Everyone is familiar with the term ‘Goth’, whether it’s from your secondary school emo phase or a love for 80s bands such as The Cure and Joy Division. In the 2020s, the Goth aesthetic is making a comeback as ‘Goth core’. It has been appearing everywhere post-pandemic, with mainstream celebrities such as Olivia Rodrigo and Megan Fox adorning platform boots and sheer corset dresses. As well as elements of the aesthetic appearing in Paris Fashion Week this year. So what is Goth core and where did it come from?
Original Goth fashion developed in the UK during the 1980s, driven by the music scene at the time. It has since become an entire subculture by incorporating classic gothic literature and films, retrospectively assigning icons of the Goth scene.
Meanwhile, the rise of Goth culture in the past two years evolved after the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic into a new generation of Goth core aesthetic that is more about sex appeal, personal empowerment, and escapism from the darkness of those years. As designer Anna Sui said, “Reality is scarier than gothic fiction at this point”.
Since the pandemic, searches for patent leather platform boots are up 71%, black leather coats are up by 35%, and chokers by 81%. How have fashion trends taken a complete U-turn from the Cottagecore aesthetic during the pandemic to Tim Burton and Wednesday Adams-inspired outfits? LOVERBOY designer Charles Jeffrey suggested that it “makes sense some people utilise that [Goth core] to help express something they are going through, but might not want to talk about. There’s this dark, post-apocalyptic look I feel coming forward that’s all a bit goth.”
While traditional Goth elements are still prevalent such as leather, PVC, and chunky boots, there is an emphasis on sexiness in today’s Goth core (sometimes called ‘Goth Girlfriend’) that differentiates it from the original movement. Sheer fabrics and corsets are very much in. Net-a-Porter alone invested in seven-hundred styles of black dresses in time for autumn.
Celebrities like Megan Fox have had a huge influence on the Goth Girlfriend aspect. Fox has embraced more extreme versions of the Goth core aesthetic into her lifestyle, particularly in her love life, as she and fiancé Machine Gun Kelly celebrated their engagement by drinking each other’s blood.
It’s not just celebrities embracing goth-inspired fashion, the aesthetic is making a return to the runway. There is a certain irony to Goth’s comeback to high fashion as it was once “intended as a protest against extravagance”, according to celebrity stylist Ebony Brown. Nonetheless, designers such as Rick Owens had already changed this in the early 2000s, as had Alexander McQueen in the late 90s. In recent years, it’s Casey Cadwallader (Mugler’s Creative Director) who is helping kick goth style into high fashion.
Meanwhile, Paris Fashion Week showcased studs from Balenciaga, hair woven into horns for Undercover, ink-inspired eye makeup by Ann Demeulemeester, and eyebrow bling at Junya Watanabe’s SS23 collections.
As always with popular aesthetics they soon develop hybrids and extensions, in the case of Goth core, it has already taken two opposing paths in the form of futuristic cybergoth and Gen Z mall Goth.
But perhaps the most intriguing is the hybrid of ‘Goth business casual’ which first made an appearance in January of this year. It involves the pairing of free-flowing pieces with more structured ones in dark colours such as black and red to create goth-inspired office-appropriate outfits.
The reach of Goth core into mainstream fashion, high fashion, and now business wear truly distinguishes it from the original Goth movement, which was a very separate subculture looked at by many with disdain. However, Goth core’s slightly softer nature has proven to make it more popular, whether that’s due to the sex appeal added to it, the increasing number of female celebrities wearing the style, or simply more modern and diverse attitudes to fashion.
As with any trend, there’s no way of knowing the longevity of the Goth core aesthetic. But if you’re looking to keep up with the current styles and you already have some platform boots or fishnet tights lying around then you might as well break them out this winter. Now is the time to let yourself be inspired by all manner of icons, from Taylor Momsen to Willow Smith, Winona Ryder to Bimini Bon Boulash. As Joe Bromely, writing for the Evening Standard said, “reject the norms, wear what you want, and don’t give a toss what your parents think.”