Gothic. The word meant many things to the people of many different eras.

There was the Gothicke language spoken by the Germanic tribes of Goths, Visigoths and Ostrogoths, which generally wreaked havoc on much of Europe during the 3rd to 5th Centuries.

An example of gothic script.
An example of gothic script.
20-gothic-logo-jpg contemporary art society dot org
A modern take on gothic script, courtesy of the Contemporary Art Society.

Thus, one of the current meanings of the word, according to the OED is “barbarous, rude, uncouth, unpolished, in bad taste.”

Footwear in bad taste? What the early Goths wore on their feet, as displayed at the Bata Shoe Museum, Toronto. Ouch.
What some of us girls with a bit of Goth still in them wear nowadays. My ladylike cockroach killer slings by Les Tropeziennes – what I happened to be wearing when I visited the Bata.

Bad taste is what those living in Renaissance times attributed to gothic architecture, which was the style from the 12th to 16th Centuries. Funny thing is the architecture was not made by the earlier mentioned Goths. It got its name because it too was considered rude and barbaric.

Brunelleschi and other Renaissance men didn’t care for flying buttresses and pointed arches, favouring barrel vaults and classic columns instead.

Gothic architecture in well, a very gothic setting. Image by fotofil.

Snooty opinions aside, the crude architecture experienced a revival in 18th Century England. In the mid 1700s, it became quite fashionable to have your personal home and castle rebuilt in the gothic style.

Shortly afterwards, Horace Walpole wrote The Castle of Otranto and started the era of gothic fiction – a style of writing that was picked up by the Victorians, including writers like the Brontë sisters and Mary Shelley, who penned Frankenstein.

Frankenstein, the movie version.
mcqueen scary mens fw09 nymag
Mr. McQueen’s modern Frank for Fall 09?

This fascination with the dark and gloomy naturally transcended into the fashion of the day.

Victorian mourning dress, 1880s.
Victorian girl drawing by Megan Balanck

The silhouette consisted of a fitted bodice with full, structured skirt. The bodice was often buttoned and tailored for day wear, while evening dresses had lace, bead and jet detailing.

Hats or other hair accoutrements and gloves were de rigueur. Gothic fashion inspiration was one thing, but the Victorians were nothing if not, ladylike.

Painting of a well-to-do Victorian.

You could say the devil was in the details for these Gothicistas. The romanticism of Victorian goth goddesses continues to inspire today’s designers.

louise black collar from Shrimpton Couture as seen on
Jet neck collar by Louise Black

This beautiful jet neck collar by Louise Black is available at Shrimpton Couture. Wouldn’t it be divine with just about anything? However, the exquisite cape by RSVP now resides in a closet other than ours, my dears.

Couture lace and pearl cape by RSVP from Shrimpton Couture, as seen on
Couture lace and pearl cape by RSVP.

The lace-up boot was a staple in the wardrobes of these women – usually mid-calf height with a slightly rounded and elongated toe and a curvy heel. Alexander McQueen, who often pays homage to this period of fashion, did a fantastic version for his Fall, 2006 collection. His version included laces, buckles, ruffles and a stiletto heel – always OTT, our Lee.

I have a bit more than a passing affection for this type of boot (look for this in an upcoming post).

fall 06 mcqueen boot
The Victorian laced boot as reinterpreted by Alexander McQueen, Fall 2006.

Romance reigned for these women – you pictured them walking amongst rain-soaked forests in their grand gowns.

Just hanging in A Forest with my silks. Doesn’t everyone?
rochas blackbird dress on kirsten dunst at oscars
Kirsten Dunst wearing Rochas at the Oscars in 2007.

It was all a flight of fancy, this ode to darkness back then. But as the multiple appearances of Edgar Allan Poe’s raven on Olivier Theyskens’ dress for Rochas attests, we are still in love with the romance of Gothicism.

The next post in the Gothenticity series will reflect more modern influences… [Update Jan 4th – read Gothenticity: Part 2.]

Image sources: script, modern script, architecture, Frankenstein, McQueen menswear, Victorian mourning dress, Megan Balanck drawing, High Society book cover, Shrimpton Couture necklace and cape, McQueen boots, purple dress painting, Rochas dress.

Gothic footwear shots taken at the Bata Museum, by moi. [Be a dear and provide a credit and link-back if you use them?].

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