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s the days get shorter and the weather cools off, we’re all reaching into our closets for those cozy autumn clothes. For most of our early life, fall clothing and back-to-school clothing are one in the same – and thanks to the dark academia aesthetic that has been dominating storefronts and social media, that same classic, scholar-inspired apparel is finding its way into the wardrobes of people whose school days have been relegated to the year books.

Finding your style as an adult – particularly if you’re a young professional – can be a challenge. After all, you don’t want to look too young (especially if your trend of choice is modeled after boarding school fashion), but you also don’t want to look so stuffy that your personality doesn’t come through.

Keep reading for everything you need to know about making dark academia work for you, including:

  • What is dark academia?
  • A mini-foray into dark academia books and films
  • Dark academia outfit inspiration (for women + men)
  • Where to buy dark academia clothing

We hope you like the dark academia products we recommend! All of them were independently selected by our writing team because we think they're awesome. Just so you know, as an affiliate partner we earn a share of sales or other compensation from qualifying purchases if you decide to shop from some of the links on this page.

What is dark academia?

Visit a modern college campus, and you’ll find yourself in a strangely liminal space, caught in between efficiency and productivity, without any particular aesthetic to define the environment or experience of existing in it. Picture computer labs that haven’t been updated since the 80s, metal library shelves shellacked with glossy (green-ish? Brown-ish? Beige-ish?) paint, mismatched buildings, harsh fluorescent lighting, stray glitter and solo cups from campus events collecting in the gutter.

Dark academia is a subculture that romanticizes the role of academia and academics, transporting us to a time in which the world was full of secrets waiting to be discovered and universities were havens that funneled their funding into creating jaw-dropping institutions that gave the world’s best and brightest a place to forge forward into the great intellectual unknown.

Because dark academia involves a sense of darkness and mystery, and has a particular affinity for the gothic architecture of ancient universities like Oxford, it is sometimes considered a goth subculture.

Dark academia fashion relies on the basic colors, textures, and aesthetic of old world academia, but updated just a bit with modern preppy and goth trends. Some stables of dark academia fashion include:

  • Neutral, academic colors like brown, beige, ivory, black, white, and tan 📜✒️💼🎻
  • Warm, layerable fabrics like wool and tweed 🪶☕🕰 🕯✨
  • Gothic accent pieces and accessories including lace, satin, and vintage accessories such as watches or cameo jewelry 🦇⏳🏛🗝
  • Relatively simple, romantic makeup – typically neutral and smoky 🪵🍂🏹🦉♟
  • Formal attire such as blazers, stockings, dress shoes, etc. 🧳🎞👜🔎
Characters gathered around studying in the dark academia movie The Dead Poets Society 1998
Get in the dark academia headspace when you add some dark academia books and movies to your list. Image courtesy of The Dead Poets Society (1989) on IMDB.

Dark Academia Books and Films

Because dark academia is fundamentally linked to academia, it can be hard to separate dark academia culture from dark academia fashion. In dark academia, the book you’re reading right now can be just as important of an accessory as your antique broach or your plaid scarf.

Most books and movies considered “dark academia” share some common elements, like a sense of mystery or a university/boarding school setting. They can be literary or film classics, but there are plenty of more modern options as well.

Consider tucking one of these dark academia books under your arm next time you head out to complete your look – or just because it’s a good read! 📖

  • Modern gothic literature like The Secret History or The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt, The Vampire Chronicles series by Anne Rice, The Maidens by Alex Michaelides, or The Invisible Life of Addie La Rue by V.E. Schwab
  • Mid-century classics like The Road by Cormac McCarthy, Beloved by Toni Morrison, and Factotum by Charles Bukowski
  • Classical literary works by authors like Homer, Fyodor Dostoevsky, William Faulkner, J.D. Salinger, H.P. Lovecraft, Mary Shelly, Ernest Hemingway, and F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • Capital “R” Romantic poetry like the writings of Wordsworth, Keats, and Lord Byron

(For more spooky, scholastic, and otherwise dark academia books, check out the shelf we put together on Goodreads!)

Dark Academia Outfits + Where to Buy Them

What do marble sculptures of classical heroes, tweed jackets, Donna Tartt’s The Secret History, the city of Edinburgh, and the 1989 Robin Williams film The Dead Poets Society have in common? They all fit squarely within the realm of dark academia.

Not sure where to buy the cozy staples that will be the cornerstone of your next dark academia outfit? Don’t worry – this list is packed full of style inspiration and links to sites where you can shop the look for yourself.

🕰 Give Shape to Baggy Sweaters + Hoodies

Aside from its dark neutral color palette, one of the most defining features of dark academia fashion is its use of layers – after all, it can get chilly when you’re poring over ancient tomes in a gothic university library.

Stock up on lots of layers – from baggy pullovers to oversize ribbed knit sweaters to cozy cardigans – that will keep you warm, but be sure to take the time to style them. A waist-cinching piece like a belt, a jacket that gives some shape to your shoulders, or thoughtfully tucking or half-tucking a layer into your bottoms will ensure your daring dark academia ‘fit doesn’t leave you looking like a formless bundle of wool.

Shop the look with these academic-approved sweaters and sweatshirts:

dark academia sweaters and pullovers

🕰 Throw on a Vest

Speaking of layers, vests are an old-school item that have seen a revival recently thanks to the rising interest in academic aesthetics. Keep it cozy with a sweater vest, or add a little elegance with a vest that could easily be peaking out from under a suit jacket.

Shop the look with these versatile vests:

dark academia vests for women and men

🕰 Collared shirts for all

Dark academia is a formal aesthetic, so it’s no surprise that shirts with collars show up a lot in dark academia fashion inspo. A plain white button down shirt will get a lot of mileage in a dark academia wardrobe, but consider adding some shirts with more creative collars to your collection as well.

Shop the look with these collared shirts:

collared shirts in dark academia style

🕰 Add Some Texture with Lace, Tweed, and Wool

Some fabrics show up more than others in any wardrobe – cotton certainly being the most common. But when you’re looking for ways to level up your layers, consider adding some fun fabrics – like lace, corduroy, tweed, or wool – to the mix to keep your look interesting.

Shop the look with these fun pieces:

lacy and ruffled

🕰 Put Some Prep in Your Step with Trouser Pants

@redrinox New series, felt slightly awkward doing this. Please dont mind me 🤧 #fyp #myoutfit #aesthetic #fashion #darkacademia ♬ original sound - Jo

Trouser pants reign supreme in the dark academia aesthetic, so if you truly want to build out a dark academia wardrobe, investing in a few pairs that fit properly might be a good idea. A neutral black or khaki colored pair is a good start, but plaid trouser pants can instantly transform an otherwise uninteresting outfit into an iconic dark academia look.

Shop the look with these trousers:

trousers, chinos, and matchstick pants for a dark academia outfit

🕰 Scholarly Skirts

If you aren’t feeling trousers today, scholarly skirts and dresses are another way to go dark academia with your OOTD. Keep in mind that since the whole idea of academia revolves around the academic school year, most dark academia skirts and dresses will be designed to keep you warm.

Consider pairing a preppy pleated skirt with tights and legwarmers, or opting for a longer wool skirt to keep your legs cozy even during the coldest part of the semester.

Shop the look with these dark academia skirts:

🕰 Blazers, Blazers, Blazers

One way to elevate an outfit from student to professor is to throw on a blazer. There’s plenty of room in the world of dark academia fashion for fitted and oversized options, as well as solid colored blazers and prints. Button them up, roll the sleeves – whatever feels right for you. But definitely don't skip adding one to your wardrobe!

Shop the look with these bold blazers:

dark academia blazers

🕰 Go Mad for Plaid (and Houndstooth)

Have we mentioned plaid yet? It’s cozy, it’s sophisticated, and it’s one of the defining prints of the academia aesthetic. Throwing on a plaid blazer or a plaid pleated skirt have you looking like you’re on your way to one of the best boarding schools in the British moors, or perhaps running full sprint toward an unassuming wall on platform 9 ¾ at the train station in London.

As far as academia-inspired prints go, houndstooth is another excellent option. Since the 1930s, the print has been amongst the world’s wealthiest and powerful, eventually becoming a favorite of notable fashion designer Christian Dior in the 1950s. Today houndstooth is used more broadly in fashion, but because of its association with wealth and glamor, it’s an easy way to give any outfit a boost, so be sure to find a few statement pieces that work it into your wardrobe.

Shop the look with these plaid and houndstooth statement items:

plaid and houndstooth dark academia clothing

🕰 Keep Footwear/Outerwear Practical

Some aesthetics are all about cultivating the look, no matter the cost (we see you, cottage goth platform boots). Dark academia is not one of them. It’s a practical look, one that you should be able to comfortably wear between classes, clubs, and study groups… and even wear out for the evening with a few minor adjustments like letting your hair down or rolling up your sleeves.

Particularly when it comes to footwear and outerwear, dark academia’s practicality comes through. Long wool coats that will keep your bare legs safe from a fall breeze? Check. Cozy scarves? Got ‘em. Comfortable boots and low heels? Now you’re getting it.

Shop the look with these highly wearable outerwear options:

dark academia shoes including boots, oxfords, mary janes, and loafers

🕰 Bookish Tees

@readingwithines Inspired by @sammijefcoate_ a true ICON! …but instead it’s a Bookish Outfit of the Day! 📚🤓 #ootd #bookishoutfit #darkacademia #bookishtees #booktok ♬ La Vie En Rose - Emily Watts

Most of the time, we’d advise against wearing something with a slogan or graphic print as a part of a dark academia outfit, but for bookish tees, we’ll make an exception. The academia aesthetics are intertwined with a love of literature, so if you can find a way to include one on a t-shirt or bag, it can make a great addition to a casual dark academia outfit.

Shop the look with these bookish pieces:

🕰 Vintage Accessories

You might want to raid grandma’s closet or hit up your nearest thrift store for this one. A few delicate, vintage accessories complete the look, whether it’s a pocket watch, a hair pin, or a unique piece of cameo jewelry.

Shop the look with these vintage-inspired accessories:

delicate dark academia jewelry including hair pins, cameo jewelry, and sweater pins

🕰 Elevated Bags + Book Bags

No trip to campus (or wherever you’re taking your dark academia outfit) would be complete without a sturdy book bag to carry your collection of fountain pens and leather bound books. Whether a purse or a backpack, dark academia bags tend to be slightly more elevated than the Jansports you find at your average department store.

Shop the look with these upgraded dark academia bags and backpacks:

🕰 Try an Androgenous Academia Look

You may have noticed as we’ve gone through this list that many of these styles can and are adopted by dark academia guys and girls alike. Because the color palette and silhouettes are so simple and classic, dark academia styles are a great place to mix and match masculine and feminine pieces to create a look that you truly feel comfortable.

Shop the look with these quintessentially dark academia pieces:

androgynous dark academia outfit ideas including oversize and cropped clothes

Our Shopping Shortlist: Where to Buy Dark Academia Clothing

Due to the rise in popularity, dark academia clothes can be found all over the place these days. If the items on this list haven’t filled out your dark academia wardrobe, consider checking out these other dark academia-centric shops to find the rest of the items on your list:

woman holding several academic books in front of her face at university
Now that you’ve read up on the dark academia aesthetic, shopping the style should be a cinch.

Dressing for work or school doesn’t have to be boring. Incorporate a few of these dark academia style ideas into your wardrobe, and we’re sure you’ll be feeling like the main character in your story in no time. Good luck! 📚

Posted 
Oct 3, 2022
 in 
Fashion
 category