February 20, 2009

New York's FIT Exhibit - Gothic: Dark Glamour

Those of you in the New York area may have already heard of the Fashion Institute of Technology's Gothic: Dark Glamour exhibit, but I wanted to give my own review.

In short, I highly recommend it to Lolitas who may be curious about their own fashion's cousin and chronological forebear, Goth, and are looking for a fun and free thing to do this weekend, the exhibit's final days. (Lolita itself, specifically the misnomered "Elegant Gothic Lolita", appears as a footnote in the exhibit, but is definitely not the central focus.) There are a ton of darkly beautiful dresses, a neat set-up for the different areas of the exhibit, and a chance to see h. Naoto displayed in FIT alongside designers like Balenciaga and Lagerfeld. ;)

For those of you outside of New York, you can experience an online version here.

Last night, through the kind gift of a family friend, I had the pleasure of being part of a guided tour, led by the wonderful Dr. Valerie Steele, curator of not only the exhibit but the entire FIT museum.

As a Goth since the mid-1990's, I was curious to see how an "outsider" would approach a subculture and fashion I have loved and participated in for so long, and Dr. Steele led us on an educated, objective look at the evolution of the idea of "Gothic" from the first classic novels written hundreds of years ago all the way through the UK's famous Batcave nightclub, working in fashion from the original Victorian cult of mourning through the runway looks of high-end designers like Galliano and Gaultier to dresses from Lip Service and shoes from Fluevog. Themes I had always seen and known to be "Goth" from my own experiences were explained and displayed in scholarly terms: the Haunted House, the Laboratory, the Ruined Castle, all hearkening back to the first novels, paintings and works that explored the themes of terror, decay and decadence.

I really liked a particular quote of Dr. Steele, as she discussed the Dandy style (of hundreds of years ago, not just the Lolita version): there were dark Dandies, fastidious ones, and "sweet" ones, ones that bordered on looking too effeminate for the society of the day. But what they all had in common, she said, was that "to be seen was to be". The look you created for yourself made you what you were, so why not be beautiful?

This also led into a discussion of how Goth is a completely artificial fashion. Most fashions and styles try to fool the eye or pretend that they're natural beauty, but Goth is purposefully artificial. It's a world created by the wearer, a conscious decision to project an image. I thought that idea of boldly and beautifully creating perfection in the eyes of the wearer was a sentiment many Lolitas would understand. :)

So if you have a minute online or time in the city this weekend, check Gothic: Dark Glamour out. It's a fun and free experience and chance to get an unbiased, objective look at the dark and lovely world of Goth.

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