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Trad Goth: How to Get the Look

Go back to your roots with trad goth style.

February 18, 2024
6 min read

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One sub(sub?)culture that has endured and evolved over the years is the enigmatic world of traditional goth, often affectionately referred to as “trad goth.” The look evolved alongside the original goth music subculture, with the likes of Siouxsie Sioux, The Cure and Sisters of Mercy really being icons of the look. 

This blog post serves as your gateway into the intriguing universe of trad goth, providing a comprehensive guide on how to master the style. Whether you want to better understand your goth roots or you just want to give the look a go, we’ll explore the essential elements of trad goth fashion, decoding the nuances that make this aesthetic timeless.

Join us as we delve into the wardrobe staples, iconic accessories, and distinctive makeup techniques that define the trad goth style. From navigating the labyrinth of trad goth brands to embracing the DIY ethos, we’ll equip you with the knowledge to curate a wardrobe that reflects your unique interpretation of this captivating look.

What is Trad Goth?

Image credit: Pinterest

Trad goth, short for traditional goth, refers to a subculture within the larger goth movement that is characterized by a distinctive and somewhat vintage aesthetic. It draws inspiration from the early gothic rock and post-punk music scenes, as well as incorporating elements from Victorian and Romantic fashion. Trad goth style emerged in the late 1970s and 1980s, coinciding with the rise of gothic rock bands like Bauhaus, Siouxsie and the Banshees, and The Sisters of Mercy. 

Goths who subscribe to this look are often super into listening to goth-specific music, as well as an appreciation of the beginnings of the subculture as a cultural movement. 

How to Dress Trad Goth

Trad goth style is characterised by its dark, romantic, and eclectic aesthetic, drawing inspiration from various subcultures like Victorian goth, punk, and post-punk.

So how do you create the look?

  • All goth looks start with black clothing, of course! While back in the day 80’s goths didn’t necessarily wear all black, today it’s a given for trad goth looks. 
  • Layer up your outfits with fishnets, corsets, lots of lace, leather and velvet. Band merch from gothic and post-punk bands is often a way to pay homage to favourite artists, and vintage, victorian-inspired pieces are embraced too.
  • Don’t be afraid to DIY your clothes too – this is definitely an essential part of trad goth style, and will help you make something unique to you.
  • Hair and makeup are an important part of the trad goth look. Hair is usually big, black and piled up on the top of the head, i.e. a bat’s nest.
  • Makeup is traditionally a white face (though I would like to caveat here that you do NOT need to be white to be a trad goth), exaggerated, angular brows and eyeliner, lots of eyeliner.Oh, and black lipstick.
  • Classic trad goth footwear includes winklepicker boots and creepers, but any goth platform boot will do!
  • Layers of jewellery is an iconic trad goth element. Rosary beads, crosses and crucifixes, chokers and belts – put it all on and see what works with the outfit you’ve put together.
  • While there are common elements, trad goth fashion encourages individuality and personal expression. Experiment with different combinations to make the style your own. Remember, trad goth style is more than just clothing – it’s a form of self-expression that embraces the rebellious, the mysterious, the dark, and the unconventional. Feel free to mix and match elements to create a look that resonates with your unique personality.

Trad Goth Influences & Inspirations

Image credit: Edward Scissorhands

While there are many influences to the trad goth style, the primary influence is the music that emerged in the late 1970s and early 1980s, particularly gothic rock and post-punk. Bands like Bauhaus, Siouxsie and the Banshees, The Sisters of Mercy, and The Cure played a significant role in shaping both the sound and the visual aesthetic of trad goth. 

Goth evolved initially as part of the punk subculture (goth was originally called ‘positive punk’, so you can see lots of influences from punk in trad goth – like the emphasis on music, DIYing clothes and the mohawk hairstyle that you sometimes see with trad goths.

Over the last 40+ years, the trad goth lifestyle has seen artists, writers and filmmakers that take influences from the subculture, create art and subsequently add to the influences. While they might not be ‘exclusively’ trad goth, the likes of Tim Burton’s Edward Scissorhands, The Crow and Elvira: Mistress of the Dark definitely have the right vibe.

Shop the Trad Goth Style

Image credit: What the Craft

As mentioned previously, DIYing clothes is a key part of the trad goth aesthetic and culture, so, I thought I would link you to some good goth tutorials instead.

BIB’s Trad Goth Picks

Winklepicker boot by Underground
Image credit: Underground

The pointed toe and buckles of the winklepicker boot make it a perfect everyday option to make any outfit that little bit more trad goth, whether it’s drainpipe jeans or a romantic dress. Shop here.

Gothic rosary necklace by PrincessPoison666
Image credit: PrincessPoison666

Not just any rosary beads, these ones feature a cute bat and an ornate cross, ideal for adding extra detail to your trad goth look. Pair with a choker and layer up with other necklaces for a lush feel. Shop here.

Studded bat belt by GothicRosette
Image credit: GothicRosette

A patent black vinyl and faux leather belt with stud and spike detailing, and a bat-like shape. Use it to cinch your waist or just to add extra detail to your waist. Shop here.

Siouxsie & The Banshees Tee by PIshirt
Image credit: Plshirt

You can’t go wrong with a classic goth band t-shirt! This one is a reproduction of a Siouxsie + The Banshees poster, and it’s soft and wearable. Shop here.  

Jersey Dress from EMP
Image credit: EMP

The perfect starting point for any goth look, this comfy but romantic dress has all the makings of a great trad goth outfit. Layer up with accessories, big hair and dark makeup. Shop here.

 Cover image credit: Pinterest

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Hi, I’m Darcie.

Bound in Bone is my goth fashion and lifestyle blog. I like to write about dark outfits, spooky interiors and the goth lifestyle in general. You’ll find everything from alternative markets to what to wear to the gym, and more!

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