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.
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.
Corporate goth tip #1: Wearing all-black is always 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.
Corporate goth tip #2: 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.
Corporate goth tip #3: 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.
Corporate goth tip #4: 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.
Corporate goth tip #5: 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.
Corporate goth tip #6: 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.
Corporate goth tip #7: 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.
Corporate goth tip #8: 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.
Corporate goth tip #9: 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.
Corporate goth tip #10: 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.