Oh Snarklings, the Lady of the Manners really did intend to have this lesson at Gothic Charm School be about the basics of a Goth wardrobe, really she did. But the Lady of the Manners received letters from a few older Snarklings about a very important issue. And while certain of the Lady of the Manners’ friends would claim that very little is capable of distracting her from burbling about clothing, when faithful Gothic Charm Readers write in asking if they’re ”too old to look Goth” … well. The Lady of the Manners is honor-bound to answer such questions. So read on, and see what concerns are troubling Jennifer and Laura (and probably others of you reading right this very minute).
Dear Lady of the Manners,
Having recently found your site and very much enjoyed reading it, I wondered if you might help me with an issue.
I was a goth in my teens and have always stuck to the ‘alternative’ scene but have recently felt that I’d like to go back to a more gothic look. How can I do this without scaring my new friends? I’ve only gone so far as dying my hair – dark brown, not black yet!
Also I think my other friends may wonder why I’m reverting. Maybe I am, but it’s how I’ve always wanted to dress really.
Is it too late? Or can I dig out my velvet blazer from the back of the wardrobe?
Dear Lady of the Manners,
I have been a goth since the mid 1980s, and find myself now in the “aging goth” dilemma. About 10 years ago, before I got married, I toned down my gothiness quite a bit. I dyed my blue hair black, and eventually dark brown (oh shudder!), put away my bat buckle boots and club clothes and tried to exude a bit more toned-down image. I was starting a new career in law, and feeling more mature, etc.. and was not sure there was a place for uber-gothiness in this new phase of my life.
Now, at 37, established in my career and happily married to a husband who misses my old style, I find myself yearning to go back to my gothic roots, but I don’t want to look like a silly old bat who doesn’t know her age.
What do you suggest? I don’t want to go too over the top with hair/clothes/makeup (I don’t have any piercing), but I really just don’t want to look like a silly old ass who can’t let go of the past. However, I realize that I’ve become BORING in my image and wardrobe. Of course, the Halloween season is only making me miss the old me even more!
Thank you for your time and thoughts 🙂
Oh Jennifer and Laura, no, you are not too old to go back to your Gothic roots. Of course, the worry that you might look like a silly old bat who doesn’t know her age is perfectly understandable. Especially since many (sadly misinformed and confused) people seem to think that there’s an expiration date on someone’s gothness (“Goth until 10/31”), or that people are only allowed to express their interest in the Goth world up to about, oh, the age of 30, and then they have to ::shudder:: Grow Up. Which is complete and utter twaddle, of course. For example, gothy icons Siouxsie Sioux and Peter Murphy are over 50, for heavens’ sake!
So yes, pull those velvet blazers out of where they’re lurking in the back of the closet, and feel free to embrace the style that you like best. If you’re worried about going too over the top with what you’re doing, start slowly and add pieces of gothiness to your look bit by bit. (The aforementioned black velvet blazer is a good starting point.) One of the important things to keep in mind as an ElderGoth is to wear your gothy wardrobe, instead of letting it wear you. What on earth does the Lady of the Manners mean by that? Choose garments and accessories because you like them and they’re flattering, instead of choosing them merely because the items in question are Very Gothic Looking. One easy route to adding some shadowy glamour back into your look is to turn to Victorian-styled items. Lace blouses, flowing skirts, fitted black blazers, and ankle boots are all perfectly appropriate for office wear, yet will give you that air of a dark romantic that you want to return to. What about tailored black slacks or a fitted pencil skirt, paired with a black pinstriped crisp dress shirt, some interesting shoes, and an ornate necklace or brooch? Again, that sort of outfit would be fine in almost any corporate environment, but still allows you to subtly express your stylistic preferences.
Also, are you indulging at all in cosmetics? The Lady of the Manners isn’t talking about layering on whiteface and black lipstick (oh gracious, no!), but thinks that a good way to (re)embrace your darker aesthetic preferences is to apply at least a little bit of makeup. Some concealer, a light dusting of translucent powder, mascara, and a dark berry or wine lipstick or lip stain will help you look pulled-together, and like you’re making a deliberate style choice instead of just pulling on some random black clothing. If the idea of a dark lipstick is slightly intimidating, there are many cosmetic companies that make tinted lip balms that come in sheer (but still deep-colored) formulas.
Looking Goth does not mean that you have to wear big stompy boots, shredded fishnets, have wildly unnatural hair colors, or look like you just crept forth from your grave and are headed off to the local nightclub. There is a time and a place for those sorts of looks, and while there is NO reason that you can’t indulge in them at over 30, but as Goths of a Certain Age, try to avoid anything that looks more like clubwear unless, of course, you’re headed out to the gothy club. (The Lady of the Manners should probably mention something here about avoiding anything that looks too “costume-y”, but is self-aware enough to realize that she doesn’t really have a leg to stand on here, what with her daily wardrobe including petticoats, top hats, and velvet military-style jackets.)
As to not scaring your new friends who may not have been around for your darker-hued years … again, expressing your gothy nature a little at a time should make that a bit easier, and help them understand that you’re doing this not out of some notion of regaining your youth or regressing, but because these are aspects of yourself that you want to express again. Also, just talk to them about it. Talk about how you’ve always had a fondness for the Goth subculture, that you miss it, and that you want to bring it back into your life. If your friends are the type that haven’t been around other Goths, be prepared for some of the usual well-meaning but confused questions, and try to answer them without too much eye-rolling or head-shaking. As always, politeness matters, even when others are a bit impolite. And while the following statement is one the Lady of the Manners is used to saying to younger readers, it is pertinent here: if they’re really your friends, they’ll accept what you do and not turn their backs on you or be “scared off”. Yes, there may be some good-natured teasing and joking, but if they respond with disdain, disgust, or angry words, then they probably weren’t really your friends.
So by all means, return to your extended Addams Family! Don’t fear that you’re “too old” to be a Goth and express it. Instead, 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 a black velvet blazer, so much the better.
With that last bit of a pep-talk, Snarklings, the Lady of the Manners is going to return to rummaging through her closet and calling it “writing research”. But keep your eyes open for an exciting news update that will be happening soon here at Gothic Charm School! And as always, please write!