The Lady of the Manners is going to say, right up front, that she very much wants there to be reader comments on this particular post. Because, to be perfectly honest, she’s not sure how much useful advice she has to give to this Snarkling! The following question is one that has never fluttered into the Gothic Charm School mailbox before, and is a situation the Lady of the Manners has no experience with.
My name is Sarah, and I have, for many years, been struggling with a rather unique problem regarding my gothiness, and I’ve come to the exhausting conclusion that I can’t solve it on my own. I hoped you’d be able to offer me some guidance because I fear I have nowhere else to turn. The crux of my dilemma, mistress, is that I am blind. I have been so since birth, and although that has not prevented me from living and experiencing life to its fullest, it certainly presents a plethora of challenges.
For starters, I don’t dare apply my own makeup. I couldn’t, even if I wanted to. I’d end up looking like I engaged in finger painting on my face. And I admit, I am a fiercely prideful person. I won’t ask someone else to do my makeup for me. If I can’t do something for myself at my own convenience, I’d rather not do it at all. Not that I’d consider asking my friends to assist me in attempting goth makeup. They’re all, to some extreme, redneck. They’d be as lost as I would be.
Another issue is clothing. I’m a starving college student with bills, rent, and a guide dog to feed. I can’t afford a whole new wardrobe. Luckily, a majority of the clothes I do own are black or in the darker color schemes. Black is quite frankly the only thing I’ve seen, so don’t bother trying to explain to me what periwinkle is; I won’t comprehend it. But how do goths dress? None of my friends or family are goth, I can’t stalk around my college campus and scan one out of the crowd, I can’t search the web for pictures or Youtube for instructional videos to help me muddle through it all. It’s embarrassing to say, but I need a personal demonstrator to take me by the hand and escort me into Hot Topic to tell me this is this and that is that. I find myself asking, is it even worth it? Are there any seasoned blind bats out there who can give suggestions, or does are blindness completely exclude us? Is it enough to say that we are goth on the inside, even if we have no one to teach us how to display it on the outside for the visual community to see? It’s a stupid irony, when you stop and think about it. The people in the world who actually understand the true meaning of perpetual darkness are isolated from dabbling in a culture that revolves around it.
The Lady of the Manners immediate, knee-jerk response is that you don’t need to display your gothness on the outside for the visual community to see. Goth is so much more than the fashion and makeup, and someone doesn’t (shouldn’t!) need to be visually identified by those things.
With that said, the Lady of the Manners also understands why you’d be interested in having things that signal your involvement with the subculture. How to go about doing that? The Lady of the Manners has a few well-intentioned, possibly of no help at all ideas, with the emphasis on WELL-INTENTIONED.
- Makeup. It isn’t a requirement to be a goth! But if you want to explore makeup, contact the cosmetics section of your local department store and explain your situation. Ask questions of makeup artists at the store until you find one who will do a simple makeup application on you while explaining everything they’re doing. A light dusting of powder over your face, a sweep of a darker color across your eyelid, and a dark lip stain or glittery gloss could be something you could do with practice, perhaps?
The Lady of the Manners asked one of her makeup artist friends, and they had these suggestions: “Using makeup which can be applied using fingers, like cream shadows, can be super handy for anyone who is doing makeup without seeing what they are doing. For lipstick- practice getting used to where your lipline is with clear lipgloss or lip balm. With time, you learn the feel and motion and then applying color without seeing what you’re doing is much easier.”
Elsewhere on the Internet, popsugar.com has an article about tips from an aesthetician who teaches makeup application to the visually impaired. Vlogger Christine Ha is visually impaired, and has a video about makeup application. There’s also Breaking Blind, who does a lot of videos for the seeing community that help answer questions of “How does a blind person …?”, and she has a couple of makeup videos, including trying on makeup from an Ipsy subscription.
- Clothing. Perhaps you could (again) go to a local department store with a friend, and have them tell you the names for different textures of fabric? Then you could decide if you want to expand your wardrobe to encompass goth standbys such as lush stretch velvet, airy lace, or slippery silks. Are you able to shop online at all, using a text-to-speech interface? If so, knowing what textures of material you prefer would give you more options when searching for things.
Of course, there’s the other goth standby: band t-shirts. Pick a few of your favorite spooky bands and search for t-shirts! A quick search around Amazon turned up shirts for The Cure, Siouxsie, Bauhaus, Joy Division, The Damned, and Depeche Mode. For that matter, do you have a favorite spooky animal, such at bats or spiders? Search for t-shirts featuring those! The same goes for favorite authors, quotes, and so on.
Another possible option are fashion subscription places, where you answer a questionaire about your fashion preferences, and a stylist selects things for you and mails them out. One of the Lady of the Manners’ friends has been using Stitch Fix, and has been pleased with what they send her, saying that they get it when she says “edgy goth” and other descriptive phrases. While these sorts of services can be pricy, there are options for price point settings and frequency of delivery.
Can you, and do you want to, dye your hair? Mainstream drugstores now carry “unnatural” color hair dyes, so you could grab a box of blue or purple or stop-sign red, then ask a friend to help you apply the color and rinse afterward.
Pins and badges are another simple way you could add a goth touch to your wardrobe. Places like Etsy have shops that sell buttons for bands, cartoons, movies, books, quotes … just about anything, really. You could have a friend help you put specific shapes of tape on the back of them for identification purposes, so you could identify them when you want to change them around.
For that matter, think about accessories! You could expand your style with velvet and lace arm warmers, black and white striped socks or tights, studded bracelets, necklaces with gothy talismans such as spiders, bats, skulls, or ankhs, or charm bracelets that include those things and make a nice jingling noise!
- Scent! There’s a host of independent perfume companies out there that cater to those with darker sensibilities. The Lady of the Manners’ very favorite is Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab, and they have a dizzying array of fragrances for every possible mood.
- Finding other goths and like-minded weirdos: are there any meetups or social groups at your school that would be goth-friendly? You might be able to find people there who share your interests, would be able to help you decide if you want to show more of your goth nature, and help you do so.
Now, should you bother with doing this? Should you go to the effort of having visual signifiers when you yourself won’t be able to see them? The Lady of the Manners can only shrug and say “Maybe?” The visual presentation of goth is time and labor -intensive for people who aren’t visually impaired, and it would be even more so for those who are. You’re a college student, which means your time is already at a premium. How important is it to you to sport gothy plumage? Will it bring shadowy joy to your life, will it make you happy? If the answer to that is “Yes”, then you absolutely should. But if it will add more stress to your life, then skip it.
If you’re worried that you’re not “goth enough” if you don’t adorn yourself in black velvet and smoky eyeliner, let the Lady of the Manners reassure you: you are. Goth enfolds more senses than just sight. Music! Literature! Thunderstorms! The smell of incense and the feel of velvet! Enjoying the funhouse shiver up your spine as you indulge in something that unsettles you to a delightful degree!
Goth is not about who has the sharpest eyeliner or the most elaborate outfit, no matter what an appearance-obsessed society (or subculture!) seems to say. Anyone who tells you that you must “look goth” to be a goth doesn’t know the subculture very well, and can be ignored. Or they’re being an elitist gatekeeper, and can also be very pointedly ignored.
And now, the Lady of the Manners is going to turn to the Gothic Charm School readers! Are there any other blind bats out there, who can offer Sarah words of support and advice? Do any of you have suggestions for things she can do if she wants to have external representation of her spooky mindset? Comments are open! (And moderated, of course.)
Having a gothy-related problem? Curious about something spooky? Ask the Lady of the Manners! This link should help you reach the Gothic Charm School inbox!