It’s officially October which means, more importantly, that it’s officially *spooky season*. If you are all about the Halloween aesthetic, but struggle to keep your hands from covering your eyes during horror movies, may I introduce you to your new favorite source for inspiration: gothic horror.
It is a literary genre, but its influence and defining characteristics can be seen reflected throughout different art and design mediums. Think dark, moody colors, a crushing sense of claustrophobia, and an eerie atmosphere usually manifesting itself in an antiquated environment. Yes, there are horrific elements, but it probably won’t terrify you. Gothic horror is tastefully scary and aesthetically creepy which is, quite frankly, such a vibe. Here are a couple of recommendations to inspire creative work, or even just help you get into the holiday spirit.
If you want to get a real sense of the genre, I recommend The Castle of Otranto by Horace Walpole. Written in 1764, it is considered the first gothic novel. If you're in the mood for a quick but captivating read, this is the book for you. The plot is a bit tame by today's standards and there are absolutely no strong female characters to be found, but the essential gothic elements are there: A dark decrepit castle, strong imagery, and the thoughtful combination of fantasy and reality. This is a great introduction to gothic literature and is completely free on Apple Books and Project Gutenberg.
If reading is not your thing, a movie might be. One of the best gothic horror inspired films is Tim Burton’s Beetlejuice. It’s a charming and uplifting movie that definitely has aspects of creepiness, especially considering the main characters are dead. Despite the brilliant vivid colors, the visuals still feel dark and moody. The aesthetic is very 1980s, meets gothic, meets fever dream, and is well worth a watch for the set design alone. Overall, Beetlejuice is creepy, cool, aesthetically beautiful, and filled with lots of potential creative inspiration.
When looking at gothic horror’s influence on fashion, look no further than the one and only Thierry Mugler, the French designer who is known for his avant-garde couture that blurs the barrier between reality and fantasy. Expect exaggerated silhouettes, sequins, and extravagant designs. His designs are pure art, pure inspiration, and a seemingly real-life rendering of imagination. Often in gothic horror, a distinction is made between the beautiful and the sublime. Beautiful is--well beautiful, but it is the sublime that moves audiences more profoundly. To be sublime is to be awe-inspiring and, at times, produce feelings of discomfort and fear. Mugler's designs display this thoroughly, as they are as intriguing as they are lovely.
There is lots of inspiration to be gathered from gothic conventions and the work it has inspired. It works to evoke emotional reactions through the careful combination of uneasiness and aesthetics. This produces a compelling juxtaposition and creates a more subdued and elegant approach to the typical Halloween aesthetic. Gothic horror and its influence can serve as excellent inspiration right on time for the approaching change in seasons.