The 'Girly Goth' Trend Reinvents '90s Grunge Style. Here's How To Rock The Look

In the movies, depictions from grunge to goth tend to rely on a surplus of eyeliner, some kind of gelled or alternative hairstyle, and lots of dark colors, fishnet, and lace. Grunge can come in plenty of forms, stemming from the '90s alternative rock scene and making its claim to fame through bands like Nirvana and Pearl Jam. TikTok's indie-sleaze aesthetic is bringing '90s grunge-rock vibes back, and since leather, greasy hair, and flannel are some of its fashion staples, there is major crossover with gothic aesthetics. 

Besides the macabre outlook on life that's associated with the goth vibe, there is also a predilection for all things dead, spooky, and straight out of a horror movie. Think of "The Craft" or any other '90s pop culture touchstones with some extra bite to them. Now, the TikTok generation is making its own mark on the goth and grunge legacies of the '90s, all while figuring out how to replicate the soft goth aesthetic from "Wednesday" on Netflix. Thankfully, we may be able to nail the new girly goth trend with what's already in our closets and makeup bags, though adding a bit of a devil-may-care attitude also couldn't hurt.

The trend is taking the runway

Makeup artist Marcello Gutierrez, who worked on Sandy Liang's 2023 fashion show, told Byrdie how he achieved the "sweet but psycho" look. "The skin is really beautiful and fresh, not too shiny. There's a softness to it." He described the eyes, saying, "They're a little bit grungy-er with a liner in the water line." He added, "This look embodies the grungy, sad, pretty girl energy." 

The makeup artist reflected on why the grunge and goth styles are gaining traction again in shows like Liang's, explaining that it represents a newfound freedom and desire to be messy. "I think people are tired of looking perfect," he said. "I think we're living in like a more minimal [place] in terms of like application method." He also explained, "I think people are over, like, the 20-step, Kardashian [makeup]. It's about more minimalism and a lived-in look."

The makeup artist for another 2023 show, James Kaliardos, was all about creating "goth fairies" on the runway, using bruised colors for the lips and fantasy-inspired eye makeup. Hopefully, we can also attain the grunge-goth look's lived-in attitude while adding a bit of our own interpretations to keep things interesting.

Ballerina sleaze is a dreamy take on the look

Another variation on the girly goth look is what TikTok calls ballerina sleaze, a trend that utilizes lace and tulle with a bit of added messiness. The aesthetic is essentially the wardrobe from "Black Swan" meeting Mila Kunis' character's badass attitude — think torn ribbons, stage makeup turned punk, and masculine and feminine silhouettes combined. As TikTok creator Brigitte Crisp explained, "It's grungy, while still being feminine, girly, whatever." She added that the sleazy ballerina combined with the indie-grunge look makes for the perfect balance. "She's put together and undone at the same time," she explained, a description which also works for a few other takes on the goth look.

Is this part of the Wednesday effect?

Is there really such a thing as soft goth? NYX makeup adviser Christian Carter told Byrdie, "The soft goth makeup trend is all about having those soft goth vibes, but not to the point where it gets too heavy or dark." If going full goth is an overtly dramatic look meant to showcase a person's inner darkness and moody vibes, then soft goth is an allusion to the history of the aesthetic, as well as the ways we can play with long-established beauty trends. 

KVD beauty ambassador Sandra Saenz also remarked on today's take on goth styles. "The soft goth we're seeing as a result of "Wednesday" is much more current, pairing a muted smoky eye with a muted lip that provides a more elevated delivery that people are drawn to." Liquid lipsticks in deep reds and purples are a great step toward the darker side of femininity, and there are plenty of Wednesday-inspired outfit ideas and makeup tutorials to help us start experimenting with the look.

Goth glam is super versatile

Goth glam is the next step toward full goth after soft goth, though it might be unclear exactly how we distinguish girly goth from this stunning trend. However, celeb makeup artist Deney Adam told InStyle, "Goth glam is typically a monochromatic and moody look, achieved with heavy eye makeup like liners and shadows, a bold lip, and minimal contouring in a range of darker hues." 

Adam also shouted out some of the stars who jumped on the moody chic vibe in 2022, all but confirming its growing popularity in 2023. "Celebrity influence has heavily backed this trend, with A-listers like Lizzo, Kourtney Kardashian, and Karlie Kloss making appearances at the Met Gala, award shows, and even their weddings with goth-influence heavily stated in their glam," he shared. Of course, there are also celebrities like Billie Eilish who have already been rocking alternative looks — from emo to punk to goth — flawlessly for years.

The girly goth look may emulate the '20s and '30s

Billie Eillish stuck to girly goth energy with her 2022 Met Gala outfit, pairing a choker with diamonds and a messy black updo with curtain bangs. Her lacy sleeves, corset bodice, and creamy satin also felt like an homage to classic gothic looks. Tish Weinstock, a beauty editor for Vogue, told the outlet about 2022's goth girl summer,  "I love a long silk skirt, a chiffon gown and lots of lace." She also has plenty of pieces stockpiled for a range of gothic looks. "I collect '20s and '30s pieces, which give that faded grandeur look," she added. "But I also like anything by Galliano and Tom Ford for Gucci; that darker undercurrent of Y2K nostalgia." Unlike looks from the '20s, however, our 2000s nostalgia is anything but black and white.

Girly goth can include color

Adding color to the gothic style can be one of our first choices to soften the look's full impact, and going for a girly goth outfit doesn't mean you necessarily need to sacrifice all color. However, Actress Jenna Ortega, aka gothic queen Wednesday Addams herself, told The Cut, "When I was working on "Wednesday," I suddenly only ever wore black." She explained, "I didn't know why. For some reason, my closet just lost all its color." Still, Ortega's character often wore white and black together, rocking her signature collar, high socks, and a sleek leather jacket. These looks also provided the perfect contrast with Wednesday's roommate Enid's light pink and blue looks, which were classic soft girly glam. 

Goth doesn't mean white

Glam Goth Beauty is a makeup company founded by Michelle "Marley" Oblitey, aka Marley Bloodrose, who wanted to rewrite the assumptions that being goth means being "Skinny, pale, and white." She told Allure about some of her goals for Glam Goth's products, specifically, what they could mean for Black goth customers. "I would be like, here's a red lipstick you should wear, and most of the Black girls would be like, 'I don't want to wear red lipstick. It doesn't look good on our skin. It's going to make me feel like a clown.' And it would just break my heart... to hear that us as Black women feel like we can't wear something." 

The entrepreneur also wants to provide a space where it's safe to be different. "You can wear whatever you want, it doesn't matter!" She shared. "With Blood Rose, it was like, 'I made this shade for you.'" She also found that the artistry of makeup — like her Stranger Things-inspired glam look, or her Morbid Lisa — was where she excelled. "Once I stopped trying to be that girl, trying to be that pretty, popular girl and started seeing [makeup] as an art form — like, I could really do some rock star sh*t with this — that's when I really elevated with makeup." Our next step, then, is making sure our makeup products are elevated too.

These products seal the deal

Deney Adam told InStyle that he recommends focusing on the eyes and lips to get the full mileage out of the girly goth trend. "Add a volumizing mascara to further accentuate the eye," he advised. "Pairing a deep lip in a cherry or mauve shade adds femininity to an otherwise dark look."

Lip products like NYX's soft matte lip cream, a dark lip serum, or the matte black lipstick from Glam Goth can be one of the variables that can change with your mood on a given day. "The dark lip makes a statement and can be worn in shades of blue... purple, or even black," Adam shared. "Choosing between a matte or shiny finish can bring dimension to the look."

Finally, you can pair dark and dreamy or light and airy eyeshadow with either liquid eyeliner like Perma Precision from Pat McGrath or an eyeliner pencil, though Adam's method favors the latter. He shared, "Add a black liner to the water line, keeping the rest of the face mild to neutral to bring focus to the eyes." Once makeup is a go, the last major hurdle is securing our prettiest — and potentially most macabre — statement pieces.

Get creative with your choices

Though your closet may already be stocked with great options, strolling through a Hot Topic or the goth and alternative section of Nasty Gal may provide some inspiration. At the moment, it seems like fringe, faux leather, and tartan are all popular choices for alternative looks. 

But what sets the girly goth apart is its attention to delicate add-ons, like lace gloves or a silky slip dress. When you know what you're looking for, thrifting for girly goth pieces can be majorly successful; keep your eye out for satin and silk pieces to contrast with textures like leather or tweed. Oversized blazers are a wardrobe staple, so if you choose a sleek one in black it can add an edge to pretty much whatever you wear underneath. Ultimately, our dream girly goth look may be attainable after all.