Like many, being on the hunt for a specific aesthetic or epithet of fashion is a task I know all too well. For a while, the things I had been drawn to weren’t particularly part of public fashion discourse. ‘What should I type into Google to get this shirt?’ is often where many of us find ourselves, unable to physically manifest the outfit we’ve fabricated in our heads. It wasn’t until TikTok came around that the quirky niche I had unconsciously been searching for revealed its name. Say hello to whimsigothic.
When it comes to the whimsigothic aesthetic, a name coined by Consumer Aesthetics Research Institute (CARI) co-founder and discoverer Evan Collins, the interior of your home is just as vital as the exterior of your style—with the moody interior design side of the style simultaneously presenting a muted, dark grunge-ness while still managing to exhibit a bright, visceral, inviting warmness. This balance comes from its foundational celestial imagery—the illuminating light of the sun in contrast to the mystical blueness of the night.
The core motifs involved include coloured, extraggavent walls—no boring ol’ white over here—luxe mediaeval elements, stained-glass windows, embellished velvet or chiffon drapery, dark woods, sun catchers, candles, stars, napoleon blues and purples, and earthy tones. Oh, and what whimsigothic home would be complete without a plant room or apothecary (for those green witches out there)?
Among the overarching imagery comes this aptly described (of which the style may get its name) ‘whimsical witch’. Overlapping with clear elements of the mystical magic of soft rock glamour, whimsigothic iconography exists in the legends of the 70s decade—most namely in, who many would agree, the OG whimsigoth queen herself, Steve Nicks. Her uniquely distinct signature style sets her apart in fashion history. i-D’s in-depth timeline of the Rumours pen woman’s aesthetic only further elucidates and cements her within whimsigothic; the mentions of velvet, lace, chiffon used in bell-bottomed, bell-sleeved, flowing outfits—embellished with the core tropes of celestial witchery, of course—and topped with extravagant hats are what make Nicks the clear blueprint. We’re all trying to be gold dust women, aren’t we?
It is the aforementioned elements that, once combined, embody the whimsigoth. At its core, the style has a light, effortless, softness to it in the layering of various fabrics. The canopies built on the figured form with a plethora of sheer fabrics—lace, silk, tulle, chiffon, muslin or netting—aids to amplify this feeling of airiness. This undeniably mystical flow forges the wearer to skate ethereally across the room, or in Nicks’ case, across the stage.
This lightness (and eccentric explosion of colours) often exists harmoniously with an, at times, rooted darkness in the aesthetic. The contrast of opaque material in velvet and forms of silk, create a moody earthiness which can be seen in the style’s colour palette: moody green, that recurring napoleon blue, deep purple, maroon or burgundy and home-y, rich patterns. Not to mention the ever-present glitzy glamorous drama in sequin and sparkle—the imperfect, ‘thrown together’ look is truly a theatrical display of magician chic.
Despite the obvious references to the 70s—of which its roots are undeniable—that is not when the titled aesthetic was born. The personal comfort found in it comes from a direct tie to not only my childhood but perhaps your own too. While it borrows from the hippie, ‘spiritualistic’ energies of the 70s, whimsigothic—in all it encompasses—was a core expression of the 90s from which much of the dark, moody ‘witchiness’ derives. The aesthetic came at the intersection of the apex of the 90s’ 70s revival—that’s a mouthful, huh? To put it, perhaps too simply, it’s a nice mix of both.
In a time of Charmed, Sabrina the Teenage Witch, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, The Craft, Casper and of course, anything by Tim Burton, the 90s (redefining the 70s in its own way, much like gen Z with Y2K) was undoubtedly the decade of the witch. It is from this era that the previously described moodiness of the interior design style is truly embodied and comes to life. It’s the corsets, bicep bracelets, ornate statement rings, strappy shirts, celestial symbols, hair clips and iconic lilac walls of the 90s (to name but a few) that differentiate it from its earlier form.
Think attic rooms and Persian rugs, the apothecary table obsession or the whimsigothic ‘it’ girls: Christina Ricci, the Charmed sisters, Phoebe Buffay, Buffy, Helena Bonham Carter and of course, Lisa Bonet. A more modern example of a whimsigothic person can be found in Florence Welch. In fact, let me paint you a picture: you’re in the 90s and you’re a whimsigothic main character who goes back to their purple, warm apartment. You pour yourself a glass of red wine into Monica Geller-like ornate blue wine glasses, spilling some on your velvet sage dress. You stick on a mixtape with bôa’s ‘Duvet’ or Mazzy Star’s ‘Fade Into You’—or maybe you have some Alanis Morissette playing followed by some tATu. Your black cat is curled up in a corner while you do a tarot reading. Life is good.