Gothic fashion is a clothing style worn by both male and female members of the Goth subculture. It is stereotyped as a dark, sometimes morbid, eroticized fashion and style of dress. Typical gothic fashion includes black dyed hair and black clothes. Both male and female goths wear dark eyeliner and dark fingernails. Styles are often borrowed from the Elizabethans and Victorians. The extent to which goths hold to this stereotype varies, though virtually all Goths wear some of these elements.

Goth fashion is often confused with heavy metal fashion, and uninformed outsiders often mistake fans of heavy metal for goth, particularly those who wear black trenchcoats or wear “corpse paint” (a term associated with the black metal music scene). Such misconceptions are especially rife in regards to the black metal subgenre.

Goth style’s rejection of mainstream values, emphasis on freedom of expression, and challenging taboos makes it difficult to define its aesthetic principles. Goth fashion emphasizes transformation of the body, elements of beauty, order, conscious eroticism and ‘otherness’ that flouts conventions.

While a member of the Goth subculture may or may not embrace nihilism, many are drawn to the fashion or music due to a sense of alienation, which may explain the style’s fascination with morbidity or vampire style. Wearing black eyeshadow and shroud-like clothing that refers to the dead or undead, may express grief, despair, mourning or deathwish. However, this is not necessarily an anti-life attitude. Rather, Goth fashion can be a positive transformation from alienation through self-expression via beauty and fashion, and through a sense of belonging to a community that shares the same sense of alienation.

Alternately, the choice to embrace this fashion may simply rise from a far less complicated psychology, and reflect an attraction to Eros through Thanatos, an attraction to the ‘darker’ side of sexuality. The wearer may find the extremity, intensity or ‘otherness’ of the dark Goth look or preoccupations to be sexy or empowering.

One famous female role model is Theda Bara, the 1910s ‘Vamp’ femme fatale known for her dark eyeshadow, curves and smoldering on-screen presence.

Like the Urban Primitive movement, goth subculture rejects mainstream conventions and encourages reinventing oneself by transformation or physical modification. That one may take total control of one’s image is a powerful individual response to a society dominated by Photoshop images that prescribe a rarely attainable ideal of a faked ‘natural’ beauty. Goth fashion is a calculated “unnatural” response to the unattainable “natural” California Girls golden Barbie (or Ken) image.

Goth fashion can be recognized by its stark black clothing (or hair or makeup), often contrasted with boldly colored clothing, hair and makeup in strong shades of deep reds, purples, blues or emerald green, in fabrics and styles that evoke romantic eras as well as morbidity, that usually combine style elements that flow and drape as well as restrict or emphasize and sexualize a body part (i.e. corsetry or tight sleeves or trousers).

Goth fashion further emphasizes the personal power of an individual, as the calculated juxtapositions of elements of the rugged accessories (i.e. metallic and leather), to that of the vulnerable, fragile and sensual restriction of body parts (i.e. lace, silks, and high heels for either gender). Like other fashions that embrace elaborate fashion choices and rules, goth fashion elicits attention from others, both goth or non-goth.

How to Be Goth…

Goth is one of the most long-lived and thriving subcultures, with followers all around the globe. If you find yourself interested in Gothic Culture and would like to become a part of it, then read on.


  1. Listen to Gothic music. Do your research, if only out of respect for the past. Elder Goths, especially, will appreciate a person who has taken time to research. Most Goths tend to listen to a variety of sub-genres known collectively as ‘Goth’: Post-Punk bands, Batcave era, Second Wave Gothic Rock, Deathrock, Ethereal and Darkwave. There are also a lot of Goths who listen to Industrial, but this is a separate music genre. Do some research about music that is part of Goth subculture. Do not forget though, that you should still listen to whatever you enjoy! If you want to listen to Gothic music one minute, and then rap, or pop, or country, the next minute, that’s great! The most important part of being Goth is staying true to yourself, but be sure to understand and appreciate Gothic music; you can’t be a Goth without listening to Goth music. If you don’t like Gothic music, you may find that the Gothic subculture is just not for you, if it isn’t don’t worry!
  2. Dress the part. Some people have the preconceived notion that the clothes don’t matter–they do. Fashion is a huge part of Goth Subculture. You don’t have to dress up all the time, but it is a convenient way to let other Goths know that you may have similar interests. If you’re interested in ‘looking’ Goth, then do a little bit of research on the topic. There’s more to the fashion than just wearing black! There are many different styles of Gothic clothing. If you choose to dress in Gothic fashion, then find a style that suits who you are! Prominent Gothic styles include 80’s/old-school Goth (Batcave/Deathrock) and Victorian (Romantigoth/Romantic-Goth). Also, the Japanese “Gothic Lolita” look is becoming more popular nowadays. Make sure you do not use costume face paint, it looks horrible! If you wish to fake a pale complexion, mix a white “foundation primer” with a regular foundation, that matches your natural skin tone. Keep in mind that pale skin is not a requirement, you can certainly rock the Goth look no matter what your complexion is! Also, don’t just copy a look, make it your own, combine elements of different styles, trying to be unique is a huge part of being Goth. Ease into a new look, otherwise people may assume that you are not genuine, or are merely being trendy. Remember to only wear what you feel comfortable with; if you don’t feel good you don’t look good! More advice can be found in the Dress Goth article.
  3. Learn as much as you can. Start learning facts about Goth subculture and do some research. Also, please be honest if you don’t know something that is related to the Goth subculture and do not pretend that you do know. Don’t feel embarrassed in admitting that you do not know something. Remember that not even Elder Goths know everything.
  4. Start Reading. Many Goths love to read. (In fact, Goth subculture got it’s name from a literary genre in the late 1800’s, known as “Gothic”–which in turn got it’s name from an architecture style seen in Medieval churches–which in turn got it’s name from an ancient Germanic tribe). Suggested authors include Bram Stoker, Edgar Allan Poe, Lord Byron, Mary Shelley, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Christopher Marlowe, Anne Rice, Storm Constantine, Ellen Schreiber, Melissa Marr and The Bronte sisters. But you can read some books that are from different authors and you don’t have to read books from authors that are suggested here. A lot of like sci-fi or fantasy, but don’t read something you’re not interested in. Goths would rather learn about what you are interested in than discuss something you clearly only read to ‘look Goth’!
  5. Develop the Attitude. If someone is giving you trouble then just walk away and don’t be violent. Try to be accepting of others differences. Don’t try to act or feel depressed just because you think that makes you more goth, it dows not. Be polite toward normal people, just because some of them think you’re a freak doesn’t mean everyone does. Don’t judge them like they judge you and you might find yourself getting along pretty well. Try to be aware of sensuous surroundings; texture, light, color, sound. Many Goths are artists, writers, or musicians, and creativity and individuality is a big part of the subculture.
  6. Go to clubs. If you do decided to go to a Goth club then be prepared to have a very different experience from your normal life. Gothic clubs are where people come to be able to freely talk and express their feelings about post-modern society. The topics up for discussion may be ones that you consider taboo or inappropriate, as may be their actions. If you’re uncomfortable, again, maybe this scene is not for you. That’s okay!
  7. Try to buy some magazines. There are some dark themed magazines that give you lots of information that are related to Goth subculture. Examples of dark themed magazines are Asleep by Dawn Magazine, Morbid Outlook, Deathrock Magazine, Drop Dead Magazine, and Gothic Beauty.
  8. Have Fun. Don’t force yourself to follow these guides so strictly that you forget about enjoying yourself. Remember that true Goths don’t live by ‘rules’, they act as they wish and turn out to be goths. Do what makes you happy for example if you love listening to rap songs, then go ahead and listen to rap songs; not many goths will think you’re less goth because of it. Develop your own style naturally, by being influenced by what you read and see, not by following “How to be” lists. If you have a genuine interest in a scene, you will naturally be influenced as you get into the subculture. In other words be you. Being Goth is about being independent and being yourself.


  • Stay with your old friends. They don’t have to be goth. Keep it varied. Keep in mind, however, that some of your friends may find the new you to be offensive or just too strange and may stop hanging out with you. Not all of your friends will appreciate your gothic life choices, or it may take some time for them to warm up to it. Don’t try to shock your friends unless you’re sure they can handle it. Never try to convert your friends into goth, let them be themselves.
  • Don’t listen to a band you don’t like just because they’re gothic. On the same note, don’t limit yourself to just gothic music. Just because your favourite artist is a pop or hip-hop artist, it doesn’t mean you should stop listening to them! The hip-hop and rap scene has become increasingly popular in urban scenes and should not be discouraged. While it is often considered an aspect of rap culture, ‘free-styling’ and ‘beat-boxing’ have surfaced within gothic culture. After all, while they may be different from the gothic norm, they are both unique and expressive means of art from the human soul.
  • Psychologists have noticed that gothic youths tend to be more intelligent than the average young person and go on to become adults with very technical, complicated, creative and high paying jobs.
  • If other goths call you a poser, and you think they’re right, try asking for their help instead of being mad. It might seem like you’re trying too hard, too quickly.
  • Join any sport or extra curricular activity you enjoy, enjoying these things does not and will not change a gothic lifestyle.
  • If you’re not white and pale, you are not prevented from joining the gothic lifestyle. Dark or sallow skin does not preclude looking like a consumptive poet or member of the undead, and you can carry off the kind of dark looks your paler peers will envy. Not having black hair doesn’t matter either.
  • Some people in the goth scene are into witchcraft or vampirism. You also aren’t required to convince anyone that you’re a vampire, but if this is what you want to do, then you can if you like. You don’t have to be, but at least be tolerant of those that are. There are plenty of Christians, Jews, Buddhists, Pagans etc. within the gothic community, so you are allowed to believe in whatever you like.
  • A good history of the early goth/punk/industrial scene, as well as creepy one shots can be found in RE/Search publications.
  • Consider Europe. Goth is usually taken more seriously there: the magazines are good, and the German festival Wave Gotik Treffen is the largest industrial, experimental, goth event going.
  • Don’t obsess about yourself. Being a Goth does not make you worthy of attention, and phony Goths (who abound) are often looked down upon not because they are different but because they are divorced from reality.
  • Wearing the stereotypical thick make-up and piercings is a personal preference, not a requirement.
  • Some classic items of Gothic clothing are, for women; combat boots, torn t-shirts, mini skirts, fishnet tights, striped tights, sweeping dresses and mini dresses. For the guys, torn t-shirts, combat boots, band tees, dark trousers, bondage pants and studded belts.
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  • Many people will label you strange sorts of things.
  • If someone asks, “Are you a goth?”, it is acceptable to either say “yes” or ignore the question, sarcastic remarks are also okay. However, it is highly frowned upon to go about announcing that you’re a goth without being asked. It’s also rather entertaining to say “no” and watch their reactions. Most ‘real’ goths are very modest about their goth credibility. Following this up you can admit to your goth style and not be ridiculed or labeled a poser.
  • Much of society will view you as different, which may be why you decided to become gothic. If you can’t handle this, maybe the gothic lifestyle isn’t for you.
  • Goth has got a relatively bad reputation among the mainstream.
  • Don’t go overboard! Trying too hard will give the impression that you’re a poser.
  • There are those in the Goth scene that are just as closed minded and prejudiced as those outside of it. Don’t expect that every Goth you meet will be an open minded intellectual. Every crowd has its bad eggs.
  • Dressing goth will not make you goth, you have to to be goth from the inside out.
  • Remember that goth is an ALTERNATIVE lifestyle. Homosexuals and Bisexuals are accepted, as well as pagans and people that just don’t fit in normal society.

7 Responses to “GOTHIC”

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