Is It Okay to Dress as a Goth or Lolita for Halloween?

creepy dollhouse girl

By now pretty much everyone knows dressing up in blackface (looking at you Mr. Prime Minister) or as a racist caricature of a culture isn’t ever an okay Halloween costume. There are a billion less hateful ideas out there so really there’s no excuse to show up in one of these tired tropes! But one question I see floating around this time of year is whether it’s okay to dress as a goth or a lolita (or any distinct fashion subculture) for Halloween?

There are some truly lamentable pre-packaged costumes labeled as both available. Most people interested in lolita fashion know the crumpled mini dresses in the costume shops aren’t part of the style, and every goth has sighed at the “goth kit” makeup on the shelf. There’s a difference between a sloppy un-loving costume of either subculture and using Halloween as a way to try out a new style or push the limits of your own.

When I was 17 and had just heard the word “gothic” for the first time (please bear in mind I am an old lady who existed pre-internet) I created my first gothic outfit for Halloween (I told everyone I was dressed as a vampire). It felt so good and right it ended up becoming my style for well over fifteen years, and even led me to begin a clothing label! If someone had told me dressing up in a gothic ensemble for Halloween was insulting to the culture who knows where I’d be.

This is just my opinion but I think Halloween is a good excuse to test out extreme versions of our favourite fashions or to try out ones we wouldn’t be able to otherwise. It’s a chance to push the boundaries of what we like and maybe find something that feels much more “right”, that we wouldn’t have without the safe outlet of calling it a “costume” for one day. For example a girl who dons casual Lolita most days might take Halloween as her chance to try out guro or ott sweet! Her intentions aren’t cruel, they’re about self expression- the same way they are the other 364 days.

victorian doll outfit with doll head

Cultural stereotypes promote racism and hatred, contributing to a long history of violence and stupidity- while dressing like a Goth for the night doesn’t harken to quite the same complicated and awful past. That isn’t to say I don’t understand where the irritation of goth-costumes comes from (make fun of us on the street but dress as us for Halloween?!), it just doesn’t have the same cruel reality as a racist costume does. Racism is backed by legislation, genocide, and so much pain- and you’re only feeding that by dressing up as stereotypes of different races/cultures.

grunge girl with dollhouse

Everyone in alternative attire has received the tiresome “it’s not Halloween yet” comment from strangers. I always want to reply “Oh MAN you should see what I wear on Halloween! This is NOTHING!”.  😉

So in short- yes I believe it’s okay to dress as a Goth or Lolita for Halloween if you’re doing it to express an interest in the style or to explore it and not as a mean joke. Avoid packaged costumes labeled as subcultures and try to enjoy playing with the style! People are always going to think unique outfits are costumes, it’s the only frame of reference they have for such things- so just enjoy yourself this Halloween!

How do you feel about people dressing as Goths or Lolitas for Halloween? Does it bother you? Do you think it negatively effects the subcultures on whole?


4 thoughts on “Is It Okay to Dress as a Goth or Lolita for Halloween?

  1. I’m 50/50 on the subject if it is genuinely for the reasons of exploring other styles and not feeling comfortable in day to day life then go on and have fun experiment your heart out! As a goth and I have been for about 15 ish years now I have come across people who have done purely for the reasons of mockery and degradation and this i frown upon our choices of lifestyle and dress sense is not a joke and we would not dare mock any one for there choice of style.

  2. I feel similarly. Any costume done mean-spirited is, well, mean. But dressing in a new-to-you fashion out of joy or exploration is lovely! I also know a lot of trans and non-binary folks that have used Halloween as a way to explore gender presentation in a safer way and I think that’s lovely!

    And that’s the thing, race/ethnicity are not like gender or fashion, they aren’t something you explore and try on and experiment with. I can’t become non-white the way I have become non-binary and goth and so on.

    1. That’s just it. It’s like training wheels for testing new expressions of oneself. We can’t prevent new people from entering subcultures, fresh energy and perspectives allow a subculture to flourish. Without those it just becomes a bunch of folks stuck in one moment in time hissing at people who get too close. Gross.

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