"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!