Thursday, December 9, 2010

Gothic Color Theory

Still fussing over photos. Today I even took the tripod & camera into work & tried taking pix in an unused conference room (since I get to the building before most anyone else in my department). Not sure they turned out any better...

What I'm wearing:
Black twill military-style jacket, H&M
Black knit top (unseen under jacket), NY & Co.
Burgundy velvet tiered skirt, NY & Co.
Black & rubine stripey tights, We Love Colors
Black buckled wedge heels, Kohls
Black & pink Victorian-esque earrings, random accessory store
Burgundy flower brooch (it has both a hair clip & a pin back!), Forever 21
Dark berry lipstick, Sephora

Had to figure out a way to wear these fantastic new wedges today, even tho' it's still rainy. So stripey tights & buckles, that seemed right. Plus velvet. Even tho' it's all essentially black with one color.

Sometimes, when I read through all the lovely fashionistas in my blogroll (which you should too, if you don't -- they are beautiful & inspirational women of style), I think, wow, I love how they combine color in their wardrobes. There's Suze of Miss Vinyl Ahoy, who is mad for color mixing in a fabulously retro fashion, & Kasmira of What I Wore Today, who combines patterns with aplomb, & Vanessa of Big Girl, Small Budget, Tiny Town, who sprinkles wild pops of color across ultra-posh styles. And some outfits just blow me away, like Shelia's red & yellow combo with killer buttery boots & Sal's touches of red & teal with a black & white print dress -- that's, like, omg, crazy & gorgeous.

And yet ... I know that I would not, I could not wear these kinds of combos myself. That's just not my aesthetic. I am far too much of a traditionalist when it comes to Gothic Color Theory. While there are no hard & fast rules, what I've observed over the past 25ish years in the subculture is that our wardrobe color combinations break down along these lines:
  1. All black
  2. Black + one color
  3. Black + white + one color
  4. Black + two colors, often with one color predominant & the second color as an accent
And in each of these, black will tend to make up at least 50% of the outfit. That's Gothic Color Theory in a nutshell. Certainly, individuals may vary, but if you were to look at a large group of goths, you'd probably see that the majority of their outfits would fall into one of those four color combos. It's just how we roll.

As I'm planning my outfits, I naturally gravitate towards #2 & #3. I find #4 more challenging. And #1, while I love to do because it's super-easy -- now that I'm blogging my daily outfits, it feels like a cop-out (also, it's even harder to photograph!).

My wardrobe color palette tends to be black with one of these: burgundy, purple, dark pink, red, grey, or white, including shade various. Every time I try a different color (because I do, honest) I end up wearing it once & then shoving it to the back of the closet. I've even done this with historical costumes -- made lovely outfits in colors outside that palette, but wore them only once, & can't bring myself to wear them again.

I'd like to hear from goths & non-goth about what colors you wear. Do you like wearing mostly black or more colors? Do you feel like you want to mix it up one way or the other?


  1. Gothic Color Theory -- I love it. My wardrobe is predominantly black, but I also wear gray, red, and (especially) purple, although black usually makes up the foundation of my outfits even if I wear other colors. I've always liked black clothing, not because I think it's what I must wear to be spooooky but because I look good in it.

    And I love those wedges. Are they comfortable? I really don't need another pair of shoes, but those are quite tempting.

  2. I'd pretty much agree with your colour theory - I usually wear mostly black with grey, plum, dark red, medium blue, and teal, although I do wear a bit of chocolate brown as well nowadays. Today is unusual because apart from my glasses frames, I'm not wearing black! Grey trousers, peach and purple swing tunic, plum tie cardigan and aubergine mary janes :-)

  3. Love this. SOOO Much! I have the H&M jacket. Such a great store. The best part is that the store seems to be organized by color, and they always have lots of black clothing. I have a very similar H&M jacket. One of my favorite jackets. I love the tights.

  4. This is a great outfit, Trystan. I adore that skirt, it's seriously killer. Those shoes are so fab!

    It's taken me a long time to get used to wearing this much colour (especially on a regular basis) - and I still rely on black a fair bit (maybe my red/yellow outfit might fit #4 if I did a black jacket?).

  5. Oh, and gosh, how rude of me - thank you so much for the link! :)

  6. I usually wear total black look, my wardrobe is 75-80% black. Instead of this, I like to wear black+one color. I feel myself strange when a try black + 2 colors (it´s silly, I know XD). However, I have to say that now I try to mix black with other colors than red, purple, gray or white (which are my favourites), but also with dark blue, emerald green, cream, pale pink... I think that sometimes we are a little bit "obssesed" with red, purple adn white, and don´t give a chance to other colors. However, it also depends on your own tastes :).

    Great post, as usual :).

  7. Nicole - All black *does* look good! Hard to resist that siren song. And the wedges are pretty comfortable, esp. for a 1st wearing. Only issue was they were a tiny bit slippy in the rain.

    octopusgrrl - Heh, we do have our non-black-wearing days. But my hair is black, so that's my built-in goth garb ;-)

    siouxsiel - Yeah, I was pretty happy that an H&M opened about a mile from my house. I can always find something, even if it's just accessories.

    Sheila - Ooo, red, yellow, & black, that'd look fab on you! Really, those yellow boots with anything ;-)

    Madame Macabre - Black & 2 colors is just hard. I've seen it done beautifully, but it takes skill. Oh & definitely true about other colors - I know goths who mix black with blues & greens, & of course the Lady of the Manners is very fond of pale pink with black.

  8. Oo I love that skirt.

    I generall roll black with one accent color. And I could blue jeans as an accent color. My "other" are limited to purple, chocolate brown, pink (only because it's a common accent on clothes) and burgundy.

    I have discovered recently that one of my black blazers is dark blue and another is dark brown. I felt like running home to change.

  9. I was going to respond here, but then it got way too long for a comment, so I just went and posted it to my own blog. Ha!

  10. lovleanjel - LOL, I've been 'fooled' by dark blue & brown too ;-) But I'm getting better about letting it ride.

    Sarah - I added your "new" blog! Welcome to the borg.

  11. Apologies on the earlier spelling. Do I need caffeine that badly around lunchtime? Apparently I do.

  12. I am so glad I'm not the only one who does this. I actually find myself doing the black item (skirt or top) + 1 color most and don't feel right at all witout the black.

    Thank you for your blog, I'm enjoying it immensely. It makes me wonder though, what do you think of as being age appropriate for us aging goths (as in getting to middle age).

    - VelvetCat

  13. lovleanjel - no worries on the spelling, I do it all the time (I'm a professional editor, shhh, don't tell ;-).

    gothicrapunzel1 -- thanks for the comment! Yes, age-appropriate is a big concern, something I could (maybe should) write a whole post about. A few years ago, I did a big purge of things like band T-shirts bec. they felt too young, rather "mutton dressed as lamb." Likewise, the elegant gothic lolita style is, imo, very hard to pull off over a certain age. Good topic, worth exploring more!

  14. Your Gothic Color Theory pretty much sums up how I dress! Except sometimes instead of black and white and one color I do black and gray and one color. My colors are mostly red, burgundy, purple (usually but not always dark), dark green, midnight blue or.... pink. Shocking pink. Bright pink, almost always a cool pink not a warm one. Light pink. Pink and black dots or pink and black skulls being a favorite.

  15. Laurie Brown - Oh yes, black & grey & one color, I'm starting to do that too. Grey is becoming a new fave. color of mine, it's so classy & elegant, esp. for work.

  16. This describes my wardrobe perfectly. Same colors and everything. Although a few years back I was enamoured of black and teal, it can look quite nice with the dark hair/fair skin combo.

  17. katysioux - I like black & teal, but I mostly wear it if I'm going to a San Jose Sharks hockey game (I'm a hometown fan ;-).

  18. Just came across your blog for the first time -- very interesting! I just went to my closet and realized only 15% of my clothing is not black/has any color accents. 2 red tops, 4 white, 4 cream, 2 purple, 1 dark blue, 3 black and white, 2 w/ color accents. I have one beautiful emerald green skirt (my favorite color!), one cranberry, and one with a bare-branch pattern set against a winter sky look. Sill, mostly all black. I need to branch out more... I do, however, wear all cream on rare occasion. It looks great with red and plum eye makeup!

  19. annie - Oh yes, all white/cream is a fabulous look, very dramatic!

  20. I love this Goth Color Theory. It gives me much to think about.
    I would say that I have an entire rainbow of colors in my closet, leaning toward no particular color. Although in the past, I have avoided yellow (out of vanity, for I look sallow) and blue (out of fear of the ordinary, lest I look too commonplace.) Now, however, blue and yellow and all the other lovely little colors are welcomed into my closet.
    I do usually anchor an outfit with one predominant or bold color and then try to play with shades of it or saturation tints of it or complete opposites of it on the color wheel.
    Good stuff.... and thanks for the linky-dink in the post!

  21. Vanessa - I always think yellow make me look sallow too. Tho' I've at least started wearing gold jewelry & gold accents in my historical costumes, bec. it's more accurate, & as long as there's another color mixed w/gold near my face, it doesn't bring out the color in my skin.

    I love how you use contrasting colors! Just so sharp :-)