Of Goths On Makeover Shows, And Of Parental Concern About Provocative Clothing

Reader letters, Snarklings! The Lady of the Manners, after her diversions of blood-spattered manicures and Sepiachord music, is getting back to answering letters from you darling creatures. However, before the Lady of the Manners addresses the handful of letters that have been selected for this lesson, a (brief, the Lady of the Manners swears) tangent about finding Gothic clothing:

The Gothic Charm School mailbox receives many letters from Snarklings asking where to find Gothy clothing; many of these letters also add the caveat that the writers are not able to do their shopping with online retailers that specialize in darkly elegant clothing. This is a topic dear to the Lady of the Manners’ heart, what with her hobby of browsing thrift stores and her habit of internet window-shopping when the Insomnia Fairy visits her. However, this is also a topic the Lady of the Manners has talked about fairly often; therefore, in the hope of of providing Useful Information, she would like to point out that on the right side of the Gothic Charm School site, there is a category labeled Being Fashionable. Posts that might be of special interest are Of Finding Everyday Goth Clothing, Of Cropped Heads, Thrift Stores, and Sewing. And Baggy Trousers, and Of Goth Fashion, With Clicky Links!. And of course, the Lady of the Manners would be remiss if she didn’t take this opportunity to oh-so-causually mention that there are also pages and pages of information about Goth fashion in the Gothic Charm School book. In case you haven’t picked up a copy yet and need more encouragement to do so. (Here, have some handy clicky-links to Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Borders!)

And now, on to more reader letters! Jessica wrote to Gothic Charm School:

Dear Lady,   I must pose a question which I simply must ask, what are your thoughts on those gothy types on What Not To Wear who are ‘transformed’ into something more ‘ideal’?  

Thank you for reading my letter, sincerely, Jessica

Oh gracious, what a rather … touchy question. On the one hand, the Lady of the Manners feels that if someone who has been dressing in a Goth style decides that the look is no longer for them and wants to put themselves through being that sort of spectacle on TV, then they should do what makes them happy. A fresh perspective and opinion can be invigorating, not to mention that a whirlwind shopping spree to replace one’s wardrobe is a heady temptation.

However (and you just knew there was going to be a “however”, didn’t you, Snarklings?), the Lady of the Manners also wants to remind her readers that those sorts of shows are powered by tension and drama. The producers of the show will do and say what they need to in order to make a “must-see” show, which includes deliberately trying to make the participants cry and editing footage to make scenes seem much more outrageous or inflammatory than things were during filming.

Ultimately, the Lady of the Manners is a little saddened by the idea of “transforming” someone with a Goth sensibility to a more mainstream style. There are ways of keeping a darker, spookier aesthetic and dressing in a more corporate-friendly style without having TV personalities throw your belongings into a trash can. The Lady of the Manners highly recommends the blog This Is CorpGoth for a great look at everyday Goth clothing.

Next, a self-proclaimed babybat is having trouble with her mother being unsettled by her clothing choices:


Dearest Lady Of The Manners, I’ve been having parent trouble. I’m fourteen years old, so I guess I’m considered a babybat. Anyway, while my father  is absolutely fine with how I dress, my mother has been putting me down because of my big stompy boots and dark eye makeup. You see, my mom used to own a clothing store so she’s basically a fashion police. She makes me feel so insecure. She says that my gothic clothing offsets my beauty and makes me look ugly. Also, she’s worried that if she’s seen with me, people will think she’s a bad mother. And she keeps telling me that I look like a prostitute because of my eye makeup. She told me that if I wear a Wayward Victorian Girl costume to the Emilie Autumn concert I’m going to in February, I’ll get raped because a corset, bloomers, and striped stockings is apparently to provocative, even if it’s only for the occasion of AN EMILIE AUTUMN CONCERT! How do I fix this problem? She’s metaphorically shoving my ability to express myself into a padded cell with a straight jacket! Help me!  
~Cara~

Firstly, the Lady of the Manners wants to express her mild envy that you are going to see Emilie Autumn in concert in February! Her current North American tour doesn’t seem to be coming anywhere near the Pacific Northwest, alas.

Now, onto your mother and her concerns. The “people will think I’m a bad parent!” worry, is a particularly difficult thing to counteract, because your mother’s fears, sadly, aren’t entirely unfounded. The world is full of people who will make those sorts of snap judgments. The thing that your mother needs to realize is that the world is full of people who will make those sorts of snap judgments no matter what. You could be a TV sitcom, picture-perfect daughter, and there would still be people who would have ridiculous and unfounded opinions about you, and your mother’s abilities as a parent. Unfortunately, that is how many people spend their time, which means there is no point to worrying about their opinions or trying to change them. Unfortunately, the Lady of the Manners isn’t sure that you trying to explain this to your mother will have any effect, and would probably make her rather angry.

So. The Lady of the Manner’s real advice to you is talk to your father about this. Don’t stomp your feet, bewail the unfairness of it all, or in any way portray your mother as a villainess determined to thwart you; that will be most likely come across as “angry, pouty teen”, which will not help your cause. But talk to your father in a serious manner about why you want to dress like this, why it makes you happy, and how your mother’s concerns, while well-meaning, are stifling to you.

Finally, as to your mother’s dire warnings that wearing a corset, bloomers, and striped stockings to a concert will get you raped because they’re “too provocative”: NONSENSE. The Lady of the Manners (along with many, many other very articulate people) believe that women should be able to wear what they choose without the fear of sexual harassment, and that anyone who feels dressing in a certain manner is “asking for it” is WRONG. Sexual harassment and assault are very serious issues, ones that everyone needs to be aware of and help stop. But wearing “safe” clothing doesn’t keep women safe from rape; thinking that you can prevent rape by dressing a certain way does nothing, except lead to victim blaming and giving women who dress “the right way” a false sense of security.

(Yes, Snarklings. The Lady of the Manners gets very very angry and vehement about this subject. As do a lot of people.)

However, the Lady of the Manners would be willing to bet at least one parasol from her collection that your mother’s concerns aren’t entirely about the possibility of you being attacked, but are more about how provocative your clothing may appear and how you are presenting yourself. To be honest, the Lady of the Manners wouldn’t be comfortable letting a 14 year old attend a concert in just a corset, stockings, and bloomers, either. Yes, the Lady of the Manners is well-aware of how that style is part of Emilie Autumn’s image. Ms. Autumn is a performer, and, to be blunt, a bit older than you, and has had experience in dealing with the sort of attention that this style of apparel will garner. In other words, the Lady of the Manners would feel better if you wore a blouse or fitted t-shirt with your corset, and perhaps at least a petticoat over the bloomers. (Your mother would probably be less freaked out, too.)

Well. Now that the Lady of the Manners has gotten all angry and ranty, she’s going to go have a soothing cup of tea and read an entertaining book for distraction. If her ranting hasn’t scared you all off, then please feel free to write to Gothic Charm School with questions!

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