Street style photography gave black the death sentence. Who wants to photograph black, after all? The clamor to be the most photographed outside the shows meant more colour, more detail, more pea-cocking, and that started to reflect on trends inside the shows, too.

But fashion in fall 2012, as part of this new trend, is out to prove that black doesn’t have to be synonymous with boring. And while most women – fashion show peacocking or not – haven’t forgotten the place of the LBD in one’s wardrobe, this fall / winter season is about something more than that. We’re not just talking about one way to wear black in 2012 but the most stand-out way. The vamp, the gothic, the noir… Mystery and fantasy are the keys to saving dark colours from the death of being ignored.

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Cultural influences

Since the 18th century, Gothic fiction has revelled in that strangely satisfying mix of horror and romance. While it’s hard to place what exactly it is in that mix that strikes such a chord within people, the evidence that it does is not so hard to come by. Just look at Twilight.

Yes, it’s impossible to ignore the pop-cultural significance of the Twilight series and wave of vampire fiction revivalism it rode in on. Not to mention the success of Southern Gothic series True Blood that followed.

Vampire themes expended, the Hollywood machine has seen promise in reviving every fairytale story that ever filled the pages of your childhood books. But now, these are fairytales grown up. Jack is now the “Giant Killer” (played by Nicholas Hoult), Hansel and Gretel are “Witch Hunters” (thanks to Jeremy Renner and Gemma Arterton) and Sleeping Beauty’s evil nemesis Maleficent gets to tell her side of the story (a role tied to Angelina Jolie). There’s Little Mermaids and Pinnochios and Peter Pans on the horizon, and of course we’ve already had the darkly visual Snow White and the Huntsman on screens this year. Now try finding one that doesn’t sell itself with a tagline of a “darker version”… odds are you won’t be able to.

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Charlize Theron in Snow White and the Huntsman

Fairytales are weaving a dark magic that’s appealing to audiences of all ages. It’s no wonder the captivation is spreading to fashion.

The look: Gothic fashion revived

We’re drawing from traditional notions of Gothicism, not the Gothic subculture of more modern times. It’s an important distiction: the look isn’t about smudged eyeliner and the addition of tough, punkish details. It rises up from the shadows with flawless, porcelain skin and blood red lips. The starting point is that cold beauty, paired with a sharply androgynous velvet suit or a vampishly feminine black lace number – and the imagination grows wild from there.

If you look at the female archetypes in Gothic fiction and fairytales, there’s the virginal maiden and the evil queen. Fall 2012’s fashion trend can draw inspiration from both, but when we’re looking at dark, noir themes it’s the latter that wins out.

Frida Giannini typified the theme with her fall 2012 collection for Gucci. Hair was wild and flowing with a twist, lips stained berry red. Billowy sheer fencing blousons, tuxedo jackets and capes were married to voluminous jodhpur pants and riding boots. The feminine contingent at Gucci was darkly ethereal: rich velvet off-the-shoulder gowns and creeping black embellished vines across sheer floor-grazing gowns were some runway highlights.

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Neo-Gothic dresses at Gucci, F/W ’12

Alberta Ferretti headed to the dark side for fall, but she took her trademark delicate touch with her. Black lace and textured gowns were constructed around structured – but not too strict – Victorian bodices. Black leather accents featured heavily, as they did for Diane Von Furstenberg.

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Going Goth at Alberta Ferretti, F/W ’12

And who could imagine this list of neo-Gothic proponents without Givenchy? Enter the mind of Riccardo Tisci and you could lose yours in his dark imagination. Tisci’s collection was dreaming of Dracula, shadowy figures and brooding Victorian castles. The masculinely tailored outfits – more jodhpurs and riding boots, paired with silk high-necked shirts and pallid skin – rode in on a 19th century literary storm. Channel them, and you can too.

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Givenchy F/W ’12

Revamping all-black outfits

I noted it in the intro to this piece, and it bears repeating: one of the best things about the revival of Gothic sentiments is the ability to indulge in black in a way that’s not boring. Sure, bold colours and clashing prints will turn heads and get cameras clicking. But don’t underestimate the power of a black floor-length gown that swathes you in a Morticia Addams-like languorous theatricality.

Looking to the fall 2012 runways you can find a bounty of inspiration for reviving pitch black pieces.

  • Texture adds interest where colour is absent. Velvet, fur, brocade, embroidery… look for rich textures to create a luxuriously vampish look.
  • Combine heavier textures with sheer layers for a beautiful contrast.
  • Embellishments like beading or black sequins add volumes to an all-black outfit.
  • For a fetishist inkling look for leather trims, leather panels or add leather outerwear – make it figure hugging.
  • Insert some coloured accents or layer black sheer over a different bold hue so it shines out from underneath.
  • Hair and beauty are key: you want to create an entire look that goes beyond the outfit to turn it into something more thematic.

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Textured black dress at Pucci, F/W ’12

The new Gothic: other colours

While we’ve just explored the revival of black as the basis for an outfit, that doesn’t necessarily limit the trend to a palette that’s dark as night. You can channel the dark fairytale sentiments in any colour you like, but for a truly neo-Gothic undertone try rich tones of red, royal purple or midnight blue. This palette clings to the traditional Gothic stereotypes in a way that only strengthens the outfit’s dark sentiments.

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Burst of red at Givenchy F/W ’12

Hair and beauty

Don’t let your look be let down by dull hair and makeup. While that’s not to say it has to be over the top, it should at least be considered in such a way that matches your outfit.

For hair, try replicating Gucci’s twist hairstyle or Alberta Ferretti’s knotted chignon; both are easy to create and you can find step-by-step tutorials at those links.

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Gothic beauty at Gucci, F/W ’12

For beauty, consider Chanel’s fairytale couture makeup – sweetly feminine with a dark edge – or a slick of your favourite red lipstick.

Exaggerated dark eyeliner can also go perfectly with your sweeping Gothic ensemble.

Gothic fashion: picture inspiration

For more inspiration on wearing neo-Gothic fashion, as seen on the fall 2012 runways, click on the gallery above.

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