Dresses are a staple of Gothic and alternative aesthetics, often inspired by aspects of different fashion trends from all over the world. They come in a variety of styles and colors, and can sometimes depict symbols related to death and the occult.
Below are some of the most popular aspects found in Gothic dresses in particular, and what sets them apart from many other aesthetics.
The Classic Goth style is probably the one that comes to mind the most often when talking about this type of aesthetic. The core of this style is attention - everything is supposed to be loud, out of place, and jarring. Dresses in this style are often short, hitting between the knee and upper thigh, and can be coupled with fishnet tights or graphic leggings. You’ll often find dresses with a “skater skirt” shape, with different layers of fabrics and mesh adding to the overall look. These dresses may come deliberately ripped or distressed with the intent of increasing the sense of being out of place. Accessories like thick belts, chokers, chains, and pins displaying various Gothic and occult symbols are very popular with this style of dresses.
Another popular Goth dress style is heavily inspired by Victorian fashion. The dresses always have floor-length gowns, with some hugging the body tightly and others having a more ball gown shape. Many will have multiple layers of fabric to give the impression of a fuller shape, with some layers being “ruffled” to create a more unique texture. Fabrics like lace, satin, and velvet are the most popular with this style of dresses. Some dresses can even incorporate a built-in corset made from steel or wooden “ribs”. The sleeves on these dresses will often be quite dramatic - puffy or bell sleeves are particularly popular, and often coupled with intricate lace or embroidered detailing. Many wearing this style will choose to accessorize with bonnets, lace or mesh veils, and gloves, as well as bold jewelery with large gemstones or Gothic symbols. Overall, this style focuses heavily on femininity and elegance.
Pastel Goth and Lolita Goth aesthetics are often grouped together due to their similar styles. These dresses seem to combine aspects of the Classic and Victorian Goth styles while adding in bright colors and cuter accessories. Though usually quite short in length, these dresses will often be covered in ruffles and bows that are reminiscent of child-like innocence and modesty but are combined with more provocative fishnet tights and chokers. Lolita Goth dresses, in particular, will have many layers or will feature some sort of petticoat to give the dress more volume, just like Victorian dresses. The accessories will usually be a slightly unsettling combination of sinister and child-like, featuring skulls with bunny ears, for example.
The Steampunk Goth style is another quite well-know variety, though it is quite similar to the Victorian style. It represents the industrialization and scientific progress of the Victorian times by incorporating things like machinery cogs and workers’ clothes into the style. Steampunk dresses will often reach the knee at the front but have a longer back, and may have some ruffled detailing along the hems. The gowns will usually be incredibly detailed, with different embroidery patterns, cogs, buttons, clasps, and even corset pieces being incorporated into the overall look. Materials like leather and rough cotton are very popular with Steampunk dresses, along with metal or materials imitating metal. Accessories worn by Steampunk Goths include top hats, leather gloves, goggles, and walking sticks or umbrellas.
In short, Gothic dresses are most popular in black or very dark colors. This is because the overall Goth aesthetic is all about darkness and mystery. However, there are some exceptions.
With the Classic style, you may see some hints of dark red, silver, or gold. These colors are usually found in the accessories rather than the dresses themselves, though some dresses may have colored symbols printed or sewn into them.
Victorian dresses are a little more likely to appear in different colors. Dark reds, blues, purples, and even greens have become increasingly popular. Some layered dresses may feature multiple colors or patterns embroidered with golden or silver thread.
Pastel Goth and Lolita dresses are actually the least likely to be completely black. These two styles are famous for combining the Gothic aesthetic with bright colors, which is obviously reflected in the dresses. Colors like pink, blue, and green seem to be the most popular, with black making appearances in accessories and accent pieces on the dresses.
Steampunk dresses can also vary from the typical monochromatic color scheme. While black Steampunk dresses are fairly popular, they’re more often found in shades of brown, since they almost always incorporate leather in some way. Other colors you may see include green and red, though they don’t appear as often.
The symbols used in different types of Gothic dresses are directly related to the style they’re representing, though they do sometimes cross over.
Classic Goth dresses can include almost any symbol related to death or the occult, including but not limited to skulls, daggers, blood, pentacles, horns, and dead flowers. They may also include words or phrases related to the general Goth culture - song lyrics, rebellious quotes, or even phrases in Latin can all be found printed or embroidered on Classic Goth dresses.
Victorian dresses focus much more on elegance, and so will usually depict symbols like skulls, flowers, and snakes. However, these dresses are the least likely to display any sort of symbol directly on them - you’ll be more likely to see these symbols on the accessories worn by Victorian Goths.
Pastel Goth and Lolita dresses have the most unique symbols. As mentioned before, they’re usually a combination of something sinister, like a skeleton, and something more innocent, like bunnies or hearts. These symbols create an incredible contrast to the bright colors and bring a whole new meaning to the Goth aesthetic.
Steampunk dresses will often depict symbols related to the Industrial Revolution. These will usually be cogs or pieces of machinery and may be found either embroidered in gold, silver, or copper thread, or the actual pieces may be attached to the dress itself. Either way, these dresses have almost nothing to do with the elegant and sophisticated symbols found with Victorian Goth dresses.