Of Questions Concerning One’s Wardrobe

Snarklings, remember how at the end of the last lesson, the Lady of the Manners said she was going to write about something less fraught? Perhaps something like fashion advice? Goodness, flocks* of you took that to heart; all sorts of letters with wardrobe questions arrived in the Gothic Charm School mailbox.

(*There never has been any sort of agreement on what is the proper collective noun for a collection of Goths, has there? The Lady of the Manners is fond of gloom, as in “a gloom of Goths”, but has also seen bleakness, brood, clot, shroud, and sulk all used.) 

However, enough chatter about etymology and the naming of things! Onwards to Snarklings’ questions about fashion! A Snarkling by the name of Ryan asked:

I love what you wear to work, do you have any tips for the Gents who’d like a bit of Goth in their office wear instead of the usual drab shirt and trousers?  I recently bought a pair of New Rocks (very unoriginal I know, apologies) which are perfectly smart enough but I don’t have a lot that matches their high standards!

Firstly, do not apologize for owning a pair of New Rocks! In the Lady of the Manners’ experience, New Rocks are quite nice footwear, and are certainly more interesting than the majority of options that are available for gentlemen of more eccentric and shadow-clad tastes. Now, as to how you might add a bit of Goth to your office wear? The Lady of the Manners strongly believes in the theory of “when in doubt, go more formal”. Wear a tie with a striking pattern, perhaps? The Lady of the Manners doesn’t mean ones with a holiday motif or other such somewhat twee nonsense, but ties with interesting designs silkscreened onto them, such as the ones made by Cyberoptix TieLab. Nicely-fitted waistcoats and suit jackets in somber hues would also help you Goth-ify your daily work wardrobe. And don’t feel you have to bankrupt yourself to find such things! Be sure to check your local thrift stores and consignment shops; yes, you’ll have to spend a bit of time searching, but you may be rewarded with items that will help you add a dark and unique touch to your clothing.

Thomas St. Cloud, another gentleman seeking wardrobe advice, writes:

Affable Madam

Having perused some of your brilliant advice to others, I was wondering if you might relinquish a bit of your fashion know-how? I’m 28 years old, male, a long time ensconce-ee of the subculture and mired with an “unfixable” but I’m sure (somehow) solvable problem… Like many others, in my misguided youth I chased after social ideals. For me, in my particular cultural paradigm this ideal was the waif thin look of the gothic stereotype. It took just one trip to the hospital for me to give up on that particular fantasy and from then on I’ve been particular about my health and physical condition. The adverse effect to all this health conscious hootenanny (isn’t that a fun word?) is that the healthier I became, the more muscular I became. Ever further from those old ideals my visage painfully did depart. (boo-hoo) I’m at ease with this now, and consequently quite at ease with myself and my body image. However to the problem in question…

I’ve spent many years in the lap of Alt/Metal fashion simply because it was the look inside of gothic culture that best suited my body type. However, recently I’ve been longing for the old days of frock coats and pointy toes. And I thought to inquire of you how I might adorn myself in something a bit more eloquent without looking like Disney’s “Gaston”.

Dear Thomas, congratulations on becoming particular about your health and physical condition! Health conscious hootenanny (and yes, a fabulous word) is, while at times vexing, very important, and the Lady of the Manners is very glad to hear that you’ve become at ease with yourself and your body image.

As to your longing to return to a more eloquent Goth style without looking like “Gaston” (and oh! What an image did that conjure up in the Lady of the Manners’ head!) … yes, dear Thomas, it most certainly can be done. It will just require a bit more effort than the Alt/Metal fashions did. Why? Because you will need to become quite discerning about the fit and tailoring of your clothing. By all means, indulge yourself in frock coats and pointy toes! Just make sure that those frock coats fit you properly; that they aren’t straining across your chest and shoulders, and that they fit at your waist, not loosely hang like a crumpled paper bag. You will probably want to avoid the more extravagantly be-ruffled poets’ shirts and cravats that are bigger than your head, but a modestly ruffled collar or a sleek ascot would be quite dashing. Also, do not fall into the trap of baggy trousers, especially the ones that are clattering and clanking with chains and D-rings. (The Lady of the Manners is sure you know of the style she is referring to.) Again, a well-tailored look is what you probably wish to aspire to.  

One last bit of advice: the effect of elegant and eloquent Goth attire, no matter how painstakingly assembled, will be undermined by … oh, how can the Lady of the Manners put this? By less-than-attentive grooming. If you favor facial hair, make sure it is neatly trimmed and brushed. If you dabble in cosmetics, be sure to apply them with a steady hand and blend, blend, blend. Keep your wardrobe free of stains, and if you have pets, keep a stock of lint brushes on hand.

A younger Snarkling who wished to remain anonymous has the following dilemma, part of which concerns fashion:

 Please forgive me if this subject has been previously visited, but it has nagged at my mind for a while now.  You see, I have, for quite a long time, greatly admired the Gothic subculture, but was always too self-conscious to take action.  I am especially fond of the Victorian era-based clothing.  The problem is this: I am, of present, only thirteen years of age, and only in Grade 7.  My friends already consider me to be bizarre, and I worry that they may completely stop hanging around with me. The second worry is that there is already one  “Goth kid” (for lack of a better description) at my school, and I do not think she likes me very much.  I am hesitant to continue exploring the Gothic subculture, as I do not wish for her to think that I am copying her style. What should I do?  Sincerely,      


(P.S. Any advice on how I could create a Victorian-based wardrobe without breaching Junior High dress-code guidelines would also be greatly appreciated) 

Dear Anonymous Snarkling, do not let the suspicion that the other “Goth kid” at your school does not like you very much stop you from exploring the Gothic subculture! If she thinks you are copying her style, oh well. Of course, you should do what you can to make it clear that you aren’t copying her; don’t start dressing like her or mimicking her hairstyle and makeup, but develop your own interpretations and variations of Gothic style.  

As to the concern that your friends will stop hanging around with you if you decide to become more involved with the Gothic subculture; oh dear. The Lady of the Manners is going to now deliver to you one of the more shopworn pieces of wisdom from Grown-Ups to Younger People: If they’re really your friends, they’ll stick with you.

Now with that said, the Lady of the Manners has some caveats to add. Junior High (and High School) are difficult for many reasons, but one of them is that many teens fall prey to a sort of pack mentality. If another member of their community (even if that community is only by virtue of being at school together) strays from what is considered the “normal” template, the rest of the pack reacts, and frequently reacts very poorly. By deciding that you want to explore the Gothic subculture, you are possibly setting yourself up for being labled “bizarre”, other insults, or worse. Does that mean you should turn your back on your Gothy interests? No, not at all.  But the Lady of the Manners wants to make sure that you’re forewarned, and wants to make very sure that you understand that the reactions you may get are not necessarily about you as a person, but about what Goth symbolizes to people who don’t know any better. 

As to creating a Victorian-based wardrobe without breaching Junior High dress-codes? Hmmm. The Lady of the Manners must admit that she is not familiar with current school dress-codes, but is willing to bet that if you stick to the more formal and/or modest Victorian-influenced looks, you should be able to get away with them. Fitted black jackets or blazers worn with frilly blouses should be acceptable by most schools’ dress codes, along with full skirts (knee-length or longer) worn with tights. If your school’s dress-code allows for patterned tights or socks, by all means indulge yourself in stripy tights.

(Oh dear, the Lady of the Manners just realized that she assumed Anonymous is a young lady, hence the recommending of frilly blouses and skirts. But never fear, male Snarklings! Just substitute “nice dress shirt and perhaps a tie” for “frilly blouse” and “well-fitting black trousers” for “full skirts”.) 

As to where to find all of these things? Yes, the Lady of the Manners is repeating herself, but thrift stores are always good places to search out these sorts of wardrobe items. An even better path would be to teach yourself to sew, but that can become more than a bit time-consuming. But even learning the basics of sewing and mending will allow you to customize your thrift store finds and make subtle changes to the fit of them. 

With that, the Lady of the Manners is going to take a break from writing (and from reading mail from Snarklings), and go finish the alterations to a jacket she purchased on one of her own recent thrift store expeditions. Of course, the Lady of the Manners takes frequent breaks from her sewing projects to click the shiny “New Messages” button, so by all means, please write!


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