Last Updated on March 20, 2023 by Dominique de Merteuil
How to Create Gothic Glamour with Vintage Clothes!
In this post, I will endeavour to teach you how to master the gothic glamour style with the help of authentic vintage as well as contemporary clothes and accessories.
I dedicate this piece to all my fellow vintage goths as well as ladies who don’t necessarily identify as a goth but are drawn to the dark (side) gothic glamour and would like to incorporate a bit of drama with a dash of theatricality into their wardrobe.
My ensembles combine elements of ‘traditional’ gothic fashion with a glamorous Old Hollywood twist. The result is a dark and edgy day-to-night look that is perfect for making a statement.
Gothic Glamour in Mainstream Fashion
The gothic glamour aesthetic has become a part of almost every designer’s collection at one point or another, in particular in the world of couture.
Some of my favourite designers like; John Galliano, Alexander McQueen and Rick Owens have been inspired by the dark and sublime gothic fashion for years and they are not hesitant to admit its influence on their collections.
Galliano, when asked about his definition of a ‘gothic woman’ replied with the most perfect description.
Dark, vampy, mysterious, dangrous-she is edgy and cool. The gothic girl weaves a web, has a sting in her tail, is inspired by black magic and voodoo. She is the one that opens Pandora’s Box, and to hell with the consequences! She is tantalizing, after-dark trouble that dresses in the shadows of the night.John Galliano
There are others, of course, prominent figures in the fashion industry who, for the purpose of this post, shall remain nameless. They are not worthy of being mentioned because they not only dissociate themselves publicly from anything gothic but go as far as claiming they’ve never heard of us goths.
And yet, so many of their designs are reminiscent of quintessential gothic style. Coincidence? I don’t think so.
Some designers interpret the gothic aesthetic in their own unique way which can result in interesting pieces but not necessarily what a traditional goth would wear. We must remember though, that they are not trying to cater to the taste of goths but that of their clients.
Regardless of the brands’ intentions and translation of the gothic glamour, the style will forever remain, at least partially, part of mainstream fashion. And isn’t that ironic? After all, we’ve always wanted to set ourselves apart from the mainstream through our gothic fashion.
Do you not think that there are things which you cannot understand, and yet which are; that some people see things that others cannot? But there are things old and new which must not be contemplate by men´s eyes, because they know -or think they know- some things which other men have told them. Ah, it is the fault of our science that it wants to explain all; and if it explain not, then it says there is nothing to explainBram Stoker
What is Goth
The answers to questions pertaining to matters related to goths will differ depending on whom you ask. And for each of us, it will mean something different because, after all, being a goth is a state of mind.
I’ve been a goth my entire life. And since the question of what defines a goth came up on more than one occasion, I created a definition that describes the type of goth that I am, as well as many of the goths of my acquaintance.
What is Gothic Glamour
The queens of the noir fashion; Morticia Addams, Vampira and Vanessa Ives dressed immaculately in their long figure-hugging gowns and accentuated waists define gothic glamour at its best.
The gothic fashion mavens know that clothes are an integral part of what makes us goth.
Gothic glamour in a nutshell:
- A predilection for Victorian fashion, in particular, widow’s weeds (mourning attire)
- Theatrical style
- Velvet, lace & leather
- Capes & cloaks
- Corset, waist-cincher, stockings & suspender belt
- 50 shades of black, red, purple
- Maxi dresses
- Extremely pale skin, unless your skin is naturally dark
- Red lips, black nails, dark eyeshadow & eyeliner
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I found the ‘Morticia dress on Etsy.
For this particular gothic glamour look, I opted for:
- Original 1940s jacket
- Orchard corset
- Wheels and Dollbaby Irma skirt
- Wolford tights
- Abbie Walsh necktie
- YSL lipstick
- Pat McGrath eyeliner
Sir, for me every day is Halloween.
Well any time, any place, anywhere that I go“(Every Day Is) Halloween” by Ministry
All the people seem to stop and stare
They say “why are you dressed like it’s Halloween?
You look so absurd, you look so obscene.
Well I let their teeny minds think
That they’re dealing with someone who is over the brink
And I dress this way just to keep them at bay
‘Cause Halloween is every day
It’s every day.
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What may come as a surprise to some of you is that we don’t always wear black. For the purpose of making it easier on you, I will focus on the colour (rightly or wrongly) synonymous with goths to help you add a touch of gothic glamour to your current style.
Before we start your transformation, there are a few things you need to know. Firstly, gothic glamour is all about creating a look that is both ‘dark’ and dramatic, but you can achieve it with red, purple, or even pink. Yes, you heard me correctly, I said pink!
‘I wear dead people’s clothes.’
Here is my plush pink top that made an appearance in my favourite Bette Davis movie, Old Acquaintance, 1943. I paired the Holy Grail of vintage fashion with a 1940s black gown and orange wedges.
The top contains Bette’s DNA, or at least that’s what I like to believe, and how gothic is that!
Secondly, it’s important to be confident and comfortable in what you are wearing, so try to experiment a bit.
It happened one night at the ‘Dracula’ ballet.
The only places where we blend in a little bit more with the general public are; the opera and musical theatre.
- Original 1940s Cameo gown
- Victorian mourning cape
- Versace reading glasses
You can add a lot of vintage gothic glamour to your style by investing in an antique or contemporary cape.
In the picture, I’m wearing
- Authentic Victorian mourning cape
- 1950s hat
- Stuart Weitzman boots
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Are You a Fashion ‘Goth’?
Ever since couture designers started to incorporate gothic glamour into their collections, mainstream fashion followed the lead soon after.
The ‘gothic chic’ became a trend around 1997 and is here to stay, although in a modified form. Nowadays, young people often refer to themselves as goth only because of the clothes they wear but let’s face it, without an interest in gothic music, literature and art, they are simply faking the “dark side.”
You are here because you love vintage and the gothic fashion aesthetic, and that’s all that matters. Are you a goth or a fashion ‘goth’? Nothing wrong with either!
So, if you are ready to add a touch of gothic glamour to your style, here are my tips!
Tips on How to add Gothic Glamour to Your Style
If you want to look spectacular in your new gothic glamour look, but don’t want to stand out too much, start with an all-black outfit as it’s easier than going all-red, or any other colour.
The question remains, of course, why on earth wouldn’t you want to stand out?
Personally, I do love an all-red ensemble a la Count Dracula in Copolla’s version of Bram Stoker’s ‘Dracula’, or the Countess in American Horror Story, ‘Hotel’.
Do you see what both outfits have in common?
Both, the coat in the picture on the left, as well as the dress on the right, are very long, sweeping the floor in a very dramatic fashion.
The Gothic Makeup with a Vintage Touch
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Look for inspiration in Old Hollywood films or photographs of stars like Marlene Dietrich, Joan Crawford or Barbara Stanwyck.
For this, Marlene Dietrich-inspired look, I paired a Ted Baker jacket, which I bought over a decade ago, with a 1950s skirt ( I bought it on Etsy for $60) and antique lace.
I found the beauteous but slightly wounded Victorian lace at the Hammersmith Vintage Fashion Fair for $8. The sexy black Wolford tights with a flower motif tie the entire look together giving it an edge.
Morticia & Wednesday Wardrobe Ideas
Tights for the Touch of Gothic Glamour
You don’t have to wear fishnet tights, although, I love them, for the gothic glamour look. I would stick to black or red though, and choose a pattern that resembles lace, antique flowers or has an unusual motif.
The (not so) Gothic Jewellery
The right jewellery can transform the entire look. An antique cameo ( I bought the one you see in the picture on the left for $6!) or faux-pearl choker is an elegant alternative to a skull.
On the other hand, a pendant necklace with a spider or a bat would make for a great statement piece.
‘And softer than shadow and quicker than flies
His arms are all around me and his tongue in my eyes
“Be still be calm be quiet now my precious boy
Don’t struggle like that or I will only love you more
For it’s much too late to get away or turn on the light
The spiderman is having you for dinner tonight. ‘
Old Lace but no Arsenic
I’ve already mentioned the antique lace as a great accessory for the gothic glamour look, but you can opt for a piece of tulle fabric instead. Wrap it around your neck and pin a large antique or contemporary cameo in the middle, and I guarantee the ‘wow’ effect.
Fashion Tip from a Vintage Goth
If you can splurge on only one vintage/antique piece, consider investing in a 1920s black piano shawl or a Victorian cape. You won’t need anything else to channel your inner goth or simply add some vintage glamour to your gothic look.
‘Behind this door is my other self
Not a picture in a frame nor a fresh disguise
But my other self
Immobile, inert and sanguine
My narcissus kisses exhale crimson breath
And pump ruby to the lip
I stand before myself not Jekyll nor Hyde
Not sibling nor twin separated at birth
I stand before myself
Siouxsie and the Banshees
It’s All in the Eyes
You can easily add a dash of gothic glamour to a little black dress with the help of strong eye makeup. I find the best inspiration in pictures depicting actresses in the 1920s or even slightly earlier.
The trick is to use the darkest shade of your favourite colour. I prefer brown with a mix of gold, the darkest shade of purple or green, or sometimes I mix them together in order to make it look almost black.
Always apply eyeshadow on the top AND bottom eyelid! I’m a big fan of Pat McGrath Labs and Charlotte Tilbury.
For the lips choose red or nothing at all.
And remember, there is no such thing as eyelashes that are too long.
Nothing Sexier Than Your (Gothic) Mind
Finding that perfect gothic ensemble requires a little bit of imagination and inspiration that can be found in many of the 1940s films depicting a deadly femme fatale.
Once you know what you are looking for, hail to the vintage heaven that’s Etsy and indulge in a gown worthy of Shanghai Lily (Marlene Dietrich), a Victorian cape that even Vanessa Ives (Eva Green) couldn’t resist and above all, don’t forget to add a couple of gothic novels to your basket.
In the words of the very gloomy, yet not-so-gothic Mr Darcy (or was he?);
All this she must posses, added Darcy, and to all this she must yet add something more substantial, in the improvemnt of her mind by extensive reading.Jane Austeen.
My List of Gothic Novels for Your Reading Pleasure
- ‘The Castle of Otranto’ by Horace Walpole
- ‘Frankenstein’ by Mary Shelley
- ‘Carmilla’ by Sheridan Le Fanu
- ‘Dracula’ by Bram Stoker
- ‘The Vampyre: A Tale’ by John William Polidori
- ‘The Picture of Dorian Gray’ by Oscar Wilde
- ‘The Fall of the House of Usher’ by Edgar Allan Poe
- ‘The Phantom of the Opera’ by Gaston Leroux
- * Special treat. ‘Faust’ by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
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Alissa Ashley AckermanNovember 24, 2022
You look absolutely stunning! I love referring to this kind of look as “Somber Style” because it’s how much it’s influenced by mourning clothing… It just has such a feel of love and loss. I tend to dress more Witchy with Bohemian elements, but wow, when i see people pull off this glamorous Gothic look it’s really inspiring…
Dominique de MerteuilNovember 25, 2022
Thank you for your kind words! I like the sound of ‘Sombre Style’ a lot. For most of my teen-adult life, I wore exclusively black, and I’ve always had a penchant for Victorian mourning attire, so it was easy to create the Sombre Style. Now, apart from black, there are a lot of greys, plaid and even plush pink in my wardrobe, and I’m surprised how easy it is to still keep the goth element even with a dash of colour.
SarahNovember 16, 2022
Love everything about your look. You have a such movie-star quality about you.
Dominique de MerteuilNovember 16, 2022
That is so kind of you to say.