For this installment of Gothic Charm School, the Lady of the Manners turned to Twitter and ran a poll to narrow down what topic she should tackle next. It turns out that many, many Snarklings were interested in the Lady of the Manners rant opinions around the rise of gothy fast fashion.
As some of you may remember, the Lady of the Manners has always been a defender of goth clothing and goods being available at mainstream and mall stores. (Hi there, Hot Topic and Torrid.) (Yes, when Torrid first opened, they were the plus-size offshoot of Hot Topic, and plus-size femme goths rejoiced.) The Lady of the Manners’ opinion was anchored by two beliefs:
- Not everyone has the time, money, or ability to find and customize thrift store items, or afford a wardrobe of custom clothing. A budget-savvy goth can take advantage of the never-ending discount offers from mall stores and get good foundation pieces for their wardrobe of darkness.
- Mainstream “normal” culture shows tolerance and acceptance toward “fringe” cultures through the availability of mass-market goods. Babygoths have an easier time convincing their parents to accept their spooky tendencies if stripy tights and skull-bedecked clothing are available at mainstream stores. When mainstream cosmetic companies endorse dark lipstick and sharp eyeliner as “must-have” styles, people’s unease around our spooky subculture lessens, and perhaps the legacy of bullying and harassing anyone who is “other” starts to ease.
So if the Lady of the Manners still holds that opinion, how can she also believe that goth fast fashion isn’t always a good thing? For several reasons:
Quality vs. Cost
Clothing from gothic and alternative “lifestyle” companies such as Killstar, Blackcraft Cult, and Dollskill are known for clothing that will potentially fall apart after a few wearings. There are also issues with unfinished seams, hanging chains of thread from serged edges, misaligned trim ”¦
Some of the issues are easy enough to fix on your own – dangling threads can be snipped, buttons can be reattached – but for the prices that the lifestyle companies charge, that sort of basic garment maintenance shouldn’t have to be done as soon as you pull something out of the box.
The quality of the clothing fabric is also hit or miss: scratchy, stiff, or may not survive laundering no matter what the garment care tags say. The Lady of the Manners has been told that Killstar is better about this, as they do have some of their fabric exclusively made for them, but she hasn’t gotten her hands on anything (yet) to find out. (Yet, because the Lady of the Manners is going to take advantage of discounts in order to write a review.)
For these sorts of quality issues, plus the items themselves being churned out in factories, the prices don’t reflect what you’re actually getting. If you want to purchase from those sites, always look for discount codes and sales.
Going hand-in-hand with the quality issues:
The Lady of the Manners wholeheartedly supports vegan folks! If it’s a lifestyle that works for you, fantastic. But “vegan leather”, “PU leather” and PVC are all plastic. Shoes, boots, bags, and other accessories made from those materials can’t be repaired. Once those pointy toes get worn down, once those boots or purse rip along a seam, there’s no saving them, and all you can do is throw them in the trash.
Leather can be repaired, and will last for decades (or longer!) with proper care. The Lady of the Manners has leather shoes and boots from the 90s that she still wears on a regular basis, and her current purse is from the 40s. Vegan and PU leather sound like a great and environmentally friendly option, but are ultimately destined for a landfill.
Everything the Lady of the Manners has ever heard about the spooky lifestyle companies’ clothes sizing is that it’s inconsistent at best and misleading at worst, across all the size ranges. Size charts exist, but they’re generic, not garment or production-specific, which means a lot of guesswork when trying to decide if you’re going to order something. Yes, this is an issue that plagues all mass-produced clothing, but again: if you have to ask on multiple social media platforms to find out how an item might fit, frustration is the norm.
It’s worse if you are plus-sized. Plus sized garments are notorious for weird fit issues, because most companies don’t look at the proportions for a garment, but just scale up the pattern. Plus size clothing often means strangely proportioned shoulders, overlong sleeves, and weird proportions in the body. Also, many of the items are made in Hong Kong or China with no additional input from the fashion company about the size ranges; a 3XL could mean it would fit someone who is a US size 14, or it might be too tight on a person who wears a US size 10. And to add an additional layer of frustration, asking online about the sizing and fit of plus size clothes opens the door to strangers making insulting and hurtful comments about plus size folks. When the Lady of the Manners gets annoyed is when people tell her to “eat a salad and exercise”; when the comments escalate to threats and insults, well, she becomes incoherent with rage and despair and ends up taking a break from the internet before she tries to burn the whole thing down.
The Big One: Design Theft & Poor Business Ethics
It’s an unspoken secret (but becoming less of one) that the big name “lifestyle” brands are known for watching the websites, stores, and social media accounts of indie designers and artists to see what’s making a splash, and directly copying designs or making a few tiny changes to them. (Supposedly Killstar has stopped doing this, but the Lady of the Manners hasn’t had the time to do intensive design cross-referencing.)
As for the business side, well ”¦ Killstar has had a history of treating BIPOC employees very poorly, and Dollskill is no better.
Dollskill has been notoriously racist, selling products such as copies of Native American headdresses for costumes or “festival wear”, and “Goth So White” t-shirts. There’s also accusations of them being ableist, asking an IG influencer to work with them and then cutting ties when they learned she used a wheelchair.
Other Fast Fashion “Options”
You may ask, “But what about those companies who have advertisements all over social media? Their things look cute, and are super-inexpensive, right?” Stay away from them! Those companies are notoriously terrible scams.
They steal photos from everywhere and everyone to use as catalog images on their own “retail” sites. If you buy something from them, there’s a high chance you’ll never receive your order, and will have to go through the laborious process of getting your money back from PayPal or having your bank perform a chargeback. If you do receive your order from one of these companies, it will be nothing like the photos you saw on the site. Clothing will be terrible quality reproductions that look and feel like cheap Halloween costumes sold in a plastic bag. The chances of the sizes corresponding to whatever size guide they provided are very low; indeed the sizes probably won’t correspond to any adult human measurements. Home decor items will almost certainly have wildly misaligned printing, may be covered in blobs of hot glue or epoxy, or arrive broken. Finally, each package is a mystery, and not necessarily a fun one. You may get the “item” you ordered. You may get a random towel, packages of expired snack food, or an extra sleeve. Not attached to anything, just a single lonely sleeve.
Always do your research on these “stores”: look for online reviews, perform reverse image searches on their catalog photos, and if you do decide to order from one of them, use a payment method that will help you get a refund if necessary.
So where can a goth buy clothing? The Lady of the Manners’ traditional recommendations still hold true:
- Thrift Stores
- Resale sites such as eBay, Poshmark, and Depop. (And here’s a list of helpful keywords to refine your search!)
- Buy items from mainstream stores and customize them if you’re able. (Here, have a short list of gothy DIY essentials.)
- Look for smaller gothy stores. Stores the Lady of the Manners has purchased or heard good reviews from include:
Finally, buy items from independent designers. Yes, it’ll be more expensive, but artists deserve to be paid fairly for their work! Some of the Lady of the Manners’ favorite designers to purchase or windowshop include:
- Austere Devotion (A reseller, but they source fantastic items.)
- Dracula Clothing
- Our Widow
- Blood Milk Jewels
You can also turn to social media and ask for suggestions for where to find ethical/sustainable goth fashion. Here’s one such thread from Twitter.
With that, Snarklings, the Lady of the Manners opens the floor to all of you: share your suggestions for stores and designers! Do you have reviews? Commiserations? Leave a comment. (As always, comments will be moderated, so be polite!)