Budget Bat: Dressing Goth when you can’t afford clothes

Hey Fab Bats! There are many videos on Youtube and blogs with tips on dressing goth for under 25 or 30 bucks. But some of you rabid readers, though you may have access to the internet, cannot afford to even buy the cheapest of gloomy garments. So here are some brief ideas:

Sometimes looking into department stores (especially with this new trend of “black everything”) helps give you an idea of what you like. Just go into the changing room, compose an outfit, take some photos, check out your butt… You can also lurk on websites and add whatever you like to the cart even though you won’t purchase anything. That’s actually one of my favorite things to do!

You might be doing this already but take whatever people give you. Unless it’s ultimately sketch (too many mysterious stains, bugs…) or you don’t trust the person, there are so many ways you can alter a piece

1. If you can afford dye to turn your clothes black, Rit All-Purpose Powder Dye is under 5 bucks. You can get it on Amazon here but beware of shipping costs. There are also ways to dye fabric using kitchen ingredients. They say use black berries for black/grey coloring. These can be pricy, not to mention tempting to eat. Check out frozen ones on super sale or go to your local outside market and ask if there are any discarded/outdated ones. These are usually fine, just too mushy or unappealing to sell.

2. Not everything has to be black! Cut holes in your shirts and stitch them back up or close them with safety pins. You can even make designs with crosses or pentagrams.

3. Patch up a shirt. It’s common to patch up pants or miniskirts, but you can cut up pieces of old fabric and do some Nightmare Before Christmas Sally-like look.

Cutting a pair of jeans to make a miniskirt and patching it up like the above also works. If you’re into the dark-faerie look, you could cut up pieces of cloth and sew them together for a handmade skirt. Here’s a tutorial I made on how to make a sexy skirt out of a hoodie. Plus, it has pockets! In the same vein, check out how you can turn a long skirt into a dress in only 2 steps, create a cut and sew mori/faerie skirt, and a quick skirt out of pants.

When it comes to pants, don’t stress about the color. Blue jeans look great ripped, patched, bleached or written on. Hopefully, you will manage to find some in your size.

That brings us to picking clothes off the street. Now I assume a lot of you know how to find wearables outside and I don’t want to insult your cred or intelligence. But, for those of you who are new to clothes picking:

  • Watch out if it comes in a bag. Especially a trashbag. If you think it might be alright dump some of the contents out rather than sift through them. You’ll be able to tell if something smells or looks soiled. Boxes can be more dependable, as you can see what’s inside directly.
  • Never take underwear.
  • People who move out recently sometimes leave their clothes hanging on a gate or stoop depending on where you live (ex: Brooklyn has many reliable clothes in front of brownstones or apartment homes. Some suburbs in Paris might have clothes drives.).
  • Check out fabric stores that may be giving away rolls of cloth or samples

Though you may find some good stuff turning to the street helping to clear out a friend’s closet just might win you a jacket or two. Don’t let pride get to you. Once your friend circle knows you take hand-me-downs, they might spread the word. I can attest to receiving barely worn goods from roommates, families and acquaintances.


One Fab Bat out of the blue asked me how she could possibly get one of those spiky collars I was wearing around my neck. An aspiring model, she eyed it with great inspiration thinking of future DIY photoshoots.

My first and favorite way to pull off neckwear is with belts. Just wrap it around your neck (don’t choke yourself, jeez) and cut it to the right size. Remember to leave a bit of leeway. You can decorate it with jewels (available at any cheapy store), faux pearl stick-ons, lettering…maybe try your hand at calligraphy?

Second is with chains. An alternative to leather, check your toolbox for any chains or locks. Alternatively, go to your local hardware store where it should be cheap. Wrap one around your lower neck and secure with a lock. Don’t lose the key please. Also: be aware of what kind of metal you expose your skin to, some have toxic properties that could be damaging.

Wrapping a satin ribbon around your neck is a simple classy, romantic look. Trick: if you have an old satin cap, cut a strip and use as a ribbon.

Other Ideas

  • Draw designs on your arms! Examples are spiderwebs, bats or moon phases.
  • Tights, tights, tights. Dirt cheap, they can be as low as 50 cents. Rip them up and use them to cover your jeans, shoes, pin them to your shirts. If you’re lucky enough to have some with designs, here’s a way to creep up your leggings and make multiple outfits out of one by switching colors. Cut a very small hole in the center of the tights (where the two legs meet) to make a cute t-shirt. Watch Toxic Tears’ video for more on this.
  • Layer up. Rip shirts into different sizes and wear them one on top of the other.
  • Take advantage of jewelry or any tidbits you may have found in Halloween clearance sales. Cheapy skull earrings and spider rings can be pulled off with ripped tights or a snagged shirt. Just add a little humor to your gloomy getup.
  • Watch Youtube videos with easy tutorials using items that can be found at home.
  • Go clothes hunting or DIY with a friend who is in the same situation as you. You can give each other ideas and support. Another fun thing to do is try on clothes at goth specialty stores and take pics together.
  • Check with friends who work in department stores. Sometimes clearance clothes just get thrown away! They may be able to salvage a few things for you.
  • Sleeves make great leg warmers. Repurpose sleeves cut off from a hoodie or sweater.
  • Exchange or sell your stuff. You might find something nice that you just can’t modify. But, somebody else might want it. Search for some trading apps or check Facebook for an online Free & For Sale.
  • Give what you don’t want. If you’re going to accept what others offer, be sure to continue the cycle. You might happen to have an object/piece of clothing/old thing that’s been sitting around for months. Offer it to someone who will make use of it. This will also let friends and others know that you’re not just there to take. Favors and fun texts will show you’re grateful.

Hope this helps… Comment if you have any suggestions of your own…!

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3 thoughts on “Budget Bat: Dressing Goth when you can’t afford clothes

  1. If you have one nearby, Goodwill Outlets are also something to consider! Items that have been sitting in the main stores for a few weeks usually get moved to these liquidation locations, where you can often buy clothes/bags/etc. by the pound or at least way cheaper than the often-surprisingly-spendy-considering-it’s-thrifted normal Goodwills. Just be prepared to wade through a lot of junk in big bins and kind-of dirty condition of wares.

    1. That’s a great idea. If you’re in NY there is a Good Will outlet based in Queens. For the germaphobics, gloves are your friends.
      The Kilo Shop, in France and Japan, also weighs by the pound but has recently become trendy (so not cheap). But, if you check out the surrounding thrift stores, some have piles of clothes for 1 dollar/euro!
      Thank you for bringing that up, Inga!

  2. HEY I loved your DIY goth page, that’s actually how I found your page was googling it!!! I’m having trouble figuring out what my style is nowadays, because I spend most of my time living on a military supply ship, so my clothes have to follow function over form. I can’t have a too many straps and chains hanging off of my clothes, or trip/fire hazards or high heels or really show much skin… But I want to be a creppy and spoopy disaster-unicorn bat and can’t think of a way to combine the whole “dock/construction worker chic” with “slightly fem goth glam” things together. Any ideas?

    (PS: I tried to email this to you but the form didn’t work D: )

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