Something I often associate with darker fashion is heavy make-up, a la Adora BatBrat or - more traditionally speaking - Siouxsie Sioux. For a long time this is something I've felt, and still do feel, is very beautiful and expressive, not to mention great fun.
However, it occured to me lately that for all its rejection of mainstream aesthetic values (you must be thin, you must be curvy, you must not wear too much make-up, you must not be a man and look feminine), for some people 'dark' ideals of fashion and beauty can tend to operate under the stereotypes of hyper-grooming more commonly associated with Barbie dolls than punk rockers.
Don't get me wrong - for all that what some Goth girls seem to prefer being fully made up at all times when in public, there are some obvious boundaries between the world of purple lipstick, Siouxsie eyebrows and perfectly ironed V-fringes and the super-bronzed, super-blonde but equally super-groomed figures presented to us on, say, The Only Way Is Essex.
(I hate to generalise, but for starters, one aesthetic seems to be about pleasing and expressing oneself, the other seems to be about matching up to society's 'standards' of feminine beauty and pleasing the opposite sex. Of course, I could be wrong. And I'm sure that in some cases the opposite could just as easily be true.)
But nonetheless the feminine aesthetic of Goth has changed rather a lot since the deliberately 'ugly' styles of make-up seen in the early days of the punk scene - whilst certainly exaggerated and often featuring creative use of colours (and eyeliner doodles), many dark make-up looks now aim to be beautiful (in an otherworldly kind of way) rather than discomforting or provocative.
This is neither a complaint nor approval, merely an observation. I was thinking about it after bumping into an old friend who wears no make-up, although I once saw her with glitter sprinkled under her eyes for a night out (and who also has blonde dreadlocks, wears 'boho' style clothes layered over each other... we probably looked like an interesting pair standing next to each other!). As someone who strives to be body-positive and to not get caught up in media-hyped ideals of how we should look and present ourselves, I was intrigued by the comparison of her personal rejection of media and mainstream aesthetics vs., say, that of deathrock model Emily Pollution. Visually complete opposites, but sharing the similarity of a preferred personal aesthetic instead of how we are told we should look.
However, I suppose what I am trying (badly) to say is that whilst it is creative and expressive, in many ways it could be said the dark aesthetic is not necessarily that different from the much-maligned 'Barbie' look sported by the likes of Cheryl Cole, as it is also creating a certain image using a precise style and grooming using large amounts of product.
I don't necessarily feel that going make-up-free is more 'anti-mainstream' than choosing blue or green lipstick over red or pink. I also don't have any particular dislike of the mainstream beauty aesthetic, I just don't like how it marginalises certain groups (e.g. anyone not 'perfect' by beauty and fashion industry standards) and I prefer not to have it rammed down my throat. But I do wonder if perhaps it's hypocritical for those who wouldn't ever be seen outside without their many layers of black eyeliner to claim superiority over non-Goths who wouldn't ever be seen outside without many layers of black eyeliner based on aesthetic preferences alone.
A few disclaimer-y notes: not all followers of dark fashion wear make-up, and of those who do certainly not all consider themselves 'superior' in any way to anyone else. I personally think that no make-up, Goth make-up and 'mainstream' make-up can all be beautiful.
I just wondered what others' thoughts were on this?