Whimsical Goth

The recently resuscitated and nameless love child of shoegaze and folk rock.

Photo by Oscilloscope Laboratories | Samantha Robinson plays Elaine Parks in “The Love Witch.”

Though the weather seems to be getting colder here in Tacoma, our hearts are set to thaw out thanks to the celebration of Imbolc (or St. Brigid’s Day) this past February 1. This Gaelic-pagan tradition ushers in a time of rebirth, urging us to embrace the coming warmth and plentiful artistic muse. Goddess Brigid is peeking just around the corner for Valentine’s Day, and spring is well on its way. Now might be asking yourself, what does this deity jargon have to do with goth? Well dear reader, I encourage you to sit back with a cup of tea, or maybe a cup of coffee, for I’m here to talk about a rising star inside the fashion community. Rooted into the magic of the feminine divine, celestial bodies, folklore and witchcraft: whimsy goth.

Whimsy goth is a unique and recently popularized theme that has many people speculating its background. I’ve run into several conversations and posts online where a question is often asked. Is whimsy goth actually goth? Well, I’m here to unravel the origins of this movement and determine if it falls under the goth umbrella. 

Whimsy goth (also known as Whimsical goth) first came to be around the late 80s and mid-90s, mostly being shown through the love of the occult, witchcraft, and nature. Huge influences of this movement began primordially through goth bands that focused on ethereal undertones, such as Cocteau Twins and This Mortal Coil, which incorporated glossolalia (speaking in tongues) in many of their songs. The word “whimsical” added to it the music of folk & Celtic rock bands such as Fleetwood Mac and The Cranberries. Those of which also shared each other’s dreamlike undertones, and stories of mythical creatures, witches, love, and death.

Burgundy, dark greens, purples, browns and blacks are the most prominent colors incorporated in outfits since these colors have been associated with the above throughout most of history. This also went hand in hand with the members lifestyle, which encouraged maximalism in the living space. Heavy drapes, crystal balls, wrought irons, stained glass, extravagant furniture, taxidermy and lots of plants can be found in the home of any whimsy goth. 

This mishmash of genres gave light to the most important aspects of whimsy goth: the use of celestial iconography, the appreciation for life and death in nature, an interest in astrology and the practice of magic. Whimsy goths did not have a set “look” other than their addition of pagan, wiccan and astrological symbols in accessories and makeup, as well as witchy, eclectic home decor. 

It was only in 2022 that Whimsy goth was revived, branded and began taking influence from more current art forms and pop culture icons such as: Florence Welch, Stevie Nicks (namely her style and music), the film “Practical Magic” (1998), “The Love Witch” (2016) , “Sabrina the Teenage Witch,” “The Craft” (1996), “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” (1992) and several other films that fell into the same genres. 

Due to the resurfacing of the Y2K movement and the monetization of nostalgia for the current most influential generation, Gen Z, ‘80s and ‘90s pop culture and media were brought back. Gen Xers and Millennials began recalling their time as participants of certain communities that were never coined and Zoomers decided to go ahead and name them. Whimsy goth was one of those communities. 

The beauty of goth is the vast influence through different mediums that it contains. Unlike most people believe, goth is not about the external appearance of the member. Instead, it’s a music-based subculture dating back to the early 1980s. This is where it gained more branches as the subculture evolved; welcoming other movements with imagery that challenged societal and gender norms. 

Truthfully, as I collected research for this article, I found many facts that clashed with the word “goth” in whimsy goth. Many people who seem to have the loudest voice and most followers communicate it to be an “aesthetic.” I’m going to give you all a quick lesson on goth, and that is that goth is NOT an aesthetic. It cannot be, because as we discussed, goth is not a fashion based community. It’s a music-based subculture. In other words, what they are conveying is an oxymoron. Pro tip, all you have to do to join the subculture is listen to the music. 

So, with this, I came to the verdict that whimsy goth is indeed part of the goth umbrella. Why? It was ethereal goth and shoegaze bands that birthed the imagery of a softer kind of goth: the pipeline of romantic goth, medieval goth, fairy goth, hippie goth and now whimsy goth. The difference is that whimsy goth was also greatly influenced by cinema and spiritual movements. 

I encourage further debate and talk about this for pre-existing members of the goth community! I tried my best to compile as much information. But, this is a recently coined subculture, so my best bet was looking for information through the voices of more experienced goths, as well as my own knowledge. But to those who came here with no previous knowledge, I hope you learned something new today. To those who are interested in goth music, open your Spotify, and listen to Cocteau Twins right now!