Frighteningly Fashionable Britain
Halloween and Gothic style go together like a chilly night and a hot toddy, and throughout the years both have had a major impact on the direction of British fashion. From Poe’s spine chillingly creepy tales of ghoulishness, to 1980’s goth rockers Siouxie and the Banshees, those influenced by the dark side have found a seemingly untapped well of inspiration on UK shores.
With its roots in the ancient Celtic festival of the dead, Samhain, where the deceased were thought to be able to communicate with the living for one night, Halloween got it’s official moniker in 601 AD, when Pope Gregory renamed it in an attempt to put a Christian spin on a historical tradition.
This piece of ancient PR seems to have paid off though, as in some form or another we’ve celebrated the festival in Britain ever since, with traditions like apple bobbing having their roots as far back as the 1400’s!
But both Gothic style and Halloween didn’t find their kismet until the 19th century, when the master of the macabre Edgar Allen Poe came along to pen tales that would send a shiver along the spine of even the most hardened horror buff.
Poe was the undisputed king of darkness, and it seems he was something of a fan of original gothic style too, as from architecture to clothing, his writing is chock full of detailed references to the darkly beautiful.
Poe likely took his influence from his surroundings, as Britain was undergoing a big Gothic Revival during his lifetime, with buildings heavily referencing original medieval gothic architecture springing up all over the place, such as the striking Houses of Parliament and the beautiful St Pancreas station.
Throughout the years following Poe’s death, from the damson coloured vampy lips of silent screen vamp Theda Bara, to the haunting lyrics of aloof crooner Nico from the Velvet Underground, there were numerous goth inspired influences to satiate our craving for the dark side. But the unofficial date of the origin of modern British Goth style as we know it wouldn’t occur until 1979, when Bauhaus released their hugely influential single Bela Lugosi’s Dead.
Piggybacking Bahaus’s influence, Goth Rockers Siouxie and the Banshees further revolutionized the British music industry, creating a whole new genre of alternative music that was dubbed “gothic rock” by music critics at the time. The genre swiftly became popular and its rapidly swelling numbers of followers soon developed their own unique fashion style, influenced by the ethereal lyrics and dark cadences of the music they listened too.
Soon everyone and his black cat seemed to be sporting purple and black striped tights, a black velvet blazer, heavy black eyeliner and a head full of backcombed jet black hair that would make Cher envious, and that was just the guys!
But all jokes aside, the enthusiasm for all things Goth in the 80’s saw things previously considered taboo being readily adopted by the mainstream. Bisexual experimentation became almost the norm, and a more androgynous style of dressing became popular too, with embellishments like eyeliner and long hair on men seen as much more readily acceptable.
Since then, though Gothic fashion may not quite ever have reached the heady peaks of its 1980’s heyday, it’s continued to mutate and thrive, and the birth of the famous annual Whitby Gothic Festival in North Yorkshire in 1994 only serves to give testament to the enduring popularity of gothic style as well as the British interest in all things macabre!
Whitby, the place where British gothic legend Bram Stoker penned the genre’s quintessential tale, Dracula, sees thousands of elaborately dressed goths descend on the town every year, to pay an annual pilgrimage to the man, who along with Poe, is often cited as the father of British Gothic horror fiction.
Since Poe and Stoker’s time, things seem to have quite fittingly gone full circle, with modern-day British Goths in 2014 now sourcing style inspiration from the original Victorian fashions first made popular during the Gothic Revival period of 1830-1900.
The high-necked black lace pussy blow blouses, corsets, long full skirts and velvet chokers that typify this branch of Gothic style, were initially worn in Britain more than a century ago, and are now being sported on our streets today, undisputedly proving the old adage true that great style never goes out of fashion.