Gothic: Dark Glamour

When I was in high school I was part of the black-clad brigade and that trend has carried forward into my adult life. I wouldn’t say I was full-fledged goth; I just danced on the edge of it, occasionally winging my eyeliner. I love goth, though, and truly admire the kids I see parading down the streets with six-inch platform Gene Simmons’ KISS boots, lank dyed black hair with matching eyeliner, and shiny pleather, making that scritch-scratch noise when a person walks down the sidewalk in that armor. Goth is a wonderful facade to hide a world of insecurities behind–it says we’re all going to die, so what’s the point?

I went to the Museum at FIT to see the exhibit Gothic: Dark Glamour, which is supposedly the first exhibit dedicated to gothic fashion.
I knew the origins of gothic literature but not where gothic fashion sprang from. The exhibit begins with a few Victorian mourning dresses on incredibly small mannequins. The women then apparently weren’t any more than five feet tall with small sloping shoulders and tiny bird bones tightly corseted together. Huge veils and hats topped the outfits like exotic plummage with a swisthing bustle in back, which I imagine made a similar sound to that of pleather. There was a cult of mourning among young widows where the women weren’t allowed to wear anything but black for a year and then gradually could expand their wardrobes to include violets and grays. This cult of mourning was only available to the well-to-do widows–as my friend Susan says, “Goth is expensive”–but I like it that these young ladies were able to find a solidarity in death. And I don’t think it was trivial that they expressed this idea through fashion.

My favorite pieces of the exhibit are two dresses from Rodarte. A sister duo are behind Rodarte, which has grown incredibly popular in the last two years. There was a great article about the team in The New York Times Magazine a few weeks ago, and the sisters seem like such innocent, unassuming creatures compared to fashion divas like Karl Lagerfeld and Donatella Versace. They remind me of the siblings from Edgar Allan Poe’s The Fall of the House of Usher, communicating in a secret, psychic language that only they can understand.

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