Seams Unusual: Dark Fashions

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Posted on: June 18, 2017

Welcome back to Seams Unusual, where interesting and uncommon alternative fashions are handed the spotlight. Each issue will delve into the distinguishing features of the unique style, a short history on how the fashion was born, and tips on how you can start putting together your own alternative outfit.

This issue will be dedicated to the darker side of alternative fashions, such as strega, dark mori, and, of course, good old-fashioned goth.

Although there are many unique alternative styles that could fit under the “darkling” umbrella term, they all tend to adhere to the same foundations: a dark (even mostly all-black) palette, macabre motifs, and a flair for the mysterious. Within the goth subculture lies a number of divisions and off-shoots (although many “eldergoths”, or more experienced members of the goth community, would argue that they are simply different expressions of the same, unified goth fashion). Trad (traditional) goth is distinguished by its more DIY nature, often with thrifted pieces that were dyed black, shredded with scissors, safety-pinned, and adorned in chains and studs. Eyeliner is abused in artistic ways and synthetic pony falls and dreadlocks grace the goth clubs. Romantic and Victorian goth takes a more luxurious turn, with steel-boned corsets, fitted silk vests, and bustled skirts overflowing with velvet and lace. Outfits in this substyle are completed with real antique accessories, like lace fans, beaded purses, and actual Victorian-era jewellery. Cupcake goth (also known as perky goth, pastel goth, and creepy cute – which have been widely debated as being their own alternative fashion, separate from goth) take an almost 180 degree approach to the goth scene, mixing black clothing, bat, spider, and skeleton motifs, and studded/spiked accessories with pink pieces, pigtails, glitter, hearts, and bunnies. My personal favourite goth style is kindergoth, also called dolly goth or babydoll goth. Giving off a creepy-schoolgirl vibe, kindergoth has a sweeter gothic look, often consisting of lace hems, hairbows, and Peter Pan collars. Think Wednesday Addams, Ruby Gloom, and Living Dead Dolls. Aside from goth, another darkling fashion that is fairly new to the scene is dark mori. Mori kei, or “forest style”, featured in the last issue of the Iron Warrior, is a fairy-tale fashion distinguished by its lacy white layers, baggy sizes, and flowing skirts. If regular mori kei is a flower fairy living in a dreamy forest, then its darker counterpart could be described as something far more sinister: a witch or vampire lurking in shadow-veiled woods of thorns and twisted branches. Dark mori sticks to the general anatomy of a traditional mori kei outfit, but swaps out whites and creams for blacks and greys. Instead of accessories featuring wildflowers, there are poisonous mushrooms, and the sweet foxes, playful rabbits, and gentle fawns are exchanged for screeching bats, death’s-head moths, and antlered skulls. Very similar to dark mori is the relatively recent strega fashion. Named after the Italian word for “witch”, strega is a label often applied to any aesthetic which could come across as dark and magical. With no set guidelines or anatomy, it is a very relaxed and achievable style. Most usually comprising of (but not limited to) tattered layers of clothes in blacks, greys, and dark browns, greens, and purples, many strega outfits often overlap with what would be considered dark mori or, in some stretches, even goth. However, because of its namesake, strega fashion does usually contain motifs and accessories relating to witchcraft, such as pentagrams, triple moons, and crystals. Still related to darkling fashions, although perhaps by a stretch, are early 2000s emo and scene styles. As many readers of this paper will have grown up during the time that their fellow pre-teens and teenagers would have dabbled in the emo and scene aesthetics and already know what these fashions are, they will not be covered in this article.

Mostly all darkling fashions owe their roots to goth. The style that is now known as trad goth is possibly the original darkling fashion, beginning around the 1980s in England. As a product of the gothic rock genre of music, “goth” was used to describe the types of people (and the way they dressed) who frequented the clubs, concerts, and venues where this music was played. As the fashion evolved and society changed, it became influenced by things like the supernatural, religious imagery, the eerie side of the Victorian era, and whatever modern trends were occurring at the time. This lead to groups of individuals adding or subtracting pieces and symbols to their wardrobe, effectively creating myriad separate substyles of the traditional goth style. As goth became prevalent, it started to seep into other alternative fashions, creating “goth versions” of the styles. For example, dark mori could be considered the goth version of mori kei, and cybergoth is the darker style of cyberpunk. Cyberpunk fashion itself was born from elements of goth, such as dreads, striped stockings, corsets, straps/fashion harnesses, and black vinyl and leather. Even strega, which has no real originating fashion or history born from a music genre, would likely be very different today had goth never began. Surprisingly, for a grungy DIY fashion sifted from thrift store bins and sparked by old English rock bands, goth has even made an everlasting mark on the runway. High fashion labels including Alexander McQueen and Anna Sui are positively steeped in goth influence, and even the likes of Jean Paul Gaultier and Christian Lacroix have been associated with goth style (“haute goth”, anyone?).

If you have an interest in the mysterious, the macabre, and the downright creepy, it may be time to start considering introducing those themes to your own wardrobe. Babybats, the term the goth community uses (often in a derogatory fashion) for newcomers to the goth/darkling scene, shouldn’t feel afraid or self-conscious in sharing interests in darker aesthetics with those who have been in the culture for longer. Just because you weren’t born in the 70s or 80s and didn’t frequent famous New York goth clubs every Friday night with your edgy goth friends doesn’t mean you aren’t allowed to, or completely welcome to, join in on a fabulous fashion and style that you adore. There’s nothing wrong with being a babybat, a budding witch, or a newcomer to the J-fashion scene. What makes it even easier to join in is the enormous options of substyles covered by the darkling label, and the prominent DIY aspect of mostly all these substyles. Not too handy with a needle and thread? Try taking a pair of scissors and a pack of safety pins to a thrifted band tee and pair of stockings to create your own trad goth look. Scared of getting creative with modifying your clothes? Layer some darker pieces you already own to put together a dark mori ensemble. Romantic goth accessories go for cheap at antique and vintage consignment stores, and strega jewellery can be bought from any local occult/new age store (think you don’t have a local occult store? Think again. They’re always there.). Whatever path you choose to take on your journey into darkling fashion, just remember to do what makes you happy and what you think represents your personal tastes in the eclectic, the peculiar, and the ghastly.