how can I slowly roll out a different look at work?

It’s the Thursday “ask the readers” question. A reader writes:

I’m a 30-year-old engineer. For the first years of my career I was very focused on fitting in and establishing my competence. I’ve been at my current firm for five years now and I feel reasonably well established.

I’ve recently started experimenting more with my style outside of the office. I had always wanted to dress more goth / alternative, but felt too nervous to try. I’ve been shocked at how good it feels — I legitimately feel like a different, happier, more outgoing person when I’m dressed this way. Putting on black lipstick for the first time had me smiling so much my wife said she wasn’t sure she’d ever seen me so excited! I really feel more like myself in all black and big boots. I’ve noticed that when I’m walking around I’m smiling more, saying hello to people, and generally having more positive interactions.

I’d really like to start bringing this energy to work! I specifically chose this company because it doesn’t have a dress code and we have a flat organization, giving me more flexibility to seek out and work with project managers who aren’t bothered by a bit of a “different” look. (And yes, this was something I was thinking about five years ago — the alternative style rollout has been a long time coming!).

I’m struggling with how to transition from more general business casual to something a little more out there. I’m finding I feel a little hesitant to just show up rocking a totally different style one day.

Any tips on slowly rolling out a different look? I’d like to keep it from being something so jarring that it distracts from my work, and give myself time to test the waters a bit and make sure things will be okay before I show up with a shaved head and platform boots!

Readers, what’s your advice?

{ 275 comments… read them below }

  1. A Nonny Mouse (possibly a A Nonny Bat?)*

    There used to be a lovely site called Corp-Goth that dealt with this, as well as several blogs if you search with those terms. The Lady of the Manners and the Gothic Charm School can also probably help.

    The advice I’ve often seen most often (and what I do myself, since I am also lazy and do not fully do make-up/dress-up for when I go in to the office) is start with accessories. Also start with a darker palette, like just wearing all black from now on, maybe with a splash of grey or a bright jewel tone if you want. But accessories are a lovely and easy way to start testing the waters b/c they’re interchangeable.

    Really though, def search “Corp Goth” and see what turns up as well as check out the Gothic Charm School (not nec. the tumblr although that is a delight too) but the blog.

    Good luck!

    1. Some internet rando*

      I just googled “Corp goth” and I am fascinated!! I am not a goth person and I love some of these outfits!

      1. Rainbow*

        Bookmarking corp goth for future! I’m not a goth, but I really like to put my own twists into work clothes while also keeping myself on the higher end of the “well-dressed” spectrum for my office (since traditionally my field is a bit devoid of other women)

    2. A. C.*

      There are a lot of people making corporate goth outfit content on tiktok now! A lot of what’s mentioned here is applicable but I wanted to throw that out for a bunch of real-life examples too.

    3. Gary Patterson's Cat*

      I agree with a more gradual change.
      1. All black or gray (pinstripes, tshirts, black boots, creepers, etc.)
      2. Add some goth accessories (necklace, earring, glasses, etc.)
      3. Add a more goth hairstyle (darker, punkier)
      4. Go for a goth makeup look (or maybe not depending on what’s enough for you).
      For the office, IDK, perhaps the eyeliner or lipstick is enough for day wear.

      I feel like not many people will notice #1 and #2 so much, but they will notice #3 and #4 more, but by then you will have hopefully worked up to that at work.

      When I was in the office, I often worked in some punk or steampunk “lite” looks. For example, you can wear a corset over a office-friendly white or black button down shirt. The only thing I would caution is not to show skin, because it IS still work.

      1. WishIWasATimeTraveller*

        Ooh there are some great office friendly Barbiecore options! I have an amazing Barbie pink work blazer, used to have a very professional looking pink work dress. Sadly I couldn’t find a devoted website, but most basic corporate work items can be found in Barbie pink. (Drifts off into a fantasy of pink heels, blazers, pencil skirts, blouses…)

        1. Reluctant Mezzo*

          As someone who is short and round, alas I do not want to project an Umbridge vibe (“Evil! Now available in pink!”). But I love the look!

      2. Temperance*

        I did not realize until right now that there was a word for this but yes I’m here for it.

        I dress like this. I buy office dresses in hot pink and bright red most of the time. As long as it’s a professional outfit, the colors don’t matter so much.

        1. Random Dice*

          Same here, but different colors – dresses and skirts on the nicer end of business casual, but in bright lemon yellow, kelly green, turquoise…

      3. Fleabag’s Inner Monologue*

        I don’t know if there’s a blog for this, but Elle Woods is definitely the poster child for corporate Barbie.

    4. My Cabbages!*

      I always wanted to go Goth Punk or Steampunk but was too shy when I was younger and now I’m in my mid-40s. I’ve been looking for ways to splash in the fashion without coming off as “mutton dressed as lamb”, so to speak, and this is super helpful! Thanks!

      1. pope suburban*

        Jen who writes the Epbot blog does some fashion posts that might be helpful. She’s into steampunk, but also cares about her clothes being comfortable and practical, and so she’s a good resource for people looking into daily wear as well as people trying to make elaborate costumes for special events.

      2. Queer Earthling*

        There are plenty of goths who are in their forties or older! Someone upthread mentioned Gothic Charm School, who is in her 50s I think? She works an ordinary, professional job in full Victorian goth gowns. Not saying you’ve got to do that, but style and interests don’t need to have an age limit unless you give them one.

    5. Donkey Hotey*

      I can’t say enough nice things about Gothic Charm School (and not just because she’s my best friend’s sister). The author has been a corporate goth for many years at Very Recognizable Co. and to my knowledge has never given her any flak, because she knows what she is doing and does it very well. So yeah, the better you do your job, the less grief they will likely give you.

      (Of course, YMMV. I say all this living in a Large Coastal Metro area where dress codes are a thing of the past. I saw a letter here recently asking about an employee who had the temerity to *gasp* wear Doc Martens to work.)

      1. pagooey*

        Gothic Charm School was one of my colleagues at Probably the Same Giant Organization, and a delightful person (who even brought in her own black Post-Its). She’s the first person I thought of, and I’m glad she’s represented in this thread!

        (Per the “so jarring” notion of showing up with a radically different lewk: one Halloween I absolutely begged, BEGGED GCS to come to work in, like, a polo shirt and khakis and a nude lipstick. “No one would ever guess who you were!” She politely demurred, but I still think it would be an incognito opportunity like no other.)

    6. ECBeace*

      I would say just start wearing all black a few days. Chill on the accessories and lipstick until the new look is broken in. If anyone asks, just tell them “this feels more comfortable to me. Luckily I have a company and coworkers who are cool with me being me. “.

      1. Work Related Acquaintance*

        Agree – I think OP’s safest bet is to make small changes over time to test the waters, starting with a shift to all/mostly all black clothes in traditional, office-friendly styles. Some people may find the goth look inappropriate and/or juvenile and you want to gauge that so you can figure out if dressing unusually is going to bring repercussions, and if those repercussions are worth it.

  2. LolaBugg*

    As someone who sometimes doesn’t recognize someone right away with even a small change in appearance (just the way my brain works, I guess) I would say we don’t mean it in an offensive way if we occasionally do a double take for the quick second our brains are buffering. It’s not that I care how you present, because you do you. It’s just me trying to make a connection.

    1. But Not the Hippopotamus*

      I can very much not recognize people when there is something different. it could be seeing someone from work at the park, a new hairstyle, whatever. So I agree that a little grace towards people who need a mental adjustment is a good idea.

      1. SeluciaMD*

        No comment other than to say I absolutely love your username and wish I’d thought of it.

    2. T.N.H.*

      I legitimately have face blindness and would actually not recognize you if you changed enough of your appearance. Be prepared to re-introduce yourself to a few people in my camp. New hair color is a big one cause it’s my go-to for telling who someone is quickly in context. (About 3% of people have some face blindness so it’s not a small number.) But that doesn’t mean don’t do it!

      1. Lassiter*

        LOL – I didn’t know there was a name for this! But this is so spot on for me – face blindness, now I don’t feel so bad when I don’t remember a name, especially when I feel I should know who that person is.

        1. allathian*

          Yes, the disorder’s become better known in recent years. At least in Scandinavia, there was a big spike in awareness when Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden stated publicly that she was face blind. Some other public figures who’ve said that they’re face blind include actors Stephen Fry and Brad Pitt, anthropologist Jane Goodall, neurologist Oliver Sacks and Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak.

          I don’t have trouble recognizing people’s faces, but seeing someone I know out of context throws me for a loop. I probably wouldn’t recognize most of my coworkers immediately if I met them in the street somewhere else, or my hairdresser if I saw her anywhere other than the salon, etc.

      2. lee*

        yeah the face blindness thing sucks. I have embarrassed myself numerous times with not recognizing somebody if I see them out of context or if they have changed their hair or shaved a beard.

      3. Esprit de l'escalier*

        I am moderately faceblind too, with the added wrinkle that if you show up looking markedly different facewise, even if I know you pretty well I will not only not recognize you, but when I figure out it’s you I won’t remember what you used to look like – my brain will have erased that. So I can’t even say, “Oh, I didn’t know it was you without the beard / with the new hairdo / etc” because I’m not sure what you changed that turned you into a stranger.

        I do my best to fake it in such a situation, but I’m probably staring at you way too hard.

    3. Oh My Goth You Guys*

      I love that you said this because I am the same way. A double look or longer than polite stare as the dots connect is not a judgement on you. It’s letting the brain recalculate the information so that next time it’s the normal interaction.

    4. Proso_wut?*

      I have prosopagnosia (face blindness) and identify people by their “usual” appearance — so if coworker Bob is the bald guy in the office with a mustache who always wears a polo shirt, I would have ZERO idea it was him if he showed up with a toupee, no stache, and a suit. Some people get weirdly offended by this! Like my neurological processing is somehow a slight against them. So I’d say enjoy your new preferred look and don’t take it personally if you’re literally unrecognizable to some folks.

    5. too many dogs*

      Exactly! And then I don’t know if I’m supposed to make a comment on the change and risk hurting somebody’s feeling because they were hoping we wouldn’t notice , or NOT make a comment on the change and risk hurting their feelings because they wanted the change to be noticed.

    6. Lana Kane*

      My neighbor has face blindness. Our kids hang out together so he knows who I am. I still see him staring at me sometimes because I remind him of an old high school friend and he has told me that when he does that, he’s just trying to focus on who I actually am :) I picture him tuning in his old-school tv.

      I don’t have face blindness but sometimes big changes in appearance can throw me off for a second. I try really hard to sound apologetic when I say “I didn’t recognize you for a second, I’m sorry!” I think you can usually tell who the numpty is who is being a jackass about the change in appearance, vs someone who truly needs a moment, but many people who haven’t experienced that could get offended without knowing.

    7. TryingToAdultHere*

      Absolutely this. A coworker I’ve worked with for 18 months and consider a work friend shaved his big bushy beard. He came over to talk to me during the work day and I didn’t realize who he was until he started speaking and I recognized his voice.

      If someone changed their style and especially their hair color or cut I would likely not recognize them either.

      1. Lauren*

        My bf did this a lot. Known as grizz and I was grizzela by association. He could shave and get a haircut and look like a new employee and no one would speak to him for at least a week and ask me where he was.

        1. Cyborg Llama Horde*

          Fairly early in my parents’ marriage, my father shaved his beard and went to church clean-shaven and in a suit. (Their usual church, which they went to every week and had been attending for years.) Numerous people thought he was my mom’s brother.

    8. I take tea*

      It is such a relief to see that I’m not the only one who struggles to recognize people when they change their looks, or even just are in the wrong place…

      I have started to tell new people I meet, that they must not be offended if I don’t recognize them, just tell me that we’ve met and where. I do remember what we talked about, just remind me who you are.

  3. TyphoidMary*

    If it were me, I think I’d pick the 3-4 elements that make me happiest. For example, you mentioned the boots and lipstick! Wear them every day for a couple weeks, and then just go for it.

    My guess is that the increase in happiness/confidence you feel will make embracing the look less scary for you and less jarring for others.

    (Also, for what it’s worth, I personally wouldn’t be too taken aback at a coworker’s sudden change in style. I’d probably just be like “omg Morticia has totally been rocking the goth look lately and it seems to make her really happy!”)

    1. Smithy*

      Absolutely this.

      I will also say that “business casual goth” can often be very easy in that lots of people wear all black to work minus the lipstick as a bit of a uniform. So another way to start is that with the summer coming, doing all black clothing and darker lipstick but not boots would make the transition to boots in the fall/winter easier.

      The other option would be to do the majority of the goth/alternative look you like but minus the lipstick. Dark nail polish (including black) and rings, I feel are often seen as a bit more mainstream in a way that black lipstick (as opposed to raisin/oxblood shades) still isn’t. So you could also find that doing everything but the lipstick is another way to start, and then add the lipstick at work later.

      1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

        Agreed. Many of the other elements of the goth look are pretty mainstream on their own. Plenty of people wear a lot of black. Or kick-*ss boots. Or have short haircuts. It’s the makeup that’s a lot less commonly seen out in the world.

      2. Caramel & Cheddar*

        Was coming here to say this. Lots of people are suggesting integrating the goth accessories/clothing first on a piece by piece basis, but I think the more seamless transition is moving to an all black wardrobe first and *then* integrating things like the big boots (if they’re the kind with lots and lots of buckles) and whatever accessories might read more goth than not.

        I think it’s also good to keep in mind that even if your workplace doesn’t have a dress code, there may be some things that are still probably not fully appropriate for work. I’m someone who likes flashy patterns, but there’s some stuff in my wardrobe that I know is just too much for work even if my company has a very relaxed dress code. I’m assuming there are things in goth fashion that might similarly be “too much”, so it’s about finding that line (which a bunch of folks below are calling “corp goth” so that might be a good frame of reference).

        1. All Het Up About It*

          Another vote for the all black wardrobe first as a great place to start!

          A way to approach this could be thinking about “what’s least objectionable?” What if you did work in a more conservative office? What could you get away with there? All black clothes, black nail polish, probably not black lipstick, but a very dark wine color? If it would fly in a more conservative office, then it’s probably a good place to start in your more relaxed situation.

        2. Drago Cucina*

          This was my thought. Black pants and a charcoal gray shirt wouldn’t cause an eyebrow to raise. Play with these clothing combinations first and then add an accessory. Then two.

          Then when you transition to makeup it’s just part of the look.

        3. Smithy*

          In general, I think those lines about “too much” and “we don’t have a dress code, but that doesn’t mean you can come to work in a wetsuit” are part of the reason why there can be value or at least security in taking a gradual approach. If for no other reason than to give yourself the confidence that if Fergus in Accounting one day asks you about going to a Halloween in July party – you know he’s being silly, awkward and/or a jerk – as opposed to worrying if you’ve made a bigger error.

          I wear a lot of vintage clothing, mixed in with contemporary clothes. While I’m happy to talk about vintage clothes with coworkers, there are some items that I buy/wear and really enjoy – but have zero desire to talk about at work. Namely, vintage fur. It’s an issue I’m certainly comfortable with, but am not looking to engage with at work. I’ve jobs, where I can wear coats with those collars and it’s never noticed. And I’ve had jobs where I have a coworker or two who get really excited about those items and want to talk about them a lot but, I see other people notice and just avoid wearing them to the office.

          When it comes to a distinctive style, often I find that the rules of “too much” become different. It’s no longer about not being able to wear shirts with writing, and more so about your clothing letting you be you, but not wildly overshadowing you as a great colleague/employee.

        4. Jojo*

          I came here to say to start with the all black wardrobe and then add things in. Looks like that’s the common recommendation. For makeup, I think just increasing the goth aspects week over week would be good. Black fingernails are no big deal, and might be a nice starting point. Just add in elements, and by the time you get to the black lipstick, most people’s reaction will be like, oh yeah, that makes sense.

      3. Bee*

        Absolutely – granted I live in NYC, so head-to-toe black is so common it’s a stereotype, but I think you could very easily switch to an all-black “business casual goth” look! If you used to wear all pastels or something that might be a surprise, but otherwise no one is even likely to notice.

        The black lipstick is definitely going to be more of a Look; I love the way it looks on me but still can’t bring myself to wear it outside of like Halloween just because it’s such a statement. But you could also go the other direction (since I’m assuming you can’t afford to replace your entire wardrobe at once anyway) and start with the lipstick & boots paired with your old clothes. People are more likely to comment on it, but if you just say something like “I’ve always wanted to try it out and it turns out I really like it!” most of them will just be like “aww good for her” and stop thinking about it immediately.

      4. 2 Cents*

        Anyone else an IT Crowd fan? All I can think of is Richmond as a business casual goth! (I’m not making fun of the OP. I think the look really is cool.)

        1. Joan Crawford's Jello Mold*

          Noel Fielding is an excellent choice to get some great Goth styling tips from, at any rate!

          1. Goldenrod*

            Omg, yes! I love his outfits on the Great British Baking show. Big sweaters with skulls, pointy pink boots, eyeliner, skinny pants….I love all his looks!

        2. Mephyle*

          Me five. The show just went off our country‘s Netflix last month, so I did a marathon while I still could. So, yes my mind immediately went to Richmond.

      5. Storm in a teacup*

        Agree wearing all black isn’t actually a huge change and boots too esp if office is laid back anyway. I still wear my black boots to the office with my pretty dresses. If you transition to black / dark clothes then boots then accessories over a few weeks I doubt a lot of people will even notice straight away.
        I think if you are male presenting then black lipstick may be the biggest change, mainly as it’s still not mainstream for a lot of men to wear make up although that is changing. So I would leave this to last. However if you’re female presenting then switching to dark lipstick is an easy first step (I still love my Clinique black honey and myLime Crime Dream Girl. My new dark oxblood lip colours on my wishlist are Fenty ones)

      6. PDB*

        In the 80s I worked for NBC/RCA and dressed in all black for a bunch of reasons, not the least of which was my intention to look not NBC/RCA.

    2. Artemesia*

      I like this idea of gradually adopting things, but also be thinking about a social and a work version. I would be hesitant to use black lipstick as that will be among the most jarring changes. Maybe find a more neutral beige or brown that is not so dramatic at least at first.

      1. Fish Out of Water*

        I think a lot of this depends on whether the OP is normally male or female presenting. For women slowly transitioning to a goth lip color by way of other darker colors might work great. For a man, however, any lipstick is likely going to be noted and is a distinct, less conventional look, so you’re likely better off just going to black v. making the change by way of other colors.

    3. 2 Cents*

      Aren’t the boots described really in right now? I know Doc’s are all over. I assume that includes sh*t-kicker boots too.

    4. MCMonkeyBean*

      I mostly agree, but I was actually going to say that of all the style changes they may want to make I think the lipstick might be the most unusual for the office so personally I would probably wait on that piece until the overall vibe was kind of set in place.

  4. GreenShoes*

    Well… don’t do it one day over your lunch break :)

    Other than that start mixing things gradually… wear darker lipstick colors, pair the black boots with a business casual look, etc.

    1. Daisy-dog*

      Or do. Give your coworkers something fun to speculate on. We need more of lunch-time makeover girl.

      1. Lana Kane*

        Same for me. It reminded me of a coworker who wore different wigs every day – so not a lunchtime makeover but still wildly different hair on the daily. We all got used to it and would sometimes be like, “awesome wig today!” when it was especially…vivacious lol It became a thing she was known for and it was pretty awesome.

    2. sookie st james*

      re: trying out darker lipstick colours – unless you’re really adverse to any colour but black, opting for very dark reds/purplish shades for a while could be a way to transition into the black that doesn’t read as startling – there are some reds that are so dark they’re almost black but just have a reddish tinge, which might feel more in the realm of “normal” lipstick colour than a very matte black for example!

      1. Princess Sparklepony*

        I’ve been out of the work force for a while, but black lipstick seems to be a very dramatic look. I would suggest going to the dark berry shades. Still very dark but has enough red that people read it as “normal” and not “What the heck happened there?”

        I worked in the music business but only the artists would wear a black lipstick regularly. The rest of us did all kind of shades from nothing to neutral (always hated those myself) to reds, fuchsias, and berries. Black was just too arty it seems. And looking at the pinterests of goth look, dark red is very popular. Personally, I like a dark berry or fuchsia, red can be hard to wear.

        But I don’t know what the working world is wearing anymore. (Yet somehow I love this site and all the problems people have! And the solutions. )

  5. Tio*

    If I wanted to do this, I’d start with the shoes. Not full platforms immediately, but something that goes up the leg with a decent amount of straps/details. Wear those for a while. Then move on to the shirts. Once that’s been in a bit, move on to adding jewelry. Anything above the neck – hair, makeup, etc – should go last (except earrings, you can wear those earlier, although they’ll be more noticeable if you’re male presenting.) Faces leave the biggest impression, since that’s what most people spend the most time looking at when they’re with you, so that’s the last stage.

    1. Tesseract Mom*

      This comment has a lot of wisdom. I feel like Tio really thought this out and the approach makes sense.

    2. D*

      Honestly, I did my side shave in two stages as I got comfortable with really shaving off that much of my long hair, but it was one of the first things I did with my “style.”

      Hair really, really matters to someone’s sense of self and presentation, so it might be able to be the first thing if it’s the only thing for a bit.

      1. Hlao-roo*

        Hair really, really matters to someone’s sense of self and presentation, so it might be able to be the first thing if it’s the only thing for a bit.

        Seconding this. When I slow-rolled my own style change, I got a drastic hair cut first (because it was most important to me) and then after about a month slowly started changing out my work clothes. If I remember correctly, I got a grand total of 2 comments on the haircut at work (both positive) and 0 comments on any of the clothes. Granted, my style change was more Corporate Style A to Coporate Style B, not Corporate Standard to Corporate Goth.

      2. Nina*

        And a side shave is surprisingly easy to style down if you want to have a side shave but not necessarily have it visible at work.

        1. catsandhammocks*

          yep this is very true. I have an undercut that goes all the way around – literally the bottom half of my head is shaved. I’ve had it for 20 years, but I live in the PNW and wear my hair down if it’s even mildly chilly. Had it up the other day and several newer co-workers (that started late Fall or in the winter) commented that they liked my new cut. My hair isn’t even all that long (I keep it just barely pony-tail length) but the undercut is completely hidden if it’s down.

    3. Lex*

      For above-the-neck adjustments, you can also do that in stages at work so it’s less jarring and less likely to prompt comments.

      Start with maybe an alternative hairstyle where french braiding half your hair tight to your scalp, then an undercut then the full shave. 90s brown grunge lip transitions to a vampy red or merlot to full black.

      Same thing with eye makeup, etc.

    4. Quinalla*

      Agreed very much with starting lower on the body. I always rock fun socks and hardly anyone notices and I’ve been wearing plain black walking shoes for years (even before COVID) because my feet are bad. I’m so excited for you, go for it!

      Also though, nothing wrong with just totally rocking a new look too, but keep it toned down reasonably for work I would say. I’ve done both the slow roll and just I feel like wearing a dress/skirt today and just went with a whole fancy outfit, big jewelry, etc. People noticed, but no one cared :)

    5. My Cabbages!*

      Anyone have tips on finding gothy boots for people who need maximum comfort in footwear?

      1. Reed Weird*

        I also am very picky about shoe comfort and I really love my Demonias, I have the Mega-602 boots and they are ridiculously comfy! I was a haunt actor, on my feet and walking, jumping, dancing, and walking backwards for 10+ hours a week for two months and those things kept my feet about as happy as you can expect with a minimum of mishaps. Look for shoes that have less heel, I have a few pairs that are a bit higher but more of a heel than the Demonias and I can’t wear them nearly as long.

    6. Recovering Grad Student*

      I’d say that hair and make up is generally more approachable than investing in a semi-goth transitional business wardrobe. It’s also not unusual for people to dye their hair a darker color if they want a change. And while I wouldn’t go feet first with the black lipstick and heavy black eye makeup, darker plum lip colors paired with black eyeliner nudge you in the goth direction when worn with the darker items in your existing work wardrobe and then adding accessories that speak to you. Then you can add the more high cost items like shoes and clothes as you go and become more comfortable.
      This is assuming you don’t already own what your ideal goth work wardrobe. If you do, the shoes plus subtly goth makeup is a good way to start out. Rings and bracelets are good accessories too.

    1. Stuckinacrazyjob*

      There used to be a whole office goth thing in which people wore a toned down goth look to the office – mostly the colors and a bit of the style. I tend to wear socks of my personal style. people used to wear ties too

      1. GreenShoes*

        haha… I do socks too!

        Pretty normal conservative clothes, but I will rock mary janes with fun colors and patterns on my feet.

    2. Paulina*

      Yes. Frankly I’m not sure I’d really notice if one of our technical staff started wearing all black all the time. It’s common enough in some types of job. So it’s the accessories that would make the look, which can be added as gradually as the LW sees fit.

  6. Cataclysm*

    Maybe start off with a jacket or some accessories? I’m thinking something you can take off if you end up feeling weird about the reaction you’re getting and doing it basically one bit at a time to test slowly.

  7. els*

    This isn’t quite the same, but:

    When I was in my late twenties, I went from hip-length hair to a pixie cut in one go. People were surprised, so I dealt with a week or so of “Wow! You look so different!” from various people seeing me for the first time, and then it went away completely.

    This sounds like a bigger shift, but honestly, I’d just… go for it. Wear something that makes you feel snazzy and awesome, and if anyone comments on it, you can have a few responses in the can. I don’t know your workspace, so hopefully no one will be cruddy about it, but as long as YOU feel good, no need to make their silly opinions into a big thing, you can (hopefully) shut them down by being breezy and cazh:
    “Wow, you look so different!” / “Yeah! I love it!”
    “Gosh, is it Halloween already?” / [laughing] “Nope, this is how I dress, and I love it!”
    “What are you wearing?” / “My clothes!”

    Be you in all your goth glory! As a stompy-boot enthusiaste, I am totally here for this look and this change; good luck!

    1. Corrigan*

      I’m torn between add it slowly and fully just going for it all at once. But as long as it’s not against any dress code (which OP said it’s not. I think there’s something to be said for just doing it and being done with it. Signed a green haired, tattooed, dark lipstick, studded boot person.

    2. R*

      I’m team go for it as well. Get all the comments out the way in a couple of weeks and then carry on your merry way.

    3. theothermadeline*

      The one difference in your situation and the choice OP is considering is that I think commentary may continue slightly longer for big and continuous wardrobe changes (because people see OP actively choosing a very different look every day) and a big haircut change (largely can’t be changed up every day without wig usage). So I’d see hair as more of a one and done choice that people would lose interest in faster because nothing really changes about it day to day. If OP is down with the ‘wow!’ comments over a slightly more extended period I am on the just go for it wagon, but if that makes them feel put on the spot I think they should phase in to their comfort level (and budget – wardrobe overhauls get pricey!)

    4. umami*

      I tend to agree with just … doing it. I had really long, thick hair that I chopped off for Locks of Love about 12 years ago, and it definitely was a drastic change that people commented on for a bit, but that was it. Just choosing to not be self-conscious about the change would be my advice, and assume all comments are positive and say ‘thanks!’

    5. Siege*

      I’m not jumping on this to be a downer, OP, but I think you should expect comments and be ready to give the commenter something very happy – a lot of people are aware of “divorce hair”, when someone who’s leaving their partner or making another really big milestone change suddenly shifts their look. I like the idea others have suggested of changing your wardrobe first and then adding accessories/makeup/boots as a gradual transition, but I think some people may see it as divorce hair so be ready with an anecdote about you and your wife that you can work in to indicate that while you are happier in this new style, it’s not that you are happier because you’re getting out of a partnership that no longer fits right. Something like “I’ve been exploring my personal style a lot lately! Monica said that she thought I looked really happy when we went to the mountains last fall and I rocked the goth look for the trip, so I’ve decided to go for it full time!”

      The anecdote doesn’t even need to be entirely truthful, you just want to be ready with the message that you are happy, your wife is happy, and this is not divorce hair; it helps folks move past it because they’ve got some context that’s not boring detail or defensively presented. It’s more breezy delivery + mention of happy relationship than 100% factual.

    6. Polar Vortex*

      I’m team go for it if the LW feel comfortable enough. But I’m definitely just one who did drastic changes multiple times over the years at work randomly. Drastic style changes, very obvious tattoos showed up one day, lasik, drastic hair cuts… Transitioning too, so on top of that more drastic things to come (because going from an F cup to no boobs is going to be glorious and dramatic because I’m not talking about my boobs at work pre surgery).

      But I’m comfortable in who I am and don’t give much of a fig if people ask me questions/have comments. I usually talk excitedly about the positives and people are happy for me. (Yes short hair is awesome, it doesn’t freeze in the winter and I’m saving so much time showering and I don’t have to deal with hair in the drain.)

  8. Observer*

    Given what you say, I think you can just start dressing differently. I wouldn’t go from “standard” issue to “full extreme goth” in one go, but just start adding some things every couple of weeks. And be totally matter of fact about it.

    I think your attitude is going to be the key here. If you come in with big boots instead your prior usual footwear and act like it’s a Big Deal, it probably will be a bit of a big deal. But if you come in with those boots and just go about your business as though it’s just another day at the office, it will probably be just another day at the office, except that you’ll be a bit happier.

    1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

      Agreed on the second paragraph. If you treat it as no big deal, other people will probably do the same.

  9. A Nonny Mouse (possibly a A Nonny Bat?)*

    I would recommend searching “Corp Goth” as there are many blogs that offer advice, and also the Gothic Charm School blog. (Jillian Ventures is a treasure.)

    The most common advice I’ve seen, and some of what I’ve done myself (although I am lazy and never quite go full-goth at work), is accessories and a change of wardrobe color palette. I mostly wear all black, sometimes with a splash of grey or a jewel-tone (or white in a slightly more victorian style blouse). And then I accessorize–earrings, necklaces, pendants, scarves, etc. All can be very helpful and subtle, and easily changed or gotten rid of if it turns out to be a problem.

    For make-up, maybe not full black lipstick, but start going a slightly darker hue gradually.

    Best of luck!

    1. FroggerMan*

      I second googling Corp Goth! I also recommend looking up Office Goth, Business Goth and Professional Goth, for the sake of variety, as each will yield different results.

    2. Thistle whistle*

      Gosh, it’s been ages since I’ve looked to see what the latest instructions to the Snarklings is. such a good reminder.

    3. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

      Did some googling and I would totally rock some of those looks or pieces of them.

    4. Museum Witch*

      Seconding the “corp/corporate goth” note! Also try “business goth” and “business witch.” The trick is to follow the same principles you do with going from street fashion to business clothes. Go for good tailoring, stiffer and higher quality fabrics (definitely watch for the really fast fashion goth stuff), subtler colour palettes, and small details. Something like a polo shirt with gray spiderwebs embroidered on the collar and cuffs (so they don’t pop as much as white), a subtler print (things like this Creepy Co shirt: that isn’t visible from a distance, or bat cuff links are the kind of things that’ll bring you joy without looking like a costume. Honestly that’s been my (goth since I was 11) biggest trick – go for “fashion” not “costume” at work. Black is really forgiving and if you look, a lot of brands have individual pieces that can read really goth. The exaggerated collar trend from last year, as well as things like buckles, zippers, and sculpted draping all can sell goth while looking business-y. Rick Owens, John Fluevog, Batsheva, Rodarte, and Comme des Garcons are all good examples of over the top but not costume-y styles. Also IME my fiance and I both wear all black and we have people who’ve known us for years who don’t notice until we mention it. If you start by swapping to all black it’s unlikely anyone will notice. Then you start phasing in bolder pieces, starting small and working your way up.

      1. umami*

        Excellent advice! I like the framing of fashion vs. costume, that sounds incredibly helpful.

      2. anonaccountant*

        I think swapping to all black to ease in is a great suggestion! So, so many people wear almost exclusively black for any number of reasons; I don’t think that would draw eyes at all, unless your previous style was characteristically bright. I haven’t gone full corporate goth, but I never gave up my alternative roots and the solid black and 13 small, gold-toned earrings are how I how onto that in an otherwise conservative business.

        I also agree on details and different fabrics/cuts. It’s kind of amazing that I can basically wear the same thing every day and still have a wide variety of cuts/collars/sleeves that make all the shirts look different.

      3. umami*

        Also, it addresses the issue I feel *could* make the switch a bit problematic, which is the goth look reading too teen-angsty. Fashionable pieces of any sort always will read more age-appropriate, especially since OP is fairly young still.

        1. Museum Witch*

          I’ve had that concern too! I’ve found the tick really is quality – and maintenance. The makeup and hair especially need to look well-done or they read too basement grungy. It’s a bummer that a lot goth stuff only exists as fast fashion or couture, however I’ve found loads of great stuff by picking gothier items from places that don’t identify as goth brands. At least here in Canada, sustainable and indie brands often have great basics with funky tailoring. You can also find loads of good stuff second hand and online. A few good investment pieces (especially the boots) will really carry the look.

        2. Momma Bear*

          Right. You want to be seen as a capable professional especially if you want to lead a team or move into management. I think leaning into fashion vs costume will help with this. Everybody sometimes needs to dress the part but it’s nice to have options.

      4. Elizabeth West*

        This is kinda what I used to do for Talk Like a Pirate Day. I had this ruffled blouse that looked vaguely pirate-y, and I would add skull earrings and a scarf and wear boots. It was almost a costume but also an outfit.

        Saying things like “Avast ye lubbers! Ye best hand over the TPS reports or I’ll keelhaul ye!” was a little less subtle.

  10. Sunny days are better*

    I would probably gradually switch things over. If you just show up one day looking completely different, everyone around you will fixate on it and ask you a million questions, which you probably don’t want.

    Maybe start with just the boots and a black shirt. And if someone comments – you can say something like “Oh! My boots are new, I just love them! How’s your project going?”

    Gradually change one different article of clothing or accessory.

    For lipstick, maybe work your way down to the black. Maybe start with a darker red or purple and then work your way into it.

    If it’s gradual, people will be less likely to comment on it and it will stand out to people much less. :)

    1. Hills to Die on*

      This is what I was thinking. Start with a wine colored lipstick (or whatever is darker), a couple of shades darker in your hair, a shade lighter on your foundation and powder, black eyeliner and mascara, and shades of grey and purple eyeshadow. Gradually turn it up.
      Work more black into your wardrobe, start with a small platform or big chunky boots before working your way up to Demonias.
      Whenever someone compliments me on my hair or whatever (I have recently been putting more effort into my appearance, not changing anything style-wise; just cleaning up) I say:
      ‘Oh, thanks, I decided to make an effort today – haha!’
      ‘Oh, thank you!’
      ‘Yeah, trying something new. I just love these!’
      ‘Thanks – I got them at (boutique/ whatever) – I love that store!’

      I have learned SO much from coworkers whose style I like but does not suit me personally. Good eyeliner that doesn’t smudge, where to go to get your (multiple) piercings custom styled in a cohesive look, the good hair dye if you want to do it yourself, all kinds of cool boutiques in parts of town I don’t normally go to, etc.
      Just have fun with it and enjoy!

      1. Arts Admin*

        Great advice and I love this comment!

        I just want to add on the lighter foundation tip – light skin is not a pre-requisite to goth style! Shout out to Black and brown goths – dark skin has always belonged in goth style.

  11. Amber Rose*

    My personal process was: new shoes. I have these neon pink shoes with sparkly laces that go with this new aesthetic I’m trying and I started wearing them all the time. I got a bunch of comments for about a week and now people just see them and smile.

    Then: new accessory. Or maybe in your case new hairstyle? Whatever it is, if anyone comments, “it matches my shoes!”

    Then new pants. Then new shirts. By the time you’re putting on lipstick nobody will even think it’s out of the ordinary. At any rate, the point is it’s all to match your shoes. It’s this weird quirk of style that whatever you’re doing should match your shoes and everyone will accept that.

    1. Slow Gin Lizz*

      I love the idea of telling people that your new hairstyle matches your shoes! :-) Especially if they totally don’t. Like, you have neon green hair and are wearing black shoes.

    2. stacers*

      I love this approach. Keeps it light, fun and quirky — I have to believe it will just make people smile.

    3. Therese*

      I’m about 10 years older than you, and goth looks definitely have some strong connotations for some people (my age and older). I happen to like it – I was punk-y in high school, though not goth. I would honestly say you probably can’t go full or even medium goth at work and not have it affect your work reputation. So I would maybe shoot for something closer to 1/4 goth, and *very* slowly build to there. Back in the day when I used to dress up for work, when I was feeling more “punk” I wore really pretty black skirt suits, black hose, gorgeous (delicate) lace up boots, and dyed my hair a dark auburn. It was enough to keep me happy and feel like myself, but still mainstream enough that people didn’t judge. Good luck! It can be a hard needle to thread.

  12. Momma Bear*

    I’d focus on clothing vs make up. If you would wear a button up shirt at work, try one with a more goth or punk pattern. Try different/darker colors. Try different hair colors. See if anyone cares if you paint your fingernails. Black pants go with anything, but maybe try out different styles of shoes to see what you feel comfortable in all day that also fits more with the new aesthetic. Keep more “toned down” options for meetings and clients. If you want to do a trial run, find one thing you want to do that week (maybe nails, shirt or a new haircut) and see how that goes. Even with no dress code there are still usually some limits so a trial of different things will help you find those boundaries. If you can’t go all goth/punk, you might still enjoy wearing parts of the new look with more “standard” pieces. I had an old boss that would wear a lot of fitted vests and fun ties, leaning toward things like Slytherin or skulls. As long as it was subtle the client didn’t care (or at least didn’t comment). You just need to know your audience. You can still rock out when you leave the office.

  13. Danikm151*

    First of well well done on finding your groove :)

    As you work place has no dress code, start off with some different style tshirts, then different shoes.
    Or if there are any social functions, dress how you want to be and then rock up the next day :)

    If there’s any jewellery you wear, be careful of any safety aspects but to be honest most people probably won’t care if you’re happy :)

  14. Techno Support*

    Start with more black (but still business-appropriate) and the boots I’d say, then add in the makeup step by step. It’ll be more gradual that way.

    Or, honestly, just go all in and get it out of the way. You could even bring it up like that if you get a surprised reaction, just say “I’ve been meaning to switch my look up for a while and I figured I’d tear off the bandaid and get it over with in one go. Anyways, (switch to work thing/other small talk)”.

  15. Elle*

    You know who you work with but I don’t think people would notice that much. All black and big boots don’t sound like they would cause much of a stir. Go for it! Being happy is the most important thing.

  16. King Friday XIII*

    Hi, OP! Congrats on finding a style that makes you happy!

    I’d suggest starting clothing if you want to ease into it- whatever your “normal” work style is, start replacing pieces with the goth alternatives you prefer: swap shirts out for blacks with your regular jeans, or wear a regular top with black jeans or leather pants or a loli skirt and see how that feels. If you’re comfortable with the reaction or non-reaction of your coworkers, then you can either start doing full outfits or more obvious things like corset tops. The same goes for makeup- you can start with eyeliner or lipstick and nothing else, and ease into it if you want.

    Alternatively, you could come in on a Friday in full kit and if anybody asks, say you’re going out that night and see how they react (or don’t).

  17. Dust Bunny*

    I don’t think there’s a tried-and-true method here–you can just start mixing in your new pieces with the old stuff in whatever method makes sense until you’ve taken it as far as you want/as you feel works in your workplace. I don’t know what that would look like at your job–maybe starting with office casual but more black? Or office casual but black and with lug-soled shoes?

    There are lots of gothy takes on “normal” clothing out there right now; you’ll just have to decide how far you can take it in this specific context.

  18. Keymaster of Gozer*

    The way I became my happier self at work (I’m middle aged and what I call Corporate Goth):

    First: dyed my hair. Gave people a week to get used to it. It was a cause of a lot of dramatic comments on day one but then nothing much was said.

    Second: changed smaller parts of clothing, like shoes or a jacket. Something that’s not as visible or that doesn’t stay on all day. Again, I did a week.

    Third: The major clothing. Rocking up in a full length black dress like the one I’m currently sat in did provoke a lot of comments! But again, it went away once people saw that this was a change that was staying.

    This was quite a few years ago however, I’ve been coming into work in heels and floor length goth for over 20 years now. People really do get used to it!

  19. WavyGravy*

    My advice is to roll it out slowly at work. I have a very eclectic style but a formal job. I do tone it down for work but I still add in pieces that are funkier. So one day I might wear just the boots, but otherwise a fairly “normal” outfit. Then you can start mixing and matching more and add to it. Accessories are usually safe bets too – big earrings, platform shoes, lipstick – since you can easily change them if needed.

    Going slowly will also give you a sense if your company is really going to be okay with the full look or if they will give you grief. And that you know when it’s appropriate or not. For example, I dress in some bolder clothes but when I have a big meeting or client facing day, I will do neutrals and traditional jacket/suit/whatever.

    I’ve also shown coworkers photos of me outside of work that show me more “in my element” – nose ring, goth style tattoos, an overall edgier look. That way they do know that I dress that way and it’s less of a shock when I show up at work that way.

    Also kudos on finding your personal style – it’s never too late to change things up and you may change again. I am a firm believer that we should take clothing as a chance to express ourselves and get some joy out of a sometimes very bleak world.

    1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

      I’m kind of the same, though my eclectic style involves more bold colours/prints, pattern matching, sparkles/sequins, vintage elements, etc. than goth or edgy style. At work, I’d typically incorporate one sorta wild thing into my outfit. Maybe two if I was feeling extra creative. Palazzo pants with a cherry blossom print? You bet! With a solid colour shirt and cardigan and ballet flats. Flower or something in my hair if I wanted to take it extra. Full-on black or navy monochrome with bright red shoes and belt, or a long velvet cardigan with red roses and green leaves.

    2. a raging ball of distinction*

      I love the idea of sharing a photo as a way of dipping your toe in the water. OP, maybe you put a photo on your desk of your wife and yourself in full goth regalia and just leave it for a couple of weeks before you start wearing anything different to work!

  20. kiwiii*

    there’s a decent amount of video creators who make content around alternative office/corporate goth looks — bringing in one or two aspects of the more conservative advice and then working up to a full alternative office look (and eventually just a full alternative look, if you want) may be the move!

  21. I like plans*

    I am assuming you’re looking suggested plan for implementation. Every week I would change something.

    1. I would start with shoes. Change your shoes.
    2. Do you carry a backpack or purse? Change that.
    3. If you wear blazers or jackets. Change your jackets to your new aesthetic.
    4. If you were button downs or more conservative tops. Change your tops.
    5. Change your pants/skirts.

    I don’t know where changing lipstick would fit in the schedule. You are the best determiner of when that would be.

  22. Little Bobby Tables*

    While the company doesn’t have an official dress code, what’s it like unofficially? With engineering, some places would still expect business casual even if they don’t say it, while others wouldn’t bat an eye if you showed up looking like you planned to go straight to a biker bar after work.

    1. learnedthehardway*

      Agreed. If the OP has any client interaction, I would at least ensure they have a corporate outfit they can change into at a moment’s notice.

      When I worked in an EXTREMELY formal environment that was trying to relax a bit, the condition was that everyone had to have a suit on site that they could change into. Most people just wore something that they could put a blazer over, but some people did have full suits (and dress shoes) stashed away in their offices.

      1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

        My cousin had the same. The office was pretty casual overall. But sometimes she would get called in at the last minute to present something to the C-suite. So she always kept an appropriate outfit for that in her office.

      2. Ashley*

        If you do have client interaction, I would minimize the looks on those days while you roll out the look until you have a read on the overall response. There are a variety of engineers and you already know what you deal with as a female engineer so just be mindful depending on your workplace you may technically meet the company dress code but you might have issues with folks (inside and) outside of the office. It would be great to not to have to care, but as a woman in a historically predominately men’s field there are calculations that have to be made for some decisions.

    2. Turingtested*

      I work in manufacturing/engineering and it’s weirdly casual and conservative. Black lipstick would definitely be perceived as attention seeking/inappropriate as would platform boots. However you can wear a thermal plain shirt and be taken seriously.

      As always the danger is being known as “the one with the lipstick” instead of “the one with the awesome work.”

      My personal thoughts are wear whatever you like!

  23. CheesePlease*

    I’ve tried commenting this a few times already and somehow it doesn’t work.

    But I figured you would get some laughs looking up The IT Crowd’s Goth 2 Boss video on youtube haha. It’s like the opposite of your goals. Good luck!

    1. 1CU81MI*

      That was all I could think of reading this letter. I hope OP’s transition goes better than Richmond’s did!

    2. Lily Rowan*

      Just FYI, any comment with a link goes into moderation and Alison has to approve them individually.

      1. CheesePlease*

        Thank you! I will remember that for next time. I rarely have links to share lol

  24. Filthy Vulgar Mercenary*

    Make a Pinterest board!!

    I’d make a list of All The Things – what would I wear if I was completely unrestrained by fear, etiquette, etc – don’t evaluate, just write/add clothing looks. The Pinterest feature of suggesting more things like the things you have added, which gets more relevant as it learns from what you select, can be really helpful here.

    Then take a look at the results. How do you feel?

    What is one thing that feels joyful to implement? Can you wear darker red lipstick, for example, and then slowly over the coming weeks add and blend a little black lipliner to make it increasingly darker till it’s black?

    For clothing. Can you wear goth-type underwear? No one knows you’re wearing it but you know and you feel
    more like you from the skin out. Then add a black undershirt under your blazer that maybe has some goth qualities to it. Or whatever the equivalent would be to an undershirt under a blazer. Or a piece of jewelry. Then wear the shoes you want. Then whatever is next. Maybe you start wearing all black versions of whatever your work clothes are now.

    I’m excited for you!!! When I retire from the military I’m going to color my hair teal. For sexual assault awareness month, we were allowed to wear jeans (denim day) and I wore a streak of teal in my hair, under my bum, where only I knew it was there. It was really nice to have a thing to hold on to even though it wasn’t visible to anyone else.

    1. Filthy Vulgar Mercenary*

      Under my BUN. Not my bum.

      My bum hair isn’t long enough to put into a bun. :)

      1. GreenShoes*

        OMG that was the funniest typo I’ve seen in awhile! Thank you, I needed that today :)

      2. umami*

        LOL as former military myself, I assumed that was what you meant, but it did sound funnier the way you typed it!

      3. Trillian*

        I did wonder what you’d do when you had to stand up.

        It was not one of those questions I would never ask, but I learn a lot by observation.

    2. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      From 13 years of personal experience, I promise you — I swear to god, people will come up to you, look at your teal hair, and ask you, “Did you dye that?” So now is a good time to start practicing your smartass answers. (My go-to is “No, oh my god, what happened to my hair??”)

  25. Qwerty*

    I recommend the slow roll out just so it doesn’t become “The Day OP Turned Goth” for your own sanity. Play around with some outfits at home in the mirror – the boots with non-black clothes, the all-black ensemble with your current work shoes, mix and matching from new wardrobe and old wardrobe. (don’t know enough about makeup to give advice there)

    I suspect the platform boots will make a splash on their own just because they are statement pieces (and might make some clunky sounds when walking). What people are really going to notice is how you react to comments and wearing your new outfits – shying away from the convo will play different than a smile paired with “aren’t they awesome?” if someone mentions the boots.

    The biggest difference about you might be your attitude. The confidence we exude when making a change like this is really noticable!

  26. Just Another Zebra*

    As someone who overhauled her wardrobe a year ago, remember this – there is NOTHING that says you can’t wake up on Monday and dress completely differently than you did on Sunday. They are just clothes. But if you want to have a more gradual transition at work (which it sounds like you may be more comfortable with), I’d start with one article of clothing – say, tops. Then introduce pants, then shoes, etc, until you are so happy with your look. People should respond to your positivity!

    Also? E.L.F.’s new black lipstick is pigmented and amazing, and I highly recommend it!

  27. Double A*

    I don’t have specific suggestions but I’m picturing a “Business goth” vision board where you brainstorm ideas.

    Actually a few suggestions: darker but not black lipstick at work. Start shifting to dark colors and blacks. Buy some “business goth” boots that maybe aren’t quite as strappy and spiky as your weekend goth boots, but are a like lace up or whatever element you like. There are so many cool boots out there that shopping for them is going to be fun.

  28. Former Retail Lifer*

    I love that you’re smiling and friendly and happy while dressed more goth. That really helps with the stereotype that they’re all sad and depressed. I’m a middle-aged former punk/alternative-dressing woman who has had to tone it way down due to strict dress codes at work, and I am really excited for you that you don’t have to do that and can express yourself as you like. Are you coloring your hair? I’d do that first and see what the reaction is. For some reason, people always comment on major haircuts and colors and I think you can gauge the future response from this and decide how to roll out your fashion changes. I get comments when I color my hair all the time, but people rarely say anything about what I’m wearing. I’d save the black lipstick and any other makeup for the end of the rollout. I think that’s what people may have a harder time adjusting to, not so much the clothing.

    1. Harried HR*

      As an older woman with purple hair and tattoos I can honestly say that Abby from NCIS made a BIG difference in the perception of Goths :-)

      1. NotRealAnonForThis*

        Agreed. My boss frequently thought I channeled Abby. And since Abby was often the smartest in the room on her topics, well, that carried too. My footwear and random hair colors just gave me the authority, in a way.

        Said boss was a little surprised that I had no tattoos (this came up in a conversation once, because having tattoos in our office was not a thing of concern) but other than a single conversation about it, never revisited that.

    2. Tupac Coachella*

      My thoughts on the makeup rollout depend heavily on whether OP is masculine or non-binary presenting. If they are, I feel like adding makeup will make a lot more sense (and therefore fewer waves) as part of an established overall Look. If OP is feminine presenting and/or wears makeup regularly, a switch to darker makeup looks would feel more like a soft transition toward a more goth overall vibe. Whether people expect makeup on OP determines if it will be perceived as mundane (“just felt like oxblood today!”) or noteworthy (“is Fergus wearing eyeliner? That’s eyeliner, right?”). If OP didn’t care about making waves it wouldn’t matter, but it sounds like they do, so in my mind their usual gender presentation makes a difference in where to start.

  29. Student*

    When you rock a “different” look, you are going to sometimes distract from your work, and you’re going to be known for the different look. I can understand wanting to have it all. But the reality is, you are working with other people, and they are going to sometimes judge you based on your clothes (no matter what you wear or who you are or how good your work is). The only have-it-all option is 100% telework, which I know is not what you’re looking for. So, you are going to have to sit and think about what trade-offs are acceptable for you, rather than trying to find a non-existent secret dressing technique to achieve 100% of what you want with no social judgement from your peers.

    Try one statement piece to start testing the waters on what you can reasonably get away with before the attention on your clothes overwhelms. Shoes can be a good option, because they are easily swapped out if the attention gets to you faster than you expected, are not visible 100% of the time at work in most jobs, and are broadly considered an “acceptable” statement piece. This could be mild makeup, jewelry, a shirt, etc. – but it should be one single, substantially goth piece in an otherwise solidly work-appropriate support ensemble. It should not be a head-to-toe goth look.

    If you go with shoes, give it at least two weeks to acclimate, because it takes people longer to notice shoes than most other parts of an outfit. See what level of attention you get and how long it takes to die down. You might get a sense of your happiness about this very fast, or you might need to take a month to figure out the breadth of reactions and whether they settle down, depending on your workplace.

    If you’re happy with the balance of goth attention vs work product focus, and generally happy with the tone of your co-workers and how your work is going, then add another bit of goth. This might also be a good time to talk directly with your key colleagues (PM, manager, whatever) to directly ask their advice on what you can get away with in terms of look vs professional impact. You can talk up the statement piece you’ve been wearing, tell the key colleague you love it and want to lean harder into the look, and ask their advice about how they think it’d go over for you to do so.

    1. Elliot*

      Completely agree with this. It’s totally understandable to wish we all could bring our full authentic selves to the workplace with no judgement, but that’s not realistic, sadly!

      I think no matter how slowly you roll it out, head-to-toe goth, or even certain bolder pieces, will make some people think of you as “the goth person” instead of for the work you’re doing. It’s up to you to weigh if you’re okay with that, and the implications it may have on your career in the long-run. Even if everyone in your company currently is super open to the goth look, think about if a new hire joined, was judgemental, and how you’d handle that. It’s not to say don’t do it! Just to think through the impacts a more alternative look can unfortunately have (and I say this as someone with a lot of tattoos and piercings!)

      If it were me, I’d balance small authentic-t0-me touches with some more professional/mainstream pieces. Maybe a skull tee-shirt with a blazer over it, or black boots with slacks and a nicer button-up. I think the hard thing to remember is, most people aren’t fully themselves and authentic to their personal style at work! Most people have work clothes and social/home clothes, and that’s okay.

    2. Kt*

      This really depends on org and field. In sales, probably yes. In software or tech, nah. Being the pink haired DevOps expert just gives you an easier to remember brand and makes you easier to spot at conferences.

  30. JSPA*

    There can be a bit of an uncanny valley between styles. In a job where people comfortably discuss style with each other, people could potentially make comments that land as judgmental, when in fact they’re mostly just wondering.

    What with goth seeing a bit of a resurgence, why not go “mainstream goth” for a while?

    And just be enthusiastic, if people look quizzical. “I used to wear this stuff in high school! Now that it’s coming back a bit, I figure it’s my chance to enjoy it before it’s gone again!”)

    black lipstick and moderate eyeliner to start, then ramp up a bit during the week.

    Give them (and yourself) a month or so to acclimate, then decide if that’s the sweet spot for “professional goth,” or whether you want to go deeper.

    If you shave your head in summer, remember sunscreen!!! (That newly exposed scalp skin will burn like crazy.)

    As a kindness, I’d avoid shoes that make way more noise than the average shoes, and as a personal preference, I avoid anything I can fall off of. Both of which, for me, would mean no platform boots. But if you are light-footed and sure-footed, or if the outsized stomp is an essential part of the attraction, go for it.

  31. Chairman of the Bored*

    I’m a manager in an engineering organization, if somebody on my team indicated that they were thinking along these same lines I’d advise them:
    -Expect questions and comments. In a perfect world nobody would comment on anybody’s appearance ever, in the world we live in they probably will. Don’t hesitate to notify management or HR if anything is inappropriate or uncomfortable.
    -Err on the side of being pulled-together and slightly dressier, at least at first. “Noticeably different and sharp” will likely be perceived better than “Noticeably different and scruffy”.
    -If you position has a hands-on field/lab component where people sometimes expect to get a bit dirty, use that to test the waters and get people used to the new look. Wearing boots and dark clothes on a day when you’re doing a greasy install anyway will be less remarkable than doing it in the office.

    From my standpoint as a manager, I don’t care what my people wear as long as it’s not offensive and doesn’t cause a safety issue. If your boss is good you’ll probably be fine.

  32. J Pants*

    I think the hardest part of this will be that everyone will want to talk about it. There are at least 3 different people at my job who regularly make comments if I wear contacts instead of glasses or if I wear my hear down instead of up. Your office probably has some of the same types. I think I would go for a more rapid transition rather than the slow build because having the same conversation (with those same 3 people) every time I make a change would be killer (“yes, I like these boots!” “yes, I like black lipstick” “yes, I like black dresses”).

    I do think it may be a good idea to think about what you want to say to people when you come in looking totally different. My first thought is something like, “you know, I always heard you had to dress a certain way to fit in at work, but looking around I see how welcoming everyone is, and I knew it would be okay to show a little more of my own style!”

  33. Gwen Soul*

    There is a style called corporate goth that I really liked and used when I was dressing that way, look it up on Pinterest or google and I bet you get some great ideas,

  34. Justin*

    Just do it item by item. Shoes, pants, belt, etc, or whatever.

    I changed my look when I changed jobs so that was easier. But it still felt scary. Glad I did it though.

  35. Jaunty Banana Hat I*

    I think the main thing going in is how you act about it–if you make a big deal about the changes, others are going to; if you’re just going in and acting like you normally would, most of your coworkers will react normally, too.

    But if you’re asking for a specific way to slow-roll the look out, I would say to pick one wardrobe thing and one makeup/hair thing to add every week. So:
    1. Boots and lipstick
    2. Pants/bottoms and eyeliner
    3. Jewelry and nail polish
    4. Top and hair style.
    5. More jewelry/accessories and hair cut/color
    6. Etc. until your look is what you want it to be.

    If you want a slower roll out, then just add one thing a week, alternating wardrobe/makeup/hair/etc.

  36. Just Here for the Cake*

    The blog Offbeat Home has a great article about “corporate goth” looks, which might be a good stepping stone to ease into it. I try to link it here, but its easy to find if you search “offbeat goth at work.”

  37. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

    I’m glad you’ve found something that is making such a difference to your happiness! I doubt that people will be scrutinizing or judging your style choices as much as you fear. In general, we think other people are paying way more attention to us than they actually are. But that’s not the advice you asked for, so here’s what I’ve got.

    As I’ve tried to think through options, my general conclusion is that it doesn’t really matter where you start. To do what you want, the key thing is just doing it gradually.

    Option 1: get people used to seeing you in a different colour palette, namely all black, with business casual clothing (e.g., decent pants and a polo). I used to wear a lot of black because that’s what I had in my wardrobe as someone who plays the violin, and nobody really noticed or commented on it.

    Option 2: go for the haircut first. Your letter doesn’t specify your gender and I’m not going to assume. A shaved head is definitely going to read differently for different genders. You could start with a short cut that isn’t shaved or just call it an homage to Jason Statham / Sinead O’Connor if anyone asks. Heck, it’s about to be summer for the northern hemisphere and a short haircut is perfect for keeping cool. For some reason, it feels a little less jarring to do this at the start then change your clothes than the other way around, but I have no idea why and this is just my opinion.

    Option 3: start adding more goth accessories/vibes to your current look. Wear your regular pants and a goth shirt. Or regular clothes and bold jewelry or your boots. Or bolder makeup. I love playing with fashion elements that aren’t “supposed” to go together, like putting one fancy item with a super casual one.

    The start combining the things. Black business casual *and* goth accessories. Probably the last thing I’d do is really intense goth makeup, if that’s what your end goal involves.

  38. ursula*

    I love this for you!! I am a heavily tattooed and somewhat alt-dressing person in a conservative profession. A few suggestions:
    – If you aren’t totally sure how people will respond, you can start with changes that you can pare back any time you need to interact with people (especially outside the organization) whose normie levels you don’t know, or who may be more judgmental of your new style. Many people with alternative style moderate their self-presentation to varying degrees depending on who they’re going to see during the day. I say this not to suggest that you should never go full-goth at work, but rather than you will probably find it more comfortable (and less shocking to your colleagues) if you ease in and can make adjustments when you want to. Personally, I actually find it somewhat empowering to be in control of how much I show to different people in my professional life (though YMMV). Clothes are pretty easy for this – a spare pair of shoes, sweater, etc at your desk and you can handle most situations.
    – Be ready for people to comment! Some will be into it, some will be a little more “huh, okay.” You can prep a bit in advance for how to respond. I recommend embracing that this is a quirky thing that is making you happy. “Yeah, just something new I’m playing around with!” (If you like: “It’s silly but I’m really into it.” or for more skeptical people: “It’s just clothes/hair/etc. Same old me!”)
    – Given that you’re going to get comments regardless, don’t worry about managing people’s responses to it (unless you think it may affect your working relationships). Wear/dress how you want to and treat it like a normal change people make – a new hair cut, but bigger. People are always changing and the world is full of weirdos (/approving).
    – That said, someone is probably gonna be weird about it. As long as they aren’t someone with a lot of power or influence over your life, whatever. They are mad about clothes and hair. Like, get a life.
    – Do you have regular 1-on-1s with whoever you report to? It might help to bust out the goth clothes for the first time on a day when you happen to have one of those meetings, or the day before, so you can gage their reaction and ask any questions you need to, to figure out if this is going to be a problem. Something simple like, “By the way, now that I’ve been here a few years and people know me and my work, I was hoping to start dressing a little more like how I like to dress outside the office – more like this. Do you think that’s going to be a problem?” And then at least you know whether your boss is on side.

    And finally: remember that almost nobody actually brings their “full self” to work. It may be that the most comfortable get-up for you around the office is a fusion of standard office casual and the stuff you like to wear for fun. You aren’t selling yourself out by making that compromise. I’ve worked with lots of people who would pair skinny black jeans, goth shoes, and a plain white button-down, and they just passed as, like, ‘normal, a little artsy’. I hate to say it, but the more your self-presentation implies queerness or gender non-conformity, the more of a problem people are going to take with it (regardless of what your sexual orientation or gender actually are). I say this as a queer person. If they are used to seeing you as a cis man, you could do a LOT of eccentric clothing choices for the same social cost as one (1) black lipstick day. But you always get to choose what is most important to you and what is worth the trade-offs.

    You sound great. Other weirdos at your org may find you, which would be cool! I hope you get some good advice in this thread.

  39. Vintage Style not Vintage Values*

    I transitioned my look from a business casual one to a 1950s one. As others have suggested, perhaps pick an element or two to start with, then add more as and when you feel comfortable.

    I started with red lipstick, then clothes, then hair and several years on, it feels natural.

    I’ve worked in a couple of different industries and offices, and each time I’ve moved I’ve kept things vintage-lite for the first couple of weeks while I settle in. Again, as others have said; you know your workplace best, but I think adding an element or two at a time will help find out what works best for you.

    Good luck!

    1. CommanderBanana*

      I wear almost all true vintage (1940s/50s) and I’ve noticed the one thing that people actually seem to comment on the most is hats, I guess because so few people wear them now?

    2. beware the shoebill*

      I just wanted to say that I read your comment as starting with red lipstick, then red clothes, then red hair, and it made me happy. You probably don’t just wear all red all the time, but I like to imagine that you do!

    3. Minimal Pear*

      Heyyy, my people! I do a bit of a mix–as I sit here slacking off and reading AAM I’ve got forties hair and a late-fifties suit. (Plus a modern shirt lol.)

  40. cmdrspacebabe*

    Having made the Business Punk change myself early in my career, I honestly wouldn’t put a ton of thought into it! Obviously every work environment is different, but as long as your outfits are within the general bounds of ‘professional’ for your office (e.g. not covered in swear words or made entirely of sheer fishnet), people might not care or even notice beyond an ‘ooh, you’re looking edgy lately’ or a joke about wearing so much black. And if you tell them outright “I’ve always loved it and finally decided to go for it, I feel great!”, they’ll probably be happy for you!
    I’ve gone from long, feminine hair straight to a buzzcut a few times, and people are surprised for a few days, but they get over it quickly. There are a few things that might raise eyebrows – spikes or collars, knee-high boots with a billion buckles, shiny materials like PVC that are more associated with costumes or fetish gear – but otherwise, it’s pretty easy to bring that vibe to a business wardrobe. You could start with a goth blouse over more standard business pants or a pencil skirt, for ex, paired with a dark lip and some sharp black liner.

    Also… keep in mind the benefits of having a distinctive look! I’m confident that the way I dress has helped my career a lot. Like you, it makes me happier and more confident and outgoing; and in turn, I have literally had people tell me that I ‘look like I know what I’m doing’. I’m also distinctive enough to be memorable, even to higher-level managers I only meet briefly. As long as you can back it up with real competence, looking Odd For An Office can help you build a reputation.

  41. Heather*

    Lots of thoughts, but when I was slowly introducing my work to the fact I was going back to brightly colored, non natural hair, I started slow. Did some stripes, did some underlayers. Then slowly went fully pink and purple over a few months. Was also a way to do it kindly to my hair, too!

    People suggested intro of elements. Same sort of thought, just I’d do 1 for about two weeks, like boots. Then do the next on top, then the next on top. That way when you go full black lipstick or eyeliner, they’d just go oh, you are adding to the ensemble!

    But you don’t have to. You can go full goth one day and say, hey, I’m being more myself at work. <3

    Sounds so awesome and wishing you the best, OP

  42. Ninny*

    If you have any work social events, it can help to introduce more “startling” changes – people are more likely to accept without question a colleague changing their look depending on whether they’re at work or at home, so going in “home” clothes/makeup to a work social event can help due to the blurring of that line.

  43. DisneyChannelThis*

    I’d not just show up goth one day. I’d do a slow descent. Add 4-6 goth items to your wardrobe, and rotate them in among your existing stuff for a month. Items being shoes, lipstick, jewelry, tops, etc. Not like a whole goth outfit mixed into your lineup, but like your normal work outfit with combat boots or your normal work outfit with darker lipstick, normal pants+shoes+makeup but goth top, etc. Then add 4-6 more and now take 4-6 boring ones out for 2 weeks. Until you slowly cycle it all out to what you want.

    Showing up goth one day would definitely make people talk. Gradually descending to goth to where no one can quite pinpoint it happening will make it much less of an event. (Go full goth for weekends tho!)

  44. Wizard for Hire*

    I would suggest making the style transition over the period of a month at least. Maybe start with integrating clothing and boots first for a week or 2, then with any other accessories and/or makeup choices during the next few weeks. that way you can also clock how comfortable your clothing is for your workspace. Depending on how much physical work or risk of mess your job entails, maybe start with clothing that is not too valuable in case any accident were to occur. I have a pair of nice Doc Martens that I would wear to work but almost damaged so I keep them out of my work now.

  45. NotAManager*

    Congrats on finding a style that makes you happy! As someone who also feels happiest dressed in a somewhat niche style (weekday vintage, weekend goth), I can say it really does make a difference in both how you feel inside and how you interact with people in a positive way. So I’d encourage you to wear something that makes you REALLY happy on the first day of your style transition. Your favorite shoes, your favorite piece of jewelry, or clothing that you just love. That way you’ll be in a good headspace if anyone notices and comments on the look.

    Also, just kind of be prepared for comments that people think are complimentary but can come off a little strange. I wear heels almost every day and often get people asking, “How can you walk/I couldn’t do that/good for you my feet can’t take it,” which I find hard to respond to (I don’t have any orthopedic issues and can wear 2-3 inch heels for hours no problem). Having a stock response planned in the back of your head (mine is, “I really like to be tall!”) can help get an awkward interaction over with quickly.

    1. Minimal Pear*

      “Weekday vintage, weekend goth” is SUCH a mood! Most of my work outfits are forties-inspired and back before COVID all my going out outfits were what I fondly referred to as “slutty goth” because I overheat easily.

  46. me... just me*

    My advice would be different for someone male presenting vs female presenting. And I didn’t see any information on that in OPs letter. I think female presenting professionals have more leeway in the business world when it comes to alternative dressing being more normalized and I would just go for it. For male presenting folks, it can be a little more out of the ordinary (especially if makeup is involved) and you might be a little more selective and slow going. I wish it weren’t so, but that seems to be how the professional world is.

    1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

      Agreed, though a shaved head is going to read differently depending on gender.

      1. Not like a regular teacher*

        Yep, I thought that too. I think the main way this is going to manifest is:

        If people tend to read you as more femme-presenting, the shaved head is the most extreme change and should come last.

        If people tend to read you as more masc, dark lipstick is going to be the most extreme change and should come last. (Dark nail polish and/or eyeliner should also be among the later rollouts in this situation)

        In either case I second the recommendations above to gradually add more and more black versions of your existing workwear, then add in some accessories and shoes as you get a better sense of how far you can go in this workplace.

        Have fun!

    2. sb51*

      For engineering, though, there can sometimes be a reverse effect—women with any sort of distinctive style (not necessarily traditional femininity style, but any look that says “I thought about my clothing for more time than it takes to do a sniff test to make sure it’s clean”), can get assumed to be less technical. Because sexism, sigh.

  47. Falling Diphthong*

    Good past advice here re exciting shoes was that in a conservative field (whether that’s business formal or bland) you could do one interesting thing. So if that’s bright red shoes, your clothing and jewelry are unremarkable. If it’s statement earrings, your makeup and clothing are unremarkable.

    This isn’t quite that, but I think initially focusing on one thing–whatever thing gives you the most enjoyment, which seems like it might be footwear–is a good way to ease toward a new look, while keeping the focus on your work rather than on how Wow you look so different from last week.

  48. Caz*

    I would start off by looking up “corporate goth” (and refine searches by gender if that helps) – you will find the kind of people and the kind of looks that combine the corporate side of life with the goth side of personality and might be able to then identify specific looks or aspects that work well for both.

  49. Matery*

    I haven’t read all the way down, so maybe this has been answered but I didn’t get the gender of the OP? That would somewhat matter only about lipstick as far as I can see.

      1. English Rose*

        Indeed they can, but I do think gender has relevance here unfortunately. If OP happens to be male rather than female, this would amp up the questions and comments. It shouldn’t, but it would.

      2. AlphabetSoupCity*

        Of course! But we know that it will be read differently based on gender, and it might affect the advice we give, even if we don’t want it to

  50. Goth on the inside*

    There was a blogger, “Siouxsie Law,” who I remember writing about this several years ago. One suggestion that stuck with me was to let your coworkers see your off-duty style outside of regular office hours first. That may or may not work with your job, but it was easy for me to do as a lawyer who would sometimes pop into the office on weekends and had plenty of evening networking opportunities. I’d make sure I still looked nice, but wear stompy boots and black nail polish while putting in a few hours on a Saturday morning, or rock unusual jewelry at events. No one batted (no pun intended!) an eye when I started wearing the same kinds of things to work, and I was much happier looking like myself (and not spending money on a generic work wardrobe I hated). Good luck!

    1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

      This seems like great advice! Give people a glimpse of your style under circumstances where you wouldn’t be expected to wear your normal work clothes. Most people wouldn’t bat an eye at discovering that their colleagues dress differently outside of work. Honestly, it’d be weirder if you did dress exactly the same!

      1. BubbleTea*

        Ha, I dress exactly the same in basically all situations. Covid lockdown had zero effect on my wardrobe because I already wore clothes I was comfortable in all the time, and I used to go from the office to a pilates class without changing (and not because I wore workout clothes to work). But I think I’m probably the exception.

  51. whistle*

    I actually don’t think it matters if you slowly roll out a new look or go for it all at once. Some people will notice and will comment, and so the key is to be prepared for that.

    I am an occasionaly skirt-wearer who (I guess?) is known as someone who doesn’t wear skirts*. Everytime I wear a skirt (which is more than once a week in the summer!) I get comments. It honestly keeps me from wearing skirts sometimes because I just don’t want to talk about my clothing choices all the time.

    *I figure this reputation is because I don’t wear any make-up. It is probably also why I get called a hippie regularly.

  52. Not that other person you didn't like*

    I had a coworker who always dressed very casual and low key. Then one day she showed up in like a pink vinyl mini corset dress and platform black hip-high boots. The following day there was another outfit that was equally different from her normal workwear…. and then nothing. She went back to her previous look.

    I don’t know that anyone said anything to her, but it attracted MORE attention because it was only the two times and never again.

    What I’d say is that if you make a sudden big shift, stick with it. Which means putting the effort into outfitting a whole wardrobe first. People will get used to the new look and stop wondering. Or you can ease pieces into your current look so the you always have something to wear and don’t have to shell out for all the stuff at once and it’s a transition process.

    But swapping back and forth so that it’s khakis one day (Jake from State Farm) and The Cure the next is kind of disorienting.

  53. Fourth and Inches*

    This is a great example of one of my favorite quotes: “Find out who you are and do it on purpose.” – Dolly Parton

    I’m afraid I don’t have any more specific advice aside from what others have said above, so I think it will just depend on your comfort level. Just keep in mind that with any change in appearance, people will talk about it. I cut off my long hair into a pixie cut last week and everyone I run into says something (all positive, thankfully). If you introduce things slowly over time, you may have a bunch of comments with each addition, over and over again. If you decide to switch it up on Monday and go full goth all at once, you will get a lot of comments all at once then it will probably die down.

    1. Nancy*

      I would not be making decisions AAAS on what Hollywood (or Nashville!) celebrities can get away with. They have a lot more leeway to do outlandish things than non-celebrities.

  54. Rainy*

    I’ve been at my current workplace for more than 5 years, and in that time my look has changed multiple times. I went through a business boho phase, a skirts and dresses only phase, back to more of a straight up boho phase, and through the winter I was straight up dark academia. My summer vibe is usually kind of a business athletic situation with a darker colour palette (I walk or bike to work, so my footwear has to be comfortable enough to walk or bike in, and footwear often dictates the look for me).

    I have had one person comment ever, during my straight up boho phase, to note that I was wearing a lot more colours than usual.

    I’ve also done a lot of different hairstyles, from waist-length natural colour to dramatic purple undercut and everything in between. People notice my hair, for sure, but I don’t think anyone has ever said anything rude about it.

    I will second the rec to do corporate goth or dark corporate–look at people’s board on pinterest for various style aesthetics and make note of silhouettes, fabrics, colours, and accessories. A simple pair of dark grey slacks can go from business casual to edging into dark academia with just a shoe change, and if you change the shirt style, you can push it to full corporate goth really easily.

    As far as how to roll it out slowly, start with either basics and work toward the full look ending in accessories, or vice-versa. If you plan it carefully and go stage by stage, you could be in full corporate goth by fall and no one will have really noticed.

  55. GingerHR*

    One thing to think about, from a corporate HR goth – noise.
    A lot of goth clothing can be a bit noisy. Earrings can clank, bangles clatter, and (although my boots are the pike rather than platform type), straps with buckles can be noisy.
    Noise can be annoying, and more likely to make a less positive impression. Pick boots straps that don’t have giant buckles, or that are far apart, space ring / dangly earrings with studs. You can change this as time goes on, but it’s a way to smooth your changing look.

    Otherwise I’d echo the comments around starting small, moving to all black (but don’t forget purple and red!). Rings and necklaces are a brilliant, small, entry point to a visually goth look, if they are your thing. All black with some elaborate jewellery starts to make a statement.

  56. Bean*

    If you’re thinking of shaving your head, my advice would be to start there. The makeup / clothes can follow… but a shaved head is dope. And looks good with anything.

  57. Andy*

    re Corp Goth: I might not do corsetry or chain clothing at work. That’s possibly a bridge too far for the everyday office.

  58. Era*

    I was one time tagging along to my Dad’s office full of straight-laced engineers and one of his colleagues — a guy who was known for being even more straight-laced than most of them — showed up with a bright green mohawk one day. It was definitely the talk of the office. It turned out it was a bet he had with another colleague, that if the other guy gave up smoking for a year he’d do the mohawk for a week. He seemed to have the time of his life, sitting at lunch the center of attention, telling the story again and again.

    Little highschooled me, who very badly wanted an excuse to shave my head, was watching and plotting manufacturing a similar excuse. It didn’t happen, and eventually I just took the plunge and shaved my head just because. I did have to answer a lot of questions, among my high school crowd, but everyone was either supportive or very distinctly did not mention it to me (what sticks in my head was a good friend who, seeing me for the first time with a shaved head, came up, glanced up at my head, and then said “Oh I love your dress!”).

    When I first shaved my head again at college, in a much more liberal crowd, like three people ever mentioned it. Since then, I’ve continually been pleased at how much I can take risks with my appearance and meet with either no remarks, because people don’t really notice or care, or positive comments.

    All this to say: I don’t think there’s a good way to predict how people will respond, but it’s good to have a little canned story of why you’re making this change if they do ask. It can be okay if it is a bit of a distraction for a little while — it’s often in a good way! Enjoy the attention, if you get it and if you can! I sure did.

    (I’ve been meaning to grow my short hair out a little bit, get some curls, but after talking about this… maybe I’ll shave it again, instead!)

  59. sequitur*

    Something I’ve seen from coworkers who prefer to present more goth is taking some opportunities to go all-out, on days when non-traditional clothing is appropriate (fancy dress events, halloween if office-appropriate, parties where this would fit the dress code). Showing everyone the full version of how you’d like to present on officially-sanctioned occasions (and hopefully having that version of you received well!) might help you feel more comfortable amping up your day to day expression.

  60. theletter*

    You might get a bit of joy out of a ‘Sneaky Goth’ attire, by just incorporating things that could be easily overlooked by someone who’s focused on work. Stuff like subtle patterns on button down shirts or shoes that could work for both office and vampire-themed dinner party.

    The one thing you don’t want is for anyone to wonder if you’re spending more time on your look than on your job. Traditional Goth nightclub fashion tends to be dramatic and in some cases, overly sexual, which are not vibes people want in most corporate offices.

    But being the guy who keeps Halloween in his heart all year round can be unique and fun for clients and managers!

    That said, if your work is extremely creative or technical, a dramatic Goth look could work in your favor.

  61. EasternPhoebe*

    Your idea to move your work wardrobe to something you love is fantastic! Go for it! I think a gradual shift would be easiest if you are nervous.

    Seconding the comments about makeup often being the last hill to climb. When I wore a softly applied black lipstick (so that it looked a bit bluish), I received a lot of comments like, “Oh no, your lips are blue/gray, are you OK? Are you too cold?” even though I was clearly not one foot in the grave or hypothermic. I couldn’t tell if it was concern-trolling or well-intentioned obliviousness. Eventually they stopped when I explained, calmly, that I was wearing lipstick. Not sure if this will happen to you, but something to prepare a response for.

  62. Specialized Skillets*

    OMG is the entire commentariat goth??

    OP, welcome to the dark side! Dressing to please yourself is one of the great joys in life. Mainstream fashion likes to flirt with goth aesthetic regularly, so keep an eye out for those trends and avail yourself of the sales when they happen.
    I work in the arts so have more flexibility in my appearance (although am old and tired so keep it all-black but low key at work), but in my experience nobody will bat an eye at all-black versions of whichever outfit is commonly worn in your office.
    I echo others’ advice to tier it somewhat. Having a few phrases in your pocket to respond to any comments will make it much easier if/when they happen.

    Congrats! Enjoy!

    1. Minimal Pear*

      LOL, I used to be! I was some half-baked mall goth/emo/punk??? combo as a teen, and I know in my heart of hearts that the hottest version of me is goth. I just also really like 1940s vintage, earth tones, and some bright colors. This letter definitely has me wanting to dig up the black clothing tomorrow, though…

  63. Csethiro Ceredin*

    That wouldn’t be an issue in my workplace. My only advice – depending on your office – would be to tread more carefully on any aspects of goth clothing that overlap with a fetish-y look (vinyl clothing, collars etc.).

    If it were me, I’d start with wearing all black/dark colours, then add the hair and the shoes.

  64. TheErstwhileLibrarian*

    A lot of people do this sort of style migration. Sometimes is more aesthetic (such as going gray or covering it up), mixing up your wardrobe, or trying a new makeup routine. Sometimes it’s a change that is more essential, due to health changes, transitioning, or (in my case) embracing more of a queer style. Turns out after 10 years of wearing suits and ties and presenting as Standard Corporate Male, I really love getting colorful manicures and throwing on some jewelry.

    Choosing an accepting workspace is really half the battle. For starting, do the change that makes you smile the most first–whether its clothing, hair, nails, or makeup. Then you can introduce more elements bit by bit if you want. The joy you take in those changes is the best way to roll them out at work.

  65. Spicy Tuna*

    I work in finance, which tends to be pretty conservative. I did two major changes, separatly. The first was cutting long hair very short – this was when I was completing my MBA and I knew I would be interviewing and I wanted to project a more “polished” look as my hair is naturally very curly and I have never really figured out how to make the curls look less wild. Everyone commented but it wasn’t all that radical.

    The second time was years later when I both relaxed my hair and dyed it dark brown (it’s naturally a light brown / dark blond combo). THAT was very noticeable; people didn’t recognize me and I nearly immediately got a promotion, so there’s that.

    I agree with the other commenters who said to introduce all of the changes over time to avoid making it seem like you’re in costume. If you gradually add elements over time, people will find it less jarring. Not that you should necessarily care about what other people think, but you also need to work with people who recognize you!

  66. HR Boss*

    Hi, HR here. I’d suggest mentioning to your manager (and maybe a close teammate) that you’re going to start wearing a style you feel more comfortable and happy in, and if it becomes too much of a distraction from the work to let you know. If you’re working at a place with no formal dress code you probably won’t run into any issues with black clothing or jewelry, but high boots, heavy eyeliner, utilikilts, or black lipstick can distract people if they aren’t used to seeing it. You know this is their problem, not yours! But it is what it is.
    Good luck. :)

  67. Disco Janet*

    If you want to slow roll it, you totally can. I’d start with shoes or accessories and then add an additional thing like every 2 weeks or so.

    But also if you work at a place where dress code doesn’t matter, there is no reason to not jump right in. I recently dyed my hair bright pink and got no reaction from a lot of people and only positive reactions when it was commented on. I think if you just don’t make a big deal about it, other people will follow suit. Also this whole question just reminds me of yesterdays Ted Lasso.

  68. WantonSeedStitch*

    OP, are you generally wearing more feminine or masculine clothing styles at work? Either way, I’d recommend buying some staples like trousers or a skirt and some shirts in black to start with. Then maybe start working in some accessories: Doc Marten boots, maybe an ankh earring or earrings if you wear those.

    As someone who LOOOOOOVES vividly colored makeup that doesn’t always fit with a business casual style, I would say that black lipstick might be a touch extra for some office environments, but black eyeliner is less likely to be shocking. If you present as female, you can probably get away with black smokey liner or a super-sharp black wing. If you present more masculine, you might want to limit it to tightlining and waterlining with an eye pencil to start out with (see Tom Ellis in Lucifer).

    1. Metadata Janktress*

      I second this and Killstar is excellent. I also like Disturbia a lot for corporate goth wear–I work in a business casual environment and find their clothing a bit more inline with that dress code, so if there is an occasional need to be more formal/”buttoned up,” they have a ton of good options:

  69. Darkangel*

    As a new mom who recently started her own buisness, I took advantage of my weight fluctuation and necessitiy to redo my wardrobe to change my personal style. I wanted practical clothes for my mother role, that would stillmake sens to meet investors/clients and be taken serioulsy, and where I could also keep my feminine and delicate essence.

    These youtubers helped me a lot with defining how I could incorporate touch of feminity in buisness clothes, by looking for specific cuts, shapes and details.

    Despite the esthetic that you are going for being different, I think that the process of finding clothes that suits your need and style remains the same.

    In any case, kudos for wanting to asume who you truly are!

  70. Jamie (he/him)*

    I can see two ways to do this.

    1) Come back from a vacation, at least a week, in your glorious new look. That’s enough time for colleagues who don’t know you well to have forgotten how you were before. It’s also not “new” new, as you didn’t do it overnight, you did it ~a week ago. There will be still be questions, so decide in advance how you’ll answer and/or shut them down politely.

    2) Do it slowly. Boots in June. Black clothes in July. Subtle make-up if you’re male identified across August and September, less subtle across October and November, full make-up in December. DOUBLE STANDARDS ALERT! If you’re female identified, you can do the make-up part quicker – across, say, July and August – because people will notice make-up changes less. But slowly reduce your hair length lest people think you’re having chemo which seems to be the go-to thanks to the great efforts of breast cancer awareness drives (if you’re male identified, just shave it, nobody cares). There will be still be questions, so decide in advance how you’ll answer and/or shut them down politely.

    Either way, the vast majority of people won’t notice; of those that do notice, the vast majority will say nothing to your face; of those that say something to your face, the vast majority can be placated with your chosen go-to line about it. The tiny minority of a minority that remain? Meh. They’d fine something to say to your face about something if given the chance anyway.

    I saw a great quote once (about precedence at formal events, but it also applies to how we present ourselves):

    “Those who matter don’t notice. Those who notice don’t matter.”

  71. Anonymoss*

    I personally would start with boots and lipstick! The lipstick is small but very noticable, so you should quickly see how everyone reacts, I would start with plums or oxbloods if you’ve got them, but starting with black works just as well). The boots are less visual but it gives time for people to adjust to the sound of them and the (presumed) boost in height. A jacket would probably be fine to add after a few days of lipstick and boots. If everyone is still chill after that, I say just go full style.

  72. Help Desk Peon*

    I started with my hair! People expect hair to change, so even a drastic change isn’t terribly shocking. I accidentally went a bit purple because I picked a “chocolate raspberry” color and didn’t realize I’m naturally a lot more grey. Oops. Comments were positive, so I leaned in and went REALLY colorful, and then ended up shaving the back of my head for an undercut.

  73. Dawn*

    I’m coming from a place of social gender transition, not just changing styles, so YMMV, but I introduced changes one at a time and for the most part people were very cool about it; for the few who felt compelled to comment, I had a snappy comeback on tap.

    e.g. around the holidays, “Why are you wearing nail polish?”
    “I’m festive.”

    But for the most part polite, rational people don’t tend to pass comment on others’ appearance changes beyond maybe a “that looks nice” (the most common response to my nails and lipstick was compliments) and the most you’ll have to explain is, “I’m trying something new.”

    1. Dawn*

      Or maybe even in your case you’re trying something old! You can absolutely also say that now that you’re settled in here and getting comfortable with everything, you’re going back to a more natural style for you (even if that’s not true) and most people will absolutely understand wanting to test the waters with a new job before going especially outré.

  74. Scintillating Water*

    As someone who’s been experimenting with my gender presentation at work, I’ve been thinking about this too!

    Since your workplace is casual, I’d start by wearing more black/gothy t-shirts and maybe some plausibly deniable pants. Then try out different small things on different days: boots, lipstick, eyeliner, nail polish, jewelry, etc. You can start doing this on Fridays or other days when people tend to be less around, if that would help. Eventually all these things will start to feel normal to you and your coworkers.

    The key for me is in responding to coworkers’ comments. I treat any comment on my clothing as a compliment. “Why yes, I *am* wearing that! Isn’t it neat? I love it!” My coworkers usually respond in kind. You can also turn it around, “oh, and by the way, those are cool earrings” or whatever.

  75. GreenDooor*

    I like the suggestions here for how to slowly roll it out. Also…are there any company or department-wide events coming up that are more social, like a summer company picnic or something like that? Since those are more about socializing than work-work, you might show up to those in your whole-new-look. It’d likely be less jarring in a more social setting. That way, when you next come to work it won’t be so shocking to see you like that, because hey, it’s your style. (Some guy at my work did this – a guy that was super tattooed but kept them covered at work). Somehow, seeing Kevin from the Archives all tatted up at a picnic was “normal” so, seeing one peek out of his work polo sleeve the next Tuesday was no big deal because I’d seen it in a more casual setting.

  76. Frankly, Mr. Shankly*

    I’ve been goth for 30 years now and for the last 23 have had corporate jobs (including finance)- my advice is to make it 1- gradual and 2- to carry yourself like it’s “not a thing”

    When I start a new job, I have my nails done in a glass-like pearl color even though they’re still long and pointy. Then, grey. Now, they’re black and a touch longer. Same with clothes- I always wear black, but I start off with mid-length skirts and puff sleeve blouses (thankfully trendy atm) before I work in long skirts. For shoes, it’s Fluevogs – even his flats are “statement” shoes but the quality shines though and makes them not costume-y. And my jewelry is probably the oddest thing I wear (moths, crying eyes, planchettes, even things fashioned out of bones that from a distance you don’t pick up on as bones) so I work up to wearing more than one necklace/ ring at a time. The trick IME is to not let the clothes/ boots/ jewelry “wear you” if that makes sense?

  77. I have RBF*

    So, if I was going in to an office and wanted to roll out a goth wardrobe or style change, I would just slowly start rotating in my new look outfits. Instead of wearing, say, a light blue shirt with khakis, I might at first keep the blue shirt but switch to black chinos, then swap the blue for a gray shirt, and just slowly start moving toward nose-to-toes blacks. Think of it as a gradual sunset and fade to black.

    Yes, when I was in the office I wore two colors predominantly: purple and black. For a while in the early 2000s I wore nothing but black. I never did the makeup thing, I’m too lazy for that. But even now, working remotely, I’m in a purple t-shirt and black jeans. But I’ve been some degree of goth since the early 80s. Black and purple are energizing to me. Pastels and light, bright colors make me feel … faded and drained.

    1. Frankly, Mr. Shankly*

      Same here- if you put me in a bright color or pattern I’d feel so off.

  78. Florp*

    I think the key is to enjoy yourself while still looking like a grown up. Think more Old Money Vampire and less Teenage Hot Topic. If most of your outfit is appropriately interesting black clothing you can accent it with chain bedecked platform boots and look really pulled together. Played right, Corp Goth can be absolutely authoritative and bad ass, so go for it!

    I’m personally a fan of insect and flower jewelry, and I have a number of pieces that are very goth. They’re a great way to add something interchangeable and non permanent to your wardrobe. Get black button down shirts and change out the buttons for little skulls, faux jewels, or stone beads (just make sure they can be washed or dry cleaned with the garment; taking them off every time you want to clean the shirt is a drag). Or start a cool button stud and cuff link collection.

    Look for basic pieces in rich dark fabrics and layer them. Search out velveteen or chalk stripe jackets, vests, pants, skirts and shorts. Black brocade can look so expensive and dressy! Wear a lace shirt or a mesh knit top over a tee or peeking out from under a button down shirt. Layer interesting textures.

    A black blazer can make almost anything look conference room appropriate.

    Do you knit or crochet? There are a ton of sweater patterns that look goth when done in black or charcoal. Many are both beautiful and office appropriate. You can probably find some already knitted up on Etsy.

    It doesn’t have to be black, either. Embroider little spiders all over a floral shirt.

    Stockings! A glimpse of fine black fishnets can make a plain black knee length skirt and plain knee high leather boots look a little more rock n roll. And there are so many lace and cable knit textures out there.

    Don’t limit yourself to studs: Look for bags, cuffs or chokers that fasten with interesting industrial hardware.

    Get a fabulous cape. Maybe you have normcore clothes on under it, but you’ll make an entrance in the morning. Look forward to swinging it dramatically over your shoulders and leaving the office in your dust at the end of the day.

    BTW, I feel like all of these ideas can work for all genders. Men can wear fishnets under jeans and just show a little between your rolled up black jeans and the top of your boots. Feels goth and looks cool. Nice fabrics, interesting textures, and creative layering are for everyone.

    Now I feel like I wanna go makeover my own closet.

    1. I have RBF*

      When I was in college (in the early 80s) I wore nose-to-toes black shirt and pants, and then wore a cloak over it, black lined with garnet. My grandma got me some pull-on black boots (no specifically goth, but still black boots), so I wore those just about everywhere. I never got into the makeup, primarily because I hated daily makeup as too fem.

      That cloak finally wore out, and I haven’t had the heart to make another one. I miss it, because it was great for easy putting on and wearing briefly in the rain (scotchguard kept it from getting soggy as I went from building to building.) For a while I had a long leather jacket (hip length) that I wore, but that got too worn also.

      I still tend toward blacks and dark jewel tones. I also sometimes dye my hair purple, because it makes me happy. My shoes are either black or purple, except for the one pair of bright pride boots that I have. I consider my style to be goth, but adult/old goth, not costume/kid goth, at this point.

    2. Calamity Janine*

      honestly, capes are underrated and having a mild comeback in some spheres already. they’re warm, cozy, easy to manage how much heat you’re getting so you don’t overheat, and in a relatively plain cut of good quality can look very elegant indeed. I may have gotten a few mainly to work around shoulder pain – and they may be on a very different aesthetic wavelength to the LW, given the mint green with embroidery of cranes in flight etc etc – but yeah they’re pretty great and the top way to wear a blanket but make it fashion.

      this pro-cape message would likely be more successful at a different time of year but oh well. I still stand by the perhaps dubious advice of Just Get A Cape, They’re Great

  79. Danish*

    I don’t have good advice because my solution for any major change has always been “wait until you have a new job” BUT I want to say I’m super happy for you LW! Being somewhat-newly-discovered trans I can still vividly remember the first times feeling actually legit excited to get dressed Like Myself and how much it impacted how I interact with the world. It’s fun! To like how you look! To wear clothes that feel like you!

    Best of luck!

  80. Lynx*

    Love all the advice about starting to make changes gradually, and I wouldn’t hesitate on starting to make those changes! Last year I dyed my hair a bright, unnatural red (think Ariel level), after 5 years at my company where I had been concerned it would be side-eyed in an office that, while having no dress code policy on the matter, leans toward your average, preppy style.

    I got one or two “oh… that’s so… different…” responses, but by and large everyone loves it and, most importantly, I love it and feel so much more confident.

  81. Beth*

    I’d start with the easily-corporate-ize-able parts, personally! If it’s the big jump that makes this nerve-wracking, start with wearing all-black clothes, which can easily pass as just about anything. And then maybe add black nail polish (which is more obviously goth vibes, but also feels like less of an “I chose this when I got dressed this morning” deal because it generally lasts for several days). And then step it up to an accessory or two. And then maybe change your hair to a style that fits the alternative vibe you’re going for. And at that point, I bet black lipstick and platform boots will be neither a surprise nor weird to your coworkers, since you’ll have been building up a vibe for a while.

    Gradual introduction has been my approach to basically every big change in how I present myself, and it goes a long way towards making me more comfortable. It makes it not a big deal–it becomes just a thing people slowly come to expect from me over time, and not a Big Introduction To The New Me (which I trust that people would support if I wanted to do it that way, of course, but that comes with a lot of comments and discussion that just makes me anxious about it).

  82. Molly Millions*

    As a fellow enthusiast of the macabre, I love this question!

    Based on your description, I suspect your workplace would probably be cool with a full transformation. But even if your office is fairly conservative, you can definitely incorporate goth elements into your daily attire. Black is luckily seen as a default neutral work colour, combat boots are perennially in-style, and lots of designers make high-quality accessories with skulls, snakes, and “edgy” details that don’t scream “hot topic mall goth.” (I say this as someone who regularly shops at Hot Topic).

    If you’re nervous about showing up one day with black lipstick, you could start by experimenting with other dark shades (there are some dramatic purples, browns, and dark reds that give goth vibes to die for). Same with jewellery – dramatic costume jewellery is appropriate for most occasions but will make you feel Transylvania-glam.

    If you gradually start wearing more dramatic makeup and accessories, your coworkers will get used to seeing you that way.

    (If I recall correctly, the Gothic Charm School blog has lots of good advice on this topic).

  83. evens*

    If you don’t already have the full goth look, you’ll do it slowly because you’ll gradually add more “goth” pieces to your wardrobe. If you already have the whole shebang, just dress however makes you happy. In general, people won’t care at all.

  84. Skyscraper...I love you*

    I went from having almost waist-length long hair to a shaved head – and I took my office workers along for the ride by doing it as part of a charity fundraiser. Once I started letting people know what I was about to do, everyone in the office was supportive and excited! One of my colleagues even offered her services to do the shave as she was a hairdresser in her former career.

    Once the shave was done and my hair was donated to a wig-maker who made hairpieces for children having chemotherapy, everyone pretty much got used to me having no hair and many people complimented me on how well it suited me. So OP, if you’re thinking about a head shave and you work in office I’d recommend this approach :)

    Good luck with evolving your new look!

  85. Corsets and lace*

    I was recently in a similar situation and took the plunge over a holiday. left as a ‘normal’ and returned living my best life as a Victorian school mistress. Didn’t address it at all, just got on with my job and now, months later, it’s such an accepted thing that, if I dress ‘normal’, thats when people comment (so many more comments than after initial plunge and from everyone, the office people, the barista, the guy on the train! They all have comments and they are universally ‘where are your nice clothes? why are you not wearing skirts?)

    Just do it. Take the plunge and jump into your best life whole heartedly.

    1. Azure Jane Lunatic*

      I once terrified co-workers at Halloween by wearing a perfectly lovely dress of blue flowers on a white background. At the time I exclusively wore black, generally pants.

  86. Azure Jane Lunatic*

    If going to concerts is your thing, you could try gothing it up a little (more black, better boots) during the week as a new normal wear, but add some makeup and accessories on Fridays, with a ready explanation: “I’m going to see Poisoned Teacup tonight! I’ve been looking forward to this, and I thought I’d dress up a little bit.”

  87. Cat named Brian*

    Where are you an engineer? Tech industry, probably can get away with the goth look. Chemical plant, manufacturing plant, aerospace… boots and black shirt maybe, but not with black lipstick, skull earrings etc. You would damage your credibility.

    1. Not A Fish*

      I’m not sure that this is the case for all those industries – I work with some amazing chemical engineers and I think that this kind of look would be very accepted. Science and engineering have always been fields in which its accepted that people won’t dress formally, or in the latest fashion – practical, comfortable dress is very much the norm in those industries in my experience.

  88. Not A Fish*

    I would add to the other commenters who suggest starting small. Maybe one element like changing your regular work shoes for something more your style. If it was me, I would stick to smaller things like accessories at first, especially if you’re worried about your colleagues reaction (also because they’re more affordable).

    To avoid having to shell out for a whole new work wardrobe at once, is there an in-between style that works for you? So you could buy pieces which kinda go with your regular work wardrobe but are slightly more goth? That way you can slowly buy more pieces over time and spread the cost of buying new work-appropriate clothes all in the same style.

  89. Raida*

    Pick pieces that work with your current work wardrobe, and every day you could have as example
    a black vest over a black long sleeved shirt, black rubber ring, black work shoes, khaki pants
    chunky shoes with thick dark jeans, floral shirt

    and just play with what goes together, what you are happy incorporating every single day, what you think looks ‘costumey’ as a whole.

    Change your hair, go with a little eyeliner, go with nail polish – all of this with a business casual outfit is cool.

    Add accessories you really vibe with – thicker belts, studded anything, chains.

    Or, alternatively, look into a more tailored version of your personal gothy style – utilising flattering tailoring to insert your favourite patterns and materials. This would be the more expensive approach! But a flocked damask waistcoat would be pretty bangin’. So would a shot silk skull motif tie

  90. rubble*

    I don’t have any specific recommendations and haven’t experienced this myself, but if you were my friend asking me for advice, I would probably say:

    definitely do it in stages. I would probably start by switching your wardrobe to all black but in similar styles to what you currently wear at work. then I would slowly start adding one or two items of more “goth” clothing/accessories to those outfits without going all in on it. at that point I would probably shave your head. it’s the sort of thing you can talk about beforehand in office smalk talk if it’s that kind of place, that you’re thinking of trying a completely new hairstyle, so people aren’t so shocked when they see it.

    (in high school I went from reasonably long hair to almost a pixie cut over the summer break and several people didn’t recognise me at first – it wasn’t a problem but if they’d known ahead of time that I was changing my hair the reaction likely would be been different)

    at that point I would probably stop for a while and see how its received and how it makes you feel at work. you might decide that what you’ve done is enough for work and you’ll save the rest for personal time, or maybe you’ll notice you’re starting to get attention in a way that makes you uncomfortable, or maybe your coworkers will think your new look is really cool and then you can go all in on the lipstick etc.

  91. Venus*

    pinstripes are really easy to dress up or down, there are some great websites that do cute blouses with a spooky vibe (hellbunny is great) if you don’t want to go full black lipstick have a play round with some darker shades and as others have said have fun with some accessories also chunky boots are acceptable with everything :)

  92. Office goth*

    I should add as well, I have been wearing items with a goth/witchy vibe to the office for years, most of the time people don’t even notice, especially if the print is quite subtle.

  93. Academia Adjascent Goth*

    Hi OP! Welcome to the spooky club! We have fun here :)

    So, echoing all the commenters before who have said to do your style change gradually. I recommend starting off with more ‘normal’ cuts of clothing in darker shades/black, plus more subtle boots. Once everyone’s eyes adjust then start building things up. I’d avoid accessories that scream ‘goth’ in the early stages – keep the bats, spiders, and coffins for later. For hair, make sure that whatever you do is something you can maintain – an undercut reads as alternative, an undercut with a week’s worth of patchy growth can read as scruffy. Focus on high quality items that fit well and aren’t faded or damaged – it will help balance out the mall goth associations that people may have. As the token goth at my job, I find that maintaining a reasonably high level of polish and looking put together goes a long way to reading as ‘professional’.

    Good responses for when someone mentions your new, darker wardrobe (all said cheerfully and enthusiastically):
    ‘Having a limited colour palette makes it so much easier/faster to get ready in the mornings!’ Optional segue into commute times, boy howdy I do love me some extra sleep in the morning, cue other person complaining that they don’t get enough sleep, looking forward to sleeping in on the weekend oh look at that a topic change.

    ‘I Mari Kondo’d/had a wardrobe cleanout and made a commitment to wear my favourite items more often’ said with a Big Smile

    ‘My friend/partner/mum/whoever bought it for me’ Good if you think they’re going to be judgey about your clothes – it takes a very obtuse or determined person to criticise a gift from your mum

    My personal favourite ‘if a work uniform is good enough for Obama it’s good enough for me’

    For context, in my current role (non-academic in a university, non-USA) my go to outfit is ankle or knee high boots, black pencil skirt/long skirt/skinny jeans tucked into the boots, and usually a fitted black top, the occasional velvet or leather jacket, blue hair and facial piercings. I’m in a high level role that I look too young for, and part of my job is convincing academics to do things. While I don’t get many comments these days (people are used to it by now), on the rare occasion I wear any colour I will get at minimum of 2 comments along the lines of ‘wow, you’re wearing colour today!’. So be prepared for that :)

  94. Teapot Wrangler*

    I would definitely go piece by piece and subtly because I find comments on one thing like a new top easier to deal with. Now I wear a tonne of black anyway (black suit or black trousers and black cardie are super normal for me) so I would start by making the top under the black jacket more gothy but if you’re generally in blue jean and a pink top, I’d do this:
    1. Black trousers or knee length skirt plus standard black shoes
    2. Add black cardigan / jacket
    3. Dark but not black nails – purple or maroon or something
    4. Black eyeliner
    5. Start incorporating additional elements whether that’s a black, lacy (but still covered up) top, interesting earrings, something like that
    This is the point I expect people might start to take notice
    6. If you’re brunette, make your hair black; if not, darken a bit and go black in three months
    7. Dark red lipstick – wear consistently so people are used to your lips being darker
    8. Start with less obviously “professional” clothes e.g. bigger trousers / long flowy skirts… See whether you feel okay with the probable attention!
    9. Black lipstick
    etc etc.

    I’d give each change at least two weeks – especially with hybrid work schedules. For me, I’d avoid clompy shoes and jangly stuff as well as anything too corsety or bondagey looking – I feel like making too much noise at work or stuff that is sexualised is a bit much but if Sara from Accounts is already coming in with the world’s loudest bracelets and flip flops making loads of noise then feel free to take the risk! :)

    Good luck! I definitely plan to dye my hair black one of these days but not just yet…

  95. Ginger in Black*

    The notion of “aesthetics” has gotten a lot more traction in the last few years, so I think that’s all the explanation you need: “Oh, I’m into the corp goth aesthetic and I’m working on incorporating it into my daily look.”

    The way to roll it out, I think, is to just slowly up the percentage of your look that counts as goth. Start with black trousers/skirt and a blood-red shirt. Next time you wear that outfit, add the stompy boots. Next time, one or two obvious pieces of goth jewelry. And so on. Ramp it up over the course of a few months and there you go.

  96. BobbyPins*

    I don’t have anything more to add beyond start by switching your cloths to all black and see how you want to go from there, but I wanted to say I am so glad you have found a style that makes you happy. That is what will show through far more the visual changes.

  97. Ash*

    OP–I’m so happy for you!

    There are a lot of comments about how to roll out your new look that I don’t think I can add to, but as someone who has a lot of subtle accessories (rings and cameo necklaces with things like bats, spiders, tentacles, etc.): certain accessories make typing very, very annoying. I cannot wear my leather wrist cuff at work, not because anyone would notice or comment on it, but because it knocks against the desk and just gets in the way. Same for my armored ring. I don’t know if your job involves a lot of typing, but mine sure does, so test them out and see what works.

    Good luck!

    1. Ash*

      Also, start setting your alarm earlier. A lot of Goth looks take more prep time in the morning.

  98. I Must Beg To Return To The House*

    I work in an engineering-adjacent role in an engineering company, and this is the advice I’d give someone at my particular workplace:

    – Start with shoes and accessories. Shoes really can change the whole feel of an outfit, and it’s an easy baby step (pardon the pun). You can add belts, jewelry, etc. if you want to ease your way into things.
    – You’re less likely to receive comments if you go super edgy than if you go super girly (regardless of your gender presentation).
    – Half of the engineers I work with wouldn’t notice the clothing changes. The other half would have lots of questions and comments about anything decorative/nonfunctional. (They do this with non-goth clothes, too: “Why is there a bow on your shirt? Does it do anything? No? Then why is it there?) It comes from a place of curiosity, but if you don’t want to deal with it, start with functional items, such as shoes and belts.
    – If you live in a hot climate and wear heavy boots, long black pants, layers of black and/or leather, expect lots of people to ask “Aren’t you hot in all that?” and if you feel like you need an answer, have one prepared.
    – If you’re femme-presenting and shave your head, people may ask/assume you have cancer. If you’re masculine-presenting and white and shave your head, people may assume you’re a skinhead. (This happened to a roommate of mine, who was horrified and started growing his hair back because of it.)

  99. Sooze*

    I am in my late thirties and I have been getting more piercings than I have in the past. I read through the appearance policy, and I generally make sure the jewelry is high quality and work appropriate. I haven’t had any comments from people I work with and have made sure my dress is up to our (fairly lenient) code. I think you can incorporate a few pieces for work and go all out on the weekends. I hope it all works out for the OP!

  100. Mac (I Wish All the Floors Were Lava)*

    Get one item that is noticeably gothier than your usual style that you can wear every day, so that people basically get used to it being your distinctive thing, and then gradually add in different things that kinda go with it. I’m thinking a coat or jacket if you have the climate to make it worthwhile, but footwear or a belt or even an interesting bag/backpack could also work. Jewelry might be too subtle? I’m thinking something that can be seen and recognized from a distance.

  101. Former_Employee*

    Please avoid the super white looking makeup with the dark lipstick that makes a person appear as if they have a medical problem. Maybe stay clear of the fishnet hose, too.

    Otherwise, the look is really not that different from the way many professional women dressed prior to business casual. Dark suits with white blouses, for example.

    Enjoy your new look.

  102. Mothman*

    Hey friend! Firstly, same, just got the guts to wear black lipstick in public for the first time! I feel like I’m FINALLY being allowed to be the kid I wanted to be…except I’m middle aged…

    When I was a teacher, we had students do this. The way to start? Black nail polish. It’s enough that people will notice but not so much that they’ll comment on it. This is a genderless statement–gender really didn’t matter when students did this.

    I’d then go to accessories and new shirts OR pants/skirts, but not new both at the same time. The shoe change is usually okay any time.

    Don’t shave your head just yet. Have fun with cuts and colors first! Growing it out takes foreverrrrr. Also, get a cosmetologist’s or barber’s input first because head shapes can be tricky.

    Do be sure to have some “normal” clothes on retainer just in case. I’ve made the mistake of overdoing clean outs and having to do last minute shopping. I recently went to work with clients I knew to be on the more conservative side (and totally lovely, not evil or anything, just reserved in attire). Since they were the clients, I toned things down to show I knew what environment I was walking into and that I was a guest. I see it as taking your shoes off when entering a house if you see everyone else’s shoes by the door.

Comments are closed.