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, and things in the broader realm of the Gothic and darkly Romantic. 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.

Goth 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, the expression of that in Goth rock. It 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 (Siouxsie, Sisters of Mercy, Bauhaus, 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. The Gothic should not be limited by what is already within it; inspiration comes from all places, the key is to look with open eyes, listen carefully and think with an open mind..

Thursday, 13 December 2012

Practical Goth Style

I Don't ALWAYS Wear Frills

What I look like a lot of the time. I have no idea why I pulled that face.
I don't normally have THAT particular expression on. 
Those who keep up with the Domesticated page on FaceBook will have seen that photograph before.  It's a selfie taken with the onboard camera on my laptop.

I'm not really sure where I am aiming with this post. It's mostly an alternative to the two main stylistic expressions of Goth I see amongst female (mostly) bloggers and club-goers and festival-goers.

I've been told that looking like this makes me look more masculine (Ok, I got some random delinquent shout "Oi! Dyke! You look like a fag" at me in the street. I'm not sure how that insult works; I think he was telling me I was non-feminine lesbian who looked like a gay man as if sexual orientation somehow externally visible and comes with a dress code... But what else should I expect from a rude and prejudiced delinquent? )but I don't like to think of it as "masculine" because I think the gendering of styles is a societal construct that is directly related to the time and place - a kimono is not a dress, a kilt is not a skirt, etc. - and I just see it as a non-frilled, more practical style with a shorter hair style and no makeup.

I think people should wear what they like regardless of societal gender attribution of the clothes in question, so where I call things feminine,  if you are a man, androgyne, or other and want to wear them, go ahead. Femininity in these cases refers to their current cultural attributes, not to anything intrinsic. 

Recently, I have noticed two main trends, if one is to call them that, in women's (gendered fashion, I know, but these styles are predominantly worn by people identifying as women or girls) Goth fashion:

One is a very "sexy" style consisting of very short tutu-style skirts, ripped fishnets, very high heels, corsets and not much else, combined with hair extensions and lots of makeup designed to emphasise female secondary sexual characteristics such as the curvature of the waist (corsets), the shape of the hips (corsets and the way high heels make a person stand), the bust (corsets and revealing tops) and  the cheekbones (makeup designed to give a sculpted effect). The emphasis is on a womanly body. 

The second is based on women's attire from the Victorian era and Lolita fashion, and is an abundance of frills and lace, again with corseting to emphasise the hourglass figure, and with full skirts that give a width to contrast further with the tight-laced waist, ornate makeup more focused on being art  and drawing attention to the eyes than on emphasising any specific facial characteristic, hair in ringlets or curls, and very precarious hats. Again a very "feminine" style according to those who gender fashion. 

These are fine, I like both of these styles - I've been known to wear both of these styles, especially the latter.  I like corsets, I like emphasising the bits of my "womanly body" that I like best. I am not criticising these styles, or those who wear them, all I am saying is that I see MOSTLY these styles, and not a lot else. Goth fashion was actually originally quite different - the Romantic Goth style certainly has a basis in the '80s (just look at some of Dave Vanian's and Patricia Morrison's outfits!), but did not really come to the fore until the '90s and the advent of mass-produced clothes designed specifically for the Goth market, as before then anything very ornate or fancy had to either come from high fashion aimed at the evening-wear market, come from theatrical costuming, or involve considerable amounts of DIY (even dyeing a wedding-dress black isn't that easy, especially with so many made from synthetic fabrics!). 

The skimpy outfits seem to be based in both Deathrock and Cybergoth (where Cybergoth is seen as a fusion of Goth, Industrial and Rave and not as a 'subset' of Goth) and again is a more recent thing, especially as corsets were far harder to come by and more expensive about 10 to 15 years ago than they are, and as the Cybergoth scene has influenced the Goth scene a tendency to borrow aspects from that style has increased, and also following the Deathrock Revival. 

An aside: Interestingly enough, a lot of what is referred to as 'Nu-Goth' has its roots in '80s Goth - backcombed deliberately 'unkempt' hair, oversized t-shirts with bold graphics and skinny jeans - all those things could equally describe various outfits worn by Siouxsie Sioux in the early '80s! I actually like how a lot of 'Nu-Goth' fashion looks equally good on either gender, is considerably more practical than some of Goths more ornate manifestations. (Clothes with tubing and clothes with lace are NOT practical). 

I don't always wander around in frills. A lot of the time wearing a really frilly outfit just is not practical - I'm either at work (where I wear work-specific outfits) or doing chores, or doing charity work, or doing something else where frills just are not suitable. If I am out and about doing something practical, the last thing I want to do is wear finery that could be possibly damaged, or which could cause me to get caught up and possibly injured. I don't feel that my practical outfits have to be any less 'Goth', or that I am any less Goth for wearing something that isn't ornate or flamboyant. I also don't always feel like following the anachronistic aesthetic - sometimes I prefer things with a touch of military inspiration from this century (rather than the ornate uniforms of centuries past - Hussards de la Mort, I am looking at you!) and sometimes I prefer things with a more modern, sleeker aesthetic - that's just my fluctuating tastes. I was "tomboyish" as a child, and retain a lot of fashion preferences from that period (pockets and zips, please!). 

No Frills And No Corsets Practical Style Ramblings:

⚔ Trousers are really quite practical, and yes, I am Captain Obvious. 
I love wearing trousers. It actually took me until I was in my late teens to show any sign of appreciation for skirts, before then I thought of them primarily as outdated and impractical rather than pretty.  You can run freely in most styles of trousers, you are unlikely to end up accidentally flashing your underwear if you attempt something vaguely gymnastic, they keep your legs warm and cosy without tights, and and there are trousers to suit and fit every body type. 

⚔ Combats are probably the MOST practical.
My favourite type of trousers are combats (cargo trousers in America - which is odd as I would have thought the more militaristic name would be preferred), preferably black. I used to have a pair of camouflage combat trousers as a kid, but since my teens I have preferred plain black. Since seeing some rather nice grey and black 'urban camo' pattern combat trousers, I've been interested in getting a pair of those, because the greys do break up the black. 

⚔ Strappy trousers are not the sole preserve of 'Mall Goths'
I actually like those trousers with the abundant pockets, extra wide legs and straps. The straps are often removable if they get in the way, the pockets are really useful, the wide legs fit and flatter a variety of body shapes, and they actually don't look quite as overtly militaristic as combat trousers. Sadly they have become associated with 'Mall Goths', which I think is perplexing as I personally associate them more with certain branches of Rivethead and Cybergoth style. Raven has a fabulous pair in black with red detailing that he wears as part of red and black Cybergoth-inspired outfits. Hearing them called "bondage pants" is odd to me (especially as a Brit- "pants" here are underwear! I do know that "pants" are trousers in America.) as they do not seem particularly fetish related to me (I would imagine "bondage pants" as something involving leather, chastity devices and lots of D and O rings to be useful for restraint and actual bondage... I may not have the cleanest imagination.) 

Aside: as a teenager I could not order that sort of trouser online because the "parental filters" that took the BDSM interpretation of the concept of "bondage pants" rather than the strapped trousers interpretation. 

⚔ Patent leather ankle boots and suchlike should be an obvious choice. 
Doc Marten's are the traditional brand; they are well-made, comfortable shoes. They have been worn by subcultural types for decades (sometimes literally) and are brilliant. There are a lot of cheaper imitations on the market now, as the style has become fashionable again. I prefer the original brand for quality and comfort.  

⚔ Army boots are not just for the army.
I have a pair of ex-British Army combat boots. They are warm (with an insole) and comfortable. I have a few military friends, all of whom have given me tips on how to achieve and maintain a high gloss finish (I'm looking at you, Sarge!). I have an acquaintance (who runs a shop selling antique militaria; I bought a sword off her) whose daughter was a Goth and who reliably informs me that the most hard-wearing and comfortable army boots to be worn every day, as tried and tested by her daughter, are those intended for the French Foreign Legion. I have not yet managed to try a pair to know for myself. 

Also, fake 'military boots' with the zips at the side have proven unreliable in my experience; I have had the zips damaged or break more than once, especially on cheaper boots. 

⚔ Hiking boots do come in black.
If you're going hiking, don't feel that the boots have to be brown. My hiking boots are black. I do a lot of stuff that involves walking off road, up mountains and hills and in forests, and hiking boots are specifically designed for hiking. 

⚔ Shirts are for everybody.
I wear a lot of plain black button up shirts  - fitted ones, yes, but ones that are better described as women's work shirts than as blouses. I see blouses as having more decorative details and being made of more decorative materials. In summer I tend to wear black button-up short-sleeved shirts over a thin tank-top. I can vary the amount of buttons undone in accordance with the temperature, or just take it off and tie it around my waist if it gets hot enough (and, of course, slater on the suncream!). 

⚔ Turtle-neck jumpers are not only for the late Steve Jobs. 
In winter I am very frequently seen having traded in my frills and skirts for black combat trousers, a black turtle neck, a scarf and my leather long coat. Having a turtleneck on under the scarf is such good insulation, especially in the case of the accidental dislodgement of one's scarf. I have at least 5 black turtle neck jumpers in a variety of thicknesses, and one fluffy grey and black stripy one (although that one is between a cowl neck and turtle-neck). 

⚔ Leather jackets are traditionally Goth AND awesome. 
Do I REALLY need to explain why leather jackets are awesome? No, I didn't think I did. 

That is all, pretty much, I can think to write about. I don't consider myself much of a style guru. I'm better at being practical than being stylish, which I why I actually thought to write this (rather than "how to do look devilishly handsome on combats" or something) and I don't think I am breaking any new ground or doing anything beyond pointing out a few oft-forgotten but pretty obvious things. 

Oh and the ⚔ symbol? I'm STILL on the waiting list for fencing (argh!) and have no proper reason to use the symbol other than I miss waving sword-type things about the place! 

Shout out: Sarge, I KNOW are reading this. I'm hoping calling you generic "Sarge" is anonymous enough (those who know you AND me will know who I mean, hopefully nobody else does). I hope everything is going well for you, and I look forwards to seeing you again, and I hope you got my letters and stuff. You've only got a week left until you're back home! I look forwards to you rocking out on guitar when you get back! Stay safe. 


  1. I think the term bondage pants arrived in relation to trousers with strappy bits because of the straps themselves. And a lot of those trousers, especially the baggy ones from brands like Tripp, had D-rings and such on them.

    1. Those straps and D-rings look more like they are for affixing things onto the trousers than for restraining the wearer - they've just never seemed particularly bondage-related. I don't think straps necessarily equates to bondage. I think it sounds more like marketing based on being "edgy" than any actual link to bondage or BDSM.

  2. I love this post! Thanks for writing it! I always love those rare moments where I can find a fashion post that does not put "skirt" on its Must Have List.

    1. I think I'm going to do a Romantic Goth outfit post featuring trousers, to show that even frilly outfits do not necessitate skirts.

  3. This reminded me that I used to have a really nice-feeling pair of black cargo pants in high school. I wonder if I still have them somewhere, they were the most comfortable things.
    As much as I like skirts and decorative clothing, most of the time practicality is going to win. I happen to be pretty fond of menswear anyways, so I have no problem buying things from stores aimed at men if need be. If you know where to look there is a lot of more streamlined, futuristic-looking clothing that is definitely a pretty goth. It's a shame it's not more popular though.
    Anyways, great post!

    1. A lot of my favourite styles are things that seem inspired by The Matrix or Equilibrium or UltraViolet or one of the other "darker and edgier", and I like Neo's costuming as much as Trinity's. I like that combination of corporate, oriental, military and Goth influences.

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