Of Goths And Aging Gracefully

Oh Snarklings, you do know how to cheer up the Lady of the Manners, don’t you? Sending in questions about how to age gracefully and still proudly display your shadowy tendencies; a topic near and dear to the Lady of the Manners’ heart, indeed!

A Snarkling who is a fellow ElderGoth wrote in to ask the following:

Dear Lady of the Manners -
I have, alas, reached that awful age of (shall I say it?)… maturity. In fact, this year I shall be forced to celebrate my 21st birthday for the 32nd time..

I know you gave advice on dressing to a professional who was turning 37… ah, those were the days.. but what about a home-bound Goth who’s a great deal older. Makeup, yes – but how much is too much for the eyes that are gaining crows-feet and just when does one give up and start letting the grey streaks appear?

I don’t want to look like a silly old bat who can’t see the mirror too well anymore, but I don’t want to give up being a romantigoth either. What does an elder Goth do??

Oh thank goodness, you understand that there is no “Use By” date with regard to the Goth subculture! But the Lady of the Manners is also glad to see that you realize that some of the more … stereotypical signifiers of gothdom may not always be appropriate for us black-clad eccentrics. Especially the black-clad eccentrics who may be celebrating their 21st birthday multiple times.

(Which leads the Lady of the Manners down a tangential path: why be coy about your age? Yes, the Lady of the Manners will admit that she’s tickled when people assume that she is younger than her actual age, and the Lady of the Manners freely admits that she appreciates when the effort she expends on her skin care regime is noticed. But the Lady of the Manners also likes telling people her age (40, as of this lesson) and squashing stereotypes about Goths and age under her pointy-toed boots. Yes, society as a whole tends to be quite youth-centric, and the Goth world is no different. But we ElderGoths can do our part in changing that by showing that Goth, much like classic literature and fine wine, ages very well indeed. There, now the Lady of the Manners will find her way out of this thicket of tangents and back to the question at hand.)

You are, of course, taking care of your skin? Removing your makeup before you go to sleep, applying moisturizer, wearing a good sun block, and drinking enough water? The Lady of the Manners is sure that you are, but feels obligated to remind Snarklings about the basics of skin care. Now, as to what might be “too much” for eyes that have crow’s feet? Hmmm. The Lady of the Manners, while very fond of black eyeliner (and black liquid liner in particular), must admit that there may come a time when it will probably seem too harsh. When that day is upon her, the Lady of the Manners plans on turning to a gently smudged line from pencil liner, or soft washes of deeply colored eye shadow that are thoroughly blended and worn with mascara. Something that still looks dramatic, but not quite so stark and sharp.

Also, as you get older, you probably should use a lighter hand with regard to all cosmetics. By all means, use a concealer (if you want) to deal with under-eye circles and blemishes, dust on some powder, even use one of those primer-type products if you wish, but don’t spackle on the foundation. In fact, try and avoid full-coverage foundation all together, and go with a tinted moisturizer or sheer foundation. You may want to switch to sheerer or less matte lip colors, which won’t seep into any wrinkles you may have around your lips. Also, watch out for darkly colored lip liner; harsh or sharp lines (again) aren’t always flattering, and there are now clear or “colorless” liners to help keep your lipstick from migrating. Essentially, you want to avoid looking like you’re starring in a revival of Whatever Happened To Baby Jane, because there is a difference between charmingly ghoulish and looking like you fell face-first into your makeup box. Or as a dear friend of the Lady of the Manners put it, “Think watercolors instead of oil paints.”

When should you let the grey streaks appear? That is entirely up to you and your comfort level. The Lady of the Manners is planning on still coloring her hair an unnatural shade of blue-black for years to come, but has a back-up plan of switching to something like bright pink when her roots start coming in more grey than her “natural” color. If you’re one of those lucky creatures who have their grey hair concentrated in actual streaks, then revel in that! Of course, you should probably not subject your hair to hours of multiple chemical processes or daily backcombing and coats of hairspray, but there’s no reason to go for the stereotypical “little old lady” haircut and perm, either. One of the most striking older ladies the Lady of the Manners ever saw was one who had long white hair (well, sea foam green, actually, because she obviously had a tinted rinse over it) worn in a simple braid under a black full-brimmed hat. The rest of her outfit was equally simple and elegant: black flat sandals (with black-polished toenails), a long black skirt, and a black tunic blouse with slightly belled sleeves and silver embroidery. Which leads the Lady of the Manners to the next point …

Don’t feel you have to give up your romantigoth ways just because you’re getting older. As far as the Lady of the Manners is concerned, flowing skirts, fitted jackets, and tops in stretch velvet or with lace and embroidery embellishments work for anyone. The Lady of the Manners does feel that as one gets older, one needs to pay even more attention to being tidily put-together. While the slightly (or outrageously) disheveled ragamuffin look is one that the Lady of the Manners thinks looks fabulous, she can’t shake the notion that it isn’t terribly flattering on those who are more mature. (But, the Lady of the Manners must stress that this is her own bias, and would dearly love to see examples proving her wrong.)

However, don’t feel that you need to abandon more explicitly gothy styles just because you’re no longer a mid-20s club dweller. The Lady of the Manners is rather infamous for her petticoat-enhanced knee-length skirts, and she doesn’t plan on giving them up any time soon. (Well, at all, really.) If there is a style you adore, then wear it and be happy. Don’t worry about whether it’s “age-appropriate.” That’s the most important part of looking fabulous (in any way, but especially in the Goth world): being confident in (and comfortable with) how you present yourself.

With that, Snarklings, the Lady of the Manners is off to amuse herself by playing wardrobe remix with the contents of her closets to see what new combinations she can come up with. The next installment here at Gothic Charm School will probably be a helpful list of where to track down supplies and embellishments for your wardrobe and gothy crafts. And this is where, just like always, the Lady of the Manners gives you the helpful contact link for you to write to her.

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