Beware the Burning Orb! Or, Summer Goth

Snarklings, it’s July in the Lady of the Manners’ part of the world. In other words, summer, the dreaded season of burning sunlight and high temperatures. Woe! Woe are the goths!

Oh, all right, the Lady of the Manners may be indulging in the tiniest bit of melodramatics about summer. There are many goths who adore this season, and look forward to warmer weather and longer days. The Lady of the Manners doesn’t happen to be one of those types of goths, and judging by questions showing up in the Gothic Charm School mailbox, many of you share her opinions. Which means it’s time for a summer survival guide!

Favoring inky hues and layers of fabric, whether in antique or punk styles, is not entirely practical during warm weather. Yes, layers of lace and fishnet can be substituted for velvet and leather, but you still should be aware of what the fiber content of those layers might be. Synthetic fibers, such as polyester and nylon, are not great choices for summer because no matter how lightweight they may be, they don’t breathe. Sheer or lightweight fabric doesn’t make a bit of difference if it still traps heat and sweat against you! Look for lightweight clothing made with a high percentage of natural fibers, such as cotton, silk, or rayon. If you refuse to give up your fishnets, then remember that you can dampen them with water and take advantage of evaporation to help you stay a little cooler.

Don’t feel you have to stick with goth’s traditional midnight “none more black” palette! White, gray, ivory — all lovely hues that work well with gothic styles, and will absorb less heat from the sun. According to “conventional wisdom”, that is, but there are articles saying otherwise.

One of the Lady of the Manners’ favorite places to find lightweight clothing in black or white is Dharma Trading Co., where not only can you get a variety of garments in different natural fibers, but you can find the dyes and other supplies to customize them.

Hats! While the illustration shows a top hat, the Lady of the Manners is here to warn you: most top hats are made of felted wool, which means they will keep your head toasty warm. Not what you want in summer! As the Lady of the Manners is rather fond of top hats, she scoured the internet until she found a summer-weight straw version (be warned, slow-loading site!), then spent a few evenings painstakingly coloring the hat with black archival art markers and then covering it with black lace. (Do not feel you need to duplicate that sort of effort, as the Lady of the Manners freely admits the project was a bit impractical and obsessive, even for her. And look! Now there’s a black raffia top hat out there. Where was this two years ago, drat it?)

But a lightweight hat is incredibly helpful to shade your eyes and keep your head from scorching, and there are all sorts of options. The nu-goth side of fashion is full of wide-brimmed black hats, which can be found in just about any store that carries sun hats. You can leave such a hat plain, or adorn it with feathers, veils, ribbons and bows, clouds of black tulle, black fabric roses, bird skulls and bones, bits and pieces of jewelry from thrift stores — really, anything that strikes your fancy and can be affixed to the hat by sewing or glue.

Parasols! Take shade with you whenever you’re out! Now to be perfectly honest, any umbrella will also work as a parasol in a pinch. Yes, it’s very fun to have an extra-fancy gothy-goth parasol, but there are times when function is more important than form, and warding off the burning orb is one of those times. Which leads the Lady of the Manners to a pet peeve: yes, lace parasols look very pretty in photo shoots, but are nigh-useless for shielding your delicate moonflower self from the sun. Opt for something with a solid covering, Snarklings!

The Lady of the Manners is very fond of the “Signature Pagoda” umbrella from Bella Umbrella, because it has a lovely shape and interchangable handles! Designs by Victoria offers parasols thoroughly decorated with lace and ruffles, while Clockwork Couture has a selection of paper parasols printed with designs such as skulls or tentacles.

Sunblock! No, not because you have to be pale to be a goth (the Lady of the Manners has an entire post refuting that narrow and silly notion!), but because sun damage and skin cancer are very real concerns! Look for something that offers broad-spectrum coverage, be it a “chemical” or “mineral” -based block, and take a look at the reviews and comments on the Environmental Working Group Guide to Sunscreens. Personally, the Lady of the Manners has discovered that many of the “chemical” block sunscreens make her skin unhappy, so she tends to powder her exposed skin down with Jane Iredale powder sunscreen, and make sure she has a large sun hat and parasol with her if she needs to be outside during the day.

Other useful tips!

– Stay hydrated. Yes, that’s obvious, but it’s easy to forget to drink water when you’re busy and/or distracted by other things. But also make sure you’re getting enough electrolytes and salt at the same time, please!

– Carry a fan with you, so you can generate your own cool breeze whenever you need. Metal handle fans that unfold into a circle are sturdy and can be easily tucked into a bag or pocket.

– Handkerchiefs. Yes, fabric ones, preferably made from cotton. You can use it to discreetly blot perspiration, or you can dampen it with water to use as a cool compress on your wrists or the back of your neck in truly sweltering situations.

– Ice packs and bodice chillers. If you must wear elaborate goth finery in high temperatures, tucking a pliable ice pack into your corset or waistcoat might make the crucial difference to avoid heatstroke. Don’t laugh, that’s how the Lady of the Manners has survived some summertime goth events outdoors.

– Blotting papers. Yes, for all genders, because sometimes just blotting the perspiration from your face will make you feel less sticky.

With that, Snarklings, the Lady of the Manners is going to stare forlornly at the weather forecast, then go set a carafe of herbal iced tea to steeping. Do you have your own tricks for dealing with the summer heat? Share them in the comments! (Which are, of course, moderated.)

33 Responses to “Beware the Burning Orb! Or, Summer Goth”

  1. Willa Says:

    I also favor gothic calico skirts with a black cotton cami & barefeet for dealing with the dreaded summer weather.

  2. Codeless Says:

    Here´s a recipe for home made iced tea:

    1 liter or so of water
    Green tea
    1 lemon, or juice thereof
    honey or sugar

    Brew the tea and slice the lemon, then put in the tea to steep.
    Take out the tea after however long you like your tea steeped, and put the lemon slices in. Add honey or sugar and let it cool.

    Make sure you put in the lemon after letting the tea steep or the hot water will make it bitter.
    If you make it in a glass container, the lemon slices look quite lovely.

  3. Margrethe Says:

    I have not yet attempted it, but I have heard one can dye straw hats with standard fabric dyes. There are certainly many sites on the subject. This is helpful if the usual hat options are not available.

  4. pearl Says:

    I tend to dress the same year-round (my wardrobe is very simple) so I basically just add or subtract outerwear, but this is great advice.

    Also, thanks for the links, I’ll be checking those out!

  5. Linda Strout Says:

    Does anyone have suggestions for coping with fur-babies that want to snuggle even in the face of 90 degree temperatures?

  6. Aymee Says:

    Thank you ever so much for this post! All of your advice is absolutely sound and welcome, and you’ve pointed out at least three previously-unknown venues at which I can spend money I really should save. Oh, dear.

    Sometimes I feel as though every other gothling creature must reside in some place unaffected by garish weather. Down here in Sweet Home Alabama, most of our year is hot, sticky, and glaringly bright. Staying cool is imperative, and I actually find that more coverage is better than less. Desert dwellers have right idea. Most of my blouses come from Holy Clothing, with their long, billowy sleeves and lightweight, breathable fabric. My skirts I make out of cheap, light muslin. It dyes beautifully and can be layered with little discomfort. I had never considered an umbrella/parasol, even though Southern Belles are known for them, but I think you may have talked me in to it. There’s a darling black and white umbrella with ruffled edges at Target that’s been calling my name for weeks.

    Lastly, I simply must ask you if you would be willing to show us your embellished hat. The gothy crafter in me is just itching to see it!

  7. Annelise Says:

    I make iced tea by setting a jar of water and tea bags (and mint from the garden) out in the sun for a couple hours, before bringing it in to chill. Make the burning orb work for you!

    I live in a Southern city that was built on a swamp, and I have no A/C. I wear lots of lighter shades, in looser fitting, elegant styles (an all off-white ensemble can really be much more spooky and refined than expected). If you still want all black, invest in linen — black linen pants and dresses are readily available, classic summer fashion for all persuasions.

    Wear updos and pin back bangs. Go out early in the morning and late in the afternoon. Read a novel set on an English moor. Walk on the shady side of the street, and for heaven’s sake, walk slowly.

  8. Chicky Says:

    Not a Goth, but Goth-sympathetic. If you want REAL Southern sweet tea, you have to start with a simple syrup, which is nothing more than sugar and water cooked together until the sugar dissolves.
    For 1 gallon of tea, mix 1/2 to 1 cup of sugar into 3 cups water. Heat on medium heat, stirring frequently, until sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat. Add tea bags to taste. Allow to steep 10 to 15 minutes depending on how strong you like it. Remove tea bags and pour mixture into gallon container. Add about 7 cups of cold water. Refrigerate. Serve with ice and lemon slices.

    My experience with linen is that, unless it’s a linen blend, it wrinkles if you look at it too hard. Plus, it’s a @5$$@ to iron. Try Calcutta cloth or gauze. Light and not wrinkly.

    As the Good Lady is always preaching, learn to sew, get an easy pattern for capri length trousers and make them in black gauze.

    Also, if you’re in the South (as I also am), or anywhere with mosquito issues, for the love of little dragons, wear repellent! You can wear an OFF! Clip On or Skin So Soft by Avon, or whatever, but do wear it. A skeeter bite to the joint of my middle finger necessitated a Sunday afternoon trip to the urgent care clinic for a Benadryl injection. Wear bug spray. Please.

  9. Natalie Says:

    i’ve found stripes to be a pretty good compromise for those of us who look terrible in plain white. Also if you don’t have the cash for a nice parasol, those japanese “paper” parasols you can find on ebay or amazon for under $10 can be painted with standard acrylic paint, and decorated with fabric markers.

  10. Anica Says:

    Some lovely suggestions! Perhaps this will be the summer I finally brave this heaven forsaken climate in something closer to proper finery than the rather sad t-shirts I have been reduced to. And my dear Aymee – you are by no means alone in this Alabamian swelter! I adore your idea of muslin. I shall simply have to give it a try!

  11. Duchwela Says:

    Linen, oh my Teacher! Lines is our friend down here in the Land that burns! It comes in many weights, but all of it is breathable !

  12. Angelica Says:

    I wear a lot of white and light pink clothes with lace, ruffles and interesting fabrics during summer. Combined with the right kind of accessories, shoes and makeup even white and light pink can look goth.

  13. Alexis Says:

    Dear,
    Lady of the Mannors

    My question might be a little over done, but can I mix Visual kei with death rock?? I’m not sure if its possible due to the two being so different, but is there away to mix them?

  14. Fee Says:

    Hah! Those bodice coolers are fabulous. I’m rather cold rife and live in Scotland, so heat isn’t usually an issue for me – however, apparently the atmosphere decided otherwise, as we’ve been experiencing a heat wave over the past month.

    I have a very set style which is usually fine for this weather, thankfully, but I do need to invest in a wide brimmed hat!

  15. Crazier Sister Says:

    Just an FYI on the paper parasols (learned from my own mistake), they do shade but they’re still paper. If you can move your hand over your arm and still see shadow beyond that cast by the parasol, the burning orb is still getting through. Sunscreen (of some sort) is SUCH the good idea even if you carry the parasol. Plus, the EVIL burning orb reflects off bright surfaces and can bounce up at you.
    Final bit of advice, I used to work for an eye doctor and we had a young man come in who went skiing without sunglasses. He sunburned his eyeballs from the burning orb bouncing off the snow into his eyes. Yes, dear people, you can literally sunburn your eyeballs. PLEASE be sure, if you’re outdoors, that you wear good, eye-covering UVB blocking sunglasses.

  16. BlacKat Says:

    Summer bonus: It is now time for the familial “but whyyyyy can’t you wear pink t-shirts and jean shorts like a normal girl!” At least I can buy my own clothes now instead of being trapped in those awful things.

  17. Amber Says:

    I too live in the South and can attest that the mosquitos are MURDER without some sort of repellent.
    If you want to keep the mosquitos at bay, mix equal parts lemon ammonia, lemon dish soap, and lemon juice in a spray bottle (I use the sort that is meant for weed-killer; we have a big patio). Spray it around your sitting area early in the morning or in the afternoon, just before dark. This usually keeps the mosquitos away for a week, as long as it doesn’t rain. After a week, or a rain, spray again.

    As far as fashion choices to keep cool, I wear loose-fitting tops with capris or shorts and a pair of flip-flops or cute sandals. My hair is long so I keep it in pigtails, braids, or a high ponytail.
    I’m in need of a new umbrella/parasol because the one I had is broken. I’m staying in as much as possible until then because I don’t like wearing hats.
    Soon I’ll be sewing up some flowing blouses and bloomers for myself using Simplicity 2777 by Arkivestry. It’s listed under their costume patterns, if anyone wants to look it up in a local shop.

  18. Kirstie Says:

    Great post – thanks!
    I, for one, am fed up with white residue from sunscreen all over my black clothes. Being a bona fide heliophobe, though, I am not about to forgo the sunscreen. I’ll check out Dharma Trading Co. to see what I can find.

  19. Lily Says:

    Since I live in the UK (and the north of it, at that), we don’t get much hot weather. For about 10 months of the year, I don’t even need to break out the T-shirts. I reckon we get about 2 months of properly hot weather, where clothes specifically for hot weather must be worn rather than just reduced amounts of layers, but it’s not all together. We can have blips of heatwave for a weekend or so in April, May, June, September and October, in addition to the more predictable warmth of July and August, but most of those months will still be don’t-wear-a-coat-but-still-bring-a-jacket-or-wear-long-sleeves kind of weather, where you don’t need to do anything more drastic than swap your boots for converse and leave your leather jacket unzipped.

    The shortness (and unpredictability of the timing of) the summer season can make shopping for summer clothes pretty frustrating if you’re budget-conscious though, even as a none-goth. It’s very possible to buy clothes to fit, say, a school dresscode (that you wouldn’t be seen dead in outside of school) and then find that so much of hot weather that year occurs in the summer holidays that you only get to wear your new “summer formal” ensemble approximately twice. Every year I waver between buying buying a summer wardrobe but then potentially finding out I’ve wasted my money in terms of value-per-wear, or not buying a summer wardrobe but then finding the month or so when I genuinely need one to involve intense suffering. I suppose being a goth helps a little, because at least we’re not bound so much by the desire to get rid of clothes after a short while because they’re no longer on-trend…following mainstream fashion in Britain and dressing appropriately for the weather are hard to combine. You either end up wearing the autumn/winter collections for far longer than they’re fashionable (because spring trends seem to supercede winter ones as soon as the January sales end, and the shops start optimistically filling up with shorts and the like from March onwards despite the fact no sensible person would have opportunity to wear them until at least June) and find that you get maybe two months of wear out of that year’s summer trend before you have to get rid of it because it has become too cold and next year it will be unfashionable, or you wear the trends when the shops tell you to and end up shivering in said shorts in March. Far better to be a goth and be able to keep the same pieces for years!

    For a goth who errs on the punkier side, the odd bits of truly hot weather are easy – shorter skirts and dampened fishnets with a T-shirt or a tank (or a fishnet long-sleeve layered under a T-shirt). Sunglasses fit the aesthetic better than a sunhat, so add those and you’re good to go. Romantigoths just need to work the flowing, billowy aesthetic and use a parasol, and avoid anything corsetted and tight (I used to have some Edwardian-style nightgowns that I’d dyed black, the billowiness of which cooled me far better than not wearing black would, but I had to get rid of them when I realised how unflattering empire waisted dressed were on me). I’m not a nu-goth but I love those large, wide-brimmed hats and I wear them with reckless abandon, although most of mine are felt which isn’t much good for summer. It should also be noted that many shops sell trench “coats” that are made out of such thin material they are all but useless in weather that’s actually cold (the sort of coat often suggested for spring or autumn but that would leave you shivering unless it was very late spring or early autumn), and the discerning goth can wear those for most of the year.

  20. Laced and Dangerous Says:

    Light cotton skirts are a goth girl’s best friend! That, and tank tops. Also, remember to go light on the makeup. It’s pointless to leave the house with perfect eyeliner only for it to smudge and smear in the heat, waterproof or not.

  21. Maeve Says:

    Great article. I do so struggle with summer dress! One thing, though: as a cosmetic chemistry nerd, I am begging you to not refer people to the EWG! They are in general not a reliable source and do more scaremongering than they provide facts, but their sunscreen reviews in particular are bad news. Try Beautypedia instead. Great, solid, scientific advice in the realm of skincare.

  22. Stormbringer Says:

    As an Australian it would be down right unpatriotic of me not to love summer and the beach. SPF 30 is a must down here ofcourse and I find the beach can be a mysterious and poetically melancholy place. The sea’s beauty has always held a deep allure for me and I can proudly claim to have done something truly awe inspiring – gone skin diving at night. Yes folks, there is no more truly gothic environment than a calm, warm and totally dark ocean under the full moon, full of lurid and macabre creatures that one never sees by day. Beauty incarnate.

  23. Lioness Says:

    Oh, am I happy to have found this article!!! Due to my husband’s military career, I have recently been relocated to Hawaii, of all places. Lovely for vacation, but to live here….. eh, not so much. It’s hot, muggy, and suuuuunnnnnyyyyy. I don’t handle heat well, and due to a spinal injury and nerve damage, I wear plastic orthotics and sneakers most of the time. Long pants, long skirts and dresses, and closed flat shoes are my wardrobe. To make matters worse, I’ve had bad allergic reactions to every sunscreen I’ve tried, and my skin will burn in about 5 minutes. I do carry a parasol, which helps for my face and neck. And I bought some UV resistant sleeves for my arms, but they make me overheat so I can’t wear them. Needless to say, I’m a miserable kid. But you’ve got some good tips here that just might make this bearable for me for the next 3 years. Especially the sunscreen – I had no idea they made a powder sunscreen! I was just going to mix zinc powder with some Lubriderm and hope it worked. Oh, thank you Lady! I am so very appreciative. 🙂

  24. YC Says:

    Hello there,

    A tip for those people that did happen to get a sunburn:
    Before going to sleep, put baby powder on the burnt places, as thick as you’d see a person covered in wheat when baking (in the cartoons). Next day most of the burn will be gone and it does make your skin turn brownish color. (so optional thing people)
    I’ve tried this myself, it does work, but Im thinking, since lavender is sometimes used to treat burns in places (like from getting hot tea over your hands for example) you might want to try to get baby powder with lavender or lavender oil added to it.

    A sunburn can be fixed in a night, or 2.

    Another thing.. I do wear black shirts in the summer time and I find it troublesome that the sun is burning so much trough my shirt. I noticed if I put a second shirt or thin coat or anything that’s kind of loose over it, that it doesn’t have that burning sensation anymore. So.. you might be done with just 2 layers.

  25. neko Says:

    This interesting article inspires me the following question: is there a Goth fashion regarding swimwear? That would be interesting. 🙂

  26. MirandaMyst Says:

    Goth fashion regarding swimwear? Depends on the kind of goth you are! I believe The Lady of Manners’ link to restroscope fashions might yield some results for the romantigoth. If you’re more on the Trippe pants side of the gothy spectrum then there are cool strappy black swimsuits easily searchable. Good for a sort of bondage look. I personally like a short skirted bottom and a halter top tankini on the femme side and you can easily find swim trunks with skulls or other gothy patterns on the male-presenting side.

    If you can buy online, the options are dazzling. Even if you have to get something from a store, it’s usually very easy to find something black and ruffled. For the bois it’s a little harder, but there might be skull motifs.

    What will make your swimwear *goth* though, kind of has to be the accessories if you are not going full Victorian. Probably plastic bracelets/anklets/necklaces maybe with little bats or skulls from last Halloween. Anything that won’t be ruined by salty or chlorinated water.

    Don’t forget that you can have a gorgeous cover up for after the actual swimming part of the day.

  27. MirandaMyst Says:

    Oh, maybe it wasn’t Retroscope. Can’t remember where I saw the Victorian swim dress, but one can be found!

    Running an image search for “gothic swimsuit” returned at least a dozen good ideas. And many dreadful ones… But still useful overall!

  28. Datura Says:

    I live in central Kentucky and love to wear the “broomstick” skirts with light weight sleeveless or short sleeved tops covered with an opaque blouse. Sometimes I find gothy scarves (which are sometimes large enough to be worn as a sort of shawl) or other accessories at Goodwill stores, discount stores, or end of season clearance at Target, Meijer, or similar locations.

    I love the idea of capri length pants! They would be adorable with bat motif or perhaps Damask type fabric maybe trimmed with a bit of lace. Sometimes one can find Halloween themed trim at the local fabric or crafts store which can be used to dress up an existing skirt or blouse.

  29. Taylor Says:

    Thanks for the help. I, when I go to Florida in February, will be that one Canadian goth chick who is all black and everyone looks at you as if your completely insane.

  30. Anastasia Says:

    I love it more than my black lace choker

  31. Lady of the lake Says:

    My comiserations to all my fellow suffers. Bein . Myself inclined to gothic clothing, i myself am forced to wear yoga pants in the dredful summer months. This can be accseptable if one interchanges the velete dress with a ruffled shirt and waistcoat. Male wear can be a simpler option for my felow goth, make fitting and strangly liberating. No an imperfect solution it can provide practicle relif in summer as well as being more acceptable to the strict parent.

  32. Alesand Says:

    Grandpa gave me a bunch of his T-shirts. They are all black and made of a very light weight material. Just black enough to be gothic and just practical enough to be considered among the so-called normies. I think they were made by Hanes.

  33. Nyx Shadowhawk Says:

    Summer has never really been a problem for me with short cotton skirts and many interesting T-shirts with cats, owls, and ravens on them, or phrases like “night creature” and “carpe noctem.” I recommend “The Mountain” T-shirt brand or anything from Spiral Direct/Spiral USA. Spiral has plenty of interesting clothing that can be worn in summer.

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