A Gothic Renaissance

There seems to have been a revival of Gothic style in the past few years in fashion, music (with bands like Portishead) and even the film industry with Tim Burton at the forefront. When Queen Victoria’s beloved Prince Albert died in 1861, she exchanged her entire wardrobe for black mourning dresses, her jewels for jet. Her melancholy wardrobe was copied throughout England, in the era that was named for her. Hundreds of years later, the Gothic style is still mimicked, taking many new forms. In our present day, Gothic style influences many art forms: music, film, visual art and particularly fashion this season. In a recent show at FIT in New York, “Gothic Style: Dark Glamour,” designers known for the macabre were showcased, their works inspired by Gothic icons including pop singer Siouxsie Sioux, writer Edward Gorey and Victoria herself. But since its origins, goth has changed. The style we think of today conjures images of teenagers clad in black. The goth that I am talking about, however, has not strayed far from its origins except in form. It seems today that there are different genres of Goth, as shown in the FIT show. Japanese designers Rei Kawakubo of Comme des Garcons, Junya Watanabe and Yohji Yamamoto are known for their monochrome use of black. Designer Gareth Pugh also creates an influential goth style in his pieces. The work of designers Kawakubo and Yamamoto, though entirely new, would not be completely foreign to the likes of Mary Shelley and Bram Stoker, the creators of the Gothic novel. At the Comme des Garcons show, Kawakubo dressed her models in cocoons of black folds and in outfits that appeared to be exploded soccer balls: white stuffing and black hexagons. Yamamoto created a collection of asymmetrical jackets and long skirts, nearly all in black. Pugh has always channeled a mechanical Edward Scissorhands-esque sort of look in his collections—recalling the metal-plated cyborg dresses at Hussein Chalayan on the Spring 2007 runway. Olivier Theyskens of Nina Ricci created a less dark, romantic collection. He dressed his models in silk blouses and trousers and long coats and dresses, using autumn colors from green to burnt orange. For the show, makeup artist Pat McGrath drew a line of liquid gold—a slash or a scar—right through one eye on each model. Arguably the best Gothic-influenced collection this season is the one truest to the style’s Victorian roots. For his fall collection, Alexander McQueen sent his models out with raven-colored curls and milk white skin. The show was like the setting for a gothic novel: a skeletal tree shrouded in grey silk rose in the middle of the runway. The models were outfitted in completely black, tiered dresses; no color could interrupt his vision for the first half of the show, except a cravat of white silk on a collar or a white flower tucked in a button hole. There were Byronic influences as well: high-necked white collars, tartan suits, rail-thin pants and pointy-toed shoes. McQueen spoke about his inspiration for his fall collection in an interview on He said, “I’ve got a 600-year-old elm tree in my garden, and I made up this story of a girl who lives in it and comes out of the darkness to meet a prince and become a queen.” No matter what form it takes, from its classic Victorian roots to Japanese fashion, Gothic style continues to cast its dark spell.