Hello Snarklings! It’s time to return to a potpourri of reader questions here at Gothic Charm School, including, oh yes, another question about Goth fashion. Which prompts the Lady of the Manners to say that she is working on a huge upcoming post about Where To Find Goth Clothes and How To Put Together Your Gothy Style, however, when the Lady of the Manners says it’s a huge post, she’s not kidding. So it may take a little while to finally coalesce and appear here on Gothic Charm School. (Yes, Gothic Charm School sees a lot of questions about finding gothy clothes. That, and many, many questions about family disapproval. Which tells the Lady of the Manners that she needs to do big blanket posts on both topics.)
But! Those are projects for the future, and the Lady of the Manners should really concentrate on the questions she’s going to talk about this time around, which are … hmmm, a question about fashion, a query about explaining one’s gothy self to one’s mom, and … oh! About Halloween!
question: To My Dear Lady,
What are your opinions on being yourself, which is to say dressing Goth for Halloween? (Yes, I realize that Halloween is not for quite some time, but the question has been nagging at me.)
I ask because I consistently have a costume that is fine to wear in the daytime on my college campus, (This year was the Green Fairy!) but due to the cold and high crime rates where I live, these costumes are inappropriate for going out for evening festivities. My solution was to dress to the nines in my Goth finery and just generally be ooky-spooky- whimsical.
There are not many Goth-types on my campus… But a Gothly friend did end up grumping at me, since she thinks its inappropriate if you are Goth to dress as such for Halloween. It wasn’t a big grump, and my feelings aren’t hurt at all, but it’s gotten me thinking.
What do you think, my Lady?
Will it make you feel any better, dear girl, to know that the Lady of the Manners’ default Halloween costume is to dress up in very elaborate Goth finery? And wear her custom-fitted vampire fang caps, but those aren’t what people notice at first. There are many, many Goths who use Halloween as an excuse to don the very best of their wardrobe, and then take an even larger delight in telling people “No, this isn’t a costume.”
The Lady of the Manners is a little boggled by your friend’s mild grumping, to be honest. For many people, Halloween is about indulging in dressing as who you long to be. (Any of you Snarklings who are about to make sarcastic comments about the Lady of the Manners wearing her fangs can just hush, before she thumps you on the head with a copy of Dracula.) A lot of Goths long to be, well, even gothier than they are in everyday life. A huge part of the Goth mindset is a longing for dark romanticism, wishing that life was a candle-lit, darkly sparkling masquerade party, even if the part that longs for that is a tiny blood-red rosebud growing in the very depths of your heart. (Yes, even you, you surly growling nihilist Goth Punks. Don’t fib, you all want a giant party too, just one with fewer frills and more dystopia.)
Also, when one is planning a Halloween costume, one must consider certain practicalities. (The Lady of the Manners will now pause to give some of her readers a moment to collect themselves from the shock of her being practical.) There are all sorts of Halloween costumes that are fun and delightful but, as you point out Eisenviolet, are less than ideal when confronted with chilly weather at night. Warmth, comfortable and sturdy footwear, no accessories that are unwieldy to cart around (wings, while lovely, are not a good idea in a club situation!) — all of these are things that need to be thought about. Which is why, again, many Goths decide the best option for them is to dress as Goth as they possibly can manage out of their own closets.
Goths dressing up for Halloween as even more elaborate Goths has one more added benefit: they’re used to the “costume”. They are probably at ease with what they’re wearing, and won’t spend the evening worrying about if something is going to give way, ride up, or fall apart. They’re comfortable in those clothes and the image they present, which means they will carry themselves with confidence. Which, dear Snarklings, is one of the most important things of all to have in one’s wardrobe, be it a spooky holiday or not.
The next question is from Lauren, who is looking for some help in talking to her mom about Goth, but with a slightly different issue from the usual:
Dear Mrs. Lady of the Manners:
I have a problem. I got your very fantastic book from my Aunt this Christmas, and I enjoyed it very much. My mom (who hates my Aunt), thinks that I am now dressing in black a lot more than I used to because my Aunt gave me the book. Can I please have some pointers on how to explain to my mom that I am not dressing in black and searching for animal skulls just because my aunt gave me a book?
Wait, wait, wait, let the Lady of the Manners re-read that. Your aunt gave you a copy of the Gothic Charm School book (yay!), and now your mom thinks that you expressing your gothy tendencies is due to reading the book? How very … recursive, or something.
First things first: since you have a copy of the Gothic Charm School book, have you waved it at your mom and asked her to read parts of it? Especially chapters two and three? The Lady of the Manners fervently hopes that her book would answer any questions or concerns your mom may have about your inky wardrobe and fondness for collecting bones.
You say that your mom hates your aunt. Could it be that your mother’s feelings about your aunt are coloring her reaction to you being a Goth? That since your aunt gave you a book about it, it obviously is something for her to not approve of? But this does lead the Lady of the Manners to a question that she hopes will not raise your hackles in ire: were you, erm, quite as visibly Goth before your aunt gave you a copy of the book? Please do not take that as some kind of dismissive judgement! The Lady of the Manners is delighted if reading the Gothic Charm School book helped bring you to being more open about your interests in the Goth subculture! But if that is how things happened, then it’s no wonder that your mother thinks that the book is the cause of it, and possibly rightly so.
It sounds like you are dealing with a case of your mother being unsure what this whole Goth thing means, and her being worried that black clothes and looking for animal skulls means something horrible and dire. So again, ask her to read chapters two and three of Gothic Charm School. Tell her that your interest in Goth is nothing to worry about, and that you want to talk to her about it to answer her questions and lay her concerns to rest. Yes, the Lady of the Manners always suggests that you Snarklings try to sit down and have a conversation with your parents about Goth, why you’re attracted to it, and why they shouldn’t worry. But you know what? She keeps suggesting it because the parental types usually respond very well to it. Showing them that you’ve put some thought into the things you’re doing, and that it’s not dangerous, troublesome, or something to be worried about helps show the concerned adults in your life that while there may be things to be concerned about, your being a Goth isn’t one of them.
The final question in this installment of Gothic Charm School is indeed about fashion, but is not the typical “Where do I find gothy clothes” query:
Greetings Lady of Manners,
I have a dilemma I’m interested on getting your thoughts on as it may help others like me later down the line. I am a proud goth of several years but, curiously, finding clothing that I’m happy with can be a bit of a struggle sometimes. Why? The vast majority of fashions recommended to the darkly inclined and female-shaped, whether for purchase or as DIY projects, come with excess helpings of skirts, ribbon, and lace. Fine and dandy if you can cheerfully rock such outfits, but I’m not exactly the most feminine person in the world. I find these types of clothes very lovely to look at, but don’t particularly enjoy wearing them myself and despite my best attempts to create a fairly pared-down yet suitably dark wardrobe, I unfortunately just end up looking frumpy and strange more often than not. Also, because I am very small, men’s garments generally don’t fit. So I was wondering what fashion advice you might have for those of us who adore all the spooky charm that the world can contain, but despite being female, frankly just aren’t very girly.
Darling creature, allow the Lady of the Manners set you at ease: being female and Goth does not mean you have to be girly, covered in ruffles and lace. (Nor does being male and Goth mean you have to be confined to shirts and trousers, but that’s a post for another time.) Goth fashion encompasses a lot of silhouettes and girly/ultra-femme is only one of them.
The first thing to do is figure out what sort of look grabs your interest. Do you want to look sleek and minimalist? Do you want to dabble in menswear? Browse around the web (especially Tumblr and Polyvore) to see what’s out there that people have tagged as “Goth”. Yes, doing this will turn up a lot of things that aren’t even remotely gothy (oh, the things that are foolishly tagged as “Goth” on Etsy. The Lady of the Manners weeps.), but it should also turn up a lot of things you can look at and go “Yes, that sort of look”.
Once you have a more precise idea of what sort of look you are going for, start really studying that style. What are some of the key elements of it? For example, the lots of drapey-layers in black style that often gets labeled “Nu-Goth” (and the Lady of the Manners will save her crankybloomers ranting about that term for another time) relies on tights or leggings, oversized billowy tops, asymmetrical hems, and things with cowled necklines or layers of scarves. Or take menswear: tailored trousers, crisp dress shirts, ties, waistcoats, and sleek blazers. When you have an understanding of what basic items are needed for different styles, then you can start hunting for them. And for heaven’s sake, don’t just look at the big-name Goth fashion merchants! Take a look at all sorts of stores, including mainstream big-box stores such as Target, Macy’s, and Sears, which all carry garments that will fit seamlessly into many a Goth’s wardrobe. You just need to know how to combine them, and again, that’s where browsing online and seeing what other people have been doing is very, very informative.
You say that you are very small, so men’s garments don’t fit you. Have you tried looking for formal or semi-formal clothing for teen boys? Admittedly, it’s not something the Lady of the Manners has ever had to search out, so she may be sending you on a fruitless tangent. But there are always occasions that young men have to be dressed up for, so finding trousers and dress shirts to fit you shouldn’t be impossible. It just may be difficult; alas, that is one of the annoyances that anyone outside of “average” sizes has to face. There’s the option of looking at stores and clothing lines that cater to petite women, but again, you’ll probably not find a lot that will fit your chosen fashion aesthetic.
Argh! The Lady of the Manners fears that she is not able to give you as much help as you were hoping for! The most important thing is to figure out what sort of non-girly style you’d like to wear, and then go through the arduous process of finding pieces that fit with that style. However, the Lady of the Manners is pretty sure that you are not alone in this fashion dilemma, so she is going to open this post up to (moderated!) comments! How about it, Snarklings? Do you have any helpful suggestions for J.?
Coming up soon at Gothic Charm School: the long-promised review of Spin Doctor Clothing! A visit to the Nocturnal House to discuss another vampire book! And news about an online radio show! (ooOOOooh!) Until then, Snarklings, browse through the archives, take a look at the news about upcoming appearances, wander around the Gothic Charm School tumblr, or maybe write a letter of your own …