To recognize a gothic wedding dress, you need to first define “gothic.” The term originates in the British music scene and is an off-shoot of post-punk bands. The style also has a strong relationship with steampunk, a clothing style that owes much to early science fiction and alternative history buffs. The wedding gown style also harkens back to Victorian English mourning clothes, or even to Spanish traditional wedding dresses. The reason the Spanish wedding dresses are black is to symbolize the bride’s “until death” commitment. Queen Victoria, in fact, was the first bride to break with the black wedding dress tradition. Hers was the first “white wedding.”
Gothic wedding dresses, therefore, could be black or black and white. Depending on the brand of goth, they could simply be traditional wedding dresses with a somber touch. If they are steampunk, then there needs to be something of the mechanical about them. A good example of steampunk costuming is Steam Powered Giraffe, a stand-up comic musical group that features robots in alternative English history costuming. Some episodes of Dr. Who also provide good steampunk examples.
Other media examples of goth or gothic costuming include The Adams Family, especially little Wednesday Adams. And one should not forget the practiced morbidity of the female lead in Beetle Juice.
Your gothic wedding dress should reflect your personal taste. You might find your wedding gown at a vintage clothing store, or you could make your own. If you wish to project a true goth image, avoid purchasing ready-made “goth” clothing from the mall. According to a quote from the Goth Bible: a Compendium for the Darkly Inclined, purchasing mall ready-mades marks one as a poseur – someone who wants to be goth, but really isn’t. Worse yet, if you have not yet passed your 25th birthday, you might be marked as a “batbaby”!
All joking aside, goth clothing is characterized by dark colors, heavy velvets, lots of lace, jet beads and a proliferation of petticoats. It doesn’t hurt to add some fishnet hose and an imitation spider web or two – just for extra verisimilitude. Goth wedding dresses, when put together by a knowledgeable designer, can be incredibly beautiful.