Victorian Goth is one of the most twidespreadand iconic looks in goth fashion, inspired by Victorian era fashion, art and sensibilities.
Since Victorian era influenced much of the Goth aesthetic since subculture’s earliest days, we must travel to the past to investigate the origins and inspiration behind Goth subculture itself.
To start from the beginning; Victorian era is a period in which Queen Victoria ruled over Great Britain, marked by relative peace, economic and political reform, boom in trading and production and rise in romanticism and mysticism. This is also a period of expansion that made The British Empire, the largest empire in the world.
Why is this significant?
And this, is where our story begins.
To be a Goth means enjoying certain type of aesthetic, one filled with mysterious, otherworldly, macabre, ghostly and supernatural. This was precisely the aesthetic and sensibility of the Victorian era. In other words : We Goths are considered an alternative subculture today, but in Victorian era we would be the mainstream, polite part of society.
During the Victorian era, fashion changed massively. Synthetic dyes,mass production of clothes, fashion magazines and first department stores allowed the middle class to participate in trends for the first time in history. Cuts of clothing became more streamlined but mass produced lush fabrics and lace provided ornate decoration like it was never seen before amongst commoners.
Also, for the first time women wore off the shoulders neckline due to corsets loosing the shoulder pads, skirts were layered over numerous petticoats instead of the crinoline making the movement easier despite the heaviness of the dress. Ornate hats came into fashion along with lace parasols and small bucket bags. Every woman could look like a princess, even on the budget.
Goth subculture was marked by it’s mystical, macabre roots since the beginning in the 70’s. Rooting the aesthetic of arts and philosophy in the Victorian culture, Goth slowly started moving away from it’sparent subculture, Punk movement. But sadly, fashion just wasn’t there yet. Early Goth fashion relayed heavily on Punk fashion at the times, just darker and more ironically elegant. In the 90’s Goth fashion relayed much on grunge but it was slowly taking shape. Skirts got longer and more flowy, chokers became more popular and tops tighter and more corset-like.
Let’s jump into our time machine once more to talk about complex mourning customs of the Victorian society.
Victorians were obsessed with death to bizarre details. Essentially, it was a contest who will wear the mourning black the longest (Queen Victoria was an absolute winner), take part in most ouija board sessions, participate in takings photography portraits with desist loved ones, have the most mourning jewellery or know the most about latest bizarre science experiments involving dead people and electricity. Tarot cards and collecting body parts in jars were also popular along with world exploration travel to distant lands and first dabble in psychology.
What more can a Goth wish for!
Well, flash forward to early 00’s and Victorian Goth was in full swing. We will never know who started it first and matched Victorian sensibilities and mourning fashion but the success was huge.
All the female leads of alternative bands embraced the look that spread like wildfire, it was evident that the Victorian Goth was here to stay.
In my personal opinion, early 00’s were the most creative period in the history of Goth subculture. Ordering off the Internet wasn’t the big thing yet and wasn’t available to everyone, so we made a lot of clothes and jewellery ourselves. I stole my grandmother’s long black skirt and added several layers of cheap, black fabric to imitate petticoats. I can’t say it looked good, or that waswell made, but I wore that skirt all proud of myself to numerous Gothic parties. We traded handmade jewellery, clothes and customised our shoes and bags to make them look more Victorian. We also secretly envied people who managed to get branded Goth clothes and accessories on their travels. All in all, good times!
Over time, Victorian Goth got more refined and established, most importantly style became more accessible and therefore an iconic look for the Goths all around the world.