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Cast a spell as Halloween beckons. Dark, mysterious and very seductive, this season’s most bewitching gothic looks are vamped up, sophisticated and full of drama. Think lashings of lace, rich velvet, hooded capes and high necklines, all in shades of cauldron black, midnight blue and blood red.
The gothic looks on the runway take their cue from television series such as French cult hit The Returned, American Horror Story (17 Emmy nominations) and the new Dracula, starring Jonathan Rhys Meyers. On the big screen the British Film Institute has been running a nationwide gothic film season ( “Gothic: The Dark Heart of Film”, ends January 31), while Jim Jarmusch’s eagerly awaited vampire flick Only Lovers Left Alive, starring Tilda Swinton, will open at the end of this year. Even the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art has succumbed to the supernatural, with an exhibition of witches’ imagery ranging from Goya’s interpretation of the fabled Macbeth characters to Cindy Sherman’s grotesque self-portraits. It is a spirit that has been haunting the red carpet, too: Cate Blanchett caught global attention in August in Christopher Kane’s spider-web dress at the Paris premiere of the Woody Allen-directed Blue Jasmine. Little wonder that in today’s economic and political turmoil we are all looking for a sartorial magic wand – or even a deal with the devil himself.
This season Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pierpaolo Piccioli at Valentino channelled Christina Ricci as Wednesday Addams with an elegant floor-skimming wool dress with contrasting white embroidered collar and cuffs (£3,385). Ann Demeulemeester trod a Transylvanian path with long, fluid silhouettes and lots of layering, including sheer silk tops, while Alexander Wang took an eerie approach for his Balenciaga debut with patterns lifted straight from the marble slab for sculpted cropped jackets (£3,750) and high-waisted trousers (£635). Hedi Slimane for Saint Laurent went “sexy sorceress” with suede and leather mini dresses, plunging necklines and sheer tulle crystal-studded jumpsuits (£2,375). Eternal goth Gareth Pugh looked to Edward Scissorhands with pale-faced models and structured dresses edged with gold-embroidered branches (£2,330). Thom Browne splattered his typically over-the-top silhouettes with blood-red lace on virginal white while Marios Schwab evoked gothic’s medieval side with understated velvet gowns in midnight blue (£1,305). Oscar de la Renta focused on swirling black silk capes with oversized hoods (from £1,245) and for those who fear a head-to-toe gothic look might be a little too Bride of Frankenstein, check out Christopher Kane’s monster print T-shirts (£195) and brain motif knits (£495), or Markus Lupfer’s sweaters with black cats and skulls (from £290).
Should you invest?
“Black never goes out of style and can be transformed each season,” says Helen David, head of womenswear at Harrods. And while it pays to invest in expensive black (high-street shades can often wash and wear badly), affordable Halloween solutions can be found with H&M’s Morticia Addams-inspired deep V-neck black maxi dress (£34.99), Topshop’s lace skirts (£45) and River Island’s pencil skirts with mock croc panels (£28).
Ghoulishly good menswear: Monster mash-up
Menswear, too, has been drawn to the dark side this season, writes Mark C O’Flaherty. Take Christopher Kane’s collection of T-shirts printed with Boris Karloff as Frankenstein’s monster (£190), and Rick Owens’ all-black gothic sportswear, including elongated T-shirts (£225) and merino wool hoodies (£540). For Owens, dark matter is natural territory: “I wear all-black clothes on the beach,” he says.
It is 10 years since the first Alexander McQueen skull scarf, an item that has been a constant in the late designer’s menswear collection since 2004. To celebrate, artist Damien Hirst – no stranger to skulls himself – has reinterpreted the McQueen scarf using insect imagery from his “Entomology” series. There will be 30 designs in the limited edition collection (from November 15, from £315). Skulls also appears as a shirt pattern (£380), on enamel cufflinks (£95) and on bow ties (£95) by the label.
Chinese artist Jacky Tsai, who created a floral skull sculpture for McQueen five years ago, has used the image as a recurrent motif and now has his own line of skull T-shirts (£75) at Harvey Nichols.
John Varvatos (£56), Neil Barrett (£117) and Givenchy (£395) all have their own versions of the skull T-shirt this season, too.
“The skull has been replicated in repeat prints, studded with rhinestones, appliquéd and sequinned,” says Simon Costin, the art director who put a skeleton in the front row of McQueen’s A/W 1996 “Dante” show. “Even so, it still takes a certain sensibility to wear one. Superstitions still cling to it; nobody really wants to welcome Mr Reaper too soon.”