lternative fashion has long been stereotyped as unprofessional -- who would want to hire you with your hair like that? With all of those tattoos? If you wear your makeup so dark? For a long time, people who wanted to show off their unique style at work were almost exclusively lumped into creative jobs -- and while plenty of creatives do take their own unique approach to professional fashion, you can bring your personality into your professional wardrobe no matter what job you have.

The corporate world isn’t usually known for promoting individuality, but the corporate goth trend is turning that on its head. By combining traditional corporate attire with the unique elements of goth and alternative fashion, it subverts our expectations of what “professional” looks like and gives grown up alternative kids a way to express themselves at work.

Keep reading for everything you need to know about corporate goth, including:

  • What is corporate goth?
  • Corporate goth inspiration (for men and women)
  • Surviving the workplace as a corporate goth professional

What is Corporate Goth?

Corporate goth (sometimes shortened to corp goth) is a subgenre of gothic style. Originally a response to corporate dress codes, corporate goth has become popular even outside of professional settings. With corporate goth you get all of the dark romance of goth fashion, but with a mature, sophisticated edge, making it a great (and subtle) way to show off your style.

Corporate goth fashion relies on the basic colors, textures, and aesthetics of broader goth fashion, but refined a bit. Some staples of corporate goth fashion include:

  • Goth colors like black, various shades of gray, brown, jewel tones, white, cream
  • Goth fabrics like leather, lace, and silk
  • Relatively simple makeup -- typically dark eye makeup and a nude or autumn lip
  • Formal attire like suits or pantsuits, frilly shirts, flowing blouses, gothic jewelry

Corporate Goth Men + Women to Inspire Your Professional Look

Looking for some corporate goth fashion inspiration? Look no further. We’ve pulled some awesome corporate goth looks from across social media to give you some ideas on how to go goth with your office attire.

🥀 Choose your accent colors wisely

Like any gothic style, black is the foundation of a corporate goth wardrobe. That being said, it doesn’t have to be the only color in your wardrobe. This gray blazer ties @wednesday.darkling’s whole outfit together.

Choosing items that give you a professional silhouette (like trouser leg pants, a collared blouse, or a blazer) helps you keep it professional without having to deviate from your corporate goth color palette.

Shop the look with these timeless gray blazers:

corporate goth blazers for men and women

🥀 Pull in Some Punk Influences with Patches

Corporate punk might sound like an oxymoron, but hear us out. Just because you have an office job doesn't mean you can't advocate for what you believe in -- it just means you have to find the appropriate way to do it. Enter your office backpack (or bag). Whether it's a couple of band logos, slogans for your favorite cause, or even a couple of tasteful political punk patches, it's an easy way to let your work duds speak to who you really are.

If you can't find the perfect patch, customized patches are a good option too. When you take the design into your own hands, you can hit anywhere on the corporate <--> goth spectrum that you want. Choose a material that fits your alternative vibe -- like leather, embroidery, or PVC -- and stick your custom patches on your jacket, purse, or anywhere else you want to add a little bit of alternative flair.

Shop the look with these patches that show your style (and what you support):

office appropriate punk patches for alternative business casual wear

🥀 Bring in some baroque pieces

Gothic fashion is usually pretty dramatic. Corporate goth finds ways of including dramatic elements in subtle ways. The red silk tie and jeweled rings in @thevampirevegan’s corporate goth outfit elevate his otherwise ordinary corporate look with a little bit of luxurious goth flair.

Shop the look with these baroque-inspired accessories:

baroque-inspired corporate goth accessories

🥀 Consider going retro

Hailing from an era of longer hemlines and higher collars, a lot of retro clothing meets corporate dress code standards. But since the trends of yesteryear are, in fact, the trends of yesteryear, incorporating them into your wardrobe can be a great way to stand out from the back and show off your style.

Classic silhouettes like this one automatically look polished, and we’re obsessed with these fun red cateye sunglasses. Paired with timeless accents like red lipstick or red nails, retro-inspired corporate goth clothing is a sophisticated way to express yourself and stay professional at the same time.

Shop the look with these vintage silhouette wiggle dresses:

retro and vintage inspired corporate goth dresses

🥀 Layer goth pieces and cozy pieces

Have some lacy shirts or fishnets lying around? Those can be the start of a perfectly professional corporate goth outfit. Just layer them under other pieces of clothing, and viola! Corporate goth perfection.

We love the way @sammitery upcycles tights to create a quick, affordable corp goth-friendly addition to any outfit. If you're looking for an out-of-the-box option instead of going DIY, you can start your look with a sheer mesh blouse or high-necked lace top. Throw a cozy sweater on top, and you're ready to get to work.

Also consider lace tights under a long black skirt, fishnets peeking out from under jeans that are torn at the knee paired with a blazer, and long fishnet sleeves under an otherwise boring short sleeve dress or blouse.

Shop the look with these shirts that can be layered under sweaters and jackets for a corporate goth outfit with some depth:

corporate goth layers and undershirts

🥀 Add a black blazer

Much of goth attire is formal, so formal prints and silhouettes work really well in corporate goth fashion. This outfit -- a pin striped vest under a black blazer -- would look great on any aspiring corporate goth.

Shop the look with these classic black blazers:

🥀 Mix in some subtle goth jewelry


Mask by @velvetdaydreamz . Skirt from goodgoth.com. Everything else thrifted/gifted ##officegoth ##goth ##ootd

♬ Forever Suffer - Dark

Don’t forget about accessories! Rings and necklaces are great places to add a subtle, corporate goth touch to your outfit. Look for small pendants with gothic elements like bats, skulls, and pentagrams, or find pieces that lean into the romantic, vintage side of gothic fashion with ornate carvings and plenty of jewels (real or costume).

Shop the look with spooky jewelry like:

corporate goth earrings

🥀 Prints + Textures = Cozy Corporate Goth

Looking for something cozy to keep you warm in the office AC? Layer different corporate goth textures and prints to get a warm outfit with an edge. Vests, cardigans, sweaters, button ups, leather jackets, and more work great for this trend.

Shop the look with these cozy corporate goth jackets and scarves:

corporate goth jackets and scarves

🥀 Work a corset into your outfit

Speaking of layers, incorporating a corset into an outfit is a great way to up its drama. This look from @dasrupa is subtle, including a black corset over a black striped button down and black trousers. If you want an even more dramatic look, consider an underbust corset in an accent color paired with a skirt or dress instead of a wide belt.

Shop the look with fashion corsets in a wide range of styles:

corporate goth corsets

Surviving the Workplace as a Corporate Goth Adult

The corporate workplace isn’t always friendly, particularly to those who push boundaries. If you want to introduce some corporate goth elements into your professional wardrobe, make sure you keep these tips in mind:

  • Know the rules. Corporate goth is all about finding ways to incorporate gothic elements into professional attire without getting axed for it, so before you upgrade your wardrobe make sure you know where the line lies in your particular profession. Some professions are naturally more tolerant or restrictive (graphic designer vs. lawyer, for example), so keep professional boundaries in mind.
  • Start small. You don’t have to go full corporate goth overnight! Incorporate a few gothic pieces you really like -- a vintage ring, a fun necklace, a new hair color. Adding pieces gradually not only keeps your coworkers from being shocked by a dramatic, overnight transformation, it also gives you more time to develop your unique office goth style.
  • Consider your coworkers. Your job is about networking and building relationships, so don’t dress in a way that makes others in your workplace uncomfortable. It may mean compromising on a few things, at least when you’re wearing your corporate goth looks to the office, but maintaining professional relationships with colleagues and superiors is probably worth it.
  • Talk to HR. If you want to know what you can and can’t wear to work, sit down and have a conversation with someone in your company’s HR department. They can help you understand where the boundaries are so that you can express yourself without crossing into office-inappropriate territory.
  • Choose jobs based on office culture. If you’re looking for a job where you can express yourself through your fashion and other choices, you’ll want to find an office environment that is receptive to that kind of self expression and creativity. Keep an eye out for potential colleagues when interviewing places -- how do they dress? How do they interact with each other? It can tell you a lot about what kind of office environment you might be getting yourself into.
two corporate goths

Dressing for work doesn’t have to be boring. We hope this article has given you a few ideas of how to express yourself in the office. Good luck out there!

(Originally posted March 2, 2021)

May 19, 2022