Morticia Addams is back on TV and, once again, I feel seen. If you’re not watching Tim Burton’s new Netflix series about the spookiest, kookiest and altogether ookiest family, let me take this moment to point you in that direction.
Centred around the mysterious mishaps of Wednesday Addams, the deliciously apathetic teenage daughter of Gomez and Morticia, Wednesday follows the young protagonist as she starts her first term at Nevermore Academy, a school for monstrous outcasts in Vermont. Dark, romantic and with a generous helping of sardonic wit—not to mention lashings of gore and horror—it’s what all of my teenage dreams were made of.
Following on from her breakout roles in the recent Scream reboot and Ti West’s slasher flick X, the wide-eyed Jenna Ortega delivers a masterful performance in the titular role. But it’s Catherine Zeta-Jones, who plays Morticia, who has my full attention.
First, a disclaimer: I love Morticia Addams. She’s my childhood muse, forever style icon, my profile picture on Instagram—the face with which I greet the modern world—and the inspiration behind my recent wedding dress. I literally sent pictures of Anjelica Huston as Morticia to the vintage dealer, Jane Bourvis and said: “This, but in white.” And it seems I’m not her only fan.
“Morticia, cara mia, means so much to me,” says writer, artist and authority on all things weird, Charlie Fox. “She’s a hot goth siren, a mother who doesn’t give a fuck about what a ‘good’ mother is supposed to be in a gross, puritanical world. She’s madly in love and doesn’t feel guilty about any pleasure (‘Don’t torture yourself, Gomez, that’s my job’). She’s a role model for us all, frankly.”
I was about 13 when the high priestess of darkness first entered my orbit via Barry Sonnenfeld’s The Addams Family (1991), a big-screen adaptation of the 1960s hit show of the same name. Originally conceived in the 1930s by American cartoonist Charles Addams, the fictional clan was a playful subversion of the archetypal 20th-century American family: a strange, aristocratic tribe with a penchant for all things grim and grotesque.
Brought to life by the ravishing Anjelica Huston, in both the 1991 film and its 1993 sequel, Addams Family Values, there was something incredibly captivating about Morticia, the family’s macabre matriarch, who dressed as though permanently in mourning. That jet-black bias cut silhouette with its eerie tendrils made a lasting impression on my young psyche. Of course, I was too young at the time to realise the rich nuances of each look (she had 20!), and the fact that each dress had been fashioned by costume designer Ruth Myers, from extraordinary pieces of antique fabric: Fortuny lace, beaded trims, brocade and chiffon. But it’s something I relish today as a vintage votary.
It wasn’t just her menacing style that captured my imagination, it was her beauty, too. The blood-red lips and matching crimson nails, sharpened to a sinister point; the pallid skin, poker straight, raven hair and signature charcoal crease. With my own pale complexion and bitter chocolate locks, I was drawn to this woman who refused to conform to normative standards of beauty, and marched to the beat of her own funeral drum. She was the ultimate gothic pin-up, a testament to the fact that you can be both hot and sad at the same time. Even our nicknames were the same: Tish.
Years later, there’s still a lot to be learned from Mrs Addams. I think of her immortal lines: “I’m just like any modern woman trying to have it all. Loving husband, a family. It’s just… I wish I had more time to seek out the dark forces and join their hellish crusade.” As a wife and mother, it’s a sentiment to which I can relate. Why can’t we have it all?
Morticia’s resonance today also ties in with the resurgence of gothcore. Look at any current trending TV show or viral documentary (American Horror Story, Halloween Ends, Dahmer—Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story), they all fit squarely into the horror genre. Consider also the “Teenage Dirtbag” trend on TikTok, where users revisit their younger “emo” selves using a slideshow of throwback pics, set to the strains of the Y2K Wheatus classic. We also saw it sartorially last season—with the rise of the “goth girl summer” trend, which later bled onto the spring/summer 2023 catwalks—see Rick Owens, Blumarine, Versace, Erdem, and Richard Quinn.
“We live in a hideous, ridiculous and deeply terrifying time where the angel of death seems to hover closer than ever before,” says Fox. “The solace of being goth is that you turn these morbid anxieties into a style which is simultaneously evil and hot.” It’s true, with the world in turmoil, there is a certain comfort to be found in the dark crevices of gothic fantasy. Which is why shows like Wednesday are proving to be so popular. In fact, according to Netflix, the ghoulish series holds the record for most hours (341.2 million to be exact) viewed in a week for an English language series.
So, how does this new Morticia compare to the original? Frankly, quite favourably. Though only in two episodes, Zeta-Jones’s presence is undeniable, a dark force of gothic glamour. Unlike Myers’s designs, however, which were much stricter in their structure, the show’s costume designer, Colleen Atwood, wanted something more modern for Mrs Addams. “Catherine’s costume is a rayon jersey and very slinky fabric, with inserts that are metallic and black twisted fabric to accent her curvy shape,” she tells Vogue. “The costume started with a corset to give a more exaggerated body shape. We then added godets on the sleeves and hem, slightly shredded for a goth effect.”
For inspiration, Atwood looked to Charles Addams’s original cartoons instead of Huston. Another point of difference is the choice of lip and nail colour, with Zeta-Jones eschewing Huston’s classic red for a vampier rouge noir. “I think this Morticia represents a loving parent seen through an entirely unexpected lens,” Atwood says. But Fox is not convinced: “Catherine Zeta-Jones has more of a wholesome ‘mom’ vibe, which unsettles me.”
Nonetheless, with the hunt for the perfect party dress coming into sharper focus as the festive season gets underway, and November’s icy temperatures calling for a warmer winter wardrobe, perhaps you might consider taking notes from the queen of darkness (whichever iteration you prefer), by embracing your inner goth. As Morticia herself once said: “It’s dark, it’s depressing, it’s desolate. It’s a dream.”
This article was originally published on Vogue.com.