Back to Black
This Goth Wants Her Halloween Back
It’s the one day many dress in black and look as witchy as possible. Yet Halloween is rich in irony for Goths who dress like it year-round and get mocked for it.
Editor’s Note: This perspective on Halloween was told to the author by a woman who has identified as Goth for over a decade. She is in her mid-twenties and lives in New York City, but asked to remain anonymous for professional and personal reasons.
The blessing and the curse of Halloween for a Goth is that it’s the one day when all the “normals”—the people outside the Gothic community—love your style, but then they go right back to shunning you the next day.
For my whole life as a Goth, people have told me a variety of things, but mainly variations of “I wish you wore more colors because it makes me sad when I see you.”
I’ve had people say, “You’re really bubbly for a Goth.” I wear a lot of black and people have a lot of expectations, that I will be cold or depressed or won’t have a sense of humor.
The funny thing about everyone suddenly loving our style on Halloween is that I get so much crap for it during the 364 other days of the year.
There’s been a lot of guys who hit on me and when I turn them down they say, “Bitch, it’s not Halloween!”
I think they’re embarrassed they’d like someone so alternative looking, so when they get rejected they want to justify it.
Then, there are those guys who fetishize me because I’m Goth. They see me and think I’m a freak in bed and say, “Oh, you’re so dark and sexy. You must be a temptress.” Not really, guys. I just want to eat Thai food and watch Netflix like the rest of us.
What’s worse is that some people don’t even see me. They just see the way I dress. These are the people that are always surprised I don’t make a big deal out of Halloween.
Yes, sadly, I’ve never had sex in a dramatic, black corset in a graveyard on Halloween or done anything stereotypically Goth like that. I once went to a Misfits concert on Halloween. They have a pretty Goth following, but to be honest, Halloween can be almost more of a nuisance.
When it comes to Halloween, Goths usually fall into two groups: first, those who get super into Halloween and feel it’s the one day when they blend in, and they are loved and accepted. And then the second group: those who feel like people are encroaching on their turf and are like, “But, I’m spooky every day!”
I guess I fall into the latter group, even if it is more as a default. I want to be one of the Goths that go all out and have the amazing costumes, but I usually go into my closet and realize I own very costumey things for a normal person. I already have long, flowing black dresses and vintage items.
I already have a necklace with a gargoyle on it and a ring with a skull on it. Besides, getting decked out for this one day of the year just isn’t a priority.
I have lots of friends who aren’t in the Goth community, but they never ask me about how to dress that way for Halloween. They understand that to me, the fact that people dress as Goth for Halloween is kind of weird.
It’s not that they are doing something wrong in the clothes or makeup itself. It’s that to them, it’s a costume and inherent in a costume is comedic factor, an element of mocking the subculture.
I can’t exactly pinpoint the first time I knew I loved the Goth style, but something clicked when I saw the movie Beetlejuice in sixth grade. When I saw Winona Ryder as Lydia Deetz, I simultaneously wanted to be her and be with her. She’s just the most beautiful thing.
There’s no one way to define Goth. People think it as all black colors and pale faces. That’s an element, but the vintage factor is the more prominent part of the aesthetic. Many of the dresses you’d see silent film stars wear, or Victorian undergarments, lots of corsets and lace, are what I consider Goth.
A lot of the bohemian, billowing dresses and skirts that were popular in the 1960s and 1970s, you can also see in Goth outfits. It’s about dressing in a way that doesn’t look like you’re from present day.
But that’s not even always the case. You can find that Goth aesthetic in so many mainstream clothing shops. You can go into Forever 21 and buy a black lace dress that could be Goth.
You can really see the Gothic aesthetic in 1960s television in Morticia Addams from The Addams Family and Lily Munster from The Munsters, but back then, no one actually wanted to look like that. People thought it was a scary weird thing—and they still do.
People who know me really well are used to how I look because I have been dressing Goth since high school. My family doesn’t particularly care, but strangers can be very rude or intimidated, which I find comical.
I almost get a kick from the fact that more men are going to harass me on the way to yoga class in workout sweats than if I go to see a band and I’m wearing dark lipstick and spikes on my shoulder.
But identifying as Goth doesn’t mean you’re a dark, negative person, necessarily. I mostly sing and model, but I also study improv and do comedy. I really love to laugh.
There are also many parts of the Gothic culture that aren’t just clothes that I really do like. Music is definitely part of it. I’ve liked a lot of musicians who are considered Goth, from a Finnish band called For My Pain… to this cellist I adore who goes by Unwoman.
When it comes to movies, a lot of Goths worship Tim Burton. I’m not one of them, but I do think his movies have shaped my taste in men. The guys I go for are pretty much the protagonists of every one of his films—they’re all skinny and walking that line between shy and charismatic.
I’m bisexual, but with the girls I’m attracted to, I can’t say they fit the Goth style. I’ve always liked girls with pale skin, dark hair, and blue eyes. Goths often love that Snow White look. But in general, I think Goth style fits a more diverse array of female figures, so I can’t say it has shaped a specific type of girl I like to date.
In fact, a lot of women are attracted to Goth style because the garments can work for a spectrum of women of all shapes and sizes.
With a lot of modern clothes, you have to be skinny or athletic to fit the style. But if you’re Goth, if you’re tall and skinny, you can wear the long flowing dresses. If you’re curvy or overweight, you can wear one of the vintage corsets and be bangin’.
Once you actually dress in Goth, you realize, “Oh my god, it’s so much work.” I have to go to yoga. I’m not going to put on a Victorian-style lace corset every day and do black eye makeup to Bikram. That’s not happening.
I hate the idea of being restricted to one style of a single label. In high school, the normals were always trying to pigeonhole me. Kids would say, “What do you call yourself?” I’d dryly respond, “Parking lot.” A guy in high school said, “You’d look so pretty if you dressed like the other girls and wore tight jeans and a white shirt.”
That was pretty much the last thing I wore in high school. I had more spikes on my accessories back then along with this black lace choker I still have. I wore a lot of flowing dresses, but also pants with lots of metal and chains.
Since high school, I’ve come to realize I don’t mind being called Goth because I know a word doesn’t define me.
I get it, truly. It’s really easy to make fun of Goths. Think about it: The clothes are so inconvenient. You’re wearing so much lace and so much metal that you’re constantly getting caught on yourself. I had to tone things down a bit because I was tired of getting stuck on myself. In high school, I had Tripp pants, which have lots of chains hanging from them. Going down stairs involved a lot of knocking.
The worst is when Goths go to the airport. I was always setting off metal detectors and getting patted down. I also love wearing combat boots—it’s a signature item for many Goths. I’ve learned the hard way not to wear them to the airport because they are so annoying to take on and off. Sometimes, I wonder how much of my life is lost to lacing and unlacing boots.
In all honesty, the bigger deterrent at Halloween is not that I get offended by people playing Goth dress-up. It’s that I don’t enjoy dealing with the throngs that flood my go-to shops.
I always have grand ideas in July, but then I give up because I’m afraid of the crowds. Normals never realize that part of the stress of Halloween is the pressure to welcome everybody into our space.
All of them are flocking to where I buy my usual stuff, so they can buy costumes. It’s always around Halloween that everyone goes to Gothic Renaissance [a shop in New York’s East Village that bills itself as an “alternative fashion boutique, proudly catering to interesting people”], but that’s where I shop for my regular clothes.
However, there is at least one major perk to Halloween. As a Goth on a budget, the best part of the holiday may actually be when it’s over.
The day after Halloween is a magical time for Goths because of all the store sales. On Nov. 1, we go in there and buy all the 50 percent off Halloween-branded stuff that we actually wear all year long. From last year’s spree, I have so many Night Before Christmas-themed socks and sugar skull tights.
We bought all these things nobody else wants—except for us with our spooky hearts.
I honestly believe that dressing Goth will always be a part of my life, even as I get older. I just see it as a matter of making things work.
I would probably ditch the black crop tops at a certain age. But in college, I would notice an older woman in her seventies who audited a class I was in and she always wore this dark, plum lipstick—and she was rocking it.
I’ve got a plan to make this work.