A Selection of Questions and Answers

27 March 2017

Hello Snarklings! Please accept the Lady of the Manners’ heartfelt apologies for the lack of posts the past few months; while she’s been relatively active over on Tumblr and Instagram, the ongoing chaos of daily life has meant there’s been precious little time for sitting down and answering letters. But! Gothic Charm School has returned, and will (one hopes) settle back into a routine of regular posts. However, enough with the explanations and apologies, it’s time for letters!

Hello Lady of the Manners ! I’ve had your book for awhile and I love everything about it, but I’ve been puzzled lately on whether or not I have “the right” to call myself Goth (I know, I know, you went over this in Charm School and I shouldn’t worry about it, but my annoying anxiety tells me otherwise! ). I’m into a lot of the spooky things you’ve mentioned before and I’m obsessed with Halloween, but I’m not super crazy about the Goth music (Bauhaus, Siouxsie, Joy, etc.). I feel like this makes me wayyyyy less of a Goth. I’m also not too fond of wearing those cute little top hats or Victorian-style anything. The icing on the cake is, well, I don’t have a nice pale complexion—I look like your average “Pale Heart”.
Should I still consider myself Goth?
Thanks in advance from one of your fans!

Darling, darling creature, of course you have “the right” to call yourself Goth! As the Lady of the Manners has said before, there is no Goth Points Checklist. There is no Eldergoth Cabal checking people’s credentials, and you do not have to collect stamps on a Goth Card.

This is not a Goth Card

You do have to have some interest in things that are spooky, or darker than a large part of mainstream culture. But the list of things that fall under the shadow of the Goth umbrella is huge and varied. Some Goths only like the music, and care not one whit for the literature, movies, art, or fashion. Other Goths clutch their collections of classic gothic literature to their chests, but would be hard-pressed to name more than three or four bands. And other Goths are devoted to the aesthetic, but are mostly ambivalent about the music or other pop-culture manifestations. Yes, some Goths are wildly enthusiastic about all of those things, but even they pick and choose amongst them. For example, as the Lady of the Manners has said before, she’d really rather not listen to Joy Division. And while she’s a fan of gothic tropes in literature, she’s in no rush to read anything by the Brontes again.

The important thing is that you have at least a passing awareness of the roots of the modern Goth subculture. Be aware that Goth (as we know it today) sprang forth from the punk and post-punk movements, and recognize the huge part that the bands of that era played in forming our community.

As for not being fond of tiny top hats or Victorian fashions: those aren’t the be-all and end-all of Goth fashion! Even the Lady of the Manners, who is very fond of tiny top hats and Victorian -styled looks, doesn’t expect everyone else to wear those things. Goth styles cover a dizzying array of looks, from plain black t-shirts and leggings, to retro gothabilly/pin-up, to flowing sleeves and skirts, to layers and layers of the Dark Mori look, to the elaborately teased hair and shredded fishnets of deathrock. And those are only the styles that first sprang to mind. Wear what you want to wear, wear what makes you feel most like yourself, and don’t fret about if it’s Goth or not.

Finally, about not having a pale complexion: GOTH IS NOT ABOUT SKIN COLOR. Anyone who tries to tell you that you have to be pale to be a Goth is very, very wrong. Here, have some clicky-links!

Here is the previous Gothic Charm School post about Goths of Color

The Fuck Yeah Black Goths Tumblr.

Dining with Dana’s masterpost of POC in Goth, Punk, and Alternative Music

Goths of Color on Afropunk.

Hello, dearest Fairy Gothmother! I have a question for you that’s been
weighing heavily on my mind for quite some time now, but I’ve never had
the nerve to ask.

Some background: I’ve been dabbling in the goth/metalhead scenes for
many, many years now. I’m not quite an Elder Goth, but I’m not a Baby
Bat, either. It was always something I proudly displayed in high
school, but as I’ve gotten older, I’ve seen more and more of the people
around me turn to more “respectable” fashions – in other words, it seems
like everyone is growing out of it, and I start to feel like maybe I
should, too. This is particularly apparent in the professional world,
where I often feel out of place with my multiple piercings and spooky
clothes. These are things that I, personally, think are pretty cool,
but I’m constantly afraid that they’ll somehow lower my credibility.
It’s getting to the point where I experience extreme anxiety surrounding
this thought, especially when I work outside the home, because I just
have that terrible feeling that people will look at me as a child and
not take me seriously. I’m just generally… embarrassed of myself,
based entirely on what other people may or may not really think about
me. I’m always told that I just shouldn’t care about what anyone thinks
anyway – and maybe that’s true – but I suffer from both anxiety and
depression, so sometimes my brain goes a little out of control with the
possible scenarios and the self-loathing. It’s not always easy to
simply stop worrying.

So, my question is, how does one overcome their self-consciousness and
re-embrace their gothness? How can I go back to holding my head up high
and being happy with my “otherness”?

This is such a tricky question for the Lady of the Manners to address, because to be completely honest, she’s never had any self-consciousness about her gothy appearance. (There are other things that will trip her up or give her pause, but spooky style has never been one of them, thank the blessed bats above.)

The simplest answer to your question is another question: does publicly displaying your otherness through your wardrobe make you happy? Make you feel most like yourself? If it does, despite your particular brain raccoons of anxiety and depression chittering at you, then stick with it. Start thinking of your style as your armor, your way of shielding and warding yourself against a world that seems, at times, to be determined to drain away every bit of wonder and weirdness. Deliberately dressing yourself to show who you are and how you view the world can be a powerful act.

Of course it’s not easy to simply stop worrying about what people may or may not think of you, and anyone who blithely gives that advice has probably never had anxiety sink its claws into their brains, the lucky things. And the Lady of the Manners isn’t going to tell you that people won’t notice you, because they probably will. The trick, however, is teaching yourself that the opinions of random passers-by really don’t matter that much. They don’t! You’ll go on your own way, and they’ll go on theirs, and it doesn’t matter if they think you’re odd.

Now as to worrying that your style may have an impact on people’s perception of you in the workplace? That’s a trickier question. Is there someone you work with that you trust enough to ask about how you’re viewed? If there is, take them out for coffee and pick their brains. It may turn out that in your professional world, no one even bats an eye at your piercings and spooky clothes, and you will be able to tell your anxiety to go sit quietly in a corner.

If, however, you get feedback that maybe yes, you should tone things down a bit and it wouldn’t make you feel like you’re abandoning part of yourself to do so, then there’s no harm in opting for a more “corporate” version of CorpGoth. (Someone recently asked over on Tumblr about dressing like a “goth lawyer”.) While the Lady of the Manners has never had a problem (that she’s aware of) with her elaborate style at a job, she is also very aware that she works in the tech industry in a relatively liberal city on the West Coast, and her experience isn’t going to be everyone else’s. Sometimes you have to adopt a form of camouflage in order to earn a living, and save dressing as your true self when you’re not at work. There is NOTHING wrong with that, and anyone who views it as “selling out” probably hasn’t had to worry overmuch about paying the bills.

So! Think of your fashion as your shield! But be willing to be flexible about it if you have to. Which, at first glance, seems a bit contradictory, but really isn’t. It’s all about doing what you need to in order to feel secure and happy with yourself.

Also, if you aren’t talking to a counselor or therapist about your anxiety and depression, it’s something you should consider doing. Using your style as a shield may not be a lot of help if there are other issues going on in your life. Taking care of yourself is important, and that includes taking care of your emotional and mental well-being. Some links you might find useful:

National Alliance on Mental Illness

With that, Snarklings, the Lady of the Manners is going to go brew another cup of tea, and then get back to excavating her inbox. The comments are OPEN on this post, but, as usual, will be moderated.

Repeating Some Important and Helpful Information

24 January 2017

(Regular posting will resume here at Gothic Charm School in February. Things have been very chaotic and stressful lately, which has led to a lack of writing.)

The Lady of the Manners gets political: The world has become a much scarier place for a lot of us, and we need to pull together.

Take care of yourselves, and take care of each other.

Holiday Shopping Clicky-Links!

5 December 2016

It’s that time of year, Snarklings; the holidays are looming closer. But fear not, the Lady of the Manners has pulled together a helpful list of artisans and independent retailers for you to browse and buy from!

But first! The traditional seasonal link to the Gingerbread Bats Tutorial! The Lady of the Manners is hoping that she’ll be able to squeeze some time out of her ridiculously crowded schedule so she can bake some herself.

And now, on to the clicky-links!

Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab. The Lady of the Manners’ favorite perfume company, ever. EVER.

Kambriel. Luscious and luxurious garments. Not only is Kambriel an astonishingly talented designer, but she’s one of the kindest, sweetest people that the Lady of the Manners knows.

Sock Dreams. Socks may be ridiculed as a bad holiday gift idea, but trust the Lady of the Manners on this: socks (or stockings, or tights, or arm warmers) from Sock Dreams are a great gift idea.

Evil Supply Co. Paper goods for monsters and villains. Atticus Q. Redghost is a marvel and a darling.

Lunation Leathers. Gorgeous hand-crafted leatherwork, focusing mainly on intricate hair slides.

SIGIL by Anita Arora. Leather bags and jewelry.

Tormented Artifacts. Leather belts and belt pouches, masks, and bootwings!

Quintessential Arts. Jewelry of leaves, crow talons, and feathers, all hand-made from silver.

Arctic Phoenix Studios. Cast resin animal skulls. Including delightful glow-in-the-dark bird skulls!

Amber Rothrock. Collaged metal art and jewelry.

Open the Cellar Door. Jewelry incorporating bones, iron, and crystals.

Fiendies. Handcrafted occult goods, including spirit boards and planchettes.

The Attic Shoppe Trading Company. Beautifully designed tarot and Lenormand card decks, spirit boards, and entertaining fripperies.

The Creeping Museum. Enamel lapel pins designed by independent artists, with the proceeds supporting wonderful causes.

Maia Arts. Tote bags, coffee cups, art prints, and more, with the dreamlike art of Thea Maia.

Drew Rausch. Spooky art and comics!

MeganMissfit. Adorably creepy art and illustration.

Catalyst Studios. Fantastic fine art and monstrosities.

Jason Soles. Grimoires, macabre art, and cold-cast bronze skulls and bones.

Smoochies Bath and Body Products. Bath salts in deep, vivid colors. The maker of the Lady of the Manners’ favorite blood red bath salts!

Liberte du Monde Gourmet culinery salts and seasonings. Tasty salts, sugars, and herb blends to enhance just about everything you could eat or drink.

Maison Bouche. Delicious gourmet chocolate. The Lady of the Manners is especially fond of the rose with candied mint chocolate bars.

La Creeperie. Vintage books, focusing on horror, SF, fantasy, occult, pop culture, and gothic romance.

And, of course, there’s the option to donate to a favorite charity in someone’s name!

May all of you have wonderful, stress-free holidays. And may the coming year be kinder to all of us than 2016 was.

Of Babybats Striving to Become Themselves

11 November 2016

The Lady of the Manners gets political: The world has become a much scarier place for a lot of us, and we need to pull together.

After the previous Gothic Charm School post about Eldergoths, the Lady of the Manners decided she should give some attention to her younger readers, too.

Dear Lady of the Manners,

I recently discovered your site and I find it perfectly splendid, and extremely informative.
I’ve been interested in Gothic literature for ages, and the music for slightly less time, and want my fashion to reflect that. I plan to gradually build up to the look I want, as currently most of my wardrobe is pink (don’t ask). My parental units both disapprove of the Gothic subculture, although they only know it as ‘those depressed kids in black and too much eyeliner’. I know I should give them The Goth Talk, as the Lady of the Manners often suggests. Should I do it now, or wait until I’ve built up a more Gothic look/they ask start noticing a change?
Thank you for giving your time to yet another naive babybat,

Sincerely Yours,

That is a tricky decision! On the one hand, the Lady of the Manners thinks that talking to your parents sooner rather than later could be a good plan, as you’d be able to present it to them as “This is something that I’ve been interested in for a while, and I want to talk to you before I start really delving into it more”. You would be able to make them feel involved in your life and your interests, and parents love that.

You could talk to them about the literature that is dear to your spooky heart. You could introduce them to your newfound musical loves. You could talk to them about family-friendly examples of pop-culture gothic, such as the Addams Family, The Munsters, Beetlejuice, A Series of Unfortunate Events, and Monster High. (Yes, the Lady of the Manners considers the Monster High franchise to be a delightful, parent-and-kid-friendly introduction to people wanting to be different than the norm.) You could, of course, get your hands on a copy of the Gothic Charm School book and have them read the chapters about being the parent of a goth.

One thing you absolutely should do is find examples of the sort of inky-hued style that you want to work into your wardrobe, and have a kind of a wardrobe plan to show your parents as to how you’d interpret the style for your life. This is where the Lady of the Manners will (once again!) point at the Everyday Goth Fashion Pinterest she put together. (Hmmm, the Lady of the Manners needs to spend a few evenings adding more items to that, doesn’t she?) You also may want to wander over to Polyvore and put together some sample outfits to show them. Goth fashion imagery makes for wonderful photoshoots, but can be slightly overwhelming or alarming for parents to consider in connection with their children. Showing them some of the goth-friendly fashions that are available at mainstream stores they’re already familiar with may reassure them.

Sadly, you could possibly go to all of that effort and still have your parents be fearful, reactionary, and forbidding.

The Lady of the Manners hopes your parents wouldn’t react in that manner. She fervently hopes that they would be so impressed by your decision to talk openly with them about your interests that they’d be supportive, and that they’d be open to you changing your personal style to reflect those interests. But the Lady of the Manners isn’t going to fib to you: there’s the chance that no matter how many good examples you give, your parents may still be unconvinced.

Which is why, when it comes right down to it, she suspects that your best plan is to slowly change and evolve your style, and while you’re doing that, put together a presentation about What Goth Means to You and Here’s Why They Shouldn’t Worry, and fill it with all of the sorts of information the Lady of the Manners mentioned in the previous section. Let’s be clear: the Lady of the Manners isn’t really joking about making it a presentation. If you bring lots of clear examples and well-organized information to explain to your parents about why you’re drawn to the goth subculture, and the vast array of historical, cultural, literary, and artistic influences that the subculture draws on, they may not be as inclined to deny your interests.

If, after all of that, your parents are still of a mind to not allow you to express your interests, ask your own questions. Ask them why. Ask them what their concerns are, listen to what they have to say, and be prepared to explain to them (possibly over and over) that being a goth isn’t about being depressed or self-harm. If you aren’t able to change your parents’ minds, then you will need to decide how much rebellion you’re willing to do for your personal expression, and if you want to make your external devotion to goth something to fight for. There’s no shame in deciding that you want to save your stylistic changes until you don’t live with your parents; for some folks, keeping the family peace is more important than an inky-hued wardrobe and makeup, and after all, it’s not like goth fashion is going to vanish from existence.

Good luck!

Dear Lady of Manners,
I am extremely interested in the goth subculture. I take so much inspiration from you, toxic tears, and many other goths that I seen online. But, the thing is, I don’t know how to have a metamorphosis into that beautiful black butterfly. How do you suggest going about it for someone younger? Like 10-13. All the people and websites and places I’ve constantly stalked never say any thing about it. How do you “goth” when you’re so young. Can’t seem to puzzle that out.

A wanna-be baby bat,

Oh, you darling fledgling babybat! The Lady of the Manners is trying very hard not to just coo at you, because your question is a completely valid one. (The younger babybats cause the Lady of the Manners to flail and burble about “awww, they’re so DARLING!”*) But flailing and burbling does nothing to help you with your dilemma!

The first thing to realize is that there are whole sections of the goth subculture that aren’t going to be appropriate for you to explore yet, at least not without parental awareness and permission.

The Lady of the Manners, in her pre-teen days, certainly read books and watched movies that were not Kid Appropriate. However her parents were (mostly) aware of what media she was consuming. Does this mean she’s saying “If your parents say NO, don’t explore things”? Not really. But she is saying be very, VERY aware of what sort of risks with parental ire and repercussions you may be courting, and you don’t get to point at Gothic Charm School and say “But Auntie Jilli said it was okay!”, because the Lady of the Manners is very deliberately Not A Parent.

Anyway, there are large sections of goth art, literature, movies, music, and fashion that are not appropriate for younger folks. Things that are deliberately provocative, disturbing, and disruptive. There’s nothing wrong with that! The Lady of the Manners wholeheartedly supports all sorts of art being able to explore disturbing, disruptive, and provocative things, because depiction does not equal endorsement. However, the Lady of the Manners also supports the idea of “You must be of X age or have the permission of a guardian” limits for certain media, because there are some things that younger folks shouldn’t be dealing with until they’re ready.

So with those disclaimers out of the way, what are some good ways to “do goth” when you’re a pre-teen?

There is, as the Lady of the Manners listed in her answer to the previous letter, loads of family-friendly goth media: movies, tv shows, cartoons, and books! The Addams Family. The Munsters. Beetlejuice. The Nightmare Before Christmas. Coraline. The Graveyard Book. Monster High. Ruby Gloom. A Series of Unfortunate Events. The works of Edgar Allan Poe.

With regard to music, it’s hard to make a recommendation without knowing what sort of music appeals to you! The “Goth” label can be applied to so many different genres! Perhaps start with some of the “classics” (Bauhaus, Siouxsie and the Banshees, The Cure, Dead Can Dance), then see what other bands are recommended to you. (The Lady of the Manners is pretty sure that YouTube, Spotify, 8Tracks, and other similar services all have “If you like this, you might like this other artist!” sorts of algorithms.)

As for your metamorphosis into that beautiful black butterfly: remember that you don’t have to transform yourself into a full-fledged spooky aristocrat all at once! No one, and the Lady of the Manners means NO ONE, springs forth as a spookily flawless creature of darkness. Plus, as was mentioned in the previous section, a lot of goth fashion makes for wonderful photoshoots, but is not practical for everyday life or appropriate for younger goths.

A quick look at the Terms of Service for most social media sites shows the age restriction to be 13, which means you won’t be able to use Tumblr, Pinterest, Polyvore, or other sites that make it easier to pull together fashion inspiration. That doesn’t mean that you won’t be able to have a spooky wardrobe — it just means you’ll have to browse stores and store websites to figure out what IS available in your age range and size. Thanks to hanging out with her young goddaughters (ages 11 and 7), the Lady of the Manners knows there’s a wealth of goth-friendly clothes out there: you can find almost any garment with some sort of sparkly skull on it, or in washable stretch velvet (skirts, dresses, leggings, tops) in black or dark jewel tones, or in black and white (or black and pink!) stripes. All of those things will help you put together a wardrobe that shows your allegiance to the spooky side of life while still being age-appropriate.

*The Lady of the Manners feels compelled to admit here that she’s hit the point of flailing and cooing at any gothy type she spots who looks like they may be under the age of 25, and refuses to feel bad about it. YOU ARE ALL PRECIOUS AND ADORABLE, AND THE LADY OF THE MANNERS IS THRILLED TO BE YOUR WACKY AUNTIE.

And now, the Lady of the Manners is going to turn these questions over to the reading audience. Do any of you have helpful suggestions for Maeve or Kittrana? Or other causes that are doing good work? Please post a comment! (Which are, of course, moderated.)

Eldergoths vs. Apathy

19 September 2016

It’s time, Snarklings, for the Lady of the Manners to write (again) about a subject that is very dear to her. A particularly heartfelt letter from a fellow Eldergoth landed in the Gothic Charm School mailbox, which sent the Lady of the Manners down into the depths of some murky nostalgia.

First, let’s get some terminology defined! Which is something the Lady of the Manners has been meaning to do for ages, but was finally prompted to do over on the Gothic Charm School Tumblr:

  • Babybat = goths under whatever the legal drinking/club-going age is. For example, 21 in the US.
  • Fledgling = people new to the goth subculture, regardless of age. In the Lady of the Manners’ opinion, this term applies for a couple of years.
  • Eldergoth = people who have been an active participant in the goth subculture for at least 20 years, and are probably at least in their very late 30s/.

Are these terms and definitions universally accepted by goths around the globe? Probably not. But there are a lot of goths out there who do agree with them. And now you won’t be confused when those terms are offhandedly used here at Gothic Charm School!

Eldergoths. A topic that has come up a few times:

Too Old to be Goth, Revisited
Returning to One’s Gothy Roots
Of Goths and Aging Gracefully
More Advice for Aging Goths
Returning to the Spooky Life (Back to the Crypt)

So what prompted the Lady of the Manners to return to this topic? Two things, one of which was this poignant letter:

It freaks me out when all traces of goth get wiped off the world, from Gothic Beauty no longer printing on paper (nor replying re: paid subscriptions), to all the old ‘goth nights’ not happening seemingly, to all the old wensites and events just not there anymore. I don’t live near anyone who wants to come over and dance around to the old stuff–nor do I even want to do that now on my own–and the social isolation and loss of the shreds of the scene is really hard on me, as in Badbadbad. I know perky advice about staying social, seeing a therapist, whatever, and illness prevents me from a lot of stuff, and I know that you have had other really brave-seeming (mostly young) folks with more severe health impairments than I have writing to you, and yet–I simply got old and have some serious-ish health stuff, and it freaks me out to have outlived the scene. Yes, I looked through the list of your active sites, and eh–there’s not enough there to be a lifestyle anymore in my view, just some folks selling things to those who used to be in the lifestyle maybe.

I guess there isn’t much to say really, and I’d rather you don’t print this with any identifying name or anything, but honestly, what the hell do you do when it’s yet another thing gone from life? The obvious thing is ‘replace it with something as good or better’, but here in the Orange-Mulch Apocalypse of what is left of society, there is nothing good or real or fun to me. I know others suffer too, so maybe there are good ideas somewhere.

Ideas please–

Thanks and best wishes

The Lady of the Manners isn’t going to lie to you: sometimes it’s hard to find things that are “good or real or fun” and keep them close. The world is full of chaos and entropy, and finding things that resonate to the same chords as your soul sometimes feels impossible. Not merely impossible, but also history-negating: did you ever feel that zing of dark magic and enthrallment about anything, ever? Are you just deluding yourself?

Here, from the bottom of my enormous black purse, I offer you this: hope. Because you haven’t outlived the scene, and there are still good things out there; but you have to do a bit of searching.

Start small, start simply: pick whatever image-heavy social media site you can cope with (Tumblr, Instagram, Pinterest), and search on one thing that used to make your heart beat a little faster with joy — A favorite band, a beloved movie, an admired artist, a favored fashion style. See what images and links turn up from that search, and see if they still have the power to bring you stirrings of what you once felt. From there, start link hopping. See what posts are related to your original search, and see what other ideas and images turn up.

The Lady of the Manners will be honest: this is why she sticks with Tumblr. Yes, the site has its problems, and there are unkind and rude people there, just like everywhere. But Tumblr has also led her to discover so many different artists, writers, and musicians that she never would have known about! Plus, if you curate your Tumblr (or Instagram, or Pinterest) experience carefully, you can create a steady feed of things that inspire you and make you happy.

Another reason setting up some sort of presence on one of the image-heavy social media sites is a good idea: you find more of your tribe, and have a way of interacting with them that doesn’t rely on feeling well enough to go out somewhere. The Lady of the Manners absolutely sympathizes with your health issues; there are days when it feels like a major victory to be upright(ish) and in front of the computer. And on those days, living vicariously through other other folks online — enjoying their makeup, outfits, or playlists — is a vital lifeline.

(An aside: yes, there’s Twitter and FB. But for whatever reason, the Lady of the Manners just hasn’t found as much of a community on either of those social networks as she has on others. She suspects it’s a signal to noise issue, which is why she prefers the social networks where she can curate her feed and experience.)

However, the second thing that prompted the Lady of the Manners to write this post is tangentially related to FB. You see, there’s an Eldergoth group that’s recently started up, as a “support group” for the new Eldergoth Central blog. The blog promises to be an entertaining read (full disclosure: the woman behind it is a long-time friend of the Lady of the Manners), and the FB group is already turning out to be an interesting place for “goths of a certain age” to collect and talk about things.

Also on FB is Mick Mercer’s radio show! Mick is someone who was around at the beginning of modern goth music, and is the author of such classic goth reference tomes such as Gothic Rock: Black Book, Hex Files: The Goth Bible, and 21st Century Goth. He knows his music, and posts a weekly show of 3 hours of music covering goth, glam, punk, and industrial. The FB page also hosts discussions for each show, making it easier to find other Eldergoths who share your tastes. If you’d rather not bother with FB, he also uploads the show to his Mixcloud page.

But to get back to the first reason the Lady of the Manners came back to this topic, the heartfelt letter: Sometimes all one can really do for a night (week? Month? Season? Pick your timeframe) is wallow in nostalgia. Play all the music that drew you to the subculture. Dress up in your finery and take some photos of yourself. Indulge in favorite movies, reread beloved books, and slowly page through your collection of goth magazines. (The Lady of the Manners may be projecting just a tiny bit with that last suggestion.) Because sometimes, all that will get you through the abyss of apathy is reminding yourself of what was important to you in the past. Who knows, it may strike a tiny spark that you can nurture into a glorious bonfire.

This is where the Lady of the Manners turns to the Gothic Charm School readers: do you have any kind words or helpful suggestions for this poor creature who is lost in the cheerless dark? Leave a comment.

Of “Goth” Music

13 July 2016

This time around at Gothic Charm School, a Snarkling has a question about one of the foundations of the Goth subculture. Can one call themselves a Goth if they’re not a fan of the bands that helped form the subculture?

Dear Lady of the Manners,

I believe I tried to email you before, and if I did, please ignore my previous inquiry because part of it has been resolved. The other part has not, and though I have asked about it many times on the internet, I have not yet gotten a straight response. Because I appreciate your opinions on many of the things you have covered (I plan to buy your book), I would like to hear your opinion on this.

I consider myself darkly inclined. I like to wear flowing black clothes, I am going to celebrate my birthday at the Jekyll and Hyde Club, and a conversation will immediately capture my attention if the word “spooky” is mentioned (even if I’m wearing earbuds!). I have been drawn to the gothic community because it seems to be made of like-minded people. The thing that seems to bring all these people together is the music. I have no taste for bands traditionally considered “Goth”: Siouxie and the Banshees, The Cure, Bauhaus, Joy Division, etc. I do not particularly like the music style and I have always generally preferred instrumental and orchestral music over songs with lyrics. I love Nox Arcana, and similar music by fantasy artists that produce some spooky pieces (“Ceremonial Spell” by Adrian von Ziegler is a favorite of mine). I would prefer waltzing in a great ballroom lit by iron candelabra and moonlight than dancing in a Goth club.

I understand the opinions of people who agree that I cannot consider myself part of a music-based subculture if I dislike said music, but it is frustrating to be unable to connect with otherwise similar people because of this one small but very important element of the subculture. There are so few “requirements” for being Goth, no Goth Cabal that awards Goth Points as you say, and yet this seems to be the one great unifier. I feel almost alienated because, as usual, my music taste– though still dark and not mainstream– is different from everyone else’s, even in a community like this one. I suppose I am asking if I and my music taste qualify as being “Goth”. It seems like a silly question, because I do not seek to put a label on myself. I want to know if I can consider myself part of this community, despite my lack of taste for traditionally “Goth” music.

Thank you for bothering to listen to the whiny rantings of a babybat and I would be grateful for an answer.

Nyx Shadowhawk

First things first — you absolutely “qualify” as a Goth. Your description of your tastes and your interests mark you as one of our spooky tribe. Please don’t fret over whether or not you’re a Goth, because you are.

With that said, the Lady of the Manners understands why you’d question your spooky status, because there are people who (very loudly) proclaim that you Must Like These Particular Bands In Order To Be Considered Goth. The Lady of the Manners even understands why those people have that opinion. She also thinks those people are wrong.

Goth music, just like the Goth subculture, is a vast, sprawling thing with many offshoots. Yes, what most of us consider to be “Goth” grew out of the postpunk music scene, but that was close to 40 years ago. And even then, the music wasn’t the only thing that the scene drew on. Art, literature, poetry, movies, fashion–all of these things shaped the newborn shadows that would grow into what we know as Goth today.

There is no rulebook or checklist that says you MUST enjoy certain bands to consider yourself a Goth. Really, there isn’t. Is it nice if you know who the bands are that helped nurture the gloom we gleefully pull around ourselves? Of course! But knowing about them is different than enjoying them, and personal taste is, well, personal.

(As the Lady of the Manners has stated before, even she doesn’t enjoy all of the “classic” Goth bands. She respects Joy Division for the influence they had, but would rather not listen to them.)

“Goth music” is a staggeringly huge genre with countless branches, and what one person calls “Goth”, another person will call “industrial”, or “postpunk”, or “dark ambient”, or “shoegaze”, or “dark symphonic”, or “dark folk”, or a million other, increasingly nuanced and tiny, labels. In fact, in the Lady of the Manners experience, the only musical thing that every Goth can agree on is that bands such as Joy Division, Bauhaus, The Cure, Siouxsie and the Banshees, etc. were the ones who were around at the beginning. After that, everyone’s definition of Goth music is intensely personal, which is as it should be.

The music that you described that moves you, the fascination with dark waltzes and spooky orchestral pieces? Those are Goth. Those are incredibly Goth. If someone were to try and tell the Lady of the Manners that Nox Arcana weren’t Goth, she’d raise an eyebrow in polite scepticism.

Finally, the Lady of the Manners wants to remind you (and all the other Snarklings who are reading this) of something very important: you don’t have to like all the Goth things to be a Goth. The Lady of the Manners has had to reassure so many people of this lately! You don’t have to like Goth music, you don’t have to like horror movies, you don’t have to dress head-to-toe in spooky finery, you don’t have to dye your hair or have tattoos, you don’t have to wear makeup, you don’t have to go to goth clubs … THERE IS NO CHECKLIST. If you’re calling yourself a Goth, that means there’s something about the dark and lush subculture that calls to you. It could be that you have an appreciation for Goth fashions. Or perhaps you love Gothic literature and suspenseful movies about things that lurk in the shadowy darkness. Or that one of the eleventy squillion “Goth” musical genres has caught your ears and heart. Or that you find beauty and comfort walking through cemeteries and overgrown forests. Do you see what the Lady of the Manners is getting at? When someone starts talking to you about classic Goth bands, tell them about the darkly romantic musical artists that make your heart swell. Ask them what other subgenres of music they like. Ask them what else draws them to the Goth world. Be secure in yourself and your interests, and don’t fret so much about what other people may think.

(As an aside, the Lady of the Manners would be thrilled to bits if you commented and gave her some musical artist suggestions, because she too is very fond of dark instrumental and orchestral pieces! Do you perchance have an 8tracks collection the Lady of the Manners could peruse?)

For that matter, do the rest of you have musical suggestions of a dark instrumental/orchestral/or ethereal nature? Leave a comment! The Lady of the Manners is always on the hunt for new music. Let her start with a recommendation for all of you: celadon, who composed the Gothic Charm School theme!

(Lack of) Vision Thing

10 June 2016

The Lady of the Manners is going to say, right up front, that she very much wants there to be reader comments on this particular post. Because, to be perfectly honest, she’s not sure how much useful advice she has to give to this Snarkling! The following question is one that has never fluttered into the Gothic Charm School mailbox before, and is a situation the Lady of the Manners has no experience with.

Greetings Mistress,
My name is Sarah, and I have, for many years, been struggling with a rather unique problem regarding my gothiness, and I’ve come to the exhausting conclusion that I can’t solve it on my own. I hoped you’d be able to offer me some guidance because I fear I have nowhere else to turn. The crux of my dilemma, mistress, is that I am blind. I have been so since birth, and although that has not prevented me from living and experiencing life to its fullest, it certainly presents a plethora of challenges.

For starters, I don’t dare apply my own makeup. I couldn’t, even if I wanted to. I’d end up looking like I engaged in finger painting on my face. And I admit, I am a fiercely prideful person. I won’t ask someone else to do my makeup for me. If I can’t do something for myself at my own convenience, I’d rather not do it at all. Not that I’d consider asking my friends to assist me in attempting goth makeup. They’re all, to some extreme, redneck. They’d be as lost as I would be.

Another issue is clothing. I’m a starving college student with bills, rent, and a guide dog to feed. I can’t afford a whole new wardrobe. Luckily, a majority of the clothes I do own are black or in the darker color schemes. Black is quite frankly the only thing I’ve seen, so don’t bother trying to explain to me what periwinkle is; I won’t comprehend it. But how do goths dress? None of my friends or family are goth, I can’t stalk around my college campus and scan one out of the crowd, I can’t search the web for pictures or Youtube for instructional videos to help me muddle through it all. It’s embarrassing to say, but I need a personal demonstrator to take me by the hand and escort me into Hot Topic to tell me this is this and that is that. I find myself asking, is it even worth it? Are there any seasoned blind bats out there who can give suggestions, or does are blindness completely exclude us? Is it enough to say that we are goth on the inside, even if we have no one to teach us how to display it on the outside for the visual community to see? It’s a stupid irony, when you stop and think about it. The people in the world who actually understand the true meaning of perpetual darkness are isolated from dabbling in a culture that revolves around it.

The Lady of the Manners immediate, knee-jerk response is that you don’t need to display your gothness on the outside for the visual community to see. Goth is so much more than the fashion and makeup, and someone doesn’t (shouldn’t!) need to be visually identified by those things.

With that said, the Lady of the Manners also understands why you’d be interested in having things that signal your involvement with the subculture. How to go about doing that? The Lady of the Manners has a few well-intentioned, possibly of no help at all ideas, with the emphasis on WELL-INTENTIONED.

  • Makeup. It isn’t a requirement to be a goth! But if you want to explore makeup, contact the cosmetics section of your local department store and explain your situation. Ask questions of makeup artists at the store until you find one who will do a simple makeup application on you while explaining everything they’re doing. A light dusting of powder over your face, a sweep of a darker color across your eyelid, and a dark lip stain or glittery gloss could be something you could do with practice, perhaps?

    The Lady of the Manners asked one of her makeup artist friends, and they had these suggestions: “Using makeup which can be applied using fingers, like cream shadows, can be super handy for anyone who is doing makeup without seeing what they are doing. For lipstick- practice getting used to where your lipline is with clear lipgloss or lip balm. With time, you learn the feel and motion and then applying color without seeing what you’re doing is much easier.”

    Elsewhere on the Internet, popsugar.com has an article about tips from an aesthetician who teaches makeup application to the visually impaired. Vlogger Christine Ha is visually impaired, and has a video about makeup application. There’s also Breaking Blind, who does a lot of videos for the seeing community that help answer questions of “How does a blind person …?”, and she has a couple of makeup videos, including trying on makeup from an Ipsy subscription.

  • Clothing. Perhaps you could (again) go to a local department store with a friend, and have them tell you the names for different textures of fabric? Then you could decide if you want to expand your wardrobe to encompass goth standbys such as lush stretch velvet, airy lace, or slippery silks. Are you able to shop online at all, using a text-to-speech interface? If so, knowing what textures of material you prefer would give you more options when searching for things.

    Of course, there’s the other goth standby: band t-shirts. Pick a few of your favorite spooky bands and search for t-shirts! A quick search around Amazon turned up shirts for The Cure, Siouxsie, Bauhaus, Joy Division, The Damned, and Depeche Mode. For that matter, do you have a favorite spooky animal, such at bats or spiders? Search for t-shirts featuring those! The same goes for favorite authors, quotes, and so on.

    Another possible option are fashion subscription places, where you answer a questionaire about your fashion preferences, and a stylist selects things for you and mails them out. One of the Lady of the Manners’ friends has been using Stitch Fix, and has been pleased with what they send her, saying that they get it when she says “edgy goth” and other descriptive phrases. While these sorts of services can be pricy, there are options for price point settings and frequency of delivery.

    Can you, and do you want to, dye your hair? Mainstream drugstores now carry “unnatural” color hair dyes, so you could grab a box of blue or purple or stop-sign red, then ask a friend to help you apply the color and rinse afterward.

    Pins and badges are another simple way you could add a goth touch to your wardrobe. Places like Etsy have shops that sell buttons for bands, cartoons, movies, books, quotes … just about anything, really. You could have a friend help you put specific shapes of tape on the back of them for identification purposes, so you could identify them when you want to change them around.

    For that matter, think about accessories! You could expand your style with velvet and lace arm warmers, black and white striped socks or tights, studded bracelets, necklaces with gothy talismans such as spiders, bats, skulls, or ankhs, or charm bracelets that include those things and make a nice jingling noise!

  • Scent! There’s a host of independent perfume companies out there that cater to those with darker sensibilities. The Lady of the Manners’ very favorite is Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab, and they have a dizzying array of fragrances for every possible mood.
  • Finding other goths and like-minded weirdos: are there any meetups or social groups at your school that would be goth-friendly? You might be able to find people there who share your interests, would be able to help you decide if you want to show more of your goth nature, and help you do so.

Now, should you bother with doing this? Should you go to the effort of having visual signifiers when you yourself won’t be able to see them? The Lady of the Manners can only shrug and say “Maybe?” The visual presentation of goth is time and labor -intensive for people who aren’t visually impaired, and it would be even more so for those who are. You’re a college student, which means your time is already at a premium. How important is it to you to sport gothy plumage? Will it bring shadowy joy to your life, will it make you happy? If the answer to that is “Yes”, then you absolutely should. But if it will add more stress to your life, then skip it.

If you’re worried that you’re not “goth enough” if you don’t adorn yourself in black velvet and smoky eyeliner, let the Lady of the Manners reassure you: you are. Goth enfolds more senses than just sight. Music! Literature! Thunderstorms! The smell of incense and the feel of velvet! Enjoying the funhouse shiver up your spine as you indulge in something that unsettles you to a delightful degree!

Goth is not about who has the sharpest eyeliner or the most elaborate outfit, no matter what an appearance-obsessed society (or subculture!) seems to say. Anyone who tells you that you must “look goth” to be a goth doesn’t know the subculture very well, and can be ignored. Or they’re being an elitist gatekeeper, and can also be very pointedly ignored.

And now, the Lady of the Manners is going to turn to the Gothic Charm School readers! Are there any other blind bats out there, who can offer Sarah words of support and advice? Do any of you have suggestions for things she can do if she wants to have external representation of her spooky mindset? Comments are open! (And moderated, of course.)

Having a gothy-related problem? Curious about something spooky? Ask the Lady of the Manners! This link should help you reach the Gothic Charm School inbox!

Of Finding Goth Fashion at Mainstream Stores!

6 May 2016

The Lady of the Manners has been so pleased with the response to the Gothic Charm School masterpost of clicky-links, Snarklings! The Lady of the Manners is even more pleased with the additional suggestions people have been making in the comments, so keep doing that!

Of course, making a massive post of goth clothing shopping links had another effect that the Lady of the Manners should have expected: a wave of emails asking for help finding day-to-day goth fashion and places to look when budget or circumstances puts shopping at specialty goth vendors out of reach. Is it possible to assemble a spooky wardrobe without shopping at dark specialty shops?

Of course it is. There is no goth rule stating you have to buy your fashion exclusively from oh-so-goth stores and merchants. In fact, to indulge in the tiniest bit of cliched Eldergoth cane-waving: back when the Lady of the Manners was a spooky teen (and in her 20s!), finding gothically-inclined stores and merchants was rather difficult! It involved looking through the few spooky magazines you could find, squinting at address information printed in elaborately–but not always legibly!–designed advertisements, mailing off your self-addressed stamped envelopes, and hoping, hoping that you’d get a catalog back.

Also, Back In The Day , black garments were not as easy to find. Not every mainstream store offered separates in black; you really were stuck with whatever the “seasonal” colors were, and finding a good black skirt or shirt was something to rejoice over.

But nowadays! Black clothing is considered to be a standard, and every mass-market retailer offers at least a handful of inky-hued things. Add that to the fact that mainstream fashion gleefully mines the gothic subculture for style inspiration at least once a year, and you’ve never had a better time for being able to pull a basic goth wardrobe together.

Behold! The Everyday Goth Fashion Pinterest! Yes, the Lady of the Manners spent many an evening browsing through sites such as Target, JC Penny, Sears, KMart, H+M, Forever 21, Roaman’s, and the overwhelming choices on Amazon.com, and has pinned over 350 items of gothy fashion interest. All of which are US resources, so the Lady of the Manners would love comments from Snarklings about international budget retailers!

(A caveat: fast and/or inexpensive fashion–goth or not–often cuts corners during production. It’s a sad truth that you won’t be able to avoid sweatshop-produced clothing unless you’re not on a tight budget, or are able and willing to sacrifice and save for it. Alas, that isn’t always possible, so be aware, but don’t punish yourself if it’s unavoidable in your circumstances.)

Even if you don’t buy any of the items suggested and pinned on that page, it can be a useful tool to show, say, parents, what sort of items some of you younger readers are asking for when you talk about wanting a more spooky wardrobe. Your parents may be assuming you want couture frock coats and vampire gowns, when really, you want some black tops, a black jacket, and some black skirts and leggings!

The Lady of the Manners had so much fun window-shopping and assembling the Everyday Goth Fashion Pinterest that she’ll keep updating it, though probably not in such a frenzied manner. However, seasonal updates? Almost certainly.

There’s another way to create your wardrobe of darkness on a budget, but it takes time, patience, and a bit of luck: thrift shopping. Shopping at thrift stores is a treasure hunt which can turn up some wonderful things, but will also have times where you walk out empty-handed and shaking your head. The Lady of the Manners has some tips to make your treasure hunt a little easier:

  • Wear. Comfortable. Footwear. Thrift shopping is not the time to wear the icepick-heeled boots or the ones with more buckles than toes.
  • For that matter, wear clothing that you can try things on over. (Yes, the Lady of the Manners goes thrift shopping in full, petticoat-enhanced skirts, but they’re part of her everyday attire, and anything she buys at a thrift store would have to fit properly over them, anyway.)
  • Know your measurements, not your “size”, and take a fabric measuring tape with you. Check the measurements of potential finds instead of going by the number on the tag!
  • For that matter, don’t look for things grouped by size on the racks. Thrift stores are not known for their ability to keep things organized, so look everywhere in the store.
  • Keep a mental list of things you’re looking for, but don’t go in with expectations of what you’ll find that day.
  • Keep at least a vague eye on what’s going on in mainstream fashion, because that will give you an idea of what will turn up in thrift stores six months to a year later. For example, if you like tops embellished with black sequins or black chiffon skirts, NOW is the time to be searching the thrift stores for them.
  • Halloween is when thrift stores (especially Value Village/Savers and Goodwill) put out the more vintage and gothy garments that could be used as a costume. THREAT LEVEL: PUMPKIN applies to more than home decor!

With that, Snarklings, the Lady of the Manners is going to go back to wading through the Gothic Charm School mailbox, and browsing Amazon.com for more gothy fashion, even though she knows she doesn’t need more lace capelets or shawls, they’re very tempting …

Finally, there’s some behind-the-scenes housekeeping that needs to be done here at Gothic Charm School, which means the Correspondence page may or may not be working. So if you have a question, this link should help you reach the Gothic Charm School inbox!

Of Clicky-Links! Goth Shopping Masterpost!

9 March 2016

Here it is, Snarklings! The long-threatened list of gothy fashion links from the Lady of the Manners!

Is this a comprehensive list of every goth or alternative fashion resource out there? Sweet darkness, no. The Lady of the Manners seriously doubts that anyone could pull such a list together and have it be accurate. This list is a collection of the merchants that the Lady of the Manners either has purchased items from, or frequently browses when she’s in a window-shopping mood.

And! As a bonus! The Lady of the Manners has included a list of keywords that she uses when searching eBay, Etsy, shopgoodwill.org, and other marketplace sites.

So, without further ado, the clicky-links!


Chic Star
Crowd-sourced fashion, heavy on the rockabilly dresses and Victorian-esque jackets and coats. Women’s sizes up to 26.

Drac In a Box
Classic gothic clothing, custom-made in the UK. Women’s and men’s sizes up to 2X.

Dracula Clothing
Formal gothic jackets, blouses, shirts, skirts, corsets, trousers, vests, and coats. Women’s and men’s sizes up to 2X.

Dress Like a Pirate
Goth and pirate wardrobes share some basics, like billowy shirts, frock coats, and full skirts. Women’s and men’s sizes up to 3X.

Fan + Friend
EGL/EGA fashions, gothic, Victorian, steampunk, plus some cosplay designs. Offers custom sizing and fabric choices.

Gentleman’s Emporium
Reproduction historical clothing for men and women! Women’s and men’s sizes up to 2X.

Indie goth designer from Canada. Morbidly sweet designs. Custom sizes offered.

Good Goth
Almost a one-stop-shop for goth supplies! Clothing, corsets, shoes, accessories, makeup, hair dye, and bath and body goods. Plus sizes available.

Heavy Red
Elegant modern gothic designs. Sizes up to women’s XL.

Holy Clothing
Flowy blouses, skirts, pants, and dresses that are perfect for witchy or mori fashion. Be warned: they have a tendency to toss the word “g*ps*” around in names and descriptions. Women’s sizes up to 5X.

Clothing and accessories for your dream self. Full of whimsy and darkly-shimmering romance. If the Lady of the Manners ever achieves the fabulously wealthy part of being a fabulously wealthy eccentric, her entire wardrobe will be from Kambriel. One-of-a-kind and ready-made pieces are her current focus.

Lotus Traders Clothing
Similar to Holy Clothing, but with slightly different styles and more tie-dye. However, they make fantastic “peasant” dresses that can double as Gothic Heroine nightgowns! Women’s sizes up to 5X.

Orchard Corset
Well-made corsets in a wide range of styles and sizes. Offers plus-size corsets up to waist measurements of 46″.

Reproduction historical clothing for women. Bustles and blouses and lace collars, oh my! Sizes up to women’s 4X.

Renn Store
Yes, renaissance fair clothing. Billowy shirts, full skirts, and chemises are useful in goth wardrobes, too! Women’s and men’s sizes up to 3X.

Goth fashion that ranges from spooky t-shirts to velvet coats. A wide selection of gothy jewelry, belts, and handbags. Women’s and men’s sizes up to 2X.

Retroscope Fashions
Gothic/Victorian/steampunk finery. Women’s and men’s sizes up to 2X.

Rose Mortem
Flowing gothic gowns, skirts, and tops. Custom sizing available.

Shrine Clothing
Best known for their decadent goth coats in ultra-lush fabrics. (They also offer shirts, pants, skirts, dresses, and cloaks. OMG THE CLOAKS.) EXTREMELY expensive, but worth saving up for. Women’s sizes up to 2X, men’s sizes up to 3X.

Somnia Romantica
Beruffled romantic goth clothing, hand-made in the Netherlands. Women’s sizes up to XL

Hand-printed dark and witchy leggings, tanks, cardigans, and scarves. Plus patches to adorn your existing garments!

Uniformal Warehouse
Men’s formalwear, so a good source for waistcoats and tux jackets. More importantly, a budget-friendly place for top hats!

Shoes, tights, accessories

American Duchess
Reproduction historical footwear. Someday the Lady of the Manners will own a pair of Tavistock button boots, oh yes she will.

Bella Lili
Beautiful necklaces and pendants with intricate filigree.

Bloodmilk Jewels
Gorgeous witchy jewelry, including the original sterling raven claw pendant.

Callisto Jewelry
Chunky crystal pendants, handcrafted with love. The Lady of the Manners owns rather a lot of pieces from here.

Silkscreened ties to add a darker bit of interest to your shirts.

Evil Supply Co.
Deliciously evil patches and pins to adorn your clothes. Plus fantastic stationery and planners!

Haute Under the Collar
Vintage and modern ties, all embellished with hand-set rhinestones. Add some sparkle to your wardrobe.

Mordaunte’s Coffin Gems
Exactly what it says! Coffin-shaped gems, set as rings, earrings, pendants, and tie tacks.

Poison Apple Print Shoppe
The Lady of the Manners’ favorite witchy/occult patches come from here.

Omnia Oddities
Beautiful jewelry (oh, the Lunar Oracle ring!), and bat leggings!

Sock Dreams
Socks, tights, stockings! All colors and styles, and sizing tips for everything they sell!

The Gothic Shoe Co.
POINTY TOES. Winklepickers. All the buckles. This is THE place to go for trad goth pointy-toe footwear.

Tormented Artifacts
Leatherwork! Masks, utility belts, bracers and handwraps, and BOOTWINGS!

We Love Colors
50+ colors of tights, stripey tights, and fishnets! Plus sizes available!


You can find some great things on eBay, Etsy, and shopgoodwill.org by using the right keywords. You will also find some hilarious, terrible things. It helps if you filter your results to remove any “costume” sections. Also, do not buy/bid on things if you are sleep-deprived or in an altered state! Window-shop responsibly!

In no particular order, the keywords that the Lady of the Manners will occasionally frequently search for:

80s goth
90s goth
black chiffon
black lace
black maxi dress
black maxi skirt
black sheer
bohemian/boho/g*ps* (UGH. But sometimes sellers tag wonderful things with questionable terms)
gothic romance
goth punk
new romantic
Victorian gothic
Victorian romantic
Victorian vampire
visual kei

Finally, there’s some behind-the-scenes housekeeping that needs to be done here at Gothic Charm School, which means the Correspondence page may or may not be working. So if you have a question, this link should help you reach the Gothic Charm School inbox!

Of Questions About Goth Fashion

18 February 2016

Snarklings, this month, the Lady of the Manners is going to address a topic that 1) appears in the Gothic Charm School mailbox on a regular basis, and 2) is one of the Lady of the Manners’ favorite things to hold forth about discuss: Goth fashion!

A young Goth named Tyler wrote with the following question:

Hello miss Jillian i have a question to ask you. I might add that I’ve been into the goth subculture since i was fourteen im now eighteen. I have always liked the dark aesthetic that goth brings and the music, but one thing has always bothered me, the fashion now i know I know what your thinking but hold on darlin i can explain. i love goth fashion but I have not quite found my comfort zone with a particular style that I can call my own. This most defenatly bothers me. do you have any good advice for me hun. p.s forgive the spelling thank you

Oh precious batling, don’t worry that you haven’t found a particular Goth style to call your own! There’s no requirement that you pick a style and stick to it. Feel free to flit amongst whatever styles catch your eye!

Now, the Lady of the Manners will admit that having a style of clothing that you prefer can make things (slightly) easier on yourself. (Slightly, because the Lady of the Manners will admit that while she has a very specific style, she has been known to dither for ages over which ruffly blouse should go with which full skirt, and which frock coat to wear over both.)

Picking one specific substyle of Goth can make shopping and getting dressed easier, and can signal to other Goths which parts of the subculture you find particularly fascinating. As an example, the Lady of the Manners is pretty sure that no one would take a look at her Mary-Poppins-by-way-of-Tim-Burton-plus-fairy-tale-witch wardrobe and assume she was a devotee of cybergoth, EBM, and tweedly-beep-oontz music. Likewise, if you saw someone wearing layers of shredded fishnets, a blazer adorned with safety pins and patches, and sporting a sky-scraping teased deathhawk, you could reasonably assume that their black heart beats faster for all things deathrock.

Yes, there are certain fashion markers that help signify that you’re part of the Goth subculture: black clothes, dark eye makeup and lipstick, a fondness for luxurious or impractical fabrics (velvet, lace, satin, pvc, leather), jewelry with a morbid theme, and so on. But you don’t need to adopt any of those sartorial signifiers to be a Goth. Oh, there will be other people, elitist types, who will be quick to say you’re not a Real Goth if you don’t dress like one. And by now you all should know what the Lady of the Manners’ response is to those types: that they’re wrong, that they are being gatekeeping jerks, and that no one gets to decide “how goth” someone else is.

But! Don’t limit yourself! Do you want to wear draped layers of lace, all the black eyeliner in the world, and giant teased hair on one day, and the next be striding around in skinny black jeans and slicked-back hair? Do that! In fact, there’s not a requirement for you to dress in a gothy manner at all! The closest there is to a universal Goth fashion rule is “wear black”, and even then, it’s not actually a rule. There has been no dress code ratified and issued by the Elder Goth Cabal, because there is no Elder Goth Cabal. Do you want to wear blue jeans and a t-shirt? Then do so!

Finally; Snarkling, you’re eighteen. Don’t worry that you haven’t settled on a Goth style to adopt as your own. You have years and decades ahead of you to experiment with styles and how you present yourself! So cut yourself some slack, and spend the next few years (or decades!) exploring the dark side of fashion and playing with looks. Some people reinvent themselves (sartorially and otherwise) every few years, and are happy to do so. Or to put it another way: changing styles every few years was good enough for the sainted David Bowie, so it damn well better be good enough for everyone else, including us gothy types.

A reader calling themselves NewGoth had other fashion-related dilemmas:

I’m 17 going on 18 and I’m trying to join the Goth subculture. I have admired Goth since I was 5, but I waited until I was older to actually start being Goth. I have a few questions for you about starting off:
Where can I find those cool boots for a cheap price?
Must I wear makeup and if I do, what kind is best?
And finally, can I wear “kid-ish” non-gothic stuff along with my Goth stuff?

The Lady of the Manners suspects that when you say “waited until I was older to actually start being Goth”, you mean dressing in a darker, spookier way, not waited until you were older to explore some of the music or literature of the Goth world. Because remember, Snarklings! You don’t have to dress like a Goth to BE a Goth.

Anyway, to address your questions:

  • Saying “Those cool boots” is rather vague. Some Goths wear combat boots, which you can find at any Army + Navy surplus store. Some Goths wear Dr. Martens or similarly styled boots, which are available from the Dr. Martens website (and aren’t particularly cheap), and look-alikes can be found just about anywhere, including eBay, Amazon.com, H+M, Forever 21, Target, and so on.

    If you mean the traditional Goth pointy toe buckle boots, the Lady of the Manners has some sad news for you: finding that style of boot for a cheap price is akin to being struck by lightning. You might get lucky and find a vintage pair on eBay, but your best option is to save your pennies and buy a pair from The Gothic Shoe Company. The Lady of the Manners has heard wonderful things about them, and is planning on indulging in a pair of boots from them in the near future.

  • Must you wear makeup? Of course not! If you don’t want to paint your face, then don’t! Again, there is no Official Goth Dress Code, because the Elder Goth Cabal doesn’t really exist. If you don’t want to wear makeup, don’t feel pressured into it.

    If you DO want to wear makeup, the Lady of the Manners strongly recommends spending days or evenings practicing with it. Put on a full gothy face, take a photo, then wash it off. Makeup is one of those things where practice will hone your skills; no one is able to recreate Siouxsie’s perfectly sharp eyeliner on the first try.

    What kind of makeup is best? Snarkling, that entirely depends on your skin and what it reacts to! However, the Lady of the Manners will say that you don’t need to go to a department store and put yourself into debt for good products. For Goths in the US, head to your local drugstore and browse the offerings from Wet n’ Wild and NYX cosmetics; both of those companies put out good products at very reasonable prices. (The Lady of the Manners doesn’t know what brands to suggest for non-US folks, but hopes that people will leave suggestions in the comments!)

  • Can you wear “kid-ish” non-gothic stuff along with your Goth stuff? Absolutely! For one thing, there’s the subgenre of Goth known as “Pastel Goth”, which mixes a lot of “cutesy” things with traditional Goth symbols such as coffins and skulls. For another thing, Goth style is what you make of it, and if it makes you happy and confident to mix kid things in with your spooky darkness, then do that.
  • The point, Snarklings, is that there are so many different expressions of Goth style that you should feel free to explore and play around as much as you want. THERE IS NO DRESS CODE IN GOTH, and anyone who tries to tell you otherwise is probably feeling a touch insecure.

    With that, the Lady of the Manners is going to open up the comments! What are some of your favorite styles of Goth fashion? Do you readers from outside the USA have suggestions for good brands of makeup or places to find gothy fashions?

    Finally, there’s some behind-the-scenes housekeeping that needs to be done here at Gothic Charm School, which means the Correspondence page may or may not be working. So if you have a question, this link should help you reach the Gothic Charm School inbox!