The bewitching hour

Fashion’s Halloween party: dress code “dark and dangerous”. Yes, goth is back but forget whey-faced, post-punk teenagers in buckled platform boots and Marilyn Manson T-shirts.

Autumn/winter’s catwalk version comes with an aristocratic and historical poeticism, and will last far beyond Wednesday night. Tomoko Ogura, senior fashion director at Barneys New York, says: “There is an elegant and romantic undertone to the goth trend. We’ve seen a lot of rich textures and colours balanced with more feminine elements such as lace, peplums and intricate embellishments.”


This season the Gucci glamazon swapped her mid-century modern penthouse for a windswept castle – the kind where the paintings have moving eyes. “This is modern-day romanticism,” declared creative director Frida Giannini, “a dramatic sensuality, a dark glamour.” Black wool capes and riding trousers in black tapestry fabrics combined gothic and equestrian influences while iridescent midnight green feathers suggested menacing ravens. For the witching hour, long black dresses came in velvet, wafting chiffon and wrinkled tulle. This mix of the equestrian and the gothic also – well – cropped up at Givenchy, via black velvet and satin jodhpurs, leather riding boots and lingerie-like dresses trimmed with black lace worn with long black leather gloves. Black lace looked more demure on covered-up gowns at Valentino (think Jane Eyre) while a cobweb-lace knit at Helmut Lang suggested spiders had taken over the atelier.

There was a sexy medieval feel to Versace, where models with Joan of Arc fringes appeared in velvet or leather minidresses, pencil skirts, corset tops and flared coats covered in bejewelled or embroidered crucifixes, as well as chain mail gowns. The show “referenced my brother Gianni’s last ever collection in July 1997,” says Donatella Versace. “That season was pretty gothic, and this autumn I revisited the theme, imagining a group of exquisite female warriors.”


Like a vampire, goth is the trend that refuses to die. Valerie Steele, director and chief curator of the Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology, and the woman behind the 2009 show Gothic: Dark Glamour, says the appeal is its depth and variety, “encompassing everything from the dark romantic poet to steampunk Victorian, to rocker chic or the vampire girl. It’s the charisma of evil.” Fashion is essentially role play, and goth is a chance to access your dark side.

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Camilla James cuff, £332,

Not only is this trend condemned to wander the catwalk for eternity, but long black lace dresses also double as a luxe Halloween costume. True, “sexy” fancy dress is predictable but you’ll feel better as a sorceress than a skeleton. Just remember, you need the right attitude to pull off gothic evening wear: Carine Roitfeld, ex- French Vogue editor, does it with kohl-heavy aplomb, whereas preppy blonde actress Gwyneth Paltrow looked rather Heidi-goes-to-hell in that now-notorious black McQueen dress at the 2002 Oscars.

As always, accessories are the easy way in: just push up the sleeves of your coat to reveal long black leather gloves or embrace gothic baubles. The latter have been growing in popularity: at Selfridges, sales of Alexander McQueen jewellery are up 23 per cent on last year, with the current bestseller a skull-shaped, Swarovski crystal-encrusted ring (£145). However, Nathalie Kabiri, buyer at Marylebone boutique Kabiri, says: “the idea is to subvert, and to wear jewellery in unexpected places with gothic touches and elements – gold and black nails by H&H are one of our bestsellers.” The devil, as they say, is in the detail.

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