What exactly could be described as gothic westernwear? Or cowgirl goth? The very pairing of these distinctive aesthetics seems contradictory and utterly oxymoronic upon first glance. And yet, some of the most striking displays of fashion have risen out of that sort of aesthetic tension: take Dior’s New Look silhouette for example, with its impossibly nipped in waist colliding with an explosion of voluminous skirting. Bringing two seemingly unrelated aesthetic worlds can prove to be at once exciting and iconic when done with care and selectiveness.
For women, taking a cue from the Yves Saint Laurent SS2013 is an excellent starting place. Brought into the mainstream by the Coven season of American Horror Story, lead designer Hedi Slimane successfully crystallized the concept of gothic westernwear into a collection of ensembles ranging from sleek daywear to elegantly dramatic eveningwear. Hi-low hemlines and billowing bishop sleeves offered a sort of gothic lolita tease, while exaggerated wide-brimmed fedoras framed each model with a sense of mystery and the occult (while also subtly evoking known occult dabbler and Rolling Stones muse Anita Pallenberg). Pairing flowy chiffons (ever a fabric staple within the goth club scene) with a myriad of leather textures (be it fringed suede or slimly tailored jackets) offers an excellent sense of tension between the romance of gothic culture and the tough and practical fashions of the Old West. Voluminous pussy bows helped tie the collection together as well as add a smart, uniformed aspect to the ensemble. As a whole, the YSL SS2013 collection offered a sense of tough modesty (with incredibly selective and therefore effectively seductive flashes of skin), with the color palette rarely veering from monochrome (with an occasional shock of red or blue chiffon.)
Once a basic gothic western clothing silhouette has been accomplished, a smattering of carefully chosen accessories is key to elevating the overall look. A fetish-inspired harness (be it from high-end Zana Bayne, or, at a more affordable price-point, Los Angeles-based Deandri) is an excellent investment to ground the look. Leather gloves are also readily available in a variety of styles and lengths to tailor to your individual preferences. Piano shawls (of either the heavily embroidered vintage silk or more modern burnout velvet variety) serve as a great alternative to a typical overcoat while adding a sense of sensual femininity.
With regard to precious metals, silver jewelry is always preferred over gauche gold (because, as we all know, gold is the preferred metal of the sun-dwelling vacationer.) However, beyond this simple aesthetic direction, the silhouettes of jewelry that can complete a gothic western ensemble are quite diverse and can be tailored to individual preference. For those willing to make the investment, a squash blossom necklace makes for a bold and timeless statement, as does fine Czech jet beading or Victorian vulcanite or gutta percha mourning jewelry. Or, for a more understated approach, look to lariat necklaces, delicate crucifixes or other religious ephemera to layer as you see fit. But always, always cultivate a collection of rings to adorn your fingers.
Though from the above, it would seem women have far more options available to them with regards to piecing together a head-to-toe ensemble, our foray into gothic western fashion seeks to offer inspiration for both sexes. And with that in mind, stay tuned for the second part of our discussion, as we delve into gothic westernwear for men.
by Mather Louth
(Mather is the lead vocalist for Gothic Americana band the Heathen Apostles. Learn more about them HERE.)