This past weekend, I threw myself a goth mitzvah for my 28th birthday. There were friends, fun, pizza, cake, post punk, ’90s goth kid music, booty rap, laser lights, space helmets, and a good bit of debauchery. It was my friend Dana’s birthday too, and while she didn’t need a goth mitzvah as much as I did, she was happy to participate.
What’s a “goth mitzvah,” you ask? I will tell you. It started out as a play on words inspired by the fact that I never had a bat mitzvah. (Child me was aggressively anti-religion, even when there were presents involved.) But on further reflection, it seemed like a decent metaphor for the way I like to dress these days. As you may know, I stopped dressing like a mall goth after Bad College Boyfriend coerced me into dressing “normal.” A period of virtual stylelessness followed, during which I dressed to blend in. But my favorite music has always been on the darker side of things, from synth-pop to post punk to uncategorizable shit like Nick Cave (to, yes, the stuff I loved in the ’90s and still love, like Nine Inch Nails), and I would not feel right writing for a fashion blog without a strong personal style of my own, so I’ve since made an effort to let my gothic sensibilities shine through in what I hope is a more tasteful way.
My first instinct for this party was to go all black, but my friends convinced me to dress like some sort of dead bride, because it was funny the last time I did that. (“I’m getting married!” I would squeal to anyone who asked what was up with my outfit.) My friend (who shall remain nameless) stole this tattered thing from a terrible performance artist, and helped me pin it to my slip to make a whole dress. Dana was my dead groom. On my head, I wore a headband my friend Mischa had made out of chains, little crosses and Virgin Mary icons, because what’s a goth mitzvah without Jesus? (PS: I got a haircut!)
Everyone else was wearing black, which made me happy, and is probably a better example of what I’m talking about. But I don’t have a ton of pictures, because it was my birthday and I was busy celebrating my continued survival. (At one point, everyone lifted me and Dana up in chairs like at a real bat mitzvah, and it was one of the highlights of my life.)
The next night, I went out to a techno party in Bushwick and resolved to photograph some gothy grown-ups in the wild. And I did:
Of course, none of these people would probably identify as “goth,” because they’re not in high school anymore. But they all incorporated some goth elements into their new wave/post punk/club kid looks. (Note: the lady in pasties is my friend Mischa, who cut my hair.)
And here is what I wore out that night:
I realize high fashion has been incorporating a “gothic” look for quite some time now. It’s gone in and out too many times to count, and there is a reason for that: it can be pretty, romantic, punk, timeless, fetish-y, or whatever sexy thing you want it to be. It’s probably weird to wear it if you have zero interest in any of the associated music, but who am I to judge? And anyway, most of the music that appeals to those with darker sensibilities is not, technically speaking, “goth music” and would not want to be called that. Perhaps because fashion people don’t mind playing fast and loose with language, fashion has always been more embracing of the term, and the idea of a conscious aesthetic, for that matter. Nine out of ten black-clad musicians will tell you, “I just wear what I feel comfortable in.”
Anyway, the general point of the “goth mitzvah” was to celebrate my goth kid past as I moved forward into my goth adult future, and I think it accomplished that. Then again, I got us kicked out of the bar by goading my friend Ahmad into taking his pants off, so maybe I’ll always be a kid at heart.