Monday, 11 April 2011

Confessions of a retail Goth

I'm sure that there are many Goths all over the world working in the field of retail; however many of them are possibly confined by a uniform or dress code. I work weekends in a charity shop, where the only dress code I was ever told about consists solely of, "Look smart; no blue jeans." Well, I have kept to those simple rules quite faithfully...
A typical 'Amy' work outfit
Being an elaborately-dressed-and-made-up Goth in a retail environment attracts a certain amount of attention, both neg and pos, from customers and other staff. In fact, a couple of weeks ago I recieved my first 'funeral' comment. After almost five years dressing this way, I was beginning to think I'd never get one. Perhaps stripes and bats in profusion do not automatically scream 'funeral'? Well, attending work in Victorian Goth garb, complete with veiled and feathered hat, certainly ended that.

"I'm sorry," said the bald guy coming to the till, looking at me sadly.

"Sorry?" I'm wondering if maybe I've missed something. "What for?"

Baldie tips me a wink. "Oh. I thought you were going to a funeral."

OK, OK, you got me, Bald Guy. I just hope you didn't think you were being original.

I think the question I get asked most frequently is, "Are you going to a party?" On the day I chose to wear a black tutu with silver stars, pink boots and a black fishnet hoodie with pink trim, and styled my hair into an Elvira beehive decorated with neon pink star hairclips, I swear I lost count of how many people asked me that question. Upon responding, "No, I always dress like this," I was met mostly with looks of disbelief...
Trying on random stuff in the shop changing room. Yes, I am going to buy this dress.
I had also believed that the Lady of the Manners's words about people wanting to handle Goth clothing did not apply to me - boy, was I wrong. I was outraged when a co-worker, admiring my recently-customised Victorian top hat, decided to thump the top of it. Hard. Which dug the brim of the hat somewhat painfully into my head, as well as making the poor thing creak alarmingly. Woman, this hat is more than a hundred years old! Treat it with respect!

A week or so later I chose to wear one of my favourite ruffly skirts - it's full length, it's poofy, it's rainbow-coloured. I wasn't entirely surprised when this same lady decided she was going to grab hold of it and swish its ruffles about. I was not, however, impressed by the fact that the area of fabric she decided to grab hold of was in the region of a rather personal area. The surprise of having a rather matronly woman in a yellow coat grabbing hold of me around the crotch area required a sit-down and a nice cup of tea.

What I am struggling with most at the moment is coming up with responses to the jokey remarks a co-worker makes about my outfits two mornings a week. A year ago when I first started, it was funny. Now? It's getting a little old. Of course, as I have mentioned before, I do recieve more positive comments than daft or negative ones. Ladies especially seem to appreciate a darker aesthetic; I have been dragged out of the shop before to have my photo taken, and once stood shuffling my feet and growing redder and redder whilst a customer rhapsodised on how 'beautiful' I looked. I was even asked to take part in a charity fashion show, which was great fun. ^^

I have also made friends with a VERY heavily tattooed chap who walks with a cane - he brings me punk CDs every now and again, and once tried to bring me some hair sticks. Unfortunately they fell out of his bag somewhere on the high street and he couldn't find them! There are two or three customers who jokingly tell me they come in on 'my' days to see what I'm wearing!
Lunch break fun!
In October last year, a foreign lady become very excited, bouncing around and pointing, because she was convinced that my ensemble was a Halloween costume. She spoke very little English, and I doubted my ability to tell her via Charades that, no (all together now), I dress like this all the time. So I just smiled and carried on serving. This same lady turned up in the shop for several weeks in a row. I could see her growing confusion when I was still dressing the same way in December.

I think the most bizarre incident was last summer when a middle-aged American man suddenly leaned across the counter and poked his finger right at my face, going, "One, two, three..." It took me a moment to realise that he was counting my piercings. Eventually he asked me, "So how many do you have?"

I replied, "Seventeen."

He looked me up and down, and leered, "I don't see seventeen..."

Me: "Dude! They're in my ears! My EARS!"

In short, Goths in a retail environment need to be prepared to garner a lot of attention and be able to respond to it calmly and reasonably politely. Sometimes I feel like rolling up to work in just jeans and a T-shirt, but I'd hate to disappoint my public...

Goth gossip: The 69 Eyes are releasing a dance album. Yes, you read that right. The Goth scene has always been divided on the tricky subject of whether or not the 'Helsinki Vampires's' Goth'n'roll sound is sufficiently 'Goth', but I guess this will probably end THAT debate rather permanently. Frontman Jyrki69 apparently thinks that 'dance rock' is the way forward for the Eyes. Please forgive me, but I am now feeling rather as though I need to go and write some VERY depressing poetry. This news... it hurts me.


Dr Blood said...

Best. Post. Ever. ;)

KatSlaughter said...

"They're in my EARS!"

^ best most-uncomfortable situation ever.

Pixie said...

I would love pics of you in your tiny hat for !!!

Audronasha The Countess said...

Oh, I would love to have a work with no dress code :D That would be great. O envy you a little bit :)

ultimategothguide said...

@ Audronasha - bear in mind, though, I don't get paid! >.<

@ Pixie - aw, I'm honoured ^^ You can help yourself to these crap cameraphone ones if you like, but I will try and take some decent tiny hat pics at some other point. <3

Anonymous said...

LOL! Excellent post!

Duvessa said...

The 69 Eyes releasing a dance album? Oh well, not like I stopped listening to them after Wasting The Dawn anyway. Tbh they weren't goth when they started out and I really like Wrap Your Troubles in Dreams song.

I don't wear goth, only just black and have only heard my ex-boss gasp once when I had blue shirt peeking under a black cardigan that I'm "a betrayer" :P She was great but always had to mention if I didn't have completely black outfit.

VictorianKitty said...

I admire your patience in handling the attention you get at work, and for not letting it pressure you into changing your style. It is especially tough when they invade you personal space. The hat-thumping incident is just so wrong!!

I try to be gracious when receiving unwanted attention directed at my appearance, but I've been known to NOT take the Halloween costume thing in stride... ;)

Sophistique Noir - Dark, Elegant Fashion

Anonymous said...

I admire the way you handled these situations, and your courage to be yourself in a world that often expects conformity. I find it inspiring. By the way, I love your outfits!

Anonymous said...

Also the 69 Eyes news makes me sad. A dance album - really? :(

Jacqueline said...

One of those pictures makes me really happy :D I've always wanted to wear my fluffies around in public, but I was worried they were only for raves and I'd look stupid (I generally don't care what people think, but there's a difference between being "wierd" and making a noob mistake.)You look great in them though, so I guess I'm gonna have to break them out

Emily Lynn G. said...

What fun, Miss Amy! Show 'em that goths can do whatever they want-I'm going to be volunteering for a club in my school that works with special needs students and I'm a *tad* nervous on how the kids-and the perky club members-will feel about my eccentrics. But this gives me hope!<3
And your outfits Amy:I LOVE THEM. This inspires me to cook up something really great for tomorrow.....!!<3

Rora Monroe said...

I've never worked in retail myself but my mom has been a faithful manager at Claires's for almost 40 years now and I am always hanging out in the store. I could not begin to tell you how many weirded out looks a "goth" girl gets in that store.
I do however have a monthly October job of working in a Haunted House, and my boss finds it the funniest thing that I can bring my own "costumes" for work from my closet. He also runs a costume shop every halloween and never fails to ask me when am I going to ware the items I buy. The employees faces were priceless when I told them all I was waring a Zombie dress to prom.

Hayley said...

I remember once being on a bus and a person asked me what kind of party was I going to. I was wearing my black tutu.

Haha, I find the reactions to what I wear really funny.

Anonymous said...

I love your outfits so much!!! I love your whole blog! Been following since piczo. I'd love to see your whole wardrobe, but that could take a while lol. :D

ultimategothguide said...

@ Anonymous - I think I might love you a little bit =D

@ Hayley - so, clearly, in the minds of the mainstream, tutu = party. I guess if you're boring enough that the only occasion you'd wear a tutu for is for a party or costume, that would make sense XP

@ Rora Monroe - I love Claire's! I'm thinking of applying for an assistant manager's job at my local... The previous assistant manager was a girl I knew - she has multicoloured hair, facial piercings, and was tattooed almost from head to foot.

I would love that Haunted House job <3 and a zombie prom dress? Dammit, woman, get a Blogger account so I can see your pictures!

@ Emily Lynn - flattery, my dear, will get you everywhere ;-) best of luck to you with the volunteering!

@ Jacqueline - why, thank you ^^

@ Miss Lou - thanks so much! <3

@ VictorianKitty - I'm surprised you get the Halloween-costume comments; your outfits are so elegant!

Chloƫ Noir said...

I will be a little offtopic but I have a question...
On one of your photos you have a grey (?) shirt with bats..I absolutely love it. Is it DIY?

ultimategothguide said...

@ Chloe Noir - 'fraid not, I found it in a charity shop XP There are a few of the same floating around on eBay though.

Melony C. said...

I work in a more retail environment as well, but my place of employment (which I can't actually say who they are as I signed a contract and they are always checking online to find anyone that says ANYTHING about them) is more of the home improvement variety. I work in the Building Materials dept. as well as helping on the family farm so I have to substantially dress down.

I'm in the Perky Goth frame of Goth (and yes I hear from other Goths all the time that it isn't Goth but others will argue it is, go figure), so I generally go ahead and wear no makeup or jewelry, just black jeans & plain black or stripy t-shirts. I dress very humbly because of the hot, sweaty, labor-intensive work I do at my day-job or on the farm when they need help. Found that cheap packages of plain or stripy t-shirts from the men's section works best for this type of heavy, nasty work & a lot of them are a better quality than from the women's section. Cheap, easy, and you don't worry if they get wrecked.

I don't want to get my nice clothes gross with sweat, saw dust, manure, covered in concrete or dirt, so I dress very simply. Jewelry gets broken or I get hurt from it when chucking hay or 100lb bags of concrete or sand or 16ft sticks of lumber. That shit's heavy and can snag those lovely bracelets/rings/necklaces, causing me injury & usually breaking them.

I have been told in recent months that I'm not dressing Goth enough, while at work especially, to be considered Goth anymore. Believe you me I just wanted to introduce them to my lovely stompy steel-toed boots right upside the head. I don't believe a Goth has to go all out all the time, especially when they are having to be a Practical Goth for work or work-related reasons, but hearing those disparaging and nasty comments does hurt one's feelings. Good to hear I'm not the only one that gets the nasty comments. We all have to put up with them especially when in retail, unless they are severally threatening or sexist then get a hold of the store manager, HR manager or Police if need be. That IS a form of bullying & harassment, so protect yourselves with the law if need be my Gothic Friends. Don't let those nasty people get to you, calmly explain that you are just being yourself & this is how you express it and if they are getting to nasty/close/touchy-feely then branch out and get some help to deal with them including coworkers.

Love & Bright Blessings- Melony C.

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