The ever-present and universal power of death has been a recurring motif in art, architecture, literature, and fashion, ever since the dawn of human civilization. The ghastly imagery of death has become an aesthetic in our contemporary world This appeal for Macabre is accumulated in multiple forms of artistic expression.
From soft macabre fashion statements to the ongoing trend of gothic e-girl visuals; the world has not seen the last of morbid themes like death being part of the culture.
(A detail from an 18th-century oil painting depiction of the Dance of Death. WELLCOME IMAGES, LONDON/ CC BY 4.0)
This gruesome form of artistic expression in literature and fashion can be jotted down as Macabre. The expression gains its intrinsic allegation from mythical lore and long-lasting bibliography of European literature. For instance, the unifying representation of Death; Danse Macabre, Dance of Death. The Middle Ages brought with it a series of ominous famines, endless blood-stained wars, and the merciless Black Death which are culturally assimilated throughout Europe. The all-pervading likelihood of sudden and painful death remained within the minds of philosophers and thinkers, throughout the ages. This inspiration has resulted in remarkable masterpieces in every genre.
The Age of Mourning:
In Victorian England, even on the verge of modernity; people had lived without the benefit of modern medicine and necessities of life. This led to the rise of somewhat of a ‘death culture.’ According to fashion critics, “The origins of the contemporary goth style are found in the Victorian cult of mourning…” Veiled women in their mourning attires used to spend years reminiscing their dead ancestors and loved ones. Carrying the bones, ashes, or locks of hair in ornamental jewelry, as a memento was the fashion trend of the Victorian ages. Even the Queen herself mourned the loss of her beloved husband, Albert for 40 years in grim black clothing.
The lurid images of cracked skulls, crossbones, and the decaying corpse has been infused in the collections of well-known fashion designers in the recent decade. The genre of soft macabre in fashion has achieved versatility in this new age, in cooperating taxidermy and cobwebs within its wide array of options. In the passages underneath, we will explore the works of designers known for their monstrous inventions that glorify glam with gore.
The world of corpse chic revolves around the work of Alexander McQueen who is a brilliant British designer, with a fascination with the dark side of beauty. McQueen has infamously cooperated his custom clothing and accessories with images of skulls, using the imagery in his designs involving clutch-bag closures, bangles, earrings, and sunglass. One of his devilishly inspired collection on Marie Antoinette’s confinement before her execution has been regarded as an iconic addition to the macabre aesthetic. The sensational fashion designer, Sarah Burton notes about the collection that it represented “…the idea that something can be as beautiful as it is on the verge of decay.”
Moving on to another well-known name in the fashion industry; let us investigate the ghoulish ways of Rick Owen; regarded as the “Prince of Dark Design”, his collections will mesmerize you in the most lucrative way. He has dared to step in the boundaries of the absurd more than once in his fashion career. In an interview with T&C about his latest 2021 collection, he notes; “I always want to honestly show the full spectrum of our life experience by pursuing beauty but acknowledging life’s fragility.” The dystopian elegance of Owen’s designs can be captured in his use of body adornments, such as skulls, spider-like claws, blood-red veils, and deep sunken eyes with the help of shadowy makeup.
From corsets in the shape of ribcages to devilishly molded harnesses, the goth/cottage wear inspired aesthetic of our contemporary decade has taken over the virtual world. Thrifted clothes with decorative chains and ludicrous hair options; that’s what defines an e-girl or e-boy. Somehow, this aesthetic has slowly taken in few forms of soft macabre style.
Perhaps this fascination with death will continue to affect mankind in his dealings with the darker side of life. Designers and ongoing trends had been able to skillfully employ our fascination with death into beauty and culture. When searching for this specific aesthetic, you might find the most extraordinary results. From Medusa’s alluring serpent head to decaying taxidermy; the word of Macabre fashion has a wide array of jewels to offer!