Constellation Essay Gothic Style

How can a subcultural style offer a range of different looks? With reference to goth developments over time

In this essay will be looking in a range of different looks and how the goth fashion has developed over time. I will look into how the gothic subculture style started and how it has changed overtime. I will be exploring the subculture and explain how it has changed overtime and modified with the times.

The word goth or gothic today is now associated with black clothed teenagers with heavy makeup and into rock bands. Where did this style come from? The style developed in the late 1970s with having a new style of music and a different style of dress. The goth style started developing more in 1980 starting to come from bands these were early sign that the scene was emerging punk and goth. The characteristics of this style mainly comes from bands like Bauhaus and Siousie, the presentation of this music involved elements of theatrical performance, most notably pale make-up, black clothes. This was the goths traditional look that started in the 1980s. This image below is by photographer courtesy Julia Borden the image “death rock” this was the traditional goth style in the 80s its a combination of punk with the mohawk and goth with the black clothing and the white makeup.  This style was a goth punk era coming from the punk style but emerging into a new subculture.  Hebdige (1993) writes “invariably ends with the simultaneous diffusion and delusion of the subcultural style”. Which is where two subcultures are bouncing back and commodifying the original subculture.

Screen Shot 2017-05-16 at 12.12.26The goth style emerged from the punk subculture traditional punk look was black leather and spike hair giving a aggressive look. They took from the punk style and used a more dressy extravagant style. Whereas punk used colour with in there look goths dyes their hair black and had entirely black clothing.  The goth style would use existing garments such as fishnets and safety pins given object a whole new meaning. The safety pin was originally for properly fastening the pin to whatever it is applied to, and to cover the end of the pin to protect the user from the sharp point. Safety pins are commonly used to fasten pieces of fabric or clothing together. These weren’t use correctly as many item in the goth style. Safety pins were seen as jewellery and accessories for the goth style. They would use the as earrings and necklaces. This would happen to many item making them have a whole new purpose.  This had again come from the punks with there DIY approach to fashion. The pale makeup that goths wear is very different to how you would normally wear makeup the point of foundation is to give a healthy glow. This white makeup however made them look dead, the black clothes also added to this with the link to black clothes being wore at funerals. Valerie Steele suggests that the rise of “the gothic style death is the central of gothic imagination”. This proves that the makeup and clothing wore is to look dead.

The man above is wearing a lot of jewellery which was common amongst the subculture wearing a crucifix, this is an object of gothic subculture adopted within its style. This crucifix is a sign of christ . The crucifix has a connotation of the of that showing the object to be a vampire which would then kill them. As the gothic style has the visualisation of the vampire style and look and the sense of being undead. The object adds to the supernatural look. Janic Odom has written a academic text in the journal of the fantastic arts states within the vampire Mythology it is suggested that vampire are affected by the crucifix. The crucifix has that idea of power this encourages the gothic subculture into the vampire lure. The Gothic Crosses what we know as the crucifix which is one of the many symbols of Gothic culture. They are much different to the Christian cross in that the imagery used represents all that is dark and mysterious. Many like to wear a Gothic style cross to show that they are part of the Gothic lifestyle, and to show that they believe of the undead.

The victorian style was very important in the goth fashion and partially within the goth subculture. Elements of the victorian fashion was developed in the late twentieth century such as the morning dress and corset which was incorporated into the goth style. These dresses are connotations of typical victorian Morning Dress, the academic study by (V.Steele)  suggest the element of the Victorian decade fashion such as the morning dress and corset became incorporated in the gothic subculture. This style has been known throughout the subculture, you could argue that the goth style came from the victorians and that this subculture has change what is seen as traditional victorian dress and completely changed it. This has happened because traditional victorian dress is to wear a corset to looks skinny to be seen as pretty. The way goth use it is not for its purpose it is a fashion statement and wore with many other piece of clothing that have no relation to the victorian style.

In the late 1990s a new style of goth emerged at first if offended the goth with its new hint of colour. Cyber goths used aspect of colour in the traditional style. There clothes are made of reflective materials and PVC and were known for platform boots. They used colourful hair extensions and multiple piercing. Cyber goths amongst many goths style was very much DIY (Do it yourself) the attention to detail was key to make you stand out from the crowd. This was considered a goth style because of the corset and other element that related to the traditional goth style, although the goths were always seen in black this new style hinted at colour but still keeping the black the overall colour seen.

The goth subculture wasn’t a fashion you could buy in the shop it was very different to today where every style is available as a high street fashion. This subculture was to be different and stand out from the crowd the fashion wasn’t something you could buy they would normally create there style there self using charity shop clothing. This image below (Masayuki Yoshinaga’s portrait of rie, published by Phaidon Press courtesy Masayuki Yoshinaga )this shows the later goth style in the 90s with elements of the goth style using the book Frankenstein to incorporate into the look. The style has used sloth of things like spiderwebs and bats to make the look frightening. The use of the stud on the jacket has been use to show danger and the traditional tutu has been worn in a different way to what we normally consider a tutu to be worn like. The use of books and supernatural creature to influence there style using english literature books of romance and the undead to incorporate into there look.

Screen Shot 2017-05-16 at 12.12.34 It is a fact that in the early times of goth fashion the dress was traditional goth chic mainly black clothing with fabric such as velvet lace or leather and style from the victorian era such as corsets. Corset are a traditional goth style and are found among most styles of goth. The corset originated from victorian times. The corset was worn by women as and element of fashion for over 400 years the corset was known for the victorian era and women wore it tight laced crushing the women rips so they appeared skinner.  There hair was long, black-dyed hair, thick black eye make-up with white grounding, and lots of silver jewellery such as crosses and bats. The key to goth style is drawing from horror and various images in fiction such as crucifixes, bat and vampires. These are seen throughout the goth history. the image also visualises the original jewellery which was tight fitted, a choker the jewellery by adding elements of creatures such as bats which link to vampires the undead. The spider tights is being associated with creatures of the ground being linked to where dead bodies lay to rest, in the ground. This has connotation as if the wearer of the goth style had been risen from the dead. Stewart suggest that the victorian style has made a contribution to the gothic style through accessories such as jewellery, bags and tights. The gothic style also includes checkers and colours of velvet and leather which is traditionally worn by the victorian style (Stewart, 2002). The link to the undead is a running theme through the goth style this idea of looking dead linking in with the supernatural such as vampires. This idea of dressing pale with make up and adding jewellery that link to the undead is to look as if that person has come back from the dead.

A new style emerged in the 1980s to the late 1990s which was the most contemporary manifestation of the gothic is the goth subculture this was a mix of new style of music which was dark and a new style of dress. The gothic fashion was not always black. This shows that the gothic style has changed overtime from the early 1980s where the goth scene was all black.  This shows that the goth subculture offers a range of different looks. It has had to fit in with the times.  The cyber goth look is 20th century fashion the link to technology and the rising of the future with robots, this look is moving away from the dead and looking at the future of technology.

Screen Shot 2017-05-16 at 12.12.41

Later the goth fashion cam from character such as vampire and films with goth women the identity came away from the early street style. Goth style was long lived persisting through the 1990s and into the 20th century although the fashion of goth remained the style changed as the time went on. In the 20th century the start of the cyber goth which was a more modern style. The image of steam punk ensemble with vintage army pieces worn by Lisette and photograph courtesy Kat Bret, this shows the change in style from the original traditional goth. The goggles on the head gave impression of army look which was seen as the steam punk. The hair colour has changed from black to coloured using hair colour when mixed with black gothic elements said by braguintage. The long laced corset is what show the goth look the most showing that all goth looks use the corset. The steam punk look is the gothic steam punk look which originated in Seattle and Poland. This steam punk look has come from the rise in technology and the antique goggle worn on the top of her head is a victorian style of clothing which uses heavy black canvas and leather. The cyber goth came with the British scene of goth a style that was characterised by bright colour which made it different to the usually goth look. They would have brightly coloured hair extensions in dreadlock shapes this relates to the image above where the women has green hair and green corset  it isn’t brightly coloured but it different from black. This cyber goth came from Britain and started arriving in other countries such as Germany.

The goth style emerged in the 80s from the punk style and has slowly changed overtime modifying with the times the latest goth style is the steam punk and cyber goth look. This is a 20th century style all has changed since the 80s where there were subculture. In the 20th century people styles has emerged from subcultures especially the band tops. In the 80s the goths would make there own band tops using material they own at home. Today every fashion is available to pick up in the shops as a street fashion. The band tops link a lot to my course graphic communication with the goth using typography on there top. Graphic design is about design and using design that are already out there to influence our own design this is very similar to the goth style. The goth style is about expressing yourself and being different from everyone else but taken all things and creating something new. This is the same in Graphic communication where your design is to express yourself but you use design already out there to influence your work but make it different from anything people have seen. You want to make people remember your designs and this is what the goth subculture has done as people remember it now and still today people use it as a fashion look.

To conclude the goth style has developed overtime there subculture has started from one look and has been changed and modified to keep in with the times. The start of the goth style originated for the punk style which when looking at my picture again I could see the link to punk throughout all three. The goth goth subculture has come from the gothic style of music the start of it came from the love of the new gothic bands in the 80s. The link to punk and goth is from the music and also the way they create there style using the DIY approach using household objects in a different way to create jewellery and a fashion statement. The goth style has changed a lot overtime but there is thing that show the style is goth. The corset and colour black is obvious relation to the goth style. The style has been modified using the change of time with technology and incorporated it into the goth subculture. After analysing the images Masayuki Yoshinaga’s portrait of rie, published by Phaidon Press courtesy Masayuki Yoshinaga, Lisette and photograph courtesy Kat Bret and Photographer courtesy Julia Borden the image “death rock”, I felt I have discovered the gothic style overtime the gothic style is very literal and make a statement. The gothic scene is mysterious and explores a lot of different themes. I have come to the conclusion that whilst writing this essay that themes can be expressed visually.

I feel that this style has made me think about my own practice and how it all links. Graphic communication is the way we encourage and express ourselves to convey a message that will be forever lasting and something everyone will remember using symbolism as a mark. This links to the gothic style because it makes a statement by exploring  theme such as the undead and the supernatural, this is expressed visually through there clothing.  The gothic style also represent symbolism through the use of the crucifix and element such as spiders.  Graphic design is about design and using design that are already out there to influence our own design this is very similar to the goth style the one style can be varied to create something new to create a modern twist. This has helped me within my practice that ideas can come from else where and rules can be broken and are there to be broken.


Identity, Style and Subculture- eBook by Paul Hodkinson (2002)

Gothic dark glamour by Valerie Steele and Jennifer parks (2008)

Goth Culture Gender, Sexuality and Style- eBook by Dunja Brill Gender, Sexuality and Style -(01 Nov 2008) | English

The Corset: A Cultural History, Volume 5 By Valerie Steele (2003)

Goth: Undead Subculture by Michael Bibby, Lauren M. E. Goodlad (11 Apr 2007)

Masayuki Yoshinaga’s portrait of rie, published by Phaidon Press courtesy Masayuki Yoshinaga

Lisette and photograph courtesy Kat Bret

Photographer courtesy Julia Borden the image “death rock”


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