My personal blog as a 'grown-up' Goth and Romantic living in the Highlands of Scotland. I write about the places I go, the things I see and my thoughts on life as a Goth and the subculture. Sometimes I write about music I like and sometimes I review things. This blog often includes architectural photography, graveyards and other images from the darker side of life.

The Gothic subculture is not just about imitating each other, it is a creative movement and subculture that grew out of post-punk and is based on seeing beauty in the dark places of the world, and looks back to the various ways throughout history in which people have confronted and explored the macabre, the dark and the taboo, and as such I'm going to post about more than the just the standards of the subculture (Tim Burton, Siouxsie Sioux and Anne Rice et al.) and look at things by people who might not consider themselves anything to do with the subculture, but have eyes for the dark places. Goth should not be limited by what is considered "goth", inspiration comes from all places, the key is to look with open eyes, listen carefully and think with an open mind..

Saturday, 6 February 2016

Getting Older & Not Really Changing

One thing I like about Romantic Goth fashion is that is not age-specific. I have seen it on every kind of person from little girls to older men, and it looks good on pretty much anyone, regardless of age, sex and gender, size or skin colour. Mainstream fashion seems, especially these days, to have a focus on sexually show-casing the body underneath the clothes, especially for women, and Romantic Goth fashion can be like that, but only if you choose it to be, and a lot of the time the focus is more on the clothes themselves than the body wearing them - there's too much detail, too many lush fabrics, textures, details and extravagance that steal the show. As such, my fashion sense doesn't really need to change as I get older... 

But this does not mean that my fashion sense has not changed... As a teenager this was mostly due to experimentation with different styles, but after that I think it had more to do with budget than taste. I always loved the Romantic styles of Goth, but that sort of thing either costs a lot new, or takes a lot of time and effort to track down secondhand and more budget-friendly prices. While I was still building a fancier wardrobe, I still wanted to express my being part of the Gothic subculture, so I chose more modern, plainer and casual-looking expressions of that style. 

Photo by Chance Photography

This picture is from 2010, taken at Wallingford Castle, in Oxfordshire. As you can see, I'm still clearly on the darker side of Alternative, but I'm not wearing anything particularly extravagant. It's not that I didn't have Romantic Goth clothes at that time - I did - I just didn't have enough to wear it daily, and a lot of the time I reserved it for clubbing because I was scared to damage or ruin my nicer things through everyday use. 

Photo by my sister

This is another picture, from 2008, that my sister took, again of me in Wallingford, and in it I am wearing a rather elaborate top by Raven and fancy lace tights. I was probably wearing buckle boots and a lacy short skirt; I can't really remember. I think my sister and I were going out for dinner that evening, so I had made the effort. Nowadays, that sort of outfit is pretty everyday for me, but probably with a longer skirt as it's noticeably cooler even in summer in Scotland, plus I am more comfortable covered up. 

Now I have a wardrobe that I have spent years accumulating, and which I am relatively happy with, I am not planning on changing my style much as I get older. A more sedentary life as a student has resulted in my putting on a bit of weight, but I am trying to make the effort to eat better (I don't have as much time to cook healthy meals as I did) and to exercise more; e.g getting off the bus a stop earlier so I have further to walk. This is partly out of concern for my health, but also because I could not afford to have to buy a whole new collection of Goth clothes in bigger sizes; it's taken me 10 years and a LOT of thrift shopping to accumulate what I have, and it would take me another 10 years to do that again! I can't rebuild that wardrobe in a short space of time; I just couldn't afford it, especially as my studies are so intensive that I don't have time to have a part-time job and keep up with my university work. 

Now I am a student, people often now assume that I am a lot younger than I am (by 10 years!) simply because I am a Goth AND a student; Goth is for teenagers, university is for people just leaving secondary school, and thus also teenagers, therefore I must be about 17 to 19 years old. This frustrates me, especially as I know that even with all the make-up I wear I do not physically look that young! I have crow's feet by my eyes, and laughter lines, and my skin is not as soft and clear as it once was. For some people Goth might be a teenage phase, as they explore different facets to their identity, in the same way Steampunk was a phase for me, but for many Goth is a lifelong subcultural affiliation. 

I am also getting to the age where people who know how old I really am are saying that I should have grown out of it by now - by which they usually mean grown out of wearing the fashion, as there's usually no objection to grown adults still listening to the music they enjoyed as teens, or reading horror novels or being interested in the spookier side of history or any of the other 'Goth' things about me. Apparently, I am supposed to have calmed down, with my wild years behind me, and matured into being a normal adult, with the implication that Goth is immature; that is to me, a sentiment based in ignorance.  

Firstly, most Goths I know aren't living wild party lifestyles; that tends to be preserve of young adults who seem pretty mainstream; it's usually 18-25 year olds who don't look particularly alternative that I see getting completely inebriated to the point of being paralytic and doing wild and ridiculous acts in city centres late at night - not Goths! That's not to say that Goths don't ever get drunk or do stupid things, or even take drugs, just that it's not really a feature of the subculture itself; people are diverse and you get tea-total 

Goth is something that in its full manifestation stares unblinkingly at the darker side of life in ways that in some instances are really for adults only. I would actually say that if our subculture got ratings the same way as films or computer games, there'd be sections of it rated 15 at least, and plenty for over 18s only (I know that the movie rating system works differently in other countries). It is not about teenage angst, or trying to seem rebellious in the eyes of authority figures ('trying to scare your parents'); it is about finding the beauty in the darkness, and while there are child-friendly manifestations of that (Tim Burton's films like 'Nightmare Before Christmas', 'Frankenweenie' and 'The Corpse Bride'), there are also aspects that are very much for adults (the overlap with fetish culture, for example) and as so much of it is centred around clubbing and gigs, that is going to mean that active participation is going to be related to the local legal drinking age. This doesn't mean that children and teenagers shouldn't have a place in the subculture - they should, but an age-appropriate one. 

Sometimes there is career pressure to look more mundane. I know this is going to happen to me again as architecture is a very traditionally professional field, and not everyone is famous or applauded enough to get away with being as Goth at work as the wonderful ::Odile Decq:: (one of my favourite architects; I wrote about her for one of my assignments on contemporary architecture last semester). I know that, after I finish my studies, I will probably have to dye my hair a more natural colour (I plan on having it ginger or auburn... this has happened before, and I liked it!) and I know I will have to wear professional attire; something I already know how to style in ways that still express myself without seeming overly Gothic from my time working at a school. Architecture is a more creative field, so a bit of eccentricity is to be expected, which means I may have a little more leniency than if I were, say, a lawyer or an accountant. 

Sunday, 24 January 2016

Multicolour Hair... Again!

My hair is once again a mixture of cool-tone colours, but this time a slightly different selection. My friend Catastrophe Plague helped me with the dyeing.

Selfies taken on Raven's phone.

I started off with bleaching my regrowth and the under layers of my hair, which with my length of hair and how dark my natural hair colour is (dark cool-toned brown), means I have to bleach it in two sessions with several boxes of bleach. I left a lot of my hair jade-green, especially near the tips, as several years of bleaching my hair every few months mean it isn't as healthy as it could be (and the tips definitely need trimming as some are a bit fried) so I try not to over-bleach it if I can avoid it. If the gradient with the bleaching had been smoother, and if I felt that blonde suited me, I might have kept it with the green ombre effect, but alas I am so pale that blonde makes me look the wrong sort of ghostly.

That's not mould by the radiator, that's wallpaper remnants.

Catastrophe took the photo above, and Catastrophe was the one who dyed most of my hair. They separated my hair into horizontal layers, with a rat-tail comb and some hair-tyes, and then started sectioning the lower layer of hair, by the nape of my neck, into locks of about an inch of hair at a time, and tied each of those up with a hair-tie. Catastrophe then went systematically through my hair, dyeing each lock separately. Each lock of hair received its own blend of colours, with the lowest layer being mixtures of fuschia and purple, the next layer being violet and blue, the next layer being blue and turquoise and the top layer being turquoise and green. 

I left my make-up on... Oops.

I ended up sitting around a while with my hair in about 30 tiny pony-tails, all looped back on themselves, looking rather silly, and with dye all over my face, but it worked out really well in the end, and I think Catastrophe did an amazing job on my hair! This is my favourite multi-colour hair look so far, the colours are just the sorts that I love, and the 

Taken in the dimming light, but hopefully the colours show

Dyes Used
A variety of dyes got used, a few being left over from the last time I dyed my hair multiple colours. I have all the left over dyes stored in plastic clip-lid tubs for when I need to touch this up. The dyes used were:
Stargazer Magenta
Directions Violet
Directions Lagoon Blue
Stargazer Tropical Green
Directions Apple Green
Stargazer African Green
As you can probably tell from the results, the magenta was mostly mixed in with the violet, and the African green used quite sparingly this time. I really love the vibrant emerald green of the Directions Apple Green layered over both the very bleached and jade sections of my hair. 

For comparison, here are the previous times I have had multicolour hair:

This was the first time I dyed my hair multiple colours, even if it was just a variety of greens in a vertical gradient "ombre" effect. I only had this style temporarily as it wasn't work suitable, and I did it for Hallowe'en. I blogged about it ::here:: when I did it. I liked how it turned out, and was sad that I could not keep it in my hair. I think this was the first time I had a really luminous, vibrant lime green in my hair, too. I like the colour, but in retrospect I think that the cooler green tones suit me better than the warmer ones.

The next time I tried multicolour hair was last summer, when I did it for my friend's wedding - to match the colourful outfit I wore, which involved an emerald green dress and a violet jacket. I used quite a few more colours than I had before, and this was the first time I used blues and purples with green. I did my hair mostly on my own, with some assistance from Raven, and realised that hair this complicatedly coloured was really a two-person task. The purple did NOT stay in my hair well, and I used magenta over it for the first time to make it more vibrant. I blogged about that half-spectrum of colours ::here::.

This was the time after that... it had actually started fading in this set of selfies, but there was definitely more turquoise and blue than previous times. These pictures were tweaked slightly to counteract bad lighting, but give a pretty good example of what my hair was like. I did put purple in initially, but again, it washed out pretty rapidly. I have only had the latest dyes in one week, and I hope they last a bit better than before. I have learnt to use less shampoo with vibrant hair, as it is the shampoo that washes the colour out the fastest. Washing it without shampoo at all would just leave my hair greasy, so I have to use some, but I try to use it mostly near the scalp where my hair gets greasiest, and to not use too much. 

Monday, 11 January 2016

Graveyard Etiquette

In my last post I mentioned graveyard picnics, and it got me thinking about being respectful in graveyards. Something I have come across is a perception that Goths are disrespectful to cemeteries and graveyards, or that we will vandalise them. I even know someone who was removed from a graveyard simply because of how they were dressed. This is mostly a prejudicial attitude that comes from a general perception of Goths as delinquents, but sadly there have been instances where members of the Goth community have damaged graveyards - most notably the situation in Whitby where Goths and opportunistic photographers have caused an issue with the local cemetery due to people clambering on the stones to pose on them for photographs. There are sometimes occasions where "Satanic" or "occult" graffiti appears in graveyards, and this is often presumed to be the work of Goths - I doubt that it actually is, but again, this is a thoroughly wrong thing to do. 

I would say, from my experience of Goths, that we tend to actually be a lot more attached to graveyards and cemeteries, especially ones that don't contain the last resting place of a loved one, than a lot of more mainstream people, who generally avoid them. We're more likely to be interested in things like the symbolism in the carvings, the history of the place, and suchlike, and we are also more likely to visit them for some peace and quiet (I have actually written ::this:: post explaining why I like visiting graveyards, because a lot of people, mostly mainstream people, think it is weird), and as such, I think a lot of Goths find it very upsetting when someone desecrates or vandalises a graveyard, and as such would never do anything like that themselves. 

There are, however, those amongst all groups of people who are not very respectful of their surroundings, sometimes just out of not thinking rather than actual malice. I definitely think there is an issue when it comes to people not being respectful or thoughtful when doing graveyard photoshoots. I've been both the model and the photographer in graveyard pictures, and when doing such, try to minimise my impact and do so respectfully.

An important distinction is between historic and contemporary graveyards. More recent graveyards are often arranged with roads within them wide enough for a motorised hearse, more accessible paths (e.g paved or gravel, etc.) and the monuments are usually in better condition (but don't climb on them), however they are also in active use, so people will be visiting them as mourners visiting loved ones, and it is even more important to remain respectful of other cemetery-goers, and not to do anything that could impact on its use. Historic cemeteries often have very interesting and sometimes quite large and elaborate statues, mausoleums, tombs, etc. but they also tend to have less accessible paths, and the monuments can be in a state of disrepair; I know several locally where some of the mausoleums are in such a dangerous state of dereliction that they have to be fenced off with warning signs, and others where some of the graves have sunken downwards - in such places, keep to marked paths if possible, and avoid entering the mausoleums, especially if they look unstable or are closed off. I know they're enchantingly gorgeous, but that's not worth ending up as a permanent resident... 

There is also a difference between municipal or council-run cemeteries and ones attached to a place of worship. Obviously, if you are in a graveyard associated to a church, cathedral or chapel, one should be respectful to the place as a religious place as well as a place of rest for the dead. The church may well still be in use, even in historic graveyards with no new graves and is important to both be respectful of those attending the church and not to do anything that might disturb them; do not be noisy, for example, especially when there is a service of any sort in session, and remember that services are not only on Sunday mornings! 

So here are my guidelines to cemetery behaviour. This is based around my experience in the UK, and other cultures have different etiquette for visiting graveyards.

1) Do not clamber on the statues/grave-stones/grave-markers/tombs. From a practical standpoint, you could damage them. Yes, a lot of them are made of stone, but stone weathers with age, and not all stones have the same sort of strengths. A lot of times it is the details of carvings which become fragile, and some stones become soft, friable or flaky with weathering. Acidic rain from the industrial revolution onwards has had a very depressing impact on specific kinds of stone, especially. 

From a perspective of being respectful, these are people's burial places and it can be considered disrespectful to those interred and their families to be using their markers as props for photo-shoots, something to clamber on, etc. 

2) Do not drop litter. If you are having a picnic, or bringing any kind of food or something with a wrapper (even if it's just the plastic over a sketchbook, for example), either dispose of it in a bin, or take it home with you.  A lot of cemeteries and graveyards have bins provided, especially ones which get frequent traffic, and ones still in use, but even if they don't, that is no excuse to be slobbish and leave litter. 

3) Don't let your dogs foul the graveyard, and if there's a sign saying no dogs, then respect it. Personally, I wouldn't bring a dog into a graveyard at all, and if I did, I would keep it on a lead, especially if its liable to go chasing the squirrels or something, to preserve both the peace of the place and the statuary and tributes from getting knocked or damaged. If you do bring your dog into the graveyard, and it uses it as a toilet, please clean up after it. Just imagine the person who has to use a strimmer on the grass finding concealed dog faeces. 

4) Respect the peace of the graveyard as resting place. You do not have to keep to absolute silence, but using quiet voices and not being raucous or to bouncy is probably a good idea, especially in one where people have recently been interred, and where people might be visiting as mourners. Treat it as a garden of quiet contemplation, not a public playground. 

4) Don't let children play in the graveyard. Some children can be trusted to be well-behaved and quiet within graveyards, others can't. Don't let children climb on the stones, run around very excitedly, or otherwise behave in a manner that might damage the graveyard, cause injury to themselves (recently a boy was crushed to death by a gravestone as can be read about ::here::). Graveyards are not a safe place for play, especially as tombs can become unstable over time. 

5) Leave tributes alone - don't mess with anything anyone has put on a grave. Absolutely NEVER take anything left by mourners on a grave. The only exception I would see is if a real candle was lit and something had fallen or was in a position where it might cause a fire-hazard. 

6) Don't use it as a place to host your super-spooky 'ritual' or seance or whatever. Most graveyards are associated to a church, and it is disrespectful to them as hallowed ground places of Christian worship. It is also not a good idea to do this in municipal/council-run cemeteries, as many people would consider it disrespectful. You can do a seance in your own home. Sometimes ghost-hunting groups can get permission to engage in their practices with permission from whoever runs the cemetery, but do not do anything of that nature without permission. 

7) Pay close attention to the opening and closing times. Many graveyards and cemeteries shut at night due to problems with drunks and delinquents being a nuisance after dark, and if you stay too late, you run the risk of both being locked in, and being considered a miscreant. Don't try and jump the fence after closing; respect that whoever runs it is entitled to set their own opening hours. 

These are the 7 things I would give as 'rules', but also check to see if there are signs by the entrances specifying additional rules. Just because I haven't mentioned something, that does not automatically make it a good idea, and if in doubt, it's better to be safe than sorry.  

Notes for photographers
I would avoid are taking photographs of the text on markers; to me, that is the private details of whomever is buried there, and is for their family, not for everyone to gawp over, but that is my personal preference. As you may note from my photography, I tend to either photograph only a small detail, or the whole cemetery, rather than focusing on specific stones. 

I also would never pose, or act (in the theatrical sort of way) as a 'widow' or 'mourner' at someone's specific gravestone; that person probably already had real mourners, and it seems distasteful to play at being mourner when someone probably suffered real grief and pain over the person that was buried there. I would not encourage anyone modelling for me to do so either. 

In a similar manner, I would not encourage anyone to model, nor model myself, in an overtly sexual way. I think this would be disrespectful to those interred, and to those visiting, especially those who are going there for a sombre purpose.  Mix the iconography of sex and death, by all means, but don't be disrespectful in a cemetery to do so. 

Sunday, 27 December 2015

9 Gothic Social Ideas (That Aren't Clubbing)

As my regular readers know, I am an adult Goth in her late 20s, heading inexorably towards my '30s, and I am getting towards the age where my social circle is no longer centred around the club scene. I may be child-free, but a lot of my friends are now parents, and late evening/night life events mean childminding or babysitters for them. A lot of my friends have complex and varying work-schedules, and can't be up half the night because they'll have an early start the next day, or are simply too tired after a long week at work to want to go out.  Often, in these bad economic times,  it's also just not affordable to go out clubbing when you consider the cost of entry (for pay at the door events), drinks, food (even if it's just a kebab on the way home) and the taxi home. 

However, we're still social people, and we still want to meet up and be part of an active subculture, and as such seek alternative socials. In years past I have been the "organising type" and been the one to organise most of the things listed below, either as private parties or group functions (such as with Highland Lolitas), but I'm now a university student, and far, FAR too busy. 

1) The Café Meet
This is the simplest to organise, and depending on where you go, can be a cheaper option (I know places where it's £1.75 for tea and £2 for a food item). There are plenty of independent cafés in even small towns, so you don't have to fork out to spend extra in chain cafe and can still support local businesses. Independent cafés sometimes take bookings, too, if you're planning on more than say, 4 people meeting up - for example our Lolita group went to the Velocity cafe, where they have a large table, and 5 of us turned up (read about that ::here::). Most cafés are not fussed about dress, and will not be upset at a small collection of Goths turning up as long as they're well behaved paying customers. Café meets can be all ages, and younger Goths can have tea, hot-chocolate or other non-caffeinated beverages if they so choose, plus most café opening hours (in the UK at least) are primarily daytime hours, and include weekends. This means it can be a lunch-break catch-up, or a Saturday afternoon leisurely chat. 

2) The Graveyard Picnic
A bit of a Gothic cliche, but certainly not without reason. In the UK, a lot of Victorian graveyards and cemeteries were also intended as public parks - hence the broad paths and frequent benches.  It was seen as a way for people to remember death (part of Victorian mourning culture) and therefore be inspired to make the most of life, and also as a bit of greenery, a verdant space in the rapidly growing cities.  It was not abnormal then to visit graveyard as if they were parks, but this was in a time when public behaviour was expected to be more restrained than it is now, and these were not intended as spaces for loud games or sports. Over time, visiting cemeteries in a park-like fashion dwindled, and they became somewhere you only really went for funerals or to visit a grave. I do not think it is disrespectful to visit graveyards in other capacities, as long as one is sensible when visiting. I will probably write a more elaborate post on what I think of graveyard etiquette, but for now my suggestions are as follows:
⚰ There's no need to adhere to silence, but it is more polite to people who may be visiting the graveyard to pay their respects to deceased family members if you use quiet voices, and avoid shouting and giggling noisily. 
⚰ Respect that statuary, and do not clamber on it or over it; it can become fragile and brittle over time, and the carvings can be scuffed and damaged. It is VERY expensive to have markers repaired, and can be very upsetting for the families if they are damaged. 
⚰ Do not drop litter, in fact, if you spot litter, pick it up and dispose of it, even if you didn't drop it yourself. If you are planning to consume food, bring a bag for rubbish, or at least make sure you dispose of all waste in a proper waste-bin. 
⚰ Don't run about and act the fool; even older graveyards can still be visited both by people visiting their ancestor's graves, and by people seeking solitude and quiet contemplation. Charging about both endangers the statuary (and those who might trip over them) and spoils the atmosphere for those who wish to visit for more sombre reasons. 
Graveyard picnics may not be suitable for very young or energetic children who might find it hard to sit quietly for a while, and may be too tempted to climb on the statues. 

3) The Gothic Picnic
This is can range from grand events like Viona's famous Victorian Picnic at Wave Gotik Treffen, to just a few friends with a (black) blanket and some snacks. A picnic of the non-graveyard variety can be held in a public park, out in the countryside, or even in someone's garden. This is a very flexible idea, and can easily be made more "Goth" by selecting a specific theme, dress-code or just by music selection and aesthetic. The great thing about picnics is that they are very child-friendly for Goths with families. Things like black or themed napkins, bringing nice cutlery, and even aesthetically unusual or themed foodstuffs can really make a picnic feel more Gothic, as can choice of location. Personally, I'd go for somewhere with scraggly trees, a nice open patch of dry ground, and enough solitude as not to be bothered by anyone who thinks Goths are there for either their amusement or mockery. 

4)Exotic Pet Sanctuary Visit
A lot of reptile and exotic pet rescue centres have visiting days where people can visit and learn about caring for these sorts of animals. This is often an important means to fund-raise to cover the costs of looking after animals that people have handed in. Some of them even let you handle some of the animals. Going to the ::Skye Serpentarium:: with my father a few years back is what cured me of my fear of snakes! I used to think they'd be cold and slimy and horrible, and then actually held one, and found out they weren't like that at all. Some may allow for group bookings. 

5) The Tea Party
The Mad-Hatter's Tea Party from the wonderfully surreal Alice In Wonderland has brought this into the Gothic subculture, and with the influence of Lolita, where tea parties are a huge staple of the social scene, this is definitely now a popular form of Gothic social. Tea Parties can either be private affairs in one's own home, or be booked at many places from a café to high tea at a fancy hotel.  The cost of this will vary by venue, but there is a great flexibility for time and place, as well as for varying sized groups. The Scottish Lolita's International Lolita day in the summer was quite the grand event, both in numbers and location, but the small Highland Lolita group have been known to have tea in the Botanic Garden's café in a group of 3 or 4 - this idea can easily overlap with the cafe meet. If you live in the UK where afternoon tea is part of the culture, you are more likely to be able to find a tea house, cafe, restaurant or hotel where high teas or afternoon teas are offered. Holding a tea-party at home is my favourite version of this; it gives me an excuse to bring out the nice tea-sets, and set the table with napkins and a fancy cake stand, as well as to try and bake something nice for my guests. 

6) Visiting Parks and Gardens
This world thankfully has a lot of very beautiful parks and gardens in them, and sometimes it's nice to just go for a stroll, sit on the benches, and admire the planting, statuary, etc. This can just as easily be a group activity as a personal one. Some stately homes open their gardens up to visitors (usually with an entrance fee), and some public parks happen to have beautiful gardens which are accessible for free. If you are in the UK I would suggest looking at: 
The Royal Horticultural Society's gardens ::here:: 
The National Trust's ::gardens and parks::
And in Scotland specifically:
Look at ::this:: page for places to visit with the National Trust for Scotland
There is also ::Scotland's Gardens:: which facilitates opening of gardens of various sizes. 
The gardens of old stately homes often included follies, which can be especially interesting to visit if you're Gothic in the manner of 18th and 19thC Gothic novels - about the same period as when these follies were built! Plenty of gardens include a rocky grotto, especially those from the Romantic era, or those who tried to include something "picturesque". 
There are plenty of botanic gardens and arboretums to visit too, not listed above. Most major cities have a botanic gardens, and the one in Inverness is a favourite both for Lolita meets, and just for me visiting the cactus house! 

7) The Museum Visit
There's a Witchcraft museum and a Museum of Death... More conventional museums often appeal to those with Gothic inclinations - after all, history is full of murder, torture and death, plus looking at times past is a retroscopic vision of how all things pass and how weirdly decadent humanity is. Some museums are, admittedly, far more interesting than others, however. A day trip to a specific museum can be a special occasion, and a proper trip out - however I am fully aware of how expensive this can be. Many museums are now far more child-friendly (some are still endless glass boxes of shiny stuff you can't touch, but museums are often heading towards being far more interactive and educational than they once were), and can be an interesting trip out for the whole family.

8) Ghost Walks
A lot of towns have organised 'Ghost Walks' put on by companies usually catering to tourists. If you live somewhere with particular historic interest or a reputation for being haunted, you're probably in luck.  Ghost walks or tours can cost anything from £5 up, depending on who is running them. These usually occur late in the evening during peak tourist seasons, and may need booking, especially if a large group all want to go on a tour together. You don't have to necessarily believe in ghosts to go on them, as quite a few are interesting just for the narration of historic events and local legend, especially if the guide has a flare for the dramatic. 

9) Monster Movie Marathon
"Monster" here can refer to either the content (werewolves! vampires! zombies! ghouls!) or to the amount of movies watched at once. This is best for a small group of friends at home with a common interest in a specific genre (e.g horror movies, vampire movies, film noir, etc.) and requires several hours, maybe a whole a day.  Depending on the movies, this can also be family activity, for example an afternoon of Tim Burton movies like 'Nightmare Before Christmas', 'Frankenweenie' and 'The Corpse Bride. Films like the 'Addams Family' movies and 'The Labyrinth' can be good choices for older children, too. There's quite a few more "gothic" or "spooky" films that are fun for children (and age-appropriate) but also still enjoyable for adults.

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Green In The Gloom

I wanted to try and take some pictures to show my make-up, but all the pictures close enough to show it came out awful. Even in these, it just looks like splotches and all the details of the leaves are lost. I've actually got black and silver gilt leaves all on one side! As such I decided I would rather showcase that my hair has recently been dyed again and is now a green ombre effect, darker at the bottom. This photograph was taken in my new study, which is mostly lit with purple string lights (spiders, five-pointed stars, fiery swirls, bats...) and is purple and black with greyscale Gothic architecture wallpaper. It is not quite finished yet, but I hope to do a room tour video when it is. 

Selfies by the HouseCat

These photos have been subjected to filters and editing. I tried not to get too carried away - mostly just made things lighter and brighter and tweaked the colours a bit. Some of them have been subjected to a soft-focus effect in order to attempt looking prettier and more ghostly.. I am not good at this creative editing thing! 

Selfies by the HouseCat

The bat necklace is by Alchemy Gothic, and I think the winged skeleton pendant is too. I wish I had my selfie booth ready so I could have taken some pictures of today's outfit because it is rather Morticia Addams-esque, with a black wiggle skirt and a top with long bell sleeves, both in black velvet. The selfie booth is going to go into that recess visible behind where I'm sitting in these selfies, but as you can see currently lacks proper lighting. I first need to get the shelves above my desk sorted, and then mount lights onto those, angled into the corner... SO much to do! Thankfully Raven has put in a considerable amount of work into helping me with my study and the decorating and I am eternally grateful. 

Selfies by the HouseCat

I think these photographs are probably the worst for filter abuse, especially the one on the left! I was trying to look all spectral and 'spooky'... I probably shouldn't try so hard! I get quite self-conscious and perfectionist trying to get good selfies - I end up taking a whole load trying to get a small selection of really good ones, then end up disliking most of them, not being able to pick one that really stands out of the mainly mediocre ones that aren't blurry or really awful, and then collating them all into a collage because then they're tiny and it is harder to see the flaws. I'm torn between my vanity in trying to appear pretty (and find SOMETHING to fill my blog with in lieu of properly written content); and my lack of photographic ability. 

I don't smile much in photographs because even if I'm genuinely happy, it looks either goofy or fake (plus I have bad teeth, even after orthodontics) and then when I try to look serious, I either look angry or miserable. 

Saturday, 7 November 2015

Highland Lolitas Tea Party Club Calendar Photoshoot

A while back, our tiny, nascent Highland Lolita community was lucky enough to get a slot in the upcoming Tea Party Club. After issues finding a photographer, Laura Johnson of ::TahDah Photography:: did our photoshoot, and the location was the tropical house of the Inverness Botanic Gardens. Sadly not all of our community could make it, so our gathering was really tiny indeed. As well as the group photographs, we each got our own individual photographs. 

Photograph by TahDah Photography

I know there are others in the area who have an interest in Lolita, and when I come across people who are interested, they are usually quite surprised to find that there is Highland community, so hopefully our increased visibility will be great for local Lolitas who might want to get into the fashion, but are a bit nervous because they don't think there is a community out there for them. We're a Highland group, not just an Inverness group, and Lolitas from Aviemore to the Islands are welcome to join our group; obviously the large geographic area may make it difficult for some Lolitas to attend all meets, but we have a Facebook page and are quite social. We're not one of those communities that is all about the photoshoots - we like to sit down and chat! 

Photograph by TahDah Photography

My outfit for the photoshoot was actually not the one I initially planned - I wanted to go wearing a hand-made skirt I'd done, but I spilled tea down it and had to do a last-minute outfit change! I wanted to do something quite elegant, and I ended up with this outfit, which is a bit 'La Belle Époque' inspired, especially in terms of the curled hair, and the cape/cloak/fringed thing and my being quite cinched into a proper corset under all the layers of dress. I am not sure how I could incorporate one of those big hats into Lolita, even if I owned one, so I went with pinning fabric flowers into the hair of my wig instead. I know I'm a bit older than a lot of Lolitas, who seem to be in their late teens or early twenties, and I feel that what I wear in Lolita ought to suit my age a bit more, so I am going for more A-line skirts, a more classic feel (even when I always wear black) or a very definitely Gothic feel, rather than a 'cute', 'adorable' or 'kawaii' feel. I don't have a 'cute' face any more; it's more rectangular and angular (useful for Ouji!), and my figure has got curvier as I've got older (even without the corset). I used to have a very boyish figure, more angles than curves, but now I've filled out a bit more. I actually quite like going for an elegant look. I think it fits in better with my overall aesthetic preferences. I feel like it is more a kuro Classic co-ord than a Gothic one. 

Photograph by TahDah Photograph. I like the visible vine pattern!

After the photoshoot, we all convened in the Botanic Garden's café, which has wonderfully whimsical mismatched vintage crockery with chintzy florals - perfect for the sweet Lolitas, more difficult for me as I looked for a plate to match my outfit! I think the best thing about our community is how we're all very social. We're a small community, so that probably helps avoid some of the issues that you get with really big gatherings and people trying to mingle between set tables or just that large gatherings can be daunting for a lot of people (myself included). 

Photograph by Keara
I had to get at least one photograph with my Restyle cathedral handbag. It is my favourite bag and my university satchel now! 

Outfit Run Down: 
♕ Head-dress: hand-made by me Fabric flowers: various including Claire's Accessories, H&M, etc. ♕ Necklace: Phoenix1900 on eBay ♕ Blouse: New York Laundry, with collar attached by me ♕ Cape/Shawl/Thing: Blue Inc. with shoulders/sleeves altered by me into ones with pouf-y gathers ♕ Velvet arm-warmers: Sinister Dress: Metamorphose ♕ Tights: Primark Shoes: ShoeZone ♕ Bag: Restyle 

Photograph by TahDah Photography

We had a great day out at the Botanic Gardens, and I really enjoyed getting really dressed up for something. I am "fancy" by mainstream standards all the time, but I felt like I was really doing something special that day. I am working on building up a wardrobe including more layers and textures, and more elegant, flowing designs, not just in Lolita, but being a student and currently unemployed - AND having spent quite a bit recently of my savings on renovating the house we bought - means that I don't have much to spend on wardrobe expansion. 

Photograph by TahDah Photography

As you may have noticed, I haven't been posting much in the way of current news on my blog. I have been decorating my study in my new house (I moved at the end of summer) and I've been really busy as a student, so I haven't had much time to work on this blog. Once I get the lighting sorted out, I will be able to use my newly built 'selfie corner' for outfit-of-the-day shots, and when I have more time to devote to writing, I will go back to writing about more in-depth Gothic things.

I really have to thank the photographer; she took on our photo-shoot at quite short notice and did a great job. Her Facebook page is ::here::, and her website ::here::. She is very professional, and does quite a variety of portraiture and family photographs. I thoroughly recommend her. 

Saturday, 31 October 2015

Highland Lolitas Velocity Café Meet

Back on July 19th, the Highland Lolita community had a meet-up at the Velocity Café which is a bicycle-themed cafe attached to a bicycle workshop. They also are active participents in the cyclist community here and run things like bicycle repair classes! I would have loved to turn up to the meet on my vintage-style bicycle, but it is currently in pieces because I was working on cleaning it up, replacing worn parts, and making it a bit special in the decoration department (plus, I would probably wear Ouji to go cycling rather than Lolita).

Left to right: Danielle, Keara, Emily , Amity Lee and I. Note my un-kawaii \m/
Photo kindly taken by Velocity waitress.

I forgot that the bus service to where I live is drastically reduced on a Sunday, so ended up having to call a taxi and was a bit late to the meet. I hate being late to meets! It was, however, my own silly fault for forgetting about the different bus timetable on a Sunday. We all had our snacks - some of us had tea and cake, but I had juice and some houmous with lovely crusty delicious bread - it tasted hand-made, and it was really, really good bread. We sat around chatting and eating for a while. One of the advantages about being such a small group is that we can have a whole-group social conversation when we meet up, rather than either ending up confined to only those we are sat with, or doing a lot of milling around. 

After our meet-up at the Velocity cafe, we walked down the hill and took outfit pictures in the alcove of the rear entrance of the Eastgate mall. It was outdoors with plants and such, a relatively plain wall, and most of all, secluded from the wind. This summer in Scotland has been mostly dreich through to plain rainy, and the weather has been most things other than sunny and still!

Full length photo by Danielle.

My outfit was another black and white outfit, but this time I was aiming for something distinctly more Gothic, rather than the more classic outfit I aimed for with the outfit I wore to the Botanic Gardens. I actually wore this outfit again yesterday, repreiving it for a shopping trip into Inverness with Raven and visit to the Blend Tea-House (my favourite place for tea in Inverness, and also does amazing bagels!). We had a lot of fun with our outfit photos, and also took a group circle-of-shoes photograph, and lots of selfies with each other. The wind was a bit blowy, and my wig rapidly got straggly; it isn't the best quality and has a tendency to tangle itself up rather rapidly. 

Keara in a yellow and pink Sweet-Lolita co-ordinate.

I took some photos of the other Lolitas. I really like Keara's amazing make-up and while I am not usually a fan of things pastel and cute, I really liked her entire outfit. Amity Lee's outfit was also really adorable, and her multicolour wigs are always so cool. 

 Amity Lee looking amazing in Sweet-Lolita

We took some selfies with each other, and generally used the moment as a photo opportunity. Lolita is a very elaborate fashion, and it takes a certain amount of effort to put together a nice outfit. Most of the other Lolitas are more experienced than I am, and better at putting together a nice co-ord (or co-ordinate; a co-ordianated outfit where everything matches together) than I am. Sweet is certainly the most popular style in our community, but Danielle wore a lovely old-school Country Lolita co-ord, and I am always the one in Gothic!

Danielle wearing Country-Lolita

As well as individual photographs, we took some selfies together! 

Danielle and I. Best vampiric look. Photo by Danielle

A few random strangers wanted their pictures taken with us, both when we were taking outfit-pictures in the alcove before the footbridge, and generally when we were in the mall! I do wonder about what happens to all these pictures - they must be out there on the internet somewhere! A lot of little girls especially think that we're just fabulous. I have notived that sweet Lolitas get asked if they're princesses a lot, and I get asked if I am a witch! (I am a good witch, of course! :P). What would probably either frighten or confuse the children that ask if I answered honestly with anything that wasn't something along the lines of "no, this isn't fancy dress, I just like wearing clothes like this" is that technically, yes, I am actually a witch too, but my appearance is completely unrelated. Neo-Paganism, Wicca and modern Witchcraft are such alien things to most people that I don't want to bring it up, lest my Gothic appearance confuse them, or frighten them by correlating with negative stereotypes. 

Amity Lee and I, photo by Amity

We decided to go into the mall itself because the weather looked inclement, and because we could get ice-cream! We went to Mackay's which is Scottish ice-cream chain. 

Afterwards we all split up and went our separate ways home. I took a bus with Amity Lee, and then tried walking from the bus-stop to my house... the path is very uneven, and I was wearing heels I can only just walk in on flat, even ground. I sadly fell and turned my ankle badly, but I was near a friend's house, so I managed to get them to give me a lift back to my apartment, and they helped me up to my door and into the house. I wasn't too scuffed up, but I laddered my tights. It was quite sore, though. 

Here I am before the wind ruined my wig. I'm less keen on the straight fringe than I used to be; I'm starting to think it doesn't really suit my face-shape. The lipstick was a colour I really liked, and stayed remarkably well despite eating and drinking while wearing it. 

Outfit Run-Down:
☠ Canotier: Alice & The Pirates ☠ Wig: bought on eBay, not sure of manufacturer ☠ Blouse: Bodyline ☠ Neck-bow: hand-made by me ☠ Gloves: secondhand on eBay ☠ Jacket: Putumayo ☠ Dress: Bodyline ☠ Tights: from the Hallowe'en shop last year ☠ Shoes: Demonia ☠ Bag: gifted, not sure of supplier or manufacturer.