Macabre in Fashion

I’m not going to pretend to be a fashion expert.  I wear dress pants and cardigans to work, sweats and t-shirts to discus practice and jeans and jackets on the weekends.  I learn from Stacey London and Clinton Kelly from What Not to Wear and build outfits from whatever I can find on the sales rack.  I want to make a few observations about fashion, macabre and subculture and by no means claim expertise.

Runway Collection by the late Alexander McQueen

Fashion collection by the late Alexander McQueen

Macabre Fashion Subcultures

When we had cable, I used to watch America’s Next Top Model for the end of the episodes where the “best photo” from the week’s shoot was revealed for each contestant.  To me, high fashion means photographers, high heels and extravagant hair and make-up.  What makes high fashion special is the complicated and often inspirational concepts that go into the photo shoots.  How does this relate to macabre?

High Fashion

High fashion with a touch of Gothic influence can look as elegant or grungy as you want.  Haute Goth is a subculture that showcases the traditional black materials .  One of the most noted fashion designers to take Gothic inspirations to the runway was Alexander McQueen.   An article in the NY Times said,

The monstrous, sometimes sadistic, styling of his [Alexander McQueen’s] collections became a hallmark, as when he showed models wearing horns on their shoulders. A collection in 2000 was shown on models with their heads bandaged, stumbling inside a large glass-walled room with the audience on the outside as if its members were looking into a mental ward.

Macabre and fashion

Another line from Alexander McQueen

McQueen brought real world issues into fashion.  Some people were shocked, some applauded his efforts, others took offense to his in-your-face antics, but the important thing is that people learned something new.  Art isn’t always pretty.  Sometimes it’s pain.

Another high fashion subculture borrowing from the Gothic style is Gothic Lolita.  Lolita is a subculture that began in 1980s Japan and is influenced by the Victorian era.  The subculture’s intent is to look elegant  while wearing Victorian clothing to embrace the Rococo style.  Gothic Lolita is differentiated by the black clothing, black accessories, and pale skin.

Scene Kids

Scene kids are usually young individuals with big hair, bad attitudes and tight jeans.   Their reputation  says they’re lazy, unambitious teenagers who are anti-social and mean (to others outside their group).  The lethargic attitude reflects in classroom performance, after-school clubs, and lack of hobbies.

Photo by ad3on

Photo of a male "Scene" kid found on

Cyber Goths

Cyber goth fashion looks like  a mix between steam punk, Japanese anime and goth styles.  The phenomenon began in the UK club scene with its neon colors, masks and goggles.  Cyber goths usually wear black with neon accents, high platform shoes, goggles or gas masks, and incorporate industrial materials, such as PVC pipe, into their attire.

Violet Morphine's Cyber Goth photo

Fashion Identity

We all look for ways to express who we are.  We all want to belong somewhere, and  fashion is a way to achieve both.  The groups we feel connected with won’t always be accepted or understood by the majority, so it’s important that groups like Scene kids and Cyber goths exist for the people who don’t fit the norm.  We should also remember that we all don’t fit into just one group, we participate in multiple groups.  We can look at fashion to categorize subcultures and to determine if that community could be a good fit for us.

About BrittniBizarro

I'm a glitter-gluing, weight-lifting, cupcake-loving tomboy who enjoys romantic comedies, zombie video games, and pretty shoes. I'm a public relations grad student with high hopes and shallow pockets. May the force be with me. View all posts by BrittniBizarro

4 responses to “Macabre in Fashion

  • Elizabeth McWilliams

    While I am not a fashion expert either I believe that through fasion we are able to express ourselves. Some people base their fashion off of comofort and others want to make a statement. “Scene” kids are trying to make statement whether it is consciously or not. Often times kids have problems at home or are bullied at school and need to find an escape to be able to deal with their psychological issues. They dress to grasp attention and to make a statement. They also may begin to dress with such statements in order to belong to a certain group. People have more to them than what is on the outside and what clothes they are wearing. While it may give us a sense of who they are by what they choose to wear, there is always much more to learn about a person than the clothing they choose to wear.

    • DyneOh

      Elizabeth, I agree with you to an extent. There are characteristics, thoughts and feelings that we won’t know about people unless we look past their image. Children who are physically, verbally or emotionally abused are doubtfully turning to fashion for expression of that abuse. I’m not sure a black t-shirt and neon hair help that child deal with pain. I also don’t think that every scene kid has a painful home life. You can’t lump all the scene kids together because each individual has his or her own reasons for dressing that way. Fashion is a way of expression. It comes and goes just like the transitions we make from little kid, to middle school kid, to high school kid, to college kid, etc. I hope this makes sense.

  • Alex Lu

    Alexander McQueen is the reason why I love fashion ever since a young age. His aesthetic dared people to reevaluate how Art and Fashion could work to create something out of this world. With his boundless imagination, he stormed the fashion world by creating one of a kind pieces that influenced many other designers. Macabre is by far, one of McQueen’s favorite themes to recreate in clothing. From elegant dresses attached with dive-bombing hawks miraculously attached to alien like body suits that pop stars such as Lady Gaga proudly strut in her “Bad Romance” video. Such creative collaborations make sure that McQueen’s name never fades even after his saddening death.

  • DyneOh

    Alex, thanks for the comment!! I didn’t know much about Alexander McQueen until I researched material for this post. I also didn’t know that Lady Gaga wore his pieces in her music video either. I LOVE that video because of how the dance moves matched the garments and how spooky yet relatable it was. Now I’m going to go-wah go-wah-wah go watch that video. 😉

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