A few points to remember - just because it's black, doesn't mean it will look Goth, and just because it isn't black doesn't mean it won't. Try on an item before you buy; look at the fabric (opulent fabrics such as velvet, lace and satin are particular Goth favourites and can often be found for knockdown prices in charity shops and secondhand stores) and make sure it is of good quality (or not, if you later intend to rip it up for a punky, deathrock feel); imagine how the item would look alongside your other wardrobe items. Do you need to customise it for it to work?
Also, when you begin building a Goth wardrobe, please take into consideration your basic needs. Small children, pets, or active physical lifestyles do not cope well with tightly laced corsets, yards of flowing ribbon and lace, top hats, stiletto heels or bustles. Similarly, if you are not a feminine dresser, ruffles and lace may not be for you - a more pared-down, stark look may be more your thing; or a ripped, shredded, studded wardrobe with chunky, battered boots.
Of course, keep in mind your usual environment. Some items just cannot be worn at work or school, no matter how flexible the dress code (unless you happen to work in an adult movie studio). Some industries are more flexible than others (I currently work as an arts administrator, and regularly wear jeans, New Rocks and heavy make-up to the office without any hassle. Retail, for example, may not be as easy-going).
You can begin assembling a Gothy wardrobe with these few simple, easily-sourced items:
- Several long-sleeved shirts or blouses - at least one in black. Jewel tones also work well, and a white shirt can create an attractive antique sort of look. It's helpful to buy several in different styles - wide-sleeved, ruffled, safety-pinned, sharp and corporate - depending on your taste, of course.
- A pair of basic black jeans. Black skinny jeans, tucked into clompy boots, were the forte of the Goth before emo fashion peeked its scruffy, blonde-streaked head over the horizon. Baggy jeans may create a more 'mallgoth' sort of look (mallgoth being a term generally applied to teenage look-at-me-I'm-so-spoooky Mansonites who think they are oh-so-Gawthick) on younger Gothlings, but skinny jeans are not for everyone. If you're really not a jeans person, grab some black leggings, or even bloomers.
- Black skirts (bear in mind, androgynity is popular in Goth fashion, so for clubwear - or daywear if you're really brave - this can hold true for boys as well as girls). There is endless choice when it comes to style and fabric - long, short, velvet, pleated, poufy, cotton, embroidered...
- Black boots. Obviously. These needn't be expensive - I picked up a nice simple pair of knee-high black boots with a slight heel and metal O-ring detail from Peacocks for £28. If you're in the UK, try a discount shoe shop such as Shoezone for a basic pair of combat-style boots. Ice Princess (Academia Gothica) says, "Pointy-toed boots with loads of buckles, towering platform boots, and stompy military-style or work boots are Goth favourites, but you're by no means limited to those." Victorian-style granny boots or 'witchy' pointed stilettos are also common. If you really, really don't want to 'do' boots, there are also hundreds of styles of Goth shoes - ballet flats or chunky Mary-Janes make nice everyday wear.
- Black coat. Leather, PVC, velvet, silk; long and dramatic, short and smart; studded, corset-backed or even just a simple black blazer. Again, charity shops will be your friend here.
- An interesting black T-shirt (one of these, at least). Gothy band T-shirts are always popular, but you can really use your own style here - be on the lookout for something really unusual.
Listening to: Black Planet - The Sisters of Mercy