The Dark Side of Fashion

I’m frightened super easily. I’m the type of person who is paranoid literally for weeks after watching a scary movie, sleeps with the lights on when I’m home alone and goes into a slight panic whenever anybody makes a loud sudden noise. I’m not superstitious or particularly cautious because of any adversaries; i’m just a straight up scaredy-cat that has the tendency to act more like a baby when faced with a less than pleasant situation or subject matter instead of, say, a 22-year-old adult.

Given the obnoxiously large number of people in my life who absolutely love horror films (why?) and anything that goes along with them, I’ve tried for years to change this quality of mine, but have always failed miserably. Apparently I’m not the type of person who can easily separate reality from the absurdity of horror, which has been both a good and bad thing in different areas of my life. I’m not proud to say that I’ve been removed from haunted houses but for the most part I’ve accepted it as a part of who I am.

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Dark gothic themes in various fashion designers

However, despite my deep seeded resentment to the darker side of life, I’ve always been incredibly drawn to dark metaphors and inspiration in fashion. Perhaps, it’s because of my love for the elaborate performances of McQueen and anything related to the eerily creepy Victorian era style, but my distaste or rather uneasiness with anything remotely terrifying aside, the dark side of fashion has always been something I’ve found not only intriguing but also thought provoking and beautiful.

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McQueen FW 2014 Campaign

Artistic, mindful, yet often morbid, this other side of fashion, this “dark side,” has the ability to shock and resonate in a way that other styles simply can’t. With the emergence of a new sub category of “goth,” and of course, Halloween today, it’s hard not to notice the strong relationship that fashion has with inner demons. From the bad ass women with their liner heavy eyes who dress with a sense of purpose and conviction to elaborate dark gowns adorned with leather, metal and more, fashion’s dark mark has had a long, twisted, and prominent place in the industry.

From designers such Rick Owens, Ann Demeulemeester, Nicholas Ghesquiere, Riccardo Tisci, and of course, McQueen, “dark” fashion has managed to be translated and transformed era after era, in multiple forms and styles. McQueen takes the crown (ha), for not only their exquisitely designed and crafted dark pieces but their runway performances, which are known for being over the top, theatrical and inspired by dark subject matter. Specifically when Alexander McQueen fronted the haus, the attention to detail and theatric element of the pieces were literally out of this world.

Dialogue Between Death and Fashion by Giacomo Leopardi

Whether it be history, art, fiction, whatever, these designers undoubtedly find inspiration in numerous places. However, the ultimate inspiration? Death itself. Fashion and death have a long twisted and close relationship, which is endlessly fascinating. This relationship, just like any other relationship fashion has, is complicated as death and the understanding of it always seems to be. However, despite these complications, this is a relationship that is extremely powerful.

Giacomo Leopardi, a prominent Italian poet, essayist and philosopher, among other things, explored this relationship in his piece “Dialogue Between Death and Fashion.” Throughout the dialogue Fashion and Death speak to one another and explore what ties them together. Death is almost baffled by Fashion’s assertion that they are one in the same. How can it be? Death assumes that Fashion is perhaps too light-hearted, innocent, even vain, to possibly have any connection to anything as dark and mentally daunting as Death. Yet, Fashion proves Death wrong. “We are sisters,” she proclaims, and rightfully so.

Fashion and death are interconnected with their passion for the absurd, decay and even torture. Fashion has the ability to transform a person both in their physical appearance and perceived stature, much like death does, with piercings, tattoos, corsets, head dresses etc. These adornments and altercations are an integral part of fashion and have been associated with it since the beginning of time. Needless to say, when designers are looking for inspiration this is where it’s bound to stem from.

(Vera Wang Fall RTW 14)

While I may never be able to fully sit through a showing of The Shining or use a Ouija board, I’ve learned that the darker side of things isn’t necessarily so black and white. What’s often even seen as lighter or more carefree like designer Vera Wang, who has come out with darker garments in the past is primarily known for her ultra feminine wedding designs, can sometimes surprise you. If even Wang can tap into her darker side and achieve something that is substantial and beautiful then maybe it’s not so scary after all.

So, here it goes. Even if you’re the biggest scaredy-cat too, this Halloween, and every other day, try to enjoy the darker things in life. You’ll be surprised, inspired and thankful for the depth and beauty they bring to the light. 

Emma Klug started The Style Note in the fall of 2012. Her writing has been featured in DBusiness Magazine, Chicago Sun-Times, Nothing Major, The Working Wardrobe, Chicago Talks, Inexpensive Chic, and The Wayne State University student paper: The South End. When she’s not writing you can find her eating pizza, binge-watching Netflix and working her day job as a magazine editor.
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