Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Life as an office Goth

Tomorrow will be my last day working as Arts Administrator for the county council. I hesitate to refer to myself as a corporate Goth, because despite the fact I have successfully held down a six-month job contract, I never really bothered conforming to any sort of dress code and always insisted on being far more 'Goth' than 'corporate', whatever the situation. Piercings? Check. New Rocks? Check. Frilly skirts? Oh, yes. Gaining a set of purple hair extensions halfway through my contract? Definitely.

Crap cameraphone 'Goth at the office' photo - with cheesy pose, of course.
Of course, this meant that I was the only council employee who had to wear my security pass on a lanyard around my neck AT ALL TIMES to avoid being snarled at by security goons, or even snapped at by passing busybodies who didn't believe that the chick in bondage pants (yes, I wear the infamous mallgoth beloved bondage pants, whilst I'm still young and angsty enough to get away with them. Yes, I wear them to work) could possibly be working for the county council.

Being a Goth in the Office has certainly had its ups and downs, not least when I got the wrong starting date and turned up three weeks (yes, weeks) early. Thankfully no one seemed to mind; I think this was taken as youthful exuberance (or something).

On my first day (the right one, this time) I thought I'd play it casual and wore plain black suit trousers with my dagger-patterned blazer, smoky eye make-up and fingerless gloves. Ironically enough, one of my co-workers immediately saw through my clever disguise and whooped with glee - she and several others in the Arts Office were Goths back in the 80s. For them, I was a walking nostalgia trip.

One of these three ladies had definitely grown out of Goth - for her it literally was just 'a phase'. One of them said that she had really wanted to be part of the scene but never felt she fit in because of her naturally bright red hair (I said that she must have been ahead of her time, as a large proportion of Goths these days dye their hair to get it screaming ginger), although she was happy to chat about the time she went to see Nosferatu, and still mysteriously knows the location of all the local(ish) alternative pubs and clubs. The third still collects Nightmare Before Christmas memorabilia, owns at least five pairs of purple boots and keeps her hair long and dark, but says that she's 'too old' to be a Goth. (Note: you're never too old.) Also, she would not sell me her Cure concert T-shirt.

So as you can probably guess, I fit right in, and within a week I was pinning up Victoria Frances pics and stringing black and silver sparkly bats around my desk.

There were only a couple of notable occasions when my clothing received negative attention - once when I popped down to a nearby alt fashion shop on my lunchbreak and bumped into a bunch of students from the local college, who followed me across the street shouting verbal abuse mostly along the theme of, "Emo!" and "Dirty Goth!"; and once when my clothing choices apparently rendered me invisible to a couple of stuck-up types in my department who casually leaned on the door to the arts office as I was trying to get through it, and continued their conversation, seemingly not able to hear my, "Excuse me, please," no matter how loudly I repeated it. My line manager saw us through the window, however, and got up from her desk - the two women slunk away as soon as they saw her approaching, barging past me as they went.

I'm not sure that I'm cut out for a computer-based role like administration (ironic for a blogger, I know), but I did enjoy my time there and I've certainly learnt some interesting things, mostly about Microsoft Excel and the care and conservation of contemporary art. It's a shame to be leaving just before Christmas, but hopefully I will be able to find some temp work to tide me over during the festive season.

I'll be seeing my co-workers in a couple of weeks' time at the office Christmas meal, which I'm still able to attend. I'll be pleased to show off my tattoo (appointment coming up!), as one of my favourite colleagues helped me finalise the design!

In the meantime, expect a ridiculous amount of posts as I adjust to having even more free time. And wish me luck finding something new to keep me in vicious heels and purple lipstick!

Listening to: Papillon - Editors (I love this song so much at the moment!)

Monday, 29 November 2010

The Sophie Lancaster Foundation

Goths are scary. Goths are mentally ill; homicidal; dangerous and evil.

These are just some of the stereotypes that many people believe - stereotypes which they use to judge someone just by looking at their clothes. But it wasn't a weird, dangerous, homicidal Goth gang who hit the headlines for beating to death an innocent young woman.

Goths are losers. Goths are weird. Goths are freaks.

Just because someone doesn't dress or behave in a way that fits your world view; just because they don't choose to conform to what you feel is 'acceptable', 'trendy' or 'cool' - are these reasons to batter a young woman into a coma and cause her death?

If you don't read the papers much or have only recently become interested in the Goth scene, you may think that I am exaggerating or scaremongering. But this was exactly what happened in Bacup, England in August 2007, when Sophie Lancaster and her boyfriend Robert Maltby were set upon by violent thugs just because they were dressed in Goth clothing.

The yobs rained kicks and punches on Robert, jumping and standing on his head whilst laughing and egging each other on. Sophie was murdered as she tried to shield him from the vicious attack, using her body to protect his as he lay sprawled on the ground, and shouting at them to leave him alone.

But two of the attackers turned on her, despite the fact she was just a slender, 20-year-old girl, kicking her in the head and then stamping on her face when she was helpless. Paramedics found the couple unconscious, and were unable to tell whether they were male or female due to the horrific extent of their injuries.

Robert recovered from his coma within thirteen days. Sophie died after a fortnight unconscious in hospital.

Why? Because of how they chose to dress.

After this disgusting and senseless attack, which cost a vivacious woman her life, the alternative and Gothic community put forward a petition to change the hate crime law, expanding the definition of a 'hate crime' to protect those who are affiliated with subcultures. The petition recieved more than 5,000 signatures, but the law was not changed.

Sophie's mother, Sylvia Lancaster, began a campaign in her daughter's memory to promote tolerance and acceptance towards alternative subcultures, in order to reduce the risk of such a crime happening again. The S.O.P.H.I.E. campaign (Stamp Out Prejudice, Hatred and Intolerance Everywhere) has received widespread support for its cause.

At Whitby, the spiritual home of Goth, a memorial bench was unveiled in Sophie's memory. The Bloodstock Festival has re-named their third stage, previously the Lava Stage, as the Sophie Lancaster Stage. Make-up brand Illamasqua are staunch supporters of the S.O.P.H.I.E. campaign; their medium pencil in black has been renamed the S.O.P.H.I.E. pencil, and £3 from every purchase will go to the Sophie Lancaster Foundation. You can also buy S.O.P.H.I.E. wristbands and donate to the Foundation from their site.

Many bands have played at tribute and memorial concerts in Sophie's memory, but perhaps none more famous than The Damned. On what would have been Sophie's 22nd birthday, a memorial concert was perfomed at Heywood Civic Centre. The Damned were the headliners - the original line-up, featuring Captain Sensible. Just after midnight The Damned led a noisy celebration to bring home the message that no-one was going to stay silent over what happened to Sophie. VNV Nation have dedicated the song 'Illusion' to Sophie. Ronan Harris contacted the family personally to offer his condolences. A number of Gothic gigs and club nights across the UK and Ireland dedicated a night to Sophie in October and November 2007, including the Whitby Gothic Weekend.

The "Sophie Award" has been established as an ongoing prize for innovative and experimental filmmaking at Bacup Film Festival. Metal band Beholder penned an offical song for the Sophie Lancaster Foundation, entitled Never Take Us Down, and the bands Screams of Cold Winter and Cosmic Slop both wrote songs in Sophie's memory.

As well as campaigning to change the hate crime law to include the protection of Goths and members of other alternative subcultures, the Sophie Lancaster Foundation wants to educate young people on tolerance, helping to create a society where everyone can be free to be themselves.

Their website states, "We believe that many attacks on subcultures are born out of ignorance and a lack of understanding. Therefore, education is key. Sylvia Lancaster is a professional youth worker who understands what makes young people tick. We have developed a groundbreaking workshop that will be taken into schools to educate young people about different subcultures creating an understanding that doesn’t currently exist.

"The vision for the charity is to take the workshops not only nationwide, but to have them incorporated into the national curriculum. The ‘vision’ is already being supported by a number of education authorities, which understand that children need interesting, thought provoking and real material to help them understand and appreciate something new and ‘a bit different’. Sylvia is also working with local police forces to help them understand and appreciate subcultures in their communities."

In line with this vision, this month the Foundation has launched a pilot scheme for a game teaching tolerance to teenagers, to be used in schools to promote awareness of and acceptance towards common ethnic, religious and social groups and subcultures, which are represented by 30 cards.

Also, Illamasqua commissioned a short video animation entitled Sophie: A Dark Angel, which ran for a week on MTV in November 2009. The video features a song from the band Portishead, and is described as 'a beautifully haunting rendition of Sophie's story'.

Please show your support for the Sophie Lancaster Foundation - visit their website to find out what you can do to help this campaign, and let's make sure that people can feel safe walking the streets, regardless of how they look or dress.

Sunday, 28 November 2010

Styles of Goth fashion: fetish Goth

There has always been some crossover between the Goth and fetish scenes, probably stemming from punk's tendencies towards 'perv' fashion, e.g. bondage straps, PVC, suspenders and collars. There are combination Goth and fetish events, too, and these crossovers have led to a style of Goth fashion that your parents really won't like - fetish Goth.

Source: The Gothic Shop
Fetish Goth style doesn't necessarily have to be a full-on bondage-fest (now there's an image). Many Goth outfits have a touch of glossy PVC, rubber or leather about them, so sometimes it's hard to tell whether someone is a fetish Goth or just likes shiny fabric.

In the Goth scene, fetish wear or BDSM-styled clothing is just as likely to be a fashion statement as it is an advert of one's personal preferences, and is not necessarily an indication that someone wishes to be touched, for example, or treated in a certain way. Festival-wear in particular occasionally involves risque stockings and suspenders on show, or in some cases partial nudity; but usually this is not a sexual advertisement - it is generally seen as a 'liberated' form of dress.

Because Goths are often very tolerant and open-minded towards sexuality, and some types of Goth clothing (vertigo-inducing heels, corsets, fishnets, and PVC, for example) are often considered erotic, the subculture provides the ideal platform for fetish crossover, which is why there are so many events that cater to both subcultures. During festivals, a handful of Goth couples can often be seen with one partner guiding the other on a chain or leash; and there is usually at least one person clothed (or unclothed) in head-to-toe PVC, leather or rubber, including mask.

Do all Goths indulge in fetishes? No. Not even all fetish Goths actually have fetishes - for many, it is literally just a preferred style of dress and a fashion statement. Are all fetishists Goth? Again, no. Do you have to have a fetish, or a wish to indulge in 'unusual' sexual practices, to be a Goth? Definitely not. If fetish is not your thing, just make sure you avoid Goth/fetish crossover events.
Source: Photobucket
If you're under the age of 18, I would have to say that dressing in full-on fetish gear is definitely not a wise move, particularly if you still live with your parents. And Goths of any age may wish to bear in mind that overly revealing or erotic clothes are more suited to the club than streetwear - people will make judgements about you, and you may even be putting yourself in danger.

It is, however, possible to add elements from this style to your look without shocking your parents (too much) or offending little old ladies - stiletto-heeled boots, a spiked or padlocked leather choker, or a hint of fishnet stocking can be added to an ensemble to give a nod to fetish fashion.

There is no particular type of music associated with this style, although Industrial is popular, and there are many bands with risque names, for example Lesbian Bed Death (example song title: Goth Girls are Easy), Alien Sex Fiend (OK, so that one's a stretch), Android Lust, Bloody Dead and Sexy, Boudoir, Grotesque Sexuality and Leather Nun. Black Tape For A Blue Girls' most recent album, 10 Neurotics, focuses mostly on themes of sex, fetish and lust.

Have yourself a Gothy little Christmas... with notes on buying gifts for your Gothlings

I was just happily reading a couple of other Goth-friendly Christmas posts, dreaming of the day when I can afford my own apartment and decorate a purple Christmas tree with the sparkly skull baubles they are selling in Paperchase, when I realised that, hey, perhaps I should actually write a Christmas post of my own. 

So... 'tis the season to be jolly - not something that's typically associated with us Gothy types. But if you're like me and you love the festive season (or even if you don't), may I present the Ultimate Goth Guide's (hopefully) delightful attempt at helping you achieve the Christmas of your darkest dreams...

First of all, I'd like to share with you the fantastic posts I was enjoying a minute ago; the first is 'Lolify Your Holiday' over at The Dark Victorian, yes, aimed mostly at Lolitas but certainly of relevance to Goths as well. After reading this post I am having a real case of Christmas tree envy... I would like my own apartment now, please.

Another music recommendation I would like to add to those in said post is the Dark Noel series of CDs, produced by the Projekt record label, which feature bands such as The Cruxshadows, Faith and the Muse, Unto Ashes and Voltaire covering classic Christmas songs and carols (I have the first CD in this series and love it!). Also, could there be a better time of year to start buying CDs from the band called Santa Hates You? No, didn't think so...

The second post is 'Gothic Christmas to all!' at the Gothic Tea Society, which features nothing less than a work of genius...

As you may have guessed from the lovely post on The Dark Victorian, many 'darkly inclined' types do not feel the need to stick with traditional Christmas decor. If like me you are still living under someone else's roof and are not allowed to run riot with pumpkin tinsel and Gothic angels, see if you can persuade your oldsters to let you decorate your room however you like. You can stand a mini-tree easily on your bedside table, on your desk, or in a corner; and really, you can never have enough skull- or ghost-shaped fairy lights. (Warning: you may end up like me and have skull tinsel hanging from your wardrobe all year round.)

Whether you're decorating an average-sized bedroom or your own Addams Family mansion, Halloween is really the best time for a Goth to shop for Christmas decor. But if you missed it, don't worry - there are many sites that have Goth-appropriate decor available all year round, such as Silly JokesParty Delights and Halloween Express, who offer a great alternative to the traditional Christmas wreath...

For cards and wrapping paper, check out Rocky Horrors - see my pic below for the great wrapping paper that they stock. Rocky Horrors also have some nice cartoon Goth cards, which I sent out to all my friends last year. Spiral's cards are also especially beautiful. Nightmoth have a range of faintly disturbing Christmas cards; for the more faint of heart, try these elegant Yule designs from Moon Dragon Cards (which I'll be sending out this year), or handmade excellence with LilacTwist (I recommend their Christmas gift tags - yay, gargoyles in Santa hats!).
No, I haven't actually finished my Christmas shopping yet.
I just like wrapping things.
You can also update your morbid wardrobe to reflect the delights of this charming season with fibre optic hair lights from Miss Needles, or some faux fur boot toppers from Sparkling Strawberry (great with vicious heels for the girls, or on DMs or combat boots for the guys). The Nightmare Before Christmas merchandise is of couse rife at this time of year; white Jack Skellington earmuffs look striking against jet-black hair...

What if you're not Goth, and you're not sure what to buy for the Goth in your life? Buying gifts for Goths is not always easy (so my friends and family tell me). Clothes are probably not your best bet; unless you know for sure their EXACT measurements, and what style of clothing they like. There are many different types of Goth fashion, so chances are you won't get away with grabbing the nearest item of black clothing (nice try, buddy...).

The safest route is to ask the person to choose an item that they would like. You can't really go wrong with this method, although it does lack a certain element of surprise. They may also have a wishlist on sites such as Amazon, Kate's Clothing or MusicNonStop, so be sure to ask, as it cuts out the guesswork and a large portion of stress. Gift certificates are also a good, safe bet. Loads of Gothy websites supply gift vouchers - Attitude Clothing, The Gothic Shop, MusicNonStop and Blue Banana to name but a few.

Speaking of such websites, at Christmas many Goth and alternative fashion websites offer a selection of gifts, separated into categories or by price, which are great for collecting stocking fillers such as hairclips, wristbands, gloves, make-up and patches.

If you wanted to get with the festive spirit, Edward Gorey's delightfully macabre charm is reflected in The Haunted Tea Cosy: A Dispirited and Distasteful Diversion for Christmas. Actually, books are a safe choice for many Goths, but you may want to cast a discreet eye over their bookshelves if you can. Interview with the Vampire? They've probably already got it (cliches become cliches for a reason...). And, as quoted from Gothic Charm School, 'Some Goths will read anything with "vampire" in the title' (ahem) 'whilst others will turn up their pale little noses at such.' You could always wonder around the bookshop with said Goth and make mental notes of what sort of books they pick out.

Of course, there aren't many Goths who would say no to a new CD, but this is as equally fraught with difficulty as choosing an item of clothing (hmm, perhaps Goths really are hard to buy for). There are hundreds and hundreds of Goth bands, and then of course there are all the rock and metal bands packaged as 'Gothic'... perhaps concert tickets for a band you know the person likes would be a better bet. (Note: that's a band they like NOW, not a band they liked when they were ten or eleven. Just to clarify.)

If gift vouchers seem a bit 'elderly relative stuck for ideas', you could always offer to take the person on a shopping trip (preferably to a place of their choosing - I don't know too many Gothlings who could run particularly rampant in TopShop) and let them pick something out. That way you get to spend time with the person (whom you obviously like - otherwise, why are you getting them a present?) and you can take notes on the sort of things they like for the next gift-getting occasion. Not that gift vouchers have to be boring - a voucher for a tattoo, manicure, facial or meal at a restaurant gives your loved one an opportunity to spoil themselves, and hopefully a nice experience to remember.

Lastly, what is a Gothling to do to entertain themselves during the wholesome (ick!), cheerful (yuck!) festive season? Well, it's highly unlikely that The Goth Club Near You won't be having some sort of Christmas do, so dig out your glad rags, top with a Bah Humbug! black Santa hat from Poundland, and head out and party. What else? Personally, my favourite Christmas-season pasttime is to snuggle up on the sofa with my very best friends, break open the mulled wine (which I strongly feel is a deliciously decadent Christmas treat for Goths and non-Goths alike) and watch The Nightmare Before Christmas. No, I never said it was original, but my yearly Christmas-Eve-watching of NBC is a tradition that shall not be broken. (Oh, and I know that Christmas is a time for family, but if yours are prone to giving you a hard time over your lifestyle and fashion choices, check out this Gothic Charm School post on dealing with your relatives during the hols.)

Have a dreary, utterly meaningless Christmas, boys and ghouls......

PS - this post is full of links, some of which are sure to break or otherwise suffer tragic deaths as sites are updated... all links are correct at time of posting. Apologies to readers joining us after the 2010 Christmas season!

Friday, 26 November 2010

Shop review - Roots, Andover, Hampshire

I'm afraid I can't currently manage a review of shops worldwide, having never left the UK, but to those of you who live here, I hope these reviews will be helpful.

Roots is a small shop in a good location, situated opposite what was Andover's one and only alternative pub, The George (now a pub-slash-pole-dancing club; but I'm not complaining). It sells unusual weapons and drug paraphernalia (both for 'ornamental purposes only'), as well as a limited range of Goth, rock and metal T-shirts (all the usual skulls, tribal designs and Bob Marleys), a reasonably good selection of slogan badges, some interesting jewellery, backpacks with designs such as dragons and flaming pentacles, and what I think are customised motorbike helmets, although I could be wrong. Leather-covered helmety-looking things with spikes on, anyway.

Generally, Roots is the archetype of the typical headshop/alt shop, with a counter stocked with ornate belt buckles and body piercing jewellery, and a strong smell of incense (at least, being the anti-drugs type myself, I hope it's incense) that takes literally months to wash out of the clothes you buy from there. It isn't a very big shop, and tends to fill up quickly with chavs buying bongs and crack pipes, but is a nice place to pick up the occasional interesting wardrobe item. The guy behind the counter is happy to show you catalogues, discuss ordering in any items you may be looking for, or talk for ages about London Edge and Central (the alternative fashion show).

The shop is also popular with many locals due to its range of funny signs, badges and gifts. Worth a look; it may only be tiny but it's packed full of unusual stuff, and I've never seen any of the clothing that they stock anywhere else.

Roots doesn't seem to have a website.

Source: Photobucket
Listening to: Torn Skin - :wumpscut:

Thursday, 25 November 2010

When Goth meets high fashion

At first glance, the world of high fashion would by definition seem to have little to do with the rebellious, individualist anti-fashion subculture that is Goth. But there are few Goths who have not admired the designs of style mavens such as Alexander McQueen, John Galliano and Olivier Theyskens, to name but a few of the high fashion designers whose collections and imagery have frequently referenced the dark, decaying, and occasionally disturbing themes synonymous with Goth.

The theme of 'Gothic', whether it be the look, the architecture, or the related ideas of death and darkness, has had a strong and important influence on much of contemporary fashion, an influence which, like the subculture itself, just refuses to die down. 'Gothic' fashion spreads have been featured everywhere from The Face to American Vogue, where Goth was described as "an introspective, gloomy alternative to glossy pop tunes. Its drama is spellbinding, and its darkness is palpable."

Gothic (as opposed to Goth) fashion tends to be stark and dramatic, evocative of the femme fatale, or a certain decadent dandyism (the devil is a charming gentleman, as they say). I would hazard a guess that high fashion Gothic is the style of choice for many professional, 'grown-up' Goths who feel themselves past the ripped fishnet stage but would prefer not to step out of the darkness - a step up from corporate Goth, if you will. In fact, Alex Box from Goth-beloved make-up company Illamasqua says, "I like to play with more concepts of what Gothic is, things like Goth Couture. I will wear a completely white Armani suit with a faux fur coat but still have my hair and make-up in those trademark Goth styles."
Make-up looks from a John Galliano catwalk show
Gothic fashion usually makes an appearance during the autumn/winter catwalk shows, when boots and black velvet or leather are at least a vaguely practical option. Although, designers, photographers and stylists all have denied that this dark, decadent look has been influenced by Goth as a subculture: "Gothic meant a bunch of kids in black clothes and white make-up. I never subscribed to that. For me it was always Gothic horror, like an Edgar Allan Poe-esque vibe," said fashion photographer Sean Ellis. Because, obviously, horror and Edgar Allan Poe are in no way associated with the Goth subculture. Of course not. *facepalm*

Gothic high fashion (or Goth Couture, if you like) holds many other visual themes in common with the world of Goth as we know it: vampirism, danger, androgyny, horror and erotica. Famous 'pieces' include the Shaun Leane/Alexander McQueen silver ribcage corset and Elsa Schiaparelli and Salvador Dali's collaboration, the Skeleton Dress. And in 1977 designer Karl Lagerfeld held his famous Soiree Moratoire Noire party - the invitations proclaiming, "totally black tragic dress required."

Not all high fashionistas look down on Goth itself as a kitsch, outdated subculture. John Galliano describes Gothic as, "dark, vampy, mysterious... The Gothic girl weaves a web, has a sting in her tail, is inspired by black magic and voodoo... She is tantalising, after-dark trouble that dresses in the shadows of the night." (Why, thank you.)

High fashion, like Goth, can be playful, enjoys pushing boundaries, is extraordinarily creative and garners a mixed response of awe and apprehension in its audience. No wonder, then, that the two occasionally intermingle. Having said that, it's far easier to imagine Goths dabbling in the world of high fashion; expanding their elaborate wardrobes with dramatic, intricate designer pieces, than it is to imagine the fashion elite exploring the riot of uninhibited innovation and imagination that is Goth.

Maybe I'm biased.

If you've been intrigued by the combination of Goth's dark allure and high fashion's edgy drama, you might like to check out Gothic: Dark Glamour by Valerie Steele and Jennifer Park - I found it at my local library; it's really interesting and has some GREAT pictures.

Also, this Tumblr (Macabre Mode) is where I sourced the pictures for this post, and combines some stunning images from both Goth and high fashion.

By the way, I handwrote this post yesterday whilst suffering from one of my infamous migraines, and typed it up today whilst cursing and hitting my malfunctioning modem. Now that's loyalty...

Listening to: Hong Kong Garden - Siouxsie and the Banshees

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Is it 'Goth' to say you're Goth?

Well, there's something that I've been coming across a lot on the internet, and it's people who insist that, if you're Goth, you're not allowed to say that you are - otherwise you're a poseur. According to quite a lot of people on sites such as Urban Dictionary and Wikihow, calling yourself a Goth makes you 'less Goth'. This, apparently, is because you are labelling youself, and therefore not a 'true individual'.

This is where I get a little antsy. Y'see, in my personal and honest opinion, there is nothing wrong with labels. People put little shorthand tags on things and people because it helps them define the world around them. I label myself. I label others. Having a 'label' doesn't make you less of an individual, because the label does not define the person.

The Goth label, for example, does not mean that Goth is the be-all and end-all of a person's life. For example, you could label me an urban fantasy geek, a lover of Celtic, Medieval and World music, a badminton player, an animal lover, or a diva just as easily as you could label me a Goth. There are many more facets to you and to your personality than could ever be covered by a simple piece of social shorthand - which is why I believe that labels shouldn't matter.

Things get even weirder when people start setting time limits on things. On Wikihow, for example, there's an article that says something along the lines of, "If you've been Goth for at least seven years, then it's OK to start saying you're Goth." Really? Does this mean that people who only discovered Goth three or four years ago are 'less Goth' than someone who's been aware of the scene for years? What if you've had the mindset all your life, started listening to the music eight years ago, and started dressing Goth a year ago? This is just silly.

The only time that labelling becomes a problem is when people use these labels to pass judgement on others - to stereotype you and discriminate against you because of the label they've applied to you. For example, "Tattooed people are trouble;" "Blondes are stupid;" "Loners are dangerous."

Basically, "That person is a Goth," is fine. "That person is a Goth, therefore they eat babies and want to kill everyone," is not. "That person is a Goth, therefore they eat babies and want to kill everyone, so we should beat them up," is definitely not.

All those people who start having hissy fits when labels are applied to them are fighting a losing battle. How will their friends and family describe them to others without applying some sort of tag? "He's an art student with brown hair." That's two labels, right there. At the very least, people who go about shouting, "Don't label me!" are going to be labelled, 'people who don't want to be labelled'.

And why does it really matter? If you're proclaiming your absolute individuality, then you clearly aren't bothered much about what people think of you. So who cares if they think you're punk, Goth, emo, chav... whatever? Having a label does not mean that you have to be stereotyped. I'm a Goth and a fan of Linkin Park (I saw you wince there...) and t.A.T.u, for example. Belonging to the Goth subculture defines some of my tastes - but not all.

It's fine to think of yourself as a Goth, a gamer, a fan of Tim Burton - anything! But don't let yourself feel trapped by those definitions, because there is always more to a person than a single label can encompass.

Amelia Dolore
Source: Photobucket
So what it comes down to is, calling yourself Goth does not mean you're a poseur. It means you know and understand what you like, are comfortable with a part (however large or small) of who you are, and have a strong sense of self so you don't get boxed in by definitions - whether they're other people's or your own. Plus, it means you've got the balls to say it.

Now, I don't think I've posted a free download in a while, so I'll just squeeze one in here. This song is called Crystal Castle (click title for link) and it's by a gorgeous Russian darkwave band called Purple Fog Side. The video is quite stunning too.

Listening to: Top of the City - Kate Bush

Goth don'ts

When making one's first foray into the world of Goth fashion, it's all too easy to come a cropper in the style stakes with certain sartorial disasters. Here's your blogmistress's guide to NOT falling prey to any of those same mistakes...

D'oh... pretty Goth Girl hates your outfit.
Source: Photobucket
Black lipstick is not for everybody...
And, come to that, it doesn't go with every outfit. If you're unsure, get out in natural light and snap a quick picture of yourself on your camera or phone. The camera doesn't lie, and if you look like... well, I can't think of a suitable metaphor, but I'm sure you'll know if it's somewhat unflattering.

And on the subject of lipstick, please, please, apply it neatly instead of smeared all over the place (if you are going for the Mad Bob look, please make sure it looks deliberate and not as though you tried to apply your make-up without a mirror). It sounds obvious, but I knew this one girl who did not seem to realise that lipstick goes primarily On The Mouth, not all around the mouth and halfway up the left cheek...

I would also recommend buying a lipstick sealant so that you don't leave smeary marks on the cutlery and glasses in every restaurant or friend's house you visit.

Also, some eldergoths have been known to get a little sniffy about black lipstick, considering it to be the preserve of the mallgoth. But these people seem to be in a minority, to judge from clubs and festivals that I've been to, so hell, if you like it, and it looks good on you, why not?

There is a difference between 'deathly pallor' and 'evil clown'
No, I'm afraid that taking style tips from Pennywise *shudder* does not earn you any extra Goth points. Whiteface. Halloween make-up. Honey, unless you are naturally whiter than bathroom tiles, your face is screaming "MIME!"

However, if you are sure you want to use this type of make-up, make sure you apply it to all exposed skin (including ears and neck, please) and blend like crazy. A better option is to apply a foundation no more than two shades lighter than your natural skin tone. You still achieve a pale look, without looking like a Halloween party escapee.

Be warned that Halloween make-up brands are generally cheap and crappy and could lead to skin irritation or breakouts. If you must use a white foundation, try Stargazer's white liquid foundation (available online or, probably, your local alternative store). It also blends wonderfully with other foundations if you, like me, have difficulty finding a shade pale enough to match your natural skin tone.

If you're a Goth of colour, whiteface should be an obvious no-no. In the words of one body lotion advert or another, love the skin you're in. Lily-white skin is NOT a requirement for the Goth look.

Eyeliner doodles - there's a limit
Yes, yes, we all do the elegant eyeliner curliques/tears/upside-down crosses or whatever at some point. But if you look like you have a skin disease from ten paces away, chances are you've gone too far. There is such a thing as overdoing it - when in doubt, less is more.

Oh, and if you are going to doodle, please use liquid eyeliner. It takes a steady hand, but trust me, practise makes perfect, and pencil eyeliner makes you look as though you've been attacked with a crayon. And the Crow look? Overdone. Really, REALLY overdone.

Just because it's black doesn't mean it looks Goth
Yes, sometimes in mainstream stores you can find stuff that will add delightfully to your Gothy wardrobe, and this is a Very Good Thing. But please don't assume that it will make you look Goth just because it comes in black. Browse Goth websites and galleries online to get a feel for Goth fashion - its elegance and/or dark whimsy - before you go running out to buy bags of black clothing.

And I must also advise against buying those pre-packaged 'Goth'-themed Halloween costumes for any occasion other than Halloween itself. Halloween costumes are made out of inferior fabrics - and it shows. Not to mention, they're as cheesy as anything. You don't have to buy expensive brand-name or custom-made Goth clothes to get 'the look', but you do have to pay time and attention to your outfit.

Goth is in the details
Well-chosen and well-applied make-up and accessories can make all the difference between a good ensemble and a bad one. Goth is not generally a low-maintenance look, so be prepared to put some effort in.

Side-note: younger Goths are often stereotyped as spooky kids or mallgoths. This is because it's very easy to make mistakes when you're starting out in the scene (I've been there myself... *cringe*), and the majority of people discover Goth (official statistics here!) between the ages of eleven and seventeen. But babybats and younger Gothlings, don't be disheartened! One of the best-dressed Goths I've ever seen was about ten years old. Just because you're young doesn't mean you are automatically going to fall into the bad fashion/make-up traps. Some young Goths are impeccably dressed.

Being sexy does not equal being semi-naked
Yes, it is fully possible to be Goth and sexy. But no, you don't have to run around in your undercrackers to be so! Well-fitting, sumptuous fabrics that emphasise all the right curves have a much better effect. (My sort-of boyfriend tells me that one of my sexiest pieces of clothing is a floor-length velvet skirt. This is because it clings to my butt. Tightly.)

Disclaimer: in no way am I attempting to tell you what to do here! If you want to doodle all over your face with black lipstick and wear a big Cat in the Hat hat, that's cool. It's your call - do what makes you happy. I'm just offering a little gentle advice.

Listening to: Stand Strong Stand Proud - Vice Squad

Discrimination against Goths

Discrimination against Goths and other alternative subcultures is nothing new. Even back in Ye Olde Days, way before Goth, before punk, it was the mods and the rockers that society regarded with suspicion and prejudice. You would think after all these decades that people would have begun to accept that just because something is new or different does not mean that it's going to harm them.

Originally punk and Goth were considered shocking and possibly dangerous, a rebellion against societal norms, and, in the case of punk, a cry for anarchy. Whilst punk still holds to its strong views, it is far from being as widespread as it once was - whilst punk isn't dead, it has more or less been relegated to slouching through the alleyways of London Town wishing for the good old days. (Blink 182 and Avril Lavigne, by the way, are NOT punk. I'm actually offended at the very thought.) The punk spirit lives on, where it hasn't been subsumed by ready-made punk clothing and so-called pop-punk bands.

Goth, too, has in some ways become a shadow of its former self. DIY clothing is seen less and less, the 'true' Goth music has been buried under a mass of commercial, mainstream-friendly rock and metal music, and most people are no longer shocked at the sight of a person dressed all in black wearing heavy make-up and a pair of DMs. Goths are now seen on popular TV programmes; bands which may not be Goth, but which have a distinctly Goth aesthetic, are now appearing regularly on MTV. Cartoons such as Invader Zim (written by Gothy favourite Jhonen Vasquez), Grim and Evil, Ruby Gloom and Beetlejuice are more popular than ever. The rise of Twilight has propelled the popularity of books about brooding, mysterious, HOT eyeliner-clad vampires and pale, dark-haired girls into the stratosphere.

Goth is everywhere.

Why, then, is the subculture still regarded as something fearful, something alien? Fear is what fuels prejudice and discrimination - way, way back in the Dark Ages, if something or someone different came to your village, it was likely to be carrying strange foreign diseases, or looking for a way to steal your food. We may no longer be living in the Dark Ages, but people are still afraid.

Discrimination against Goths abounds in modern society, and takes many forms. Goths may not be able to get jobs, even when their appearance is toned down to fit with a uniform or dress code. In schools, young alternatives are persecuted - verbally abused, physically attacked, and often these assaults are allowed to continue by teachers, either out of fear of the bullies or because they, too, still secretly hold this belief that being different is 'wrong'. There are Bebo and Facebook pages set up specifically to target Goths, some threatening sickening violence.

Worse. Sophie Lancaster, a 20-year-old Goth girl, was murdered defending her also-alternative boyfriend from a savage attack by a gang of thugs. The motive for the attack was simply the way the couple chose to dress. A Goth woman was thrown down a flight of steps on her wedding day because of the way she looked. In Leeds, a trio of men assaulted and robbed a group of Goths, cutting the ear (!) off one of them. In America a twelve-year-old girl was stoned by the congregation of a baptist church because she was wearing black clothing and carrying a Stephen King book. A woman from Germany visiting the country was gang-raped and left on the street because of the clothes she was wearing.

These are extreme cases. Most often, the discrimination is slight - the occasional name-calling, sometimes a push or a shove, a nasty online message. Sometimes it comes from one's own family - 'for your own good', of course.

Do we really deserve this? Do we deserve to be hated, just for choosing to look different, to walk down the street looking the way we choose, in the clothes we want to wear? What is so threatening about someone dressing differently that means they should be abused, attacked, or beaten? It makes us happy, it's not hurting anyone else - we should be left in peace.

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Styles of Goth fashion: Cybergoth

Cybergoth is a very modern subgenre of Goth, whose visual appearance combines elements from traditional Goth (e.g. black clothes, heavy boots, fishnets, dramatic make-up and body piercings), raver fashion (bright colours, synthetic hair falls, glow sticks) which can be a little hit-and-miss, leading to the 'graver' look), rivethead fashion (rivethead is a term used to describe a fan of Industrial music. Goth and Industrial, as I'm sure I've mentioned, are very closely connected and you will hear them on the same dance floors, although they are not quite the same. There is some crossover between Industrial and cyber music), and cyberpunk.

Source: Photobucket
Like Goth itself, the subgenre 'cybergoth' received its name from an outside source. The term was coined in 1988 to describe Games Workshop's roleplaying game Dark Future. The style began to evolve in 1999, when Graver fashion combined the New York club kid look with British raver fashion, and sprinkled a little Goth on it (heaven knows why). Just FYI, Gravers are generally NOT considered Goth, neither are they the same thing as cybergoths. Gravers go to raves; Goths go to Goth clubs. How the two ever became enmeshed (why, God, why?) neither time nor Wikipedia will tell.

By about 2002, Industrial aesthetics were added to this mix, turning the eye-hurting Graver style into something with a little more panache; replacing the majority of the brighter, candy-coloured, rave influences with Industrial accessories such as goggles, reflective strips, metal panels, and, thankfully, a more monochrome colour scheme.

The style often features a stark, neon or brightly-contrasting theme colour; brighter than the rich jewel tones of typical Goth fashion. Red, yellow, green, bright blue or pink and silver are the most commonly scene. Fabrics are usually skintight and glossy (unlike the almost masculine, military practicality of rivethead fashion), clothes are often skimpy and paired with REALLY BIG boots. Hair falls featuring plastic 'cyberlox' or synthetic dreads are very popular, as are fluffy boot covers in black or neon.

Popular accessories may include glow sticks, character backpacks and plastic weaponry (less seen since the Graver style faded almost into obscurity), and more Industrial-inspired items such as the ever-popular goggles and gas masks. Motifs often seen in cyber fashion include barcodes, Kanjii writing, the Cyberdog logo (Cyberdog is a popular - and expensive - rave and cybergoth brand), manga characters and tribal designs.

Cybergoth music combines trance and electro sounds with the dark, despairing themes of traditional music. There are several genres connected with cybergoth, including EBM (electronic body music), futurepop, electropop, synthpop, dark electro, dark trance, neo-Goth, electro-Industrial, aggrotech, powernoise, terror EBM and probably a few more.

Bands? To name but a few: VNV Nation, Apoptygma Berserk, And One, Elegant Machinery, Seabound, Neuroticfish, Psyclon Nine, Sneaky Bat Machine, The Gothsicles, Angelspit, God Module, Project Pitchfork, Deviant UK, Ashbury Height, Faderhead, Tenek, Ayria, Razed In Black, Neikka RPM, Talla 2XLC, Celldweller, Bak XIII.
As mentioned above, cybergoth can also be said to be related to cyberpunk, which is most importantly a literary genre combining advanced science with societal breakdowns and post-industrial dystopian landscapes (e.g. Neuromancer by William Gibson, which I happen to be reading at the moment, oddly enough). Cyberpunk is also connected with some musicians and bands, popular amongst Goths, cybergoths, and rivetheads (just to make things a teensy bit more confusing), for example Psydoll and FrontLine Assembly; and a developing fashion style, somewhere in the dark and muddy waters between Industrial (rivethead) fashion and - you guessed it - cybergoth.

As you may have guessed, cybergoths can often be found stomping up the dancefloor at an industrial/electro/Goth night; editing their VampireFreaks page, or watching Dark Angel on TV.

Listening to: We Are Alive - Bak XIII

Goth and the media - the good, the bad and the ugly

There's no escaping from the media - it's all around us. TV, the newspapers, magazines, the radio, blogs... everyone in the Western world is somehow influenced by what they see, read and hear. So how does the media teach society to perceive Goth?

Source: Photobucket
First and foremost, it depends what you're looking at. Obviously, Goth-oriented publications such as Gothic Beauty, Unscene, Alt Fashion, Chronicles and Insomnia Magazine are going to be a wee bit biased in our favour. (Some newcomers to the scene may be surprised to learn that there are magazines aimed specifically at enthusiasts of Goth culture - I highly recommend Gothic Beauty, Unscene and Spider's Web Zine in particular.)

But what about the rest? To be honest, a lot of mainstream conservative newspapers don't seem to hold Goth in very high regard. At best they seem to view us with a sort of baffled amusement; the 80s fad that refuses to die out (which, OK, is partly true...). The Daily Mail, for example, has described Goth as 'the tribe of choice for those who didn't feel punk was ugly, black or moody enough'.

Occasionally, there is a real sense of snideness - again quoting from the Daily Mail, columnist Richard Littlejohn, referring to an act of discrimination against a young Goth couple which was splashed all over the papers and internet for a while, remarked, 'My Geordie mate, Black Mike, would take one look at her in her absurd "Goth" outfit and remark: "Gi' us a stick and I'll kill it."'

At worst, the papers have a damn good attempt at scaremongering - one moment we're the bizarre but harmless patrons of Whitby Gothic Weekend, the next moment we're Satanists killing young innocents and cannibalising the bodies. Think I'm exaggerating? Well, check out these two articles - both from daily UK broadsheets. Article Number One covers WGW; Article Number Two attempts to connect the disgusting crimes committed by some extraordinarily disturbed individuals with the Goth subculture.

(You probably know, or have met, at least one Goth. If not, let's pick a popular, well-known Goth figure from pop culture: e.g. Abby from NCIS, Lydia from Beetlejuice. Or a random internet-beloved Goth - Adora BatBrat, perhaps, or Jillian Venters? Me, if you're really stuck. Now try and imagine this person actually murdering and eating somebody. No, I can't see it, either...)

After the Columbine shootings, the perpetrators were labelled 'Goth' by the media although they had nothing to do with the scene (a black trenchcoat and a Marilyn Manson CD does not a Goth make...), and Goths have wrongly endured fear and even hate from many members of the mainstream ever since.

Has anyone forgotten That Article by Sarah Sands yet? It's hilarious, yet slightly disturbing that a full-grown woman has done such half-baked research based on her own prejudices, and published it as fact. It makes me somewhat suspicious, also, that she seems to have deliberately misquoted a band name to make it more shocking - after all, Love is Colder Than Death is much less 'scary' than simply 'Colder Then Death'. (Full rant on this topic coming in the non-too-distant future.)

The middle ground? Simply the annoying mis-labelling of My Chemical Romance and Twilight fans as Goths. Hardly slander, but still quite irritating. Even the music magazines who are supposed to know their stuff make mistakes when it comes to our subculture. Upon the release of Marilyn Manson's Eat Me, Drink Me album, Kerrang! ran an article proclaiming him 'the King of Goth'.

However, the majority of articles relating to Goth, at least online, are relating to celebrities (no, not the interesting ones, I mean ones like Miley Cyrus, Taylor Momsen etc.) who have dared to set foot outside their door wearing clothing in various shades of black. (If I had a penny for every article I'd seen entitled, 'XXX goes Goth for premiere!', I'd be rolling in it.)

But there are one or two good articles popping up now and again - ones that don't try to downplay the positive aspects of Goth culture, or cultivate fear and parental worry. For example, this one, this one, this one and this one. (Enough reading material for you?) And in February 2009 the BBC ran a great radio documentary on Radio 2 called The G-Word, which played 'real' Goth music, discussed various styles of Goth and the history of the subculture, and even attempted to dispel some of the myths surrounding the scene.

On the whole, the media is neither our friend nor our enemy - it's a money-spinning machine that will cast us in whatever light it thinks will sell the most copies. So no surprise there. But more worrying is how society perceives us based upon whatever articles have made the headlines this week.

Obviously we have no way of controlling which articles people choose to believe - all we can do is attempt to subvert negative opinions by negating the stereotypes: "No, I'm not miserable, rude, angry or defiant - in fact, I'm gonna go help this little old lady across the street."

Listening to: She's In Parties - Bauhaus

Music vs. Fashion

There's a never-ending debate in the Goth scene - you'll find it taking place in Goth clubs, on the street, and in dozens upon dozens of online forums. Sometimes this debate can get very heated, and still there is no clear winner.

If you've been involved in the subculture for a while, or are often on message boards and forums, you've probably already guessed what I'm talking about (or, you just looked at the title of this post. Cheater...). Yes, it's the great Music vs. Fashion debate - or, more specifically - what is it that makes a Goth, Goth: the music, or the fashion?

This is a debate that throws up lots of questions - am I still a Goth if I don't wear the fashions? What if I just plain don't like Goth music? - and so may need revisiting; also, of course, there's no guarantee that I'm right (well, why me, out of hundreds of people who have an opinion on this?) so please read with a pinch of salt and make up your own mind.

But here's my two pence. Ready? Let's begin.

Cienwen Noor
Source: YouTube
Music - Some Arguments For
  1. If it wasn't for the music, Goth would not exist, except perhaps in some vague form lurking in the shadows at hair metal concerts. Sure, the Goth 'mindset' (love and appreciation for the dark and spooky) would probably still exist - it was around centuries ago, after all - but there would be no common thread to bring these people together. The development of the Goth scene from punk was where the whole scene began, whether it was Joy Division, or Bauhaus's release of Bela Lugosi's Dead that was the catalyst.
  2. It doesn't really take that much effort to amass a basic Goth wardrobe. Anyone can throw on some black clothes and eyeliner and call themselves a Goth - it doesn't mean that they ARE one.
  3. Goth fashion is arguably the most visible aspect of Goth culture, and therefore the easiest to copy and clone. It takes effort to discover underground bands, to hunt down CDs by bands that never made the mainstream(tangent: I went into HMV last Christmas and asked if they had anything by The Sisters of Mercy. The assistant's reponse? "We don't stock that old metal stuff." Metal?! Excuuuse me?!), to immerse oneself in the shady world of Goth music.
  4. Imagine Goth clubs without Goth music. All of the dark and decadent fashion is pointless when the atmosphere is ruined by the sweet strains of Kylie Minogue.
Fashion - Some Arguments For
  1. The Goth look was also there in the early days, a monochrome mix of punk and New Romantic - although the musicians took a little longer to develop their visual style than their music, would the scene really have become what it is today without Siouxsie's make-up and Robert Smith's hair?
  2. The fashon allows us to easily identify other possible members of the Goth 'tribe' - whereas the music can easily be confused with Marilyn Manson, Evanescence, et al, the attention to detail that denotes 'real' Goth fashion cannot be easily faked.
  3. It takes dedication to create a real Goth look. Not only do you have to be bold enough to ignore the negative opinions of your peers, but it takes more than just throwing on some black jeans and a Batman T-shirt. Anyone can download some songs or throw a playlist together!
  4. Imagine a Goth club without the fashion. All the minor chords and cavernous voices in the world couldn't give spooky atmosphere to a room full of people in pastels and flip-flops.
If you didn't have some idea already, you're probably starting to have some idea of why this debate is such a long-standing one. Without dressing in Goth fashion, it's hard to feel part of something dark and underground. Without listening to Goth music, well, I'd have to say you aren't really part of it. There are other, related dark subcultures such as emo and metal - perhaps you better identify with one of these.

Yes, my personal opinion is that music is the backbone of the Goth scene. Appreciation and enjoyment of dark music is what binds us together - what gives tradgoths, romantigoths, cybergoths, dark fairies and deathrockers; all the very visually different incarnations of Goth, something in common. But!

Arguably, another important facet of Goth is its 'mindset', 'worldview' or 'philosophy' - an appreciation of beauty in dark places, an inquiring mind, an innate creativity. This is another part of what holds the Goth scene together - what draws THESE people (us) to THIS particular scene. And Goth fashion seems to be to be a way of expressing outwardly that this is how we are inwardly - a physical representation of the dark and decaying beauty we so admire.

With me so far? Let's recap. The music is what holds the scene together and gives us common ground. The fashion is how we show we are a part of the scene, that we have the innate mindset that attracts us to this music and this culture. So each is an important part of the whole picture. Goth would not be what it is today without either of these components.

If you have an interest in the music, and you feel that you have the unique worldview that, in part, characterises Goth, then yes, I would say that you can still be Goth without wearing the fashions (after all, sometimes dress codes, jobs and families can make it difficult). But visually identifying yourself as part of the scene is a large part of the culture, and if you have the choice I would always encourage you to do so, as otherwise it's difficult to feel fully part of the community.

Dressing as something separate from the mainstream, whether you choose to follow a more 'traditional' route - e.g. wearing all black - or really do your own thing, can be very important. Even if your personal style is so out-there it's perhaps not always recogniseably Goth, you have still made an active choice to become part of the underground, separate from mainstream culture.

The fashion (and mindset) separate us from the mainstream, and the music binds us together as a community. Therefore, in my opinion, the music vs. fashion debate has no winner, as both are important parts of what it means to be a Goth.

Listening to: Intimate - Godyva

Sunday, 21 November 2010

"Friends don't let friends dress like The Crow."

So there I was, in the long-ago days of October 2009, crouching down to look at the pumpkin lamps on the bottom shelf in the Halloween department of Sainsburys, when I heard two small boys screeching "Look at that! Look at that!" I turned around to see what they were looking at - and realised they were pointing at me. As soon as they realised I was aware of them, one of them shouted "Yikes!" and they both ran off,  leaving me sitting there with a silly grin on my face.

Anyway, I bought the pumpkin lamp (his name is Jack... not massively original) and headed outside to settle down with a book whilst waiting for my friend to meet me. The book I'd brought was Gothic Charm School: An Essential Guide for Goths and Those Who Love Them by Jillian Venters, and this was the second time I'd read it since it arrived fresh from Amazon three days before.

I LOVE this book. For several reasons - 1) it is SO accurate. Obviously, as Jillian V has been active in the scene since before I was eating solid food. Her warm, witty humour lays the Goth scene bare for Goths and non-Goths alike. (I'm hoping that, if a lot of non-Goths buy the book, a greater understanding of the whole 'no, we're not baby-eating devil worshippers' idea will get around...)

I wish there'd been a book like this around when I was flailing around 'discovering myself' - whilst it might not have saved me from wearing Poizen Industries bondage pants with a high-collared Victorian-style trenchcoat *cringe* it probably would have saved me from relying on the occasionally acid-tongued members of for help on what Goth music actually entails. I seriously recommend that anyone with even the slightest interest in Goth hunt down a copy of this book, as it is INVALUABLE. And that is not a word I use lightly.

2) It is really, really interesting. JV covers topics that hadn't even crossed my mind when creating my original (and awful) Piczo site (and some I wouldn't dare to talk about - offering advice on romance to Goths? Uh, thanks, but I'll pass...), which I may have to plunder when making new posts. She isn't afraid to give an honest opinion - and, OK, yes, I squee-ed to discover that no, I am not the only person who doesn't much like Joy Division (weirdly, in Amy-land, soundtrack to Donnie Darko = good, Joy Division minus ooky-spooky movie backdrop = ick). And the way she writes is just so damn funny (see post title for one of JV's many pearls of wisdom). I got some sideways looks while I was sat outside Sainsburys as I was occasionally chortling - quietly - to myself.

3) I've been a hopelessly devoted fan of the Gothic Charm School website for several years, so I was practically bouncing around in excitement when I discovered there was going to be A Book. And I can safely say that it lives up to ALL my expectations. Thank you, thank you, Jillian Venters.

I give Gothic Charm School a big, fat ten out of ten. If you can't afford to splurge on the book just yet, then I highly recommend you give the website a look-see.

Listening to: Black Planet - The Sisters of Mercy

Tips on developing your own Goth look

Goths at the Wave Gotik Treffen
With such an endless variety of Goth looks and styles on parade, it can sometimes be difficult for a newcomer to know where on earth to begin, and no one wants to be stuck following 'guidelines' or copying other people's looks forever. If you've been in - or interested in - the scene for a while, it's likely that you're getting a feel for Goth fashion and are beginning to create your own style, unique to your personal tastes, and mixing-and-matching all your favourite visual aspects of Goth culture. If not... then it's time to begin.

The most important tip I can give you is not to limit yourself - this is one thing that I learned the hard way.  Don't say, "From now on, I'm not wearing anything that isn't black." Don't be the person staring in the window of New Look, Bay Trading or whatever mainstream store, thinking, 'I'd love to wear that outfit, if only I hadn't decided to be a Goth.' If you like it, and you'd wear it, damn well buy it! Wear it your own way: wear it with fishnets, wear it with spikes, wear it with ringlets, Mary-Janes and a parasol. But don't assume you can't wear it if it 'isn't Goth'. Be your own self and wear things that YOU like.

If you put restrictions on yourself and your look, you'll end up feeling like you're missing out on wearing the things that you would like to wear. This could lead to a resentment of Goth, and your time in the subculture could end up being 'just a phase'. After a year or so of wearing, quite literally, nothing but black, I had a bit of resenty-ness myself, and ended up 'rebelling' against my daft self-imposed limits by wearing rainbow gloves and blue jeans with my spiked wristbands and black strappy jacket. It took me a while to work out that that didn't mean I 'didn't want to be Goth any more' or was 'less Goth'; I was just doing my own thing - and I've never looked back since.

There are no rules to follow in Goth fashion. There is no right or wrong. There are things that look good and things that don't; I'm sure you can work these out on your own. Don't worry about what other people may be thinking about you.

This works in two ways - 1), don't worry about what your peers think about the way you choose to dress. They don't run your life: if it's not hurting anybody else, you should be able to look, dress, act and think however you want. And 2), don't worry about the opinions of other Goths. If you want to wear something pink - wear it. Blue jeans? Wear them. Do Goth your own way. All the fashion advice I or anyone else can give you can only ever be guidelines. Find out what works for YOU - what makes you look good, and, most importantly, makes you feel good. Never, ever, let other people put you down.

You can work with what you already have. Embracing Goth doesn't mean abandoning your old wardrobe favourites. You can update them with a little DIY, or simply leave them as-is and accessorise like a crazy beast (of the night). This also means that you don't have to run out and buy a whole new wardrobe - all you need to get started is a few key pieces - for example a black jacket, a pair of trousers, and some funky boots (I can't believe I just used the word 'funky'...) - and then you can mix, match and customise the rest of your 'normal' wardrobe until it works.

Pink My Little Pony T-shirt (yes, I have one of these hanging in my closet)? Pair it with black skinnies tucketdinto boots, a shredded skirt and fishnets, or a pair of bondage pants, and you have instant Goth Irony. Boring shirt or blouse? Add safety pins, rips and patches. Also bear in mind that the right accessories can change the whole look of an outfit - for example, spiked collar and leather gloves vs. lace choker and velvet armwarmers.

Keep your eyes open and check out what other people are wearing. If you like an outfit you see at a club, can you buy or make something slightly similar? What is it that you like about it - and how can you re-create that? Copy it if you must, then change it so that it's all yours. Using other people to inspire your look is one thing, but copying their outfit from head to foot is a little bit pointless.

If you really want a unique look, creativity and a hefty dose of imagination is the only way to get there. Using pics from the internet or from magazines as reference is a good start, but be sure to build on that look and make it your own. Keep in mind what you want from your style - do you want to look sexy? futuristic? elegant? like a dangerous but beautiful creature of the night? - and work with it. I have a theory that the best Goth looks = 4 parts creativity, 3 parts attention to detail, 2 parts attitude and 1 part actual items worn.

Listening to: Sleeping Sun - Nightwish

Whitby Gothic Weekend

Whitby Gothic Weekend, often abbreviated to WGW or just Whitby, is the UK's biggest Goth festival, and takes place twice-yearly in Whitby, North Yorkshire, England. Although referred to as a 'weekend', the main festival events take part on Friday and Saturday, with fringe events on Thursday, Sunday and Monday.

Jo Hampshire, the organiser (who runs Top Mum Promotions), states that Whitby was chosen to host the festival due to its Dracula connections, although Wikipedia theorises that this is probably more because the town's dark'n'spooky links had already fostered a sense of acceptance within local businesses and the community rather than any 'inherent romanticism' regarding the location.

Source: Google Images
Azadeh from RazorBladeKisses (great band!) in the graveyard at Whitby Abbey
The festival originated from a meet-up of about 40 penpals who had met through the pages of NME (that's a lot of letter-writing...) at the Elsinore pub in 1994. It was held once a year until 1997 when it began to take place twice yearly, now held in April and October (Halloween weekend, of course!). It has grown into a huge event that attracts people from all around the world - possibly, nowadays, as many curious tourists as actual Goths, as, ironically, the festival's attendees themselves have become something of a tourist attraction.

Usually I'm not fond of outsiders choosing to explore the Goth scene as though it were some sort of zoo or freak show, but the WGW (now in its 16th year) is well-known for its friendliness and openness, allowing all sorts of people to congregate peacefully. It has even been described by the BBC as becoming a 'mainstream, family event'. Mainstream?! Watch your language! WGW attracts all ages, from school-age babybats to the intrigued elderly.

So what can a darkling expect from the Whitby experience? Well, upon arrival, Goths receive a map showing them the town's gloomiest hotspots and darkest delights, including the relatively infamous Pandemonium shop and local tattoo parlours. Most of the events, including the Gothic Market, are held at the town's 1,000 capacity Whitby Spa Pavillion (aka The Spa), but due to the overwhelming popularity of the event, other venues are used for overspill and for fringe events - I have heard it said that nowadays many people do not even purchase tickets for the main festival, choosing instead to take part in the dozens of fringe events.

Indeed the event often sells out, and many more people attend than there are tickets available. Whitby receives booming business during these times of the year - pubs and other businesses have been known string up 'Goths Welcome!' signs across their windows to attract even larger black-clad crowds.

Outfits range from 'typical' Goth gear to full-on festival fashion to crazy costumes - several related scenes are also well-represented, such as steampunk, industrial, rockabilly, and, increasingly, Gothic Lolita. Many people will spend weeks choosing, preparing, purchasing, or even making their outfits and costumes. Reporters and photographers throng the street in their dozens - the event is well-covered by the British media, who seem to regard it with fond, if bewildered, amusement.

Although Whitby is generally regarded as a cheerful, family-friendly event, there have still been a few (a very few) 'incidents'. In the beginning, lack of understanding tinged with a hint of prejudice brought derision; but the polite and amicable nature of most Goths (I say MOST - hey, you get idiots everywhere) has led to widespread acceptance. The Christian church also initially expressed distaste for the event (us Goths are evil devil-worshippers after all...).
Source: Google Images
Whitby Abbey stands solid and silent against the gathering dusk
In 2007 festival organisers were forced to alert police and the Whitby Gazette to what was believed to be a smear campaign to run the Goth fest out of town. A mysterious e-mail was sent to four borough councillors as well as high-ranking council officials, stating that, according to an overheard pub conversation, Jo Hampshire was refusing to pay money she owed to Scarborough Council, and she and her friends had been slating staff at the Spa.

Investigations found that Hampshire had not even been in said pub at the time of the alleged 'conversation'; and any problems relating to Scarborough Council were being drawn to a mutally amicable resolution.

The only physical incident relating to the WGW - that I am aware of, anyway - was when a reveller dressed as Nosferatu to raise cash for charity was set upon by thugs, who swore at him, pushed him about, ripped the bald cap and prosthetic ears from his head, and tore them into pieces.

The October 2007 event was dedicated to the memory of murdered Goth Sophie Lancaster, and a memorial bench was unveiled. WGW events have raised large sums of money for the Sophie Lancaster Foundation (which seeks to Stamp Out Prejudice, Hatred and Intolerance Everywhere).

Source: Google Images
A young beauty at WGW
Events and attractions that draw the crowds at Whitby include live performances from both newcomers and big-name Goth bands; the infamous Goth Market; the bring and buy stall (which now has its own website - click here), which seeks to raise money for the Bat Conservation Trust - hear, hear!; club nights; a charity football match between local newspaper reporters and a Goth team (Gothic F.C., who, I might add, always lose); a 160ft bungee jump in aid of the Royal National Lifeguard Institution (known as Dracula's Drop); and unofficial day events that vary from year to year. These day events have previously included sandcastle-building competitions; picnics; photoshoots and boat trips.

This year, English Heritage gave its seal of approval to the event, arranging for the floodlights at Whitby Abbey (a beautiful Gothic ruin standing in lonely splendour on a hilltop above the town, immortalised in the pages of Bram Stoker's Dracula and, much more recently, Robin Jarvis's babybat-beloved series The Whitby Witches) to glow Halloween shades of purple and orange. Falconers sent birds of prey swooping through the twilight skies between the haunting arches as actors conducted a full-scale Victorian funeral, complete with mutes and horse-drawn carriage.

The abbey has long been a popular destination for Goths attending the event - climbing its 199 steps to have one's photo taken in the historic graveyard is almost a rite of passage for Whitby-goers.

Bands who have previously performed at the event include Diary of Dreams, Wayne Hussey (formerly of The Sisters of Mercy), Children On Stun, London After Midnight, Libitina, Rosetta Stone, Switchblade Symphony, Faith and the Muse, Mesh, Clan of Xymox, Andi Sexgang, the Damned, Scary Bitches, The Cruxshadows, Specimen, Christian Death and Abney Park, to name but a handful.

Source: Google Images
Bats and Broomsticks is a guesthouse at Whitby primarily for Goths, decorated in stunning Victorian Gothic from attic to cellar.
There have been previous worries about the future of the event, not least last year when it was uncertain if festival organisers would be able to book venues over the Halloween weekend. But in fact the WGW looks set to become bigger than ever, whether it takes place on October 31st or not, with 2011's event (which I'm hoping to attend - fingers crossed!) cited as being a two- or even three-week (!) Gothic bonanza due to many more fringe events and spin-offs being announced in addition to the event itself.

Hope to see you there!

Listening to: A Night Like This - The Cure

Saturday, 20 November 2010

Gothic glossary

I thought it might be useful for readers to have a quick, at-a-glance guide to frequently used Gothy terms (aka Gothspeak). Not, of course, that all Goths you meet will use these terms. But I've seen them a lot on forums and messageboards online, and I'm sure that more than a few have filtered into real life (or is that just me?).

Source: Tumblr
Babybat - (also babygoth, kindergoth, didigoth). Can refer to a young person (twenty-one or under, approximately) who is part of the Goth scene; or to a person of any age who is new to the subculture. Generally not used as a derogative term, although 'kindergoth' in particular is sometimes used to mean the same as 'mallgoth'.

Eldergoths - (also elders, old-school Goths). First generation Goths: those who lived through the 80s and saw it all the first time around.

GAF - stands for Goth As Fuck. Often used sarcastically, referring to someone who tends to be a little, shall we say, OTT; or affectionately/jokingly, referring to oneself or a friend in a teasing manner.

Gloom cookie - (also doom cookie). Referring to someone - usually a young female - in the Goth scene who tends to be overly melodramatic to the point of being highly irritating. (Also a brilliant comic series by Serena Valentino.)

Gother Than Thou - (also Gothier Than Thou, Gothier Than Thou Syndrome). An awful lot of people in the subculture often spend a large amount of time trying to, well, out-Goth each other, whether at clubs or online. It's ended up becoming something between a game and an in-joke, referred to as Gother, or Gothier, Than Thou Syndrome (this can also be used in a derogatory way - "So-and-so was ragging on me about my music taste again - looks like someone's got a serious case of Gother Than Thou Syndrome"). I have never, ever, participated in this *ahem*.

Goth points - if you do something extra-spookalicious, for example reclining on a black velvet chaise longue reading Baudelaire by candlelight, you could say you were earning extra Goth points. Goth points, of course, don't actually exist. You can also 'get your Goth card stamped' for doing something very Gothy.

Gravers - combination of 'Goth' and 'raver'. Either referring to a Goth who enjoys attending raves, or referring (somewhat disdainfully) to someone who has mixed up their Goth look with raver 'fashion' (or vice versa). To paraphrase Voltaire (not the dead one), fangs and glow sticks together does not a good look make. Many cybergoths err a little too far on the side of graver for my liking.

Insta-Goth Kit - (also Goth in a Box, Goth in a Box Kit). A common mistake made by newcomers to the scene is to rush out and buy a bunch of brand-name Goth clothes from the mall without any thought, customisation, or, ahem, effort in general. This not-very-unique spooky kid wardrobe is known as a Goth in a Box Kit. A curse upon you, Hot Topic...

Mopeygoth - those who are responsible for creating the 'Goths are sooooo depressed' stereotype - mopeygoths go around acting miserable all of the time. Alternatively, a Goth who happens to be having a bad day.

Mundanes - (also normies, normals, casuals, straights). People who are not Goth. Often used as an insult, which if you think about it is kind of like non-Goths calling us 'freaks'.

net.Goths - either Goths who spend a lot of time online, Goths who are members of the alt.gothic newsgroups, Goths whose only available route of association and socialisation with and within Goth is online, or wannabe Goths who join Goth-oriented forums and make out that they are the DARK Emperor of the DARK DARKNESS. I'm not sure why.

NotAGoth - people who may appear very obviously Goth, but go around proclaiming that they are Not A Goth. Occasionally, this is an attempt to be more Goth by proving their individuality and non-conformity. Confusing? Yeah, I thought so. Note: some NotAGoths are actually Not Goth. They genuinely don't feel any affiliation with the subculture, despite appearances to the contrary. Andrew Eldritch? So NotAGoth...

Oh-So-Gothic - something (or someone) that is trying really, really hard to be the epitome of all things dark and spooky - and not quite pulling it off.

Oh My Goth! - Goth version of 'Oh my God!', usually used in a joking manner, or by someone trying WAY too hard.

Ooky-spooky - spooky, Gothy. Tends to refer to things that are either OTT and Oh-So-Gothic, or Goth-in-a-cute-way, e.g. Tim Burton curliques and stripes.

Oontz-oontz - (also tweedly-beep). Usually used by eldergoths, referring to EBM, dark electro, and related cybergothy forms of music.

Perkygoth - the happier breed of Goth, e.g. Kynt and Vyxsin (of 'The Amazing Race' fame), Jillian Venters from Gothic Charm School, NCIS's own Abby Sciuto. Those who don't think being Goth equates to being miserable all the time - in fact, quite the opposite! Yay, glitter, sugar, pink accents and sparkly bats!

Rivet-head - (also industrialists, industrial Goths). Those who listen to/favour Industrial music. May or may not also consider themselves Goths - the two music scenes are VERY closely related but not the same.

Sexy Death Chicks - (also sexxy deth chix and other terrible spellings). When mainstream types head off to Goth clubs in the hope of hooking up with Goth girls, they are said to be looking for 'sexy death chicks'. Awful, I know...

Spot the Crow - a fun game you can play at any Marilyn Manson/Slipknot/insert mallgoth-beloved band name here concert. Basically, see how many people wearing Crow make-up/costumes you can spot. Not including the people on stage, that is.

The Gothfather - usually referring to Andrew Eldritch (singer of The Sisters of Mercy - but you knew that). Tends to be used sarcastically, owing to Andrew's total dislike of all things Goth.

Ubergoth - someone who insists on being 100% Gawthick on every occasion, including nipping to the shops to grab a pint of milk, walking the dog, etc. The type that wears six-inch heels and a PVC bustle to pick up the kids after school.

Weekenders - those who only dress Goth on weekends (or when attending clubs) for socialising, either because they lack 'devotion' to the scene or because their jobs/families/school don't allow them to be black-clad spooksters 24/7.

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