What is a Goth? The first image that comes to mind might be someone like Wednesday Addams–a pallid and morose youth who listens to the Cure and hangs out in a graveyard. But if you get to know a few real-life Goths, you’ll discover a vibrant and multi-faceted subculture populated by individuals who share a passion for the “dark side.”
Goths tend to gravitate to certain aesthetics (Victorian, horror) and musical genres (darkwave, industrial). However, they can express themselves in widely imaginative ways, from futuristic cyber-girls with neon pink hair, to Japanese Gothic Lolitas in cute frilly dresses. If you ever visit a Gothic club, you might be surprised by the wide variety of looks that go beyond the spooky stereotype of black clothes and white facepaint.
Ever since I was a teen, I’ve identified as Goth. To this day, I feel most “myself” when I’m dressed in fishnets and leather, and dancing to Bela Lugosi’s Dead at clubs with my friends. I made a career of my La Carmina travel blog, which focuses on my Goth outfits around the world, in locations like Transylvania and Salem.
Through my years of globetrotting, I’ve found it possible to maintain a dark aesthetic in pretty much all circumstances. With some clever choices, it’s possible to adapt a Goth wardrobe (or any underground style) for the office, the gym, or for traveling the world.
Here’s how I have visited over 70 countries, in all climates and conditions, and stayed true to my style. Perhaps you’ll be surprised by how these outfits are practical for a range of circumstances, yet maintain a signature touch of the macabre. Whether you identify as Goth or with another niche subculture, I hope these tips help you stay true to your personal expression while you’re on the road.
Although it’s possible to be a Goth backpacker, I always pack a checked suitcase when I fly. Goth wardrobe staples tend to take up a lot of space. I need a rolling suitcase to hold my platform boots, wide-brimmed hat, and a bulky makeup and skincare bag.
You might assume that a Goth would carry plain dark bags for a trip. However, black tends to be the default for all travel accessories. Instead of standing out from the crowd, black luggage will make you blend in with the rest of the baggage carousel.
To convey your Gothic leanings, look for travel bags with spooky shapes and details. I’ve found rolling cases shaped like vampire coffins, and backpacks decorated with bat wings and pentagrams. I also have suitcases printed with Halloween patterns, such as Jack Skellington from The Nightmare Before Christmas.
If you can’t find the right accessories, then add dark charms or decals to Goth them up. For example, I put an Egyptian ankh charm on my leather backpack to give it an edgier look. I also covered my passport holder with cute ghost stickers from Japan.
I frequently take flights to Asia that are over 10 hours long, so it’s important that I dress comfortably. However, I prefer to wear something more darkly stylish than black sweatpants or yoga pants.
I recommend looking for comfortable clothes that feature animal prints, skulls, and other morbid motifs. On one of my last flights, I snuggled up in a faux fur leopard print jacket from Sourpuss and a 1991NewYork shirt printed with a Japanese devil.
Halloween is my favorite time of year to stock up on these cozy Gothic wardrobe staples. Many fashion labels, such as Wildfox, Urban Outfitters, and Modcloth release limited-edition items every October. Last fall, I found a sweater printed with candy corn and a scarf covered in flying bats.
I have very long purple hair, which I put up in two “space buns” to avoid getting caught in my backpack straps when I travel. Almost every time, airport security complements the color–and squeezes my bundled hair to make sure I’m not smuggling anything inside!
I don’t wear jewelry when flying as I find it cumbersome, and spiky accessories could be deemed dangerous by airport staff. Some of my Goth friends have body jewelry that they cannot take off. If these set off the metal detector, they simply have to show them to officials (and can request a private room if they prefer).
Year-Round Sun Protection
Even though I’m notorious for avoiding the sun like a vampire, I often travel to sunny destinations. My Goth friends and I have found clever ways to shield our skin from UV rays while maintaining our aesthetic.
Whenever I spend any time outdoors, I keep my complexion ghost-white with four layers of mineral sunscreen. I begin with a layer of SPF 30 from The Ordinary and put La Roche-Posay Mineral tinted SPF 50 over it. Then I apply Dr. Jart Black Label SPF 30 BB cream to any uneven areas and finish with a dusting of mineral powder.
My “sun protection” icon is Lydia Deetz from Beetlejuice. She rocked a large wide-brimmed black hat and covered her limbs with long, loose black fabric. I also protect my eyes with glamorous oversized sunglasses by alternative designers like Oliver Goldsmith and Pugnale.
Health Goth ‘Fits
Swimwear and workout clothes have come a long way since the 1980s aerobics era. Today, you can find unconventional designs and prints that reflect a Gothic personality.
You might be surprised to learn that there are several brands of Satanic swimwear. I’m fond of the bikinis printed with pentagrams and Baphomet goat heads by Disturbia, Killstar, and Too Fast. I also look for bondage-influenced sports bras and leggings, which feature mesh cut-outs and criss-crossing harness straps.
In the coldest months, I love to have fun with flamboyant outerwear. To stand out in a sea of dark puffer coats, Goths should take inspiration from Hollywood films and bygone eras.
If you’re fond of cyberpunk, you can rock a long leather trench coat like the ones in The Matrix. For an elegant Victorian look, bundle up with hooded capes and rows of military buttons.
As a disco fan, I was delighted to find a 1970s white coat with a furry collar in a vintage store. I recently wore a hot pink Mongolian lamb coat from Skandinavik to New York Fashion Week, along with tight leather pants and a black beret.
Dressing for Special Occasions
Goths love to dress up for fancy occasions such as fine dining or the opera. Think outside the coffin—there’s no need to emulate Morticia Addams’ or Vampira’s style.
When I need a dress for a special occasion, I browse The RealReal, a comprehensive site for secondhand couture. You can find gowns by Balmain, Valentino, and other designers for a fraction of the original price.
Subvert the all-black Goth stereotype and play with colors and textures on a night out. Dark purple, blood red, lace, and leather garments let you convey deadly glamour.
For makeup and hair inspiration, look to pin-up and burlesque bombshells such as Bettie Page. Her red lips, black cat eyeliner, and hair pincurls never go out of style.
Dark and Luxurious Accessories
I’m all about investing in fine jewelry with Gothic themes. I recommend avoiding costume pieces that look like they came from a Halloween store.
Look for high-end silver or white gold jewelry, decorated with skeletons, snakes, bats, and crosses. Two of my signature pieces are a dog collar bracelet by Hermes and a leather wrap with serpent heads from Bulgari. I also adore the skull collection by Britain’s Stephen Einhorn, designer of Johnny Depp’s rings in Dark Shadows.
Even when you’re exploring challenging locations around the world, you can stay true to your personal style, whether you identify with Goth or another subculture. Be creative, and you’ll find chic solutions for any circumstances. As the saying goes, “good shoes take you to good places”—so I’ll keep rocking my studded platform leather boots on my next journeys.