“Black is this Year’s Black …”

Gothic Charm School? Yes snarklings, Gothic Charm School. Someplace for the dark at heart to learn about deportment and decorum. Now, the clever and perceptive among you might notice that a lot of the lessons here at the school seem … familiar. Almost as if you’ve read them before, somewhere.

You would be right

Yes, those lessons were once on a couple of different websites, under a different name. But change is necessary and good, and it was about time for a shiny new website anyway. You see, the Lady of the Manners was contacted by some people in the legal profession, who explained to her that though she hadn’t intended to, the Lady of the Manners was infringing upon another person’s property. (Yes, intellectual property IS property, haven’t you been paying attention?) Now, the Lady of the Manners holds that other person in the highest regard, and never meant to cause that venerated lady any distress, so presto-chango! Things were taken down, tidied up a bit, given a thorough polishing, and then placed in orderly rows here at Gothic Charm School. New lessons will appear at least every month, if not even more frequently. It depends on what sort of questions the Lady of the Manners sees turning up. So go forth and investigate all those enticing clicky-links over there; you can review past lessons, view the goodies for sale in the Mercantile area, or even see what sites the Lady of the Manners is terribly fond of. The Lady of the Manners is just happy that you decided to stop by.

The Lady of the Manners was trying to decide what to address as the first lesson here at the lovely new website when she started noticing a recurring theme in the fall window displays and fashion magazines. A recurring theme that looked awfully familiar. So, just what *should* you do when your subculture becomes the current flavor of the month for fashion?

Oh, hadn’t you noticed? Not only is every store carrying some version of a long, black, flouncy skirt and a velvet jacket, but one national chain of boutiques is offering a tank top with the phrase “Gothic Beauty Savvy” emblazoned across the front in silver-foil lettering. (“…without all the gloom & doom!” states their website. Please pardon the Lady of the Manners while she rolls her eyes so hard that there is a danger of their getting stuck in the back of her head.)

Ahem. Yes, gothic is the fashion industry’s darling right now, and especially gothic Victorian. So what should any self-respecting Goth do in the face of this?

Wait for the clearance sales, of course!

Oh, all right, that was a bit on the short and flippant side, wasn’t it? But that doesn’t mean it’s a *wrong* answer. The Lady of the Manners has seen this sort of thing happen before, and mainstream fashion’s fascination with black lace and velvet usually lasts for about three months. If you can hang on that long, the clearance racks, thrift stores, and re-sale boutiques will be filled with all sorts of lovely things.

Of course, that’s only one part of the dilemma. Whenever the gothic style becomes more visible, there will also be an increase in complete strangers stopping you and asking questions, usually about what you’re wearing and where can they find something just like it?!

No, you may not snarl or snap at the well-meaning trendy people. Not even if you’re having a particularly bad day. However, your answers don’t have to be particularly helpful, either. The Lady of the Manners has answered recent “Where did you get it?!” questions about her apparel with “I found it at a thrift store” or “Oh, I don’t remember. I’ve had it for years and years”, which leaves the trendy people blinking confusedly.

Now, the Lady of the Manners can see some of you getting very fierce and uncomfortable with the idea that *anyone* could scamper down to the mall and, with a bit of determined spending, disguise themselves as a Real GothTM. “Tourists!” The Lady of the Manners can hear you cry derisively. “They’re just doing it because it’s trendy!” There there, it’s all right. Have you gotten that out of your system? Now, pay attention. Yes, it’s true: there will be more people disguised as One Of Us for a little bit. However, just because someone is wearing head-to-toe Gothic Victorian ruffles doesn’t mean their disguise is perfect. People dressing that way because it’s the latest trend never seem quite comfortable with it; they have that faint, but unmistakable air of someone wearing a costume, someone who is following what the media tells them to do, instead of dressing that way because that’s who they are. It’s a subtle distinction, but one that is unmistakably there.

Every time popular culture or fashion borrows from the darker side of the subcultural map, there is a flurry of people getting very cross and territorial about THEIR look and THEIR scene. The Lady of the Manners finds such fervor very endearing, but on the whole, not terribly helpful. You see, each and every person involved in the goth scene had to start somewhere, and some of those people were later bloomers (in a night-blooming garden, of course) than others. Yes, roll your eyes at people wearing “Gothic Fashion Savvy” t-shirts, but don’t automatically dismiss everyone dabbling in darker fashions right now. Who knows, some of them may come to realize that this is the thing they’ve been looking for. And if they don’t, that leaves even more black lace & velvet for those who will *really* appreciate it.

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