As someone who graduated with a bachelor’s degree in literature, and whose favorite literary genre is Dark Academia, I cannot describe in words the immense joy I felt when the literary phenomenon jumped off the page and landed in our closets.
I suppose I have Tiktok to thank for the now-established fashion trend. Riding on the coattails of other style aesthetics coined and made popular by Gen-Z like cottagecore and fairycore, Refinery29 first brought the rise of Dark Academia to our attention back in 2020, calling out the generation’s obsession with romanticizing all things intellectual. Soon, social platforms were riddled with photogenic stacks of books, broken-in journals lined with script, atmospheric reels of steaming cups of coffee against a rain-splattered window backdrop, and a striking sense of autumnal fashion that could best be described as hallowed, yet idyllic.
In many ways, Dark Academia parallels Gothcore; they’re similar in that they’re both moody aesthetics centered around, for lack of a better term, dark elements. But while gothcore draws inspiration from metal and rock music culture and involves sultry cutouts, a lot of PVC material, and punk accessories (like chokers, chains, crosses, etc.), Dark Academia fashion is rooted in art. It’s less vampy and nightmarish fantasy (see Kourtney Kardashian and Megan Fox for reference) and more vintage ivy league.
In simplest terms, you could think of Dark Academia as prep school fashion with a gothic twist. It’s classic and European, romantic and tragic, influenced by things like Greek mythology and poetry with existential themes, authors like Shakespeare, the Bronte sisters, and Jane Austen. Modern-day sources of inspiration include films like Dead Poets Society and Sherlock Holmes, as well as contemporary works of dark academic fiction, such as Donna Tartt’s The Secret History and M.L. Rio’s If We Were Villains.
Unlike gothcore, the Dark Academia wardrobe consists of pieces that would meet private school dress code standards. To dress the part, create a capsule collection of tailored trousers and pleated skirts, collared shirts, cozy cardigans, and pairs of chunky loafers. 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 blazer being closet staples.
Popular accessories in the category include leather messenger bags and briefcases, berets, neckties, and 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.
Ahead, shop some Dark Academia pieces to add to your wardrobe.
Something Navy Contrast Plaid Blazer
Shop now: $225; somethingnavy.com
Express Pleated Mock Neck Cutout Back Sweater Dress
Shop now: $98; express.com
& Other Stories Jacquard Shorts
Shop now: $79; stories.com
RTA Calandra Dress
Shop now: $395; rtabrand.com
ECOSUSI Women’s Faux leather Bow Big Briefcase
Shop now: $76; ecosusi.com
Madewell The Brady Lowcut Bootie
Shop now: $168; madewell.com
Sezane Clara Trousers
Shop now: $125; sezane.com
Zara Ribbed Knit Vest
Shop now: $36; zara.com
Dior Mid-Length Skirt
Shop now: $3,000; dior.com
White House Black Market Long-Sleeve Mixed-Media Tunic
Shop now: $99; whitehouseblackmarket.com
H&M collared Rib-knit Sweater
Shop now: $35; hm.com
Shein Puff Sleeve Tweed Dress
Shop now: $22; shein.com
ASTR The Label Evelyn Oversized Frilly Collar Button Down Top
Shop now: $98; astrthelabel.com