LOS ANGELES – The fashion and social movement defined by black hair and Victorian-inspired outfits is creeping its way back and inspiring the attire of a new generation.
Hit television shows like Netflix’s “Wednesday” have sparked and solidified the comeback of dark yet trendy moods in modern fashion. Celebrities have shown up at this year’s award shows in outfits dubbed “Goth glam” by observers.
“What is interesting about Goth is it’s been around now for about 45 years,” said Liisa Ladouceur, author of “Encyclopedia Gothica,” a comprehensive book on the movement. “It hasn’t died, it has evolved.”
Fashion has always been a means of personal expression. For generations, people have turned to clothes to enhance the human experience and make a statement to themselves and the world.
During the coronavirus pandemic period, the era of sweatpants and hoodies seemed like it would be here to stay. But now, in a world finally getting back to normal, Goth has surged in the comeback.
The Goth scene is nationwide. In Phoenix, for instance, nightclub Stacy’s @ Melrose holds a weekly Goth-themed “Communion” night frequently hosted by Obzen Vanitas, the mysterious alter ego of Phoenix DJ Jeff Pearson. He said interest is “definitely on the upswing.”
Guests can leave their day jobs behind and delve into a darker vision, one that can take many forms.
“I have honestly seen it’s a comfort zone where people can be anything they want to be,” Pearson said. “They will dress to impress.”
Generation Z, which includes those born roughly between 1997 and 2012, has been the driving force in injecting Goth into mainstream fashion.
“In the U.S., Gen Z is particularly shaping the culture and moving the economy with a purchasing power of about $360 billion. Each generation experiences distinct events that shape its life outlook,” according to a report by Business of Fashion Insights in conjunction with artificial-intelligence insights firm Quilt.AI.
Ladouceur attributed a large part of the Goth revival to the “Wednesday” series, a spinoff from the comedically macabre Addams family TV and movie franchise. “The show is the first real mainstream thing in Goth since the ‘90s,” she said. Building on the theme, Netflix has also offered a movie revival version of “The Munsters,” a TV series from the 1960s.
Ladouceur said oftentimes the definition of Goth itself can be misconstrued. “The mainstream will flirt with it. Whenever you see a headline that says a celebrity goes Goth, it isn’t Goth,” she said.“You can dress beautifully in black, but it doesn’t have anything to do with the subculture.”
Sure enough, this year’s Oscars events saw stars across the entertainment industry dabbling in the look. Olivia Wilde, Julia Garner, and Janelle Monáe arrived at Vanity Fair’s annual Oscars after-party draped in “soft Goth glamour,” proclaimed Harper’s Bazaar. And “Wednesday” star Jenna Ortega herself channeled her character to various award show appearances during the year. For instance, at the 2023 Screen Actors Guild awards, Ortega wore an all-black Versace gown that brought to life the concept of glam Goth.
Glam Goth actually got its start in the last decade, said Nick Verreos, co-chair of Fashion Design at the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising in Los Angeles.
The transitional outlook on Goth can be attributed to a variety of things: the times, female empowerment and the Me Too movement against sexual violence, Verreos said.
“When you study the history of fashion and trends, there’s a lot that has to be thought about in terms of societal senses,” Verreos said. “I think right now, in this period, the Goth glam fits right into it.”
Verreos also thinks that the pandemic may have triggered the trend.
“Visually I noticed the change of style,” Verreos said. “I definitely noticed a reaction to the pandemic and feelings of it are now being displayed through fashion.”
He added that “when you look at history, every time there’s been some sort of upheaval, there has always been some sort of fashion hurricane, especially with younger generations. Ours is this” – that being Goth.
Hilary Branner Fuerst, who developed a Goth and steampunk apparel line that she sells at her Hilary’s Vanity website, said that she saw a move to more upscale Goth-inspired clothing as people started rebooting their social lives as the nation emerged from the pandemic. Sales are booming.
“Everyone is going out in their finery again,” she said. “I feel like there is definitely a big surge in events that are calling for a dressier look.”
Branner Fuerst has watched the Goth scene unfold over the decades, having embraced the look at age 13. She said she sometimes had to endure cruel comments from other kids growing up about her look, but she learned to shrug them off.
“Being Goth is a conscious choice to let your outside reflect what your inside is and not worry about what others say,” she said.
Branner Fuerst, based in Southern California, said she encounters parents who aren’t keen on their kids going Goth. She tells them not to worry: “It’s just an aesthetic.”
She said those who view people who embrace Goth as gloomy or depressed may be surprised to find out it’s not necessarily the case. Often, they just want to be different, standing apart from the crowd.
“They like a darker aesthetic and they like things that are not mainstream,” she said adding, they don’t need to be drab. “Those things can be loud and fabulous.”