As someone who graduated with a bachelor’s degree in literature and whose favorite literary genre is dark academia, I cannot describe the immense joy I feel now that the literary phenomenon has jumped off the page and into our closets.
Dark academia fashion calls out our obsession with romanticizing all things intellectual. It’s classic and European, romantic and tragic, and influenced by Greek mythology and poetry with existential themes, with authors like Shakespeare, the Bronte sisters, and Jane Austen offering some of the best works the genre has to give. Modern-day sources of inspiration include films such as 1989’s Dead Poets Society and 2009’s Sherlock Holmes, as well as contemporary works of dark academic fiction like Donna Tartt’s The Secret History and M.L. Rio’s If We Were Villains. In simplest terms, you could think of dark academia as prep school fashion with a gothic twist.
Intrigued? We’ve rounded up our favorite dark academia fashion looks below to inspire you.
Vintage Ivy League
Not to be confused with Gothcore, the dark academia wardrobe consists of pieces that would meet private school dress code standards. It’s less vampy and nightmarish fantasy (see Kourtney Kardashian and Megan Fox for reference) and more vintage Ivy League. To dress the part, create a capsule collection of tailored trousers and pleated skirts, collared shirts, cozy cardigans, and pairs of chunky loafers.
Layers Upon Layers
Layering is also key to dark academia styling. Incorporate different textures with knit sweaters or vests laid over button-downs, skirts worn with tights, and sophisticated outerwear, like a trench coat — or three. We’re loving the classic Good American Chino Trench Coat ($229) and the edgier Steve Madden Ilia Trench Coat ($139) for anyone who’s interested.
Moody, Yet Romantic
A fashion trend with a literary muse may not sound all that intriguing, but you need to realize its full potential. Dark academia fashion is intellectual, yes. However, it’s also moody and romantic. Perhaps nothing interprets that better than a sheer black lace dress, as modeled by Cindy Bruna here. To complement the look, add a long black peacoat and thigh-high socks.
There’s no doubt that cozy comforts are here to stay. Still, loungewear has evolved from amorphous joggers and sweat sets to a more structured, albeit oversized, silhouette. Take this dark academia outfit that combines wide-leg trousers, a knit pullover, and an oversized blazer with chunky loafers. It’s polished and refined without sacrificing comfort.
Dark Color Palettes
One of the best parts about dark academia fashion is that it relies on wardrobe staples rather than trending pieces to create a look. Head to your closet and pull out a black dress, turtleneck, and your favorite outerwear. Throw them on together for an instant Penny Dreadful-inspired outfit.
Plaid pervades many of today’s fashion trends and of years past. To incorporate it into your dark academic aesthetic, wear it as a blazer or skirt — or both. It can work as an accent piece and enhance dark basics. We’re partial to Madewell’s Caldwell Blazer ($178), which is neutral, versatile, and statement-making.
A Strategic Accessory
To tie your look together and take it to the next level, consider adding an accessory. Popular accessories include leather messenger bags and briefcases, berets, neckties, hair bows, and a book tucked under your arm. You’ll want to add a cup of coffee or tea to really hone in on the aesthetic.