Gothic wedding dresses are having a major moment. What was once considered an unconventional choice is now emerging as a popular alternative style, allowing brides to express their individuality on their big day. From intricately embroidered black gowns to dramatic silhouettes punctuated with bold accents, gothic wedding dresses make a statement.
The gothic style stems from the medieval gothic era of the 12th to 15th centuries, where architecture featured soaring arches, vaulted ceilings, and an abundance of ornamentation. Gothic fashion echoes these elements with arches, corseting, lacings, and heavy embellishments. When applied to wedding dresses, the gothic motif creates a romantic yet rebellious vibe.
For brides craving something different than the traditional white ballgown, the new generation of gothic wedding dresses offers elegance with an edge. Whether you go for full-on goth or just want to incorporate some alternative accents, there are lots of ways to work a touch of darkness into your wedding day look. Here's an in-depth guide to the gothic wedding dress trend and how to rock it for your special day.
Key Elements of the Gothic Wedding Dress Look
From wax-sealed invitations to candelabra centerpieces, gothic wedding details set the stage. When it comes to your wedding dress, there are a few key elements that define the gothic bride aesthetic:
- Black or dark colored gowns - Some gothic brides opt for black or deep red, purple, or blue dresses rather than white or ivory. Black symbolizes mystery and allure.
- Corset or boned bodices - Corseted and boned bodices with a Victorian-inspired silhouette cinch the waist and accentuate curves. Look for dagger collars and low scoop backs.
- Billowing skirts - Gothic wedding dresses favor voluminous A-line or bell-shaped skirts, often with layered tulle underlays. Some feature bold ruffled hems.
- Dramatic sleeves - Billowing bell sleeves, tall split sleeves, and long sheer balloon sleeves add Gothic drama. Off-the-shoulder and cap sleeves also complement the corset bodice.
- Lace accents - Elegant black or red lace adds a refined Gothic touch when used in the veil, trim, or as lace sleeves. Baroque floral lace patterns fit the motif well.
- Metallic accents - Gold, silver, and copper metallic threads and embellishments give the gowns dimension. Look for metallic lace and beading.
- Sheer panels - Strategically placed sheer mesh panels add allure while allowing the corset boning to peek through. Feature sheer neckline insets or sheer sleeves.
- Dark accessories - Complete the Gothic bride look with accessories like black or blood-red shoes and nails, dramatic veils, bold jewelry pieces, and dark or metallic floral bouquets.
Notable Gothic Wedding Dress Designers
Several designers have emerged at the forefront of the Gothic wedding dress trend, helping popularize the style with their signature collections:
- Pronovias Label 2017 - This line from leading bridal brand Pronovias launched in 2017 and features elegant black lace, red accents, and Gothic styling in a range of silhouettes.
- Cymbeline - This French brand does luxurious lace gowns with Gothic touches like black colors, blood red accents, hooded capes, and heavy beading.
- Leila Hafzi - Dubbed the "Queen of Gothic Couture," Hafzi uses rich fabrics with corset boning and Victorian Gothic inspiration. Her overly embellished gowns are works of art.
- Elisabetta Polignano - With a clear Gothic influence, this designer creates dramatic Italian gowns using lace, tulle, and hand-cut details for added dimension.
- Helena Kolenda - Kolenda's Polish bridal line includes Gothic styles with black lace, bold details, sleeves, and hand-painted accents on the skirts.
- Olvi's - This brand focuses on alternative brides with collections defined by dark colors, vintage-inspired styles, corsets, and heavy beading and embroidery.
Popular Gothic Styles to Try
From subtly moody to unabashedly Gothic, brides can choose where they want to fall on the spectrum. Here are some of the most popular Gothic dress styles making their way down the aisle:
Classic Black Wedding Dresses
Going for a full black gown makes a bold statement and perfectly fits the darker Gothic motif. Today's black wedding dresses are sophisticated and elegant for the modern Gothic bride. Look for gowns with:
- Black lace overlays - Delicate black floral lace over a solid black underlay oozes Gothic romance. Opt for an A-line or mermaid silhouette.
- Black tulle skirts - Voluminous black tulle over a corseted bodice strikes the perfect balance between ballgown romance and Gothic edge.
- Matte black fabrics - Dresses made from fabrics like satin, crepe, or chiffon in saturated solid black make a striking style statement.
- Illusion details - Sheer illusion panel accents and sleeves soften the darkness and add dimension. Go for off-the-shoulder necklines or sheer open backs.
- Metallic beading - Intricate silver, gold, or copper beading and embroidery elevates a black gown with a glamorous, ornate touch. Focus embellishments on the bodice.
- Bold red accents - Pops of blood-red in the sash, hem, or train lining provide just the right amount of color against an all-black dress.
Darkly Romantic Lace Wedding Dresses
For brides who prefer a non-white color palette but don't want to go fully gothic, dark lace wedding dresses bridge the gap beautifully. Intricately styled black or red lace gowns allow you to bring in Gothic inspiration more subtly. Styling tips include:
- Mix black or red lace with nude lining - The see-through lace shows just a peek of skin, keeping the look romantic rather than somber. Choose a corseted mermaid or A-line shape.
- Layer black or red lace over other colors - Pairing black lace with a blush pink or champagne underlay adds softness and dimension. The color contrast looks striking.
- Focus on lace placement - Use lace strategically in certain areas like a deep V-neck bodice, sheer lace sleeves, or an illusion back to maximize visual impact.
- Incorporate metallic lace - Metallic gold or silver threaded lace catches the light beautifully. It can be used sparingly or throughout for a glam Gothic vibe.
- Highlight lace embroidery - Look for lace with ornate brocade or floral embroidery. Gothic styles favor bolder baroque and vintage-inspired patterns.
- Add 3D floral lace appliqués - For added texture, opt for lace dresses with fabric flower appliqués sprinkled across the skirt. Or accent the waist with a 3D floral sash.
Mysterious Hooded Capes
Another way to channel Gothic charm is by incorporating a hooded cape into your wedding day look. Capes summon images of haunted castles and Victorian darkness. Trailing behind the bride down the aisle, the cape amplifies the sense of drama and mystery.
- Detachable cape - Look for a cape that detaches from the dress so you can remove it for the reception. Opt for a cape that matches the lace or beading design on the dress.
- Dramatic train - A hooded cape instantly amplifies the train of the wedding gown. Choose a cathedral or royal length train to maximize the visual spectacle.
- Red lined cape - Flip the cape train to the red underside after the ceremony for a colorful change of look. It also makes for amazing photos.
- Gothic metal clasps - Metal skull, dragon, or gargoyle clasps on the cape add striking Gothic finishes. Intricately embroidered or beaded edges further the ornate style.
- Sheer cape overlay - Lightweight mesh or lace capes still provide drama without weighing you down. They reveal hints of the dress’ corset boning or lace embroidery beneath.
Bolder Sleeve Options
- Bell sleeves - Extravagantly long, flared bell sleeves make a stunning style statement, especially in lace. Keep arm mobility in mind.
- Split sleeves - These innovative sleeves have a split opening on the outer arm, revealing a second sheer underlayer. The separation creates a floating, dramatic effect.
- Batwing sleeves - Billowy batwing sleeves cinched at the wrist emphasize the imperial Gothic look. Keep the cape sleeves wide but lightweight.
- Flared trumpet sleeves - Trumpet sleeves puff at the shoulder before tapering down the arm, creating a subtle version of the bell sleeve.
- Illusion sleeves - Sheer illusion panel sleeves show just a peek of skin. They can also be layered over structured undersleeves for bold contrast.
- Off-the-shoulder sleeves - Exposing the shoulders highlights the corseted bodice and draws eyes upward. Choose strapless or halтер necklines to accent the bare shoulders.
Gothic Touches for Subtle Drama
- Velvet ribbons - Trailing velvet ribbons in black or red add a lush, romantic feel. Use them to cinch the waist or as back strap accents.
- Beaded fringe - Draped beaded fringes along the neckline, waistline, or hemline provide delicate shimmer and movement. Fringed lace overlays are also an option.
- Black florals - Work in black flowers or black-tinted florals in bouquets, hairpieces, or touches along the skirt hem. Jet black roses and calla lilies work well.
- Silver forged accessories - Wrought iron-style silver jewelry, hair pins, tiaras, and cuffs exude an antique metallic elegance. Accent with onyx, jet, or hematite stones.
- Smoky eye makeup - A sultry, smokey eye complements a darker dress. Use black and grey shadows, heavy mascara, and light lipstick. Let your eyes make a statement.
- Deep red lips - For impact, trade neutral lips for a bold deep red or burgundy lip color. Keep eyes and cheeks more natural to avoid looking too costume-y.
- Gothic fonts - Use Gothic script, Old English, or medieval fonts on invitations, signage, menus, or favors for a creepy vintage vibe.
- Candelabra centerpieces - Set the dark yet romantic mood with candelabra tall centerpiece arrangements. Fill them with black or red roses, calla lilies, or tulips.
- Candlelit ambiance - Light the ceremony and reception space primarily with candles to amplify the moody, Gothic atmosphere. Strategically place candelabras, votives, and candlelit lanterns.
Rocking the Look With Confidence
The most important tip for embracing the Gothic bride aesthetic is to exude confidence. This means finding a Gothic dress that flatters your shape and represents your personal style. Go with what you love rather than feeling bound by tradition. Then own the look fully by wearing it proudly.
When searching for Gothic wedding inspo, steer clear of literal Halloween costumes. Focus instead on the core Gothic elements tailored into elegant silhouettes and thoughtfully accented with small touches. Keep hair, makeup and accessories refined. Your inner dark romantic confidence will shine through.