Of “Grown-up” and Corporate Goth

It falls to the Lady of the Manners to inform you, Snarklings, that a cycle is repeating itself. Apparently the fashion industry has yet again discovered us. As reported by the Wall Street Journal, no less.

Can a Grown Woman Wear Goth Fashion?

The short and obvious answer: YES.

The longer and crankier answer: YES, and the Eldergoth Cabal (there is no cabal) are collectively raising their eyebrows and grimacing tiredly at this clickbait nonsense. (Which sadly worked on the Lady of the Manners, because she is weak in the face of that sort of annoying headline link.)

Behold the lead quote:

“This season, luxury labels including Prada and Valentino are proposing dark, gothic looks. Though it’s long been a style reserved for angsty teens, now adults —with jobs—are getting in on the goth action.

This, of course, is nothing new. The fashion industry, at all levels, has borrowed from our gloomy subculture ever since it first crept out of the moss-bedecked crypt. And as the Lady of the Manners and others have pointed out time and time again, the fashion industry turning to us for dark-tinged inspiration has its benefits: What is shown by the luxury and couture fashion houses has a ripple effect on the rest of fashion retail, which means that if budget-conscious goths can hang on until late December / early January, all that goth-flavored fashion will hit the clearance racks. The Lady of the Manners is all for that, and will probably spend a few hours browsing fashion blogs so she can see what particular flavor of goth will eventually be fluttering into the stores.

No, what’s bothering the Lady of the Manners is the disingenuousness of it all. Why does the entire industry, from designers to press to retailers, feel the need to act as if this is all a new and daring take on fashion?


When Michelle Duncan showed her first collection at New York fashion week in February, she didn’t anticipate being in the vanguard of one of the season’s dark-horse trends. A beauty-industry executive by day, she drew on her own personal style for the line, creating an aesthetic she christened “goth girl gone corporate.”

Corporate. Goth. You don’t say. How revolutionary. How shocking and original. The clickbait-y article even alludes to this:

“Fashion’s cyclical nature partly explains this turn to goth [ … ]”

Art by Pete Venters

Yes, cyclical! This has happened before, regular as clockwork. There are entire networks of goths who alert each other as soon as the teasers for fall makeup collections appear in inboxes, because whatever the “dark and vampy” color family of the year is, there is a goth out there who will mutter “Finally! My time has come!” and clear the local drug store out of the entire stock of purple lipstick.

“[ … ] and the urge to reclaim it from glum suburban teenagers.”

Apparently the fashion industry’s being influenced by goth comes at a terrible price: they forget what has gone before and believe that no one over the age of 21 drapes themselves in an eclectic and inky wardrobe. Who, exactly, do they think might have the spending money and self-confidence to wear this sort of look and (possibly) the money to spend on it?

And finally, the quote that made the Lady of the Manners flounce into the depths of the internet:

“Namely, leather corsets and harnesses […] pairs with more conservative pieces like button-down shirts from J.Crew.”

Now, the Lady of the Manners is self-aware, and realizes that as someone who dresses as a governess-who-is-not-so-secretly-a-vampire from a gothic romance, she probably shouldn’t clutch her jet beads in shock at those sorts of style suggestions. Mostly because she firmly believes that leather corsets and harnesses are undergarments or clubwear. If you do not have the time, energy, or life situation that enables you to dress in as cliched a manner as you dream of, then a useful guideline is to strive for a very polished, deliberate look. Even if that look is really “black tights + black dress + dark lipstick + interesting scarf”  or “black slacks + jewel-toned button-up shirt + interesting tie”, that’s still more put together than most other folks.

(An aside: The Lady of the Manners’ delightful husband’s everyday wardrobe is black slacks and dark jewel-toned shirts with a black blazer. Which leads people to assume he’s Dressed Up. [And is a goth, but that’s a different matter.])

And because the Lady of the Manners needed to take a break from ranting at her delightful husband and fuzzy cats, she window-shopped and created a Pinterest board for this whole thing: Corporate and Grown-Up Goth.

There are a few sections: items found on Amazon, some items from other online fashion retailers, and items (vintage and custom) from sellers on Etsy. However, the main reason the Lady of the Manners created the board is as a lookbook for people to use as a starting point.

Finally, the Lady of the Manners would like to remind you of the motto from the alt.gothic and alt.goth.fashion Usenet days of yore:

Corp Goth: Because Nice Boots are Expensive.

~ ~ ~

Do you have links to other interesting corporate or grown-up goth clothing? Or snarky comments about the cyclical nature of the fashion industry? Leave a comment!

8 Responses to “Of “Grown-up” and Corporate Goth”

  1. QueenMorticia Says:

    Thanks for this article! It might help me put a more professional trust on my goth clothing, which will surely appease my irate mother.

  2. Aurora Says:

    My eyes rolled out of my head, but these articles always turn up this time of year. As far as recs, I have a few pieces from Heavy Red that get me tons of compliments in my civil service job for local city government. Staple garments with a focus on tailoring are key.

  3. Margrethe Says:

    I await Trystan of This Is Corp Goth to respond (but she has been very busy of late.) I suspect her review will be much the same.

  4. Cynthia Says:

    The last year or two I’ve been dealing with seeing people who were popular and trendy and probably athletes/cheerleaders in high school and college insisting that they were always dark and spooky, even though I was there and they treated me like I was a total weirdo for wearing black every day. Which I was, but still, they don’t have to be hypocritical about it. It drives me nuts. I hate it when goth becomes the cool thing to do.

  5. Megan McGuigan Says:

    Here in the UK the latest mainstream goth fashion trend is in full swing. The UK store New Look is presently selling a ton of goth type clothing. Lace shirts with ruffles, layered black skirts and some cool fake fur coats. I alerted a Facebook goth fashion group and I wouldn’t be surprised if some of the items are sold out. I ordered every single item because I have experience with the brand and the quality is pretty good. The designs definitely look like they were inspired by Killstar’s more mature pieces, but at a much cheaper price. Right now they even have a Goth Halloween section!LOL

    The mainstream attempt to go ‘goth’ always happens. I’m not even phased by this at all at this point. I’ve been listening to goth and punk for over thirty years now and I would never change my look just because some really badly informed reporter says that I should. Spooky for life!

  6. Eliza Raisin Says:

    The bit that really got my goat was that line about mainstream fashion “reclaiming” goth style. If my ears could pour steam like a cartoon they definitely would.

  7. Fal Says:

    Wearing a harness over a shirt with buttons seems like a really bad idea, wouldn’t it just make the buttons pull/gap/come unbuttoned more than they already do?

    Granted I am a person whose bosom-to-waist ratio is not conducive to shirts that button down the front anyway….

  8. TheL1985 Says:

    Ah yes, the time of year when I start hoarding spooky craft supplies and waiting for The Good Stuff in clothing and home decor to go on clearance. This happens every fall now. How do they expect us to forget that this exact same thing happened last year, and the year before that?

    Oh well, it means more cool additions to my spooky closet and overcrowded craft room, so as long as we’re “trendy,” I’m going to take full advantage.

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