The Gothic Fashion Resource

Written by Leanna Serras

Many musical sub-cultures rose from the Post-Punk period, one of the most enduring of those is the Gothic culture. Though the original Goths of the early 1980s were united as followers of bands like Bauhaus and The Cure, the Gothic culture has since evolved to encompass a range of music, fashion, and art. It is believed that the name of this movement originated with a Sounds magazine article entitled, “The Face of Punk Gothique”. The influences of Gothic culture and fashion can be traced to the Gothic literature of the 19 th century, horror films, and images of the macabre. The Gothic culture is centered in aesthetics, rather than any political ideology or social philosophy.

Though stereotyped in many ways, the Gothic culture is actually a movement with several aspects. Its followers value the visual aesthetics and literature of earlier eras, while celebrating music that emerged in a more recent time. While the common element of Gothic culture is traditionally an appreciation of the macabre, many other styles of Goth have also evolved.

Characteristics of Goth Fashion

The dark trench coats and white face paint of some followers of black metal music are often confused with the fashion of the Gothic culture. Dark, mourning colors and “corpse paint” may be used by Goths, but Gothic fashion usually incorporates elements of the Elizabethan, Victorian, or Medieval periods. Religious imagery in the form of crosses, crucifixes, or Egyptian ankhs is also common.

Subsections of Gothic Beauty

Contrary to popular belief, the early Gothic styles were not inspired by images of the macabre and morbid, but by the romanticism of the Victorian era that often embraced the grotesque. As music and technology have evolved, so has the Gothic Culture. There are now several recognized Gothic styles that have evolved out of the base concept. Gothic beauty embraces an often dark color pallet and uses bold expressions of individuality through exaggerated accessories and style choices.

Emo is a separate off-shoot of the Punk movement, but it has elements similar to that of the Gothic style, and some Emos are also Goths. Emo/Goths generally have dyed black hair, black eyeliner, and black nail polish. The fashion of the Emos tends to be more modern and sporadically incorporate patterns and bright colors; while still maintaining the standard of Gothic fashion.

At first glance, it’s difficult to see how Cyber Goths could even be considered Goth. They prefer neon colors and futuristic fashion, place a high value on technology. The link they have to the Gothic movement is their music. Though different from traditional Goth music, the music of the Cyber Goths stems from the industrial movement and maintains a dark aesthetic.

The Japanese fashion of the Harajuku district in Tokyo borrowed some of its style from the Western Goth movement, anime, and Japan’s own alternative music scene. The resulting Elegant Lolita Gothic style has adopted many of those elements and incorporated the Lolita fashion. The result is a fashion that blends traditional Gothic and Victorian attire with baby doll dresses.

The Steampunk Goth is inspired by 19 th century science fiction and futuristic fantasy. The combination of goggles and early technology merge with the fashions of the Victorian era and the fantasy of primitive inventions. The fashion of the Steampunks allows for limitless creativity.

Gothic Clothing

Gothic fashion borrows elements of Victorian or Medieval eras with black or dark clothing, and a combination of tight leather and loose draping fabric. Common accessories include corsets, belts, buckles, and studs.

Gothic Makeup and Hair

Hair styles can vary dramatically, depending on the gothic subsection. The Cyber Goths are known for elaborate hair styles and pony tails, while the Hippy Goth is more likely to have long, straight hair. Most Gothic hairstyles do include some form of dye or colored highlights, and many Goths choose to color their hair black. Makeup is part of the Gothic look and dark eyeliner is traditional, but whether the makeup is dark and dramatic or soft and subtle is a matter of personal preference for the Goth.

Jewelry and Accessories

For many female Goths, the chokers, teardrop earrings, and cameos of the Victorian Era are quite common. They also might accessorize with long opera gloves or hosiery. For the men, tiepins and pocket watches might be used. Accessories like goggles, keys, and jewelry made from cogs are important for the Steampunk Goths. Jewelry and accessories tell as much about a particular Goth fashion as the associated clothing does.

Goth Fashion Icons

Many of the inspirations for Goth fashion can be found in the early cinema. Many Goths have modeled their style after the actress, Theda Bara, who was known for her dark eye makeup and dark hair contrasting her pale skin.  Bela Lugosi and other early horror movies –especially vampire movies - influenced the Gothic fashion movement. With her unconventional image, the actress and model, Bettie Page became a fashion icon for many Goths. The 1980s produced the style of Siouxsie Sioux from Siouxsie and the Banshees. In more recent years, the late designer Alexander McQueen was one of the modern designers bringing “haute Goth” onto the runways.

Gothic Fashion and Culture on the Internet

Gothic culture portals and sites dedicated to different Gothic styles can be found on the Internet. For a movement based in aesthetics, forums and online communities are important information outlets. Changing fashions are discussed and creative endeavors are shared on a regular basis. The literature and images that inspire the Gothic culture are easily accessible.