Growing up and residing in a cold-weather region, Alaska, means that you can’t just wear all the fun clothing that you see online...unless it’s summer. This is a big reason why I grew up as primarily a “jeans and t-shirt” goth. It was just more practical.
Since I don’t see a lot of talk about cold weather goth clothes, I thought I’d share some of my clothing spectacles. Be prepared for layers, consideration of fabrics, DIY, and thrifted items! Also, I’ll talk a little about footwear.
Layering Thin Stuff
One thing I like to do is layer shirts. It’s more than just fishnet under a t-shirt, which is basic and simple. I was initially inspired by the character Vivian from The Linguini Incident (which stars David Bowie, the reason I first sought out the film). She wears a lot of dark colors, velvet, knits, lace, and her crazy self-defense bras. I started seeking out velvet ¾ sleeve shirts or making my own so I could wear them over fishnet or stretchy lace long-sleeve shirts. If you watch the clip entirely, you’ll probably see what I mean. Vivian is played by Eszter Balint (so NOT Bowie or Arquette). Sometimes I would do fishnet, ¾ sleeve black shirt, and ¾ sleeve velvet burnout shirt. This was one of my go-to looks in high school. Layers of stretchy thin stuff.
I want to point out that velvet is a great winter fabric. It’s warm and you can find it with stretch and non-stretch, depending on your needs. It’s also usually jewel-toned which fits right in with goth stuff. It’s also a “warm fabric” meaning that it’s good at remaining at your surface body temperature. A “cold fabric” would be something that almost instantly becomes room temperature or cold
if there is a breeze like chiffon or almost all flowy fabrics or pvc or vinyl.
Plain, Comfy Black Shirt
A go-to staple is a plain and comfortable black shirt, both short sleeve and long sleeve. If you’re on a budget, go to your local craft store or fabric store. You can find an aisle with blank shirts in a variety of colors, usually both long and short sleeved. They aren’t anything special, but they’re cheap. You don’t need fancy labels anyway.
Need for Knits
One thing I love in the winter is to have a variety of knit fabric options. This includes jersey fabric shirts, light sweaters, chunky sweaters, cardigans, and sweater shirts. I like to check out thrift stores and clearance racks for most of these. Sometimes I get them new, but it better be something really cool or something I’ve really been looking for. I absolutely love my black turtleneck sweater. It’s lightweight and reminds me of something that a 1960s spy might wear or Dieter from SNL (if you remember the Sprockets sketch). I have a variety of black, maroon, eggplant, and the occasional other pop of color in the form of knitwear.
Comforting Over Layer
Some of us really feel comforted by that extra over-layer like a hoodie or something. I tend to be this way but I think it’s due to not knowing what kind of environment to expect. Will some place have the heat jacked up? Will it be freezing in the office? Will I want that extra layer if I go to the movie theater? It’s for this reason that I tend to have an extra over-layer with me all the time. I want to bring up blazers for this reason. Around 2010 or so, I picked up a stretchy velvet short blazer in wine color from Sears. I love it so much. I can dress it up or wear it casually.
I like how I look in wine-tones. I even wore it when I presented my history thesis at university in 2012. Anyway, when considering any over-layers look at blazers. You can find them in a variety of fabrics and textures. Maybe wool or tweed is more your thing instead of velvet.
I like wearing scarves in the winter. My favorite is one that is black with silver stripes that I picked up in London. I have a variety of other scarves, mostly black.
Flannel & Chamois
I don’t really have much in the way of flannel or chamois shirts right now, though I have a grey/black flannel shirtjac that I wear in the fall. Usually you can find flannels and chamois’ in solid colors or plaids. They’re warm which is why you see them worn by outdoorsmen all the time. You can also find flannel lounge pants. Chamois is typically heavier and woven differently than flannel, so you don’t see it used for pants too often. I tend to stay away from flannel and chamois because I think I look like a lump in these fabrics...unless it’s flannel pajama pants.
When it comes to trousers I have a pair of jeans "that work". They aren't anything more than jeans I can just pull on and go to work. In fact they're a medium color, bootcut pair of Levi's. They don't fit me that well, but they're available in town. What I prefer to wear are some black stretchy pants that are not leggings. I get so picky when it comes to pants. I can't wear anything marked as "slim" or "skinny" -- cut too narrow. Regular straight leg pants tend to fit me like most people fit into skinny jeans, so I tend to reach for bootcuts and trousers with some stretch.
In high school, I preferred Lip Service Stretch F*cking Jeans (pictured to the left).
If I reach for something that is non-denim, I like stretch jacquard bootcut trousers (I usually end up making these myself) and stretch pants that aren't leggings. I feel dumb wearing leggings unless I'm just wearing straight up gym clothes - which I occasionally wear to work so I can get to the gym faster after work. I don't wear sweatpants except at home. I don't wear a lot of skirts or dresses in general, but that's due to two things: 1) cold weather and 2) appropriate time. I have no issues with dressing up to go out, we just don't have a lot of places to go out to.
My Clothing Mentality
When I pick out clothing, I have a mental checklist that I run through - I’m sure we all have something like that. The clothing I really like tends to fit the aesthetic themes of goth, vampire, and funeral fancy. I might make a clothing decision based on the fact that it reminds me of an open casket or something I’d wear to both a garden tea party and a dark-themed coffeehouse. I might have some vintage reproduction in there and cheesy Halloween. What I tend to avoid are noticeable labels, obscenely obvious “hey, I’m goth” clothing, pastel anything, cyber goth, and things like sweatpants that say “juicy” on the ass.
I tend to reach for comfortable clothes, things that make me feel a certain way, and things that fit my aesthetic. I don’t mind having a bit of color, but I prefer jewel-tones and muted colors. I found that I like tailored things, if I can get them. I like being able to put together a polished outfit and a grungy outfit and a romantic outfit all from my one closet. If I cannot find something that I want or have pictured in my mind, I find the fabric I want and just make it myself. It’s totally worth it to learn and use sewing skills. It also helps when you need to alter a thrifted item.
My fabric palette tends to go like this:
Velvet - Stretch preferred, black, wine/maroon/dark red, dark purple, dark blue (not navy), olive, grey, burnout
Stretchy Lace - Black, maroon, dark purple, some embroidered work on black lace
Heavy fabrics - Black wool, black twill, jacquard in black or purple
Light fabrics - Cotton blends in black or dark colors, linen in black, satin in black or dark colors
These are just my preferred fabrics.
My first pair of combat boots was purchased around 1994 when I was in 7th grade. They were a sweet pair of steel-toed, leather Dr.Martens and they lasted almost 15 years - until they literally started falling apart. Now I have a new pair of Dr. Martens, black boots with alligator embossed leather. I want to mention my Docs because it’s such a popular brand. They do get a little slip-n-slidey on the snow and ice. You can avoid this by remembering to shuffle more like a penguin, but walking on icy terrain is a whole other thing.
In the cold climates, you will want to avoid thin flat soles and soles with little/no tread. This includes Chinese slippers, flat-bottom winklepickers, some dress shoes, high heels, and shoes with rigid soles. We all break this general rule, but it’s something to keep in mind. Shoes that do work tend to have a flexible sole, lots of good tread, and a little substance to the sole. On a day-to-day basis, I tend to wear black adidas shoes around the office. If I have to step outside in the middle of winter, I know I don’t have to worry about falling on my ass in the snow. Do I stop to put on winter boots? Fuck no. Not if I’m just running outside for a minute or going from the office to my vehicle.
I do have a pair of Chinese slippers. The sole is thin and flat. They can look really cute with the right outfit, but in the winter my feet freeze. They tend to be a summer shoe or an office-only shoe. In high school I had a pair of black winklepicker boots with bat buckles (from Pennangalan). It was so “traditional goth” and I loved them, but my feet would freeze and I could barely walk outside in the winter due to the flat soles.
I know a lot of people love the knee-high boots. I’m sure they can work great in the winter if you find something with a good sole. I have over-developed calves so I have a lot of trouble finding something that fits. I see people wearing tall boots all the time, so they must be convenient.
Growing up, if I didn’t wear my combat boots, I was wearing cheap zip up, chunky ankle boots with a slightly stacked heel. I generally got these at Fred Meyer (a Kroger store) - you may be familiar with Fred’s if you grew up on the west coast. It’s a grocery-clothing-home goods store, kind of one stop shopping. The boot shown here is not mine, but I think I had this exact boot back in high school.