The Museum at F.I.T. debuted its “Gothic: Dark Glamour” exhibit last night, and there couldn’t have been a better kick off to Fashion Week. People of all ages were decked out in their “Goth” looks which spanned from vintage Victorian to raunchy S & M. I stayed outside for a bit watching the different costumes (or perhaps it was their everyday attire?) appear, coming closer and closer as they finally crossed over 27th Street. I was amazed at how much effort was taken in carefully choosing the perfect outfit. Bill Cunningham was busy snapping photos of some of the “best dressed” and I decided to take a few of my own (however amateur they may be). When I ventured inside, the vibrant atmosphere was like a Halloween party, and after I was introduced to Dr. Valerie Steele (the museum’s curator), I was approached with a tray of martinis. I allowed myself one.
Dr. Valerie Steele donned a gothic Comme des Garcons dress which she accessorized with tiny little ravens in her hair. Ms. Steele and her team assembled a masterful presentation of Gothic inspired pieces dating back to the 19th century. Downstairs, the feeling of gloom and death lingered in the corridor leading into the main space. And I mean that in a good way! The Goth mood was set, and I found myself drawn in by Thierry Mugler’s 1981 silk velvet black dress adorning a chalk white mannequin posed in a coffin. As I stepped into the large room containing the bulk of the exhibit (and the more modern pieces), I immediately saw in front of me what appeared to be a giant, wrought iron bird cage housing a crowd of mannequins. It was magnificent. The overall space was dark and haunting and I felt as though I was in a scene of an old Vampire flick.
This was the museums first exhibition devoted to gothic style. Some of fashion’s greats are often influenced by the Gothic world. McQueen (the King of the corset) has several of his master pieces on display from a faux pony skin corset to violet silk and black lace corset. Galliano was represented with a few ensembles including an exquisite silk crepe and velvet evening dress with glass embellishment for Dior. Also for Dior, is Galliano’s skeleton dress inspired by Mexican Day of the Dead (photo below). Many of the garments were quite recent (within the last season or two), as shown by some of today’s young and edgy names (Giles, Christopher Kane, Rodarte, Undercover and Rick Owens). The last portion in the Gothic collection was a display toward the back boasting a few ensembles by Kei Kagama. Decorated with metal, glass tubes and magnifying glasses, the pieces were sculptural works of art. Perhaps my favorite in this grouping was a simple, elegant dress “shouldering” a painful looking jack.
It’s clear that designers will always be intrigued by gothic history and ideas, and will provide us with modern, forward, avant-garde and sometimes risqué apparel. I know I’ll be more than happy to wear it. To be a Goth in the modern world doesn’t mean that one practices satanic rituals and is depressed or angry. On the contrary, Goth’s are typically creative and introspective individuals who find beauty in the dark and the sometimes sad. So, I realized tonight that I must be a Goth — and not just because of my obsession with Siouxie Sioux in the 80’s.