Gothic Fashion History Case Study

Gothic Fashion History Case Study

Narrowing down Gothic fashion is one of the hardest things to do. There are so many movements and branches within this subculture that it looks like everyone has their idea of what gothic fashion is. However, everyone is curious about Gothic fashion history and where it all began. Many people believe that to love black is to choose gothic as your fashion style. 

Although this British punk movement celebrates the color black, there’s more to it that matters when you pick this style. To understand the gothic fashion roots, we must first examine this trend’s influences that facilitated its creation. Keep reading as we dive into gothic fashion history by exploring the beautiful, different, and dark parts of this fashion style.

Gothic Fashion History – Its Origins

Where did it all begin? In this section, we’ll be exploring how gothic came to be and what it was during its creation.

The Victorians

There’s no way to talk about gothic fashion history without deep diving into the Victorian era. Although gothic fashion has evolved into Cybergoth, it all began with the classic Victorian goth style. The Victorian gothic clothing style was predominantly black. However, there were times when it was accented with dark hues of purple, greens, or deep red. Because of the high mortality rate, there was always death in the Victorian era. Due to the consistency of these elements, the Victorians started to view death as a part of their everyday lives. They were open about the war they felt and used the clothes to express the constant mourning state that was becoming their story. 

People wore black to express the deep sorrow that came with their loss. The colors lightened to grey tones as time passed, reaching the half-mourning period. Men wore back suits and black gloves. If they wore a hat, it had a black material. It was much stricter for women as they had lots of black, and widows would wear a black veil, changing to white late on. Although men only had to wear mourning attire for some months, women had to wear it for two years. Since it was considered terrible luck to keep mourning clothes in your wardrobe, they were usually disposed of after the mourning period. Therefore it was common for Victorians to buy new mourning attires consistently. 

Since 1994, fans of Victorian gothic fashion history have been visiting the North Yorkshire town of Whitby for the annual goth weekends, one of the world’s premier goth events.

Glam Rock and the New Romantic

These are other gothic fashion pioneers that arose due to the punk scene. The glam rock period of the seventies was fading, and there was the rise of the aggressive anarchy of punk rock in the UK. In August 1979, the gothic fashion movement began with Bauhaus’ ‘Bela Lugosi is Dead.’ A generation was exposed to one of the gothic movement’s founders. His influence on gothic culture is enormous, even though he has denied he was all about goth. In addition, Siouxie Siu is a top influence on gothic fashion and is recognized for epitomizing and creating gothic fashion.

Additionally, there was David Bowie’s glamour, Iggy Pop and Patti Smith’s intensity, and the Joy Division. The glitz of the New Romantics also allowed the goth subculture to emerge in the eighties again. Despite all these influences, people recognize the fathers of goth as Robert Smith and Peter Murphy.

Who Created Gothic Fashion?

To fully grasp gothic fashion history, it’s essential to know who created gothic fashion. Many proponents of the gothic style have existed long before Siouxie Siu, Bauhaus, and Robert Smith. There have been many gothic icons who used this fashion style to make a statement. This fashion icon existed before the popular creators, so we’ll be giving them some recognition for their influence in shaping gothic fashion history. 

Theda Bara

Theda is a silent film star, and many who are aware of her history consider her a pioneer of gothic fashion. Theda is America’s first goth, and her gothic fashion allowed her to step beyond the traditional attire of 1920. She wore dark eye makeup, spooky and revealing clothing, and a general gothic appearance. Theda was the original Hollywood vamp and created the femme fatale stereotype that’s so popular today. 

Even though her name was gothic as she was born Theodosia Burr Goodman, the movie studio changed her name to Theda Bara. The studio also created a backstory for her to evoke more intrigue and mystery. Publicity for Theda mentioned she was interested in the occult and claimed she was born in a Sphynx and then traveled to Paris to become an actress. This wasn’t the case as Theda was born in Ohio, and she had never visited Paris or Egypt. Theda made her wigs and revealing costumes herself. Every surviving picture of Bara is iconic and showcases her love for black clothes, dark makeup, revealing outfits, and intense look.

Morticia Addams

We cannot ignore the original Addams family and their influence on Gothic fashion history. Wednesday, Morticia, Pudsey, Gomez, and Uncle Fester have been goth since 1938. Charles Addams created the Addams Family, the first gothic family ever. They profoundly affected culture thanks to their attitude, wardrobe, and dark humor. However, the family’s matriarch, Morticia, was the inspiration for the goth style with her black dress, black hair, pale skin, and dark lipstick. Morticia was elegant in her way and beautifully spooky in the comics, movies, and television series. She’s why the next icon in gothic fashion history propelled goth fashion into the mainstream from the shadows.


This is the original princess of darkness that was born in 1922. Vampira is the brainchild of Maila Nurmi, an actress who created the Vampira character after drawing inspiration from Morticia in the Addams family. Nurmi hosted a late-night horror movie show on the newly born medium of television. As a result, thousands of Americans knew her blood-curdling scream in their homes. This made Vampira famous because no one had ever seen someone like Vampira previously. Each Vampira film was introduced with a personality that highly contrasted with her looks.

Vampira’s personality was aloof but friendly, genuine, and sarcastic and her sharp puns were a part of her charm. Her heavily corseted waist, long dark dresses, straight black hair, and sharp eyebrows made her the antithesis of the popular 1950s look. Nurmi wasn’t Vampira when she wore costumes; she was very interested in the occult, alternative subcultures, and other things unique. Vampira influenced horror movie night Elvira who was a nineties icon.

Contemporary Influence on Gothic Fashion

There is more to goth fashion than we can tell. There was an emphasis on some form of femininity for both sexes, and it went far beyond the romanticism related to vampire fiction. For some years, tops, skirts, corsets, and collars became the most popular styles of fashion for both goth genders. Goths borrowed this from the contemporary fetish scene rather than the traditional gothic fashion history. There were links between rock culture, fetishism, and punk demonstrated through the constant display of goths’ dyed hair, facial piercing, combat pants, and tattoos.

A popular trend of fashion amongst goths was consistently t-shirts displaying band logos. These logos, like the artist’s name and design, were distinctive to the goth scene. In the 1990s, another contemporary influence from the music culture came into the goth style. As people searched for new directions that would provide them with a new set of sounds and looks, fans and bands started to appreciate and adapt elements of dance culture into the goth appearance and sound. 

Additionally, Goths added mechanical dance beats and electronic sequences to the sinister form of music associated with the goth. Finally, Cybergoth combined the established goth look with reflective or ultraviolet-sensitive, braided hair extensions and fluorescent makeup.

Goth Clothing, Makeup, and Accessories

Goths usually wore leather jackets, corsets, fishnets, dresses, long robes, miniskirts, and layered skirts. Most times, they’re black. However, they come in dark tones like burgundy and purple when they’re not black. This doesn’t mean they don’t wear other colors, too; it wasn’t just as common as the darker colors. The clothes were mostly silk, velvet, laces, satin, and nets. The hairstyles were always bushy, big, and spiky.

Regarding shoes, Doc Martens was a popular choice throughout Gothic fashion history. Other shoes are military boots, new rocks, and big, chunky, unisex boots. The length of the heels was usually high, and goths also wore black nail polish. In addition, Goths liked to spice up their outfits with accessories like chains, spiked chokers, occult jewelry, buckles, piercings, hats, belts, crowns, and precious stones like a ruby.

Gothic fashion history also featured motifs like vampires, bats, skulls, coffins, mirrors, and religious symbols. Goths were always mysterious, melancholic, and cold. Additionally, they always had a supernatural feel that had hints of romanticism. Goths also preferred pale skin, influenced by the Egyptian trend of smoky eyeliner and kohl eye makeup. They also wore burgundy, black, and deep wine lipsticks.

Modern Goth vs. Ancient Goth Style

The early goth fashion is uncomfortable but sophisticated. It features body-hugging garments that would highlight the curves to give the wearer an hourglass figure. This was the upper part, while the lower part was flowy, exaggerated, and long. On the other hand, men wore shirts with ruffles and laces. They also wore dark flat boots and black high-heeled shoes, and blood-red shoes. While women would leave their hair loose or tie it up in a bun, men would bleach their bob hair with bangs.

These little details in gothic fashion history played a significant role in today’s style and influenced their fashion subcultures. Modern gothic fashion was simple and comfortable. It featured silhouettes and mature and irregular cuts. Goths wore minimal accessories, and tattooing was also seen. Goths mostly combined these looks with a personal taste in fashion. 

Additionally, the skin wasn’t so plain with dark makeup. Many shoes were also used, like pointy shoes, lace-up boots, and studded and buckled shoes. People also tried different hairstyles and colors along with their gothic fashion.

Final Thoughts

Although there are various influences in gothic fashion history, it is a contemporary style in its way. For many decades, it has maintained consistency and distinctiveness. As a result, it’s easy to recognize goths by their subcultures, and their distinctive appearances are always easy to understand. 

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Gothic Fashion History Case Study From the Gothic subculture to its evolution in fashion and way beyond, here’s all you need to know about Gothic fashion history and the accessories that make you up.
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