Tutorial: The Hair Floof – a Fluffy Fabric Hair Tie!

18 July 2018

While the Lady of the Manners is probably never going to have short hair, she admits that long hair can sometimes be difficult. Especially in the summer, when wearing your hair down can be uncomfortably warm and sticky. But the Lady of the Manners becomes easily bored with plain ponytails, buns, and other sorts of updos, and suspects that she’s not alone in that. Enter one of the Lady of the Manners’ favorite (and simple!) solutions: a fluffy, flouncy hair tie! Or, as the Lady of the Manners refers to them, a hair floof.

The Lady of the Manners wearing a hair floof.

Hair floofs are not just decorative on their own! They make an excellent base to help secure other accessories on your head. Flowers, tiny hats, fascinators, replica animal skulls … if you can put it in your hair as an ornament, you can almost certainly anchor it into the hair floof.

Hair floofs work best when your ponytail, bun, or other updo is at the crown of your head. Hair floofs tend to slide out of hairstyles that are lower down. (The only way the Lady of the Manners has ever gotten a hair floof to stay on a ponytail gathered at her nape is to skewer it on with bobby pins, which defeats the whole point.)

These are extremely simple to make. Can you use a pair of scissors and tie knots? Then you will be able to make a hair floof.

Supplies:

  • Sharp scissors.
  • A fabric hair band. One that is slightly larger and doesn’t have a crimped metal connector is the best type.
  • Approximately a quarter yard of fabric.
  • Optional – a podcast, audiobook, or comfort movie to have on in the background.

You can make hair floofs using strips of multiple fabrics – the Lady of the Manners is fond of strips of stretch velvet alternated with strips of lace – or using lengths of ribbon. The important thing is that the fabric or ribbon has some flow or drape to it; stiff fabric or wired ribbons won’t work for this. However, making hair floofs is a great way to use up fabric scraps from other projects; the Lady of the Manners has even salvaged old tights for hair floofs.

Hair floof supplies!

  1. Cut the fabric into strips approximately 1”-2” wide, until you have 30-40 strips. The Lady of the Manners likes a more drape-y style of hair floof, so she cuts her fabric strips to be somewhere between 9”-10” in total length. The shorter length the fabric, the puffier the floof. Don’t worry if the strips are uneven; it won’t really be noticeable, and different sizes mean the finished hair floof will have more texture.
  2. Cut fabric strips.

  3. One at a time, tie the strips of fabric evenly around the hair band. Yes, just as if you were making a pom-pom. (Is that even a craft project done in elementary schools anymore? It was when the Lady of the Manners was a child. So many pom-pom projects.)
  4. Tied-on fabric strips!

  5. Push the knots close together; you want to tie as many strips of fabric around the hair band as possible.
  6. Squished-together knots!

  7. Keep tying on the strips of fabric until you can’t fit any more on the hair band.

Congratulations! You’ve made a hair floof!

A finished hair floof!

Pull your hair up with a plain hair band, then wrap the hair floof over the top of the hair band.

If, over the course of multiple wearings, your hair floof becomes stretched out, you can layer it over a newer, springier hair floof. Why yes, the Lady of the Manners has been known to layer three or four hair floofs, just so she can have an extra-fancy hairstyle that won’t make her overheat.

Go forth! Entertain yourself for a few hours by making hair accessories!

Summer Goth! The 2018 Edition

28 June 2018

The Summer Solstice has passed in the Northern hemisphere, which means summer has arrived. The Lady of the Manners wishes she could be more enthusiastic about the whole thing.

The Lady of the Manners is completely accepting of the fact that many other goths don’t share her biases about the seasons and their attendant weather. There are people she’s very fond of who adore sunny days and high temperatures, and who become listless and dispirited once autumn comes around. But, as the Lady of the Manners often says over on Tumblr, she is a delicate moss flower. Which brings the Lady of the Manners to what is becoming a summer tradition at Gothic Charm School: advice on how to deal with the burning orb.

As the Lady of the Manners stresses time and time again, you don’t have to be pale to be a goth. However, avoiding the sun isn’t just a gothy affectation; there are people (the Lady of the Manners included) who thanks to genetics, illnesses, medications, or who knows what else, don’t deal well with prolonged exposure to sunlight. (As the Lady of the Manners has said before, eventually she’ll develop the fun symptoms of vampirism, like immortality and being able to turn into a flock of bats.) While the idea of not going outside until after sunset has its attractions, it’s not entirely feasible, which means knowing how to cope with sunlight.

  • Sunscreen! This is absolutely the most important thing you can do. Apply sunscreen to every bit of skin that isn’t covered by opaque fabric. No, Snarklings, lace or fishnet clothing will not protect you from the sun. Also, reapply the sunscreen every 60 to 80 minutes if you’re going to be outside for an extended length of time. (The Lady of the Manners realizes this may be a problem if you’re wearing makeup, but has a suggestion for that shortly.)

    The Lady of the Manners relies on matte finish sunscreens that are made for the Asian skin care markets. They don’t feel sticky, and they double as primer for under makeup. The two the Lady of the Manners keeps on hand are: MISSHA All Around Safe Block Essence (SPF 50) and Biore Watery Essence Sunscreen (SPF 50). The Lady of the Manners has also seen good reviews of La Roche-Posay Anthelios XL Ultra Light Fluid SPF 50, FrezyDerm Sun Screen Velvet Face SPF 30, and Nivea Sun Anti Age Face Cream SPF 50. And of course, there’s the (usually) easy-to-find Neutrogena Ultra-Sheer Dry Touch SPF 100. (Which used to be the Lady of the Manners’ go-to sunscreen, and she doesn’t remember why she stopped using it.)

    How to deal with the problem of reapplying sunscreen to your face if you’re wearing makeup? Snarklings, did you know there’s such a thing as powder sunscreen? There is, and it’s amazing. You use it just like any other powder to touch up makeup throughout the day, but it adds an additional layer of SPF. The Lady of the Manners has tried a bunch of them, and keeps coming back to Jane Iredale Powder Me. Yes, it’s almost $50 a container, but one container has lasted the Lady of the Manners through almost three summers. It actually is translucent (unlike many other powder sunscreens which are … orange), has the same sort of effect as any of the “HD” makeup setting powders, and can be used on any exposed skin. This product is what the Lady of the Manners and her loved ones use when visiting Disneyland for Bats Day. In other words, this is the product the Lady of the Manners enthusiastically recommends.

  • Physical blocks – a giant hat! They can be left plain for a Lydia Deetz look, or festooned with tulle, ribbons, flowers, or anything else that strikes your fancy that can be somehow attached to the hat. Some of the things the Lady of the Manners has used to decorate her giant sun hats:
    • A (large) length of tulle, scrunched, crumpled, and stitched around the crown of the hat, for a gauzy, cloudy effect. Tulle can also be used to make a veil around the brim of the hat.
    • Lengths of lace or ribbons tied around the crown with a big bow, and the ends left to flutter.
    • Fake flowers from the craft store. The blossoms are easily pulled off the plastic stems, and then can be pinned or sewn on.

    (The Lady of the Manners strongly suggests sewing any decorations on, instead of using hot glue, because what if you decide you want to change the ornamentation? Prying anything off a hat that has been affixed with hot glue is tedious in the extreme, and no amount of silly vampire movies on in the background will change that.)

    Remember, if you have long hair and decide to wear a giant hat, you probably want to pull your hair up and off your neck. The giant hat, while protecting you from the sun, will sadly trap heat against your head. Don’t make that worse if you can help it.

  • Physical blocks – a parasol! Which, let the Lady of the Manners stress, can be used by ANY gender. Parasols are not just for femme -presenting folks.

    Back In The DayTM, goths had to hope they found a vintage parasol at a thrift store or yard sale, or found an umbrella they liked and decorated it themselves. But now there are parasols everywhere, from plain and unadorned umbrellas to frilly confections that would make any gothic lolita swoon with envy. The only caveat the Lady of the Manners has with regard to parasols is that while sheer or lacy parasols are lovely, they don’t actually provide any protection from the sun. Always look for one that has at least an opaque center to the canopy.

  • Physical blocks – clothing! Wearing long sleeves or long trousers seems counter-intuitive in the summer, and a recipe for overheating. The key is to look for garments made with natural fibers, such as cotton or rayon. Lace and fishnet are oh-so-gothy, but are usually some sort of poly-blend, and thus don’t actually breathe; they trap heat and sweat against your skin, leading to suffering for your fashion. While the Lady of the Manners is all for over-the-top looks, she also doesn’t approve of any of you giving yourselves heat stroke.

    The color doesn’t matter – while “common sense” says that black clothes will make you warmer in the summer, it turns out that isn’t really true.

  • Physical blocks – wash it in! Sun Guard lets you add SPF 30 protection to your laundry. Using this doesn’t mean you can skip applying sunscreen, but it is a nice additional boost. And in the Lady of the Manners’ experience, it doesn’t do anything odd to black garments.
  • Stay cool! Drink lots of water and make sure you have some electrolytes (be it through juice, sports drinks, pickles, or delicious salty food). Carry a folding fan to create your own breeze. Stick lightweight scarves or shawls in the freezer, then drape them around you; once they lose their chill, dampen them with cool water and let the evaporation do its work. You can also dampen any fishnet or lace garments you’re wearing for the same effect.

Finally, the Lady of the Manners made a
Pinterest board for summer goth style!
While all of the clothing is modeled by women (grrr), the Lady of the Manners strongly feels that almost all of it could be styled in a more gender-neutral way, depending on what other garments or accessories are added, when in doubt, add big belts and boots. (The Lady of the Manners offers her sympathies to the masculine-leaning Snarklings; male fashion is pretty much the same year ‘round, with the length of the sleeves being the only element of change.)

Do you have tips for dealing with the sun or avoiding heatstroke? Or just want to commiserate with other delicate, nocturnal moss flowers? Leave a comment!

Of “Rules”, and Questions from Different Ends of the Age Spectrum

31 May 2018

The Lady of the Manners didn’t mean to hide and take a nap for a large portion of the spring, really she didn’t. But sometimes these things happen. However, a few bits of Goth Upkeep information that the Lady of the Manners feels you should know:

  • Crypts and haunted mansions, while lovely and gloomy, still won’t protect you from pollen-induced allergies.
  • MAC Liquidlast liner will stay on through allergy attacks, naps, showers, and possibly anything else.
  • Milani Cosmetics Infinite Liquid Eyeliner is a perfect duplicate of Liquidlast, and is available in drugstores.
  • If you use either of those liquid liners, you will need to use an oil-based remover to get them off your face. (The Lady of the Manners uses jojoba oil and baby wipes.)

And before the Lady of the Manners gets on to answering some questions, she has one other thing to tell you about! She and Rhias Hall are the hosts of a new podcast about horror novels from the 70s, 80s, and 90s: The Night Library! This podcast is inspired by the delightful book Paperbacks from Hell by Grady Hendrix. Your two hosts realized they had both read a vast number of the books in that tome, and the podcast is an excuse to reread and discuss them.

(The Lady of the Manners is also an occasional guest on Don’t Read the Latin and Fanboy News Network.)

From Eva, a Snarkling in India:

Respected Lady of the Manners,
I am Eva. I have always felt a strange fascination towards the colour black since childhood. Also I would always dress myself in black and listen genre metal. It was only when I came across your videos and website that I realized that this is where I really belong to.
Ma’am would you be kind enough to explain me the rules I need to follow to become a part of the Gothic community?
Also, I live in India. So would distance be a hindrance in my path of following this community ?
Yours ever,
Aspiring snarkling,
Eva

The Lady of the Manners is going to answer these in reverse, as your second question has a much shorter answer than the first! Would distance be a hindrance to your being a part of the goth community? It shouldn’t be! Mind you, the Lady of the Manners doesn’t know if there’s an active community where you live, but even if there isn’t, being physically far away from other goths isn’t the difficulty it used to be. While there’s a dark joy in being able to meet up with others who share your interests, primarily interacting with the subculture online means a wider range of darkly-inclined people to talk to at all hours!

Your first question also has a shorter answer than you think! There aren’t any rules! Well, not really. There are a few things that are strongly held guidelines:

  • Be able to find and appreciate beauty and wonder in darkness. This doesn’t mean being depressed, but instead knowing that melancholy and decay can create beautiful things, and that there are delights to be discovered through art that makes you unsettled.
  • Be aware of the musical roots of the subculture. While many of the bands that form the backbone of “traditional goth” music have at one point or another actively shunned the label of goth (even Siouxsie Sioux!), they helped release all of us bats from the belltower. You don’t have to listen to all of the classic bands, but try to have a passing familiarity with them.

However, a short list of Other Things To Keep In Mind:

  • There are approximately a squillion different subgenres of “goth” music. What you like to listen to may make another goth lunge to mute the speakers. But never stop exploring! The Lady of the Manners is particularly fond of Music-Map to find new music. Just type the name of an artist into the search box, and you’ll get a helpful map of similar artists.
  • There are also approximately a squillion different subgenres of “goth” fashion. The recent (ish) Gothic Charm School post “Of Finding Goth Fashion” has a by-NO-means-comprehensive list of of different styles that fall under the inky parasol of goth.
  • You don’t have to be any particular body type, ethnicity, skin color, gender, or age to be a goth. Anyone who says otherwise is wrong, and feel free to tell them that the Lady of the Manners says so.
  • For that matter, anyone who says the dreaded phrase If you’re a Real Goth … is being a gatekeeping jerk. (The A Short Post on Dealing with Elitist, Gother-Than-Thou Types post contains more of the Lady of the Manners’ ranting about gatekeepers.)
  • Be. Kind.

The next question is from Shawn, about age and labels:

At the tender age of 48 I realized I might be goth and never known it. […] So, being a certain age, and now fascinated with exploring the culture for the first time, I don’t think the term “eldergoth” applies, as I haven’t paid my dues on the scene. I have lived life, though, and now that I feel comfortable exploring more who I am, what do I call myself (if it’s even important)? I am at a loss of what to do should i attend an event.

Thank you,
Shawn

Congratulations on feeling more comfortable in your skin and exploring who you are! The Lady of the Manners means that sincerely; some people never get to that level of emotional security, and (wrongly) think that if they didn’t do that sort of exploration when they were young, they can’t do it when they’re older.

In the Lady of the Manners’ opinion, no, “eldergoth” doesn’t really apply to you. She feels that while eldergoth does describe someone above a Certain Age (possibly starting around mid-to-late 40s), the more important part of the eldergoth designation is that the Goth of a Certain Age has been a part of the subculture for 20 years or more. The reverse is that if someone isn’t an adult and old enough to attend night clubs, they’re a babybat, even if they were raised in the subculture by spooky parents.

What to call yourself? A goth. For that matter, you don’t have to apply any label to yourself! Labels can be useful as a shorthand way of describing the interests you have (Victorian, vampire, witchy, industrial, cybergoth, etc.), but you don’t have to embrace or stick to any labels! You certainly don’t have to label yourself or provide a description to attend an event, and anyone who would demand that you do such a thing is, again, being a gatekeeping jerk.

Turning to the other end of the age spectrum:

Dear Lady Of The Manners,
I am 16 years old and have been goth for about 3 years now and I love the way I dress and the music I listen to. However, I have a bit of a problem. I liked someone very much, but they didn’t like me back mostly because of my goth appearance. They also said the reason I struggle to find someone to date is because I’m goth and a lot of guys don’t like that. I come from a large town yet I appear to be the only goth here and I have very little to no friends already, but I feel quite lonely in the sense that all the other 16 year olds my age are dating someone and no one seems to like me in such a way. I would never change myself but I’m incredibly shy already so that doesn’t help either. What would you suggest I do to meet other people who are open minded of the way I dress even as friends not necessarily to date and how can I not let this bother me?

Kind regards

A confuzzled babybat

Oh, you precious bat. The Lady of the Manners feels compelled to get her first reaction to your letter out of her system, and please be very aware that this is written with no condescension and the utmost affection:

YOU’RE SIXTEEN, YOU DON’T NEED TO BE DATING ANYONE, IT DOESN’T MATTER IF YOUR FRIENDS ARE DATING PEOPLE.

(Yes, this is an example of the Lady of the Manners being protective (some might say overprotective) of her younger readers.)

:: The Lady of the Manners dabs her forehead with a black lace handkerchief ::

The Lady of the Manners is also irked by the person you liked telling you that “a lot of guys don’t like goth”. One, that statement is dripping with the expectation that you should change yourself to find a date, and two, saying that to someone who was open enough to express their romantic interest is incredibly unkind. The Lady of the Manners is very relieved to see you say that you’d never change yourself for someone; please always remember that.

How to find people who are open-minded enough to accept you? Go online. The Lady of the Manners realizes that this is the answer she always gives, but the Internet is a good way to find people who share your interests. Just please remember that the Internet is not real life, but that you’re talking to real people. Be kind, but if someone or something makes you uncomfortable or upset, feel free to block them or turn off anonymous comments.

You say you’re in a large town, but appear to be the only goth there; the Lady of the Manners bets you’re not, but the others may be harder to find. Do you know people who go to different schools? If so, ask them if there are any spooky types at their school, and if they can introduce you.

Some places that were traditional hangouts for younger goths included coffee shops, used bookstores, and comic shops, but the Lady of the Manners has no idea if that is still true. Perhaps additional suggestions about where you can find other spooky folks will turn up in the comments!

Which leads the Lady of the Manners to the now-traditional ending of a post here at Gothic Charm School: the comments are open! They’re moderated as ever, forever and ever, world without end, but please DO comment!

Show and Tell: the Wet n Wild “Goth-o-Graphic” collection

7 March 2018

As the Lady of the Manners has said (for what feels like centuries), mainstream fashion has realized that the goth subculture is a lucrative market. While there are some creatures of the shadows that are affronted by this, the Lady of the Manners isn’t. Being able to find clothing and cosmetics that can be appreciated by those with a darker sensibility without going to specialty shops or having to rely on mail order is incredibly helpful. Not to mention that the more awareness the mainstream has of us, there’s the possibility of more acceptance for the up-and-coming generations of goth. (The Lady of the Manners has discussed the pop culture growth of skulls, memento mori, and dark symbols in general here (the very last question in the article) and here.)

Therefore when the Lady of the Manners heard that Wet n Wild cosmetics were releasing a limited edition goth-themed collection, she was VERY interested.

Wet n Wild is a company that goths have been able to rely on for decades. Not only did they cater to us for years with decent quality black lipstick every Halloween season, but their liquid eyeliners are excellent, they have a good selection of eyeshadow colors, and they almost always have dark lipsticks in their main line. (Cherry Crush and Vamp It Up are two of the Lady of the Manners’ stand-by colors.) Their prices are shockingly reasonable, the product quality is very good, and they’re cruelty-free! If, unseen forces forbid, the Lady of the Manners’ day-to-day makeup suddenly vanished, she could pull together an acceptable replacement set from going to the Wet n Wild section at any US drugstore.

(Disclaimer: the Lady of the Manners purchased these products. They were not sent to her by Wet n Wild for review purposes.)

How Wet n Wild describes the collection:

Goth meets holographic in the Spring with our limited edition collection that melds broody and bright together. Eyes are smoky with graphic lines in bright pops of color. Dark moods lighten up with pops of holographic liquid eyeshadow. Dark lips shimmer with a new goth topper that gives them holographic dimension. Cheekbones get edgy, with our new highlighter stick and coordinating highlighters.

The Lady of the Manners is in favor of holographic and glittery makeup. Very, very in favor, and her collection of glitter and highlighters in unnatural hues is taking over all of her makeup storage space. However, when she read the original article about the collection on Bustle.com, a quote jumped out that made her feel uneasy:

Wet n Wild witnessed fatigue erupting alongside the plethora of unicorn-inspired products that were being released through 2017. […] But they weren’t all talk. They leapt into action and created moodier looks that were a direct contrast to the glittery, rainbow-and-unicorn aesthetic.

That didn’t seem to match up with how Wet ‘n Wild themselves described the collection. In fact, looking at preview photos, the Lady of the Manners saw distinct similarities between the Goth-o-Graphic products and … the glittery, holographic, unicorn-inspired products that every brand has released.

WnW Goth-o-Graphic box

WnW Goth-o-Graphic packaging

This is pastel goth. There is nothing wrong with pastel goth; the Lady of the Manners is quite fond of black with pink details. And while others have derided the packaging as something you’d see at a mall store, it’s no worse than when Sanrio released a goth-themed Hello Kitty line.

But the products themselves? The Lady of the Manners is a bit underwhelmed with the collection. The reviews, in the order of great, not bad, disappointing, and awful:

The highlighters
All of the highlighters are wonderful. They all have an excellent level of shimmer, the powder products apply smoothly, and could also be used as super-shimmery, if slightly sheer, eyeshadows. The highlighter stick gives a sheer holographic sheen that can be built up for an unearthly creature effect.

The swatches, from the Lady of the Manners’ wrist and proceeding up the bats are: Moon Tears MegaGlow loose powder, MegaGlow highlighting stick, White Raven MegaGlow pressed powder, and Purple Ashes MegaGlow pressed powder.

WnW Goth-o-Graphic MegaGlow highlighters

The MegaLast Liquid Catsuit eyeshadow

These are creamy eyeshadows that dry to relatively smudge-and-crease proof. The tubes have doe-foot applicator wands, and the best application method seems to be applying a thick-ish smudge of product, then using a stiff eyeshadow brush to quickly get the color all over your lid.
However, the “liquid” shadows had a slightly dry, crumbly texture, and went on unevenly, with streaks and splotches. Even when blended out with a brush, there were tiny crumbs of color that wouldn’t smooth out. The pink Mystic Dreamer color was especially bad, with a thin layer of pink oily liquid at the top and the glitter layer at the bottom of the (factory sealed!) tube. However, other people have said that the products they purchased had a fluffy, mousse-like texture, and applied relatively smoothly, which means there may be some quality control issues.

The swatches, from the Lady of the Manners’ wrist and proceeding up the bats are: Pure Intension (yes, that’s the spelling), Mystic Dreamer, Goth Tears, and Nyctophillia (one of two actual “goth” colors in the entire collection, in the Lady of the Manners’ opinion).

WnW Goth-o-Graphic MegaLast Liquid Catsuit eyeshadow

The MegaLast Liquid Catsuit lipstick

These are glitter liquid-to-matte lipsticks. They have a gritty consistency, which is to be expected with any glitter lipstick, and dry down to relatively smudge-proof. However, these also have the same uneven streaks and splotches issue as the Liquid Catsuit eyeshadow, and they’re very sheer. They might make a good glitter top layer for another lipstick, but you’d have to work fast to get a smooth application.

The swatches, from the Lady of the Manners’ wrist and proceeding up the bats are: Wicked Pink, Pastel Grunge (the Lady of the Manners has SO MANY issues with this name, because she was in Seattle during the original grunge era, and this is. not. grunge. At all.), Gunmetal Heart, and Death to Unicorns.

WnW Goth-o-Graphic MegaLast Liquid Catsuit lipstick

MegaLiner Metallic liquid eyeliner

These are the products that broke the Lady of the Manners’ heart. She LOVES Wet n Wild liquid liner; in her opinion, the liquid liner from their regular product line is some of the best around, with better pigmentation and application than many higher priced “department store” brands.

These metallic liquid eyeliners are nowhere close to being as good as the regular liquid liners. In fact, these are awful. It’s not just that they have the same uneven streaks and blotches as the other liquid products, but the brush applicators are hideous. Pulled straight out from a factory-sealed bottle, the brush fibers don’t form a fine point, but instead some wildly splay out in every direction. There is no way to get a sharp line from any of these liners.

The swatches, from the Lady of the Manners’ wrist and proceeding up the bats are: Skull Prayer, Pink Coffin (why does such a wonderful product name betray the Lady of the Manners so badly?!), and Black Butterfly.

WnW Goth-o-Graphic MegaLast liquid liner

In the end, the only products from the Goth-o-Graphic collection that the Lady of the Manners can recommend are the highlighters. You may want to play spin-the-wheel of product quality with the Liquid Catsuit products if you have your spooky heart set on glittery eye and lip products, the Lady of the Manners won’t stop you. She will just remind you of her warnings.

Do you have favorite W n W products? Do you have other suggestions for glittery or holographic shimmer makeup? Do you want the Lady of the Manners to rant some more about the very idea of “pastel” or “soft” grunge? If so, go forth to the (moderated) comments!

Of Finding Goth Fashion

22 February 2018

At this point, the Lady of the Manners just needs to admit that she goes into a state of hibernation during January and February every year, because a distinct lack of posts for those months seems to have been a trend for … a while. So let’s just leave it at that, and move forward into this shiny new post!

During the months that she was in torpor, the Lady of the Manners received questions that were all variations on a theme that is familiar; Goth fashion – where to find it? In fact, a question from an anonymous user over on the Gothic Charm School tumblr summed it up best:

Any resources for gothic clothing? All the ones I find just bring up the stereotypical goth.

A much-expanded version of the Lady of the Manners’ reply to this question is as such:

The term “gothic clothing” encompasses a vast collection of different styles under one inky black parasol. A tiny selection of goth and goth-adjacent styles include:

  • Romantic goth.
  • Victorian goth (which is subtly different from romantic goth).
  • Vampire goth (which, again, is subtly different from the preceding two styles).
  • Trad goth.
  • Deathrock (which is subtly different from trad goth, no really it is).
  • Dark mori.
  • Gothic Lolita (and its sibling, Elegant Gothic Aristocrat, which is, in the Lady of the Manners’ opinion, the beautiful amalgamation of the romantic, Victorian, and vampire goth styles).
  • Corp goth.
  • Metal goth.
  • Goth punk.
  • Pastel goth
  • Steampunk (much like Victorian goth, but with more goggles and brown).
  • Wearing all black with no particular stylistic leanings.

Well, you get the idea. So many goth styles! Which means that the very first thing that someone looking for gothic clothing should figure out is what style(s) of gothic clothing are they looking for? If you’re not entirely sure, search for images of the styles that sound interesting (Pinterest is great for that sort of thing), and browse around.

Because it’s not enough to type “goth clothes” or “gothic clothing” into a search engine and hit ENTER. The Lady of the Manners has done exactly that during some insomnia-stricken nights, and has found, well, stereotypical goth clothing from big name goth fashion companies: Restyle, Devil Fashion, Hell Bunny, Lip Service, Killstar, Tripp, and so on. There’s nothing wrong with those companies! The Lady of the Manners is extremely happy that there are more and more goth fashion companies springing up and catering to our dark community. However (and you knew there would be a however) those companies don’t offer a wide range of designs or sizes, and prices tend to be on the higher side for things that aren’t custom made. But there is nothing wrong with buying off-the-rack goth fashion from those stores and “big name” goth fashion companies. NOTHING. Buying off-the-rack fashion helps support the goth fashion industry as a whole, which is always a good thing.

But instead of searching for “goth clothes” or “gothic clothing”, be much more specific about what you’re looking for. This is where deciding what sort of gothy style you’re shopping for is a huge help. No surprise, “Deathrock clothing” will get you very different results than “Victorian gothic clothing”. For that matter, try removing “goth” or “gothic” from your search entirely. If you know the more generic names of the items of clothing you want, it will be much easier to find them. For example, the Lady of the Manners has learned to search for things such as “black ruffled blouse”, “chiffon maxi skirt”, or “long velvet vest”, all of which which give her far more results than searching for “romantic goth clothing” or “vampire goth clothing”. “Black denim vest” or “vinyl pants” will turn up more items than “deathrock clothing” or “goth pants”.

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 purchase or bid on things if you are sleep-deprived or in an altered state! Window-shop responsibly! (With regard to the “do not purchase or bid on things if you are sleep-deprived” warning, the Lady of the Manners is well-aware that she is giving all of you advice she herself often ignores.)

However, here is a list (in no particular order) of the keywords that the Lady of the Manners will occasionally frequently search for on sites such as eBay, Etsy, and shopgoodwill.org:

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 offensive keywords)
dark mori
Edwardian
EGA
EGL
goth punk
gothic romance

Lagenlook
mourning
new romantic
pirate
poet
strega
Victorian gothic
Victorian romantic
Victorian vampire
visual kei
witch/witchy

Also, for a large (but nowhere near comprehensive!) list of goth and goth-friendly fashion sites, take a look at this 2016 Gothic Charm School post!

Just as importantly, always keep an eye on mainstream fashion retailers. No, they don’t cater specifically to goths, but the Lady of the Manners has noticed that goth-tinged fashion is now always somewhere in the mainstream, be it velvet jackets and blazers, lace and tulle skirts, fishnet tights, spikes and studs, or skulls everywhere. In fact, it looks like the fashions for Spring 2018 (well, the women’s fashions) are leaning heavily toward ruffled blouses, mesh accents, lace dusters, and black with large floral prints. (The Lady of the Manners is especially happy about the black-with-floral thing, as she’s developed a fondness for #floralgoth .) Not to mention that it looks like black-and-white striped blazers are returning, which means that all of us who want to invoke Beetlejuice can do so without resorting to painting the stripes ourselves.

Speaking of mainstream fashion retailers, the Lady of the Manners took this as a very helpful excuse to go browsing around: presenting the Gothic Charm School 2018 goth fashion resources Pinterest board! And this time, the Lady of the Manners plans on doing more regular browsing and updating of that board, because it seems more community-minded than spending insomniac nights searching for yet another red velvet frock coat or lace jabot.

This time around, the Pinterest board is divided into three sections:

  • Men’s and/or gender-neutral!
  • Plus-size friendly!
  • Women’s and/or femme!

There is of course, some crossover, because there are plus-size friendly things in both the Men’s and/or gender-neutral and Women’s and/or femme sections. Alas, there’s not a lot of plus-size friendly things in the Men’s and/or gender-neutral sections, because there just isn’t that much being manufactured that is goth-friendly, gender-neutral, and plus-size friendly. The majority of plus-size clothing is decidedly femme, and filled with peplums over the hips and necklines that highlight the cleavage. Which are wonderful styles, but not everyone wants to wear them, or have them be their only option.

There are a lot of links to fashion shops on Amazon. A LOT. Because it turns out that many Chinese fashion manufacturers realized that there is a market for goth fashion. In fact, if you’ve looked at the big name goth fashion designs, you will probably notice some very similar styles being offered on Amazon. Which the Lady of the Manners is mostly okay with, because almost all of those big name goth fashion companies are having their designs mass-produced in China, too. However, a caveat, which is just as true today as it was in this 2016 Gothic Charm School post: 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.

Of course, if you can support independent designers, please, PLEASE do so. Independent designers are a vital part of the goth community.

With that, Snarklings, the Lady of the Manners is going to lose herself yet again in looking at “velvet Victorian” fashion on Amazon and eBay, while repeating to herself that she doesn’t really need any more frock coats.

As always, comments are open. Moderated with a fist inside a velvet, lace-frilled glove, of course, but feel free to comment! Especially if you have suggestions of other retailers and goth-friendly companies!

The 2017 Holiday Gift Guide!

5 December 2017

It’s that time of year, Snarklings! Holiday gifting time! The Lady of the Manners has spent a not-inconsiderable amount of time talking to artisans and creators (and window-shopping in the process) to bring you a list of enticing goodies in a wide selection of price ranges!

Clothing

  • Sock Dreams. Yes, socks are a holiday gift cliche, but personally, the Lady of the Manners would be thrilled to bits to unwrap goodies from Sock Dreams.
  • Giggles and Hoots. Adorable clothing and accessories with a gothy flair.
  • Nikol King. Beautiful and intricate screen printed patches and shirts.
  • Poison Apple Printshop. Screenprinted … everything, really. Patches, shirts, altar cloths, and illustrated books.
  • Kambriel. Decadent, theatrical, and perfect clothing and accessories, made by one of the kindest people in the universe.

Accessories

Tasty things!

Makeup

  • Rituel de Fille. Luxurious cosmetics, including “Eclipse”, a multi-use black creme pigment. (The Lady of the Manners uses it as an eyeshadow base, and the merest dot of it when she wants to play around with contouring.)
  • Black Moon Cosmetics. Metallic matte lip color. Smokey liquid eye shadows with glitter. Liquid glitter all-purpose topcoat.
  • Aromaleigh. Still one of the best stores for all sorts of mineral makeup. The Fatalis and Insectarium collections are especially enticing.

Perfume and Incense

Books

  • La Creeperie. Vintage books, with an amazing selection of horror, science fiction, occult, and gothic romance titles.
  • Strix Publishing. A small press specializing in strange fiction and art books, including the astonishing Problem Glyphs book.

Jewelry

Art, Decor, and Oddities

  • Moth and Myth. Lasercut paper moths.
  • Evil Supply Company. Greeting cards, stationery, pins, shirts, and coffee mugs for the discerning villain or monster.
  • The Stitchy Button. Adorable custom-made bunnies and dolls, for whatever fandom you want.
  • Angioletti Designs. Plates, teacups, and teapots, customized with dark (and not-so-dark) designs.
  • CatalystKoi. Resin skull replicas, and creepy one-of-a-kind art.
  • Henrietta’s Eye. Custom tintype portraits! (Seattle-only, but if you’re in the area, having a tintype portrait done is utterly worth it.)
  • The Art of Jason Soles. Unsettling sculptures and jewelry made from bone and skull replicas.
  • Gargoyle Statuary. Sculptures, statues, art, and candles perfect for your haunted abode. A spooky Seattle institution!

And of course, if you feel like doing some holiday baking, you just might want the link to the Gothic Charm School gingerbread bats recipe.

And now, Snarklings, the Lady of the Manners is going to seriously consider hibernating for the rest of the year. She hopes that all of you have a wonderful rest of the year, and fervently wishes that 2018 is better and kinder to all of us.

Of Goth and Halloween Costumes

23 October 2017

Oh Snarklings, the Lady of the Manners reassured you that she was working on another post for October, and here it is! True, it’s not a terribly lengthy one, but it is particularly timely!

Dear Lady of the Manners, I have been told that it is rude to dress as a goth for Halloween, and I wouldn’t dream of doing such. However, my mother has informed me that Oct. 31st is the only day I will be allowed to wear makeup. Would it be out of line to incorporate some eyeliner and concealer into my costume? Am I being oversensitive? What is a confused babybat such as myself to do?

Respectfully yours, Kali

You may be a tiny bit confused and oversensitive, oh spooky darling. Incorporate the eyeliner and concealer! See if you can indulge in some lipstick and glitter!

Quite simply, it is not rude to dress as a goth for Halloween. Why, the Lady of the Manners’ own mother regularly dressed as a goth for Halloween, annually borrowing clothes from the Lady of the Manners’ wardrobe and requesting help with eyeliner and dark lipstick. (And because her co-workers knew about her daughter, Mom was often greeted with “Happy Halloween! You dressed as Jillian!”)

For that matter, the Lady of the Manners has posted a guide on how to dress up as her over on Tumblr, just in case anyone has an urge to do so. (And if you do dress up as the Lady of the Manners,please send her photos!)

The only way dressing as a goth for Halloween would be rude (well, tacky) is if you bought one of those slightly tawdry and awful (well, very tawdry and awful) costumes-in-a-bag from a Halloween store. You know the ones: the construction is dodgy, and the fabric is scratchy or of extremely poor quality. (And sometimes misspelled, because the Lady of the Manners has tragically seen “panne” velvet listed as “penne” velvet.).

If there aren’t plastic skulls liberally glued to things, then the costume-in-a-bag is a shoddy knock-off of a favorite fictional goth icon, with a few details changed so the costume manufacturer doesn’t get slapped with a lawsuit. The last time the Lady of the Manners took a glance at the “goth” costumes that were for sale, she found multiple versions of Lydia Deetz, and Morticia, Gomez, and Wednesday Addams, all with names such as “Red Gothic Bride”, “Mortuary Mama”, “Putrid Papa”, and “Gothic Darling”. Needless to say, the Lady of the Manners shuddered and promptly closed the browser tab.

(However, in the interest of complete honesty, the Lady of the Manners must admit that she does want this “The Haunt” costume, because she covets that sheer hooded cape.)

If you want to dress as a goth for Halloween and a goth costume-in-a-bag is all you can afford or have time for, so be it, the Lady of the Manners completely understands. But she also feels that if you want to dress as a goth for Halloween, then you should scamper off to your local thrift stores! Not only do they always have a wide assortment of black clothes (the Lady of the Manners has recently found black velvet skirts, ruffled shirts, and waistcoats at her local thrift stores), but the Halloween season is when those thrift stores put out racks of what they consider “costume” pieces, which are often dark-hued fancy or vintage items.

Finally, Halloween isn’t just a time to don a costume; it is also a day that allows people the freedom to express who they want to be, even if that means just indulging in darker clothes, eyeliner, or dark lipstick for a brief while. In fact, the Lady of the Manners doesn’t really wear a costume on Halloween, but instead takes it as an opportunity to be even more fiercely herself. She pulls out all the opulent stops with her wardrobe, adorns herself with more elaborate makeup and glitter than on a regular day, and wears an extremely fancy and possibly enormous hat. Well, perhaps the vampire fangs count as a costume, but perhaps they don’t. You never know.

So happy Halloween, Snarklings! The comments are open, if you wish to share your Halloween plans or tell ghost stories.

A Short Post on Dealing with Elitist, Gother-Than-Thou Types

11 October 2017

Despite the Lady of the Manners’ best intentions, a post for September just didn’t happen, and the Lady of the Manners would like to apologize to you Snarklings for that. Of course, with October being THE goth month of celebration, things have been extremely busy around here at the Gothic Charm School lair, so while the Lady of the Manners is working on a new post, have a piece of … bonus content, as it were. ”

Elitists. Gatekeepers. People who say “You’re not a REAL goth unless”. The Gother-Than-Thou scourge of our subculture, and a persistent problem that many of you keep running into. So here: A selection of questions and (slightly rewritten) answers, taken from the gothiccharmschool tumblr, about how to deal with those types of lowly wretches.

Anonymous asked: What’s the difference between being a poseur and being new to the gothy culture? Sometimes it feels like the same thing… =/

Honestly? The Lady of the Manners thinks that “poseur” is a term thrown around by elitist types who are feeling a teensy bit insecure about their “coolness” in comparison to everyone else.
The only thing that would make the Lady of the Manners even consider using the term “poseur” is if someone professed interest or knowledge in something (anything, not just things to do with goth) but were fibbing in order to make themselves feel cooler. If you’re new to gothy culture, fantastic! Go forth and explore, and be thrilled that you will get to experience it for the first time! Don’t feel you have to act knowledgable and jaded; if someone mentions something you haven’t heard of, ask them about it. If they scoff at you or call you a “poseur” in response, the problem is with them, not you.

(There is no Elder Goth Cabal, and if there was, it would be more interested in introducing people to our spooky wonderland, not in being cranky gother-than-thou gatekeepers.)

Anonymous asked: As an eldergoth, what’s your opinion on the recent topic going around YouTube on whether or not you can be goth or not if you don’t like the music? There seems to be a mix of “yes, goth is more than music!” and “no, goth is ALL music.”, and even both “Maybe, just know the history.” Have you ever seen something like this in the past when you were a younger goth?

Of course the Lady of the Manners saw that sort of thing when she was a younger goth. There were people drawing arbitrary lines in the black sand and shouting at each other from both sides: “You’re not a real goth if you don’t know all of the bands and have the limited edition bat-shaped vinyl release of “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang” by Specimen!” vs. “You’re not a real goth unless you are constantly clad in fishnets, black lace, and velvet, with your hair sky-high and perfect swirly eyeliner!”

For the record, both sides are absolutely wrong. The goth subculture is a combination of the music and the fashion, and ALSO includes the books, art, and movies that provided the loamy cemetery soil for the modern goth subculture to claw its way out from.

You don’t have to like all the music. You don’t have to embrace the every aspect of the fashion. But YES, please know at least a little bit about where the whole thing came from.
Finally, if any elitist gatekeepers try to tell you otherwise, laugh at them and tell them that your Auntie Jilli and the Elder Goth Cabal (which doesn’t exist) says they’re wrong. Then ignore them forevermore.

Of course, there are other ways you can deal with elitist gatekeeping types, if you don’t quite feel like laughing at them:

Anonymous asked: Do you have tips on how to handle with elitist goths?

Ignore them. If they insist on interacting with you, smile coldly at them and practice saying things like, “That’s your opinion” and “How nice for you”, in as disinterested a tone of voice you can manage. Smother your words with as much bored sarcasm as you possibly can manage.


With that, the Lady of the Manners is going to throw the (as always, moderated) comments open! How do you Snarklings deal with elitists in our subculture?

Summer Goth – Avoiding the Burning Orb

14 July 2017

Snarklings, it’s time for a seasonal column. By which the Lady of the Manners means that in the hemisphere she lives in, it’s summer; her least favorite season. ::shudders::

Forgive the Lady of the Manners her melodramatic turn, Snarklings. There are many goths who like, nay, even adore summer! Warm weather! Longer days! More plentiful outdoor activities! There are those who are kind of meh about the whole sunlight thing. Then there are those (the Lady of the Manners included) who thanks to genetics, illnesses, medications, or who knows what else, don’t deal well with prolonged exposure to sunlight. (As the Lady of the Manners has said before, eventually she’ll develop the fun symptoms of vampirism, like mind control.)

Dealing with summer is a recurring topic here at Gothic Charm School, but this time around, two different types of goths in summer letters landed in the Gothic Charm School mailbox:

Dear Lady of the Manners

I came into goth very late in life and have never really worn much make up. I like to stay as pale as possible (I am sorry to say that I went through a sun bed phase a few years ago….very very stupid I know), so that with my abundance of moles makes me terrified of that flaming ball of fire!

So I use 50spf sunscreen which is the highest I can get in UK but no matter what I just look an oily mess. Foundation doesn’t seem to solve it either. I am stumped. How do these beautiful gothic creatures manage it? I don’t know any goths so I cannot ask, and I don’t see any day to day either so cannot pluck up the courage to ask a stranger. I’ve scoured YouTube and everyone says wear highest factor sunscreen but no one mentions putting it on their faces when showing daily routines etc.

Please can you tell me how I can express myself without looking like a slimeball? I do have a parasol but get a lot of negative attention when I use it (sometimes from family members too). But I’m still scared to go without any sunscreen even if I have my parasol.

I would love to hear any advice you can give, sorry it’s such a strange question but I have no one else to ask.

Thank you

Alison

It’s not a strange question! The Lady of the Manners has spent a lot of time trying to find the best combination of sunscreen + makeup that doesn’t devolve into an oily mess. But first, to address your comment about your parasol attracting negative attention: darling, try to teach yourself to ignore any negative comments or glances you may get concerning your parasol. You’re being very smart about taking care of yourself, and what other people think about that is irrelevant. As for your family members, ask them how bringing your own shade with you is a bad idea. But if you don’t want to deal with the negative attention, get yourself a wide-brimmed sun hat. They’ve been in style — in mainstream fashion and NuGoth fashion — for a few years now, so it should be relatively simple to track one down.

As to the sunscreen + makeup question: You say that you’re in the UK, and you’re wearing the highest SPF you can get, but is it a mattifying sunscreen? That’s the big trick to not turning into a shiny-faced melting person. After a lot of researching and trying different products, the Lady of the Manners has found that the most reliable matte finish sunscreens are ones that are made for the Asian skin care markets. The Lady of the Manners is very fond of Biore UV Aqua Rich Smooth Watery SPF 50 Gel and Sunprise Mild Airy Finish Sun Milk SPF50 from Etude House, both of which are available from amazon.co.uk.

Other matte finish sunscreens that the Lady of the Manners has heard good things about (but hasn’t yet tried) are La Roche-Posay Anthelios XL Ultra Light Fluid SPF 50, FrezyDerm Sun Screen Velvet Face SPF 30, and Nivea Sun Anti Age Face Cream SPF 50.

But it’s not enough to have a matte finish sunscreen! You have to know the tricks to applying it and putting makeup on top of it!

  1. Apply your sunscreen at least 10 minutes before you start applying makeup. You want to give your skin a little bit of time to absorb the sunscreen, or else any foundation, concealer, or powder you apply over it will probably not set properly and slip around.
  2. Don’t apply primer over your sunscreen. The Lady of the Manners knows there are makeup tutorials out there that say you should never skip using primer, but has never found a primer that works properly over sunscreen. (In fact, it’s been the Lady of the Manners’ experience that primer over sunscreen leads to the products pilling up into tiny little balls on your face, which is just … eugh.)
  3. With foundation, less is more. If you feel like you absolutely need a lot of foundation, apply it in layers, and buff it out (with a brush or cosmetic sponge) to make sure there are no streaky spots.
  4. Powder. Apply a light dusting of a sheer loose powder over your face makeup. The Lady of the Manners enthusiastically recommends NYX HD Studio Finishing Powder, which is available from amazon.co.uk AND Boots. It’s the best loose powder the Lady of the Manners has found, and is a perfect duplicate for HD finishing powders from more expensive brands.
  5. And finally, carry blotting papers with you! Because no matter how matte your sunscreen and how careful your makeup application, a shiny nose is going to happen. But if you have a package of oil blotting tissues or papers, you can soak up the oil from your face before you powder your nose. Again, Boots carries the NYX brand, and they offer at least four different types of blotting papers that you can tuck into a pocket or handbag.

(For those Snarklings who are in the USA, most of these products are available from amazon.com and directly from the NYX Cosmetics website. For Snarklings who are not from the UK or USA, put the product name into your favorite search engine and see what retail options are open to you. Yes, of course you knew to do that, but spelling things out never hurts.)

Another avoiding-the-sun question, from a reader who is pale and wants to stay that way:

This is perhaps a silly question, perhaps not. A product recommendation request, at its core.

I’ve always been teetering on the edge of goth, of the mindset but not really in a place where I was comfortable actively constructing a wardrobe. Even so, I like my skin pale (and it really IS pale, blinding-in-the-sunlight so when I wear shorts, at least) but tan quite easily, and it takes a very long time to fade. Any lightening creams you would recommend, and/or a good sunscreen that wouldn’t make me smell like a beach which would be suitable for everyday wear?

Right off the … bat (bats?), the Lady of the Manners wants to again stress that one does not have to be pale to be goth! Or goth adjacent, even! Anyone, of any skin color, can be a goth, and that includes people who tan easily and/or want to be tan. (Do any of you need to go reread the Goths of Color post?)

For wanting to stay pale (or to avoid damaging your skin), your best bet is a good sunscreen. (Well, avoiding sunlight all together is probably the very best way, but then you run the risk of having very low vitamin D levels, and then your doctor will make concerned noises at you. Not that the Lady of the Manners has any personal experience with that, no.) The first half of this post went over the Lady of the Manners’ recommendations for facial sunscreens; if you’re looking for a sunscreen to use on other parts of yourself, the Lady of the Manners has had good results with the unscented versions of sunscreens from Badger Balm, Alba Botanicals, and Neutrogena.
As for the lightening cream part of your letter, there’s a very simple answer:

No.

All right, the Lady of the Manners will expand upon that. There is no product out there that will safely lighten or bleach your skin. Oh, there’s a gazillion different products out there that claim they’re able to do such a thing, but those claims are a (not so) gentle fiction. At best, the products are a moisturizer; at worst, they’ll damage your skin. This applies to various “natural”, DIY, or make-at-home skin lightening recipes.

Really, the only way to make your tan fade more quickly is to gently exfoliate the tanned areas every time you take a bath or shower, and then apply moisturizer. Will that make your tan go away like magic? No, but then, nothing will.

Again, the best way to keep your skin untanned and undamaged is to protect it from the sun: sunscreen, parasols and sun hats, and clothing that blocks the damaging rays. And speaking of clothing blocking sunlight, did you know there’s a wash-in UV blocking product?! It’s called SunGuard, and apparently it’s as simple as tossing a package of it in with a load of laundry. The Lady of the Manners hasn’t tried it yet, but friends of hers have, and say it works well. So, something to keep in mind!

Because the sun is setting in the Lady of the Manners’ area, she’s going to wander out into the backyard to enjoy the balmy evening. But what about the rest of you Snarklings? Do you have a favorite sunblock? A good way to avoid the sun? Because the comments are open! (Moderated, as always, but open.)

Of Gifts and Relationship Talks

9 June 2017

Snarklings, the Lady of the Manners didn’t intend to lapse into silence again, really she didn’t! But there was work, and travel, and then more work, and even more travel. And, well. Time scampered on by, as it does. Yes, the Lady of the Manners was posting fairly regularly over on Tumblr and Instagram (where, if you go back in the archives to the beginning of May, you’ll find photos from Bats Day and the Vampire Masquerade Ball, which were part of the aforementioned travel), but that’s not the same as writing posts for Gothic Charm School!

So! The Lady of the Manners is slowly excavating the Gothic Charm School inbox, and getting back into the swing of answering reader questions!

A gentleman by the name of Ryan asked for help in finding gifts for his ladylove:

So I am not of the goth scene, but my SO of many years is, she probably has more bat lace than I can shake a stick at. My question is what do you get the goth who has everything? Please help a desperate supportive man running out of things to get.

If it makes you feel any better, sir, the Lady of the Manners’ own dear husband has run into this problem, too. (The Lady of the Manners has pointed out that books are always good gifts, but her husband has made the very accurate point that every flat surface at Gothic Charm School headquarters is covered with books, and where would we put more?)

But! What should you get your lovely goth who has everything? Firstly, do the obvious thing and ask her if she has a wishlist on places like Amazon or Etsy. Perhaps even remind her that she can add things from other sites to an Amazon wishlist. Is this a terribly inventive solution? Well, no, but it will give you more ideas for the sort of things she’s pining over.

Secondly, start looking at things that are similar to what she already owns, but better. Once a goth hits a certain point in their collection of things, transitioning to a smaller, but extremely high-quality collection is very enticing.
For example, say she likes bat jewelry (as many goths do), then you could save up and get her the Night Creature Art Nouveau Bat necklace from Bloodmilk, or the Megachiroptera necklace from Arcana Obscura. Does she like coffin jewelry? Then look at the coffin gems from Mordauntes’ Coffin Gems.

Are there independent clothing designers she’s long admired (such as Kambriel, Azrael’s Accomplice, or Hilary’s Vanity, to name a few)? A gift certificate to a favorite designer is always a thoughtful gift.

On the topic of books: does she have a favorite book? Find an edition she doesn’t have, or look to see if a special, super-fancy version of it has been released. Places like eBay, The Folio Society, and Easton Press are good places to start looking.

What about a gift certificate to someplace for pampering? Yes, it’s a bit of a cliche suggestion, but being given the chance to indulge in a manicure/pedicure/spa day is always a welcome gift.

If you don’t have the budget for such things, never fear! There are still plenty of options for you. There’s the whole realm of DIY “gift certificates”! Give her a hand-lettered certificate good for a day (or more!) of loafing, where she can spend the day relaxing however she wants, and you’ll take care of any daily tasks and meals. A comfort movie night gift certificate, where she has complete control of whatever media the two of you watch for the evening, and you make the popcorn, nibbly food, and drinks. Essentially, anything you can do in order to give her some time to relax and not have to take care of things, even basic day-to-day things, will show how much you care for her.

And finally, there’s a classic goth present: a mix tape! Well, a mix … something. CD, USB drive, whatever. Spend some time crafting a playlist of songs that remind you of her, or that express what you feel about your relationship. Go for the full effect and write up liner notes.

The best gifts are the ones that show you’ve paid attention, that you’ve put time and thought into. Don’t worry about “Is it fancy enough?”, and instead, think about how to show what you feel.

Z. wrote with a question about returning to their goth ways and their relationship:

Dear Lady Of the Manners,

Let me preface this by saying that I’ve always been a darkly inclined person. When I was a college freshman I used to stomp about in platform boots and elaborate outfits like nobody’s business. Later on, though, I ended up toning things down considerably as being in a rigorous science program left me with little time to keep up my usual “look” and get involved with the local Goth community. Now, as someone with a Master’s degree, fixed work hours and more time on my hands, I find myself gradually getting back to my “normal”, so to speak. Which isn’t normal at all to most people.

The problem is that my boyfriend of nearly four years is completely taken aback by all this. I’ve always dressed “dark” around him and it’s not as if I suddenly emerged in some over-the-top Victorian outfit one day – I’ve been taking this very slowly. But he never fails to remind me how silly I look or how embarrassed he is if I’m wearing anything that might attract a few glances, i.e. anything less mainstream that black dress pants/shirts or simple dresses. Apparently, at twenty-four years old, I Should Not Dress That Way. (Let me reassure you that I’m not dressing in ways that would be inappropriate for the situation, no PVC corsets in the streets on Sunday afternoons and no Lolita frills to go to a casual house party for example.) He’s also expressed disapproval at my wanting to reacquaint myself with the local scene. This is all coming from someone I have to bribe to not wear jeans at a formal event. I’ve sometimes been embarrassed by HIS manner of dress, but I haven’t said a thing about it; I didn’t think it was worth whining about since his good qualities outweigh lack of fashion sense.

If this were coming from any other person, I wouldn’t care, because I haven’t been able to truly express myself in years and haven’t felt so self-confident in ages. But it’s saddening that I’m hearing all this from the one person whose opinion I do care about. He’s supportive of me in every other way you could possibly think of and has also never shown signs of controlling behaviour before, our relationship has been years of pure happiness. I feel stuck in an awkward situation what with having to choose between being true to my roots and not embarrassing my boyfriend, and would appreciate advice on how to deal with this gracefully. Unfortunately I don’t think he’s the type who would simply get used to it over time.

Sincerely,

Z.

The Lady of the Manners has to admit she has been reading and rereading this letter, trying to grapple with this thorny problem, and has finally come to the fact that she’s going to have to give advice she really didn’t want to.

You have to decide what means more to you: your boyfriend’s approval, or returning to your roots and expressing yourself in a way that feels the most true to yourself. Which is a horrible, tearing decision to be forced to make! But unfortunately, the Lady of the Manners sees no way around that crossroads.

You say that he’s supportive of you in every other way, and that he’s never shown any signs of controlling behavior, and the Lady of the Manners doesn’t doubt you. But … he’s disapproving of things that you feel are core to your being, that make you feel confident. A partner who is truly supportive would want you to embrace the things that make you feel most like yourself, that make you supremely confident. A partner who is truly supportive wouldn’t make you worry that he’s embarrassed by you.

So, there’s a difficult conversation in your future. You need to sit down with him and have A Serious Talk. Explain to him that this is not a phase or idle passing fancy; this is who you’ve been in the past, and now that you are not being crushed by the demands of your rigorous science program, you have the time to return to these things. If you have photos of yourself from your previous gothy incarnations, show them to him. Then ask him why does he object to you being more visibly goth, why does he object to you getting more involved in the local scene?

Does he fear you won’t love him because he’s not a goth? If so, reassure him that there’s no rule that goths have to be involved with other people from the same subculture.

Does he think that there’s some sort of age limit for goth? Gently disabuse him of that notion, and perhaps point him at some of the Gothic Charm School posts on the subject, or perhaps the article on eldergoths over at Broadly.

Really press him on his answers. This is not the time for accepting a vague “I dunno, that’s just how I feel” sort of answer. You really need to find out the roots of his disapproval and embarrassment. Make it clear to him that returning to your goth roots makes you feel strong and confident, and more like yourself.

And now, it’s time for the advice the Lady of the Manners really didn’t want to give: if after The Serious Talk (or talks, it may take a few to really address things), he still is uncomfortable, disapproving, and in general embarrassed by your return to all things goth, then you need to decide if it’s worth staying in the relationship.

The Lady of the Manners is NOT saying this lightly. But she honestly feels that if your boyfriend is disapproving and embarrassed by you, then it’s best for both of you to go your separate ways. Neither of you will feel entirely comfortable or supported by the other. If you stay together despite this, you will always have a lingering worry that he’ll be constantly disapproving, and he’ll probably have a low level of resentment that you’re not giving up something that he sees as worthless.

The Lady of the Manners fervently hopes that you and your boyfriend will be able to resolve your differences and be happy together. But you can’t be happy together unless you’re happy with yourselves, separately.

If any of you have any helpful comments or support, the comments are open! Moderated, of course, but open!

Even though the Lady of the Manners will be digging through the Gothic Charm School mailbox for eons yet, you still should send in your questions! The Correspondence page will help you do just that!
And now, the Lady of the Manners is going to pour herself a glass of absinthe, have some chocolate, and indulge in a vintage gothic romance, where the only relationship obstacles the heroine has to overcome are disquieting relatives and a possibly-haunted house.