The Evolution of Gothic Fashion

If you asked the average person to tell you something about Gothic fashion, one of the first words out of his or her mouth would probably be “black.” While it is true that Goths do love to dress on the darker side of the color spectrum, there is so much more to Gothic style than just that. And then heavy eyeliner and combat boots , while we are at it. So, if you have ever wondered about the origin of Gothic fashion and how it has changed over the years, you have come to the right place. On the other hand, maybe you really just want to know why Goths wear so much black. Yeah, we have the answer to that too. 

Contemporary Gothic Couple


According to, today’s Gothic subculture originated in England in the early 1980s as part of the Gothic rock music scene that included bands such as Joy Division, The Cure, Bauhaus and Siouxsie and The Banshees. As the subculture grew, its members—“Goths”—began to be associated with a certain style of dress. The clothing worn by Goths was typically dark-colored and featured elements such as lace, leather, fishnet stockings, corsets and religious or occult-themed jewelry. Both male and female Goths also often kept their skin very pale and wore black fingernail polish, thick eyeliner, and dyed black hair. Some famous people who exhibited this style include Siouxsie Sioux of Siouxsie and The Banshees and Robert Smith of The Cure. It is said that the somber clothes of these early Goths were a rebellious statement against the bright, streamlined styles of the 1970s disco age and the outlandish excess of the 1980s.      




80s Goth style icon Siouxsie Sioux


For its original inspiration, Gothic style goes even further back in time, to the Victorian and Elizabethan eras. As Gothic fashion developed in the 1980s and 1990s, it added components of clothing from those time periods, such as ruffled high collars, open lacy sleeves, and stovepipe hats. These elements are taken from the Victorian culture of mourning. As a sign of respect when someone close to them died, mourners in the Victorian age were required to wear all black for a specified amount of time—the closer the relationship to the deceased, the longer the period of mourning. Some mourning periods even lasted up to 18 months. Now that’s a lot of black clothing! Because of these lengthy mourning periods, many historians believe that the Victorians had an “unhealthy” fascination with death. Nevertheless, contemporary Gothic fashion embraced the idea of dressing on the dark side, seeing that style as a statement of the balance of horror and romanticism in life.







Victorian mourning style


This marriage of the morbid and the romantic caught the eye of fashion designers from the late 1990s into the early 2000s. Such famed designers as Alexander McQueen, Jean-Paul Gaultier, Christian Lacroix and Rodarte began debuting Gothic looks in their runway shows. The models were described as “glamorous ghouls” who wore varied looks from flowing, lace gowns to more structured, high-collared suits with black leather accents ( This trend, known as “Haute Goth,” brought Gothic style to the mainstream fashion world, finally giving it the attention it deserved.






Examples of Haute Goth on the runway—Alexander McQueen 2011

Today, Gothic fashion still remains somewhat misinterpreted. Many believe that because of their fixation on death and the occult that Goths are violent, disturbed people. However, current style icons such as Dita Von Teese and even Victoria Beckham demonstrate the beauty and elegance of Gothic fashion with their sleek, dark outfits and flawless makeup. They also do not shy away from a little pop of color every now and then.


Eileen Sather is a writer for Like style maven Dita von Teese, she believes that while looking sleek and sophisticated in all black, a little bit of red lipstick never hurt a girl.