There are times, Snarklings, that the Lady of the Manners suspects that the universe runs on serendipity overdrive. Okay, maybe not all of it, but some parts of it. Why? Because the Lady of the Manners had recently been pondering, during her cold and dark commute home from work every evening, what the next lesson should be about. Because while the Lady of the Manners does indeed read all of the messages that people send her, Lady of the Manners was having a difficult time deciding which particular message struck her fancy. But then a charming young lady by the name of Elsa wrote to the Lady of the Manners with … a question about clothing! Now, as the Constant Reader may have noticed, the Lady of the Manners is very fond of burbling about clothing. In fact, the Lady of the Manners considers customizing and playing with her wardrobe to be her number one hobby. So when a letter arrives asking for clothing advice, how could the Lady of the Manners let it go unanswered?
I wanted to inquire about what the proper attire would be for heading into
the winter months. I wear anything from long black skirts to black pants
tucked into my steel-toed boots, but I always feel like a New-Yorker,
dressed in my blacks only to trudge off to a day at the office. Is there
any way to still uphold that air of Gothyness while staying stylish and warm
at the same time?
The Lady of the Manners has for a long time held the belief that autumn and winter are the best months, clothing-wise, for Goths; even the Lady of the Manners has to admit that adorning oneself with layers of lace and velvet, tights, and tall boots is just not practical during the spring and summer. But the darker, cooler months are exceedingly kind to Goths; even the mainstream fashion industry presents us with velvet goodies during that time of year.
Of course, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t winter-specific problems that face the black-velvet-clad masses. Some of the footwear favored by Goths can’t exactly be described as practical; the Lady of the Manners will never forget the first time she discovered that her beloved pointy-toe, multi-buckle boots had no traction whatsoever by starting to slide down a hill the Lady of the Manners thought she was merely strolling down. Then there are pesky facts like almost all velvet doesn’t deal well with rain and snow; long skirts can become quite hazardous when wrapped around your legs by the wind; and an all-black wardrobe means risking your life when walking after the sun sets.
So, what is the fashionable Goth to do? Give up attractive footwear and scurry around in hiking boots and Gore-tex? Of course not! Perish the thought.
Thing the First: find a good winter coat. Notice that the Lady of the Manners said coat, not cloak. While the Lady of the Manners is as fond of sumptuous velvet cloaks as the next Goth, cloaks are not really practical for most winter weather. They blow open in the wind (in a lovely and dramatic manner, true); they can get caught in car, train, or bus doors; and carrying any sort of bag other than a tiny handbag while wearing a cloak looks … silly. (The Lady of the Manners trusts that she does not need to point out the ridiculousness of wearing a backpack AND a cloak at the same time.)
Look for a coat that can be closed securely (be it by buttons, zippers, or buckles), is warm (be sure to take your usual local weather into account!), and that will survive rainstorms without damaging the fabric. An attractive coat can indeed be found for just about every budget: always remember to check thrift stores, consignment shops, and discount stores. If you’re very clever and organized, you could remember to look for a good winter coat at yard sales during the summer. It’s amazing what sort of bargains can be found on winter clothing during summer sales …
Thing the Second: Winter is the time of year for boots, and not those ones with the 4” spike heels, either. This is where those of you who are of the more industrial persuasion have it easier than the NeoVictorian and Romantic Goths; stompy boots are probably a skosh more practical than velvet granny boots. However, the Lady of the Manners hasn’t given up all of her Victorian-style boots for ones with giant foam soles; instead the Lady of the Manners took her boots to the local shoe repair place and had thin rubber traction soles applied to them. The cost of having that done is far less expensive than buying new boots, and now the Lady of the Manners scoffs at steep and possibly icy hills.
Thing the Third: Layers. Layers, layers, layers. There are all sorts of thin thermal clothing items that come in black, some even with lace trim. There are even thin silk gloves that not only look elegant, but can be used as glove liners when the weather becomes truely icy. You can add and remove layers as weather and circumstances dictate. Also, one does not need to expose vast expanses of skin to dress in a Gothic manner, even when going to a nightclub. It’s difficult to look mysterious and alluring if one’s teeth are chattering from the cold.
Thing the Fourth: If you’re a pedestrian who is out and about after night falls, you should carry a small flashlight or blinky light with you so that you can make your presence known on the roads. An almost entirely black wardrobe is indeed one of the signs of being a Goth, but it isn’t worth getting hit by a car for. The Lady of the Manners isn’t suggesting that everyone should sew light-reflective patches onto their clothing (the Lady of the Manners will leave that to the CyberGoths), but the Lady of the Manners thinks that making sure that one is visible while walking after dark is Very Important.
Thing the Fifth: Keep in mind that some fabrics are not suitable for winter weather. The Lady of the Manners realizes that it’s probably a bit harsh to think that anyone who exposes silk velvet to rain probably shouldn’t be allowed to own anything from that fabric ever again, but the Lady of the Manners still can’t shake that (cranky) conviction. But there are times when someone gets caught out by unexpected changes in the weather, and once velvet becomes water-spotted, there are very few ways to fix it. One, of course, involves a needle board, steam, and trying to fluff the velvet back into a non-crumpled state. The Lady of the Manners, living in a somewhat damp climate, has instead resorted to turning the garment with a few water spots into a lovely crushed velvet item of clothing, which can be done by spending an afternoon scrunching up the item in question, spraying it with water, and then deliberately creating masses of wrinkles with a steam iron.
Thing the Sixth: Winter weather can do unpleasant things to your skin and carefully-applied cosmetics. Make sure to do things like gently wash your face and apply moisturizer (and lotion, lip balm, and whatever skin care products you feel you can’t live without). If you wear makeup, be sure to carry a mirror and whatever few items you would need to repair things if your makeup runs due to rain or snow, or start wearing waterproof or long-wearing formulas of things like eyeliner and mascara.
There you go, Snarklings. Follow all of those tips, and you should get through the winter months just fine, and hopefully with a minimum of damage to your velvets. The Lady of the Manners is now going to go brew a pot of tea and read through more delightful letters from readers. (This is where the Lady of the Manners would usually off-handedly mention the “Correspondence” link on the front page here at Gothic Charm School, but the Lady of the Manners will assume that you clever Snarklings have noticed that pattern, and know how to go about sending mail to the Lady of the Manners if you feel the need to.)