The history of gothic fashion and its influences


The gothic style was born from the British punk culture of the ‘70s. Specifically, this aesthetic is credited to the band Bauhaus and their single “Bella Lugosi’s Dead” released in 1979. The single served as an inspiration for tropes such as references to undead, dark, and androgynous appearances.

From 1982 onwards, some bands started to perform in a London nightclub called The Batcave, which became where people further developed the goth style. Here, dark femineity, fishnets, and sheer fabrics were usual amongst fans and bands.

A band performing in The Batcave.

The music journalists who attended these scenes were the ones who popularized the term “goth”. From the undergrounds of London, the style expanded to the rest of the country, and it quickly became an international movement.

Goth person in The Batcave.

In the early ‘80s, Yohji Yamamoto introduced traditional and trad goth elements on the runway. Then, designers like Alexander McQueen and Jean Paul Gaultier followed him. Later, brands like Balenciaga, Thom Browne, Givenchy, Valentino, and Olivier Theyskens made their variations of trad goth, romantic goth, corp goth, Victorian goth, and others.

Alexander McQueen Fall 1997 RTW 

Early ‘90s gothic fashion was marked by cemented dark hair, pointed boots, tight black jeans, and shades. These were the basics of gothic rock. This subgenre is attributed to the band The Sisters of Mercy, which became popular because their music was more accessible, and their aesthetic was less extreme.

Nancy Downs from The Craft (1996). An example of 90s goth fashion. 

In the mid-90s, the media began to lose their interest in gothic fashion. From here, many sub-genres appeared, such as health goth, pastel goth, cybergoth, and Lolita goth. This way, it became a subculture, being kept alive by the fans.



Believe it or not, gothic fashion has plenty of influences. Here are some of them. 

Ancient Egypt

Women from this period used kohl, a powder made from lead sulfide, on their eyes to create a dramatic look. Kohl was used to make a thick black eyeliner that extended past the eye and lines extending from the lower eyelid down into the face.

Siouxsie Sioux, rock singer and goth icon, inspired by this look, took it to the extreme, making large, high-defined black eyebrows paired with dark, smokey eye makeup on the upper lids.

Siouxsie Sioux.

 Goths also took the Ankh (the “key of life”), a cross with a loop on the top, and used it on their accessories in the mid to late 90’s. 

Celtic symbolism

Celtic wheels, Claddagh rings, and Celtic crosses are often used for goth’s aesthetic, religious, ethnic, or symbolic purposes. Celtic knots are also used in rings, necklaces, and embroidered dresses.

Celtic cross necklace. 

Medieval gothic art

Here’s where the term “goth” was born. Originally, it applied to a group of Germanic peoples, becoming synonymous with the barbarian.

During the Renaissance, art critics thought of the Middle Ages as a time of ignorance, superstition, and barbarism. It will take some time to turn into a symbol of a mysterious and supernatural atmosphere.

This subculture uses gothic art for its emotional power and cultural significance.


The original goth. Melancholic, emotional, and dressed in all black, the Prince of Denmark had a huge influence on the romantic movement, and thus on gothic fashion. Goths see themselves in Hamlet’s philosophy and black clothing, a symbol of his inner grief over the death of his father.

Ophelia, his love interest, often appeared in Romantic paintings, and thus became a style inspiration for modern goths.

The Romantic Movement

In some sense, the Romantic movement was a rebellion against the optimism of the Enlightenment and the scientific rationalization of nature. German and English artists combined fiery passion with a sad yearning for a forbidden love.

Young men wore “poet’s shirts”, or long, flowing white shirts with loose collars. In this way, men’s clothes became exaggerated. Meanwhile, women still used corsets, full skirts, and petticoats.

In the ‘80s, New Romantics updated the look by adding drawstring collars, black pants, and large, backcombed hairstyles.

80’s New Romantics.

Romantic writers like Mary Shelley and Bram Stoker used many elements loved by goths, such as crumbling castles, haunted houses, vampires, and ghouls.

Victorian England

Victorian petticoats, lace-up boots, top hats, lace, frills, and corsets heavily influenced goth fashion. Steampunk and gothic Lolita are both created based upon Victorian fashion.

Gothic Lolita.

German expressionism.

Expressionist art distorts reality violently to present an emotional version of the world. Expressionist films use stark contrasts, that’s why we see the characters with dark lips, dark eyes, and pale skin.

“The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari” (1920).

Fetish fashion

A style of dress that arose in London’s gay s&m scene after World War II. It consists of fishnets, black leather, vinyl, and biker gear. In the ‘60s and ‘70s, rock bands like the Velvet Underground started to use these clothes. Vivienne Westwood incorporated it into her outfits, and it’s through her that goths used it too.

Gothic body chain from Zazza.



In the beginning, gothic fashion was nowhere to be found in stores, so fans had to make their clothes. Nowadays, we have multiple designers that make these clothes types, numerous stores dedicated exclusively to this subculture, and some goth elements in mainstream stores.

Valerie skirt from Zazza. 

Popular elements of this style consist of dramatic silhouettes inspired by Victorian mourning clothes, including long sleeves, long skirts, and corsets (black being the only color). The fabrics used can be lace, velvet, and leather.

Accessories can be dark or silver, often studded or depicting mythological or anti-religious symbols like Celtic crosses and pentagrams.

Cross earring from Zazza.

Modern gothic fashion. From @jess.vll on TikTok.

Nowadays, gothic style is often used in mass culture. You can see it at fashion shows, red carpets, movies, tv shows, and music videos. With grunge making a comeback this year, it’s going to be a matter of time until goth fashion has its turn. So, take your gothic clothes out of the closet and get ready to wear them soon! 

If you’re interested in goth fashion, take a look at Zazza’s website: