7 Dark Academia Outfits For a Scholarly Autumn

A brief introduction to Instagram's latest aesthetic.

dark academia

Photo by Edward Berthelot/Getty Images

There are two different ways to enjoy fashion in October. First is the Halloween every day approach, of spider, and ghost prints, witchy dresses, and sweaters in black, orange, and reds. Then there are those who enjoy a bit more subtlety: Long trench coats, turtlenecks, and layers upon layers of earth-toned clothing. If you fall in the latter category, allow us to introduce you to the spookiness and glamour of dark academia.

The dark academic aesthetic can best be described as a traditional European boarding school, as the style includes a lot of prep school staples: Sweater vests, tailored trousers, collar shirts, Oxford loafers, long trench coats, small leather backpacks, and plaid skirts with knee-high socks. All to give the look of a 1940s scholar in October. 

The aesthetic is heavily vintage-inspired with an empathizes on thrifting parts of the outfit. In many Instagram and TikTok posts, dark academia features older technology items like typewriters, Polaroids, and record players. Modern TV shows including The Queen’s Gambit, The Magicians, The Umbrella Academia, and books such as Leigh Bardugo’s Ninth House have also influenced the aesthetic with vintage looks in a school setting. 

If this trend sounds like your cup of tea, grab your favorite trench coat and your leather-bound edition of The Picture of Dorian Gray and check out these inspired looks.

Classic Dark Academia 

outfit 1

Design by Tiana Crispino

As we begin our journey into the trend, it’s important to look at a few of the staples, especially the most important piece you’ll need: A good coat. Pick up your favorite wrap coat or trench, some glasses, and a good pair of loafers, and prepare to solve some mysteries...like where to get the best iced coffee. 

Prep School Uniform 

outfit 2

Design by Tiana Crispino

As mentioned above, dark academia has a prep-school vibe to it, so play with that idea with a cute matching skirt and jacket set with a little bag. Add a dark edge to the look by adding a pair of combat boots with some knee socks to show that you mean business.

The Professor 

outfit 3

Design by Tiana Crispino

However, if you want a more mature look, go for the professor vibe with a plaid blazer (bonus points if it has elbow patches), a collared sweater, and some wide-legged trousers to give you a look of a classics professor in mid-October.

The Romantic 

outfit 4

Design by Tiana Crispino

Despite the lack of bright colors and soft patterns, dark academia has a very romantic vibe because of its focus on gothic romances, though there is a spooky edge to them. Play up the more whimsical side with a plaid dress paired with a ruffled collar blouse and a cute little beret to give your look a Parisian influence. 

Light Academia 

outfit 5

Design by Tiana Crispino

If dark academia seems a little too dark for you, try light academia: A cross between dark academia and cottagecore that combines the lighter, romantic fabrics with darker, vintage-inspired tones. While perfect for the warmer months, you can add some plaid pants, and a nice ruffle top to take it into fall.

Mad About Plaid 

outfit 6

Design by Tiana Crispino

In a trend that has a neutral color scheme, prints make a big impression here. Plaids, houndstooth, argyles, and tartan are the staples for every fall wardrobe, but they really stand out in dark academia. Make a simple turtleneck and loafers pop with a plaid suspenders skirt. 

Vest in Peace 

outfit 7

Design by Tiana Crispino

Probably one of the key pieces that come to mind when thinking about dark academia, or even just academia in general, is the sweater vest. Part of the classic image of a “professor” or “nerdy student” outfit, give it a more modern touch by pairing it with an oversized collar shirtdress and a long overcoat.

Related Stories