The Ultimate Guide to Goth Fashion Icons

What is Goth fashion?

With origins in the last two decades of the 20th century, Goth subculture re-unites common themes under various forms of art. In recent years, one of the branches connected to Goth subculture that has gained immense popularity is Goth fashion; this art form has succeeded in having an influence on the entire fashion industry and continues to inspire even the most prestigious of designers.

Embraced by teenagers and adults alike, Goth fashion is strongly tied to literature, fine art and photography from the 18th and 19th century. Whilst initially a radically alternative style, goth fashion has slowly seeped some of its elements into mainstream fashion as well, becoming quite an inspiration for lots of styles which aren't necessarily goth. 

Some of the most influential celebrities in entertainment history were or currently are Goth fashion followers; this style has had such a huge impact on the niche that some of the most iconic movie characters are known to have been supporters of Goth subculture and Goth fashion. Just like the subculture as a whole, Goth fashion is often misinterpreted or unknown altogether by those who do not have a background in this lifestyle and its aesthetics; the main aims of this guide are to help you get a better understanding of this alternative style and to find out more about some of the most influential figures on this topic; please note that are suggestions are in no particular order regarding the effect of their influence. Without further ado, we invite you to discover The Ultimate Guide to Goth Fashion Icons below.

The Dark Beauty of Goth Fashion

Goth fashion, also referred to as gothic fashion, is distinguished through darkness, mystery, elaborate wardrobe pieces and, on a beauty level, smoky makeup. Possibly the most influential factor for Goth fashion, from its beginnings until today, is the Victorian age and the mourning attire worn in those times. In addition to the main black theme, there are several other fabrics or fashion pieces that are directly associated with Goth fashion, such as lace, leather, velvet, corsets or gloves, to name a few. One of the most intriguing aspects about this mysterious style is that it presents numerous substyles under the same Goth umbrella. Below you can find just a few examples of the many Goth fashion styles that enjoy great popularity in today’s society.

Notable Goth Fashion Styles

1. Romantic Goth

Commonly known by supports as Romantigoth, this style of Goth fashion is recognized through its Victorian influences. Luxurious dresses with an aristocratic appearance, sheer fabrics likes silk, velvet or lace and an air of mystery are all characteristic for the Romantic Goth sub-style of fashion. Men have also embraced this style, with the help of top hats, scarves, ruffle shirts and fracks / tailcoats. Classical music and Romantic literature are frequently associated with this style, as well as corsets and crinolines (hoop skirts). It is arguably one of the most costly Goth fashion styles, but also one of the most visually striking (in a good sense, of course). 

2. Gothabilly

What happens what you combine gothic fashion with pin up style? You get Gothabilly. This feminine Goth substyle is inspired by 1950s fashion and developed from Rockabilly fashion, taking the bright colours and polka dots and adding a dark edge and a sense of mystery. Gothabilly is not only related to fashion; it actually has its roots in the music genre with the same name, also a subdivision of Rockabilly. High platforms, creepers, garters, corsets or cherry jewellery all are characteristic for Gothabilly. Frequently enough, Gothabilly girls deeply admire tattoo art and usually have a few tattoos of their own on their body.

3. Punk Goth

As the name suggests, Punk Goth style sprang from Punk fashion and influences from this music genre. Mohawks (even death-hawks – a wide and messy version of the classic Mohawk), leather jackets and combat boots, numerous piercings and tattoos, ripped fashion pieces often worked on by Punk Goth followers themselves are all specific elements of this style. Like you would expect, this style is greatly influenced by punk rock and takes a darker approach to the music and fashion. Punk Goth is also associated with eccentricity, so expect to see tall and messy hair styles, plenty of heavy makeup and pencilled eyebrows. 

4. Gothic Lolita

Japanese fashion is known to be extravagant and daring, usually under the label of Lolita. This well-known style has joined forces with Goth fashion to form the fusion called Gothic Lolita. To understand the fusion, you need to know what defines Lolita: Edwardian or Victorian-inspired dresses, knee-high socks, lace umbrellas, frilly skirts and a sweet-but-dark porcelain doll look are just a few main features. Gothic Lolita, as opposed to Sweet, Classic or Old school Lolita, is a darker version of the style. Knee-length, multi-layered swing dresses are common pieces among Gothic Lolita fashion lovers.

5. Haute Goth

Japanese fashion is known to be extravagant and daring, usually under the label of Lolita. This well-known style has joined forces with Goth fashion to form the fusion called Gothic Lolita. To understand the fusion, you need to know what defines Lolita: Edwardian or Victorian-inspired dresses, knee-high socks, lace umbrellas, frilly skirts and a sweet-but-dark porcelain doll look are just a few main features. Gothic Lolita, as opposed to Sweet, Classic or Old school Lolita, is a darker version of the style. Knee-length, multi-layered swing dresses are common pieces among Gothic Lolita fashion lovers.

6. Street Goth 

Japanese fashion is known to be extravagant and daring, usually under the label of Lolita. This well-known style has joined forces with Goth fashion to form the fusion called Gothic Lolita. To understand the fusion, you need to know what defines Lolita: Edwardian or Victorian-inspired dresses, knee-high socks, lace umbrellas, frilly skirts and a sweet-but-dark porcelain doll look are just a few main features. Gothic Lolita, as opposed to Sweet, Classic or Old school Lolita, is a darker version of the style. Knee-length, multi-layered swing dresses are common pieces among Gothic Lolita fashion lovers.

7. Health Goth

Among recent Goth fashion substyles we can also find Health Goth, nestled under Street Goth. It might seem like a strange choice for words at first, but the concept goes beyond fashion, to aesthetics and philosophy. Health Goth works by taking athletic wear pieces and giving them an edgy twist, but all for a reason; some of the key words surrounding Health Goth are Net art, trans-humanism or even bionic limbs. Leading brands in the sportswear industry like Nike or Adidas have taken on Health Goth as a style full on.

Notable Goth Fashion Icons

1. Lydia Deetz/Winona Ryder 

It is impossible to speak about Goth fashion without speaking about Lydia Deetz, the memorable character from Beetlejuice.We all remember the strange and compelling little girl that wore only dark clothes and makeup and had the perfect spiked down bangs. Even though 27 years have passed since then, the character’s fashion sense still remains a great influence on this niche and in the industry. Furthermore, the actress who portrayed Lydia Deetz is just as influential on Goth fashion as her character: Winona Ryder. The beloved actress has a mysterious personality that is beautifully reflected in her choice of wardrobe, both on set and off set, as well as at celebrity events or in her personal life. Dark, edgy and classy as ever, Winona is, without a doubt, a forefront figure that has left a long-lasting impression on Goth fashion.

2. Musidora

Musidora is the stage name of French silent film actress Jeanne Roques, who lived between 1889 and 1957. From the point of view of her style, Musidora has often been associated Theda Bara, another influential Goth fashion icon that we will speak more about in our guide. Known for her vamp appearance, Musidora gained fame with the Les Vampires silent film movies and her unique style for the time. The images we have today of Musidora depict her with dark makeup, especially around her eyes, as well as black bodysuits, creating a mysterious allure she became renowned for. She is highly respected among Goth fashion followers as being part of the first generation that inspired this fashion trend and lifestyle choice. Even though Musidora is no longer with us, her influence on Goth fashion and Goth subculture alike remains as powerful as ever.

3. Black Dahlia 

Elizabeth Short, known to the world as Black Dahlia, was brutally murdered in 1947. While her murderer has not been found even until this day, the morbid details of her death – including severe mutilation – have made it one of the most publicized and famous unsolved murder cases in history. The Black Dahlia is a nickname that was attributed to Elizabeth Short by the press and was the way she was commonly referred to in the media coverage of the crime. As far as Elizabeth’s influence on Goth fashion goes, her elegant features, jet black hair and dark allure reminds us of the Gothabilly substyle of Goth fashion that we have described above. While the Black Dahlia is not directly connected to this music or lifestyle, the fascination and morbidity of her case, as well as her stunning physical features, have made her an iconic figure of Goth fashion, which inspired numerous outfits from thereon.

4. Marilyn Manson

When it comes to wearing Goth suit or a black dress shirt and leather jacket, nobody does it quite like Marilyn Manson. One of the most controversial rock artists in the past few decades, but also one of the most treasured, Marilyn Manson always stood out from the crowd, due to his erratic taste in aesthetics (especially makeup) and the debates surrounding his professional and personal life. Marilyn can regularly be spotted at red carpet events with a thick layer of white powder on his face, dark red lips, smoky eyes and a white contact lens that boosted his notoriety over time. As far as his wardrobe is concerned, dark, well-tailored suits and skinny ties are fundamental pieces for Manson. With such a great reach to mainstream audiences as well as rock audiences, it is undoubtable that Marilyn Manson is a Goth fashion icon that will go down in history.

5. Morticia Addams 

How can we ever forget the irreplaceable woman of The Addams Family? Morticia Addams, portrayed by multiple actresses throughout the time, is the wife of Gomez and mother to Pugsley and Wednesday, yet another influential figure that we will talk more about later in our guide. Almost the definition of matriarchy, the character Morticia had a strong personality that had the power to silence any other character with just a piercing glance. Actresses Carolyn Jones, Anjelica Huston, Daryl Hannah and Ellie Harvie have all played the role of Morticia Addams, each building up on her unforgettable dark allure. The Morticia portrayed by Anjelica Huston is debatably the most iconic when it comes to Goth fashion, with floor-length clingy black dresses, pale skin and blood red lips with matching long nails, silver and dark grey eyeshadow and black eyeliner. Let’s not forget the long, black locks that also made this character famous.

6. David Vanian 

In addition to being one of the very first influencers in Goth fashion history, singer and musician David Vanian was also part of the first punk band from Great Britain that launched a single, released an album, toured the USA and had record accomplishments on the United Kingdom music charts, according to In his younger years, Vanian was nothing less than a trend setter, sparking the desire for men to experiment with heavy black eyeshadow and dark lips, as well as with alternative fashion. His style often reminded us of vampires, with iconic pieces associated with these types of characters. In fact, his stage name Vanian comes from the world Transylvanian, which automatically takes us to the idea of Draculas and vampires. No matter if he wore his hair short and sleeked back or long, with a thick white stripe sprouting from the right side, Vanian is a staple in Goth fashion history. 

7. Siouxsie Sioux

Any genuine Goth will tell you about the unprecedented influence Siouxsie Sioux has had on Goth fashion (and the music, for that matter). Leader singer of Siouxsie and the Banshees, the English artist has made a permanent mark on the music and fashion industries with her over-the-top style regarding to fashion and beauty. Regarded by many as The Mother of Goth, Siouxsie is cited in almost any article or analysis on Goth fashion and Goth subculture, in general. As far as Goth fashion styles are concerned, Siouxsie is one of the first examples you can think of for the Goth Punk substyle. Her bold makeup, intriguing hairstyle, choice of bondage or fetish accessories and excessive fishnet pieces of clothing all support the fact that Siouxsie is one of the greatest influencers of all when it comes to Goth fashion.

8. Edward Scissorhands

If Lydia Deetz or the Addams ladies are flawless representations of Goth fashion in female cinema, than Tim Burton’s character Edward Scissorhands is undoubtedly among the top three for male characters. The movie with the same name as the main character was released in 1990 and still remains one of Tim Burton’s most beloved pictures. Aside from Johnny Depp’s flawless portrayal of the character, Edward went down in history thanks to his unmistakable physical appearance. Nobody can forget Edward’s all-leather suit and boots, full of buckles as studs, as well as his teased hairstyle that is now iconic for Goths. Burton’s character has inspired high-end fashion collections, the style of A-list celebrities and teenagers from around the globe, thanks to the director’s concept, Depp’s acting and the stylists that worked on the film. On this note, Johnny Depp himself has quite a dark side that he’s not afraid to expose off stage, as well. His dark hair and choice of subtle black eyeliner have become some of Depp’s trademarks.

9. Theda Bara 

Like we promised in the first part of our guide, we will get a bit more into the legendary silent film actress Theda Bara. Aside from her successful career in silent pictures and the entertainment industry of her time, Theda went down in history as being one of the first sex symbols in the world of cinema. If Musidora had a vamp allure to her, than Theda can doubtlessly be considered the original Vamp. She was born in 1885 and, until her death in 1955, became famous for her roles of the femme fatale in plays and movies. What made Theda so influential in Gothic fashion was her gripping charisma, enhanced by very dark makeup and charcoal locks. Furthermore, her vampire roles also strengthen this claim, as she soon became known through her characters. Even in less-morbid roles, such as Cleopatra in 1917, Theda Bara always maintained that mysterious makeup that would pave the way for Goth aesthetics decades after.

10. Wednesday Addams 

Of course Wednesday Addams would be on a list of Goth influencers; she is very likely the youngest figure that has impacted Goth fashion at such a high level. Who can ever forget her amazing line – I’ll stop wearing black when they make a darker colour? This statement alone should make you realize how powerful Wednesday’s character influenced gothic apparel and style. Christina Ricci played the young female member of the Addams family, who could always be seen in preferably all black clothing, or with a creepy school girl outfit enhanced by braided pigtails and a classic school uniform. Wednesday was just as influential as her mother, Morticia, when speaking about Goth fashion; they both had a strong expression of gothic motifs, but in different ways. What they did have in common, though, was the long, black hair and pale complexion that made them both indisputably recognizable throughout the decades. Even today, both Wednesday and Morticia continue to be some of the most influential figures in Goth fashion that we know. 

11. Vampira 

Finnish actress Maila Nurmi (1922 – 2008) became famous for playing the first ever horror host in the history of television, Vampira. Her idea for Vampira is heavily influenced by Morticia Addams herself, but with a more dramatic twist; Vampira reminds us of Gothabilly through her sharp and feminine pin up appearance, with a super skinny waist and prominent cheek bones. Vampira’s face is possibly the most memorable: deep coloured lips, black eyeliner and very prominently arched eyebrows with incredibly long nails are all part of the timeless dominant vampire look that Maila’s character has left in cinema history. Black, of course, is always a leitmotif, while her attitude also expresses great self-confidence and inspires attraction and admiration. The original Mistress of the Dark passed away in 2008, but her choice of beauty and fashion features will always remain an inspiration to Goth fashion, for years to come.

12. Robert Smith 

Leaving aside the fact that the Cure is quite a highly influential rock bands on its own, lead singer and permanent member Robert Smith is an ultimate Goth fashion icon, no doubt. Who can ever forget his huge, teased hair that he has been adorning for the past few decades of his life, even to this day? How about the super smudged eyeshadow and lipstick that enhance his stage presence? Any Goth will recognize Richard’s contribution to the male fashion connected to this subgenre. Robert Smith, together with other powerful artists like Siouxsie Sioux, took the extravagant punk look, combined it with dark accents and created the Punk Goth substyle. Many independent rock bands – to this day – continue to be inspired by Richard’s fashion choices and they adapt them to their own styles.

13. Helena Bonham Carter 

Award-winning actress Helena Bonham Carter is certainly one of the most representative celebrities for Goth fashion. In addition to Helena portraying so many gothic roles, her personal style reflects the features of Goth fashion and the subculture. Elizabeth Frankenstein (Mary Shelley's Frankenstein), Marla Singer (Fight Club), Bellatrix Lestrange (Harry Potter Series), Mrs. Lovett (Sweeny Todd), Red Queen (Alice in Wonderland) and Dr Julia Hoffman (Dark Shadows) are just a handful of the gothic roles that Helena Bonham Carter delivered impeccably in her career. With strong Romantic Goth influences, Helena can often be seen with large, elaborate dresses and fancy fabrics like lace or silk. Almost every aspect of this actress, both on stage and off stage, are reminiscent of Goth subculture: from the way she wears makeup, to the way her hair is styled, how she dresses and even her attitude. You can understand why she is director Tim Burton’s favourite for female characters.

14. Elvira 

Yet another character that has had a major influence on Goth fashion is Elvira. Portrayed by Cassandra Peterson, Elvira is considered to be the descendant of Vampira as the Mistress of Darkness. Cassandra’s character has a striking appearance, enhanced by a form-fitting black dress with a very deep cleavage. Elvira was also known for the permanent ‘all-black’ look, complete with high heels, nail polish, eyeshadow, long hair and a wide belt with a dagger incrusted with a ruby. Even though the character is often presented in comedy scenes, in addition to horror ones, Elvira still remains a genuine Goth icon that has inspired this fashion to this day.

15. Krysten Ritter (Jane - Breaking Bad; Jessica Jones) 

In a world where an abundance of celebrities attempt to pull of gothic influences without having any background or essence, there comes a figure every now and then that masters it effortlessly. Actress Krysten Ritter, known for her roles in TV series like Marvel’s Jessica Jones or Breaking Bad, has a gothic vibe about her that makes her glow with mystery and darkness without even trying too much. She is considered to be one of the freshest additions to the Goth fashion scene, as her career recently skyrocketed with her latest projects. Her role as Jane in Breaking Bad, in particular, has done a fine job of outlining her naturally gothic features, like her large eyes or onyx-coloured hair. While Krysten might not always adopt typical Goth fashion outfits off set, she should be kept an eye on to see how she develops her style in the following years.

16. Lily Munster 

Lily Munster is head of the Munster family in the CBS show named after them. She is, of course, a vampire and has been played by multiple actresses in almost half a century of show time: Yvonne De Carlo, Cynthia Adler, Lee Meriwether, Veronica Hamel, Ann Magnuson and Portia de Rossi. Nevertheless, the most memorable portrayal has remained the original one, by Yvonne De Carlo. As the character of Lily Munster is a vampire, it’s natural that she would have a gothic influence regarding her beauty and fashion. Even though Lily was not associated with black garments, her dramatic makeup, very pale face and wine red lips have inspired gothic beauty to this very day. Nevertheless, one can clearly notice how influences from history have impacted her character, with long, Medieval-like dresses. Moreover, her long, black hair with the silver streak has become a staple for female vampire characters and gothic fashion as we know it today.

17. Taylor Momsen 

When the world first really discovered Taylor Momsen, through her character in TV series Gossip Girl, nobody thought that her sweet character Jennie could ever turn into a dark young woman. However, one shouldn’t mix roles with reality; Taylor Momsen is a hardcore Goth girl who is not afraid to express herself, especially through music and live performances. Her gothic style can be seen the most on stage for her concerts with The Pretty Reckless, as well as in her day to day life. What makes Taylor so special among other young Goth fashion influencers? She has a daring approach to gothic style, with a Fetish Goth fashion influence. She can often be seen with pieces like huge platform, thigh-length boots, creepers, garters, corsets and other intimate pieces very visible. Her almost permanently dark makeup always boosts the impact of her gothic outfits, as well as her features (blue eyes and long, platinum blonde hair).

18. Evan Rachel Wood 

Even though she currently does not reflect her gothic fashion sense as much as she did before (in 2008, for instance), Evan Rachel Wood is also one of the significant figures in Goth fashion that has this look naturally. Of course, it was to be expected that Marilyn Manson’s former fiancée would have at least some gothic influences. During the time when she sported dark hair, Evan Rachel Wood’s style reminded us of Gothabilly and that dark, pin up, retro image. She would wear dark eyeliner to contour her light-coloured eyes, lipstick that contrasted with her pale complexion and her hair would often be styled in a 1940s - 1950s manner. 

19. Tim Burton 

Tim Burton is one of the top influential figures in Goth fashion not through his personal style or a character he portrayed in a film, but by the characters he created for all of his movies until today. Prolific film director and writer Tim Burton has worked on an impressive number of movies, all which received positive feedback from critics. But what makes his movies so relevant to Goth fashion? Well, almost all of them have a gothic theme and all characters wear sumptuous gothic garments (Romantic Goth style). Beetlejuice, Edward Scissorhands, The Nightmare Before Christmas, Sleepy Hollow, Corpse Bride, Bones, Sweeney Todd, Alice in Wonderland, Dark Shadows, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter or Frankenweenie are just a small few of Burton’s films that showcase a wide array of Goth fashion pieces. Thanks to Tim Burton’s movies, actors like Johnny Depp or actresses like Helena Bonham Carter have become an inspiration for Goth fashion and all gothic substyles.