By the pricking of several perfectly manicured thumbs, something wicked this way comes – to a shop near you, in fact. Hallowe’en is here and with it the opportunity for fashionable types to kit themselves out in one of their favourite guises, that of the fabulously fierce neo-goth.
It’s a trend that designers return to time and again. Some have even made it their USP: no-one could take a look at the designs of, say, Gareth Pugh, Rick Owens, Ann Demeulemeester or Riccardo Tisci and say there isn’t something of the night about them. Giles Deacon was inspired by that master of the ghost story, Edgar Allen Poe, for his 2008 collection of Edwardian-line pieces, which was shown on models whose heads were bound in spooky veils, while Swedish seamstress Ann-Sofie Back has previously referenced Poltergeist and The Exorcist, with models staggering like zombies along the catwalk in ripped, dishevelled clothing and milky contact lenses.
Fashion is ghoulish about ghosts. There’s something appealing about the undead aesthetic, whether you choose severe and sharp black or go creepily retro in Victoriana and vampiric ruffles. Part of it is the thrill of the extreme, of course; of the theatrical and the visually arresting.
Another lure is the ease with which the sartorially minded’s uniform of black tends toward the dark side, when monochrome and minimalism go bad and things get a bit scary.
“Hallowe’en gives creative types a chance to elaborately costume themselves; to create a fantasy,” says Ruth Runberg, Buying Director at Browns.
The alternative boutique, Browns Focus, stocks many of the avant-garde designers who have made gothic glamour their calling card. “And isn’t creating fantasy really what the fashion industry is all about?” asks Runberg.
“Gothic styles have been shown in so many ways,” adds jeweller Hannah Warner, whose current collection is full of skull rings and bone bangles, “allowing a huge range of different people to wear them. For me, I think the beauty of the different forms of skulls and how they are brought in different designs is fascinating. They can be a great statement piece.”
The skull ring has become something of a design classic, since it emerged in the Seventeenth century and survived a foray into the realm of military uniform. Those found on pinkies in Camden Market most readily spring to mind, but a host of fashionable names have recently turned their hands to rehabilitating Yorick’s style credentials.
Alexander McQueen became known for his skulls, on scarves and rings alike, embellished with gleaming jewel eyes, dangling tusks or – more profoundly indicative of the mortal coil perhaps – crawling wasps and flies.
American metalworker Pamela Love has also found an audience with her intricately wrought bird skull rings and bangles with terrifying talons on each end, while Maria Francesca Pepe gilds rings with crucifixes and fangs.
And the rise of nail art means there is a new canvas for All Souls style, with salons offering phantom faces, Jack-o-lanterns, googly eyes or even a traditional “Boo!” To get the look at home, you’ll need steady, unflappable hands and some of celebrity manicurist Andrea Fullerton’s accessories – try the stick-on tattoos (skull and crossbones, anyone?), or precision pens to create your own designs. Keep the rest of your make-up suitably spooky with a swipe of dramatic dark lipstick. For the die-hards, nothing but black will do, but it gives skin a pallor and teeth a green glow. Dark purple is more flattering, so try MAC’s “cyber” shade, which can be worn thickly for maximum effect or blotted for a Morticia Adams-esque berry stain.
Indeed, if many gothic influences come from “the olden days” – the term was first used by the Romans of the Germanic Visigoth tribes, before being used to reference a certain school of Medieval architecture – then this season’s Nineties revival is not without some Hallowe’en-flavoured elements, by way of stompy Doc Martens, faded denim and ripped tights, as well as grungy purple lips. Design duo Meadham Kirchoff worked in a spooky vein for autumn, referencing the punk movement via the Salem witch trials, for an alt-pilgrim fathers look that was as cute as it was kooky. Witches on broomsticks sailed across knitwear, while conical hats were given a trilby aspect and spruced up with flowers.
So there’s no excuse for not knowing what to dress up as tonight or for not having an incredible costume at the ready. After all, if you pick carefully enough, your gothic gladrags could end up being wardrobe staples for years to come.