May 22 is World Goth Day. First celebrated in the United Kingdom in 2009, it is intended to commemorate the Goth scene and make its presence known to the world. Why May 22? The World Goth Day website states, “If there wasn’t an occasion on the 22nd of May, that day would just sit around on your calendar not earning its keep and generally freeloading off the other dates.”

The term Gothic, as a description of the Germanic tribes know as Goths, originated in the third century. With the passage of time, the word came to mean outside the civilized world, in the dark ages or unenlightened. Later the term also came to represent the mysterious and those reviled by the mainstream. In the latter 19th and early 20th centuries there was a revival of the Gothic style of the Middle Ages in architecture and decorative arts. In the literature of this period the Gothic and the macabre flourished, as the horror novel came into its own. These stories were later adapted to cinema, introducing the classic horror film genre.

Goth as a subgenre of music began its development in the late 1970s London punk music scene. This musical styling evolved by the 1980s into Goth, New Wave, Industrial, and the New Romantics. Not as angry or rebellious as Punk, Goth can be romantic, dark, and mysterious. Like its Punk music origins, it remained counterculture and reviled by the mainstream.

Goth fashion developed alongside the music to express in a tangible wearable form the dark, alternative, exotic, and often macabre nature of this subcultural expression. According to Aurelio Voltaire, a Goth musician, author, and artist, the styles of Goth fashion are: Romantigoth, Deathrocker, Cybergoth, Rivet-Head, Ethergoth, Punk, Candygoth, Goth-A-Billy, and the Vampyre.

Lolita fashion originated in late 20th century Japan, drawing inspiration from the fanciful and ornamental Rococo style of the 18th century combined with the aesthetic of cuteness, known in Japanese as kawaii. The term Lolita, derived from the Vladimir Nabokov novel of the same name, is suggestive of a precocious young girl. As a fashion term it has come to embody the qualities youthful, girlish, demure, and cute. Lolita fashion evolved to combine other fashion aesthetics with its own and according to Misako Aoki, author, professional Lolita model, and Kawaii Ambassador, the substyles are: Sweet Lolita, Classical Lolita, Punk Lolita, Soft Lolita, and Gothic Lolita.

As Goth fashion has spread all across the globe, including Harajuku, Japan, we would like to highlight, or showcase in the dark limelight, a fashion ensemble that combines Lolita and Goth fashion from HoMA’s permanent collection, Black Angel Gothic Lolita Outfit by Atelier Pierrot from 2014. This outfit emulates a neo-Victorian doll, with a ruffled dress and bonnet. The ensemble would be complete with shoes, stockings, a handbag, and a small parasol that could be used to shield the user from the sun, maintaining the ideal Goth pale complexion.

– E. Tory Laitila, Curator of Textiles and Fashion

Atelier Pierrot (Japan)
Black Angel Gothic Lolita Outfit, 2014
Costume ensemble; cotton and polyester
Purchase, 2016 (2016-24-010 to 013)