From Morticia Addams to Siouxsie Sioux, many of pop culture’s most iconic style stars have understood the pervasive power of black. And so it’s no surprise that this season has seen the return of monochrome once again, as the fashion world turns its head towards all things gothic for inspiration. Only this time around, the trend has been given a grown up makeover: elegant, simplistic, and considered, it’s an almost-poetic response to the social issues we’re currently facing
The trend first started trickling onto the runways in 2019. With the climate crisis, widening wealth gap and Me Too movement all on the global agenda, the embrace of gothic looks was fashion’s sober response to the political, economic and social upheaval of the time. Of course, designers could never have predicted what 2020 would bring just a few months later – a global pandemic, a long-overdue racial reckoning, a crippling recession – and the increasing relevance of their monochromatic choices. If gothic fashion – a sombre manifestation of our collective mourning – is a necessary reaction to social uncertainty, then it follows that the trend has never been so pertinent.
In the wake of the crippling Covid-19 pandemic, there has been a flurry of trends that are loud, bright and elaborate. Logomania, disco revival, retro futurism; these trends are intentionally big in the face of a global situation that has made our lives small. But the reemergence of the gothic trend is the antithesis of this. Undoubtedly, our return to black is a reaction to the current global situation – but it strikes out on the opposite foot to these other larger-than-life trends.
Gothic style takes many forms: sophisticated, minimalist, romantic, sculptural. It is broad, and eclectic in its execution. But one quality unifies all these styles: in their embrace of black – the infamous non-colour – they are marked by an absence of. Dressing in all black reflects our current world. It is considered and quiet. While other trends embrace excess, gothic glamour is contained, thoughtful, contemplative.
Of course, we know fashion is cyclical, following a well-trodden rhythm that sees trends resurface every couple of decades. But, when we observe the chaos and confusion of the world around us, it’s no surprise that it has reared its head once again. Here, we take a deep dive into the many styles of the current gothic trend – and the influences they draw from.
Victoriana fashion is rooted in the mourning dress of the Victorian era, heralded by Queen Victoria herself, who famously wore the style throughout the latter half of life, after the passing of her husband Albert in 1861. Impressively intricate, mourning attire of the time was characterised by elaborate lace dresses, high collars, and exaggerated shapes.
As the world enters a collective mourning period, the pervasive influence of these styles are seen clearly, with designers recognising society’s subdued mood. The gothic Victoriana trend of today takes its inspirations from that of yesteryear. Shapes are inflated, as billowing coats, balloon sleeves and voluminous layered maxi skirts take centre stage. Alongside this is the emergence of a gothic romanticism that takes inspiration from more contemporary sources: patterned tights are having a renaissance, paired with calf and knee high boots and experimental, exaggerated dresses that wouldn’t look out of place in ‘90s movie The Craft.
Minimalism is often seen as fashion’s measured response to turbulent times – and this current rendering, in all its gothic glory, is no exception. Pared back, simplistic styles are seen as a direct reaction to the current economic freefall and the climate crisis we’re experiencing. Consumers are growing increasingly aware of the danger of overconsumption and society’s ‘buy, buy, buy’ mentality, ushering in a return to a more minimalist approach.
Indeed, gothic minimalism sees styling curtrailed to the essentials, with high quality tailoring and sculptural shapes making way over excess. Elsewhere, ultra-relaxed suits merge masculine and feminine cuts, in a subversion of the exaggerated shoulder pads synonymous with the capitalist-driven era of the 1980s.
Early noughties style is officially back. The rise of hyper-celebrity in the 2000s (both Paris Hilton and Kim Kardashian shot to fame during this time) led to fashion that was indulgent and purposefully tacky: think Bratz doll inspired beauty looks, Juicy Couture velour tracksuits, and rhinestones on just about everything. One flick through TikTok, and you’ll see these styles being replicated in abundance by Gen Z (most of whom weren’t alive to experience the horror of low rise jeans the first time round.)
Fear not, as there’s a more grown up way to embrace 2000s style. Y2K Goth takes influence from the noughties’ scene and emo subcultures – which themselves borrowed heavily from the ‘80s goth and punk movements that came before them. This reemergence is no surprise. These subcultures were originally defined by a sense of feeling misunderstood, and in 2021, when millennials and Gen Z alike are largely locked out of the job market, housing market and political sphere, rebellious gothic style is the perfect expression of a disenfranchised generation.
But how does that translate into reality? Big, chunky boots are the shoe du jour this season: think trusty Doc Martens, or platform biker boots a la Saint and Sofia, Prada and Bottega Veneta. And after years of the fashion pack’s devotion to gold accessories, silver jewellery is back, piled high over black velvet dresses, vintage band tees and punk-inspired tartan. It’s time to reach for the black kohl of your teen years too, as this is all finished off with a swipe of heavy eyeliner.
Truly ‘grown up goth’, this high glamour, sophisticated iteration of the trend sees the return of luxe materials and ultra-feminine shapes. It’s the ultimate celebration of female sexuality – with an all-black twist, of course.
This chic take on the gothic trend arrives just in time for what many are predicting may be our own ‘roaring twenties’. The 1920s is often remembered as a period of hedonism and abundance, a celebration that followed the Spanish flu of 1918 (and of course, a world war). And indeed the 2020s – in the wake of a global pandemic that has dominated and restrained our existence – may follow suit.
This time, hedonism has been given a gothic makeover. Silk tuxedos in midnight black are sexy but understated, and black body conscious dresses – in figure hugging jerseys and soft knits – are designed to exude femininity. Elsewhere black leather reigns, with figure hugging skirts and pants evoking a dominatrix-inspired confidence. This hyper-feminine gothic look is seen in beauty too, with sharp claw-like nails and deep berry lips seen prominently across the catwalks.