Exploring Dark Femininity: Origins and Evolution of a Mysterious Aesthetic

Published in
7 min readJul 31, 2023

Dark femininity is a captivating aesthetic in digital art, fashion and makeup. I think its main appeal is that it evokes that feminine sense of seductiveness and mystery, yet also power and control. It’s not a new aesthetic by any means, but perhaps the tensions in society regarding gender roles are just making the right setup for the dark feminine energy to get trendy once again.

Blending elements of both strength and vulnerability, in fashion this aesthetic is characterized by an appreciation for various dark shades and black especially. But that dark hue must be done in luxe textures and fleecy fabrics that create an alluring yet tasteful energy.

Dark Femininity: An Exploration Into Power & Mystery

From stage performances of classic musicals to the silver screen of today’s biggest blockbusters, the concept of dark femininity has been captivating audiences for decades. This aesthetic is one that evokes an aura of mysterious beauty, alluring seduction, and undeniable power. From icons like Marilyn Monroe to cultural influencers like Rihanna, dark femininity has been a style that many women use to further express themselves and their art.

Photo by Akshay Pawar, IG @akshaypawar.95

But, what is dark femininity and where does it come from?

The term itself suggests a spectrum of heavy contrast between light and dark, which can mean different things to different people. But the core of this aesthetic is a sense of empowered femininity that combines a sophisticated sense of power and mystery.

A woman who is attractive for being herself, not necessarily for adjusting perfectly to the current societal idea of what’s attractive.

I was thinking of an artist or a celebrity that embodies the dark feminine aesthetic and maybe 90s rock stars will be lost here, but I thought of PJ Harvey.

She has always been so unapologetically herself.

Aesthetically, dark feminine often includes a mix of different black fabrics, mysterious textures, and accessories that create that distinct allure. But there is more the dark feminine vibe than what meets the eye.

So, staying with PJ Harvey, her stage outfits go to show that the dark feminine vibe can be done even in a white bodysuit. Just look at this — light feminine and dark feminine next to each other, each dressed in white:

Understanding the Roots of Seduction and Mystery

At the same time, let’s not deny the facts. Psychology and culture can play a role in the appreciation of dark femininity. In a world where women are taught to present themselves in a certain way, dark femininity allows them to serenade in their individual expression in a way that garners relatively few repercussions socially.

Rather than assuming a more passive and delicate role, dark femininity allows women the chance to explore a range of emotions and emerge with renewed strength. The seductive power and the mysterious energy it creates can become a tool for self-expression and freedom.

By reclaiming darker tones and fabrics, women can step away from the pressure of conforming to established ideals of beauty.


The roots of the current dark feminine look is usually traced back to the beginnings of the modern gothic movement. The concept of femme fatale did exist before, take for instance the famous spy Mata Hari. But as far as looks and clothing choices go, there was not much expression in that area until late 20th century when women got a few more rights and liberties in their daily lives.

First gaining popularity in the 1980s and 1990s, goth culture was initially seen as an anti-establishment rebellion against conservative attitudes. Much like punk, gothic was about embracing alternative, subcultural ideals which often blurred the boundaries between beauty and darkness.

Fast forward to today and the influence of the goth aesthetic is still evident in the fashion and beauty sphere. Morticia Addams’ iconic style is just one example of early dark femininity — she embodied power, seduction, and mystery all at the same time.


Dark femininity has seen an undeniable resurgence in contemporary culture. In the past five years, this aesthetic has been presented in a more subtle and less extreme manner. And while the signature shades of black, leather, and lace remain a mainstay, there has been a rise in soft pastels, smoky grays, and lush textures. This is perhaps due to a renewed appreciation for female autonomy as well as a deeper understanding of the nuances of feminine identity.

From the runways of Paris to the streetwear scene in New York, designers have drawn inspiration from this trend to create darker interpretations of elegance. These garments provide a sense of freedom and autonomy to viewers, who recognize the subtle battle between beauty and darkness within dark femininity.

The Power of Makeup & Hair

Leveraging makeup and hair is an absolutely necessary way to further enhance the mystery behind this aesthetic. No amount of skill in the dress department will save the vibe if your hair is a dodgy-looking messy bun.

If you’re like many people, it might be a relief that the dark feminine aesthetic is not usually something you will wear every day. Think about it — it’s a full glam by 9 in the morning, and that includes keeping your nails and hair always in perfect style.

It’s a different story when it’s about a night out: That’s a go big or go home. With the use of darker shades for emphasis, a touch of vampishness can be added to a look that has just the right amount of allure. Glam smokey eyes, black lipstick, and sleek buns have all become must-have additions for those aiming to embody dark femininity.

Photo by IG @melony.lemon

The Seductiveness of Mystery

There’s no doubt that dark femininity evokes a nature of seductiveness and mystery. Its ability to walk the line between control and vulnerability is what makes it so attractive. This energy can create a powerful presence that hints at a certain type of strength that needs to be taken seriously.

Additionally, dark femininity has the power to reveal different sides of women’s identities. It can speak to complexity, depth, and the ability to embrace a range of emotions. When it comes to modern cultural understanding of female identity, the exploration of darker tones provides an opportunity for growth and exploration.

Camila dress from Fatale Vestiaire

To wrap it up

Dark femininity is more than a fashion trend — its an attitude that takes away the gender stereotypes of what it means to be a woman. By exploring the various shades of black, textures, and fabrics that reflect the complexities of the female experience, dark femininity makes a powerful statement about the strength and autonomy of modern womanhood.

When examining dark femininity, it helps to look into the evolution and influence of makeup, hair, and accessories. Each of these aspects has a unique way and have been used to further express this aesthetic.

For instance, the use of dark eyeliner and smoky eye shadow has been around for quite a long time, spanning aesthetic movements from punk to minimalism. But only when you throw it together with the heavily styled Hollywood bombshell hair, and dainty jewelry details that reflect the light, it all come together to create that dark femme look that is timeless and powerful.

Finally, one cannot discuss dark femininity without delving into the psychology behind it. It is important to examine the history of seduction and mystery and how it affects not only the fashion landscape, but society and culture as a whole. As a rising trend, dark femininity has been continuing to grow and there is no denying that it has been embraced globally to the admiration of many.

PJ Harvey on the cover shot for album Stories from the city, stories from the sea

It seems that this aesthetic has gained significant traction in the modern cultural landscape due to its ability to represent both the struggles and successes of the female experience.

Ultimately, dark femininity is a reminder that no matter what decade or era we are in, women of any background or ethnicity can use fashion, beauty, and accessories to showcase their power, mystery, and femininity. It is a timeless concept and one that many have and will continue to use to express themselves.