I was never much of a Halloween person. In fact, I sort of dreaded finding a costume and dressing up each year before heading out to my school’s dance. I felt uncomfortable and silly.
But put me in a head-to-toe black ensemble, make my already very pale complexion even more white and add thick circles of black eyeliner and I’d be as relaxed as can be, completely comfortable in my own skin. This was my teenage costume for a time and its influence is still seen in my wardrobe of basic black today (not to mention my penchant for black eyeliner when I go out for dinner or drinks).
I could never bring myself to dye my hair black, so I chose to go in the opposite direction and had it bleached platinum blond. It was asymmetrical, shaved up the back. I had long, floppy bangs and though I tried every technique and product I could think of, I could never quite get my naturally fine hair to stand up straight no matter how much I teased it.
I wasn’t a goth. Eighties’ goths — at least the ’80s goths in my city — were scary, unapproachable and always struck me as more angry than depressed. A group of goths hung out on the pedestrian mall downtown, smoking and snarling. While these made-up, black-clad teens may have prompted businessmen passing by to look down on them, maybe even laugh, I knew better. Goth wasn’t a pose, it was a lifestyle and if you weren’t goth you weren’t welcome in their group.
The line between costume and fashion has long been thin. But when Nina Garcia berates a contestant on Project Runway for a design she deems “too costumey” then praises another exaggerated look for its uniqueness, it illustrates how what defines costume and what defines fashion is so very, truly subjective. One person’s costume is everyday wear to someone else.
Fashion really is all a never-ending game of dress-up, and while I won’t be dressing up for Halloween, there’s a pretty good chance I’ll have an evening out with my partner at least once this month, and you can bet I’ll be wearing black and lining my eyes.
1. Monica Curtain for i-D magazine, April 1987.
2. Martin Brading for The Face, June 1985. Clothing by John Galliano.
3. Andy Lane for i-D magazine, August 1985. Clothing by Claire Trancher.
4. Mark Wong Nark Signature for Tiziana, Details magazine, November 1987.
5. John Hicks for i-D magazine, August 1986.
6. Betsey Johnson, Details, March 1989. Photograph by Nadine Szewczyk.