Alternative Fashion: Pastel Goth and why it is, indeed, Goth (if you make it be)

First rant about alternative fashion! Along with writing and anime, I am a huge freak for fashion, mainly alternative fashion – which is basically anything not “mainstream.” I wear anything from lolita, baggy phat pants and cartoon t-shirts, to all types of goth.

(left: OTT sweet lolita, right: goth)

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As a goth, I’ve heard many negative comments towards the newer “pastel goth” style. And as someone who enjoys wearing pastel goth as well as the more classic goth style, I’d like to shed some light on the topic.

First off, if I say “goth,” is this what pops up in your head?

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Though many different styles are recognized within the goth subculture, most of them are characterized by black clothing, chunky boots, silver studs and crosses, and pretty much anything gloomy and spooky.

So when THIS style became a thing and called itself goth….

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It angered many “real goths” because it is too cutesy and pastel to be classified as a darker-than-dark goth style.

Pastel goth still uses a great deal of black, studs, platform shoes, and religious symbolism, but puts a girly twist by adding cute hair bows, pastel clothing, and often hair colored like cotton candy.

The style is sometimes a blend of goth and Japanese fairy kei (think classic Harajuku girls, but more pastel than neon) fashion…

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…Or it can be more of a hipster-grunge look aka “soft grunge” or “pastel grunge” by mixing spooky or obscene t-shirts, pastel shorts, and beanies:

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Since the style gained massive popularity over social media sites, such as tumblr, this style is often criticized as a fad fashion –  something people are wearing because it’s currently trendy, not because they are goth.

I initially had mixed feelings. I liked that it was becoming easier to find Creepers shoes and spooky accessories in stores, but it was also a little frustrating that so many friends of mine were turning “goth,” but had little to no interest in the goth subculture. I wasn’t exactly angry like many other goths, but I was disappointed that I still had very few friends my age that shared my interests.

To briefly explain, the goth subculture revolves around music, fashion, and lifestyle. Music meaning, well…goth rock. Bauhaus, Sisters of Mercy, Siouxsie and the Banshees, along with death rock bands like Christian Death and Alien Sex Fiend, and darkwave bands like Clan of Xymox and Cruxshadows. Most of the pastel goths I’ve met and heard of through “real goth” people ranting listen to anything other than these bands. Lifestyle meaning reading gothic literature (Dracula, Frankenstein, Edgar Allan Poe), going to goth clubs and concerts, and having an overall appreciation for all things spooky – seeing beauty in everything, even stuff most people find scary. The fashion is, as previously described, black with spooky elements.

ANYWAY…I always found it a little silly that the goth subculture – and pretty much all nonconformist subcultures – have very strict guidelines on how to be part of their group, despite the fact that they strive for originality. However, if we are going off those guidelines, there are many people who dress in classic goth, but do not partake in the lifestyle or listen to the music….so why are goths fine with classifying these people as goth, but not pastel goths? It’s ridiculously superficial.

However, if you do claim to be goth (or part of any subculture), know what comes along with the label. If the labeling yourself as a goth is important to you, whether you wear blacks or pastels, at least respect the other two thirds of the subculture. If you aren’t into goth music or lifestyle, enjoy pastel goth fashion, but have a strangely strong desire to be labeled, consider calling yourself “pastel grunge” or “creepy cute.”

So what’s my take?

I find clothing to be the least important part of goth subculture. Though it’s quite silly to so desperately desire a label, if being goth or punk or hipster is really so important to you, it’s what’s on the inside that matters most. What do you love? What do you find beautiful, frustrating, saddening? What you choose to wear won’t change your mindset. I don’t feel any less “goth” when I’m wearing pastel or neon raver outfits. I don’t feel any less “raver” when I’m wearing a frilly lolita dress or all black. Just because I can’t wear black lipstick or armfuls of kandi doesn’t make me less of anything that I am.

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I came to really love pastel goth because it merges two of my favorite things: the spookiness of goth with the cuteness of lolita. I find all things beautiful – that includes black roses, cute little bats, and frilly bows with skulls attached. If cybergoths can wear fluffy legwarmers and perky goths can wear neon pink and black stripes, then pastel goths should be allowed to wear pastel sweaters. Goth is about appreciating the macabre – so if macabre kawaii skeletons suit your fancy, more power to you.

Now excuse me, but I must go curl up in my pastel bat sweater and read some Edgar Allan Poe while listening to Bauhaus. In the meantime, what are your opinions on pastel goth? Super cute or super annoying? Leave it be or banish it from the spooky realms of all things gothy? Post your opinions in the comments!

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33 thoughts on “Alternative Fashion: Pastel Goth and why it is, indeed, Goth (if you make it be)

  1. I always thought gothic clothing was attractive and stylish, and now adding the pastels is like a plus for me because I like pastel colors.

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  2. No girl. You are too young to know what real goth is, all this new goth is perverted by mainstream fashion and ideals. Candy goth is a rave style and adds color elements, I guess you call it pastel and you can call that your own style, real goths wouldn’t be caught dead in white denim hipster shorts or a beannie, we fucking burn them :/

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    1. Thank you for sharing your opinion! However, I don’t think someone’s age validates the amount of knowledge someone can have on this matter. Candy goth and pastel goth are actually both pretty different styles. Candy was around a bit longer than pastel and is more influenced by rave culture, where pastel is influenced by soft grunge and fairy kei. I personally know many goths who hate the new pastel style, but I know quite a few who enjoy it and will occasionally add pastel colors to their usual dark wardrobe. I think the term “traditional goth” is more appropriate than “real goth” – traditional goths definitely would not wear this style. No one can really determine how “real” someone is, nor should they. A large part of goth is being original and feeling free to express yourself. For a group of “nonconformists,” it’d be pretty silly to judge someone because they aren’t conforming to their “nonconforming group” 😉

      But, of course, there’s no right answer on the matter. Not mine or yours or anyone else’s. I’m just stating my own opinion in my blog to share my opinions with all who care to read them. Thank you for taking the time to read mine, even if you do not agree with me or did not enjoy the article.

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  3. Just saying, but Pastel Goth has been verified as a real fashion style many a time. “Goth” in a sense means that one of the primary colors used in the outfit is black, so yes, Pastel Goth IS Goth.

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  4. Hm. Just found your post and I’d say that I love the pastel goth style, but I am not goth in personality, interests or life style. I’m more the cutesy type of gall, yet I seem to have more black clothing these days. This is where I started to dive into fashion and especially the alternative ones. Fairy key and pastel goth are very close in style, one is just more dark in colour and symbols or imagery. Like this blog post. Thanks for clearing up the label meaning behind pastel goth and pastel grunge.

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  5. I came across Pastel Goth around July last year, and I thought it was pretty cute. However, I never understood why goths shame people who identify as pastel goth. Thanks for clearing this up for me!

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  6. Very good read! I am a bit like you (but less awesome) and generally dance between harajuku styles to goth styles but wouldn’t necessarily label myself with anything specific. A lot of people have bad mouthed the current trend of “alternative”, platform shoes and piercings and cute accessories… But I am loving how easy it has become to find cute stuff at affordable prices and in popular shops like primark! I will always jump at the chance to buy something I really like regardless of whether everyone else is wearing it. Either way the fad will pass, and we’ll be left with an awesome wardrobe! xD xx

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    1. Thanks! 🙂 I wouldn’t say you are less awesome haha It sounds like you have a rad sense of style! I totally agree, I love how easy it has become to find cute things. I’ve always loved gothy things and cute things, so I’m taking advantage of the easy availability of stuff I like 🙂

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  7. I am currently barely goth from a fashion standpoint and personally prefer pastel goth for myself because I tend to feel waited down be all the black when I do where goth clothes. That said I love the look of all goth fashion and from a lifestyle standpoint I gave been goth since long before I even fully understand what goth is. I love Edger Allen Poe and Dracula, find beauty in stuff like a violent storm, dark scary woods, and old spooky house and listen to goth music (along with about every other style of music out there if Im being honest)

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    1. Goth isn’t just about wearing black 🙂 It bugs me when people think that, so it makes me happy that there are people like you who understand and enjoy all aspects of goth, as well as other things outside of the spectrum 🙂

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    1. While I do see that this is common in the pastel goth clique, I can’t say I haven’t seen it elsewhere. I know people who dress goth but aren’t into goth music. I know people who love goth music, go to goth clubs, but aren’t really into the fashion or the roots all that much. That’s what makes labeling a bit strange to me since it’s hard to draw the line just based on appearance.

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  8. I agree that labelling is superficial and can get a little carried away sometimes. The reason why I personally don’t like labels is because people label you either Goth or not Goth, depending on how you look/behave.
    But shouldn’t there be some space in-between? I, for one, do not listen to goth music, but do enjoy reading Edgar Allan Poe, and I do find beauty in things others might find scary. On the fashion hand, I do mainly stick to black. But I have found pastel goth to be a really cool trend.

    So anyways, I don’t know if that made sense or not. But what I wanted to say was that labelling can be quite harsh, and I think here should be more middle ground between goth and not goth.

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    1. I totally agree with you. Unfortunately, a lot of people (in many situations) make judgments based on what they see, which is funny because my interests and taste in music doesn’t change depending on what I wear 😛

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  9. Found this blog post and wanted to post and say thank you for a well thought out, great read. Personally I have always loved the Victorian style goth dress, my music of choice is progressive metal and I love psychological drama to watch and read. By the trad goth standards, i’m NOT goth, but I don’t mind not fitting their stereotype.
    I am naturally blonde with is a blessing and a curse- I can’t dye my hair black. However, pastel colours and vibrant greens and purples look awesome! When I saw pastel goth first come out, I felt it was a fashion I could really embrace and I think probably represents how a lot of people look and feel.

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    1. Thanks! Not meeting trad goth standards isn’t the end of the world 😉
      I agree with you on pastel goth – I know a lot of people who were never super gothy but really embrace pastel goth since it suits their tastes more, and I think that’s both totally okay and awesome. I personally love pastel goth because it’s a perfect middle ground for me.

      If dying your hair is an issue, wigs are always an option 🙂 My hair is naturally dark brown, but I have several pastel wigs and black wigs. But I know not everyone is really into that since they can make your head pretty warm e__e

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      1. Oh, I love wigs! I have a few but I don’t wear them often- my natural hair is incredibly thick and bushy so it can be a bit difficult to hide under a wig, but a few of my curlier wigs work. Luckily being blonde means pastel colours and hair chalk take well to my hair.
        Thank you for the great post, I have bookmarked your blog for future reading!

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      2. Have you ever ordered wigs from Arda? Their wig caps are generally a bit bigger/more adjustable, and are also really high quality! You’re lucky to have light hair though – one of the reasons why I don’t dye my hair is because it’d take a lot of bleach to get my hair light enough for pastels to work v__v

        Thank YOU for reading! 🙂 It’s been a while since I made a new post since work and school keep me terrifyingly busy, but I hope to make a new post soon!

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  10. Hi, I only just found this post annd thought it was great! I personally love Pastel Goth and Goth, its meaning is great, I love finding beauty where others don’t see it. My friends aren’t into it that much though. I am young so don’t know much about Goth subculture but I am trying to find out more. I amotrying to find some Gothic literature in the local library but I can’t find any yet. I think pastel Goth is a good combination of the creepy and the cute, but I understand why traditional goths don’t like it much. Some people only dress like that because its cool at the moment, but some of them are actually interested in Gothic subculture. I know my opinion is only one out of billions but I hope you have enjoyed reading it anyways!! :-)❤❤❤

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    1. Hello! Thanks for reading my post! 🙂 I am glad you enjoyed it! And of course I enjoyed reading your opinion! I love reading what other people have to say 🙂

      If you are looking for Gothic literature, I suggest:
      -Dracula
      -Frankenstein
      -Phantom of the Opera
      -The Strange Case of Doctor Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
      -literally anything by Edgar Allen Poe
      -Interview with the Vampire
      -The Picture of Dorian Gray
      -Wuthering Heights
      And of course the first gothic novel. . .The Castle of Otranto!

      I’d be very surprised if you can’t find these in your library because they are all classic titles! (With the exception of Interview being somewhat new, but still very popular.) I’d really recommend anyone who is into literature to read them. You say you are young, so if you are in high school and take AP literature/composition classes, I’m pretty sure a few of these titles can be used on an exam.

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  11. I don’t like labels either. I like goth fashion but I don’t call myself goth because I don’t follow the subculture. Also because I like all types of music and fashion. I like pastel goth, classic goth, alternative, punk rock, grunge, kawaii,etc. Therefore I am not goth. Just because I wear black doesn’t make me goth. I wish people would stop with the labels. I don’t want to be called something I am.

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  12. If many traditional goths reject pastel goths, what do they think about bubble goths (if that’s considered a subculture from goths)?

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    1. I’ve heard bubble goth, candy goth, perky goth, all used interchangeably or with *slight* variances, and I think all are generally accepted? Granted those have been around longer than pastel, so it’s probably only a matter of time that pastel is more widely accepted. In my local goth community, no one seems to have a problem with any of that stuff, so it may vary from each area. One of our clubs even had like kawaii/dolly/creepy-cute themed nights, so someone’s gotta be okay with it here if it’s being marketed ^^’

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  13. I kind of wish fashion labels didn’t exist… I love a lot of different styles, but sometimes people make it feel like you have to choose one way to dress or one thing to be, when I really don’t want to be labeled as anything at all.

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    1. Agreed! I really just like wearing whatever I think is cute. It was kinda scary when I first started going to goth and industrial clubs, I wasn’t sure how to dress because I was afraid people would label me as something negative and not want to be my friend :/

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  14. My problem is that it WAS called soft grunge and suddenly the style became pastel goth. I’m a little confused on how that came to be but I have no problems with the fashion.

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    1. yeahhh that was a bit funky to me, too :/ My guess is someone who didn’t hear the term soft grunge probably saw the crosses, bats, etc. paired with pastel colors and just called it that, and it stuck?

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