and blasphemous to speak of, and had it’s own beauty as well, as documented in photography, Gothic prose and art.  The fashion of the time is severe and extremely feminine at the same time, and I try to reflect that in the work I do for myself…you see the majority of this around Halloween time as I take more creative license with the items I create for myself…but it’s funny how those are always the gowns that fly out of my hands faster than anything else I make!

3. You’ve done a reproduction of the red silk gown from Bram Stoker’s Dracula that took 280 hours to create?! It must be incredibly rewarding to see a project like that in it’s finished state. Do you know what was made of that costume?

That was actually a commission piece that I believe ended up becoming a wedding gown for the young lady in question.  I love that dress!! I would do it again, and I would do it even better the next time around!!  280 hours…mostly due to all of the hand-made trims.  Each and every tiny rose petal is formed and sewn by hand, then hand applied to the dress.  It came out spectacular and not only would I love to make it again, I want to make it in black as well!!  Hindsight being 20/20, the one thing I would do differently is I would have created a cage crinoline to wear underneath it to better support the skirts, as they were HEAVY.  I know…yawn, technical…yawn!!  Ooooooh, could you IMAGINE that dress done in black and white stripes?!  And thus runs the hamster in the wheel of my mind….coffee, anyone?

Photo by Laura Dark Photography
Make-up Artist: Deanna Roberts

4. Is there one specific creation of yours that you like the best?

My favorite gowns are the tattered and shredded Victorian gowns; the ones that look like you’ve been made to claw your way out of the grave and drag yourself through the woods back to civilization.  They are fun to make and even more of a delight to wear!!  I don’t have professional shots of her, but my favorite one of these was a dusky rose and grey version I had named “Decay”.  She now resides proudly with a particularly ghoulish “fiend” of mine and I hear she is being very well taken care of!

5. Are you a big horror convention attendee? I would imagine your work would be immensely popular at those shows.

Suprisingly I have not been a huge attendee, mainly because I spent a huge amount of time living in South Carolina which just so happens to have ZERO horror conventions.  At least when I lived there it was zero.  I attended a few haunt conventions out of state, but for the most part I stayed at home, raised four children and taught myself what it is I do today.  Now that I’m based out of Florida, I hope to change that up a goodly bit!  But for what it’s worth, I credit my mother and my aunts for my love of horror:  they started scaring myself and my sisters when we were good and young with horror films, books and of course, any stories they could come up with.  Being a child of the 70’s and 80’s, I was around to witness when horror made the leap from suspense and mystery (Hitchcock, Night Gallery) to what we call horror today (The Exorcist, John Carpenter’s Halloween, The Thing, Tales from the Crypt).  I had the comic books growing up and read, of course, Stephen King, Peter Straub, Lovecraft, amongst others and have one hell of a vivid imagination.  I LOVE THE GENRE…there’s nothing better!!  I’m always quoting Bill Cosby in his bit about the old horror radio shows…”Scare me to death!!”

6. What are a few of your favorite horror films?

Halloween, of course, because Michael Myers is the ultimate bad-ass.  Trick ‘r Treat has become a tradition in my home as well. Who doesn’t love Sam??  Absolutely ADORE all things involving Hannibal Lecter…he’s such a brilliant character and I can watch all the movies in that series repeatedly, but especially love The Silence of the Lambs.    I love all things vampire related and 30 Days of Night is the best one of them, thank goodness someone remembered vampires are supposed to be bloody and not sparkly!!  Wrong Turn is another particular favorite of mine….I swear those people DO exist among us, in the mountains, on the path less traveled…and the remake of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre with R. Lee Ermey…mwhoooohahahahahaaa!!!  That movie is GREAT!!  I do feel that originality is going out the window when it comes to Hollywood and the horror genre, so I’d like to see more original work and less rehashing of done and done AGAIN material.  Bring on the disturbing imagery, I say!!  Please, I beg of thee, there are a TON of fabulous Indy filmmakers with brilliant ideas out there that should get scrutinized and brought forward into the light.  The same old shit is getting BORING…hardly worth a movie ticket anymore.  I do have to say for recent films, though, The Cabin in the Woods was spot on and totally worth the $12 I spent on a ticket.  Thank goodness Joss Whedon still knows how to knock it out of the park!

Photo by Laura Dark Photography
Model: Jackie Steinert
Make-up Artist: Deanna Roberts

7. What is the best costume design in horror film history, in your mind?

I think I have to lean towards the suit of armor Gary Oldman wears at the beginning of Bram Stoker’s Dracula, designed by Eiko Ishioka (may she rest in peace!!)  Such a fierce and feral design!!  I love the suggestion of flayed open skin and powerful, exposed muscle with the ferocity of the Dragon head (which resembles more closely a bat, with the enlarged ears, etc.) I just love it.  I love all of her work…she is a brilliant designer and I’m sorry to see that she’s passed on.  She has truly inspired me on every level…if you never really looked at her work please do a Google search!!  You won’t be disappointed!

8. Who are some of your favorite Women In Horror, either ladies you know personally or film directors/writers/characters?

Oooohhhh…I think I’ll just have to pay homage here to the wonderful Anne Rice.  I just love her to death and I keep coming back to her time and again for inspiration.  Wandering the streets of New Orleans with her beloved vampires and witches has helped me pass many an evening.  Suprisingly, I LOVE Sherrie Moon playing Baby in House of 1000 Corpses…that character is freaking AWESOME and I just love her as a psycho!  I just hear her laugh in my head when people get on my nerves…YOU know what I’m talking about!!  For dark imagery, of which I’m a huge fan, I have to roll with Laura Dark of Laura Dark Photography and Danielle K. Anathema of Anathema Photography.  These two lovely ladies create some of the best and most gruesome photographic horror art I have ever laid my eyes on and are the ones to watch right now, in my opinion.  I’ve always stated that my studio walls will be covered with their art when all of my kids move out!!  Another favorite Woman in Horror who deserves a shout-out is also one of my best friends, Barb Breese…that woman and I can sit and talk horror all night long and she always has the best stories for me about people in the industry she’s interviewed. She’s just an amazing person who never ceases to crack me up when she tells tales of the jackalope radio days.  She tends to keep her finger on the pulse of horror and really keeps me in the know of what’s current in the industry.  I can’t wait until she’s back on the airwaves!!

9. I must ask. With the Miami zombie madness still fresh in all of our minds, what is your plan of attack for the impending zombie apocalypse?

This has actually been discussed at LENGTH in my household!!  We kind of look at it this way:  bug-out bags packed…hopefully enough weapons and ammo to fight our way out of Florida and we’re heading NORTH- waaaayyy north.  Do zombies freeze?  Hmmmm…  the rules of engagement are in play though- cardio, double-tap, seat belts….you know the deal!  I am NOT playing with this one….first sign and it’s sayonara, bitches!!

10. You have such a confident and fun-loving personality. What advice would you offer young women out there who are interested in twisting up the fashion scene a little?

Learn your way around a sewing machine, and quit talking about it.  Just DO IT.  I remember always being terrified before I started a project…there’s no more of that…I’ve learned over time that it’s a process that must be allowed to flow freely.  The more you over-think a thing, the more likely it is to fail.  Let the creative process rule and you’ll be fine.  And when in doubt…freakin’ YOUTUBE!!  There is a vid showing how to do EVERYTHING these days, so as long as the net is there as a resource, use it!  Don’t be afraid to hit the costuming forums and blogs either. I learn something new every day because of them.  A great fabric artist keeps on teaching herself new tricks.  And you know what?  Follow the path less traveled, even if it’s tattered, torn and bloody…follow it.  I, for the most part, don’t follow the rules…and it makes my items unique and eye catching.  If it makes you happy…I say do IT!!

Nez was an absolute thrill to chat with and I’m honored to call her a friend whom I will be working with in the near future! Can’t quite divulge the full info just yet, but it’s going to get loud in the horror world.
I sincerely thank her for her time and enthusiasm with this piece.

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About Justin Hamelin

I am a freelance writer, mostly of horror and everything macabre. As a die hard fan of the genre with a particularly deep affinity for Women In Horror, I write film reviews, short stories, screenplays and conduct as many interviews as I can with the fantastic people who make the horror genre my absolute favorite!
This entry was posted in Florida horror, Gothic costumes, horror, horror costumes, horror films, Women In Horror. Bookmark the permalink.

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