Much as I was the last one on the Harry Potter bandwagon, I was one of the last to start embracing the nation's vampire infatuation. I started reading Twilight on a plane and within a few weeks had read the whole flippin' series. (It's as satisfying as any teen novel I read in my younger days, with the irritating fact of Bella's being the most reliably insecure female heroine I've ever read.) Then, after gaping at that salacious poster in Times Square for over a month, I got hooked on True Blood as well.
Now, who knows where this cultural fixation on vampires really originated. Maybe after so many years of the New Conservative, a movement towards the darkly erotic had started to fester. All I know is that the more I looked, the more evidence I saw that the American aesthetic was veering toward the dark side.
Skulls now increasingly dominate the fashion landscape: One moment, they're gleaming silver earrings, the next they're playfully creating a pattern along a wispy Alexander McQueen scarf. They're Day of the Dead-inspired — colorful and playful, these are like a talisman to ward off bad spirits. (Splinter trends expanded on the Mexican theme with Guatemalan fabrics, beaded pendants, and girlish cotton blouses with that iconic floral trim.) Slowly, other remains have appeared: bird skulls, bones, and even teeth dangle from long gold chains. It's playfully carnivorous, or at least more engaged with death than some might be comfortable with. (And by "some" I'm thinking of my mother, who'd cringe if I came home wearing one of Pamela Love's little bird skulls around my neck, even though I think they're brilliant.)
On a deeper level, so much of the popular look is "destroyed" — from slashed skinny jeans and ripped-up tees to bleached and acid-washed jeans. Some whole sections of boutiques have started to look like a bad scene out of a slasher flick. And black! Have you ever seen so much black in a warm season? Then of course, eerily enough, there is the death of Michael Jackson, and the subsequent rebirth of "Thriller."
All of this isn't to say the entire fashion set has gone over to the dark side. Like any good movement, we've balanced our sinister-looking influences with floaty floral dresses, berry-stained lips and childlike onesies. However, the "Twilight jacket" — namely the one Bella wore in the most recent movie — will continue to sell out of stores, and these dark, edgy pieces will continue to hang on fingers, wrists and scarves. What are we all trying to explore with these moody, sometimes creepy items? Are we trying to find a way to channel the demise of a certain kind of youthful optimism? Is this slow-burning, carefully architected trend a kind of new punk? I'll certainly be interested to see how the next seasons' worth of collections — the ones designed under the yolk of the recession as well as the buoying hope of Obama's election — shakes out.