Gothic fashion history
- I'm not a fan of Gothic culture but I
have always been fascinated by it so, I decided to share with the
group a small study of it.
As rock, mods, hippie, punk, hip hop
cultures, the Gothic culture was born with the consumer society
during the fifties. On first hand, as the others,this group of
individuals is easily identified by a musical universe but also by a
very special fashion style. But on the other hand, it is a permanent
culture that exists for more than 30 years now and know how to renew
Siouxsie Sioux and the Banshees, Robert
Smith and the Cure established the musical bases of this punk's
cousin movement The music is cold, dark, hypnotic, romantic,
melancholic and it is served by a very notable fashion style and
appearance : shaggy hair or Mohican hairstyle, Pierrot white
make-up, red or black lipstick for girls and boys, androgynous
This Gothic culture seemed to disappear
at the end of the eighties, supplanted by the rap and the grunge
cultures but survived thanks to German groups and the movement
increased in Eastern Europe after the German reunification in 1989.
But it was in North America that the new Gothic wave arrived and gave
birth to the current trend. The singer Marilyn Manson is its best
known icon even if his music is considered as metal music and not
cold wave or Gothic music.
Special features of the Gothic culture
are the medium age of the fans, around 23 years(it means that you
have a mix of teenagers but also young adults in that group) and also
a lot of women belong to that movement compared to the masculine
world of the punk and rap cultures.
It exists a lot of feminine singers
like Siouxsie Sioux, Lisa Gerrard from « Dead can dance »,
Amy Lee from « Evanescence »and some groups are composed
with women exclusively like X-maldeutschland. They are the models for
young girls who want to be part of the Gothic movement.
This female aspect has an impact on the
boys, fans and artists alike. Robert Smith(the Cure) appeared many
times dressed as a woman on stage and wears red lipstick on for more
than 30 years now and Rozz Williams from “Christian Dead” nourish
a ambiguous aspect with his transgender character.
As hippies, Goths come from the
privileged middle classes unlike the Mods and Punk come from the
worker class. The young people have good results at school and follow
higher education studies.
Dressing and wearing make up and
jewelery are as important as listening music for Goths. This special
look helps them to be distinguished from the others cultures,
especially for teenagers. The fans exchanged specialized shops
addresses on forum even if they find that the prices are too high.
That's why, lots of Goths are sewing themselves their outfits.
Moreover, homemade cloth allow them to get outfits that the other
don't have in their wardrobe (originally, it was the rule to make
your outfits yourself).
A huge part of the Goths wear black
cloth because wearing black is obvious if you want to be part of the
Gothic culture. The fans adopted Robert Smith's and Siouxsie Sioux
styles since the middle of the eighties, then Marilyn Manson's style
in the nineties . They are nicknamed crows because they are wearing
black from head to toe.
At this time, choosing the color
“black” was a radical act in the Rock world. Nobody, except
church people with their cassock who were more and more rare, people
in mourning or anarchists, wore black clothing.
In the fashion designer world, the
black was nearly absent in their collection. From the sixties,
colorful and printed fabrics dominated the fashion world. Only, two
Japanese fashion designers, Rei Kawakobo and Yohji Yamamoto, used the
black color at the beginning of the eighties and it was a scandal for
In the Rock world, wearing black color,
is a way to show the rebel spirit of the early days of the Rock music
( they were called “les blousons noirs” in France) and
distinguished themselves from the Punk.
To complete their style, Goths often
have natural or artificial black long hair, a too much make up, lots
of silver jewels and massive bright color or pointed shoes (Dc
Martens, Witches style, New Rock) and long dress for girls.
All these elements existed from the
beginning of the movement and are still used today. Little by
little,Goths added new references found in different sources: fetish
and S&M repertory, American movies like The Adams family, the
Crow, Matrix...or Hollywood movies heroes like vampires, vampires
hunters, fantastic creatures from the past and the future...
These different elements gave birth to
a dozen of the current Gothic looks: bat-cave, neo-batcave, fetish,
indus EBM, dark folk, medieval, metal rockers, spooky-kid,
The Gothic looks intend to be
theatrical and eccentric even some of the Goths just express their
belonging to the Gothic culture on the evening or on the week-end.
The rest of the time, they just show it with discreet symbol as a
pentacle on a bag or jewels.
The Gothic style is inspired by old
cuts from the Renaissance but also by ancient Egypt, 18 th
and 19 th century (Victorian time 1840-1870) cuts. But it
doesn't respect exactly the historic side of the outfits from the
past. It is more a fantasy style with more modern, colorful and
According to the style the Goths decide
to adopt, they are wearing a frilled shirt, corsets worn as clothing
not as an underwear, long dresses ties up and low-necked made of silk
velvet, lace petticoats...
In Japan, The Gothic Lolitas seek for
items of clothing to look like Victorian dolls.
Goths hate the idea of the fact that
their aestheticism can be used as a fashion for everybody. Gothic
look is atemporal and stay quite the same for more than thirty years.
Despite this, since 2000, the Gothic aestheticism is used by movie
makers, on Tv, by fashion designers. For example, shops are selling
fishnet panty hose, skirt with straps and in Japan, it is easy for
the Gothic Lolitas to find outfits and accessories in normal shops.
Fashion designers are influenced by
the Gothic movement and they invented the Gothic chic. Black is now
really fashionable for Balenciaga, Yamamoto, Sonia Rykiel, Gucci,
YSL, J.P Gaultier and even in 2004 Issey Myake dares to use Gothic
motives like monsters, bats, Dracula...
But for young fashion designers who are
not as well known as J.P Gaultier, like Véronique Branquinho or
Libertin louison, it was hard to present a total Gothic look because
they were criticized by journalists so they decided to change their
It is important to say that for the
fans, the Gothic culture is not only a question of fashion but above
all a philosophy and lifestyle far from fashion. Goths are showing
their philosophical and spiritual thoughts through their look
(pentacles, upside down crosses) but also their discussion on forums.
Satanism, paganism, esoterism and atheism cohabit together. Marilyn
Manson said “be your own God” and “express your own ideas” is
the leitmotif of the Goths forums.
Some people and parents above all are
afraid of the Gothic culture because of certain tastes for cemetery,
religious or sexual practices, fascination for the death...
Some newspapers give advice to Goths to
consult a psychologist and at school, adults interpret their
marginality to a proneness to commit a suicide.
Finally, the current Gothic culture
fascinate its devotees as much as its detractors and this fashion
that we could think ephemeral might last over time.