If one observes a gaggle of goths for long enough, one will notice a subset of common, archetypal clothing items which are de rigeur - mandatory or close enough. (The jury is still out on whether a group of goths is properly referred to as a "gaggle," as in "gaggle of geese," or the more poetic but harder to remember "murder," as in "murder of crows.") Despite an almost Catholic insistence that dressing "gothic," by definition, requires a measure of originality not found in other subcultures, these particular items resurface often and across great distances. So, although these items might seem like arbitrary choices, common sense tells us they would not recur without reason. Careful observation suggests that there is a reason behind each item.
The following is an attempt to deconstruct these items, in a wholly unhealthy and postmodern way, leaving the gothic essence exposed -- if not completely naked. We'll leave that for another time, when we deconstruct the makeup.
Leather (black - jacket, boots, belt, pants, shirt, gloves, etc.)
- Seriously Gothic Because: Something died to make it.
- Description: Uncomfortable, noisy, and smelly, no gothic or industrial entity will miss a chance to wear at least one item crafted from a dead cow, even while bathing or sleeping.
- Message: "Not only do I not give a shit about the sacrifice of a peaceful animal, but I am also as dangerous as other stereotypical leather wearers, such as Hell's Angels, dominatrixes, and criminals. Grrr."
Velvet (black/dark colors - dress, skirt, pants, vest, shirt, gloves, etc.)
- Seriously Gothic Because: It's high-maintenance, much like gothic make-up and relationships.
- Description: Expensive, easy to destroy, and suggestive of aristocracy, despite usually being synthetic.
- Message: "I may not be able to afford cover charge, but I look sooo regal sitting on the street corner."
Vinyl (black, maybe red or clear, if you're really cheeky)
- Seriously Gothic Because: Wearing it long enough can kill you.
- Description: Much like leather, but more so. No pain, no fame, baby.
- Message: "Dying of heat prostration by wearing vinyl in July is the height of suffering for beauty."
Corset (Black, or maybe brocade)
- Seriously Gothic Because: Really dahling, breathing is for the living!
- Description: More than merely painful, corsets promote that oh-so-historical look, despite turning women into walking pinups. No one knows why men wear them either.
- Message: "Please oppress me."
Ruffled/Poet Shirt (often white - gasp!)
- Seriously Gothic Because: Lord Byron is usually pictured wearing one.
- Description: Rakish, poetic, and easy to find.
- Message: "I can't decide if my look is vampire or pirate. Or maybe it's vampire-pirate?"
- Seriously Gothic Because: They look best on emaciated people.
- Description: Nice for showing off your legs/butt/codpiece. Surprisingly comfortable, easy to find, and good for dancing.
- Message: "I haven't eaten in a week."
Morticia Addams' skirt (any color as long as it's black)
- Seriously Gothic Because: Do I need to explain this?
- Description: Impossible to walk in. Recalls classic spooky TV icon, and looks best on stick-thin girls.
- Message: "I'm so evil, I even oppress myself."
Military Jacket (black, but maybe khaki)
- Seriously Gothic Because: Evokes death on the battlefield.
- Description: Discipline, structure, and the Cold War converge, suggesting a hard-edge cynicism stolen directly from punk.
- Message: "I can kick your ass without even smudging my makeup."
Bondage Gear (Belts, collars, etc.)
- Seriously Gothic Because: Suggests kinky sex, which scares casuals and smaller dogs.
- Description: Spikes, chains, and rings cause pain to all involved. Useful for keeping track of your slaves, because the rings make a jingly noise you can hear anywhere.
- Message: "Tie me up, tie me down, pierce your eyeball on my spikes."
- Seriously Gothic Because: Cruel, painful, and scary.
- Description: Historically considered 'masculine' and meant for walking, riding, and damaging other people. Until you add extremely pointed toes and other items (buckles, heels) that make them as painful to the wearer as they can be to others.
- Message: "See these points? They make me ornery. Wanna know where I can stick them?"
As you can see, each of these items sends a serious message to the observer. Mix and match for more complex messages, and always remember: if it looks mean, wear it!