This has to be one of my favourite reader questions of all time!
Anonymous asked, "Do you have any tips for a budding baby bat? I've just gotten my first parasol (^^) (sorry, I like the neo-victorian sort of style...to a point, although it is rather expensive) from my grandparents and it's pretty... Anyway, back to the point. I've been interested in goth culture for a while, love the music (especially Emilie Autumn and Tori Amos :)) and I want to get involved! However, I'm a little baby bat (12) so can't go to goth clubs and stuff. I live in a quiet part of North London and have seen a total of 1 goth (that I can remember) in my time :'(. So, how can I get more involved in the gothic culture and do you know any good shops for clothes? I like 'The Gothic Catwalk' but, unsurprisingly, would like to buy things from more than one shop! And the greatest tragedy in my life right now is school uniform :( Any tips on how to avoid it would be greatly appreciated!"
OK, I'm going to divide this up into (vampire)bite-sized chunks so that I stand a chance of answering your questions properly, dear Anonymous.
(I know, I know... not everyone likes the term 'babybat'. As an under-21 Goth to whom the term still applies, I personally think it's cute and am more than happy to be referred to as a babybat, but I know that some of you find it a bit patronising or think that it's used in a derogatory way. I will try to phase out the term.)
Just as an FYI to Gothy newbies as well as new blog readers (hello, everyone who popped across from Gothic Charm School, and welcome!) I do tag all my posts that I feel are relevant or helpful to fledgling Goths under 'babybat' (*ahem*, sorry) - you can find the tags list in the sidebar, or just click here to explore all my would-be-helpful babybat-friendly posts.
- Get inspired. Buy magazines, read blogs, check out Tumblr and Polyvore, listen to music, watch music videos, check out Wave Gotik Treffen footage on YouTube... finding out what Goth is for you, personally, might take some time and is often subject to change as you get older, but exploring the fashion, music, art and literature of such a diverse culture makes a delightful pasttime as well as providing all the inspiration you'll need to experiment and find your own style.
- Be yourself. Don't try to conform to someone else's idea of what Goth is. You don't need to love The Cruxshadows or have a fluffy bat collection if that's just not what interests you.
- Be confident. I know, easier said than done, right?! The fact is that when you experiment you're going to make mistakes - I know I certainly cringe at some of the outfits I've posted on this blog! People are going to stare at you. Some people might make comments or make assumptions about you. But keep your head up, stay strong, and be you (as loud as you can, to paraphrase Gerard Way). If you are comfortable and confident with yourself, it will show, and you will look awesome no matter what you wear.
- Don't expect to love everything about Goth. Chances are you won't love every fashion, every band, every person, every attitude. Every subculture has its downsides and Goth is no better or worse than any other.
- Keep looking, keep trying new things. Didn't like that band? Look up another. You won't discover new and exciting things if you don't keep looking for them. Just because you didn't like one band doesn't mean you won't like another - don't get disillusioned just because you can't stand The Sisters of Mercy.
- The best shopping advice I ever read came from a user on the Mookychick forums called Angels+Eyeliner, who said, "If you look at your wardrobe and find that nothing expresses anything about you, you need to have a think about why you bought those things in the first place. Take out the last thing you chose for yourself (as opposed to something someone picked out for you). How often do you wear this? And why? Is it because it's comfy, because it shows off who you are, because it's practical, or just fashionable? Why did you pick it out? Because you needed a new (whatever it is) or because you saw it and, whether you needed it or not, you HAD to buy it? If you find that you're buying whatever everyone else is, or what's cheap, or what isn't too showy, then next time you go shopping you need to have a better look. Don't instantly go into the same shops you always do. Lots of people get into a sort of routine when they go shopping ie Primark first for tops, then H+M for jeans, Peacocks for shoes, Claire's for jewellery, Superdrug for makeup then McDs for lunch before going home. Go to the places you haven't been to for a while. Look at everything, not just one particular thing. Don't buy ANYTHING until you're certain that you love it, that you will wear it, that you have things to wear it with, and that you want it because it's a little part of you that you previously haven't had. And since you seem to have a wardrobe of jeans and t-shirts that saynothing about you, why not make them say something? It's easier and cheaper then getting a whole new wardrobe and stops you finding one day that all your lovely new clothes are in the wash and you're forced back into boring stuff. Customise the hell out of (or should that be in to) your stuff. If you get some buckles and straps you could turn a pair of average jeans into a gothic masterpiece, and I'm damn sure it would be a lot cheaper then buying the same thing already made. Make like a hippie and turn those skinnies into gothic flares with panels of fabric. Cut up your t-shirts, or fabric paint lyrics and slogans onto them. I've seen people pay thirty quid for a plain t-shirt with a one liner on it before, and if they had a few brains they could pay a couple of quid for the shirt and make it their own." EXACTLY WHAT SHE SAID.
- Get involved online. Don't look at me like that, I know it isn't the same, but you can chat with people who share the same interests as you, swap tips and advice, share inspirations and generally learn a bit more and feel a bit more connected. If you're as lucky as I have been, you'll meet amazing people who you'll consider great friends. Whether you start a blog, join a Facebook group or join a fan forum for your favourite band, don't be shy, get talking.
- Keep on the lookout for non-club events in your area. Most concerts don't have age limits - do what I did and bat your lashes at your non-Goth friends (or parents if you have to) until they agree to come with you. Gothy markets, meet-ups and picnics also seem to be becoming more popular. See if you can get day-tickets for local festivals.
- Don't be limited to specifically-Goth events either. You can often hunt down Gothy types at art or literature events, book signings, anime or horror cons and expos, craft fairs, alternative fashion shows, music festivals of most varieties, museums, or of course your local library.
- If you should happen to meet another Goth, don't be afraid to nod, smile, or say hello. It's only a small gesture but you've made a connection (although, should you happen to get chatting, please bear in mind that this person, Goth or not, is still a STRANGER, and the obvious rules of common sense must apply).
Allow me to run through the usual spiel - charity shops, thrift stores, customising plain or 'normal' items, eBay, Etsy, and the odd Goth-friendly piece from mainstream shops! As a dedicated shopper, I do have some favourite Gothy sites, but bear in mind that most brand name Goth items are expensive!
- Drac in a Box
- Angel Clothing
- Kate's Clothing
- Attitude Clothing Co.
- The Gothic Shop
- Spiral Direct
- Dracula Clothing
- Red Haze
- Heavy Red
- Retroscope Fashions
I'm just going to hand this one over to the Lady of the Manners at GCS, because she has covered this topic on many occasions with elan.