I must admit I am fortunate in that, despite working in a corporate headquarters, I was able to retain my long nails and blue hair. This is partly because, like many Corporate Goths, I had proven my worth to them. I climbed the ladder through hard work and ingenuity. I also deal with people over the phone before they tend to meet me so I am able to gain their respect before shocking them with my looks.
It also comes in handy to dress in a manner that is comfortable for your co-workers (within reason.) As much as I like learning how the new hires fear me and avoid my office, in the workplace, that is not always the best thing. The trick is to find some sort of compromise. For example, I try not to wear nail polish at work since that is often the one thing that disturbs people (especially men) the most. I also don’t wear my leather collars because that tends to be associated with sexuality (as a fetish) which is inappropriate in the work place. If you go too far, people will not be able to work with you and that will adversely affect your job performance, and thus your job security.
However, with a bit of ingenuity, you can build a wardrobe that will satisfy your tastes and still fit in well enough in the workplace.
Here is what some fellow Corporate Goths have to say…
I’m not quite a corp. goth (still in university) but my general tactics when buying “professional” style clothing has always been to keep one aspect of the garment “normal” and then having something else be a bit unusual isn’t too bad… For example, my interviewing-for-university outfit was a black fitted suit jacket, black skirt, and a really lovely mandarin-collared, blood red silk and black embroidered brocade vest. The fairly normal suit toned down the vest, but I still felt like me. (Whereas I would’ve felt silly in a normal under-suit-style blouse. 🙂 Or go for normal colours, but a bit of a different style; I’m partial to oriental-style fastenings and things like that, so I might buy something like a shirt with a mandarin collar and knotted buttons, but in a fairly normal fabric and colour. (Of course, the universities I was interviewing with were either artsy and in New York City, or techie-type places, so there was probably more leeway in general with fashion; a more conservative line of study may have caused some problems.)
Also, and I know a lot of gothy types (myself included) have trouble with this… Find some lighter colours you can cope with. I tend to stick to greys and blues, but a nice light smokey blue shirt with black pants or whatever can help “un-goth” an overly-gothy looking outfit without feeling too wrong.
Another point is that I think you can get away with more unique stuff, generally, if it’s clearly good-quality unique stuff. (I think it plays into people thinking “oh, it’s a designer thing” or something. And you’re also making it clear that you care about your appearance, it’s just you prefer a slightly different style to what they might choose for themselves…) I think a lot of it is just, well, toning down the goth; a lot of gothy stuff is pretty dramatic in appearance (all black, fetishy stuff, etc.) and that can be off-putting in a professional environment. Minimizing the impact of the dramatic stuff can really help. (Like you having long nails, but not having them painted at work.)
I work at an HMO in a conservative Southern city. There isn’t a lot of room
for freakish attire or non-standard hairstyles or makeup. So I wear black
slacks and a dark-colored or black blouse or shirt, with black medium-height heeled shoes. I’ll usually wear one or two pieces of silver jewelry, but I leave the coffins and skulls at home and stick to the Victorian or abstract stuff, about which I’ve gotten lots of compliments.
Sometimes I’ll put on a black skirt with a jewel-toned shirt or a white shirt and black cardigan over it. I only wear sheer black hose or black tights and tend to stick with tailored clothing and a minimum of elaborate jewelry — a watch, ring, and necklace at the most. Makeup is pretty simple, just powder, mascara, lipstick, and a little eyebrow darkener (I wear glasses so I seldom wear eye makeup anyway).
Here are some of the things I can wear to work without upsetting anyone and still feeling like my dark gothly (albeit grown-up) self.
- Long black velvet skirts
- knee-high leather high-heeled boots
- Long burgandy skirts
- Long black chiffon skirts
- Long navy blue skirts
- Empire waisted dresses
- Crystals and Ankhs are generally fine
- Docs (maryjane style docs are especially good for work).
- Craploads of black eyeliner (but don’t go all-out Siouxsie-style. Keep the line under 1/16 inches or so.)
Put on a black broomstick skirt with a tight red velvet t-shirt. Wear a black lace button up blouse over the velvet t-shirt but don’t button it up. Add black tights, boots, jewelry (tuck the pentacles in but ankhs are ok) and you’re set.
How about a long black empire waisted cotton dress with a burgandy cardigan, burgandy tights and 8-hole Docs? Nearly any boring dress can be fixed up with tights, docs, etc.
Things to avoid/leave home/tuck in…
- As much as it irks me that so many people wearing crosses to work, I still tuck my pentacle in.
- Leather should be confined to your shoes or jacket.
- Black lace blouses are fine but wear something more modest than a bra or corsette underneath.
- Excessive facial piercings frighten people. Leave the jewelry at home.
- Learn to conceal your tongue ring when you talk.
- The torn fishnet stockings should probably get left at home.
- No visible garter belts.
- Avoid wearing skull jewelry (besides, its rarely done well enough to keep you from looking like a lame teenager.)
- Leave the animal bones at home.
- Stiletto heels should stay in the closet. Your docs are more comfy anyway.
Madame Archel shares:
I have found that a basic black suit is the best…it is professional, my favorite color, and no one thinks twice about it. Thank God the chunky, huge, square toed and square heeled shoes are in, hopefully they will never go back out. The only thing that bugs me is that my company does not make any non-traditional colored lipsticks, so green, blue, black, etc…is out. I stick with the burgundy, purple, red, and dark chocolate brown. It’s easy for a woman, when asked why she wears black every day, to say ‘because it’s slenderizing’. No one questions it at all. Right now my work uniform is black. I’m even graduating from college in black (yay), complete with the 6 inch platform shoes I just ordered off the net, and my rhinestone cat-eye sunglasses. I think at this point, everyone is just used to me. Also, getting closer to 30 has helped me learn what the correct balance of gothness is, and what is appropriate when.
I work in a support role and have worked for private and public companies. If
dress is to be smart, i.e. suits, I always wear a black suit and white shirts. (I have a charcoal grey one for interviews.) My hair is black but very long. Interviews I plait it or put it in a bun so it doesn’t look straggly. After that, I keep it tidyish. I take a few of my ear piercings out when my hair is up. When I wasn’t so lazy I would wear pretty much any shade of nail varnish except black or black-ish. Make-up is reduced. Not deathly white, just naturally pale. Not thick black eye-liner, just a touch, about the same amount as I’ve seen other working women wear. Accessories tend to be goth. Vast amounts of bangles will creep in. Tend to have a fairly eighties look to my shirt (deep-sleeves and rather billowy).
Boots never shoes because I always wear slim black trousers (or tight-jeans on Fridays). It’s about looking smart but somehow never looking conformist. And I’ve got that androgyny thing going on. And I like my suits. I look good in a smart jacket.
Smart-casual is what I hate. It’s very difficult to do. I had to purchase lots of stuff for that. Because you can’t wear suits without looking too formal, you have to wear casual tops. Band-logo t-shirts aren’t acceptable. Scruffy black jumpers likewise. I ended up in smart trousers, or fashion combats, and new jumpers without holes in them. Had to buy a couple of casual shirts, in black, and some little tops, like silver t-shirts and stuff. It’s much harder not to look weird when there’s no uniform, don’t you reckon.
Diva de la Lune shares:
My favourite work garb? Longer black skirts….black tights…cardigans…sweater sets…red lipstick…light, light makeup….and always…my fluevog granny shoes…:)
A fully lined long black skirt that i can wear with a skanky tank when i go
out…and throw the leopard coat over it…and the fuzzy black scarf…
Black silk sweater sets, vintage beaded caridgans…that i can wear with a
skinny mini and platforms.
J. Norton shares:
I work in an IT Corp. Dress is very important as we have a constant flow through of prospective clients so i get away with dressing for comfort. I will were a suit with Silk shirts. The Shirts generaly range from a “gun metal” color (similar to the Color of the font on the page but with a shimmer) to dark blues /bluegreys. All the colors are “matt” in effect. They are subtle and easily overlooked. The result is im comfortable, with the texture (the most important part) and i have a nice compromise for colors.
I’m lucky to be a corpgoth who works nights. I work in the computer/internet industry currently, and I wear what I like within reason.
I leave the gothy makeup at home.
I leave tshirts with offensive slogans at home.
I usually wear black or vintage clothing to work, the vintage gets more
compliments. My steeltoe jump boots and my doc maryjanes are my feets’
best friends. If I feel like wearing fishnets I wear a longer skirt or
dress so that they only show occasionally.
My corsets either stay at home or are worn underneath things.
At last, a job where I can look goff within reason! (reason meaning that I
can wear black all the time and actually wear dark coloured nailvarnish!)
Lust Baby shares:
I myself tend to wear long-long black skirts with cashmere black sweaters. I work for an oil company where the dress code is very strict. Unfortunately I am not able to wear my docs, so I find that a pair of the very squarish shoes are the best.
I have more fun with my accessories. Usually a crystal at my neck, and deep red garnets for my earrings. (The kind that are so dark they almost look black.) I have to keep my rings understated. I would suggest the same for anyone who speaks with their hands, as that is often what the bosses notice.
I keep my makeup very pale, but not cakey. Thick mascara and fairly thick eyeliner are okay, as long as they aren’t coupled with dramatic eyeshadows. My lipstick generally runs in the burgundys . (Thank goodness that’s what is trendy these days!) My hair is usually pull back in a severe bun. Sleek is the look this year, and it keeps me from looking untidy. If your locks tend to be less unruly than most, leaving your hair down, and clipping it simply would be nice.
If I feel that color is necessary, I usually head for burgundys and clear blues. They add enough color without being flashy. I have to be very careful as far as what colors I add since grey and navy are the standard colors for the women where I work.
I’m lucky to be a corpgoth who works nights. I work in the computer/internet industry currently, and I wear what I like within reason. I leave the gothy makeup at home. I leave tshirts with offensive slogans at home. I usually wear black or vintage clothing to work, the vintage gets more compliments. My steel-toe jump boots and my doc maryjanes are my feets’ best friends. If I feel like wearing fishnets I wear a longer skirt or dress so that they only show occasionally. My corsets either stay at home or are worn underneath things. At last, a job where I can look goff within reason! (reason meaning that I can wear black all the time and actually wear dark coloured nail varnish!)
I work in a field that is a combination of a couple of the stodgiest going: I am both a lawyer and a librarian, and I work in a law school. Although I can sometimes get away with dressing in all black, on the occasional casual Friday, most of the time, I have to hew to the corporate mold: dress shirt and tie. That being said, there is _so_ much that can be done in spite of, or even because, of those rigid conventions! For example, black slacks are considered ultra-conservative business wear, as are black shoes, as is a buzz cut. But, when I go out, I take off the shirt and tie, put on an appropriate Club shirt, and I’m ready to go! Similarly, I have taken to wearing black vests, sometimes quite ornate. With a white shirt and tie, such a vest is quite respectable — throw on a ruffly black or burgundy shirt, though, and I’m ready to go out. So many elements of the corporate uniform, if pressed to their logical limit, lend themselves so easily to a goth appearance, if you approach it from the right angle!
I have never been in trouble for the satins and velvets, especially the long stuff in corporations that have a business casual dress policy. The only people who bat an eye are the sloppy jeans and t-shirt crowd. Usually I get comments like “fashion model” even when I have the blue or purple streak in my hair. I have found the trick is, make sure its neat (no rips, safety pins) leave anything even remotely fetish at home unless you’re in a much older profession, if you catch my meaning (yes I have worked with ladies who wore corsets under their unbuttoned business jackets) and make sure your pieces match. Also, attitude is everything. An air of confidence goes a long way in the corporate world anyway, so if you feel like you look wonderful, vs. uncomfortable that you stick out like a sore thumb, it will show.
I lost my old temp job (don’t ask; long story) and was promptly turned around to a new one. “Can you start tomorrow?” they asked me. “SURE!” I said. “By the way, it’s professional dress …” Uh-oh. I got rid of ALL of my professional stuff save for a suit or two for interviews because the last three places I worked had been business casual to varying degrees, and one had specifically forbidden suits (another long story). Also, I wasn’t quite sure how strictly they were interpreting “professional dress” — one place I used to work seemed to believe that it excluded all pants for women.
I’m female, on the edge of being or not being in “women’s sizes” (the smaller “large sizes” and the XL regular sizes, in other words), and while something of a Goth (mainly of the Antiquy-sort), I’m not completely color-phobic. I decided that to be comfortable, I needed at least 10 outfits, fast. Here’s what I came up with in a frantic day of secondhand store and clearance rack shopping, for a total of about $300:
1. Black suit-like top with pretty mother of pearl buttons, black pleated skirt with small white flower print and matching scarf. (First-day-of-work outfit.)
2. Pseudo three-piece dress: white sleeves, black pleated skirt, black velvet “vest” with embroidered flowers. (This outfit is my favorite of the bunch.)
3. Dark gray suit: A-line skirt, jacket-top that reaches down almost as long as the skirt. I usually wear this one with a black satin scarf with white flowers, and get LOTS of compliments on it. 🙂
4. Black/teal/bright pink plaid jacket with black velvet collar, worn with black straight skirt and pink shell top.
5. Black and white itty-bitty checkered suit with pleated skirt and black flowers embroidered on the jacket, usually worn with a black velvet stretch top.
6. Satin shirt, abstract jewel-tone print on a black background. Knee-length dark plum fake suede skirt. (This is probably my second-favorite outfit, though for some reason I think I accidentally bought it a size too big. It’s also washable *grin*)
7. Black background short-sleeved dress with bright pink squiggly flowers. Nowhere near as hideous as it sounds. *grin*
8. Dress that looks sort of like a tapestry print. Unfortunately, I can’t really explain this one. It looks nice on me though.
9. Black-and-burgundy-check dress with a black collar and black buttons.
10. Dark green-and-black-check dress with a black velvet mandarin collar and some embroidered designs on the top.
Basically, if you’re a female AntiquyGoth like me, think “old-fashioned schoolteacher” and for the most part you will not only be dressed OK, but you will also get compliments. The worst part for me, as I did my shopping, was to try to keep away from all of the lovely romantic-looking “evening suits” that were on sale post-holiday party season. *wistful sigh*
Even out of work, there’s a daytime can’t-be-bothered look and a nighttime look. Another thing I’ve found about getting older is that I’m less likely to worry about the makeup if I’m just going to the shop for milk, etc. So I’ve just tweaked the daytime thing a bit for work.
My normal daytime tends to be a very simple short black skirt and bodysuit/tank top, etc, and I’ll really go to town on the hair and legs. Layered weird stockings especially. So all I do now is change the ripped fishnets or silver sparkles for opaque blacks (got to be opaque! I’d feel naked with sheer legs), tone the hair down (it’s black with white streaks, so tied back is best) and make sure I’m wearing a t-shirt or black work shirt rather than a ripped tank top. I’m lucky to not have a strict dress code, and my workmates accept me in black if there’s no hint of fetish and no inappropriate skin showing. To the extent where the one very very hot day I wore a white T-shirt they said the experience was far too disturbing and don’t do it again.
I find that keeping the same shape (short black skirt T-shirt and stocking) means I feel comfortable, and the lack of jewellery/eyeliner/hairstyle doesn’t matter so much. I’ve been lucky in that my style has always depends more on the accessories anyway (minimalistgoth) and it’s far easier to take them off for work then buy new clothes. And if I’m going straight out afterwards I just pack the hairspray, silver fishnets and eyeliner. I’m now very good at putting makeup on on buses!
I do human resources and accounts receivable as well as general administrative duties for a small company. While I don’t often meet with clients, I do deal a lot with all the staff. Mostly what I have to do is be authoritative, and fortunately somber colors lend themselves well to that.
For the occasional meeting with clients I have a black suit that does nicely; what blouse I wear under it varies with the formality of the occasion. In house, I’m almost always wearing a short black skirt, a long straight black skirt, or black pants. Most any type of blouse or sweater goes with those. I can get away with all black once a week or so as long as it’s simple black, not velvet-and-lace black.
I found that the key is to prove your competence at work *before* going all-out goth, and to avoid looking melodramatic. I can get away with charcoal nailpolish OR elaborate eye makeup OR interesting jewelry, but not all of those at once. I don’t mind because I still get to feel like myself, and work doesn’t mind because I don’t scare anyone.
I’ve discovered a few things that tend to make people gloss over my basic Gothicness… First, I’ve discovered that a black felt Resistol (Cowboy hat for the non-Texans… ) actually looks gothic when worn with basic flowing black clothing and silver jewlry… it’s especially good with my black trenchcoat… and best of all, people look at the hat and think ‘harmless kicker’… Those interested in normalcy often tend to look no farther than a dude’s mug… The fact that I live in the center of Texas helps it some, too… also, while skulls and pentagrams get many sideways looks, I’ve found that there is just about no-ono who dislikes dragons… My dragon pendant (A rather beautiful gift from my friend) has gotten more compliments than any other fashion statement I’ve ever had, my hat included. And this is from absolute straights as well as like-minded Goths…
I have the interesting problem of trying to be Goth-industrial and also in the US Navy. I’ve grown to like my job, I’m a submariner as we are a smaller community and eccentricity is expected. I don’t have much of a choice of working wear, as mostly uniforms are required. I can however express my self in small ways. For example, when we are underway, I can wear whatever shoes or t-shirts I want and even some jewelry as long as it isn’t too too outrageous. I usually wear either combat boots or doc’s and I wear a broad leather or rubber bracelet. I usually keep my hair short but I can get away with growing my bangs pretty long with creative hair combing and hats. All the little things allow me to dress as I want in my off duty time without feeling too stripped of my identity at work.
Ryan A. shares:
Ok, so technically I don’t have the exact same problem as you guys, but I do attend a Catholic high school with a strict dress code, so I believe my plight is similar. I hope my experiences can be of some aid to all of your readers. Hmmm, now I’m not shore how to word this other than to make a list of what I can get away with and what I can’t.
That which is barely permissable….
- Collars (bondage or spiked) when discreetly semi-hidded behind the shirt’s collar
- Bracelets; superiors don’t seem to mind the nine thousand assorted bracelets as long as they don’t make noise and are discreetly worn beneath the shirt’s cuffs
- Eyeliner, minimal; I think if I was female, I could get away with more than a thin lining of the eyelids
- Hair, non-dyed; Aside from occasional sidelong glances from fellow students, the superiors don’t seem to mind the ultra-teased Robert Smith hair
That which has been declared anathema by my superiors…
- Eyeliner, flamboyant; When I was caught wearing eyeliner up to my hairline, a quote I got from my dean: “I just can’t allow you to wear that stuff around your eyes…it looks like you’re trying out for a play (?)”
- Items that make excessive noise; An ultra-jangly bondage bracelet was what I was busted for
- Locks; I dunno what’s so bad here, but my dean made my remove the assortment of combination locks I had hanging from my belt
- Pagan symbolism; “Ryan, I just can’t let you wear that pentagram at a Catholic school…We have a reputation to uphold.”
Liam Ord shares:
Working as a computer technician (hardware/software you name it) and dealing witht he public, I’ve found that even guys can be subtle about their gothness (even though I’m not what most hardcore goths would consider goth, only 1 earring =) I’ve found that while skull earring are out, I can geta way with long sleeved black silk shirts with silver skull buttons, my other favourite is a blood-red silk shirt with dragons embroidered all over it, as for jewelery I fond if I stick to simple celtic style stuff it usually get complimented, about the only thing I actually get grief about is my boots and hair, but the boots are easy as I ride a motor-cycle to work, and the hair, well I’m the only guy I know who can trip over his own hair, guess I got bored with the comments. Add tot he fact I live in a city on the west coast of Queensland Australia where most people are surfers and/or tourist I’ surprised by how much I get away with.
John Fade shares:
I have the unusual position of being both a technical person and a corporate executive. I sit on my company’s board, and although we’re not huge, that’s a fairly visible position. I manage to get away with black slacks and a grey shirt every once in a while, but I’m not tempted to try much else. I find a little comfort in truly examining other people’s dress and comparing it with my own. I find that most people at my company dress in chinos and golf shirts, and I’m one of the few who wear slacks and a button-down. You can stand out in all-white, if you know how to do it. Grey slacks and a burgundy shirt say the same thing as black-on-black in the right environment.
I work at an online brokerage house in California. Fortunately, since I am on the phone, I don’t have to worry about freaking out the straights I talk to. My coworkers are a different story. There is a good percentage of auslanders here but we are outnumbered by the normals. I usually go with business casual wear with a twist. I wear black pleated front slacks with dark colored button down shirts and a knee length watch chain. Sometimes I’ll wear a black vest to tone down a white or jewel toned shirt. I wear my pentacle ring openly, and if anyone says anything about it, I will simply call the ACLU and retire on the settlement money. So far no one has said anything one way or another. I leave the nail polish off for now (I’ll wean them to it gradually) and don’t bother with any make up The dress code is pretty casual, I’ve seen supervisors show up in T-shirts, shorts and sandals. I prefer to dress with a little more elegance, myself.
I usually wear some variation, of a turtle neck (black or another dark color, of course), or turtleneck sweater, and either black slacks, or black jeans. I usually wear my motorcycle boots with the jeans, and a pair of wingtips, or (looking around to see if anyone is listening) sketchers. Winter and Summer wardrobes don’t differ too much. I suppose I’m a beat-goth.
I’m actually not a corporate type yet, but because of some of the interaction with the administration and various other people I have to do at school, I have to look semi clean cut and well put together. My personal favorite thing to wear is a long black blazer(school does not really require more) because so many things tend to go with it and because the building is very over air conditioned. Pique golf shirts and trousers in black tend to work for more casual stuff (yeah I know its not very goth but its comfortable) and I tend to wear my docs with just about everything, but they’re plain black so the look like their just normal ‘shoes’. Scarves are the great all hider of weird stuff around the neck and the ‘add a bit of color’, velvet ones are especially cool (though only in winter). I would think that the trick would be to look somewhat like someone would think a slightly eccentric artist type would look like if one does not have to look too stringently corporate because artsy types still do get some respect, and I would tend to think that keeping the respect of your bosses and credibility to me the most important thing. I would think that it would be a good idea to look different enough to stand out but have it subtle enough so that it does not look what some normals would consider ‘weird’.
Clothing, actually this is pretty easy for me as I am not really into fetish looking stuff, I like to not make noise while walking. So no chains, or PVC. Now, strangely enough I find cool, semi goth looking stuff at places like the GAP or more expensive mall based men’s clothing stores. Last year I scored Black Cotton/Silk blend dress pants, and a bunch of exotic materials men’s dress shirts. All found at bachrach. Nice place the sales folks are pretty cool to me probably because I spend allot there though. Then there is the GAP, They had some nice black cotton dress shirts there, and the black cotton dress pants are pretty comfortable, especially when you are sitting on your but coding and stuff all day. Or, if you end up having to drag cable through a crawl space in July. Oh, and another cool thing about bachrach was the Xmas displays this year. Someone there has a real sense of humor, huge letters in the windows “WWSD?” 8^) they didn’t go to far out of there way to get across to people that the S was for Santa. I should have got a picture of it. As for my hair, I have found that the better my resume gets, the more I feel free to do with my hair as I please. Which was the black dye thing. These days I am more into bleaching though.