An Assortment Of Questions

Hello Snarklings! It’s time to return to a potpourri of reader questions here at Gothic Charm School, including, oh yes, another question about Goth fashion. Which prompts the Lady of the Manners to say that she is working on a huge upcoming post about Where To Find Goth Clothes and How To Put Together Your Gothy Style, however, when the Lady of the Manners says it’s a huge post, she’s not kidding. So it may take a little while to finally coalesce and appear here on Gothic Charm School.  (Yes, Gothic Charm School sees a lot of questions about finding gothy clothes. That, and many, many questions about family disapproval. Which tells the Lady of the Manners that she needs to do big blanket posts on both topics.)

But! Those are projects for the future, and the Lady of the Manners should really concentrate on the questions she’s going to talk about this time around, which are ”¦  hmmm, a question about fashion, a query about explaining one’s gothy self to one’s mom, and ”¦ oh! About Halloween!

question: To My Dear Lady,

What are your opinions on being yourself, which is to say dressing Goth for Halloween? (Yes, I realize that Halloween is not for quite some time, but the question has been nagging at me.)

I ask because I consistently have a costume that is fine to wear in the daytime on my college campus, (This year was the Green Fairy!) but due to the cold and high crime rates where I live, these costumes are inappropriate for going out for evening festivities. My solution was to dress to the nines in my Goth finery and just generally be ooky-spooky- whimsical.

There are not many Goth-types on my campus… But a Gothly friend did end up grumping at me, since she thinks its inappropriate if you are Goth to dress as such for Halloween. It wasn’t a big grump, and my feelings aren’t hurt at all, but it’s gotten me thinking.

What do you think, my Lady?

Mit Liebe,

Will it make you feel any better, dear girl, to know that the Lady of the Manners’ default Halloween costume is to dress up in very elaborate Goth finery? And wear her custom-fitted vampire fang caps, but those aren’t what people notice at first. There are many, many Goths who use Halloween as an excuse to don the very best of their wardrobe, and then take an even larger delight in telling people “No, this isn’t a costume.”

The Lady of the Manners is a little boggled by your friend’s mild grumping, to be honest. For many people, Halloween is about indulging in dressing as who you long to be. (Any of you Snarklings who are about to make sarcastic comments about the Lady of the Manners wearing her fangs can just hush, before she thumps you on the head with a copy of Dracula.) A lot of Goths long to be, well, even gothier than they are in everyday life. A huge part of the Goth mindset is a longing for dark romanticism,  wishing that life was a candle-lit, darkly sparkling masquerade party, even if the part that longs for that is a tiny blood-red rosebud growing in the very depths of your heart. (Yes, even you, you surly growling nihilist Goth Punks. Don’t fib, you all want a giant party too, just one with fewer frills and more dystopia.)

Also, when one is planning a Halloween costume, one must consider certain practicalities. (The Lady of the Manners will now pause to give some of her readers a moment to collect themselves from the shock of her being practical.) There are all sorts of Halloween costumes that are fun and delightful but, as you point out Eisenviolet, are less than ideal when confronted with chilly weather at night. Warmth, comfortable and sturdy footwear, no accessories that are unwieldy to cart around (wings, while lovely, are not a good idea in a club situation!) — all of these are things that need to be thought about. Which is why, again, many Goths decide the best option for them is to dress as Goth as they possibly can manage out of their own closets.

Goths dressing up for Halloween as even more elaborate Goths has one more added benefit: they’re used to the “costume”. They are probably at ease with what they’re wearing, and won’t spend the evening worrying about if something is going to give way, ride up, or fall apart. They’re comfortable in those clothes and the image they present, which means they will carry themselves with confidence. Which, dear Snarklings, is one of the most important things of all to have in one’s wardrobe, be it a spooky holiday or not.

The next question is from Lauren, who is looking for some help in talking to her mom about Goth, but with a slightly different issue from the usual:

Dear Mrs. Lady of the Manners:
I have a problem. I got your very fantastic book from my Aunt this Christmas, and I enjoyed it very much. My mom (who hates my Aunt), thinks that I am now dressing in black a lot more than I used to because my Aunt gave me the book. Can I please have some pointers on how to explain to my mom that I am not dressing in black and searching for animal skulls just because my aunt gave me a book?


Wait, wait, wait, let the Lady of the Manners re-read that. Your aunt gave you a copy of the Gothic Charm School book (yay!), and now your mom thinks that you expressing your gothy tendencies is due to reading the book? How very ”¦ recursive, or something.

First things first: since you have a copy of the Gothic Charm School book, have you waved it at your mom and asked her to read parts of it? Especially chapters two and three? The Lady of the Manners fervently hopes that her book would answer any questions or concerns your mom may have about your inky wardrobe and fondness for collecting bones.

You say that your mom hates your aunt. Could it be that your mother’s feelings about your aunt are coloring her reaction to you being a Goth? That since your aunt gave you a book about it, it obviously is something for her to not approve of? But this does lead the Lady of the Manners to a question that she hopes will not raise your hackles in ire: were you, erm, quite as visibly Goth before your aunt gave you a copy of the book? Please do not take that as some kind of dismissive judgement! The Lady of the Manners is delighted if reading the Gothic Charm School book helped bring you to being more open about your interests in the Goth subculture! But if that is how things happened, then it’s no wonder that your mother thinks that the book is the cause of it, and possibly rightly so.

It sounds like you are dealing with a case of your mother being unsure what this whole Goth thing means, and her being worried that black clothes and looking for animal skulls means something horrible and dire. So again, ask her to read chapters two and three of Gothic Charm School. Tell her that your interest in Goth is nothing to worry about, and that you want to talk to her about it to answer her questions and lay her concerns to rest. Yes, the Lady of the Manners always suggests that you Snarklings try to sit down and have a conversation with your parents about Goth, why you’re attracted to it, and why they shouldn’t worry. But you know what? She keeps suggesting it because the parental types usually respond very well to it. Showing them that you’ve put some thought into the things you’re doing, and that it’s not dangerous, troublesome, or something to be worried about helps show the concerned adults in your life that while there may be things to be concerned about, your being a Goth isn’t one of them.

The final question in this installment of Gothic Charm School is indeed about fashion, but is not the typical “Where do I find gothy clothes” query:

Greetings Lady of Manners,

I have a dilemma I’m interested on getting your thoughts on as it may help others like me later down the line.  I am a proud goth of several years but, curiously, finding clothing that I’m happy with can be a bit of a struggle sometimes.  Why?  The vast majority of fashions recommended to the darkly inclined and female-shaped, whether for purchase or as DIY projects, come with excess helpings of skirts, ribbon, and lace.  Fine and dandy if you can cheerfully rock such outfits, but I’m not exactly the most feminine person in the world.  I find these types of clothes very lovely to look at, but don’t particularly enjoy wearing them myself and despite my best attempts to create a fairly pared-down yet suitably dark wardrobe, I unfortunately just end up looking frumpy and strange more often than not.  Also, because I am very small, men’s garments generally don’t fit.  So I was wondering what fashion advice you might have for those of us who adore all the spooky charm that the world can contain, but despite being female, frankly just aren’t very girly.

Many thanks!


Darling creature, allow the Lady of the Manners set you at ease: being female and Goth does not mean you have to be girly, covered in ruffles and lace. (Nor does being male and Goth mean you have to be confined to shirts and trousers, but that’s a post for another time.) Goth fashion encompasses a lot of silhouettes and girly/ultra-femme is only one of them.

The first thing to do is figure out what sort of look grabs your interest. Do you want to look sleek and minimalist? Do you want to dabble in menswear? Browse around the web (especially Tumblr and Polyvore) to see what’s out there that people have tagged as “Goth”. Yes, doing this will turn up a lot of things that aren’t even remotely gothy (oh, the things that are foolishly tagged as “Goth” on Etsy. The Lady of the Manners weeps.), but it should also turn up a lot of things you can look at and go “Yes, that sort of look”.

Once you have a more precise idea of what sort of look you are going for, start really studying that style. What are some of the key elements of it? For example, the lots of drapey-layers in black style that often gets labeled “Nu-Goth” (and the Lady of the Manners will save her crankybloomers ranting about that term for another time) relies on tights or leggings, oversized billowy tops, asymmetrical hems, and things with cowled necklines or layers of scarves. Or take menswear: tailored trousers, crisp dress shirts, ties, waistcoats, and sleek blazers. When you have an understanding of what basic items are needed for different styles, then you can start hunting for them. And for heaven’s sake, don’t just look at the big-name Goth fashion merchants! Take a look at all sorts of stores, including mainstream big-box stores such as Target, Macy’s, and Sears, which all carry garments that will fit seamlessly into many a Goth’s wardrobe. You just need to know how to combine them, and again, that’s where browsing online and seeing what other people have been doing is very, very informative.

You say that you are very small, so men’s garments don’t fit you. Have you tried looking for formal or semi-formal clothing for teen boys? Admittedly, it’s not something the Lady of the Manners has ever had to search out, so she may be sending you on a fruitless tangent. But there are always occasions that young men have to be dressed up for, so finding trousers and dress shirts to fit you shouldn’t be impossible. It just may be difficult; alas, that is one of the annoyances that anyone outside of “average” sizes has to face. There’s the option of looking at stores and clothing lines that cater to petite women, but again, you’ll probably not find a lot that will fit your chosen fashion aesthetic.

Argh! The Lady of the Manners fears that she is not able to give you as much help as you were hoping for! The most important thing is to figure out what sort of non-girly style you’d like to wear, and then go through the arduous process of finding pieces that fit with that style. However, the Lady of the Manners is pretty sure that you are not alone in this fashion dilemma, so she is going to open this post up to (moderated!) comments! How about it, Snarklings? Do you have any helpful suggestions for J.?

Coming up soon at Gothic Charm School: the long-promised review of Spin Doctor Clothing! A visit to the Nocturnal House to discuss another vampire book! And news about an online radio show! (ooOOOooh!) Until then, Snarklings, browse through the archives, take a look at the news about upcoming appearances, wander around the Gothic Charm School tumblr, or maybe write a letter of your own …

This entry was posted in Being Fashionable, General, Holidays & Special Occasions. Bookmark the permalink.

28 Responses to An Assortment Of Questions

  1. blacktinged says:

    I found these questions and your answers to be quite interesting and helpful! I am very interested to hear about an Online Radio show may the Lady of the Manners voice be gracing our radio waves at the midnight hour with many a spooky delight? I hope so!

  2. N.V.R says:

    J – Have you tried Asian menswear? I have a friend who prefers to look androgynous and she buys from Asian companies online since their male sizes are generally smaller than Western ones.

  3. O.O. says:

    I have the same problem with finding less girly Goth clothing. One of the things I like to do is take a plain black shirt, and then find/make interesting designs on the computer and iron them on to the shirt with a special kind of paper.

  4. Madzy says:

    Hey there! As a sometimes-androgyne goth, I know where you’re coming from with trying to find less uber-femme goth clothing. As Lady Jillian said, it really depends on what exact kind of style you’re going for. has a LOT of pictures of androgynous, gender-bendery tradgoths, so you’ll find some great ideas there. Sometimes you can find winklepickers for cheap on ebay. Or you could get some black jeans (I like mine skinny, but it’s up to you) and customize them with safety pins, patches, buttons, rips, etc. You can do the same with a black military jacket or blazer. Unusual, detailed, or textured button-up shirts are nice as well (thrift stores are good for these)., while no longer actively updating, is a giant resource for all kinds of gothy clothes. I’m going to look through it for some good ideas for you, but of course feel free to check it out on your own. Sorry for the long comment, hope this helps!!

  5. Laura says:

    My daughter is eleven years old, and enjoys wandering into the dark side of the forest. She’s sort of okay with dresses, but she often prefers to wear trousers/capri pants. She is very active, and often a dress simply will not do! I don’t know just how petite J. is, but I often find fashions at Justice (a shop for “tween” girls in the mall) that my little babybat adores. You might have to sift through the ruffly teddy bears and cheerful monkeys to find a few items, but they do have great sales. If you get on their mailing list, they almost always run a 40% off deal, either with a coupon or simply as a store-wide sale.

    I’ve even found things that fit ME there, even if it is just tank tops, t-shirts, and the like (and I am 5’7″, and wear an adult size 6-8!). In fact, Lulu’s favorite jacket ever (a black blazer with a red plaid lining) was a Justice sale rack purchase. It might be worth your time to check it out.

    I have also found some excellent deals at Sears, Penny’s, and Macy’s teen departments, as well as at Army/Navy stores, if you are into a military look. One of my most complemented sweaters is a black rib knit with a broad, slightly off-the-shoulder satin collar that I got for $10 at the Army surplus store! Good luck

  6. Von Strange says:

    J, Have you tried the vintage goth tag on Etsy? Or perhaps look to 80’s gothic fashion. I am very tiny myself and am more inclined to rock the androgynous look. Usually I wear tight black pants, a band shirt and a huge waist belt with studs,lacey things and longer skirts. Small frames like us can’t rock in between too well so either go long, or go short. Always remember don’t let the clothes wear you. I hope this helps even if it’s just a little bit.

  7. Beauregard says:

    Dearest Lady of the Manners,

    I think your suggestion to J is spot on. She may find that teenage boys sizes are a much better fit for her, and dandy goth finery may be just her cup of tea. I know that as a petite plus sized girl who is a bit top-heavy, I had the same trouble with being frilly and feminine (looking frumpy); when I decided to try for a more androgynous silhouette and gentlemanly aesthetic, I found my perfect style!


  8. April Rose says:

    I second Von Strange’s comment. I find myself in a lot of occasions where very feminine clothing is not possible, or just isn’t what I feel like. I am also a small lady. 80s gothic fashion, both men and women, have been a huge inspiration for me.
    Looking up pictures of Robert Smith, Siouxsie Sioux, and Peter Murphy from the 80s will help give you a sense of some of the gothic rock artists of that era which inspired so many others.
    Best of Luck!

  9. HouseCat says:

    When I was a teenage goth, and a late-maturing one at that who was rather boyish in figure, I tended to go for styles inspired by menswear and mens cuts but either comprised of women’s wear or small menswear/things I think were originally meant for teenage guys. I was on some occasions being deliberately gender-bending as I used to be able to pull that off at the time. I found that ladies trousers in straight cuts suited as did black shirts of the button up variety, and modifying waistcoats meant as business-wear to be more goth (usually by the replacement of buttons or addition of chains). It was Victorian inspired but in a more masculine way rather than a frills and bustles way. I used to accessorise with cravats and neckties, a pocket-watch and white gloves, which can be differing levels of feminine or masculine depending on the material and pattern.

    The suggestion of looking at Asian Visual-Kei and gothic menswear is a good one – they have a lot more variety in cuts than a lot of western goth menswear, but the sizes run small compared to western menswear (so I always whimper when I find something nice for my partner because he’s far too tall to fit in any of it unless it is custom-made) .

  10. Emily says:

    I totally understand where J is coming from- although I LOVE looking at Lolita/Victorian clothing, I’m not much of a girly-girl, and would probably recieve some very confused looks if I started wearing it! Finding petite clothes is also quite tricky. Luckily I’m young enough (16) that I can buy kids clothes without too many raised eyebrows. One of my favorite tops was a black tank top with lacey trim that I found at Wal-mart in the kids section! And,as I believe Lady of the Manners has mentioned before, learning some basic sewing skills can be majorly helpful- it’s easy to customize clothing, and adjust it if it doesn’t quite fit. Hope this helps!

  11. Laura says:

    Hey J,
    I see your dilemma and offer a response. I have quite a mix of girly and not so girly clothes in my wardrobe. Depending on you’re preferences some solutions can be found on th basic of places. I tend to find some of the best things at goodwill and believe it or not walmart. If your only problem is skirts and lace then might I also suggest target. I’ve found some very nice non frilly tops at all of these places that look gothy and nice

  12. Peruda says:

    Don’t forget Magan Balanck’s excellent cartoons!
    So many wonderful avenues of Goth to explore! I find it a great starting point when I need inspiration for new clothes to make, so I think it would be useful in figuring out where on the Goth spectrum you fit.

  13. Mira says:

    For inspiration (if not purchase- Japanese brands can be very expensive,) have you tried looking at Gothic Aristocrat fashion? Although there can be ruffles involved, the overall silhouette is sleek and menswear-inspired. I don’t know how androgynous you want to go, but black blazers and tailored lines look good on anyone.

  14. Christine says:

    I really have nothing else to add on to this comment post (everyone else’s answers are SO good). However, there is always plus size clothes as well for women. When I was younger and still had a very boyish figure I use to stick with box cut shirts’ box cut dress. Basically anything that really had no shape what so ever. And I found when I went to the plus girls department the close was very boxy and plain– let’s face it we live in a society where the people are JERKS and don’t dwell too much on our type (i am now a size 8-12, respectably. Nod nod. Read em and weep.)

    But back then I wasn’t exactly anywhere close to those sizes and the clothes was very rarely decorated maybe like one bow in the middle of the neck line, or a weird flower design. But, but you can tear that off. Then again, back then I wasn’t necessarily goth, and still a little shaky. But that makes no difference… I wasn’t that girly either. Although I occasionally wore skirts and such. Anyway, hopefully my contribution to this made sense.

    Good luck, C.

  15. Kaori says:


    Depending on how androgynous you like to go and how petite you are, some menswear brands go down to an XS (around 33-35inches for shirts and 28inches for trousers). It’s just a matter of hunting out which stores stock the smaller sizes.
    Some of my favourite brands for attractive, affordable, basic shirts and trousers include: yd., Kenji Urban and surprisingly enough- Target (though being in Australia I’m not sure about the availability of these in other places around the globe).

    Being handy with a needle and thread (or sewing-machine) would make it easy for you to add a personal touch or alter the fit if it’s off.

    Also, never underestimate second-hand goods. Foraging through opp-shops/thrift-stores is fun and you never know what you’ll find.
    In fact, don’t walk past any clothing store based purely on their window display- you never know what you might find inside!

    I definitely agree with others who have suggested checking out Asian brands too, and searching online for different looks such as dandy, aristo, steampunk and grunge.

    Good luck with your fashionable endeavours!

  16. J,
    I very much agree with what people have said about trying Visual Kei clothing. I am in a similar predicament as you are and have taken that route myself. However, you have to know where to look to get that type of clothing so I’ve included my website which has a webshops portion with links to brand, 2nd hand and replica shops. I would also direct you to where you can get some really good prices and buy from people within your country. You can also commission other very talented members to make customized items for you. EGL also has a page linking to other sales communities as well.

  17. Javagoth says:

    Hi J,

    Have you considered looking into equestrian wear – specifically Dressage attire. I find these sorts of riding clothes to be more androgynous and generally flattering than English riding clothes and bits and pieces of Dressage attire may help you achieve the look you want. I would recommend looking into local 4-H group events/groups that may hold sales where such clothing could be found that’s less expensive than new.

    Hope that helps!

  18. Grae says:

    There was a recent post on the excellent website Haute Macabre about an online mens clothing store for the darkly inclined. It also seems to cater towards the slightly slimmer gentleman- Somne of the clothes lean a bit towards the hipster side, but there are many other good items there. I’m probably going to be making a purchase from them soon, even though I’m female!

  19. Blackbird says:

    I’m also in that strange unfrilly, non-mens-sizing trap. I was given some excellent ideas in this post, yet there’s one thing I’d like to add — sewing is an invaluable skill. If you can find patterns on the simpler side, you can save for fancier fabrics and re-use what you know you like, like vests, shirts, etc., just mixing it up with new material.

  20. xbattyatheartx says:

    J, I think you should try your local thrift stores… Goodwill is
    my personal favourite. Try to find stuff you like. Forever 21 has some nice stuff but you might have to dig a little… When it comes to clothes I tend to go for the more morbidly cute things. I like cute black skirts and dresses but sometimes I jusy dont feel like getting so dressed up. Polyvore is a very good website for inspiration! You might like the “Nu-goth” style.

    And as for you Lady Jillian, your website is amazing and so informational. It has helped me with so much especially my parents and understanding why I am the way I am. Why I am obsessed with Tim burton, bats, rainy days, horror movies,cemetaries… All those lovely things. This helped me SO much! Thanks and lots of love ^___^

  21. Kari says:

    Here are a couple of ideas for creating a gothy wardrobe without too much flounce:

    I almost always replace my buttons. Find a shirt you like, switch out for stars, skulls, or simply metal buttons and a lot of visual interest is created that wasn’t there before. Also, adding extra buckles adds some shine, and sometimes you can improve the fit of an off the rack garment.

    Any DIY project directing you to add lace trim can be done with velvet ribbon instead. Or satin, braid, or leather cord. Adding texture is always a good idea, and that texture doesn’t have to be lacy or mesh.

    Skinny jeans are in, come in black, and hearken back to the early days of goth. Skinny jeans plus interesting shirt equals perfectly respectable goth attire (If you don’t look like an ice cream cone in skinny jeans, which I unfortunately do, and I’m a bit jealous of more petite types this season.)

    Speaking of hearkening back to the old days, never underestimate the versatility of a well loved leather coat or jacket and stompy boots. 🙂

    Hope I could help.

  22. Dorothy Heydt says:

    Dear Lady Manners:

    I noted Kaori’s comment that the OP might try altering clothes that are her style, but the wrong size/shape. No one yet seems to have suggested making her own … yes, starting with fabric, scissors, and needle and thread (if she doesn’t have/doesn’t know how to use a sewing machine). Many fabric stores offer basic sewing lessons from time to time; she might check online for fabric stores within a reasonable (by her definition) distance from home, and ask them about lessons. This puts paid to the problem, not faced only by goths, of “Oh gosh I love this style, but I hate this color/fabric, if only they had it in {color/fabric of my choice}!”

  23. Skye says:

    I’m not able to wear super gothy clothes so I have a more toned down look. Because of that I strongly believe that we should be able to dress goth on Halloween. For me it is a great excuse to dress extra spooky w/out my parents rolling their eyes and asking me to go change my clothes.

  24. HelKennedy says:

    I’ve tried going the little-boys-clothes route but they are proportioned to be much shorter than a comparable men’s size, and there is absolutely no room for boobs (even small ones).

    You can get men’s shirts tailored, though. Get it to fit your boobs and shoulders, and the rest of it can be changed. Favor shops that specialize in young men’s clothes – like Express, Aeropostale, AX, etc. – because they’ll already proportioned long and lean instead of boxy and dad-like.

  25. Alice says:

    I have a similar issue. I wish to dress goth, but living as a Being in the suburbs of Minneapolis gives you few options. I tend to favor either an Emilie Autumn, kind of victoriandustrial look, or a men’s wear. The dilemma: in response to what HelKennedy says, men’s wear doesn’t normally fit boobs, and it’s especially difficult to get clothes tailored when you don’t have enough to even buy all the books you want! (Quite a few.) And ripped-up skirts, tights or pants and gorgeous corsets are not in abundance where I grow.

  26. Hannah says:

    I’ve always, even when I wasn’t ‘in-tune’ with my darker more Gothier side, I wore boy clothing but I am a girl. I
    m a twelve year old in Yuma, AZ it’s too hot and my make-up smudges all the time. Plus, my parents don’t particularily like my style in clothing. They don’t want me wearing any make-up and my grandfather laughs at me and makes fun of me but my grandma is okay with it and will even help me sew chains and zippers to my clothes from the Goodwill becuase that’s how you personalize it, it’s not fit to wear until it’s yours, technically when you buy it but I hope you get the idea.

  27. Zara says:

    Like the good Lady of Manners has said on numerous occasions, sometimes second hand is the way to go. They have some pretty cool stuff most of the time, and even if it doesn’t fit you, you can always take a needle and thread to it and make it fit. Or turn it into something else entirely.

  28. Moontrance says:

    My advice would be to go to a thrift store or other alternative shop and find a leather coat. They are not too girly, and they look lovely even (especially!) when they are oversized.

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