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Gothic: Dark Glamour [Hardcover]

Valerie Steele
2.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

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Book Description

15 Aug 2008
From its origins in the eighteenth-century literature of terror to its contemporary manifestations in vampire fiction, cinema and art, the gothic has embraced the powers of horror and the erotic macabre. 'Gothic' is an epithet with a strange history - evoking images of death, destruction, and decay. Ironically, its negative connotations have made the gothic an ideal symbol of rebellion for a wide range of cultural outsiders.Popularly associated with black-clad teenagers and rock musicians, gothic fashion encompasses not only subcultural styles (from old-school goth to cyber-goth and beyond) but also high fashion by such designers as Alexander McQueen, John Galliano of Christian Dior, Rick Owens, Olivier Theyskens, and Yohji Yamamoto. Fashion photographers, such as Sean Ellis and Eugenio Recuenco, have also drawn on the visual vocabulary of the gothic to convey narratives of dark glamour. As the text and lavish illustrations in this book suggest, gothic fashion has deep cultural roots that give it an enduring potency.


Product details

  • Hardcover: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press; 1st Edition edition (15 Aug 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300136943
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300136944
  • Product Dimensions: 2 x 24.1 x 29.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 2.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 832,357 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

"Steele distinguishes and explains Gothic subdivisions and alliances."
-- Veronica Horwell, New Statesman, December 2008

About the Author

Valerie Steele is director and chief curator of The Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT), where Jennifer Park is coordinator of special projects. Steele is also editor-in-chief of Fashion Theory: The Journal of Dress, Body & Culture and the author of Fifty Years of Fashion, China Chic and The Corset for Yale University Press.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Pretty, But Not Much Else 22 Jan 2009
Format:Hardcover
This is a beautifully-produced, deliciously-illustrated, glossy piece of work; but does it do anything but add to the gaiety of nations? The authors both work at the Museum of the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York, but the book doesn't appear to have arisen out of an exhibition, or anything definite. It's divided in two: the first section includes an account of the development of the Gothic imagination, and a slightly shorter second half looking at Gothic manifestations within the world of high fashion. The second section claims to examine 'Gothic Rock and Fashion'.
Now, there are some very laudable things here. Medieval Gothic - ladies in horned headgear and long-sleeved dresses, and the Danse Macabre - gets a look in, which it too rarely does, and there are some attempts made to relate Gothic imagery across the decades to street styles. But the authors don't seem to know as much about their subject as they need to. They make some remarkably contentious statements about various Gothic subcultural styles, and seem to rely for their information on a couple of photographer contacts and a Goth clothing designer. The high fashion section free-floats above the narrative: we move from a Gothic-themed McQueen outfit to a Gothic-themed Galliano one, acknowledging the strange beauty but wondering what it's all supposed to mean. The only lesson we learn is that some fashion designers have a liking for darkness and disturbance. As for the rock-and-fashion section, there's precious little relating of music to street style, and (in stark contrast to the first part of the book), the text dismisses Goth after 1983 in five paragraphs. It's as though one bit was written in complete isolation from the others.
The pictures are beautiful, and deserve four stars.
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Amazon.com: 4.3 out of 5 stars  7 reviews
23 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Gothic Glamour At Its Finest 6 Feb 2009
By T. Zimkus - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
This book arrived from Amazon, appropriately enough, in the depths of Autumn. Deliciously thick with lustrous photographic illustrations and visual references that are gilded frame-worthy, if it weren't such blasphemy to pull it apart, I'd do just that (I want some of these images on my walls, dammit). Not surprisingly, the book often reads more like an academic textbook than a style guide, and thank heaven and hell below it for that. As it is, there are enough "Like, OMG, Cheerleader-to-Gothgirl" how-to manuals out there already. The primary author of this book, Valerie Steele, has written numerous fashion-related books, many of which deal with how popular, as well not-so-mainstream and otherwise underground fashion, relate to both individual and cultural identity. She also happens to have her Ph.D. from Yale University and is currently Director and Chief Curator at The Museum at The Fashion Institute of Technology. In other words, she understands not only the Art of Fashion but the Theory behind it.

Steele references everything from the etymology of the word "gothic" to the early, cultural influences (everything from art, music, theatre and film to literature and architecture) that have shaped what we consider Gothic today. I'd like to think I'm an unofficial expert on this subculture (or, at the very least, an Old-School Goth turned Glamourous Eccentric...who also happens to be a costume history & fashion nerd), but Steele cites so many obscure and influences that I started to question whether or not I was a novice myself. Or a clueless, like, OMG!...cheerleader. I never would have considered, for example, Horace Walpole's part--which pre-dates Byron, The Shelleys, Poe, Stoker, Wilde and Baudelaire--as being so significant in the influence of literature on the Gothic aesthetic. Nor did I really think about how the collaborations between photographer Sean Ellis, and the incomparable stylist, Isabella Blow, in the mid-90s (who were both inspired by the disturbingly beautiful collections of Alexander McQueen & Hussein Chalayan) helped spark yet another Gothic Revival in the world of fashion in years to come. Remember when Gucci did Goth?

In addition to sourcing some of the more obvious figures in fashion, the book takes an in-depth look at many of the important underground and independent players who have been responsible for molding and shaping Gothic Fashion over the years. If you don't already know who Kambriel, Lip Service and Plastik Wrap were before, or if you've never heard of The Batcave, the Gothic & Lolita Bibles or Propaganda Magazine, you will by the time you finish this book. However, it should go without saying that about Gothic Fashion would hardly be complete (or valid, for that matter) without giving some serious attention to its inseparable partner, Gothic Music. Steele does indeed write in some length about the role of music in gothic subculture, but it's the latter part of the book which pays serious tribute to the subject.

"Melancholy and The Macabre: Gothic Rock and Fashion," by Jennifer Park, is really a little book within a book. It is essentially a short history of Gothic Rock. From its early, pre-punk influences, such as Velvet Underground and Bowie, to its post-punk revolutionaries, like Joy Division, Siouxsie and The Banshees, The Smiths, Bauhaus and The Cure (still four of my favorite bands), who paved the way for the uber-goth bands of the late 1980s and '90s. While I do think this serves as only a primer on what can be broadly defined as "Gothic Rock", the featured album covers and select discography made me nostalgic for my cape-wearing, gother-than-thou days of olde.

In any case, it is certain that Valerie Steele's expertise and passion for subculture and lesser-known fashion makes for an extensively researched, incredibly thorough read on the subject, appropriate for fashion enthusiasts, costume historians and more erudite goths, alike. Nevertheless, anyone looking for pseudo-morbid, pre-fab, darkity-dark fashion fluff should stick to the plethora of glossy goth-mags (no offense, Gothic Beauty) and cheesy goth-sites and clubs (we know you are...alas, you do not). You could always look at the pretty pictures, though.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Gothic: Dark Glamour 3 Aug 2010
By Maggi Perkins - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
A beautifully put together and produced book, it fell short of what I was expecting/hoping for. Valerie Steele's essay on the roots of the Gothic movement was informative and interesting without straying into being pedantic or simplistic. I really enjoyed that part of the book and felt that illustrations were generally well-related to the text, though there were references to designers or specific outfits that I would have liked to have had illustrated. The second essay, by Jennifer Park, was also well done, but I would have preferred to have more pictures from the actual museum exhibition this book was associated with, rather than a history of Goth music.
Simply put, I was expecting a lot more pictures of amazing and creative fashion to to amaze and inspire. What this book, it did well. I just wish there had been fewer words and more illustrations.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful Book on Gothic Fashion 2 Oct 2009
By Riona F. O'Malley - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I own several of Valerie Steele's books and they never disappoint. This one is no different. Reading like a coffee table book, it provides an extensive history on Gothic literature, architecture, art, etc. and how it inspired fashion, from Victorian mourning dresses to the raw, experimental clothing of the first Gothic scene sprung out of the punk movement in the late 70's, the New Romantics, and the more recent Cybergoth and "Graver" trends. The book is filled with gorgeous photography, from street fashion shots of DIY outfits, to club kid photos, to high-fashion and couture runway and editorial shoots, featuring such designers as John Galliano, Hussein Chalayan, Rodarte, Elsa Schiaparelli, Thierry Mugler, Alexander McQueen, Comme de Garcons, and Yohji Yamamoto. There are also some beautiful drawings and paintings included. There is also a music section, entitled "Melancholy and the Macabre: Gothic Rock and Fashion" by Jennifer Park, which explores such artists as Bauhaus, Siouxsie and the Banshees, Joy Division, The Cure, Nick Cave, The Sisters of Mercy, etc. and their fashion, both onstage and off.
2.0 out of 5 stars A Very Incomplete Account 11 April 2013
By blubberella - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
I had high hopes for "Gothic: Dark Glamour". Valerie Steele has written some insightful books about some of the darker corners of fashion, including the very intelligent "Fetish" and that beauty of a book "The Corset".

I was really hoping for either a) a gorgeous compendium of historical and contemporary fashion items that would be considered "Gothic" (ie having a dark sensibility, with a subtext of death, mourning, religion, blasphemy with subversive references to the dominant culture, with some camp thrown in) or b) a bright intellectual exploration of the topic. I was left wanting in both departments.

There was a small smattering of some actual victorian gowns with nice details like cobweb buttons, or a beautiful thorny looking cross made from ivory to commemorate a baby's death. These made the book worthwhile, but made the parts that were missing feel very acutely absent.

The book completely sidestepped many sinister details and horror and film noir style influences that were especially prevalent in the 50's and 60's from style icons like Vampira , and the dark mistresses of underground fetish publications like Exotique to things like men's casual shirts covered in giant tarantulas to that spiderweb mesh that found its way onto women's lingerie and shoes of the 1950's. There was very little reference to trashy comic book monsters/vampires/werewolves/gore that certainly planted some seeds for bands like the Cramps to grow out of - who were not gothic, exactly, but who also weren't NOT gothic if you get my drift. No references to of the Munsters either. And no photos of Grandpa Munster's Dragula car, either, which is more goth than even the Batmobile.

Even Frederick's of Hollywood produced kitschy lingerie, nighties, etc. from the 1950's to the 1980's with spiderweb cut outs - things like this are nowhere to be found in this book. No mention of Batman, Catwoman, or Vampirella either.

The music section at the back made me laugh out loud. It was right on for a very narrow period of time - but the Jesus and Mary Chain is NOT a gothic album, sorry! And No Alien Sex Friend or the Virgin Prunes ! And only the later, far less interesting Sisters of Mercy music was mentioned but left out their much more interesting early music. No mention of Skinny Puppy, either or any of the industrial groups that grew from their seeds.

And I also felt like "Steampunk" got sort of shoe-horned in(WTF ?) - while the book left out the new goth of the 1980's/1990's which meshed with the Industrial music scene/cyberpunk.

I kind of felt like Valerie Steele depended on her co-authour for references and information, while her co-authour may have hung around a few particular types of clubs, for a short period of time, that she maybe just didn't really "get it". There was also very little mention of the queer sensibilities that underpinned many a young goth's social/sexual identity.

I was really hopeful for this book, but was left feeling disappointed. Valerie Steele, I hope you'll go back to re-explore this topic thoroughly, or that someone who is more passionate/informed about the varieties of culture that were thrown into the witch's pot to make this subculture will write a book that actually delivers.
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Cara M. 24 Mar 2011
By Cara M. - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
The book arrived rather quickly and I loved the book. The imagery in it is breathtaking and dark which doesn't automatically be combined.
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