What Is Pastel Goth?

by Shae

In Tumblr-land, “pastel goth” is a niche oasis within the bigger, general, more identifiable culture of modern day (20th century) goths. (Not the vintage kind of Gothicism, that was centered on the pride of Scandinavian ancestry during the Roman Empire. The “gothic” we think of today, e.g. an all-black outfit, maybe a surly expression, abstractly takes from the architectural Gothicism of the medieval age and Renaissance era. This lead to Gothic literature, a genre steeped in horror, aberrant romance, and frankly, depression, and so on to fashion).

pastel goth


In exchange for black, black-blue, and blood red, for pastel goth, there is more than a smattering of not just slightly bright, but stark baby pinks, baby blues, marigold, and teal. Accents such as grommets, multiple straps, ripped denim remain staples on gothic-approved attire such as a standard black jacket and ballerina inspired skirts. Pastel goth could be viewed as the antithesis of looking pensive and in almost all-black and instead, a wistful countenance and at least a visible unicorn patch. Cotton candy cornflower blue hair over jet black stick strand hair. A black cat eyeliner look is challenged by the appearance of a happy-go-lucky true pink lipstick like “Candy Yum Yum” and not “Diva.” It’s gothic but with an, it’s okay to say it, girlier edge.

Pastel goth has gathered a coven of loyalists since the early days of Tumblr’s popularity. As a sort of nexus for where gothic and seapunk fraternize, it’s back in our social consciousness–if you’re into cosmetics–thanks to Kat Von D‘s latest palette named after the triage. (Von D knows how to drop a coveted eyeshadow palette. Pastel Goth arrives after the lounge glam of Metal Matte and the gorgeous, multi-faceted shimmer of her years in the making Alchemist highlighter quad).

Von D’s summarization of pastel goth greatly intrigued makeup lovers on Instagram ahead of its January 2017 debut. The eight rectangle pan set appropriately represented the faded rainbow and while amusement was high, potential consumers also secreted their bewilderment. The colors were extremely dematerialized and for those with brown skin and deeper, there was a worry on whether “Pastel Goth” would work. For the pale and fairer skinned, they had substantial concerns of looking washed out.

pastel goth

The palette ignited minor discourse on whether it was fair of Von D to capitalize on a marginalized movement. Others defended the popular tattoo artist cum respected makeup mogul in that pastel goth wasn’t exactly exclusive and that no other brand had attempted to embody the lifestyle in makeup beforehand. Whether “yay” or somewhat “nay” about the palette, the anticipation was leveraged by conversation and curiosity. Two necessary ingredients for a successful launch and hopefully successful run.


In person, available at Sephora stores nationwide, the palette is much smaller than imagined. While it’s typical for products to be gassed up for promotional purposes in photos (details, details), this was the first product in a long time shocked me by its size in comparison to Instagram.

After the five second delay, I opened the palette and the easter egg shades were reassuringly and frustratingly pale yet bright. From swatches, the texture was absolutely chalky. When judging “Star” (yellow) and “Clementine” (orange creamsicle), impressed I was not. Determined to have at least one shade work for me, I will say that “Gloom” (forest green) is unexpectedly gorgeous. The smooth run of fresh cut green will make you consider buying all eight for $38. The white hue of “Skull” will freeze frame your senses, it’s pretty blinding, and “Dope” (violet) and “Meow” (rose-pink) pass, but need meticulous build-up when applying.

So this was Pastel Goth in makeup form, huh? Chalky, and unsure of if it wants to be bright or inconspicuous? Sounds very much like goths themselves.



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