Crushed. Velvet, That Is!

28 March 2014

Velvet is a wardrobe basic for Goths and other creatures of the night. But velvet can be a high-maintenence fabric: if it’s not some sort of cotton velveteen or Lycra-enhanced stretch velvet, the lush pile of the fabric can end up damaged.

“Pile of the fabric?” That’s the thing that makes velvet, well, velvet: a raised nap of thousands of threads, which is why velvet has a different texture depending on which direction you run your hand across it. The fabric is woven on a special loom that weaves two thicknesses of velvet at the same time. After weaving, those two pieces are cut apart to become separate lengths of fabric, each with a pile.

Which is why velvet is so luxurious to the touch, but is also why it can be difficult to deal with. The pile of the velvet can be changed by water, such as rain spots on velvet coats, a perennial Goth problem, or even just by everyday life, such as how the friction of sitting can flatten out the texture of a velvet skirt in very specific locations. There are special tools and techniques for refreshing and refluffing flattened or crushed areas of velvet, but in the Lady of the Manners’ opinion, once velvet has been crushed, it can never be restored to it’s former lustrous perfection.

But wait! Don’t despair over your rain-spattered, smushed velvet garments! Because there is a way to give them new life and a new texture. That’s right, Snarklings, it’s tutorial time!

Supplies you need:

  • The velvet garment in question (this project works best on velvet that is polyester, rayon, silk, or a mixture of those fibers).
  • A spray bottle full of clean water.
  • A flat surface you can lay the garment out on. Ironing board, table, kitchen counter, whatever heat-resistant surface is handy. Make sure it’s at a height you can comfortably sit or stand at!
  • A large towel.
  • An iron.

Additional, but not necessary, supplies include a playlist of music you like, or a favorite movie or TV show to have on in the background, and a tasty beverage of your choice.

 

Step 1. (After you’ve started your background entertainment.) Plug in the iron, and set it to a medium-high dry heat setting.

Step 2. Lay the towel out over the flat surface you’re using, then lay your velvet (pile side up!) out on top of the towel.

Step 3. Grasp a section of the velvet and scrunch it up. The Lady of the Manners usually goes for haphazardly gathering a section into pleats.

Step 4. Mist the scrunched, pleated section of velvet with water from the spray bottle. You’re not trying to drench the fabric, just make it damp.

Step 5. Iron! Be very careful to not singe your fingers, but run the hot iron over the damp, scrunched velvet for a minute. There will be a hissing noise of steam as the iron cooks the scrunches and pleats into the damp velvet. (If you have cats, and they are anything like the Lady of the Manners’ Kitties of Chaos, they will be less than pleased with the noise.)

Step 6. Lift the iron and let go of the velvet. The pile of the velvet has now been crushed in various directions, giving it a multi-textured effect!

Step 7. Repeat, repeat, repeat, until you have crushed ALL the velvet! Sometimes you will need to go over scrunched and pleated sections multiple times, but eventually you will have permanently altered the pile of the velvet, and you will have a garment that looks dramatically different than what you started out with!

Be warned: once you get the hang of this, turning velvet into crushed velvet can be strangely soothing and addictive. By the time you read this tutorial, the Lady of the Manners will have done this to two skirts and two blazers that have been lurking around in the Storage Heap Room o’ Doom, and is eyeing some other velvety things she has lying about. Because it’s so much fun!

Polyvore – Escape the Ordinary

20 March 2014
escape the ordinary

escape the ordinary by theamaia featuring DENY Designs

Polyvore fashion-y thing, as always, by the fabulous theamaia!

Of Goths, P.E., and “Is It Dark Enough?”

13 March 2014

Hello, Snarklings! The Gothic Charm School mailbox has been receiving a steady stream of letters from babybats with fashion questions. Which is no surprise, because as fledgling spooksters, of course they’re looking for guidance on how to express their affection for all things dark and shadowy. The Lady of the Manners feels that she should take a moment to point out some previous Gothic Charm School posts about gothy fashion, as it is a topic the Lady of the Manners really likes talking about. (And oh goodness, the Lady of the Manners probably should do another post about prom, shouldn’t she?) But! The current crop of correspondence did have a few fashion-focused questions that have not turned up before.

Dear Lady of the Manners,

I hate to bother you, but I have a growing problem that I believe effects some of the baby bat community. I am in middle school and of course we have to take phys. Ed, and I was wondering how you can show your love for the dark when there is no jewelry, your hair is pulled back in a messy ponytail, and the all black look just makes you three times hotter than the rest of the group. The makeup might as well be thrown out the window too, considering it will get messy after the workout anyway. I was wondering if you could help me any or should I just continue on feeling named without my eyeliner? Any response or suggestion would be great.

Your snarkling,

-Ierrose

You would think, wouldn’t you Snarklings, that the Lady of the Manners’ revulsion for P.E. class would have long since withered away, what with her middle and high school years being far, far behind her. But no, just the mention of the class brings back memories of being smacked in the head with soccer balls and other such unhappy notions, and the Lady of the Manners very fervently hopes that you school-age Snarklings are having a much better time of things.

But to address lerrose’s question: There are times when being concerned about displaying one’s subcultural leanings just isn’t that important, and P.E. class is one of them. Because you’re right, any efforts toward elaborate makeup are going to be thwarted by the inevitable perspiration that follows exertion, and you’ll only have to redo all of your eyeliner anyway.
The Lady of the Manners isn’t entirely sure about wearing all black making you overheat faster than other colors of exercise clothing, for surely it has more to do with the fiber content of the clothing, not the colors? But even so, you don’t want to risk your gothy finery for P.E. class. When the Lady of the Manners exercises (or Gothercizes, if you’d rather), she tends to wear black leggings and an oversized concert t-shirt, or black bloomers and a “girly”-cut concert shirt.

However, the Lady of the Manners is very serious about there being times when displaying your gothness isn’t what you should be focusing on. When one is exercising, doing housework, or other strenuous, potentially messy things, don’t fret about if you’ve achieved perfect eyeliner or if you’re adorned in the spookiest outfit possible. For that matter, don’t fret about those sorts of things ever. Do you have a day where you don’t feel like painting your face or pulling on layers of fishnet and velvet? Then don’t, and don’t spend any time worrying about it. Which leads straight to the next question for this post …

I am aged 13 and I have recently discovered your amazing school. I have a question, I am a male and want to change my wardrobe, an idea that I have formulated is the following: for clothing nothing too fancy. Just something like a black shirt and jeans, some boots and a leather jacket. Is this dark enough? Please reply,

–Jay–

Oh gracious, darling babybat, of course your black shirt and jeans, boots, and a leather jacket will be “dark enough”. This may seem surprising from the Lady of the Manners, whose devotion to wildly elaborate clothing is rather well known, but your gothness is not determined by your wardrobe. Stop swooning in shock, it really isn’t.

Yes, part of the Goth archetype (or cliche, if you would rather) is that we’re all fabulously-dressed creatures of darkness, draped in velvet, lace, leather, and layers of shredded fishnet, our eyes thickly painted with intricate eyeliner designs, and our black-nailed hands barely able to move for the weight of the giant rings on our fingers. And yes, the Lady of the Manners is very fond of those cliches. But those cliches are not requirements, not by a long shot.

As the Lady of the Manners has said before, Goth is about finding beauty in the darker corners of life, of having an appreciation for the macabre, the unsettling, the decadent, and the monstrous. Goth enfolds much, much more than fashion: there’s music, literature, movies –every type of artistic endeavor has been done with a Gothic twist at one point or another! Plus there’s the historical and philosophical roots of the Gothic movement to explore!

Over the years, there has been this weird double-standard in the Goth world; if you show “too much” enthusiasm for the dark glamour of Goth fashion, some people will dismiss you as a poseur or as someone who is only playing dress-up and isn’t a REAL Goth. On the flip side of the coffin lid, if you don’t concern yourself with that dark glamour and focus more on the non-fashion aspects of Goth, other people will dismiss you for not showing the subculture colors, as it were, and say that you aren’t a REAL Goth. All of which the Lady of the Manners dismisses with a wave of a ring-bedecked hand and says, piffle. Are you interested in parts of the Goth world? Do you want to call yourself a Goth? Then you are a REAL Goth, and ignore the petty people who try and tell you that you aren’t.

For that matter, the notion of REAL Goths is ridiculous, because no one, and the Lady of the Manners really does mean NO ONE, is super-spooky ultra-Goth 24/7. It’s not possible, and the people who try to say that “this thing is Goth, this thing isn’t, and here is the list of rules you have to adhere to in order to be Goth” are doing nothing but betraying their own insecurities.

So don’t worry about your style being “dark enough”. Don’t worry if there are activities that keep you from wrapping yourself in dark finery, and don’t worry if there are times when you just don’t feel like putting on the full creepshow display. You are still Goths in your black hearts and inky souls, and that, Snarklings, is the most important part.

Returning to the Spooky Life (Back to the Crypt)

20 February 2014

Every now and then, Snarklings, the Gothic Charm School mailbox sees a gentle flurry of correspondence from older readers asking about returning to their gothy roots. How should they dress? Where can they find other older Goths? Are they too old to seek out the dark forces and join their hellish crusade return to the velvet-shrouded gloom? This letter from Bobby is a perfect example:

question: I was goth back in college (I’m 33 now) and have since become a regular joe working as a medic for a rescue squad and all the niceties that come with having a wife and 2 year old daughter.  But the past few years I’ve felt the pull to go back to black so to speak, but have suppressed it.  The pull is getting stronger and I’m wondering if I’m too old to return.  I don’t know and haven’t seen any goths where I live that are my age to talk to.  So I’m curious how to even go about it.  I know you say even at my age there’s nothing wrong with returning but I don’t even know how to dress as an adult goth.  I’m 6’2″ 325lbs so I can’t pull off what I used to wear and would need to tone it down anyway.  Any advice would be greatly appreciated.   

Sincerely,
Bobby

Now, it’s been a while since the Lady of the Manners addressed this topic, but everything she said in 2003, 2008, and multiple posts from 2009 still holds true. However, to examine some of Bobby’s concerns:

  • No, dark heart, you are not too old to return to your extended Addams Family. The Lady of the Manners is older than you, and many, MANY of the people she admires are older than her by quite a lot. Revel in the fact that you are old enough to know who you are and what you want to spend your time on, and (the Lady of the Manners hopes) secure enough to not worry about other people’s opinions. Be who you want to be; if that involves darker colors and music full of dark bombast, so much the better.
  • You haven’t seen any Goths your age around where you live? That’s what the internet is for! What is drawing you back to the shadowy side? The music? The literature? Horror movies? An appreciation for the overall glamorous decayed aesthetic? Whatever your interests are, type them into the search engine of your choice and start looking around. No, you may not find a community of older Goth types right away, but you will almost certainly find sites that appeal to your interests and help you find those like-minded adults. And don’t forget to search whatever your preferred social networking site is for online communities for grown-up Goths, because there are a lot of them.
  • Also, keep a close eye out for concerts and events in your area that would probably attract an older Goth crowd. It’s become something of a running (skulking and lurking?) joke that certain Goth-friendly bands on reunion tours will pull all of the Eldergoths out of their coffins. The Damned, Dead Can Dance, Peter Murphy, Sisters of Mercy all have played shows in the past few years, and have been fantastic events for reconnecting with spooky people of a Certain Age.
  • How to dress as an adult Goth? Wear whatever appeals to you, and works for your lifestyle! However, slacks, jeans, some dress shirts and a nice tie or two, and a sharp blazer are all good pieces to have in basic black, and can all be found at a wide variety of shops (including thrift stores and big-box retailers). Add in some concert tees for beloved bands, and you should be all set. (Tho’ the Lady of the Manners feels she should warn you about the outrageous secondary market prices for vintage concert shirts, as she has not quite recovered from seeing a shirt for The Damned priced at $500.)
  • Don’t forget jewelry! Tie tacks, cufflinks, and lapel pins can add a dash of ghoulish glamour if you’re aiming for a more dandified look. While your job as a medic on a rescue squad probably means you can’t indulge in substantial rings or bracelets, you probably could wear a necklace under your uniform. (Kudos to you for being one of the heros who work with rescue squads – your work is hard and very appreciated.)
  • Of course, one of the best things about being an older member of our spooky subculture is that we don’t (well, shouldn’t) have the constant societal pressure to justify what catches our interests, or to defend why we are drawn to things. And if you find yourself feeling like you need to justify your interests, or find yourself using phrases such as “guilty pleasures”, try to remember that there are times when the phrase “Because I do. And?” is completely appropriate to use.

Another flavor of Eldergoth correspondence that occasionally flutters into the Gothic Charm School mailbox is from people who are not questioning a return to the darker side of things, but want to express their support, which is wonderful! But sometimes that support comes with mixed messages:

As an early adopter, or original ’70′s bat caver, I will only add that goths are born not made. 
At 54, the eyeliner is out, so although I admire Criss Angel copying the look we had in 1980, we elders can’t pull it off.  An understated, sophisticated look is best.
One must keep their weight down as well,  gaunt and pale rules the night. 

While the Lady of the Manners is always happy to see mail from the first generation of Goths, this message troubles her a tiny bit, because sweeping blanket statements about Goth (or any subculture) usually do.

“An understated, sophisticated look is best”. Perhaps for some, but the Lady of the Manners feels that Goths, especially Eldergoths, should decide what looks they think are best for themselves. One of the Lady of the Manners’ favorite fashion blogs is Advanced Style, precisely because it shows people who aren’t afraid to embrace elaborate styles that aren’t “understated” by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, the Lady of the Manners is going to save the photos of this fabulous lady for future reference. (Oh yes, the plan is that once the Lady of the Manners’ hair goes completely white, the black dye will stop and it will be brilliant pink hair all the time.)

If you are a person who has embraced an over-the-top and “overstated” style for most of your life, you shouldn’t be afraid to flaunt it as you get older. The comment about understated and sophisticated looks, while almost certainly well-meant, is perilously close to the sentiments of Goth being a phase and something to grow out of.

As for the notion that “gaunt and pale rules the night”NO, the Lady of the Manners most vehemently disagrees with that. Yes, the classic images that the Goth aesthetic sprang from are primarily of pale, wan, and gaunt creatures of the night, but that doesn’t mean those are the only acceptable forms of the Goth aesthetic. Goths are of all ages, sizes, and skin tones, and the notion that someone must tortuously and slavishly contort themselves to fit the skinny and pale mold is not acceptable.

In other words, Snarklings, if you want your personal vision of Goth to be understated, sophisticated, gaunt, and pale, by all means, do so! But don’t feel that you have to look like that to be part of the Goth world, and absolutely don’t think that you must change who you are to be accepted by the rest of your spooky and shadow-clad subculture. And finally, if someone tries to tell you that you are too old, too young, too … something to be a Real Goth, feel free to laugh at that person. The Elder Goth Cabal (That Does Not Exist) doesn’t agree with them at all, and thinks it’s terribly quaint when someone tries to insist on such ridiculous and arbitrary false rules.

Polyvore – Romantic Goth Winter

6 February 2014
romantic goth winter

romantic goth winter by theamaia featuring word wall art

Are you Snarklings liking the gothy fashion dolls that theamaia is creating?

Responding to Insulting and Mean Comments

30 January 2014

Hello Snarklings! This time at Gothic Charm School, the Lady of the Manners is going to deal with a subject that both she and goths everywhere are sadly all too familiar with: people directing unkind or mean-spirited comments at you. Ophelia sent in the following question:

Dear Headmistress,
The other day I was touching up my lipstick in the school bathroom (I’m in high school) when I was caught rather off-guard by another girl’s loud comments. She said I was really scaring her, that I looked like I was going to a funeral (I was wearing a lovely Mary-Poppins-esque black coat, a top hat, and some Victorian boots). Not wanting to show any signs of surprise or annoyance, I simply smiled and said “thank you.” She opened the bathroom door and called out to her friends, making sure I could hear as she called me “scary” and “freaky,” and told them how I’d said thank you to the funeral comment. Then she left. Calmly, I gathered my things and left the bathroom as well; when she noticed that I was behind her she turned, shuddered emphatically, and hurried away.
I was a bit amused by the attention, but I also found myself thinking about it for the rest of the day, a bit bothered by it.
Do people do or say outright mean things like this to the Lady of the Manners? I assume some of the more unenlightened folks do, since our style garners us so much attention. But do those mean comments bother you, Headmistress? Should I have been bothered, or not? And what would you have said if you had been me?

::siiiiiigh:: Forgive the Lady of the Manners, Snarklings, she needs a moment or two to let her eyes recover from rolling in exasperation. Dear Opheila, you handled that situation in the same way that the Lady of the Manners would have done. One of the main fashion goals for most goths is to look like we’ve wandered away from a particularly opulent funeral, so if someone makes a comment along those lines, the polite thing to do is say thank you.

People like the girl who felt the need (or urge) to comment on your behavior and appearance do that to be provocative. They’re aware they’re being rude, and they don’t expect a polite, calm response to their jibes. In fact, they’re usually hoping the reaction to their insults will be an entertaining display of embarrassment, hurt feelings, or angry retaliation. They don’t expect a calm response of good manners; it confuses and disarms them, and they have no idea how to react.

In the Lady of the Manners’ experience, when people make rude comments to someone, those comments are a window into the commentator’s psyche. A window that shows their discontent and insecurities, because bullying someone (and make no mistake, those comments were a form of bullying, especially the “freaky” and “scary” ones) is the impulse of unhappy people who are desperately flailing about for a way to prop themselves up.

So when someone makes comments like the ones that were thrown at Ophelia, by all means, respond in a calm manner. If you feel particularly snarky (and the Lady of the Manners wouldn’t blame you in the slightest if you did), smile, say “thank you”, and then ask them why they decided to dress like that? As a matter of fact, when the Lady of the Manners has run into rude and impertinent people who think they’re the soul of wit by saying things like, “You know it’s not Halloween, right?”, the Lady of the Manners has been known to waltz past them while smiling and saying, “Then why are you wearing that costume?” But keep in mind that responding in a snarky (even politely snarky) way could be interpreted as you escalating the situation, which is never a good idea. Make sure you can leave the area and get away from the other person before you indulge in snark! A potentially safer response is, as many people have said before, to ignore them. Act like you didn’t hear them, and especially act like their comments don’t bother you.

Should you be bothered by those sorts of comments? Dear Snarkling, it’s not a case of shoulds. The important thing to remember is that you don’t need to believe those comments, or take them to heart. When the Lady of the Manners has days where those sorts of comments annoy and exasperate her, it’s usually because she’s frustrated that people are still not only making those sorts of comments, but that they haven’t come up with anything new to say.

Here’s the secret, which isn’t really a secret: no one is universally liked, nor should they expect to be. So what? Just because someone says something mean or rude doesn’t make it the truth, and it doesn’t make it worth listening to. Ignore the comments as much as you’re able to, and always, ALWAYS remember that you shouldn’t base your self-worth or happiness on the opinions of other people.

For the most part, the Lady of the Manners feels a bit sorry for the sort of people that feel moved to make unkind comments about her appearance, because their lives must be a bit boring and unfulfilling if they have to resort to harassing others for amusement. Of course, the idea that a black-clad eccentric such as the Lady of the Manners, or you Snarklings, view them with pity would irritate and rankle those sorts of people, too, which is just an added bonus to it.

Finally, the Lady of the Manners suggests that Ophelia (and the rest of you!) visit the Gothic Charm School archives and reread the January 2011 post on dealing with bullies, which has even more suggestions for how to deal with this sort of thing.

Comments are open (moderated, but open!), so Snarklings may share their stories and how they’ve dealt with similar situations.

Yet Another Polyvore Fashion-y Thing!

23 January 2014

Look! Another gothy Polyvore doll from Thea Maia!

Ringmaster

Ringmaster by theamaia featuring a tall hat

Don’t Drink, Don’t Smoke – What Do You Do?

16 January 2014

Guess what, Snarklings! It’s time to answer a question from a reader! A question that gave the Lady of the Manners a chance to use an Adam Ant lyric for a title, but she is a bit surprised the query hasn’t come up before, actually.

Dearest Lady of the Manners,
Hello! I must say you are a huge inspiration to me, and I think you are just Wonderful! I’m writing to you with a… simple question. Like, overly simple. Is it practical to be goth and not drink alcoholic beverages? I’ve been goth for six years now, and chosen a very long time ago to follow a straight edge lifestyle (I assume you know that means no drugs, alcohol, etc), and until now this has not been any sort of problem. Now that I’m of age and can linger and whatnot with other goth individuals, the choice is starting to have.. not that great of an effect. It seems that a particularly favorite pass time of any goth that I meet is going out on weekends or Friday nights to clubs and drinking. I’ve tried going to the club with friends, them drinking and me not at all, all of us dancing and having a mostly good time, and while I’m not really scorned and made fun of for not drinking, it isn’t the same. I end up feeling like almost a third wheel, or getting the vibe that I’m not wanted around there occasionally. And I truly try not be a buzz kill!!! (Which isn’t too hard for me, considering my natural self is rather goofy and quirky) They’re all great friends, they just have different views on drinking than I do. Is there any advice you can give? Do you think I will be forced to give up one or the other? And while on the topic of beverages, do you know any non-alcoholic beverages that are particularly “gothy” and tasty?
Thank you for Everything!
KittyPirate

Dearest KittyPirate, and any other Snarklings who may have been wondering about this: it is absolutely alright to be goth and not drink alcoholic beverages! Now, the Lady of the Manners understands how the confusion would arise, as a lot of goth social life is focused on going to night clubs and fancy events. Not to mention the fact that many of the historical roots of goth are strongly entwined around the notions of being transgressive, redefining what is beautiful, and being terribly, terribly decadent.

However, it is possible to embrace all of those notions while not intoxicated! And that in some ways, being a part of the goth subculture while not drinking is a more daring and rebellious viewpoint to hold than the alternative, because it means that your thoughts aren’t blurred by anything other than your own visceral reactions.

As to your feeling “like almost a third wheel, or getting the vibe that I’m not wanted around there occasionally”, the Lady of the Manners must ask you a somewhat pointed question: have any of your friends actually said such things? Or are you perhaps creating concerns that don’t exist? Perhaps the Lady of the Manners has been very lucky with her social circles, but she’s never heard of anyone she knows in the goth community excluding someone because they choose not to drink alcohol.

Try this: the next time you go out with your friends, don’t mention drinking. Don’t comment on your choice to not drink alcohol, don’t comment on your friends’ choices to drink. Try not to bring it up at all, try not to think about it, and then see how the evening goes.

However, if your friends have been making comments about not wanting you around because you’re straight-edge, then what to do is very clear: make new friends. The Lady of the Manners doesn’t mean that in a flippant way, she’s quite serious. Friends should respect your boundaries and decisions, even if they don’t share them. Spending time with people who don’t, or who mock you for your choices is a losing game, and you shouldn’t call those people friends.

As for suggestions for “gothy” non-alcoholic beverages, don’t feel you have to select anything, be it a beverage, a book, an article of clothing, or a friend, based on how goth it is. (Yes, the Lady of the Manners is sure you know that, but repeating that basic truth never hurts.) With that caveat out of the way, some non-alcoholic beverages that the Lady of the Manners is particularly fond of are:

  • Ask the bartender what they can make that is tasty and non-alcoholic! It’s easy to order a beverage that appear to be some sort of cocktail, but doesn’t contain any alcohol. Because sometimes people feel uncomfortable or judged if someone else is pointedly Not Drinking, even if that’s not what the non-drinker intended at all. So a beverage that looks like a cocktail can be effective social camouflage.
  • 7-Up or Sprite with a splash of bitters. The Lady of the Manners is fairly certain that every bar or club will have regular bitters for drink mixing, so requesting this type of beverage shouldn’t perplex whomever is behind the bar. (Be aware that bitters are made with small amount of alcohol, so if your goal is to completely avoid alcohol, you may want to skip bitters.)
  • Tonic water with a few wedges of lime. Mmmm, quinine! Plus, tonic water glows under black lights, which is always fun. If you don’t like quinine, or don’t want the sugar, club soda is also an option.
  • If you like tomato juice (some folks don’t), a “virgin” or non-alcoholic Bloody Mary is always an option. Plus, you can tell yourself that you’re having one of your daily recommended servings of vegetables and feel extra-virtuous.
  • Fizzy water with a dash of flavored syrup and a splash of bitters. The Lady of the Manners has a small collection of different flavors of syrups and bitters just for this purpose! Rose syrup with cardamom bitters, vanilla syrup with a splash of grapefruit bitters, or violet syrup with cardamom bitters are some of the Lady of the Manners’ particular favorites. Admittedly, your chances of finding a selection of fancy bitters and syrup at the local goth club are slim, but still ask!

Do any of you lovely Snarklings reading have a suggestion for tasty non-alcoholic beverages? Share them in the (moderated, as always!) comments!

Fashion-y Things!

6 January 2014

Hello Snarklings, and welcome to 2014 at Gothic Charm School! For the new year, the Lady of the Manners is experimenting with some new types of content for Gothic Charm School.

One of the Lady of the Manners’ dear friends is Thea Maia, a fabulous artist who spends a lot of time on Polyvore. One day, during an afternoon of tea and working on craft projects, we talked about her creating gothy fashion dolls on Polyvore, to aid you Snarklings in finding all sorts of fashionable fripperies and spooky stylish things. So with no further wittering here is the first creation! Winter Stripes:

winter stripes

winter stripes by theamaia featuring a striped shirt

On Surviving Family Gatherings During The Holidays

20 December 2013

The Lady of the Manners apologizes for the lack of posts during November 2013, Snarklings. There were a bunch of other things the Lady of the Manners was juggling , and time scurried by a bit faster than she had realized. (Also, Tumblr is well-known to make one lose track of time.) However! Now it is December, and holiday festivities are lurking just around the corner.

This may be a surprise, but the Lady of the Manners is quite fond of the winter holiday season. All the twinkly lights, the giving and receiving of gifts and tokens of affection, sugary treats, and people trying to be a little more considerate of each other are all wonderful things, even if the theoretical ideal of them sometimes gets lost in the real world practice. But the holidays can also be difficult, especially for people who are striding along to a darker drum than the rest of their family and friends. So! The Lady of the Manners is going to pull up a previous Gothic Charm School post about dealing with the holidays, because (in the Lady of the Manners’ opinion) it is just as useful now as when she wrote it a few years ago. But now, that advice is dressed up with some additional new suggestions for coping with the holidays:

First things first: stop right now and think about your self-care activities. No, really, the Lady of the Manners is serious about this; the holidays are stressful no matter how much you may enjoy them, so reminding yourself of things that help you relax is vital. Do you need to retreat to a dimly-lit room and meditate for 15 minutes? Do you need to spend a few hours reading your favorite books or fanfic? Does spending a quiet evening wrapped up in blankets and watching a favorite movie make you feel better? Going for a walk with music blaring through your headphones? Mowing down monsters in a video game? Whatever your method of recharging is, make sure you do it. In fact, schedule time for it! Don’t just wave your hands and vaguely promise yourself that you’ll find the time, but stick a note on whatever calendar thing you use and take some time for yourself.

The holidays are generally a time for getting together with family and friends. But if your family doesn’t agree about what you’re doing with your life, what are supposed to be times of joy and celebration turn into festivals of disapproval and hurt. It’s hard to feel festive if you know that a holiday gathering is going to come with a side dish of criticism. Try to keep in mind that whatever relative is regarding your black-clad self with dismay is, at the heart of it, doing so out of what they think is concern for your well-being. Misguided concern, true, but the Lady of the Manners is willing to bet at least one fluffy winter capelet that the disapproving relative really does believe that you would be happier and your life would be easier if you were more like “normal people”.

Alas, arguing with these sorts of disapproving relatives is something of a losing proposition. If you think it’s worth your time and energy to refute their criticism, by all means, do so! But from the stories the Lady of the Manners has heard over the years from others, it doesn’t matter how clear, clever, or true your rebuttals are. Your relatives are probably not going to listen to you, and the whole “discussion” will lead to hurt feelings and arguments.

So what should you do, agree with them? Good gracious, no. Be true to yourselves, Snarklings, even in the face of family tension at the holidays. What you can do is state your boundaries in the discussion and enforce them. Practice calmly saying things such as “That is your opinion, not mine”, or “I am not going to talk about this”, or even “If you don’t have anything kind to say, please don’t say anything”, and then keep saying them in the face of provocative, insulting, or clueless comments. If nothing else, grit your teeth, silently tell yourself over and over that you won’t stoop to their level, and eagerly wait for the next bit of time you can steal for yourself.

Now, on to the rest of the surviving the holidays advice!

“You’re so pale! Are you all right?” “You are not wearing that to your grandparents’!” “I think you looked better with your natural haircolor.” “Oh, I thought this was a phase — haven’t you gotten tired of it yet?” Yes, all familiar questions. But this year the Lady of the Manners’ gift to you, Dear Readers, is advice on how to deal with those same questions in a graceful, restrained, and polite manner.

The Confused and Sometimes Annoying Questions From Relatives, and How To Deal With Them

Before you have to visit them, practice smiling. Or if you’re soooo goth that you don’t smile, practice a pleasant neutral expression. Practice this until you are confident that you can maintain it even if you were in the throes of homicidal rage. This is important. Because when you are asked, for the umpteenth time, “But why do you want to look like this? You could be so pretty/handsome if you only (A: styled your hair differently. B: dressed more like a normal person. C: didn’t wear That Sort of Makeup. D: smiled. E: got some sun…),” you want to be able to look non-threatening and friendly when you say, “because I like to,” or “because I feel it represents who I am.” (The other trick is to give your answer, whatever it is, in a friendly, cordial tone of voice. In most family gatherings, it’s not what one says but how one says it that is important.) If you are pressed to give details about What It’s All About, stick to easily-explained, family-safe examples such as literature, the Addams Family, or Tim Burton movies. If the relative quizzing you seems fairly accepting, then you can try an in-depth explanation of the subculture and why you’re a part of it. (Why, you could even give a copy of the Gothic Charm School book to those relatives!)

The Clothing Issue

First of all, if you are a more historical/romantic/neo-Victorian sort in your manner of dress, you’re going to have a much easier time than others. Most parents and older relatives think it’s sweet to see someone ‘properly dressed up’, and a lot of mainstream catalogs and stores are filled with dressy clothes in dark jewel tones and black velvet during the holiday season. Just don’t coat yourself with white greasepaint clown makeup, and you’ll be fine. However, if you usually adorn yourself from the more…extreme and fetish-themed side of the Subculture Closet, then you have a dilemma. The Lady of the Manners’ advice is to tone it down slightly. If it’s a choice between being full-on GAF or causing a family argument, just think of it as if you were going to a job interview. It won’t kill you, you won’t be selling out, and you’ll be (hopefully) helping promote Peace On Earth and Good Will Towards Men, Women, and everyone else.

Gifts

The Lady of the Manners is not going to give you advice on how to shop for your relatives. Hers are problematic enough, thankyouverymuch. No, this section is about that marvelous, anticipation-filled moment when you’re unwrapping a present from a family member…and it turns out to be a fuzzy yellow sweater. Don’t throw a fit. Smile, say a quick noncommittal “thank you,” and set it aside. Later, after the frenzy of gift-opening is done, go to the family member you get along with the best and ask them if there would be any chance of being able to exchange said yellow fuzzy thing. Let him or her go talk to the gift-giver if you think that doing so yourself will provoke a family argument. If there is no chance that the inappropriate item can be exchanged or returned, you can always sell it at a consignment shop, or even donate it to a charity shop. Of course, the way to ward off such problems is to either have relatives who will give you gifts in keeping with your tastes, or start subtly suggesting the idea of gift certificates as being the ideal present for you. If you can, enlist your parents’ help in spreading this suggestion to the rest of your relatives.

(But be sure to write Thank You notes for all the gifts you receive. Yes, they are tedious and annoying to do. But they are a very important touch, and are a sure way to impress elderly relatives.)

General Tips To Make the Holidays Run Smoother

Act as much like a polite, responsible grown-up as you can. Ask if there is anything you can help with, be it setting the table, washing the dishes, or entertaining any of the younger children that might be around. (Besides, most small children are fascinated by gothy relatives. After you get past the “are you a witch?” questions, it should be smooth sailing. Just make sure that your idea of “entertainment” is okay with the kidlings’ parents. If nothing else, read to them from Alice in Wonderland.) Even the family members who don’t approve of your style will be pleasantly taken aback if you make the effort to be convivial and helpful first.

Another important thing to remember is Do Not Lose Your Temper, no matter what the provocation. The benefits of being able to do this are: 1) the warm glow of self-satisfaction that you can bask in when you refuse to rise to the baiting of a pigheaded relative; and 2) knowing that you most likely just went up a notch in the eyes of any of the onlooking family.

Of course, none of this will help if your family members are truly convinced that you are demonspawn. If you have the sort of relatives that belong on an exploitive “reality” TV show, you might want to look into how feasible it would be not to join in any familial merrymaking; it would probably save a lot of heartache and arguments if you could just be discreetly absent. If that isn’t possible, then silence is probably your best option for holiday family gatherings.

Family holidays are not fun for everyone. Unless you are lucky enough to have family that understands and accepts who and what you are, you have to work at making family parties and dinners a pleasant experience. But it can be done, and once you start making a “good impression” on your relatives, it becomes easier to get along with them. Besides, you can always console yourself that you are probably behaving better than any of them. When the holidays are over, you can go out to whatever goth club you usually frequent, and commiserate with everyone about their family holiday woes. In a restrained and polite fashion, of course.

With that, Snarklings, the Lady of the Manners is going to toddle away from the computer and go start making a batch of festive gingerbread bats, and possibly listen to “Fairytale of New York” on endless repeat. The Lady of the Manners wishes you all a happy winter (holiday or not), and will burble at you again in 2014!