Dark academia is an aesthetic that romanticizes education, with a particular focus on literature. The aesthetic evokes images of gothic architecture, moody libraries, and eclectic artwork. It was popularized on Tumblr in 2015 and revitalized during the pandemic.
If you’re looking to build a dark academia wardrobe, or just pick up a few pieces in this aesthetic, this post rounds up 20 small, ethical brands offering dark academia clothing, shoes, and jewelry. I also provide a guide on the staples to look for as you’re shopping secondhand.
This post contains affiliate links and codes, meaning that I may earn a small commission on any purchases, at no extra cost to you. This income allows me to keep this blog running and it’s much appreciated.
Dark Academia Wardrobe Staples
As you’re shopping for dark academia pieces, here are the styles that traditionally fit into this aesthetic:
- Chunky cardigans
- Sweater vests
- Button downs and balloon sleeve blouses
- Peter pan collars or oversized pilgrim collars
- Grandpa trousers
- Midi skirts or pleated skirts
- Trench coats
- Chunky oxfords or loafers
- Lace-up boots
For colors, look for more neutral/muted tones, such as beige, off white, brown, black, burgundy, gray, and navy.
For patterns, consider plaid and checked prints, plus corduroy, tweed, and wool fabric.
Sustainable Dark Academia Clothing Brands
For each brand, I list out an approximate pricing scale, with one dollar sign meaning $100 or less, two dollar signs meaning around $200, and three dollar signs meaning $300 or more. I also include the size range, but keep in mind that sizing can vary by the garment.
Images are courtesy of brand websites.
1. Used clothing
Sustainable clothing is expensive. Quality clothing made in ethical conditions should cost more than fast fashion, but not everyone is able to afford these higher prices.
Luckily, you can find many dark academia styles in thrift stores and on secondhand apps, especially staples like turtlenecks, pleated skirts, and lace-up boots. Some of these brands in this list also have their own pre-loved section on their website.
Don’t hesitate to look for the brands mentioned in this post on secondhand platforms. Here are some of my favorite sites/apps for finding secondhand clothing online:
- Etsy (often small creators, but beware of dropshippers)
- Poshmark (get $10 off your first purchase with my referral link)
- Mercari (get $10 off your first purchase with my referral link)
- ThredUP (get 40% off your first purchase + free shipping with my referral link)
In particular, I’d recommend Poshmark and Mercari, as it’s easy to search for specific styles on these apps, and some sellers even tag listings as fitting the dark academia aesthetic (so you could even search for “dark academia pants,” for example). There is also less incidence of dropshipping, where sellers order mass-produced items from abroad, which is prolific on eBay and Etsy.
Size range: XS-XXL
This Canadian brand offers polished classics made from, you guessed it, cotton (as well as some other natural fibers like linen). Kotn has a wide variety of dark academia staples, ranging from turtlenecks and sweater vests to block-print sweaters and plaid blazers.
True to the dark academia spirit, the brand also reinvests in the communities where their cotton is grown by building schools.
I’ve tried their loungewear and found it high-quality, and their free returns are helpful in case the sizing isn’t as you expected.
Ethics and sustainability: Kotn is a B Corp, meaning that it meets high standards for social responsibility across its entire supply chain. Most of their pieces are made from Egyptian cotton, and half the HQ team actually lives in Egypt, allowing them to visit their farms and facilities weekly. They pay at least 14% about the local minimum wage and they pay 26% above it on average. Their pieces ship plastic-free in a cardboard envelope.
3. Son de Flor
Size range: XXS-XXL (4XL in some styles)
Son de Flor is a Lithuanian company that uniquely blends the dark academia and cottagecore aesthetics. Their clothing is made from local linen and comes in easy neutrals or beautiful jewel tones.
Some pieces perfect for a dark academia wardrobe include those in the brown checkers and blue tartan prints (you can get styles such as a skirt, peter pan collar dress, pinafore, and wrap dresses in these prints).
I was gifted the Classic Skirt in brown checkers, and it’s an extremely versatile piece. It’s easy to match tops with the shades of brown or navy in the skirt. The skirt is made for twirling and the pockets are very convenient.
I was recommended the size M via the sizing tool since I have a 29″ waist, but I’m a standard size S and I read some reviews that said the elastic waistband had some give to it. I’m glad I got the size S since the skirt has some weight to it and I think an M would’ve sagged.
I’ve also tried their Classic Dress and found it high-quality; it’s also perfect for wearing on its own or layering. Read my full Son de Flor review for more info on the dress, including measurements.
Ethics and sustainability: Son de Flor traces their entire supply chain. The linen is fairly produced in the EU and is Oeko-Tex certified (free from harmful substances). The garments are made in-house or by a local team of women with disabilities. Their packaging is plastic-free, and they offer pre-loved pieces that get restocked a few times per year.
4. VETTA Capsule
Size range: XS-XL
Edit: VETTA went out of business in March 2023, but you can still find their pieces on secondhand apps and their resale site.
VETTA’s claim to fame are its five-piece capsules that can make 30 outfits. Many of their styles are modular, meaning that you can detach certain parts to create a new piece of clothing.
In particular, the Mod Capsule suits the dark academia aesthetic quite well with its plaid blazer (which can be turned into a vest), paper bag pants, and chunky mockneck sweater (which can also be a cardigan or crewneck).
Ethics and sustainability: VETTA uses lower-impact fabrics like organic cotton and recycled polyester. Their finished-product factories are in the USA and are audited regularly for social compliance. Their international factories are Fair Trade Certified. You can shop used VETTA pieces at a discount on the pre-loved section of their site.
Size range: XXS-5XL
Lokonkokon is a small linen clothing company based in the country of Georgia. They brand offers lovely dark academia, Victorian, and cottagecore-inspired clothing.
Ethics and sustainability: The pieces are made from linen in the owner’s studio. The clothing is packaged in paper and any fabric scraps are upcycled.
6. Christy Dawn
Size range: XS-XL, with 1X-3X and petite XS-XL in some pieces
This US-based brand is best-known for its cottagecore dresses in delicate floral prints, but they also have some plaid pieces that fit the dark academia aesthetic.
Note that Christy Dawn is the only brand to offer petite sizing on this list, though there are a few companies that do custom sizing at no extra charge.
Ethics and sustainability: Christy Dawn traces their entire supply chain. They use deadstock fabrics and organic or regenerative cotton grown in India. The pieces are sewn in the US by makers who are paid a living wage, and the pieces are shipped plastic-free.
Size range: XXS-4X
Tradlands is an American slow fashion brand inspired by menswear. At a quick glance, the clothing may not look fitting for a dark academia wardrobe at all, as their pieces are often quite colorful.
Their sweaters, however, would work well with a dark academia look. In particular, the Shelter Cardigan is the perfect amount of cozy and oversized. I own the cardigan myself (gifted with no obligation to share), and I was immediately impressed by its weight and quality. After almost two years of owning it, it remains one of my favorite pieces.
Be sure to check out their Worn Well Exchange for deep discounts on pre-loved Tradlands pieces—it’s where I found a linen dress I was eyeing at one-third of the retail price! (See my full review of Tradlands for more details).
Ethics and sustainability: Tradlands pieces are made in Peru or China in factories that are audited yearly, sometimes by the founders of the brand themselves. They pay a living wage based on US standards. The pieces are made from natural fabrics, such as linen, TENCEL, or cotton (grown in Peru), and their packages ship plastic-free.
Shop Tradlands. For first-time customers, use code IMPERFECTIDEALIST15 for 15% off.
Size range: XXS-3X
ABLE is one of the more affordable ethical fashion brands, as well as one of the most transparent. This American brand offers carefree clothing that fits a variety of styles.
Their plaid jackets and pants exude dark academia fashion, and during their sales, you can often snag pieces for under $100.
Ethics and sustainability: ABLE is women-owned and 90% of the staff are women. Every worker has ownership in the company and the option for 100% paid healthcare. ABLE also offers a lifetime guarantee for all its products, and they’ll repair or replace products that don’t live up to a high standard of quality. They even offer free size swaps for select items, which allows you one free exchange for a new size, no matter how long it’s been.
9. Loud Bodies
Size range: XXS-10X, plus custom sizing at no extra charge
Loud Bodies is another brand that doesn’t feel very “dark academia” at first glance. This small, Romanian company is mainly known for its bold, fairytale-eque dresses in dreamy patterns.
That said, they do have a few trench coats that would be just the right finishing touch to a dark academia outfit in the fall or winter.
Ethics and sustainability: Loud Bodies is most size-inclusive brand I’ve seen, and they also offer a more affordable line under $100. Some pieces are also gifted each month to people who can’t afford it. The seamstresses work in-house and are paid twice the minimum wage. The pieces ship in recycled packaging, and fabric scraps are turned into pillows to be donated to animal shelters.
10. LA Relaxed
Size range: XS-XL
If you’re looking for cozy basics, look no further than LA Relaxed. This US-based ethical fashion brand stocks mocknecks, dark academia pants, and corduroy dresses.
Ethics and sustainability: The clothing is made in LA by workers who are paid a living wage. They produce in limited runs and use natural fibers like organic cotton, as well as Bluesign certified dyes.
Size range: XS-6XL, plus custom sizing
This affordable Etsy store is mainly dedicated to classic silhouettes in cotton and linen, but you’ll also find some dark academia pieces, like their styles made from corduroy or their winter/autumn collection.
Ethics and sustainability: All clothing is made-to-order from a cotton/linen blend. The clothing appears to be sewn by the designer in China, or is made in their studio. This option has the least information about ethics/sustainability, but it’s the most affordable and one of the more size-inclusive, so I’ve decided to list it.
Size range: XS-XXL
Armedangels is a German company making edgy styles from natural fabrics. You’ll not only find basics at a more affordable price, but also more abstract and uniquely-patterned pieces.
They have great options for dark academia knitwear, including sweater vests, mocknecks, and chunky cardigans.
Ethics and sustainability: Armedangels uses natural fabrics like organic cotton, ECOVERO, TENCEL, and recycled wool. They pay their workers a living wage and they take back their old clothing to be recycled into new clothing.
Sustainable Dark Academia Shoes
13. Used Dr. Martens
Doc Martens are not a sustainable shoe, but they’re such a classic and they fit perfectly into dark academia style.
Since they’re so prolific, you can also find them easily on secondhand platforms. I got my chelsea boots from Poshmark and my oxfords from Mercari (and they were 50-70% off the full retail price!).
NAE is a Portuguese brand whose name stands for “no animal exploitation.” All of NAE’s shoes are vegan and made locally. You’ll find a wide range of footwear, from lace-up boots to sandals.
Nisolo makes long-lasting, classic leather shoes. While I don’t personally buy virgin leather, I’m including Nisolo in case you’re looking for leather boots (or want a brand to look for on secondhand apps).
Nisolo is one of the most transparent brands I know. They ensure a living wage at their Tier 1 suppliers and publish their lowest wages. 95% of their leather is Leather Working Group certified for responsible practices. Nisolo also offsets 100% of their carbon footprint.
16. Zou Xou
Zou Xou is Black-owned leather shoe brand that is best-known for its artisan-crafted flats and loafers. The majority of the leather used is Leather Working Group certified or vegetable tanned.
Sustainable Dark Academia Jewelry
This Etsy store has quirky handmade earrings to dress up your dark academia outfit. These snake earrings would add just the right amount of edginess and intrigue.
KOZAKH offers delicate, modern jewelry that is made-to-order in the USA by an in-house team paid a living wage. The pieces are always made with natural materials and they use recycled materials when possible. There is a lifetime guarantee for KOZAKH brand pieces.
Clazyshop has made-to-order vintage frame earrings that are handcrafted by the owner in Texas.
ClaireHillDesigns is a UK-based Etsy shop that offers recycled silver coin necklaces.
Let us know in the comments if there are any other ethical dark academia brands you’d add to this list! For more brand suggestions, check out my sustainable brand directory or my guide to ethical cottagecore brands.