Monday, April 29, 2013

"Too Big" to be Goth?

“I’m too big to wear Goth clothes.”

I’ve read this comment on several blogs, and I get SO irritated every time I see it.  Not at the person saying it, but at those who made them feel that way.  Since when must all goths be petit, thin or short??  That's a stereotype, and I hope WE are above those, especially since it's a stereotype taken from the very culture we aspire to be different from.

If you think that, for some reason, you are “too big” to wear goth clothes, here are a few things to keep in mind:

1.  Black is slimming!  It works for ALL body types.  If black makes your skin tone look sallow or yellowish, which does happen to some people, just wear a little complimentary color around your face and be sure your hair color suits you, and the rest will usually take care of itself.

2.  Goth is a state of mind and a style, not a body type or size.  Is anyone "too big" to listen to the Sisters of Mercy, or "too big" to read and enjoy the works of E.A. Poe or Poppy Z. Brite?  I didn't think so.

3.  Not ALL types of goth styles need to be worn by ALL goths.  While someone may or may not look good in a teeny Tripp mini skirt or baggy bondage pants, none of us need to wear them to 'prove' our gothness.  If you look great in something, wear it!  If you don't like the way you look in a particular item or style, skip it, even if all your friends are wearing it.  Remember, you are the Shiny Black Sheep; goth style is about individual style, NOT about everyone wearing the same thing or looking the same way!  (Didn't we leave that mindset back in high school?  Apparently not...)  ::SIGH::

4.  If you are a plus-sized goth, there are lots of clothes out there that will be perfect for your figure, whatever your height, weight, or other measurements may be.  The "average" woman, in America or any other country, is NOT 5'7" tall, 128 pounds, and 36-24-36!  There really is no such thing as an 'average-sized' person,  if you get right down to it.  Average compared to what?  We're all unique!  Clothing manufacturers know this; there are now lots of stores out there, both physical and online, that stock larger sizes, and most have stopped being jerks and charging extra for plus-size items.

When I first started shopping for goth clothes I was a size 16 (5'4" and 197 pounds), so I made a beeline for my local Torrid; for those who haven't heard of it, it's Hot Topic's plus-size store, specializing in sizes 12-26.  They offer a store credit card, and you can get lots of coupons and $10-off cards and stuff if you have one.  At the time I started shopping there, Torrid was FULL of wonderful gothy stuff!  I'm now a size 12 in their clothes, so I can still shop there, but I usually wait until they have sales or send me coupons.  Unfortunately, it's gone the way of HT so they stock less of the cool goth stuff like Skel-Animals, Tripp, and those amazingly quirky t-shirts they had when I first went there.  However, I picked up some great items during my vacation, including a shirt with a skull on it that's made of cats, and I saw some tops that looked like shiny black corsets, so maybe the alternative lines are coming back!  I hope so.

If you are a plus-size person, where do you find your goth clothes? 

Friday, April 26, 2013

More Than Eye Can See

The other day I came across an article from a church magazine that I've kept since 1993.  Although I wasn't conscious of being goth at the time, I kept it because it was such a great example of the saying, "Don't judge a book by its cover."  Now I'd like to share it with you, because it's a feel-good story, AND it's about us!  The teenagers described and pictured in the article are definitely goths/punks.  :-)

The following true story, titled "More Than Eye Can See", was written by Angela B. Haight, and was published in the "Mormon Journal" section of The Ensign magazine (September 1993 issue)*.  I've removed a few non-essential sentences from the the places marked with "..." for brevity, but both the majority and the message of the story are intact:

"Without realizing it, I had fallen into the habit of categorinzing people by the way they reacted to my aging mother.  In spite of her infirmities, at age eighty-seven Mother still acts and speaks with gentle dignity, and I am always grateful for the people who speak directly to her, hold the door for her, and don't pull away if she touches them. 

"When we've been out together, I've occasionally had to suppress my annoyance at slights from strangers...  Perhaps no event has been as vivid, though, as a recent encounter in the shopping mall where we like to walk.

"Though my mother can't do many of the things she once enjoyed, she still loves to go out.  One of her favorite diversions is window shopping, and the shopping mall is a light, cheerful place where the temperature is always pleasant, and the floor surfaces are smooth and easy to walk on, even for her shuffling, arthritic feet.  Best of all, the mall has wooden benches at intervals along the way, so we can stop and rest whenever Mother gets tired...

"One afternoon we ventured into a department store at the mall to make a small purchase.  By the time we completed our errand, Mother was leaning heavily on my arm, obviously tired and ready to sit down.  We walked slowly out of the store, and I noticed a bench directly ahead of us.  Unfortunately, a group of eccentric teenagers lolled around it.  Through the thick haze of their cigarette smoke, I noticed their jelled hair -- spiked and cut strangely, in unnatural colors -- their garish earrings, and dark-colored clothing.  The noise of their raucous laughter and coarse language told me there was no way we would stop there.

"Just then several of the kids jumped up and approached us.  Oh, no, what do they want? I wondered.  Were we about to encounter more than simple rudeness -- perhaps an incident of teasing or confrontation?  My body stiffened with a tremor of fear.

"Sit here, we'll go someplace else," said one of the girls.  "Yeah, it's okay, you can use this bench," added a boy whose jeans hung down his legs in a fringe of threads.  In a few seconds, they swept up their backpacks, drinks, and candy wrappers and disappeared, leaving only the pungent scent of their tobacco lingering in the air.

"Grateful but a bit shocked, I settled Mother on the bench and sat down beside her.  As I glanced after the darkly clad little band disappearing down the corridor, I found a fragment of scripture passing through my mind:  "Man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart."  (1 Samuel 16:7)

"How many other times had I allowed my oversensitive feelings trap me in a destructive habit of judging others?  The teenagers I so quickly labeled had seen a need and had understood, had shown kindness and compassion.  Underneath the unsavory outward appearance, there was a heart I never would have suspected.  But then I was so busy judging that I hadn't even looked."

Even though I don't know her, I'm proud of the way this lady stood up and spoke in defense of those who are different from the mainstream and from what she herself felt was acceptable.  By publicly acknowledging her own prejudice and error in judgment, she opened a door to understanding and tolerance between two groups that many would simply assume could not ever work together. 

As I've grown older, I've noticed my own prejudices have grown somewhat; I don't know why, but they have.  Possibly it's because the world is indeed a scarier place now than it was in the 1970s, 80s, and even 90s.  I'm worried about more things than I used to be, and I find myself assuming the worst in many situations that would not have bothered me in earlier years.  But I fight my prejudices when I see them, and I hope I'll always be enough aware of them to do so.  "Judge not, that ye be not judged" is a good rule to live by for everyone, no matter what you do or don't believe.

*This article is available to all on the Internet at, so I am not infringing on any copyright rules by printing it here.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

The Shiny Black Sheep: Fashion vs. Style

"Fashion fades. Only style remains."  ~Coco Chanel

"Fashion mocks individuality; style celebrates it."  ~Sarah Ban Breathnach

"Style is the intersection of what you wear with who you are."  ~Leah Feldon-Mitchell

I found all three of these quotes in the same book just a few pages apart, and getting hit with all of them so close together felt like a cosmic two-by-four.  You may have figured it out long ago, but for me it was a fairly recent revelation: 

Goth is not a fashion; it's a STYLE.

When I was in my 20s, I ran after fashion, thinking it would tell me who I was.  My Bibles were Glamour and Cosmopolitan, and I read them religiously.  It's embarrassing to confess this, but I had an entire binder devoted to makeup, clothes and accessories, and I updated it constantly with magazine articles, pictures and lists of items I 'had to have' to look good.  I started with makeup, probably because it was less expensive and easier for me to 'catch' than clothes.  I remember finding an awesome look in one magazine: red and black eyeshadows worn together, with dark red lipstick and, of course, a dark red blush.  It WAS a fabulous look (at least on the magazine models), but I'm not sure it really went with my fair skin and blonde hair.  I wonder to this day if I looked like a bleached vampire (or perhaps a vampire's victim)!! 

Then there were clothes.  Although I read those magazines zealously, I don't think I ever really understood how fashion worked.  For some reason, I could rarely pull a look together, and when I did it was usually with classic pieces in neutral tones, with only the occasional zing! of a different color or cut here and there.  I think it's because I was afraid to try (or couldn't afford) what was trendy or different, so I stuck with 'safe' classics, and ended up looking pretty much like everyone else.  How boring...  Of course, many people say that about gothic black!  But WE know how special it really is.  Who knows, Coco Chanel herself may have had a touch of goth in her; she did create the Little Black Dress, after all!

Shoes are easier, at least for me; I've always managed to find great looking shoes that are all about me.  I still wear some of my designer shoes from the 1990s, and they look fabulous with my current outfits.  And hats!  Some people look awful or silly (or awfully silly) in hats; I look great.  Unfortunately, I rarely wear them except on weekends, because I work in an office building, and I'd look pretty strange walking around the office all day in a hat!  Hmmm, stranger than walking around in a shirt with a skull or a ribcage on it??  Something to consider...

 But I've learned that, while style includes the clothes, the shoes, the hair, and the makeup, it's more than all those things. Clothes, hairstyles and makeup looks go in and out of popularity all the time, and they are, after all, merely things.  Style is something you HAVE, not just something you wear.  Style is an attitude.  It's what makes you stand out in a crowd.  If you have style, you can wear a uniform and you'll still look different from all the other people wearing the same uniform.  Normally, sheep are just... sheep.  Unless, of course, you are the Shiny Black Sheep...


Here is where Goth Style comes in.  We are the Shiny Black Sheep, who can take ordinary clothing and makeup and turn them into something exotic and extraordinary, because we have style. 

If style is "the intersection of what you wear with who you are", then we should all be able to figure out our own style, given a little time and some self-examination.  This isn't something for just the "chosen few", so don't think you don't/can't have it!  You do have to have at least an idea of who you are in order to find the clothes, etc. that emphasize your style; since you already know, you're that far ahead of the game.  And remember that you can and will change over time, so don't panic if who you are now doesn't agree with who you were five years ago, or even last year!

When I went through my closet for the Big Cleanout, I held up each individual piece of clothing and asked it, "Are you begging me to wear you?"  If the answer was No, into the thrift store bag it went.  If the answer was Yes, then came the next question:  "Do I have anything right now to wear you with?"  If Yes, those things were also taken out and put aside, as I didn't need to question them.  If No, it went to the side for more consideration.  Of course, I did have one of those "Not Sure" piles, but it was a fairly small one.  I hung those things on my portable clothes rack, and tried every single one of them on.  That made it easy to decide whether or not to keep or discard.  The few things that I just could not make up my mind about were put in the thrift store bag, but ON TOP, just in case I changed my mind.  A couple of things did get taken out and put back in the closet, but most ended up leaving for new homes.

Now, this process doesn't determine IF you have style (because, of course, you do!), but it does tell you something about your past and current styles.  Depending on how much you have in your closet, it can take a very long time... or not!  It honestly didn't take me nearly as long as I thought it would, because I listened to what my clothes AND my heart told me.

One last thing (I've been blathering on waaayyy too long, I know!), but this is important!  Style is also knowing when less is more.  If you're covered from head to foot with bats, skulls and spikes, it's rarely style, and it's usually overkill.  Be selective, and you'll have people copying you (or trying to) because they love your style! 

Friday, April 19, 2013

"I'm SO Goth..."

The first time I saw an "I'm SO Goth..." pic I just about hurt myself laughing!  Since then, I've found so many of these hilarious sayings and pics that I've decided to post one every once in awhile just for grins!

Here is my current favorite (don't you love his cute evil smirk?)...

What's YOUR favorite "I'm SO Goth..." saying?? 

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

When in Doubt, Toss Some Glitter on It!

I love drag queens, always have.  Living in San Francisco in the 70s and 80s, I saw my fair share of them.  They never cease to delight me with their flagrant breakage of just about every rule in the book, AND they do it with Style. 

I guess one of the things that fascinates me about drag queens is that they enjoy flaunting their difference from others in a huge way.  How many men actually look better as women than they do as men?  How many men are willing to cross that line, open that door, explore it, and go public about it? And how many men seem to have FUN doing it??

The other day I saw an article about advice from drag queens, and so, of course, I had to read it.  It was all great, but to me, the best advice was from Pandora Boxx (the lovely vision in this photo): 

"When in doubt, toss some glitter on it." 

Hmmm, how often am I in doubt?  I'd guess at least a hundred times a day.  I'm in doubt about SO many things: whether my paycheck will stretch to the end of the month, whether I really DO look good in that top, whether the car can wait another couple of months for a tuneup, whether I'm going to be able to avoid going postal on our noisy neighbors, whether I will EVER find a career doing what I love rather than just a job that (barely) pays the bills.  If I tossed real glitter every time I had doubts, we'd all be drowning in it.  Not to mention that I'd probably go to prison for decades for all the littering laws I'd be breaking!

So, what can I used for 'glitter' in these situations??  Well, I think I used clothes as glitter for my visit to the DMV the other day, and that certainly turned out well!  But if it's something that comes up suddenly, and I don't have time to dress for the occasion, I think that I would have to use Style.  And I think drag queens use it as well. 

What exactly IS style??  Read the article first, and then we'll discuss it in another post...  ;-

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Vision Thing

Yesterday I went to the DMV to get my driver's license renewed.  For the last two renewals, they've been kind enough to let me mail in my renewal payments, but this year the letter said they wanted to meet me in person, give me a vision test, and take a new picture and my thumbprint, all for only $32!!  Needless to say, I was simply thrilled.

Now, I've worn glasses since I was 15 years old, so I've always had "Corrective lenses" on my license... no big deal there.  But this time I managed to work myself into a tizzy because the glasses I wear at home, work, etc. are NOT the same glasses I wear to drive.  Both my sunglasses and my "night driving" glasses are a much older prescription; with them, my far vision is very clear, but I can't wear them for regular things like reading, writing, sewing and computer work.  The 'newer' glasses (which are older than my son!) that I wear for everything else are better for regular wear, but I can't wear them for driving anymore because distances (including signs) and wide views are blurry, and in the dark it's even worse because of headlight glare.  And I can't afford new glasses, even though we have vision insurance through work (it sucks).  Anyway, I had convinced myself that I would wear the wrong glasses to the DMV, fail the vision test, and lose my license!  Dumb, I know, but I just could not get this scenario out of my head. 

Anyway, I arrived at the DMV in a new outfit, figuring that if I were dressed to kill (figuratively, of course!), it would override my anxiety, and I was right.  I wore the bat tights and choker in my 'Pre-Birthday Loot' post, along with a black tank and black tulle skirt... AND the right glasses.  When I came up to the Appointments window, the guy (who is probably a few years older than I am) broke into a huge smile and said, "I LOVE that choker, where did you get it?"  Then when he saw my first name on the form, he reached out and shook my hand, and said, "I see you're Old School."  I asked, "So you're one of us, then?" And he grinned, put his finger to his lips and said, "Shhhhh!"  Goths working at the DMV... Go figure!

By this time I was feeling much better, but the grand prize came when I sat down to wait to be called, noticed the vision test signs on the walls, and realized I could read them from the middle of the room!  The letters were small and it was tricky, but I could actually read them.  When I got to the counter and took the test, they looked HUGE.  It was a total piece of cake.  Whew...  I walked out with my temporary updated license, no problem.

So I get my new license with new picture in a few weeks.  Maybe it will actually somewhat resemble me.  And I'm wearing my new choker in the pic!  Life is good.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Pre-Birthday Loot!!

Okay, this is one of those posts where I show off my birthday loot, and you feel envious.  Right?  Well, I hope not the last part!  But I AM going to show off my new goodies, so bear with me.

Martin is smart.  He knows that it's better to buy things online for me because it's easier to hide packages addressed to him than making excuses to borrow the van, then try and hide the bags from stores I would recognize!  He found this cool site, and bought the following (the last piece is for him):

Women's Gothic Black Tights with White Bats Print  Gothic Halloween Bat Print Long Gloves

Gothic Thorn Red Rose Vine Cameo Necklace Victorian Antique Style PendantSilver Chain Leather Gothic Choker Necklace

Purple Mesh Fishnet Shirt Gothic Vampire Skull Punk 80sSkull Neck Tie Rockabilly Ink Tattoo Halloween Punk Oi

Is this great or what???  He put it all in one box so I would be even more surprised, the sneaky thing!  I didn't really want to open it early, but we're going to the San Jose Fantasy Faire on Sunday, which is the day before my birthday, and he thought I might want to wear some of it, since we've made it an event for our goth meetup group.  He's so cool!  ::satisfied smirk::

And NO, he's not available for rental...  ;-)

Friday, April 5, 2013

German Industrial Dancing... Polka Style

I'm not into the cyber or industrial scenes, but I do enjoy watching some of the dancing.  I saw this YouTube video on another blog (the now defunct Ultimate Goth Guide), and I've lost track of the times it's made me smile.  (Should I admit that I actually like the music??  Ummm, probably not.) 

Anyway, I think it's time for me to share the love...  ;-)

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Welcome to Life 101

The first time I heard the song Life 101*, it sent chills up and down my spine.  It still does every time I listen to it.  That's because it for so long it was my life they're singing about.

The full lyrics can be found here, but I'm going to include just the part that concerns this post.

My name is Law and this is Order, and on behalf of the universe
we'd like to welcome you to Life 101.
There's no drinking, there's no swearing, body piercing is not accepted,
do not dye your hair or tattoo, you must do what is expected.
(Learn your member tips now and set the standard for your senses).
You may think only when told to.
You may think only what they tell you.
Stay within your culture, marry within your own race.
Keep in mind they may change the rules at any time, and you must be aware of these changes.
Be keen and smart and beautiful.
Learn to have a family. Again, welcome to Life 101.

This was me when I was growing up.  I was raised LDS (Mormon), and my mom tried hard to be a traditional 1950s mother because that's what she wanted to be, even though she was a single working mom in the 1960s.  The result was that I was very obedient, went to church, followed the rules (see above), didn't argue, and basically tried to live up to everyone else's expectations of what and who I should be.  If I really wanted to do something that didn't fit within these parameters, I had to sneak around to do it, which made me feel guilty.  It wasn't a bad life, it just wasn't MY life.

In my 20s, the only things I did that were really different were to get my ears pierced twice (multiple piercings weren't very popular at that time), and take bellydance lessons.  I loved it so much that I joined my teacher's dance troupe, and later formed my own troupe with three other dancers.  I had a LOT of fun dancing at festivals, street fairs, restaurants, convalescent homes, and the occasional party.  I felt like a totally different person when I danced; beautiful, sexy, exotic, and self-assured.  And other people saw me that way because I saw myself that way.  During those years I dated several men who I thought were exotic as well, including a Pakistani, an Arab, a Persian, and an ex-con (but they all turned out to be just the usual type of men).  I did learn to appreciate many different cultures, though.  I also met my first husband while dancing.  But once I got married, I tried to be 'normal' again, because that was what I was supposed to do... right??

It wasn't until after I'd been married for over ten years, had a baby, dealt with my spouse's increasing alcoholism, got divorced, and started working at a university that I realized I was sick of being 'normal' (i.e., just like everyone else), and began trying to find out who I really was.  By this time I was 36, and had an 8-year-old son to bring up.  I met a guy who was VERY different from the men I was used to, and he encouraged me to try things I'd always been too nervous to do.  I got two small but meaningful tattoos, left my church to explore Wicca and paganism, then invited him to move in with me, and after we got married I went back to school, while still working full-time.  It took me eight years, but I got both my BA and my MA, becoming the first person on my mom's side of the family to even GO to college, let alone earn two degrees.  And I realized I had never been normal... I just hadn't known I wasn't!

About the time I graduated from university, I began thinking a LOT about the goth girl I had a class with back in high school.  It was then I realized that I felt a strong need to learn more about goth and what it was.  I started with the music, and fell totally in love!  Then I branched out and started reading, listening to, and trying on anything and everything that seemed even remotely goth.  My world has expanded immensely in the last four years, and I am finally finding my Self at last.

I'm telling my story this way because I don't want to be just another blogger talking about fashion, music and makeup.  I want to let every one of you know that it's never the wrong time or too late to start searching for your Self, and to give a boost of encouragement to those who feel their life isn't quite right for them, but don't know what to do about it. 

You've graduated from Life 101: The Basics.  Now it's time for Life 201: Becoming Your Self.

*I believe this is Switchblade Symphony's version of the song.  There is some debate as to who actually did it, however.  Both Rasputina and a group named Call Me Alice are also cited as the creator(s) and/or performer(s).  I shall let you decide what you believe is correct.