How to dress as a goth in a corporate workplace

January 8 | Guest post by Trystan L. Bass
How to dress as a goth at work in a corporate workplace
Blazer with textured rubber contrast from Michelle Uberreste

If you're into goth fashion and also starting a new job and need to slowly introduce yourself to unfamiliar coworkers, it can be a challenge to merge your style with their corporate culture. Or maybe you've been unsure about how much of your true fashion self you really can express at work, and you're looking to combine your work and play wardrobes more.

I've worked in California's Silicon Valley all my adult life, and admittedly, this is a very casual work environment. We are known for CEOs wearing jeans and hoodies to important meetings. This can be confusing to traditional college recruits and anyone coming from other areas of the country. For us goth types, how do you fit in but still look like you're at the office and not hanging out at a coffee shop? It's tricky because, especially if you have unnaturally colored hair or tattoos, you already have to work harder to earn respect. So dressing a smidge more conservatively may help, but too conservative and you can look out of place in a sea of blue jeans.

How to dress as a goth at work in a corporate workplace
The author rockin' a perfect corporate goth look!
Here's what I've learned about how to dress as a goth at work and presenting yourself as a competent, trustworthy professional without entirely sacrificing your individual style.

Wearing all-black is a safe bet

Black pencil skirts, black trousers, black jackets, black t-shirts — build a wardrobe of these basics, especially in high quality materials, and you'll be set.

Under-accessorize

Ever hear the saying about "before you leave the house, remove one accessory?" Instead of wearing a huge necklace and rings on every finger, wear either the necklace or the rings.

Minimize references to death and religion

Skulls, skeletons, crosses, and crucifixes are potentially offensive or at least controversial to some. Yes, this imagery is found in mainstream fashion, from Alexander McQueen skull-print scarves to Ed Harvey T-shirts. But those are usually worn in a non-goth context. When added to an obviously goth outfit, you may push the look over the edge of acceptable. Tread carefully.

Incorporate casualwear, even denim

Goths, in particular, can be quite formally dressed. Which is lovely, but formality can appear stand-offish or snobby in casual workplaces. Create a few outfits that use unstructured materials and even try jeans if your company allows (black is okay!). Temper hard edges with soft so you look approachable and friendly.

Avoid overly sexualized clothing

It should go without saying that you'll leave the corsets, PVC, see-through shirts, stiletto heels, and bondage gear at home. But also be very wary of any clothing that has elements suggestive of sex, such as corset lacing on a jacket, D-rings on pants, or cutouts on a shirt.

Give a nod to current fashions

You don't have to be a slave to trends, but showing that you are at least a tiny bit aware of modern style shows that you're keeping up to date with the world in general. Most jobs today require that employees keep their skills updated and that people know what's going on currently in their industries. Fashion is another sign of being aware of the times.

Tone down the outfit if you have wild hair, piercings, and/or visible tattoos

The good news is that casual workplaces often don't mind blue hair, mohawks, facial piercings, and/or a sleeve or two of tats. The bad news is that, if you want to be taken seriously, you may have to dress a bit more conservatively to balance out those less-changeable parts of your appearance. You'll definitely want to overcompensate during interviews and meetings with clients, at least until you know people well.

Use makeup to focus, not distract

Just like accessorizing, you want to use makeup carefully and minimally. Do deep, dark eye makeup with light lips or do deep, dark lipstick with light eye makeup. You want to achieve balance, not overkill.

How to dress as a goth at work in a corporate workplace
Double Breasted Waistcoat from AusterexxDevotion

Add a few colors in your wardrobe

Yes, I know, I said all-black is okay, but all-black, all the time can seem moribund, especially in summer. And sometimes you may want or need to soften harsh edges. This doesn't mean dressing in pastels — just add in jewel tones or stripes occasionally.

Don't wear anything ripped, torn, or ill-fitting

Ripped fishnets and torn jeans are for weekends only (yes, you may see torn jeans on a Silicon Valley engineer, but remember, it's the context; alternative folks have more than just the torn jeans going against them, so we can't add to it). And make sure that what you wear fits well. Get pants and skirts hemmed, jacket sleeves taken up. Tailoring is everyone's friend!

What kind of attire is standard in your office and how do you adapt your alternative style to suit the workplace? Share your tips in the comments!

This post was originally published at CorpGoth.

  1. I wear a lot of black, and my edge comes out in my accessories – if I wear skull earrings to the office, it's teeny-tiny stud ones. I love my outdoor plaid & skull scarves with my long coat in the winter. All year round, I generally carry a Sourpuss or Lux de Ville purse, and I have a Nightmare Before Xmas umbrella, for rainy days. And fortunately, a pair of black mary janes with a block heel also works for my style, and the fact that I have sh*t for arches.

    5 agree
  2. I'm not a goth, but I do similar things with my nerdy fashion sense. I will wear nerdy socks or t-shirt underneath my office wear. I have a Wonder Woman purse. I will wear nerdy earrings or a hair accessory. I've even gotten away with skull tights as long as the rest of my dress is plain colors.

Join the conversation

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

No-drama comment policy

Part of what makes the Offbeat Empire different is our commitment to civil, constructive commenting. Make sure you're familiar with our no-drama comment policy.