For most of fashion history, there have been trends where you must comply or be left out of society. From the Edwardians to the day dresses of the 1950's it was all the rage to have the matching accessories and the right silhouette for every occasion. You had to dress correctly to be seen as valid no matter if it was just a trip to the grocery store or picking up the kids from school. People who didn't fit the norm were often left to wear clothing that they felt didn't represent them or their personal style. With the Civil Rights movement and the feminist wave sweeping through many countries in the 1960's and 70's a new wellspring of people who dressed to express themselves was born. Alt, or Alternative fashion began to morph into all sorts of looks, from the hippies and free love crowd to those who followed the post punk music scene to become known as the Goths. In the 1970's the looks of bands like Siouxsie Sioux and the Banshees, The Sex Pistols, and the Cure began to sweep through a young crowd in a way that would permeate fashion culture for decades to come. These bands and the people who loved them were often those that grew up on the outskirts of a "polite" society. They saw hypocrisy in the communities they lived in that put on a façade of being "welcoming", but only if you fit perfectly into rigid guidelines of what was proper. So, they built their own spaces to show off their styles and trade in things like fashion, music, art, and poetry and literature that commented on the darker nature of life.
The Goths took a lot of style tips from the 100 years prior to their movement. Victorian and Edwardian mourning were key inspirations to the look, as well as the vampy fashionistas of the 1930's, and the gay leather wearers, also known as leathermen, of the 1940's onward. Even the name of their fashion is historically inspired by the dark spires of the European Gothic churches and the literature of writers like Edgar Allen Poe and Bram Stoker. Most 1970's gothic makeup, worn by both men and women comes directly from 1930's movies stars, a style that had gone completely out of fashion for the in-crowd by this time. Hairstyles ranged from long locks let down to the ground, to completely shaved heads, to elaborate Victorian-esque updos. Corsetry, dark lace, high boots, and pale skin were all displayed in a new and exciting ways. Men could wear skirts and corsets, and women often wore men's shirts and jackets in an effort to bend and bring about discussions surrounding gender norms. The accessories and outfits were often vintage inspired or actually vintage, picked up at thrift stores and from grandma's attic. Distressing and roughing up your clothing became a popular look. Some said commentary on the bullying that often occurs when you are on the fringes of a society. All the while these creative young minds had no idea they were inspiring a wave of new high fashion style.
In 1977 Karl Lagerfeld hosted a party in Paris with the specifications that wearing a "black tragic dress" was absolutely required. He invited everyone to this bash from other fashion designers, to the leathermen of the city, to the punk groups that hung out in underground clubs. Earlier in the year many of these punks had been invited to attend a Kenzo fashion show, a Japanese designer who was heralded in newspapers as a creative genius. Another Japanese designer, Yohji Yamamoto also debuted a collection in the gothic punk vein, and together these designers were instrumental in introducing gothic styles to Asian markets. Vivian Westwood and Malcolm McLaren had opened up their store "Sex" in London just a few years prior and were gaining notoriety not only through this, but also through their connection to The Sex Pistols, who McLaren managed. The shop was a haven of punk and goth fashion, and exciting to the fans of the band that shopped there knowing they could get the bands looks direct from the source. From Lagerfeld's party and the '77 fashion show, and the increasing popularity of Westwood's now 4 London shops, the look was becoming more accepted in the mainstream, and by the end of the 1980's had even seen adoptions of it's themes into office wear and event fashion. By the late 1990's it seemed every fashion house had at least one gothic inspired look in their repertoire including Dior, John Galliano, Rodarte, and Alexander McQueen.
While the look creeped into the world of high fashion, the people who thrifted and searched the vintage racks to look for their personal style continued to twist Goth in new and exciting ways resulting in many sub-genres of the style. Gothic Lolita sprung from the Japanese as a more childlike and bubbly version, with ruffled petticoats and high socks under short frilly dresses and plenty of bows and baubles. The "Visual K" band movement in the Japan gave Aristocrat goth a new name with tailored leather and tight pants reminiscent of a gothic 1950's rockabilly style. Victorian goths had strictly historical inspired garb, complete with mourning veils and long skirts sometimes even including hoops and corsetry, often crossing into steampunk looks.
The goth movement gained a strong resurgence in the 1990's with the influence of "Mall Culture". Store catering specifically to alternative clothing began popping up in the U.S. and overseas. Hot Topic opened their doors in 1989, selling everything from amazingly wide-legged JNCO jeans to black witchy attire with pops of red or neon colors. While Spencer's Gifts began as a mail order business in 1947, it closed it's mail order side in 1990 and made the switch to the mall. They sold everything edgy, and many would flock there for their relatively cheap lingerie and BDSM sections to accessorize their looks in new ways. Claire's jewelry even catered toward more alternative trends, including choker necklaces, plenty of options in black and grey, and of course fun and bright neon colors to accent. The Electro and Pastel Goths of the early 2000's added an extra love of those pops of color to the mainly black attire to make it a feature that would shine bright in the dark corners of clubs and dancefloors.
Gothic fashion continues to evolve and change as people on the fringes of fashion society find new and exciting ways to self expression. It's all about finding your own style and showing the world who you are. It's influenced by every decade that came before it, all while looking toward the future. With pop culture such as Elvira, the Addams Family, and the populaces continued love for horror and psychological thriller movies, as well as modern musical influencers like Billy Eilish and even Orville Peck adding to the mix, it's having another resurgence as a major fashion trend! Shop Gothic looks here and find fabulous clothing, accessories, and jewelry to help you find your own Gothic flair.