Ghosts, mad scientists, vampires…All of these classic halloween costumes could be deemed “gothic,” for their ominous flair, and genuine brooding menace. However, what do you do if you’re thinking of learning Gothic this year but don’t want to fall right into the trap of cliche? Where do you turn? Why, to this article, of course! 

Here, you will find no ghosts, vampires, mad scientists, witches, Adams family members, or devils (at least, in the traditional sense). Instead, I’ve taken the liberty of compiling a list of unusual and yet fascinating characters to dress up for as Halloween, so that you can go as a character, not a caricature! 

NOTE: Not all of these costumes are “Gothic” in the traditional sense, though they all evoke Gothic feelings such as: alienation, quietness, eeriness, and just general formal fun. 


Caption Image courtesy of Bounding Into Comics.

Who it is/What is Represents:

Every goth, or lover of the gothic, is at least aware of this iconic character from the Sandman Series. Unlike most renditions of the character death, she is friendly and helpful. 

Death is responsible for the, uh, rather sobering task of escorting recently deceased souls to the afterlife. This doesn’t mean that she’s a downer, however. In fact, Neil Gaiman’s portrayal of death is rather mature–She is simply a woman doing her job, who, despite initially hating her responsibilities, came to peace with them after realizing death's essential place within the balance of nature. She acts as an older, wiser sister to her brother Dream, often providing him with advice and existential truths. She is amicable and fun, if only to make up for the fact that she (in universe) is an uncomfortable reminder of what will happen to all of us. 

Curious about her character? Simply review this article on the newest Netflix adaptation of the Sandman series. 

To Achieve the Look: 

A relatively simple look to achieve. All you need are: 

  • Eyeliner and assorted makeup 
  • Black tank top, pants, and boots, 
  • Bit of hairspray for that elegant, teased-out look 
  • Black nail polish 
  • Silver Ankh necklace 

The Black Swan 

Caption Image courtesy of Tristam Kenton, the Guardian. 

Who it is/What it Represents: 

A particularly apt look if you already practice ballet in real life. The character of the Black Swan is from Thaikowsky’s Swan Lake, and is an evil counterpart to the white swan, who dies after she steals her true love. 

In the film “Black Swan,” starring Natalie Portman, the swan becomes a metaphor for main character Nina’s deteriorating mental health. Perhaps too dark a take for a halloween costume… However, if you are looking for something dramatic, dark, and theatrical (but do not like the idea of going full “Phantom of the Opera,” this is the choice for you.)

To Achieve the Look: 

To achieve this look, you will need: 

  • Dark leotard
  • Tutu
  • Black tights
  • Ballet makeup
  • Ballet flats 
  • Assorted feathers for adornment 

Note: You may also choose to create a pair of wings for yourself, as different ballet companies have different interpretations of the Black Swan’s costume.  

Forest Sprite

Caption Image courtesy of Angela Clayton, 

Who it is/What it Represents: 

This is a costume for those of you who enjoy cosplay, and all of the creative freedom that comes with it. Forest sprites (or fae, if you’re Irish), wander about the woods in search of humans to either help or harm. They can be cheerful, misleading, lucky, or unlucky depending on their species, or the story that they’re in. The general consensus of all faeries is that they are mysterious, like to keep to themselves, and have a strong connection to chthonic nature. 

To Achieve the Look: 

Because there is no one definition/look of “forest sprites,” there are a lot of different ways that you could go. Like Maleficent, you could have horns and pointy ears. Or, you could have flora growing from your hair and shoulders. Different sprites have different agendas, and you will have the clearest vision and best costume if you suss out what kind of sprite you’re aiming for right away. Devious? Soul-consumer? A forest helper? 

A few ideas to get you started: 

  • Artificial (or real) leaves
  • Horns
  • Pointy ear attachments
  • Glittery or shimmery eye makeup 
  • Fangs 
  • Long gloves with pointed nails 
  • Free flowing dress or cape 
  • Wings
  • Antlers 


Persephone from Rachel Smyth’s popular comic “Lore Olympus.” Image courtesy of Lore Olympus Wiki.

Who it is/What it Represents: 

Our Lady of the Underground! (Hadestown)

Persephone is another character that varies depending on the tale she’s in. In the original rendition of the myth, she is a helpless maiden who is kidnapped by Hades and forced to spend half of her days in the underworld with him as his wife. 


Modern renditions of the myth, however, tend to be a bit kinder on this ever-loved, iconic character. For example, Lore Olympus portrays Persephone as a young adult going out into the world for the first time. She is seen falling in love with Hades naturally: instead of being kidnapped by him, she (spoiler alert!) goes to the underworld willingly to pursue an internship and eventual career as queen. 

Another popular rendition of Persephone is the character featured in the musical Hadestown. Playwright Anaïs Mitchell imagines her Persephone to be an older, washed-up woman, who is tired of her husband’s corporate antics (it’s all a bit Atlas-shrugged down there, environment-wise). 

While her husband wrongheadedly attempts to win back her affections by further developing the underworld, Persephone ekes out her days of “imprisonment” as the host of a speakeasy, where she shows the downtrodden folks of the underworld they things they miss from the world above. It’s a realistic portrayal of a woman stuck in a loving, but dysfunctional marriage, and actor Amber Gray’s raspy voice lends her character a rugged, suitably earthy sensitivity. 

To Achieve the Look: 

Utter freedom on this front! You could dress as an ancient Greek version of Persephone, or a modern counterpart. Some classic details to include could be: 

  • Flowers, various blooms
  • A Greek crown (laurels, perhaps?) 
  • Pomegranate 
  • Free-flowing dress 
  • Dark accents to show her attachment to the underworld 
  • Dramatic or lively makeup, depending on the character

Van Helsing 

Caption Image courtesy of IMDb, Van Helsing (2004). 

Who it is/What it Represents

Van Helsing is a character who has been bastardized over the course of a few years since his creation in 1897, when he appeared in Brahm Stoker's novel Dracula. This is quite a shame, because his character is actually quite interesting just taken out of the book. 

Van Helsing is a Dutch doctor who is forever hilariously slipping up the English language. His expertise in all things academic is what ultimately leads Stoker’s team of good guys to defeat Dracula. Read more here on his Wiki page. 

To Achieve the Look: 

To achieve this look you will need: 

  • A formal jacket
  • Nearly knee-high boots
  • A crossbow (or just a cross–he was a man of faith) 
  • A hat 
  • A monocle, to give him an extra air of distinction 

Rod Serling (The Twilight Zone)

Caption Image courtesy of “Euronews.

Who it is/What it Represents: 

Or, frankly, go as anyone from the Twilight Zone. All you need to do to scare others while dressed in his unassuming suit, is stand in the corner of the room and start narrating. Anyone with Rod in their vicinity can be sure that their life will be turning upside down quite soon. 

Is he traditionally gothic? Well, alas, no. In its strictest terms, “gothic” means anything relating to the Goths (a Germanic civilization). However, if you are an alt-fashion, pop-culture loving American “goth,” perhaps this costume is for you. 

To Achieve this Look: 

To achieve Rod’s iconic look, you will need: 

  • A gray suit
  • Tie 
  • Monochrome makeup (if you’re really committed) 
  • His iconic background “swirl,” which can be made with a little paint and cardboard 
  • A sotto voce 

Finally, the Seraphim 

Caption Image courtesy of Dan Hillier

Who it is/What it Represents: 

Some of you are nodding along, while others are no doubt asking themselves “what?” For those not in the know, a Seraphim is a Biblically-accurate angel, complete with multiple wings, eyes, it is quite unsettling for anyone used to the more…commonly used angel likeness: halo and wings. 

Inevitably, someone will show up to your Halloween party as a traditional angel. Boring. Spite them by showing off this Seraphim look– a reminder of the angel’s true origins. 

To Achieve this Look: 

This costume is not for the faint of heart. However, for those of you Halloween-lovers out there, it just might do the trick. This complicated look requires:

  • Six Wings 
  • Ethereal makeup
  • Several eye-like attachments 

In Conclusion 

This Halloween, we will be Gothic! Though perhaps not traditionally so…Costumes such as: witches, ghouls, ghosts, and vampires are without a doubt classic, however, they are also done to death. If you want to dress Gothic and stand out, these are the costumes for you.