Today, we’re breaking down the whimsigothic aesthetic’s roots in late 20th century fashion, and how it’s making a comeback in 2022. In Anatomy Of An Aesthetic, Her Campus dissects the latest style trends to tell you where they came from, why they matter, and how to DIY.
This summer, style is taking a hard left turn away from the coconut girl aesthetic that was all over your FYP last year. Instead, TikTokers are turning to Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Stevie Nicks, and Tim Burton films to find inspiration for the whimsigothic aesthetic, the latest nostalgic style trend.
You can thank Consumer Aesthetics Research Institute co-founder Evan Collins for coining the term whimsigothic, a portmanteau of whimsical and gothic. In his explanation, he refers to the aesthetic as “a postmodern mélange of styles” that takes inspiration from gothic-inspired pop/rock music of the ’80s and ’90s, as well as Baroque, Rococo, and Art Nouveau aesthetics. “Fashion-wise,” he explains, “lacey clothing, jewelry with celestial themes, sheer fabrics, velvet.” Whimsigothic has also become a major trend in interior design, according to Stylist — in fact, many of the videos under the #whimsigothic tag on TikTok (which has accrued over 18 million views and counting) are about home decor.
When it comes to clothing, though, there are a few key points to hit when dressing for the whimsigothic trend. One is the use of color — unlike traditional goth fashion, whimsigothic relies on richer colors, often muted jewel tones, like green, purple, gold, red, and blue, in addition to black. As Collins pointed out, differing fabrics and patterns is also huge, from plush velvet to soft satin to sheer lace. You’ll find a celestial theme of moons, suns, and stars everywhere you look, but you’ll also see sunflowers, paisley, and other hippie-inspired patterns.
In fact, even though whimsigothic’s rise to prominence is pegged to the ’90s, Gen Z media company Screenshot highlights ’70s icon and Fleetwood Mac frontwoman Stevie Nicks as a major celebrity example of this look. You can see the ’70s influence on the shape of some outfits: Flowing silhouettes like long skirts, bell sleeves, and bell-bottom jeans have all been incorporated into whimsigothic.
The gothic aspect isn’t forgotten, however: Goth makeup has its place in whimsigothic with dark red lipstick and darker eye makeup (remember Julia Fox’s notorious Black Swan-inspired eyeliner?). Footwear is also a popular place to add a touch of goth, because what’s a goth without their combat boots? The key is mixing and matching these different patterns, fabrics, and colors to make a patchwork-esque look that’s still cohesive and cute.
Other famous examples of whimsigothic are more grounded in associations to witchcraft. Practical Magic, Charmed and Sabrina the Teenage Witch have all been heralded as pioneers for whimsigothic, both in fashion and interiors. i-D reported that the rise of the whimsigothic aesthetic happened in conjunction with the increasing popularity of witchcraft on TikTok. Gen Z has become increasingly interested in witchcraft, tarot, and other mystical forms of spirituality, and this combined with their obsession with nostalgia for their childhood or even a time before they were born makes whimsigothic a perfect fit.
Want to start getting witchy this summer? Here are 10 whimsigothic pieces to add to your wardrobe and makeup bag ASAP (crystal ball not included).
- Celestial-patterned sundress
You may not associate sundresses with goth fashion, but that’s the fun of whimsigothic. This star pattern-embroidered dress is a cute and lightweight option for pulling off this style in the summer heat, plus you can dress it up and down however you want.
- Black combat boots
Platform shoes are in right now, so why not hop on two trends at once with some platform lace-up boots? These ones are on the shorter side, but you can always go for something taller if you’re into a bolder look.
- Floral lace-up corset top
Try out a more structured top with a flowy skirt to nail the contrasts this look requires. This corset top has lacy straps and a dark floral pattern that are super eye-catching, plus it’s less than $20. Score!
- Sheer lace long sleeve top
You can never go wrong with some black lace. This crop top has sleeves that flare out ever-so-slightly, for that extra witchy touch.
- Graphic tote bag
This bag’s mushrooms, leaves, and moons design is witchy and just plain fun — plus it gives you something to carry your tarot cards around in.
- Dark red lip color
Makeup can be part of the outfit, too: If you want to make your look more vampy and gothic, a dark red lip is a great way to do that. The best part? You don’t have to shell out tons of money. This one in Madrid (a cranberry red) from NYX is less than $10.
- Crescent necklace
Whether you opt for earrings, rings, necklaces, or all of the above, using jewelry with celestial motifs like suns, moons, and stars to accessorize will bring your whimsigothic outfit to the next level.
- Moon and star ring
Here’s another option for the jewelry-loving crowd: This ring is super subtle and dainty, and you can mix and match it with your other jewelry for fun combos.
Alex and Ani, $30
- Long flowy skirt
Asymmetrical hems and patchwork paisley patterns are a fun way to incorporate a bit of boho into your whimsigothic outfit. You can go for a richer color like this skirt’s blue, or find something more muted to your taste.
- Slip dress
The slip dress is going to be your best friend for this aesthetic: It makes for an outfit on its own, or you can layer it with a cropped sweater or cardigan. This one is classic black, but you can experiment with other colors too.
Free People, $60