Hello Snarklings! Gracious, the Gothic Charm School mailbox has been jam-packed with questions asking for gothy outfit suggestions for Prom. For the non-US Snarklings, Prom is a formal school dance, and dressing up in fancy clothes is a big part of it. (Sometimes making poor choices and Drama-with-a-capital-D are also part of Prom, but the Lady of the Manners isn’t going to be talking about those aspects of it, and instead will fervently hope that all of the Prom-attending Gothic Charm School readers are able to avoid those sorts of problems.)
True confessions time: The Lady of the Manners did not go to her own Senior Prom. No, at the time she was suffering from the throes of unrequited crushdom over an unsuitable boy who already had a girlfriend, so the Lady of the Manners spent Prom night watching horror movies with some friends. However, the Lady of the Manners ended up attending the following year’s Senior Prom, as one of her dear friends had been dumped by his girlfriend on the day of Prom. (An example of the Drama-with-a-capital-D that was mentioned in the previous paragraph!) Behold the Prom outfit that the teen-aged Lady of the Manners pulled together with an hour’s notice:
Yes, petticoats, pirate boots, and Big Hair. There’s a reason the Lady of the Manners is nostalgic about the smell of AquaNet …
A familiar refrain here on Gothic Charm School is go to the thrift stores!, and that message certainly applies to Prom. Thrift stores always have a selection of fancy dresses and suits which you can alter and customize to your black little heart’s content. Layer skirts on top of each other! Add ribbons, lace, or layers of torn fishnet to dresses and suits! Gentlemen, if you’re feeling particularly daring, take a look at the women’s blouses and find something particularly Victorian-esque and ruffly to wear with your suit instead of a regular dress shirt. (The Lady of the Manners heartily suggests that the ladies do the same thing, because a good suit and extravagant shirt or blouse are things that look good on just about everyone.)
There are things to keep in mind if you decide to play the Lady of the Manners’ favorite fashion game and go on a thrift store expedition to find your Prom outfit:
- Unless you have a crazy stroke of luck (which can happen), you probably won’t find everything you want for your outfit at one store. Be prepared to go to multiple stores.
- Wear an outfit that is easy to try things on with or over, and take a measuring tape with you.
- Better yet, make a social occasion of it, and take your friends with you for advice, opinions, and sudden strokes of genius.
- Make sure you have enough time between finding your outfit components and the event itself to do any alterations and customization. While making last-minute tweaks and changes to a D.I.Y. project is almost a rite of passage, it’s not always the most fun or relaxing use of your time.
But what if you don’t want to trawl through thrift stores to create an outfit? Or your parents demand that you have a “real” fancy outfit and are against the notion of thrifted and D.I.Y. finery? Never fear, Snarklings, there are plenty of spooky, dark garments out there.
Firstly, the list of the obvious retailers of fancy dress-up items with a gothy flavor:
- While it’s probably too late to get something custom-made, Kambriel’s One Of A Kind section has some darkly elegant options for ladies and gentlemen.
- “Couture Noir” specialists Heavy Red have a fetching selection of dresses (but not much for those looking for menswear).
- If you want something with more of a Victorian or EGL twist, Retroscope Clothing stocks sumptuous dresses and interesting menswear. (If you do purchase something from Retroscope Clothing, please be a love and tell them that the Lady of the Manners sent you their way!)
- Veterans of the alternative clothing world, Lip Service has all sorts of enticing garments for creatures of the night. The Lady of the Manners particularly likes the Broken Promises, Blacklist, and Step In Time lines.
- If your budget is up to a slightly higher level of extravagance, Shrine of Hollywood has some absolutely stunning items for men and women. (The Lady of the Manners has long coveted the Toreador Jacket, but it is apparently no longer offered in black brocade, alas!)
- Art of Adornment offers beautiful accessories including chokers, bracelets, and hats.
- BellaLili is one of the Lady of the Manners’ favorite jewelry artisans on Etsy.
However, don’t think you have to order your spooky finery from speciality retailers. There are Goth-friendly wardrobe choices lurking in all sorts of “mainstream” stores at your local shopping mall. Stores such as Target, Macy’s, and J.C. Penny all have a selection of Prom and formal clothing in black. (Good heavens, J.C. Penny even has a fairly reasonable price on a top hat!) Find a black dress or suit that appeals to your sense of style, then head to the accessory stores (such as Claire’s Accessories, Icing, and yes, even Hot Topic) to find some dark sparkle. (The Lady of the Manners just discovered the Punky Prom Queen section on the Claire’s Accessories site, and couldn’t help but laugh. She promises not to go off on a complete “Back in my day …” sort of tangent, Snarklings, but it’s taking a vast amount of willpower to refrain from doing so.)
You see, Snarklings? Finding formalwear that is appropriate for young creatures of the night is not as daunting a prospect as you might have assumed! Feel free to indulge in some extra-fancy makeup (glitter, false lashes, perhaps even some elaborate eyeliner), have fun painting your nails (perhaps even sport a blood-spattered manicure?), and go have fun dressing up. Don’t head to Prom expecting high romance or A Perfect Night, just have fun with your friends. And take pictures, because you’ll want to look back on them and giggle fondly.
Coming soon to Gothic Charm School: a report of the 9th annual Vampire Masquerade Ball, and reviews of clothing from Heavy Red and Spin Doctor. Plus, oh, answering some letters that readers have sent in!