Fashion Police and Copycats

Hello Faithful Readers, and welcome to July at Gothic Charm School. This month, the Lady of the Manners is going to write about a topic near and dear to her heart – and no, it isn’t the usual “summer is here and it’s too warm to do anything but lay about and eat ice cream” topic. No no, this month the Lady of the Manners is going to talk about Goths and Style.

This came about because the Lady of the Manners has been hearing all sorts of grumbles lately about “so and so stole my style!” or “someone accused me of ripping off their look!” Gothic Charm Schoolhas been so bombarded by this topic it that the Lady of the Manners felt compelled to say something about it, which is this:

No one in this scene has an original look, kidlings. Get over yourselves.

Hmmm. That came out a bit snippier than the Lady of the Manners intended, forgive her. But none the less, the sentiment holds true. Everyone has influenced everyone else at this point. Even the “Original Goth Look” was lifted from early horror films, Victorian mourning clothes, punk, and New Wave/New Romantic.

Way Back When, one of the founding principals of this subculture was a certain style. You remember – black clothes (mostly velvet, lace, and fishnet), ruffles, pale face makeup, lots of eyeliner, black lipstick? Any of this ring a bell? Anyways, it used to be that if you saw someone dressed in that manner, you could probably assume they were a Goth. This also meant that there tended to be a bit of similarity in gothy clothing. Nowadays, you’d be hard-pressed to identify other Goths on the street by their clothes. Yes, there are still people who adhere to the “I’m a vampire from a Hammer horror film” look, but there are just as many CyberGoths in reflective clothing or jeans ‘n t-shirt Goths that blow the “subculture fashion template” to smithereens.

Which is why the Lady of the Manners is so amused by this uproar. When the Lady of the Manners sees another young lady dressed in formal Victorian funeral garb, the Lady of the Manners goes over and strikes up a conversation with the new girl; she does not start grumbling that the new girl “stole her look.” For one thing, the other girl might know of some exciting new stores for the Lady of the Manners to shop at; the Lady of the Manners is also heartened to see that someone else will be on the dance floor wearing a bustle and a big hat — it makes people more careful with lit cigarettes, for one thing.

The funniest part of this whole thing (in the Lady of the Manners’ opinion) is the fact that she’s been hearing these comments from people who are wearing . . . oh goodness, there’s no delicate way to put this . . . off-the-rack gothwear. If you are wearing an item of clothing from a nationally distributed clothing label, you don’t get to complain about others dressing like you. (Yes, that means you Miss/Mister “my whole wardrobe is by Lip Service/Jeannie Nitro/Shrine”. While the clothes can be very nice, they are NOT original.)

Does this mean the Lady of the Manners snubs other gothy sorts who DO wear clothes from those labels? Goodness no. The Lady of the Manners quite likes some of the mass-produced gothwear that’s available, and thinks it shows how far the Goth subculture has come that there can be a profit made by creating and/or selling clothing for freaks; it’s all a Good Thing. However, this DOES mean that the Lady of the Manners is going to laugh at someone who complains that others are stealing their clothing style when the complainer is wearing an ensemble bought at Hot Topic. If you can buy it in a national chain store, you aren’t allowed to consider it your very own idea.

Many ElderGoths have been known to cast aspersions on the mere existence of Hot Topic; the Lady of the Manners doesn’t really understand why. Yes, if there was anyplace that would sell and “insta-goth” kit, it would be Hot Topic; that doesn’t make them bad. It isn’t even a bad thing that people who are just . . . flirting with the whole Goth thing can pop ‘round to HT and buy a whole spo0o0o0okie wardrobe and unnatural hair dye with their parents’ credit card. (Stop gritting your teeth. It ISN’T a bad thing.) When the Lady of the Manners was a suburban-dwelling teenager, she would have given anything to have had a Hot Topic in a mall near her. What you all have to remember is that since HT is a national chain, that means Goth and gothic are starting to be more visible to the mass populous. That means more people are aware of it, which means that if everyone associated with the subculture takes up the Lady of the Manners’ cause of being polite to people, maybe (just maybe) Goths will quit getting labeled as baby-eating Satanic murderers, and merely be labeled as “that group who wears black and dyes their hair funny colors.” Mass awareness can lead to more understanding and less bad stereotyping, we just have to work at it.

(Come on, you knew it was about time for another one of the Lady of the Manners’ “if we’re all polite, we can make an good impression” lectures. They DO happen almost every month, remember?)

But, back to the whole style thing — the only other caveat the Lady of the Manners would like to add is that it IS in terribly poor taste to copy someone exactly. Look at the pretty people around you and get ideas, by all means. Just don’t try and look like someone’s identical twin. The idea is that you find your own interpretation of the gothic style, not to say “I want to look just like so-and-so” and mimic their every accessory. While it’s perfectly all right to be inspired by someone else’s look, people find it uncomfortable to be confronted by a clone of themselves. You Have Been Warned, and don’t say the Lady of the Manners didn’t tell you so.

Now that the Lady of the Manners has gotten that out of her system, she’s going to go scamper off to the local thrift stores and look for clothes she can alter. Come around next month when she’ll ramble on about something else. If there is something that you (yes you, slouching there in the back) would like her to ramble about, send an email to

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