Being “Too Goth”

Hello Faithful Readers, and welcome to Gothic Charm School in 2002! This month, the Lady of the Manners is going to hold forth on a topic she’s been thinking about off and on for a couple of months now. (Besides goth club etiquette and her annoyance at people and LiveJournals, she means. Club Etiquette was part of last month’s column, and etiquette concerning LiveJournals will have to wait until the Lady of the Manners’ temper cools a bit.) No, this month the Lady of the Manners will talk about being too goth.

That’s a broad topic, isn’t it? Don’t worry, the Lady of the Manners is really going to natter on about a small portion of it: clothing. Every now and then while skimming newsgroups and mailing lists, the Lady of the Manners comes across comments such as “but that’s too much for going grocery shopping” or other “that’s just over the top”-statements.

Now, the Lady of the Manners DOES believe that there is such a thing as trying too hard to look spo0o0o0o0o0o0okie and gothy. If you feel you cannot leave the house for whatever reason without applying whiteface, scribbly eyeliner, and fake blood, you are Trying Too Hard.

(Whoops! A quick tangent while it crosses the Lady of the Manners’ train of thought — fake blood is NOT a good fashion accessory. Not, not, not. Part of a costume for a special event, fine. Worn as part of your everyday or club-going apparel, very very silly. People will mock you, and with good reason.)

The Lady of the Manners has heard people speak disparagingly of others they’ve seen out in the Everyday World (grocery store, laundromat, just out running errands) that are elaborately dressed. “They were wearing velvet and a corset! While grocery shopping!” Without any information as to whether or not the dressed-up person seemed perfectly at ease with what they were wearing and their surroundings. You see, some people consider corsets, velvet, frock coats, Big Stompy Boots, etc., to be normal everyday clothing, not special “I’m trying to dress up” wear. Some people are lucky enough to have the sorts of jobs (or go to the sorts of schools) where they CAN wear that sort of thing all the time and chose to expend the time and effort to do so. The Lady of the Manners dresses in NeoVictorian fashion any time she leaves the house; her main hobby is scouring thrift stores for clothing that can be altered to blend in with her gothy Mary Poppins look. Other people have similar hobbies, which is why that person you see with the blue and purple hair extensions, Big Boots, and PVC clothing may seem a bit bemused when you ask, “What are you all dressed up for?” To them, they aren’t really dressed up, it’s just how and who they are.

But what about those people who really are trying too hard? How can you tell if you’re trying too hard to be ookie-spookie and Oh So Goth? Well, a quick rule of thumb: do you feel comfortable with what you’re doing or wearing? If you’re in head-to-toe black and elaborate makeup because you feel you won’t be accepted by others unless you look like that, because you’re trying to “scare the mundanes,” or because you know it bugs your parents, your motives may be a wee bit suspect. The way you look should express yourself, not be a quick way to annoy people.

Also, there is the whole “appropriate to the time and place” concept. When you go for a job interview, you probably want to leave the more . . . exotic items safely in the closet. Wearing dark colors is safe, wearing things that are slightly dressier than most people would is fine also (velvet dress shirts or blazers and so on). When in doubt, err on the side of conservatism.and that includes your accessories. Do NOT wear a bondage collar or slave bracelets to an interview, no matter how, er, attached you are to them. You want to present a trustworthy and friendly appearance to a potential employer; once you HAVE the job you can start slowly introducing more of your “regular” clothes to your look.

What if you attend a school that enforces a dress code? First of all, it’s not worth jepordizing your education just because you have to wear a uniform or can’t wear certain things. The Lady of the Manners realizes this is unfair and hampers the expression of your innermost gothy self, but that’s the way it is. Besides, if you continually get sent home for inappropriate clothing, how are you going to get that scholarship to college, where you can wear just about anything that you fancy? Now, as to ways around the dress code/uniform thing? There are always ways — tights, shoes, gloves, hair accessories, all that sort of thing. Go do a web search, you’ll turn up oodles of links full of helpful tips. The thing to keep in mind is that no matter how annoying the dress code is, it’s meant with good (if slightly overprotective) intentions. Grit your teeth throughout the school day, then spend the weekend wearing what you want (as long as it doesn’t start fights with your parents).

The Lady of the Manners is sure that some of you out there are very, very cross that she is telling you to obey rules AND to try not to piss off your parents — look, until you are living on your own (or with roommates) and paying your own bills, you HAVE to put up with some strictures. Muttering about how unfair it is that mom and dad won’t let you paint your bedroom black or buy you PVC trousers won’t change things, and will probably just cause your parents to roll their eyes and do their own muttering about typical teenage behavior.

Besides (forgive the Lady of the Manners while she indulges in a bit of “back in MY day” nostalgia), nowadays it is much, much easier to dress in a gothy style. Yes, goth has been co-opted into the mainstream and anyone can go down to the local mall and buy themselves what amounts to a My First Goth-in-a-box kit. Hurrah! That means that certain goth staples are less expensive and easier to find. Not to mention a slightly higher level of tolerance by Normal Folks, and maybe, just maybe, a corresponding drop in the “It’s not Halloween!” catcalls. Maybe.

Anyway, what this all amounts to is: be yourself, but don’t get into trouble. Shocking, isn’t it? And in being yourself, don’t worry about others whispering behind your back. If you’re happy and comfortable with the way you look, then just smile sweetly at people who are confused by you. That will confuse them even more, which is attended by its own special brand of satisfaction.

(But the Lady of the Manners was serious about the fake blood thing, okay. Bad, bad fashion choice.)

Now that the Lady of the Manners is done giving her responsible adult lecture for the month, she’ll sit back and see what sort of comments it generates. As always, send your questions to headmistress@gothic-charm-school.com, and drop by next month! Who knows, maybe the Lady of the Manners will be ready to talk about LiveJournals and weblogs in a civilized manner by then.

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