The Origins of 80’s Goth Fashion

by | Jun 7, 2022 | Costumes and Cloaks | 2 comments

80’s Goth Fashion is known for raven black mourning clothes, dark eyeliner, spiked or teased hair, abundant fishnets and much more. I went to high school in Los Angeles in the early 80’s, and as far back as I remember there have been goth people. However, to my surprise, goth fashion dates back to just the late 70’s. 

Sources agree that 80’s Goth Fashion was inspired by Siouxsie Sioux from the 80’s English punk band, Siouxsie and the Banchees. I love her!! She’s also regarded by many as The Mother of Goth as we know it.

It all started in 1980, when hundreds of young English women started imitating Siouxsie’s dark and mysterious look after they saw her at a gig in Leeds. Siouxsie’s gothic look included spiky dyed-black hair, black clothes, cat-eye makeup, and deep red lipstick. In addition to inspiring goth fashion, she was well known in the London Club scene for combining glam, fetish and bondage into her own style! 

It also should be noted that Siouxsie inspired not only goth fashion, but punk fashion and goth music as well! 

80's Goth Fashion

Siouxsie Sioux of the Banchees created the goth look that inspired the 80’s goth sub-culture.

 

80’s Goth Fashion, includes the following details:

 


Post-1980’s Goth Fashion 

If Gothic or goth fashion emerged in the early 1980’s, it certainly hasn’t disappeared since.

Intriguingly, this mysterious style has inspired multiple goth sub-cultures as well as fused with mainstream fashion. Smoky eyes, anyone?

Below are some of the Goth fashion styles that have achieved ongoing popularity today.

1. Romantigoth

This is the Victorian flavor of goth featuring opulent dresses in silk, velvet or lace as well as corsets and crinolines (hoop skirts). For the male romantigoth, there are top hats, scarves, ruffle shirts, tailcoats, and full length gloves. Velvet cloaks also fit beautifully into this aesthetic. The style is frequently associated 19th century Romantic literature like Edgar Allan Poe, Bram Stoker, and Lord Byron. Victorian goths are also drawn to the pastimes of the Victorian Era such as tea parties and writing horror poetry. 

2. Gothabilly or Pin-Up Goth

Gothabilly takes its inspiration from Bettie Mae Page as well as Rockabilly. It riffs off of 1950s fashion such as Page’s raven black hair, deep red lipstick, bright colored outfits and seductive presence. Accessories include platforms, garters, corsets or cherry jewelry. Tattoos are also popular among Gothabilly followers and mesh well with the bright colored dresses. 

 

80's Goth Fashion

Jasmin Luna of @ClubSeance in the Raven Fox Noir Black Cloak. (Small, 42″ length)

 

3. Punk Goth 

Punk proceeds Goth, and Punk Goth grew from Punk styles and music. Specific Punk Goth elements include Mohawks (like a wider and spiky version of the classic Mohawk called a death-hawks), distressed leather jackets and combat boots, piercings and tattoos, and ripped tights or fishnets. I’m kinda thinking that Punk Goth is Traditional Goth, but go ahead and opinion on this in the comments. 

4. Gothic Lolita

You are probably familiar with Japanese Lolita fashion from the 90’s and 2000’s. The main Lolita style is focused on cuteness and sweetness. Gothic Lolita is simply a darker version with Edwardian or Victorian-inspired dresses with a voluminous skirt and petticoat or crinoline below. Other components include knee-high socks, lace umbrellas, wigs, and high heels or flat shoes.

How is Gothic Lolita different from other goth styles? It’s altogether more polished, and well, cute. You won’t find torn clothing, nor dramatic make up! Instead, the make up style is soft and feminine using natural shades of pink, red, and brown. Lastly, platform boots are replaced with low to mid-height Mary Janes and Tea Party shoes.


5. Pastel Goth

The pastel goth aesthetic mixes traditional goth like lots of black, tattoos and macabre accessories — with bright colored items like ‘80s pastel T-shirts, Japanese manga, pink hair, and striking eye makeup to give off a creepy vibe. However, many in the goth community don’t consider pastel goth as true goth. The look down on it because its a fashion trend but not a musical genre and its members don’t participate in the sub-culture or goth events. 

6. Cyber Goth

The cyber goth aesthetic draws from raver and cyberpunk subcultures as well as cyber goth music. In additional to traditional goth style, you’ll see cyber goths wearing fluorescent colors and synthetic materials like vinyl, pvc, and rubber and even accessories like LED circuit boards which add to the futuristic feel of the style.

7. Health Goth

A newer Goth fashion is Health Goth. And it certainly seems contradictory to pair the dark, macabre aesthetic to sports and wellness! Health Goth literally means taking athletic wear and adding an edgy twist. Surprisingly, sportswear brands like Nike or Adidas are creating workout wear based on the Health Goth style. Like I said at the start, in 40 years goth has firmly wedged itself into mainstream fashion. 

Are there more goth styles? Yes…!!! Feel free to school me in the comments. Just keep it friendly. 

heavy black eyeliner for men and women
pale, powdered skin like a pale corpse
crimped or spiky hair
Victorian and Gothic, and even Medieval inspired-items like beaded chokers, cocktail rings, and leather belts
fishnet stockings and lacy gloves
corsets in velvet, silk and other rich fabrics
Stiletto heels or pointed boots or thigh high boots
Silver jewelry like crosses and other religious or occult themes
black leather corsets, pants or coats
velvet cloak, vest or jacket.

80's Goth Fashion

Chelsey Moore @chelsey.lestrange in the Raven Fox Black Velvet Cloak.

Early Goth Style Icons, Before the 1980’s 

Before Siouxsie Sioux there were other women and a few men with dark, gothic styles that most likely inspired her look. I’ve arranged them in chronological order so you can trace the evolution. 

Theda Bara was a 1910’s femme fatal known for her death-defying dark eyeshadow. She was a popular silent era film actress and one of the first sex symbols. It was the studios PR machine that nicknamed her “The Vamp”, published the fiction that she was an Egyptian-born woman with an interest in the occult and crafted her femme fatal image. She herself was a bit ambivalent about being type cast as as a femme fatal image as it limited to a single type of role. Nevertheless, she was incredibly successful as a femme fatal! 

80's Goth Fashion

Musidora as Irma Vep in “Les Vampires”

Musidora was a French silent film actress, film director, and writer. She became famous for her role as Irma Vep (Vep for vampire) in a series called Les Vampires (1915) and in Judex (1916) as Marie Verdier. Les Vampires was about a criminal gang-run-secret society, rather than vampires, as the title suggests. Musidora was often compared to Theda Bara as the role of Irma Vep embodied the archetypes of “vamp” and “femme fatale”.

Morticia Addams is perhaps is our best known goth and witch. She was created by cartoonist Charles Addams for The New Yorker magazine in the 1930’s. Yes, the Addams Family was created by a man named Addams. The characters were adapted to the 1964 TV series. Morticia’s name is based on “mortician” and she always has extremely pale skin and long flowing black hair, and wears a form fitting hobble dress with octopus-like tentacles at the hem. Morticia and The Adams family have been reprised in multiple TV shows and movies ever since.

Bela Lugosi was a Hungarian and American actor who appeared in Count Dracula (1931), Son of Frankenstein (1939) and many other horror films from 1931 through 1956. It’s rumored he was buried in his Count Dracula cape or a duplicate 🙂 Clearly, he had great taste in capes and cloaks.  

Vampira was an American actress known for her campy 1950s’ character that hosted horror films on TV.  Each show opened with Vampira gliding down a dark corridor flooded with dry-ice fog. At the end of her trance-like walk, the camera zoomed in on her face as she let out a piercing scream. She would then introduce (and mock) that evening’s film while reclining barefoot on a skull-encrusted Victorian couch. 

80's Goth Fashion

Bettie Mae Page as Playmate of the Month, January 1955 (cropped version)

Bettie Mae Page was a model known as the “Queen of Pinups” in 1950s. She had longish jet-black hair, blue eyes, and trademark bangs. She was uninhibited in posing and posed for many erotic photos. She was an early Playmate of the Month centerfold appearing in the January 1955 issue and won the 1955 title “Miss Pinup Girl of the World”. She also became known as “The Queen of Curves” and “The Dark Angel”. While pin-up and glamour models frequently have careers measured in months, Page was in demand for several years, continuing to model until 1957. Then in the 1980’s, her image and style experienced a hugh resurgence of popularity.

Additional 80’s or earlier goth style icons:
Nico
Rozz Williams
David Bowie
Lux Interior
Dave Vanian
Robert Smith

goth fashion icons

Large left hand photo: Rozz Williams, photo by Edward Colver; David Bowie (top), Morticia Addams (middle), Nico (bottom).

 


Post-1980’s Goth Fashion 

If Gothic or goth fashion emerged in the early 1980’s, it certainly hasn’t disappeared since.

Intriguingly, this mysterious style has inspired multiple goth sub-cultures as well as fused with mainstream fashion. Smoky eyes, anyone?

Below are some of the Goth fashion styles that have achieved ongoing popularity today.

1. Romantigoth

This is the Victorian flavor of goth featuring opulent dresses in silk, velvet or lace as well as corsets and crinolines (hoop skirts). For the male romantigoth, there are top hats, scarves, ruffle shirts, tailcoats, and full length gloves. Velvet cloaks also fit beautifully into this aesthetic. The style is frequently associated 19th century Romantic literature like Edgar Allan Poe, Bram Stoker, and Lord Byron. Victorian goths are also drawn to the pastimes of the Victorian Era such as tea parties and writing horror poetry. 

2. Gothabilly or Pin-Up Goth

Gothabilly takes its inspiration from Bettie Mae Page as well as Rockabilly. It riffs off of 1950s fashion such as Page’s raven black hair, deep red lipstick, bright colored outfits and seductive presence. Accessories include platforms, garters, corsets or cherry jewelry. Tattoos are also popular among Gothabilly followers and mesh well with the bright colored dresses. 

 

80's Goth Fashion

Jasmin Luna of @ClubSeance in the Raven Fox Noir Black Cloak. (Small, 42″ length)

 

3. Punk Goth 

Punk proceeds Goth, and Punk Goth grew from Punk styles and music. Specific Punk Goth elements include Mohawks (like a wider and spiky version of the classic Mohawk called a death-hawks), distressed leather jackets and combat boots, piercings and tattoos, and ripped tights or fishnets. I’m kinda thinking that Punk Goth is Traditional Goth, but go ahead and opinion on this in the comments. 

4. Gothic Lolita

You are probably familiar with Japanese Lolita fashion from the 90’s and 2000’s. The main Lolita style is focused on cuteness and sweetness. Gothic Lolita is simply a darker version with Edwardian or Victorian-inspired dresses with a voluminous skirt and petticoat or crinoline below. Other components include knee-high socks, lace umbrellas, wigs, and high heels or flat shoes.

How is Gothic Lolita different from other goth styles? It’s altogether more polished, and well, cute. You won’t find torn clothing, nor dramatic make up! Instead, the make up style is soft and feminine using natural shades of pink, red, and brown. Lastly, platform boots are replaced with low to mid-height Mary Janes and Tea Party shoes.


5. Pastel Goth

The pastel goth aesthetic mixes traditional goth like lots of black, tattoos and macabre accessories — with bright colored items like ‘80s pastel T-shirts, Japanese manga, pink hair, and striking eye makeup to give off a creepy vibe. However, many in the goth community don’t consider pastel goth as true goth. The look down on it because its a fashion trend but not a musical genre and its members don’t participate in the sub-culture or goth events. 

6. Cyber Goth

The cyber goth aesthetic draws from raver and cyberpunk subcultures as well as cyber goth music. In additional to traditional goth style, you’ll see cyber goths wearing fluorescent colors and synthetic materials like vinyl, pvc, and rubber and even accessories like LED circuit boards which add to the futuristic feel of the style.

7. Health Goth

A newer Goth fashion is Health Goth. And it certainly seems contradictory to pair the dark, macabre aesthetic to sports and wellness! Health Goth literally means taking athletic wear and adding an edgy twist. Surprisingly, sportswear brands like Nike or Adidas are creating workout wear based on the Health Goth style. Like I said at the start, in 40 years goth has firmly wedged itself into mainstream fashion. 

Are there more goth styles? Yes…!!! Feel free to school me in the comments. Just keep it friendly. 

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2 Comments

  1. Lavina Morticia Kymille was a gothic girl who was married to Sebastian Bach of Skid Row.Hardly anything is on web of her however she was incredibly beautiful and totally sinister.

    Reply

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