Come to the dark side – the rise of gothcore
You’ve probably seen Kourtney Kardashian donned in lace-up latex pants and a corset, complete with canine fangs topped with diamonds. Or did you notice Megan Fox in a blood-red crystal gown at last year’s Met Gala, every inch a chic Dracula bride? If so, you will already know that something is lurking. Introducing ultra-glam gothcore, the new trend to die for.
Femme fatale fashion isn’t new, but unlike its boom in the ’80s and 2022, the incarnation of 2022 is about the killer attitude for girls, boys, and everyone in between. Watch Kourtney again. For every strapless lace-up leather mini dress and crucifix necklace she wears, her new beau, heavily tattooed rock star Travis Barker, holds her hand in studded suits, skull-patch biker jackets and leather jackets. red plaid pants. Their Christmas photo could be The Addams Family (but wearing new Givenchy), plus they got engaged in a ring of roses and flickering candles. Gothic 101.
Today it’s less Bauhaus, Siouxsie Sioux and The Cure – bands that first made their mark on the subculture. Gen Z has a clean slate of pop culture, where everyone from singers Olivia Rodrigo to Billie Eilish are involved, and the costumes are straight off the runway. Nevertheless, the initial mindset remained: reject the norms, wear what you want and don’t care what your parents think.
“I really like tough goth girls,” says Casey Cadwallader, Mugler’s creative director and mastermind behind some of Megan Fox’s most outrageous looks. The rhinestone sheer dress she wore to the 2021 VMAs was by Cadwallader, as were her spider-like cutout bodysuit at the Billboard Music Awards and sheer skirt (the peak of Fox’s gothic outing). “Megan chooses the steamiest things we make,” he says. “And she wears them with this oozing confidence and sultry gaze that’s like – I dare you to play with me.”
In 2018, Cadwallader took over the house that originally helped bring gothic style to haute couture. Imagine women as beetles in wasp-waisted leather corsets or latex bodices with huge lace Medici collars, circa 1997. Cadwallader has researched it all and condensed it for today. “[Now] is much more about personal empowerment and tenacity,” he says. It is also a matter of diversity. You’ll find Euphoria’s Hunter Schafer and Pose’s Dominique Jackson (two of today’s hottest trans actors) on the catwalk alongside supermodel royalty Irina Shayk and Amber Valletta. “I’m open to what it means to be sexy, and I find myself genderless feminine or masculine. We’re here for the bold. Either you’re on board or you’re not,” says Cadwallader.
It’s this freedom of expression that defines new-gen goth — and it’s exploding. On TikTok, #goth videos accumulate nine billion views, while the taste for terror grows; in the past two months, searches for patent leather platform boots have increased by 71%, black leather coats by 35% and scarves by 81%, according to fashion search engine Lyst. “Gothic is a visible reaction to the toxic positivity of previous years,” says Brenda Otero, cultural insights manager at Lyst. This means that there are no more edited images on the beaches, like Instagram of old. “It’s an acknowledgment of how people really feel and how dressing with a certain mood in mind can help channel dark feelings.”
LOVERBOY designer Charles Jeffrey agrees. “When you think of subcultures like goth, it’s very direct and immediate,” says the man known for mixing historic silhouettes with a punk twist. “It makes sense that some people use this to help express something they’re going through, but maybe don’t want to talk about it.” Her SS22 collection opened with goth collars, lace skirts and molten candle wigs – always burning. “There’s this dark, post-apocalyptic, even futuristic trench coat look that I feel,” he says. “A tumblr-y, TikTok-y, sweaty, makeup-heavy space. Baggy cargo pants, ripped jackets and chunky boots. It’s all a bit gothic. It’s about being yourself and enjoying it.
It means head to toe. Lady Gaga and RuPaul’s Drag Race UK star Bimini Bon Boulash both opt for patent leather platforms — try London label Roker Atelier who heel the fashion ensemble inside. The unisex shoes have corset-like lacing and helped create Harris Reed’s H-Boots, which come in spiked and studded glory. With braids boldly step into the night. “Hair is the defining accessory of any subculture,” says Anthony Turner, the hairstylist who tweaks Kate Moss and gels Gigi Hadid (and is an ex-goth himself). “It’s part of the theatricality and eccentricity of the Gothic world. And it sends a message: it’s me, and I don’t give a fuck. Try it at home? Grab Boots Perfect Color Black Hair Dye, a backcomb – and away you go.
When it comes to jewelry, goth glam is about subtle subversions, and Shaun Leane’s Hook and Talon earrings are the star. “It’s definitely primal and alluring,” says the man who worked alongside macabre fashion authority Alexander McQueen. He first produced this silhouette for McQueen’s SS96 “Hunger” collection, then created the iconic life-size spinal corset, complete with silver spine ribbing and tail, for SS98.
You can satisfy a chic coffin craving on the high street, as well as at luxury retailers. H&M has a patent vegan leather trench, Meow is the go-to for corsets, and Zara makes mini dresses with cutout straps. Or stay authentic and head to Camden for the vintage leather shops. All investment is long term. “It’s a trend we’re supporting for the coming season,” says Libby Page, Senior Market Writer at Net-a-Porter. “A black bodysuit paired with tailored jeans or pants is an easy first step for anyone looking to try it out, along with a chunky boot that can add an edge to any outfit.”
It will also last longer than this season. Anna Sui, the American designer who has been mixing whimsy with darker shades since the 90s, says: “We are constantly inspired by this glamorous and sexy genre. It’s a great escape, plus it looks so cool!” Why not indulge yourself now? As Sui puts it, “Reality is scarier than gothic fiction at this point.”