Snarklings, remember all those jokes the Lady of the Manners has made over the years about how there is no Goth Cabal or Gothic Hivemind? The Lady of the Manners is starting to entertain some doubts about that. Around the same time that some of the Lady of the Manners’ friends announced they were pregnant, various letters started pitter-pattering into the Gothic Charm School mailbox, full of questions about the unique dilemmas that Goth moms-to-be face. Well. The Lady of the Manners is not one to ignore serendipity, especially when it lands in her mailbox. In the course of a longer letter, a mother-to-be Snarkling named Kyoki had the following questions and comments:
Dearest Lady of the Manners;
You have nothing that addresses the plight of the pregnant Goth.
I found several lovely parenting articles encouraging mothers in their own ways and to help their babybats grow up to be ladies and gentlemen, and many, many letters to those babybats.
My second question is also pregnancy-related: I have reread your entire ‘Being Mannerly’ section, the ‘Being Social’ section, and the ‘Growing Pains’ section, in hopes of finding advice on this touchy subject…
How can I encourage unique gifts for my baby at my baby-shower?
I love my family. They have beautiful taste in most things, including clothing. (My maternal grandmother, bless her heart, fell madly in love with a shirt I was given at Christmas from Torrid (The plus-size branch of Hot Topic) that had a corsetted Asian feel to it, and raved madly about how the plaid school-girl skirt just set off my legs.)
I may get some odd looks for what I choose to wear, but they assume it extends to my children… now if only I could find a polite way to tell them that pastel pinks and blues and greens and yellows with cutesy little lace duckies and embroidered Winnie the Pooh is just -not- what I am interested in! I’m not interested in little bibs with skulls and crossbones (although that would be adorable!) or dressing my baby in ‘that weird black stuff’. I’m just interested in things that you will -not- find wandering the aisles of your local megamart!
(For that matter, where can -I- find eclectic and whimsical clothing for my baby?)
I am not worried that they’re going to shun me, or my son, because we choose odd clothes. I’m just trying to figure out how to give a wishlist of styles and patterns to my family so that they don’t buy us things we don’t want, but they also don’t have to walk into uncomfortable situations for them and buy blindly.
While I seem to have gone off on a tangent, the main questions remain the same. What can I wear, now that I am baby-proportionate? What polite way can I encourage my family to buy us gifts that we will enjoy? And where can I find unique and eclectic baby clothes and supplies?
Goodness, a whole bundle of very good questions! To start with the first one, concerning a maternity wardrobe, the Lady of the Manners would be remiss if she didn’t casually mention that there are Gothic Charm School maternity t-shirts available. But the Lady of the Manners understands that, even as lovely as all the Gothic Charm School designs are, one’s maternity wardrobe probably needs to include more than just t-shirts. However, a quick jaunt around the Internet reveals that every other “gothic maternity” link out there offers, well, t-shirts, and not a lot else.
Does this mean that Goth moms-to-be are destined to spend their pregnancy wearing spooky t-shirts and skirts or pants with elastic waists? The Lady of the Manners certainly hopes not, but wants to caution you that the alternative takes a bit of work. Most of the expectant Goths the Lady of the Manners has been around have resorted to scouring their local thrift and consignment stores for Goth-friendly maternity garb. One type of store to look at even before giving birth are consignment and resale stores that specifically focus on babies and children; many of them have a maternity section. Also, in the Lady of the Manners’ local Goth community, there is a “communal” maternity wardrobe: a large storage bin of clothing appropriate for the more darkly-minded types. As each gothy mom-type takes custody of the wardrobe, they add items they had discovered on thrift-shopping trips.
The Lady of the Manners is sad to say that there doesn’t seem to be an easy answer to the dilemma of Goth maternity wear. Rummaging through thrift stores and consignment boutiques takes time and energy, both of which were in seemingly short supply amongst the pregnant Goths the Lady of the Manners has known. Recruiting family and friends to keep your current clothing needs in mind when they are shopping might unearth a treasure or two.
As for how to encourage your family to select gifts that you will enjoy? That’s tricky, because a gift is not something you really can (or should) give parameters for. There is the time-honored strategy of registering at some stores to compile a list of needed items that would make thoughtful gifts, but that isn’t foolproof. As one of the Lady of the Manners’ friends recently lamented, there’s not a lot of middle ground between pastel-drenched, officially-licensed baby merchandise and its polar opposite: the now mass-marketed “punk rock” baby gear. (Though the Lady of the Manners must admit that she has an unshakeable fondness for “classic” Winnie-the-Pooh and for the skull-festooned baby clothes. Which is why the Lady of the Manners is a classic Zany Auntie –type to all of her friends’ children.) Picking a color scheme that you would like to stick with for nursery décor (even if you aren’t planning on having a separate nursery) and baby clothes might also give your friends and family some helpful guidance when they start browsing baby goodies.
The Lady of the Manners feels that if your friends and family are moved to give you presents to celebrate you and your baby, they probably know you well enough to keep your distinctive tastes in mind when selecting that gift. If it turns out that the present really is something you can’t use, or that you feel is wholly inappropriate for your household, then you have the traditional routes of re-gifting it to someone else, taking it to a consignment shop, or very tactfully asking the gift-giver where they purchased it so you can return it. By “very tactfully”, the Lady of the Manners means thanking the gift-giver for their kind gesture, then saying something along the lines of “This is lovely, but I’m afraid it won’t quite work for our needs/go with the rest of the baby clothes. Would you mind if I exchanged it?”, all while not making any sort of disappointed or unhappy face whatsoever. As the Lady of the Manners said before, you oughtn’t specify what sort of present you want people to give you. Yes, gift registries and wish lists are everywhere (and frequently expected), but that doesn’t mean you should feel disappointed or let down if something that you are given isn’t exactly the thing you thought it should be.
As to finding unique and eclectic baby supplies? Well, there’s always places like Etsy, where independent merchants and crafters offer their creations for sale. Over the past couple of years the Lady of the Manners has also seen a growing number of “alternative” baby boutiques and shops cropping up; places that carry baby clothes and supplies in colors other than the pastel rainbow, and with characters that didn’t spring from a cartoon line. Mentioning to people that you’re looking to use as many handmade items or fair trade goods as possible with your child would also probably increase your chances of finding unique items. But the Lady of the Manners has also been told by the Goth parents she knows that while wanting to outfit your tot in what you find aesthetically pleasing is a wonderful idea, reality will quickly lead you to realize that the best baby supplies are ones that are easily washable and not overly fussy. (This is one of the many reasons the Lady of the Manners knows she is not meant to be a parent; she would want to dress any theoretical offspring in black velvet dresses with cascades of ruffles.)
Upon re-reading this particular lesson, the Lady of the Manners realizes that her answers, while well-intentioned, were not quite as helpful as she had hoped. So she turns to you Snarklings reading this: do any of you have clever suggestions for where Goth-moms-to-be can find Goth-friendly maternity clothing? Or places that specialize in quirky baby wear? Please send your suggestions to Gothic Charm School, and the Lady of the Manners will compile a list and post it.
(Of course, it goes without saying that you should write to Gothic Charm School with any other sort of gothy questions you may have. The Lady of the Manners just feels compelled to remind everyone.)