The Orphan’s Arms: Wearable Gothic Ephemera

Today, I wanted to shine a lamplight on a London-based purveyor of subtly Gothic apparel: The Orphan’s Arms. Though they don’t bill themselves as Gothic anywhere in their long-winded about page, their prints tend towards the dark and irreverent. Some of my favorite designs are those that reference iconic works of Gothic literature (anyone who’s studied the Gothic will understand why Villa Diodati deserves to be on the front of a sweatshirt). Others simply seem to be salvaged pieces of Victorian ephemera paired with some cheeky text. All seem give an impression of being a part of an inside joke that only members of some mysterious secret society know. Without further ado, here are some of the best pieces from their affordable outlet store. Enjoy!

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“Goya” Shirt, £15This one is a reference to artist Francisco Goya, who painted some pretty dark, occult-y stuff in his life (especially when he lost his mind for a bit). The bat could be specifically referring to this famous etching.

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“Wilde” Shirt, £15. This design is so awesomely intricate. A ode to the famous controversial literary figure, author of such works as the Gothic novel “The Picture of Dorian Gray”.

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“Frankenstein” Shirt, £15. I was enamored with this design for ages, I loved the reference to Villa Diodati and the dramatic etching (which happens to bear no resemblance to the actual Villa, but that’s ok!). I finally bought this print on a sweatshirt earlier this year and am happy I did.

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“Sin Fin” Shirt,£10. I can’t say for sure, but it looks like an engraving on a headstone from the 1700’s. Apparently St. John at Hackney is a church, but other than that, all I know is this shirt is decidedly Gothic. “All my life coldly and sadly the days have gone by, I who dreamed wildly and madly am happy to die.” 

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“Nyctophobia” Sweatshirt, £20. This design pretty much explains itself. There is a lot going on here, but I actually like the different sizes of text, the owl, and dainty moon emblem. What’s less clear is whether this phobia is supposed to refer to the wearer of the sweatshirt, or supposed to mock those who are afraid of the dark. Either way, it is wonderful.

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“London Sorcery” Shirt, £15. This is my favorite design of all. I bought this shirt a while ago and struggle not to wear it every day! True, it reminds a lot of people of Hogwarts (if Hogwarts was comprised only of Slytherins). But it definitely completes an outfit with a sneaky bit of Gothicism, and gets a lot of compliments. 

Check out the rest of the designs available in the outlet store and main website— there’s bound to be something that catches your fancy!


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