The return of goth fashion with the Mourning Suit

woman in black and white long sleeve shirt and black pants standing beside brown wooden door

Experts say that celebrities can give their identity an edge by flirting with goth style

Let go of the bats! The Gothic style is back. Kourtney Kardashian and her boyfriend Travis Barker from Blink-182 visited Venice this week. They traded in their Balmain bodycon for Rick Owens black leather trousers and Givenchy studded mules. Elle US cover model Selena Gomez wore fishnet tights, a choker, and a blonde bob. It was more Courtney Love than Marilyn Monroe. While singer Halsey has accompanied her new album (made with goth legend Nine Inch Nail’s Trent Reznor) with mournful black, vintage Dolce and Gabbana dress.

“Goth signals danger, it disrupts but not too much,” says Prof Catherine Spooner from Lancaster University. “Celebrities can safely flirt with goth to enhance their identities.”

The subculture has been trending recently, hair horns and platform heels are popular, while searches for “goth fashion” have increased by 21% year on year, according to jewellerybox.

woman in black and white long sleeve shirt and black pants standing beside brown wooden door

Daisy Davidson runs Hysteric Fashion, a site that documents alternative fashion. “There’s more fluidity to how you look these days as opposed to having a fixed style,” she says. “It often appears to be a mixture of gothic and emo rather than one scene as it was in the 80s and 90s.”

Others believe that the darkness of death is a suitable response to Covid-19. Spooner states that “many features of Gothic narrative, such as haunting and monstrosity, can be easily read as political and social metaphors.” Professor Nick Groom, co-author of CoronaGothic Cultures of Pandemic, says that “Coming out” of the pandemic can be compared to rising again and returning to normal life after incarceration in the tomb-life.

Spooner also sees the rise of goth as a counternarrative to cottagecore and the “back to the country” aesthetic. She says, “In gothic film and fiction, the country is rarely a spot for rest and relaxation – it’s where unwary city dwellers find dark things happen.” “And this evokes the reality that the most difficult politics in western countries are being played out in the countryside, from climate change to rural conservatism.”

Spooner believes that the trend is by its very nature cyclical. She says that “Goth is intrinsically linked up with the past returning. It is rooted in cultural ideas such as historical revival, haunting, and uncanny returns. This is not the first iteration of this cycle, and it will not be the last.”

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