How To Dress Goth

According to two goth fashion designers

Dressing goth, as with any other personal style, is a reflection of your identity, translated through fashion. We’ve previously defined goth style as a sartorial embrace of “death, mortality, sadness, and other ‘dark’ realities in life.” This might sound like an intimidating prospect to incorporate into your wardrobe if you’ve previously opted for more conservative wear. But don't be afraid. You can start the process of bringing more morbid overtones to your aesthetic in your own way. In order to do just that, I spoke with two founders and designers of goth fashion brands, who explained the draw of the style and how to embody it for yourself.

Eloise H.R., the founder of Rogue + Wolf, explained that “at its core, goth accepts that darkness is out there,” and that the style itself is an awareness and understanding of that fact. Though it seems like a pessimistic outlook on life, she sees it as the exact opposite: “[By] choosing to wear the darkness close to your heart, you acknowledge it, and you are more ready to face it,” she says. Of her personal choice to start dressing goth, she says that she leveraged her style as a tool to accept the hardships that she has faced in her life. “My heart has been trying to come to terms with the state of the world since I was a little girl," she says. "Goth fashion has been a tool to turn worry and pessimism into empowerment and growth.” Instead of casting her negative energies inward, she chose to express them fully in order to better deal with them.

Melanie Cramond, founder of Tragic Beautiful, says that she was drawn to the subcultural vibe of the style: “I was attracted to [goth fashion] initially because it's a counter-culture and it challenges societal norms, and my love for the style grew from there.” She emphasizes the fact that the style, like many others, is much more than clothes: “It’s hair and makeup and accessories, as well as music and lifestyle.” She also notes that it isn’t necessary to go all-in immediately, or ever: You can incorporate goth aspects into your style as much, or as little, as you want. To her, the style is “something that evolves over time, inspired by all sorts of movies, music, and people,” rather than a costume you wear one day and ditch the next. 

Neither of them has always dressed goth, nor have they kept the same look for years—plus, there are many different subcultures within the goth subculture (goth-ception?) that make it even easier to make the style your own. Both designers were quick to add that, since there are so many different iterations of the aesthetic, it can be easy to find an aspect of the style that works for you. “Goth is a love of, or fascination with, the darkness in the world, so the clothing and accessories are an outward expression of that,” says Cramond. “This is interpreted differently by people.” H.R. adds that “if your shield against the darkness also happens to look fucking cool, well, no complaints there.”

Since doing a complete transformation into a full goth aesthetic takes time, the two gave some pointers on how to ease yourself into it. H.R. notes that accessories and makeup are good places to start if you want to gradually darken your look. “Try a smokey eye or a dark lip if you're a complete beginner, or add more dark and muted colors to your wardrobe,” she says. “Accessorizing is a good way to add to your look, from chokers to spiked belts to chunky platforms.” After you’ve gotten used to the look and feel of darker accents, and decided that you liked it, then you could dive headfirst into clothes. “See how makeup and accessories change the feel of your existing wardrobe and then you might feel the need to dip your toes into clothing,” she added.

If you’re looking to add a bit of goth sensibility into your everyday look, without going full-on into the style, there are pieces that can be added to your wardrobe without conforming totally to the style. “I would say a ‘traditional’ gothic look would incorporate some of these: fishnets, dark lipstick, dark hair, lace, black or dark-red stained leather or pleather, and silver or pewter jewelry,” says Cramond. So, choosing a couple of these style cues to sneak into your wardrobe is a simple way to dabble with the goth style. H.R. adds one more suggestion: chokers. “A choker is a good way to sneak a bit of dark aesthetic into an outfit, especially a chunky one,” she says. "Find yourself a decent vegan leather choker with a buckle or chain detail, and you can add a bit of '90s goth grunge to even the girliest of outfits.”

There are simple ways to make goth style your own, whether that means going all-out or just adding a couple muted pieces to your wardrobe. H.R. and Cramond found that the style was a reflection of their identities, and made them feel more themselves—which is exactly what clothing should do. If dressing in an alternative fashion makes you feel more you, then it's the right style. And, echoing H.R., if you happen to look fucking cool while expressing yourself, well, no complaints there.