Season of the Witch: Gothic Patterns

Dracula’s brides in Dracula (1931)
Dracula’s brides (Dorothy Tree, Geraldine Dvorak, and Cornelia Thaw) in Tod Browning’s Dracula (1931) Image: tumblr.

Happy Walpurgisnacht! On the eve of the feast of St. Walpurga, here’s a look at gothic sewing patterns.

Recent fashion exhibits have placed the gothic under increasing scrutiny. In 2008, the Museum at FIT presented Gothic: Dark Glamour. In 2014, the Costume Institute had Death Becomes Her: A Century of Mourning Attire. Now there’s Gothic to Goth: Romantic Era Fashion and Its Legacy, an exhibition at the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art in Hartford, Connecticut, accompanied by a catalogue by curator Lynne Z. Bassett and a talk by Valerie Steele. For more on the show, see Susan Hodara, “The (Forever) New Romantics.”

Gothic to Goth: Romantic Era Fashion & Its Legacy (book cover) by Lynne Zacek Bassett
Lynne Zacek Bassett, Gothic to Goth: Romantic Era Fashion & Its Legacy (Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, 2016) Image: The Wadsworth.

1980s

With the advent of goth—or the New Romantics—in the late 1970s, fashion in a gothic mode began to show the influence of both romanticism and contemporary subculture. Nina Ricci’s romanticism turned dark in the early 1980s. I like to picture Vogue 2582 with granny boots and Siouxsie Sioux hair:

1980 Nina Ricci black ruffled dress pattern Vogue 2582
Detail, Vogue 2582 by Nina Ricci (1980) Image: PatternVault shop.
1980 Nina Ricci black ruffled dress pattern Vogue 2582
Vogue 2562 by Nina Ricci (1980) Image: PatternVault shop.

Vogue 2604, a floor-length strapless gown with attached sleeves, has a more Countess Bathory feel. The ruffle-trimmed version of Vogue 2604 was featured on the cover of Vogue Patterns’ holiday issue:

1980 Nina Ricci black off-the-shoulder gown pattern Vogue 2604
Vogue 2604 by Nina Ricci (1980) Image: eBay.
Vogue 2604 by Nina Ricci photographed by Ishimuro for the cover of Vogue Patterns Magazine Nov/Dec 1980
Vogue 2604 by Nina Ricci on the cover of Vogue Patterns, November/December 1980. Photo: Ishimuro. Image: eBay.

These early ’80s editorial photos convey the dark romantic mood:

Fascination du Noir: Nina Ricci couture photographed by Chris Simpson, September 1980
“Fascination du Noir”: Nina Ricci couture in L’Officiel, September 1980. Photo: Chris Simpson. Image: jalougallery.com.
Nina Ricci Boutique and Balenciaga photographed by Deborah Turbeville, 1982.
Nina Ricci Boutique and Balenciaga in L’Officiel, August 1982. Photo: Deborah Turbeville. Image: jalougallery.com.

Later in the decade, the fashionable oversized silhouette and low hemlines could express a moody romanticism. From Esprit, Simplicity 6978 is a loose jacket and long, full skirt. Shown in black, the ensemble is very Lydia from Beetlejuice:

1980s Esprit pattern - Simplicity 6978
Simplicity 6978 by Esprit (1985) Image: Etsy.
Lydia Deetz (Winona Ryder) with her Nikon camera in Tim Burton's Beetlejuice (1988)
Lydia Deetz (Winona Ryder) in Tim Burton’s Beetlejuice (1988) Image: Goth Cupcake.

1990s

Judging from Vogue’s September issues for 1993, Fall ’93 marked a return to the lusher side of romanticism.

Vogue Paris Vogue US, and Vogue UK covers for Sept 1993 - Linda Evangelista by Max Vadukul and Steven Meisel, Christy Turlington by Mario Testino
Vogue Paris, American Vogue, and British Vogue covers, September 1993. Photos: Max Vadukul, Steven Meisel, and Mario Testino. Models: Linda Evangelista and Christy Turlington. Images: Shrimpton Couture and The Fashion Spot.

Donna Karan’s Fall collection (presented just days after Eiko Ishioka won the costume design Oscar for Bram Stoker’s Dracula) featured lace accents, choker and cross accessories, and lots of black. Vogue 1293 is a long dress consisting of a body with attached, high-waisted skirt:

Early 1990s Donna Karan dress pattern - Vogue 1293
Vogue 1293 by Donna Karan (1993)

Similar Donna Karan dresses opened a British Vogue editorial shot by Mario Testino at Bolton Abbey, Derbyshire (headpieces by Slim Barrett):

"Courtly gestures" Perfectly plain: the right dresses have a top with the fit and ease of a body, and a dramatic bolt of fabric below the waist. High-neck, Empire-line dress in chestnut-brown velvet, opposite, left. Right, slash-neck wool gauze dress. Both by Donna Karan. (Headdresses Slim Barrett)
Nadja Auermann and Cecilia Chancellor wear Donna Karan in “Courtly Gestures,” British Vogue, December 1993. Photo: Mario Testino. Editor: Jayne Pickering. Image: The Fashion Spot.

This cold-shoulder gown must be from the same collection:

Donna Karan YSL feathers.
Poppy Lloyd wears Donna Karan (Yves Saint Laurent feathers), L’Officiel, December 1993. Photo: Nancy Le Vine. Image: jalougallery.com.

In the later 1990s, Anna Sui showed a fall collection inspired by goth subculture. From Fall 1997, Vogue 2072 combines a historicizing, Vivienne Westwood-style mini-crini with club-kid accessories. The dress was worn by the young Sofia Coppola (previously seen in my Anna Sui series and ’90s goth post):

1990s Anna Sui goth collection pattern - Vogue 2072
Vogue 2072 by Anna Sui (1997) Dress, top and gloves.
Karen Elson and Tasha Tilberg in goth looks from Anna Sui FW1997
Anna Sui FW 1997 collection. Models: Karen Elson, Tasha Tilberg. Images: Bolton, Anna Sui and firstVIEW.
Sofia Coppola wears goth Anna Sui in Spur magazine, October 1997
Sofia Coppola in Spur, October 1997. Photo: Satoshi Saikusa. Image: Bolton, Anna Sui.

Another element in the romantic/gothic repertoire is tzigane or ‘gypsy’ looks. From Yves Saint Laurent Rive Gauche for Spring 1999, Vogue 2330 is a long, flowing, off-the-shoulder dress. The envelope shows a mourning-appropriate mauve, but it was also shown in sheer black:

1990s Yves Saint Laurent off the shoulder maxi dress pattern Vogue 2330
Vogue 2330 by Yves Saint Laurent (1999)
Astrid Muñoz in Yves Saint Laurent
Astrid Muñoz in Yves Saint Laurent Rive Gauche, Spring 1999 runway. Image: firstVIEW.

Spring 1999 was Yves Saint Laurent’s last collection for Rive Gauche, and Mario Sorrenti’s valedictory advertising campaign for that season references great European paintings. Here the archetypically enigmatic Mona Lisa, dressed in black Rive Gauche, poses with a male model with Asian tattoos:

Noot Seear in Mario Sorrenti's Spring 1999 Yves Saint Laurent Rive Gauche ad campaign
Yves Saint Laurent Rive Gauche ad campaign, Spring 1999. Photo: Mario Sorrenti. Model: Noot Seear. Image: Pinterest.

Finally, in the late 1990s, Simplicity licensed designs from Begotten, a historically-inspired clothing line designed by Dilek Atasu. The patterns included a cape (S8987) and men’s poet shirt (S8615). Simplicity 8619, an empire gown with optional lower sleeve flounce, channels Mary Shelley:

1990s Begotten gothic dress pattern - Simplicity 8619
Simplicity 8619 by Begotten (1999) Image: Etsy.

In the 2000s, gothic sewing patterns shift away from mainstream fashion toward subcultural costume for—as Laura Jacobs puts it—“our own Romantic Revivals: Goth, that pas de deux with death, and Steampunk, a mating of Queen Victoria and Thomas Edison” (Jacobs, Gothic to Goth exhibition review). Hammer Horror fans have “gothic costumes” McCall’s 3372 and McCall’s 3380; cybergoths can make dusters based on the costumes in The Matrix (1999) (Simplicity 5386, etc.); and Arkivestry and its offshoots cover everything from old-school gothic heroine to Loli to Steampunk.

Meanwhile, a gothic trend is predicted for Fall 2016. Are you ready?

3 thoughts on “Season of the Witch: Gothic Patterns

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