Dark Academia Fashion Is Booming In 2021 (+ 30 Brands & Styles)

Dark Academia fashion is one of the trendiest topics right now.

Right now, there are over 160,000 #darkacademia posts on Instagram, and over a million posts on Tumblr.

The topic is growing fast on Reddit as well.

However, the most significant wave of interest comes from the ‘TikTok generation’, with almost 25 million views to date.

So if you’re interested to know more about Dark Academia fashion and the best places to shop for Dark Academia plus size clothing, this article is for you.

In this article:

What The Heck Is Dark Academia?!

Dark academia refers to a new aesthetic style that draws inspiration from the classic Greek arts, writing, architecture, deeply infused with Gothic elements and concepts of death.

Dark academia fashion style is designed to reflect a subculture that emphasizes education, learning, reading, writing, and hence the ‘academic’ touch.

Dark Academia definition

However, what makes Dark Academia fashion look so distinct from the classic academic fashion style is the ‘dark’, gothic aesthetic influence.

To best picture the ‘dark academia fashion’, imagine someone wearing a pair of vintage tweed pants.

Add to that image a slubby thick yarn cardigan and a worn satchel, packed with academic papers and books.

Dark academia fashion
A simple Dark Academia – vintage look.

The Dark Academic fashion style is filled with nostalgic vibes.

That is because the Dark Academia subculture aims to recreate the vibes of the 19th century of private English boarding schools and Ivy League colleges in New England.

Dark Academia Aesthetic

Right now, the Dark Academia fashion aesthetic draws a lot from the Greek culture and arts, but also from the Harry Potter films.

Popular with the teenagers posting on social media, the Harry Potter series made wool sweaters, rich textures cardigans, and chocolate brown pants, fashionable again.

Dark Academia Fashion

To fashion critics, the Dark Academia aesthetic is similar to the classic preppy style.

Preppy became famous for its chinos, argyle, and crewneck sweaters.

Yet, Dark Academia fashion is more Autumn-Esque, with duller and darker color palettes.

Given its apparent heavy and Gothic constructs, just like goth clothing brands, Dark Academia fashion is not that suitable for countries with long summers and hot weather all year round.

Dark Academia Outfits

Some of the most popular Dark Academia styles right now are built on three core things:

First, the garments you put together must be vintage, from thrift stores, or online websites selling secondhand fashion, with a gothic vibe.

Dark academia plus size shopping
Dark Academia capsule wardrobe.

Second, the overall style must augment the intellectual look. For that, try to complement the leather-bound books, handwritten notes, and rolled maps coming out of your handbag.

Third, each popular Dark Academia style relies on some of the staples I enumerate below.

Dark Academia Blouses & Tops

Dark Academia top and blouse

Choose blouses that have cuffed sleeves – it helps to create that extra touch of British heritage.

You should also choose blouses with large bell sleeves, to achieve that unique academic look.

For a more sophisticated Dark Academia look, go for tops that you can button up.

I personally wear a lot of versatile wrap tops made of silk.

Not only silk is super cool and breathable in the summertime, but distressed silk tops confer me with a rebellious, unique style.

Dark Academia Skirts & Trousers

Dark Academia Skirt and Trousers

For a super stylish and refined Dark Academia look I recommend you to go for long skirts.

Easier and more comfortable when compared to trousers.

Also, if you live in a hot country, long skirts are preferable to trousers.

Why? Because skirts protect your legs from the sun while allowing ventilation at the same time.

However, if you decide to wear trousers, remember that wool-blends and corduroy materials are best for this style.

I also wear trousers and I often cut them at the ankle height for an extra bit of a nonconformist look.

But, if you don’t know how to cut and sew back trousers, cuff them up to create that kind of sailor, tapered look.

Dark Academia Outerwear

Dark Academia blazers, jackets and coats

Remember the glorified tweed blazer of the 50s?

The tweed blazer is by far the best outerwear for the Dark Academia look.

Just make sure you put it over your shoulders, without the sleeves on.

The tweed blazer also goes great with dark straight-leg women’s jeans.

Dark Academia Shoes

Dark Academia Shoes

When it comes to which shoes are best for the Dark Academia look, the opinions are split.

Some prefer open shoes, just like the ancient Romans and Greeks.

Others argue that there are no sandals in Harry Potter movies and insist on boots and low chunky heels.

Personally, I prefer boots as it allows me to emphasize on the Gothic look that I love so much.

Yet, regardless of what shoes you choose, make sure you do not match flip-flops with the Dark Academia style. Seriously, don’t ever do that!

Dark Academia Summer Outfits

Dark Academia summer outfit

A perfect example of a dark Academia summer outfit is a white t-shirt with oversized check linen blazer and brogue lace-ups.

Dark Academia clothes are great for cities with a colder climate.

Nevertheless, some of you insist on wearing this style in the summer as well.

If that’s your case, there are some ways around as I’m going to explain below:

To start with, you must pick only all-natural fabrics.

Avoid polyester and plastic blends at all costs.

Compared to blends, natural fibers absorb moisture fast.

Especially if you sweat a lot, these organic fabrics will let your body ventilate with ease.

From all-natural fibers, these are the top 4 you should wear:

  • Linen – it offers excellent ventilation and it is much better for the environment as well.
  • Organic cotton – it is a light material that’s also easy to wear. Moreover, organic cotton has minimal impact on the environment.
  • Silk – There’s something magical about vintage silk. It is light, cool, easy to wear. Preferably, if you buy new garments, go for cruelty-free silk.
  • Wool – Apart from being very suitable in the colder days of winter, wool is an excellent alternative to cotton, in the summer as well, thanks to its increased breathable capability.

Why Is Dark Academia So Popular Right Now?

This spring saw schools from all over the world come to a halt.

There aren’t any more classes or studies abroad.

There are no more graduations, proms, or fashion show-offs.

Moreover, what’s going to happen in September remains somehow unknown.

However, teenagers missing school – because of the Coronavirus lockdown –  have chosen a style that keeps them somehow connected.

True, the concept of Dark Academia fashion precedes the COVID-19 pandemic.

However, it was during the lockdown, when the 14 to 24 years old have started to flood social media platforms with school-like outfits.

Dark academia on Tumblr
Tumblr searches for #darkacademia show a massive interest in the new style.

And, the gloomy feel of COVID-19 brought the Gothic vibe out, and people started to tag pics with the ‘Dark Academia’ moniker.

However, the Dark Academia subculture is most popular amongst three groups in particular:

1. Students

The idea behind any Dark Academia style is to construct a look that’s reflecting and accentuating your ‘cultural self’.

Rocking this style does not require you to have a countryside mansion with a big kitchen for baking and a field of flowers.

In fact, some of the best representatives of the Dark Academia style are students such as Laura Piszczatowska, a history graduate from Norway.

“My favourite academia outfits consists of tweed pants, black turtlenecks, elegant boots, and long thrift coats,” she said.

Laura also runs ‘Geminnorum’, a Dark Academia Instagram account with over 28,000 followers.

2. LGBTQ+ Community

Dark Academia fashion styles suit the LGBTQ+ community as well“, says Evelyn Meyer, a supporter of Dark Academia male looks and creator of ‘Dark Academia Check Sound’.

Evelyn’s views are reinforced by Dilara Scholz, a researcher in fashion history at Royal Holloway, University of London:

Androgynous vintage blazers are representative for the Dark Academia aesthetic,” said Dilara

Dilara considers herself an adherent of the Dark Academia subculture.

“Most Dark Academia silhouettes remind of the 1940s men’s look. It is a style that can be worn by anyone who does not fit into any gender definition,” she completes.

The success of the style with the LGBTQ+ community is, in part, credited to books that feature LGBTQ+ characters, such as ‘If We Were Villains‘ by M.L. Rio and ‘Kill Your Darlings‘ by Allen Ginsberg.

“A good part of Dark Academia is aesthetics. But, the more you explore the styles, the more you connect to other people like you. The main point here is a common desire to learn,” said Declan Lyman, 15, who posts Dark Academia videos on TikTok.

Even though it’s about classics and styles, Dark Academia is a very open community,” said Lucien K, 21, who posts about Dark Academia styles on TikToks, or about himself reading books and doing makeups. “It’s also about breaking stereotypes regardless of gender or sexuality.”

3. Plus Size

To date, the Dark Academia subculture has shown the same openness towards plus-size people.

“I was afraid to wear anything that would accentuate my body shapes and weight. However, after falling in love with the style I’ve realised that if I wear clothes that make me feel happy and confident, any fear goes away,” told us Helen Belfort, a student at the University of Oxford, UK.

However, it still remains difficult to find suitable dark academia outfits for plus size.

And, just like Helen, I am also falling into this category.

In the past, I’ve tried to find complete Dark Academia outfits.

It was so hard. In fact, my struggle to find suitable garments is one of the main reasons I am writing and sharing this article with you.

In time I’ve discovered that it is much easier to buy individual pieces rather than whole outfits.

Moreover, I love the process of creating my special looks as I put the parts together, one by one.

Here are the best places to shop Dark Academia plus size right now:

  1. Online Thrift Stores – the best places to shop Dark Academia Plus size from are the vintage and online thrift shops, especially if you’re looking for rare pieces. Above all, right now this is the most sustainable fashion you can buy.
  2. Cato – this is one of my favorite places to find pleated dress pants. They also have button-down shirts, vintage blazers, and pencil skirts. I also like Cato because they have special offers very often and I never spent more than $20 on any piece.
  3. Everlane – this is my other favorite, particularly for blazers. More expensive than Cato, but the quality is great.
  4. Torrid –  for their excellent corduroy creations and pants.
  5. H&M+ for some rare gothic pieces.
  6. Target – In particular their Ava + Viv line.
  7. Amazon – For some absolute cheap dark academia clothes and bargains.

Other similar aesthetics are Light Academia and Cottagecore, which are taking over the internet, in particular, TikTok and Instagram in 2021.

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Now it’s your turn…

What is your favorite Dark Academia clothing brand?

What are your favorite Dark Academia summer outfits?

What is the biggest problem you’ve faced when choosing the Dark Academia style?

Is there any other similar style you would like us to cover?

Would love to hear your thought and comments below!

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  1. Softcore for me. I think most of the outfits in these pictures are just preppy or just too mainstream. Where’s the hardcore dark academia, with gothic s..it and stuff?

  2. I’m a guy (24), but since the available articles on fashion – and especially subculture fashion like this – are very sparse, I rely on sources like this.

    And, am very thankful for them! (I am actually writing a bachelor thesis on “the Edwardian fashion in current popular culture”, so to me, reading this article is TECHNICALLY my schoolwork, lol)

    I personally love my waistcoats, I have 2 from thrift stores and one from my grandfather (talk about true vintage!), also double-breasted blazers, and TWEED FOREVER!

    I can HEAVILY relate to the trouble with summer, even before dressing like this I hated summer, nowadays it’s a nightmare.

    I personally try to solve it by wearing 100% linen stuff.

    It lacks the gothic vibe, but at least you don’t sweat so much.

    Good luck to everyone, especially during these tough times!

    • Hey, any chance you’re done your thesis by now? I’d love to give it a read if that’s possible! Sounds like a super interesting topic!

  3. This was a very interesting read.

    For summer, I found that the (minimalistic) Mediterranean/Provençal fashion style fits well with Dark Academia.

    Think: (off-)white linen shirts, blouses, and dresses. Brown leather shoes, sandals, and heels. Brown leather handbags or a woven straw bag. A dark linen pants, sand colored trousers, and straw hats, etc.

    It also fits thematically because for one it draws further on the classical, Greek influences, and two because in Art History I’ve learned that a lot of great artists moved or traveled to the South of France for various reasons.

    There was even a moment in British history where the people were sort of cut off from mainland Europe and because they couldn’t travel to France anymore they started to go on vacation to the south of the UK. Apparently, there is a place there that sort of looks Mediterranean and people could pretend they were in France.

    Anyway, I’m getting off-topic… The Provençal style also uses a lot of natural fabrics like linen, silk organic cotton, and wool.

    So you can have pieces in your wardrobe that works for both seasons.

    I recommend looking on Pinterest and Instagram for inspiration for this summer style. That’s how I found out about it.

    PS: English isn’t my first language so I apologize for any spelling mistakes.

  4. Putting on checkered pants and a shint doesn’t mean its dark academia. I’ll politely tell you to stop.Ps. Not gatekeeping, this is embarrassing and a bad look for the actual genre.


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