So You Want to Dress: Goth

A collage of different goth clothes in the style of paper dress-up dolls. There is a wig, a corset, clunky boots, and a full outfit with a wide-sleeved dress and headdress.
(Clare Martin • The Student Life)

Billie Eilish ––  a goth icon?! 

Not quite. The goth community used to rule the world of alternative fashion in the 1990s but has now rapidly disappeared from the mainstream. With it went the world’s understanding of the goth subculture. Being goth does not mean just dressing up in dark clothing, listening to alternative rock music or wearing black lipstick. Being goth means supporting and following the goth ideology, taking inspiration from and resonating with gothic rock and of course, looking the part! If you’re hoping to explore the goth within you that has always wanted to burst out into the world, then you have come to the right place.

First, let’s talk about some misunderstandings and stereotypes of the goth community. Goths are not evil, scary or malicious. Goth culture is all about embracing individuals who have been outcasted from society for being who they are. Gothic fashion is romantic, it is inclusive, it is queer and most importantly, it is non-judgmental. 

I started exploring the goth subculture during quarantine in 2020. Growing up in a conservative boarding school in England –– where my uniform consisted of a tweed blazer and a floor length woolen skirt –– meant that I had no space for self expression through fashion. Quarantine allowed me to experiment with my look, but when I returned to school, I was judged and bullied for my style. Nonetheless, I continued with my journey of self-exploration and kept challenging the rigid rules of my institution. 

Looking back on my high school years, I am incredibly proud of myself for never conforming to what everyone wanted me to be and I am beyond grateful for finding a more accepting and artistic community of individuals at the Claremont Colleges that encourages me to keep pushing the boundaries of fashion everyday.

A common misconception of gothic fashion is that you have to wear all black all the time in order to achieve a gothic look. Gothic fashion, however, often incorporates colors such as white and red –– whether through the outfit, shoes, accessories or makeup. You can start with a simple maxi dress and layer it with a turtleneck. Go for interesting fabrics in solid colors, like pleather, velvet, faux fur, latex, PVC, satin or lace. This simple base will allow you to place more of an emphasis on your accessories and makeup which will bring everything together.

Corsets, ripped tights, gloves, chokers, garters, harness belts, piercings, veils and tiaras –– the sky’s the limit when it comes to accessories! Even starting out with a few basic pieces such as silver, statement cross earrings, lace gloves, fishnet tights and a studded choker will put you at a perfect starting point to build your outfit.

Next, bring out the stompers! The higher the platform, the better. Although I wouldn’t recommend wearing platform boots when you have ten minutes between a class at Pomona College and a class at Scripps College — trust me, I’m speaking from experience — you can always switch them out for a more comfortable pair of platform lace eyelet boots. 

As for the makeup, you can go simple or totally out there. For an everyday look, grab your trusty black eyeliner and go for a light, smudged liner around the eye. You can also use a black liquid eyeliner as lipstick if you are just starting out with your goth makeup collection. For an extravagant look, use black eyeshadow as contour, glue down those brows and draw on a pair of thin, straight ones and go wild on the eyes!

Again, you do not need to dye your hair black to dress goth nor does length or cut matter. If you have longer than shoulder length hair, go for sleek, straightened hair that frames around your face — bangs are also a bonus! If your hair is shorter, try out hair rollers for a vintage curl look or backcomb your roots for extra volume. If you’re feeling bold and adventurous, a mohawk is definitely the way to go.

Goth culture and fashion will always hold a special place in my heart because it is so far removed from the mainstream fashion sphere. When I dress up in my gothic outfits, I feel strangers not being able to take their eyes off of me –– and I love it! You might be worried about all the attention and, unfortunately, the inescapable judgment of some closed-minded people. But I have found that everytime I tap into my goth persona, I am approached by strangers who appreciate what I’m doing too.

There will always be people that judge, no matter what you’re wearing, so why not put on a show and outrage them even more while you’re at it?

Elizaveta (Lisa) Gorelik CM ‘25 is from Moscow, Russia. She enjoys exploring the SoCal nature, naps on the beach and diner coffee.

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