Fashion, Finding your style, Outfit Ideas

Spooky Outfit Ideas to Subtly Get Into the Halloween Spirit At Work

subtle Halloween outfit

This article was written by The Zillennial Zine’s fall editorial intern Elizabeth Miller. Find them on Instagram at @Lizzy_7979. If you would like to share an article with The Zillennial, send us an email at

Now that fall is officially here, it’s time for my favorite holiday, Halloween! I love this spooky season, my only complaint is that we don’t dress up more! Often I have too many ideas for what or who to dress up as. That’s why, in my normal day-to-day, I dress up in subtle Halloween outfits to feel in the spirit but still work and school-appropriate. If you’re looking for pieces to add to your wardrobe to dress up for the season, here are recommendations for a few of my favorite categories. Check out our thrifting guide for tips on where and how to find pieces mentioned below.

Dark Academia, Gothic and Witchy Outfits


Sorry I’ve been gone! Working a bunch but at least I can play dress up #fantasy #thrift #thrifttok #thrifted #vintage #thriftedfashion #ootd

♬ As It Was – Harry Styles

Dark academia fits right in with the Halloween vibes! The great thing about this aesthetic is that the base layers of dark academia are versatile. Items like plain button-downs, dress pants, vests, sweaters and blazers in neutral and earthy colors are great starting points for almost any aesthetic or particular look you are going for.

For example, a pirate look can be made from dark academia basics like a button-down and vest if paired with a pair of boots, leather accessories, and layered necklaces with water and treasure motifs. 

To get a more gothic look, stick with grayscale items, and incorporate more lace, frills and flounces. Shirts with bishop sleeves and ruffled cuffs and collars have a more gothic look than modern button-downs. Paired with a red or burgundy accessory like a pocket square or ribbon choker, the outfit leans into a vampire look! For a more modern and regular goth look, stick with more lace, especially ripped and patchworked lace. Velvet is a great texture to elevate a modern gothic outfit to a business casual or formal look. 

To get a more witchy look, corset belts, peasant tops, and fall-patterned basics are the way to go. Elevate a button-down by layering it with a corset, especially if one is patterned. Try layering skirts and patten leather shoes like Mary Janes. Socks with lace ruffles at the cuff are a great addition as well as accessories with little charms and trinkets.

Cottagecore, Fantasy and Magical Outfits

For spooky cottagecore looks, stick with earth and autumnal tones of corsets, peasant tops, skirts and dresses. Chemises are a great starting point, but some office dress codes have different rules about exposed shoulders. For more modesty, light shawls and capelets can add the layer you need. Cardigans, vests, legwarmers and wristwarmers are cute fall accessories for cottagecore outfits as well. 

To look even more like you’ve stepped out of a fantasy book, jewelry is my go-to. For an elven look, wear nature and plant-themed jewelry like fall leaves and vines. For fairies, sparkles and stars can make a look magical. Jewelry with little jars and miniature trinkets can also be cute.

Cryptidcore, Monsters and Fantasy Creature Outfits


🎶 Under the sea, under the sea. Darling it’s better, down where they presumably don’t have to lodge their yearly taxes. I wanna be part of THAT world 🎶 #ootd #fantasydress #mermaid #underthesea

♬ Under the Sea (from “the Little Mermaid”) [Instrumental Orchestral Version] – Magic Philharmonic Orchestra

For outfits that are less spooky human and more spooky creature, try out Cryptidcore. This aesthetic is less about a specific style or cut of clothing, but experimenting with color palettes and textures to mimic different features of a creature or monster. For example, a Mothman-inspired look would have a color pallet of black, white and red. I would recommend looking for patchwork fabrics with exposed edges and ruffled edges to get the winged look and movement. I might also suggest a long open-front vest and a belt. But, I would suggest something completely different for another creature. For the Lochness Monster, go with blues, greens, and even purples. If you can find anything with a scaled texture, like a snake or faux fish scale shoe or clutch, that can get the perfect water creature element. Clothing or jewelry that has a drippy or wet look like shiny satin also drives home the water aspect. Similar elements could pull together a mermaid look as well. 

Basically, the code for getting a subtle outfit based on a creature is to look at the color pallet and consider any defining characteristics of the creature. Look for those elements in business-appropriate pieces and then you have the perfect subtle Halloween outfit!

The Kid Mero Halloween GIF by Desus & Mero - Find & Share on GIPHY

The key to subtlety in any of these categories is not to go overboard. With basics or base layers, pick two or three elements that fit the theme. Then, layer up with those business casual pieces that make your outfit a bit more formal. The cool weather makes this easier to add sweaters, cardigans and light jackets that can make outfits work-appropriate.

What subtle Halloween outfit themes will you be wearing this fall? Let us know in the comments below!

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