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..

Saturday, 14 December 2013

Rapture Night

Rapture is a Metal, Rock & Goth night held at the Karma Lounge in Inverness. 

Raven and I went out clubbing last night. We had a lot of fun and enjoyed the evening. I spent time ahead of going out on such things as heat-straightening my purple wig, painting my cut-out, leather-effect mask from Accessorise with glitter nail-polish at the edges, and hot-gluing glittery fabric flowers from Primark onto an alice-band after the original elastic snapped. 

Festive coffin! Photo by Raven

It didn't start on time, which is my only major complaint - the published start was 21:30, but we didn't get in until after 22:00, which meant a group of us ended up waiting and chatting in the cold. The weather wasn't that bad, especially for mid-December in the Highlands - it was actually unusually mild. No snow, temperatures above freezing, only a drizzle of rain. We were all mutually acquainted to some degree, which meant we could have a nice chat (the alternative scene up here is rather small, most of us know each other at least a little bit). 

The night itself was brilliant, with a lot of metal, moshing and head-banging to be done. I am certainly a Goth rather than a Metalhead, but even I ended up head-banging along with the others. I would say that Rapture leans more toward Metal and Rock than Alternative X, which is more varied. I made several requests and suggestions on the event's Facebook page in advance (I like to give a selection of suggestions rather than make a single request, that way it is more likely that a selected piece will match my tastes, the DJ's tastes, and the rest of the music for the night) of which at least two were played; 'Ribbons' by Sisters of Mercy and the Blutengel song 'Reich mir die Hand', which has all-German lyrics and therefore no awkward English phrasing, something that occurs in some of their English and bi-lingual songs.

One thing I feel I ought to note is that this is one of the rare times I have been out clubbing and not had the persistent attention of anyone trying to pressurise me with unwanted sexual advances - I don't know if security are doing a better job of keeping out known "creepers" or what, but I quite like having a night out without some person who will not leave me alone after being politely told that I am not interested trying to invade my personal space or worse still, touch me without my permission. 

I met up with lots of friends, some I hadn't seen in a while, and made a couple of new acquaintances (including a lassie who wasn't much into Metal, but really liked the Goth clothes of our little group). All in all, it was a good night, and I had a lot of fun (and trotted off for a chicken pakora later). I woke up rather late today (oops) and a bit sore from doing myself an injury by dancing too vigorously for my attire and lack of sobriety, but otherwise cheerful and satisfied. 

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Glasgow Travels Part 3

Sunday 1st December
I, having not gone out drinking the night before, was awake before the others, trying to pack my things very quietly. We had to go at lunchtime and I didn't want to wake the others. My outfit for the day was Gothic Lolita style, with a knee length velvet tiered skirt worn with two petticoats for pouf, a black satin blouse with ruffles at the neck, lace gloves, my black wig, rose patterned tights, black ruffled knee-socks and black velvet booties with ruffles. 

Our plan was to visit the Tempo Tea room on Queen Street for bubble tea, and then visit the Goth shops along the same street. Sadly, most things open really late on a Sunday on that road - at midday, giving us little time before departing for out coach. Further along road musing is the Gallery of Modern Art, which we only had time to walk past, not visit. 

Wellington, wearing a majestic road cone into battle!
Outside the Gallery of Modern Art in Glasgow, photo by Raven
I did however, get to visit the Osiris Goth shop, and have peek in the windows of the two Goth shops opposite. There are two floors of Gothic goodies, with my favourite things being downstairs, including a nice selection of shoes including some frilly platform ankle boots that I WILL return to buy, some rather nice jackets from Hearts & Roses London, and mini-mini-hats (they're less than two inches across) and assorted Romantic Goth stuff. I could have spent a fortune (mostly on shoes) had I fortune to spend, but being on a tight budget, I bought an over-sized Ankh necklace because it seemed remarkably like the one Death wore in Neil Gaiman's Sandman comics... Yes, a Goth cliche, but I don't care!

I saw a good few Gothic types about the city, and especially around the Goth shops.

After a springbok burger (from the same stand as the kangaroo one the day before) for brunch, we went back to Sarge's apartment, finished packing up our things, with little time to spare, and rushed all the way to the coach station on foot, passing an interesting group of pipes and drums, and several more buskers. Buskers are something Glasgow has a lot of, and which I saw plenty of throughout my visit. We got there a couple minutes after official boarding time, but the coach was so full that Raven and I still ended up waiting in a queue for ages. The coach journey back was nearly four hours long, and I did not have a book or my iPod with me, and sadly Raven and I were seated separately. The lady next to me was engrossed in her book (a murder mystery, I think, from the cover) and the chap next to me busy on his laptop, so I sat quietly playing games on my phone for part of the journey, and getting really bored for the rest. I was on an aisle seat, too, so enjoying the scenery meant craning my neck. Sitting still doing nothing is NOT my strong point - next time, I will remember to bring a book to read. 

I really enjoyed Glasgow - it seems to have a lot of good restaurants, plenty of shops catering to my non-mainstream tastes, a large Alternative community of many sorts, many museums and galleries, a lot of interesting history, and plenty of nice buildings. Most of all, though, it has my friends. I would like to thank the Scottish Lolita community on Facebook for suggesting many of the places to visit (like the Christmas Market!), even if I did not get to visit all of them (or ran out of time, like with the bubble tea and the Gallery of Modern Art). I am sure to visit Glasgow again, and see new things the next time I am there. 

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Glasgow Travels Part 2

Saturday 30th November
Saturday morning started early - Sarge woke up to missed calls from Cordelia and Raven to text messages asking if we'd been caught up in the helicopter crash. I somehow combined the two in my sleepy head and got worried that Cordelia had been hurt, having not yet established the time of the accident, or really woken up to clarity yet. Sarge went out to check on Cordelia, who it turns out had only been looking for directions to a particular bus stop, and was  safe well. While he was out, we looked up the news reports for the helicopter crash, and suddenly the shouting and sirens from the night before made sense.  The news made the mood subdued, but it was still St. Andrew's day, and nobody we knew personally was affected. 

Goth meets Visual Kei, Aristocrat style.
Thanks to Raven for the snap. 
Outfit rundown: Wig - offbrand ♛ satin ruffled shirt -  Zanzea ♛ waistcoat - modified from Oasis charity shop find ♛ lace gloves - Accessorise ♛ brocade frock-coat - Hearts & Roses London ♛ brocade trousers - Primark ♛ lace over-skirts - Gothic, Lolita & Punk ♛ platform buckle boots - Demonia 

I picked out my outfit for the day - one inspired by a mix of Goth and Visual Kei styles, especially some the styles worn by Versaille Philharmonic Quintet - one of my favourite Japanese bands. I had neither the amount of accessories and fanciness with me to pull off a look as elaborate as that of the band, nor the inclination. Raven wore all black with New Rock boots and a trench-coat.

I am a terrible photographer

After a breakfast of left-overs from the night before, we headed out, first to the Christmas Market in St. Enoch's Square, and then to the adjacent mall. I am not a fan of malls, but I needed to use the bathroom, so we went in. After I used the facilities, we had a wander around. The mall has some interesting modern art/sculptures on the wall, and fabulous Christmas decorations. It was also very busy, and I am not a huge fan of crowded places by any means (not to mention navigating my way through a crowd in platform boots while having spacial awareness and coordination difficulties is tricky!). One thing did make me pause in the mall - a shop called Pulp selling pop-culture merchandise (with an Adventure Time promotion) band t-shirts, horror-kitsch fashion and Gothic printed clothes. I saw a vinyl clutch with a skull clasp and skeleton finger print design that I did very nearly buy, and some Iron Fist zombie shoes that caught my with its eyeballs, but I had to be careful with my spending so alas, I left without buying either. 

Such Beautiful Intricacies

We went back to the Christmas Market, which smells gorgeous with various food stalls, and investigated it further. There was a stall of Nepalese things run by a Nepalese chap that some flutes from that area - I already have one, but I couldn't resist trying one out, and so I very nearly ended up with a second. We headed off to a stall sending non-alcoholic mulled hot drinks, and I went for a hot sarsaparilla with spices that was both warming and delicious - a little too warm when I tripped, steadied myself on Raven, causing him to spill his drink, and spilling mine across my hand. It wasn't enough to properly scald me, but it hurt, and holding my hand against the cold marble of a nearby stone wall helped a lot! 

Classical inspiration in an ornate facade.

Our plan for the day was to head off to the Necropolis, and so we set off on a hike in that direction. In retrospect, I should have brought more sensible boots, but I had anticipated travelling by bus and I hadn't anticipated how many cobbled and uneven paths Glasgow has - I am so used to the concrete flagstone pavements of Inverness! On our walk, I kept stopping to photograph interesting bits of architecture, probably more times than I ought to, as you can probably tell from all of these photographs! It's like there's a more elegant world floating above street level. 

Gorgeous columns - I wish shopping centres were still built this fancy!
Glasgow was considered the second city of the British Empire by many in the 19thC and when looking at its glorious and ornate architecture you can see plenty of architectural grandeur that was built to display considerable wealth at the same time as make the city beautiful. It is slightly unnerving to think that this was mostly built back in the days of colonialism, work-houses, brutal child labour and non-existant health-and-safety, so a lot of the buildings built then would have been funded off a lot of suffering, but this is just like every other major European city full of beautiful 18th and 19thC buildings, and old castles built on heavy taxation of peasants, etc. At least something beautiful that people will enjoy for centuries has come of it. I'd rather look at such architecture as a memorial to the people who toiled and suffered and the cleverness of the architects than as a memorial to the merchants and property developers who commissioned them. 

Bank Window

On the way to the Necropolis, we found some public art with a Pagan theme at the corner of Shuttle St. and George St. - stone benches around a well converted into what appears to be a fire-pit, with a circle carved into the paving around the well/fire with symbols for the four elements and rather poetic invocations of them, with a mini "avenue" of stones engraved with natural and spiritual poetry. It looked fairly recent, and the iconography seems genuinely Pagan, so it made me curious. This is something I would really like to know more about, so if any Glaswegian readers know more about it and care to enlighten me, do tell me. 

We headed up past a wonderful occult shop called ::23 Enigma:: (website doesn't appear to have been updated recently) selling items for Wiccan, Neo-Pagan, and other magical paths. I had to stop and shop! I really didn't want to spend much at all, so bought a black orb-shaped candle with moulded Celtic designs, a Green Man fridge-magnet and a greetings card to send to a friend. Their selection of Pagan and occult (and Gothic) jewellery is fabulous, they have a wide variety of books on topics from Wicca to ceremonial magic, wands, cauldrons, crystal balls (Raven bought a crystal ball) and the chap behind the counter was very polite and helpful. Sadly it, and it's sister shop - Ladywell Crystals (slightly more New Age) is under threat of closure as the building it is housed in is in dire need of repair, with a damp problem, but the company from which the building is leased have as yet refused to sort the problem. There is a petition ::here:: if this matters to you. 

Rows Of Graves - here they look jumbled!
View it on Google's satellite imaging and you'll see the neat rows.

After a trip to the occult shop, we headed up to the Necropolis, which is essentially a graveyard city, eternal resting place of many of the rich merchants from when Glasgow was at its Victorian peak as the second city of the Empire. As such, it has an amazing collection of monuments and mausoleums and is very meticulously laid out on the hill, which according to the chap from 23 Enigma has a long history before the Necropolis was built, and that it is home to far more ancient burials. This isn't something I had time to explore properly, but again, if anyone knows more about this, I would love to know. 

An Eerie Mausoleum... Can I Live There? 
It is incredibly beautiful, and these are only a fraction of the photographs I took, and a fraction of those I could have taken if I had stayed there longer. The Necropolis does have proper paths, but they are gravel paths, which was something I hadn't reckoned on them being, as they look tarmac on Google's satellite view! For my own future visits and those of others, I would recommend flat shoes, and NOT platforms. I can walk on a good variety of surfaces in those boots (and dance, and run... You'd be surprised!) but anything unstable like gravel is a definite no! Many thanks to Raven and Sarge for helping me down several of the sloped paths... 

I have no idea what this building is except pretty.
The Necropolis is on a hill, accessed by crossing the Bridge of Sighs (presumably so named after the sighing and weeping of the funeral processions that crossed it) and its elevation affords beautiful views across the city. I took a few photographs, including the one above. As you can probably tell from most of the photographs posted, it was a dull and cloudy day. Thankfully, it wasn't too cold out - a change from the Highlands! It wasn't completely overcast, and I did get one where the sun peeked through the clouds. 

Look! Warm colours! 
While I was busy photographing mausoleums and the scenery, Raven and Sarge got talking about more Jewish stories.

The next item on the itinerary was a trip to the ::Tchai Ovna House of Tea::. I changed into a frillier outfit with marginally more practical shoes and considerably more impractical skirts, and Raven into something less casual, and we set off towards the West End of glasgow via the subway from St. Enoch's. 

After a short walk through a district rich in things like vintage shops and proper grocers, we went down some back streets to 42 Otago Road, a small, old building in what looks like an old light-industrial set of buildings (it was dark by this point, hard to tell). The decor was very bohemian and eclectic with elements from locals quite fitting to the origins of the teas and shisha pipes. The Tchai Ovna House of Tea has currently got an exhibition of magical and fantasy art by Julia Helen Jeffery, which I am sad to be missing. Raven and Sarge played chess with each other while we drank a variety of delicious teas - I had a variety of Darjeeling tea, Raven drank a hot spiced apple fruit tea that he has become quite fond of and Sarge drank Faerie Blood - a mixture of fruits, flowers and spices with a rich blood-red colour. I had to try some (drinking it sounded like a particularly supernatural form of vampirism :P) and it was really quite nice! The plan was originally to meet up with Cordelia again, and another female friend, but that plan fell through. 

On the way back, only a few doors down, is a secondhand book-shop. Its atrium is stacked to the brim with books being sold at £1 each. I spotted a book on Pre-Raphaelites from the street (I'm not joking, I really did... I'm not sure if that makes me eagle-eyes or obsessed.) which was my bargain of the day. I didn't have time for a proper look 'round but it looked like the sort of book shop where many a bargain may be found. I think I spotted an old edition of a collection of Wordsworth's poems with a beautiful gilt hardback cove, which would have been nice to add to my collection of Romantic poetry books. 

We went back to Sarge's apartment and changed once more, this time for dinner. I wore the nicest (and above-knee) skirt I had packed, my sky-scraping red satin and black lace burlesque heels, patterned tights and a satin blouse with ruffles, with a straight black wig. Raven wore a suit with a jacket with a Mandarin collar and altogether neat black clothes. We all went to the Nippon Kitchen for dinner, and ate some rather delicious food. Unfortunately I had forgotten to bring my glasses and gave myself a headache reading the menu. I went for miso soup, battered prawns, a sea-food bento, and some nigiri, with black sesame ice-cream with poppy seeds and cream as a desert. Unfortunately there was a mix-up with the waitress and Sarge got served my nigiri! The restaurant were awfully nice about it and made replacement nigiri for me free of charge!

I, having developed a headache, retired to sleep after dinner. Sarge and Raven went out to at least one pub and came back in the early hours of the morning, with one friend they had met while out. I was asleep, but apparently a spillage of tea occurred and the letter I had written to send back to my friend got rather sticky and damp.

Check my next post for what happened on Sunday! 

Monday, 2 December 2013

Glasgow Travels Part 1

Friday 29th November
Raven and I headed South to Glasgow by coach. We arrived at the coach station at about 21:00. It was dark on our drive in, but I remember passing Stirling with the castle illuminated on its crag, and then approaching Glasgow, with the tops of tower-blocks ringed by bright coloured lights (I guess that's one way of making drab 1960's architecture more exciting) and then arriving at Buchanan St. bus station rather tired! We were met by our good friends Sarge and Cordelia, and walked from the bus station to Sarge's centrally located apartment. I kept getting distracted by the amazing architecture of the central shopping distract as we walked, and at one point was so distracted by buildings that I walked into a bollard!

Our original plan was to go to Sloan's pub, and then go out for drinks in various places, but we were both too tired and too hungry, and in the end settled for popping into the Tesco mini-shop at St. Enoch's to buy food. While in there I spotted a very lovely Goth lady wearing New Rocks [if you're reading this -"hello!" - I was the girl in Gothic Lolita]. We had dinner of pittas, houmous, olives and a something that was between paella and stir-fry. 

Sadly, that night there was a terrible and fatal air accident not very far from where we were staying. A helicopter malfunctioned and crashed into the Clutha bar which was at that point rather busy as it was hosting a gig by ska band Esperanza. I had no idea that it had happened at the time. I heard a bit of a commotion, but didn't think it any more than the sorts of commotions sadly frequent on late Friday evenings on many of our city streets. Quite a few people people died - the two police officers in the helicopter and their pilot, and at least six of those who were in the pub. My heart goes out to all of the families affected. May those whose lives were cut short in this tragic accident be remembered. 

On a more cheerful note, his weekend was part of Hannukah, and Sarge, being Jewish, held a little celebration, complete with a small home-made hannukiyah and a rather specific sort of jam-filled doughnuts (yum!) Apparently a Hannukah candelabra, while often referred to as a Menorah, is actually a Hannukiyah, as a Menorah has fewer branches. The story as told to me by Sarge, goes like this: "The candelabra or Menorah as they (mistakenly) call it in English represents the original Menorah of the temple of Salomon. The temple had been sacked by the Greeks during their occupation, but the rebel Macabis drove them back, and took the temple back. They were about to proceed to light the Menorah, which had seven branches, one for every day of the week, but all the oil pots had been smashed, except a small one, which should've lasted them a day, and yet it lasted 8 days, hence the 8 days of Hannukah  and the 9 branches on a Hannukiyah (as it should be called), so 8 branches for the 8 days, and one more for the candle you use to light the others with (essentially a taper)."

That was Friday - check out my next post for what I did on Saturday! Lots of photographs aheas

Friday, 29 November 2013

Black Friday Outfit

I'm not American and don't really understand what "Black Friday" is, except something to do with post-Thanksgiving sales. Apparently the shops are very busy and in some places, people go a bit mad, waiting outside shops before they open, and tussling over bargains. Beyond that, I know very little. Bane at Goth It Yourself is running a blogging event (and looking VERY stylish indeed) over ::here:: in a velvet and lace outfit. 

This is my all black outfit! I'm not wearing it today, as I'm at work and it's raining. It's my second ever full Lolita co-ordinate. I wore it into town to meet with my friend M. (A sweet Lolita) and as I was going to go shopping and wander around, I decided to go with an A-line skirt with not too much pouf as I have poor spacial awareness at the best of times and I was not being entirely used to wearing a petticoat yet, and thus its added bulk, so I didn't want to knock into things with it. I also feel that A-line skirts look more mature and suit me better as I am not as young as I used to be. I know the jacket sleeves are a bit short on me (one of the disadvantages of being tall through being long-limbed). I am contemplating sewing a wide lace trim to make them seem longer.

Outfit rundown: ⚜ Head-bow - Claire's (with gold skull painted black by me) ⚜ Hair flowers - H&M and Poundland ⚜ Wig - Stargazer, "Pulp" in plume ⚜ Lace blouse - K-Star  (at Camden Market) ⚜ Jacket - Criminal Damage (at St. Nick's market, Bristol) ⚜ Skirt - Miss Posh (secondhand on eBay) ⚜ Over-the-knee Socks - offbrand ⚜ Velvet ruffle shoes - D.E. Shoes, Inverness ⚜ Lace gloves - Accessorize

Thursday, 21 November 2013

More Budget Fashion Tips

Recently, The Dark Victorian posted ::this:: article entitled 'Living like a princess on a commoner's budget' that gave some really good advice about dressing Lolita on small budget. I think the advice is applicable for other alternative fashions, too, and the article certainly worth reading. This inspired me to expand on that and write about the same topic - fashion on a budget - but within a Goth context, and expanding a bit on Lolita shopping too.  

Goth Is NOT Your Priority.
Your priority should be eating healthily, paying the rent/mortgage/accommodation costs, making sure your utilities are paid for (especially if you live in a country where it gets very cold in winter or very hot in summer, or both and therefore one where you may need to pay more for things like winter heating or electric cooling in summer),  if you live in a country that doesn't have an equivalent of the NHS, then any healthcare costs are also a priority, and making sure any transport costs, household expenditures and other outgoings (credit cards, loan repayments, etc.) are all taken care of. Goth, in terms of art, music and fashion, is a luxury. That doesn't mean you can't be poor AND wear Goth, because I certainly don't have much of a disposable income, and I am still wearing nice things. Part of that is because  long before I was made redundant, and then got a part time job etc. I had a job with pretty much full time hours and at that point I could afford to put aside savings, and to buy a few nice things which I still have as I have cared for them, and another part of that is that I am really rather thrifty.

Shop Wisely
I agree with the Dark Victorian entirely when she advises against impulse buys. If you see something, and you really want it, don't buy it straight away. I always think on it, and weigh up whether the money would be better spent elsewhere. Often an impulse buy is something we purchase as a "treat" for ourselves, but the happiness doesn't always last - a nice hot beverage after work, a bottle of wine at the weekend, a scented candle, or whatnot is ultimately is a transient consumable. I give in to temptation and get these things once in a while, and most of us do (or variations there upon), but I try and avoid doing so too often because that money could be better invested in something permanent, or make the difference, as the Dark Victorian suggests, between getting something you really want and not. 

Don't buy cheap knock-off fashion. First of all, there is the questionable morality of buying something that is replicating someone's design work without any of the money going to the designer and which has a higher likelihood of being made in a factory with poor worker conditions, and secondly knock-offs are usually made with substandard materials, not enough in terms of seam allowances and hemming, and with substandard fastenings and fixings (bows hot-glued rather than sewn onto shoes and bags and buttons that easily break, for example) and therefore what you saved in buying cheaply is lost again in repairs and replacements. 

Check the quality of all that you buy BEFORE you buy it, and read reviews. This doesn't just apply to clothes. Often offers that are too good to be true are indeed exactly that, and will end up costing more in the long run. 

There's Nothing Wrong With Buying Secondhand
Buying things secondhand is often a more affordable option, especially as shops like Closet Child exist for Lolita fashion, and there are plenty of vintage shops and charity shops about. 

Look out for cool stuff on Freecycle, local recycling groups, free-to-collect adverts etc. Also look out for swap groups. I gave away a selection of ethnic drums at my old local recycling group because they were too heavy to ship for something like eBay and I needed the space more than the money (at the time... Now I would probably sell them in the local paper!).

In terms of Romantic Goth, Aristocrat and Lolita fashion, the cheapest option is to scour charity shops for bargains - there's a local charity shop to me selling everything at £1.99, and I've found some very detailed and beautiful garments there. You are unlikely to find made-for-Goth or made-for-Lolita clothes in them (slightly more likely to find Goth, almost never going to find Lolita) but plenty of clothes from mainstream stores that are 'Goth-able' or 'Loli-able'. A large section of my wardrobe comes from charity shops. My main advice is to try things on in-store, and to try and get a good view of the fabric in natural daylight because many charity shops have poor lighting, or overly bright lighting, and you can't always detect true colour or fading without standing by a window. Check a garment carefully for stains, tears, damage and for quality of manufacture and wear  - a lot of people see charity shops as a way to dump unwanted clothes, and while charity shops do check clothes before putting them on the racks, some are more careful than others. Another important point is to check the same shops regularly as stock often changes rapidly, and visit a good variety of charity shops. Perseverance is often rewarded with finding bargains. 

The second cheapest option is second-hand on eBay. I tend to avoid new clothes on eBay unless they are from a shop that I know and trust as a lot of new clothes are cheaply made stuff from China and other countries where labour laws are laxer than here and where knock-offs are abundant, and I'd rather not put money towards sweatshops and knock-offs. There is a broad selection of secondhand Goth clothes and other unusual fashions. The important things with eBay are to look at the seller's reviews and rating, and to make sure you get as much information about what you are buying as you can. It doesn't hurt to ask questions, especially about colour (as cameras and monitors can distort that quite easily) and about sizing and fit. Some sellers only give very brief descriptions, others give quite detailed ones, but read all of it carefully. Do not forget to add the shipping fee to the cost - a £3 top with £4 shipping is a £7 top, etc. 

With Lolita, online second-hand shops like Closet Child are really useful, but be wary of shipping fees, especially if you are buying heavier items (brocades, velvets, leather, shoes, bags, etc.). There is also the EGL Community Sales, where Lolitas sell between each other. The EGL Comm Sales can be a bit more expensive than places like Closet Child, as sellers are keen to get the best price they can, often to finance a new brand dress or suchlike. Some items are more expensive than others of similar quality based on print popularity and rareity, item desirability, brand etc. - this is easier to navigate as you get more familiar with Lolita fashion (for example, you will virtually never get cheap Alice Auaa second-hand, not even at Closet Child). 

If You Buy New, Buy Carefully
New clothes in Goth seem to often be the same few brands sold through various outlets for the most part - it's worthwhile shopping around for the best deal as they don't all offer the same price, same shipping fees, etc. There are boutique shops, for example Gloomth And The Cult of Melancholy (Canada), Gallery Serpentine (Australia), and Retroscope Fashions (America) where clothes are designed in-house and as they are often bespoke and small-run items, a lot more expensive. These are the kinds of thing worth saving up for, because once bought they are both gorgeous and lasting if treated well.  For those on a smaller budget, there are often Goth-friendly designs in mainstream stores, especially as Goth has become hipster-trendy recently, and a lot of these mainstream stores are pretty cheap compared to Goth-specific brands. That said, I've seen lots of beautiful dresses for the Christmas season in shop windows of high-street stores selling for well over £100 that are certainly Goth-friendly, but also not really budget shopping! 

New clothes in Lolita come from three main sources - Entry-level shops such as Bodyline and Fan + Friend (both of which have a less than perfect history, but have improved in recent years with more original designs and better quality items. For more in-depth discussions of both shops, do a bit of research in the Lolita community.), indie designers like Krad Lanrete (who have become popular with prints like Mozarabic Chant, and the famous jellyfish of Lost at Sea, and are a Chinese brand on Taobao) and Rouge Aerie (an Australian brand who tend to do colourful prints with a slightly Gothic theme such as sea-monsters, and a skeletal take on the popular carousel horses idea), and then the main brands such as Angelic Pretty, Innocent World, Victorian Maiden and Moi-Même-Moitié which are based in Japan and quite expensive. Personally, I would rather buy secondhand rather than from Bodyline or Fan + Friend, because the quality of brand items, including many indie brands, is much higher, and these can be found quite reasonably secondhand if searched for, sometimes for prices similar to new Bodyline clothes. 

Some new Lolitas get worried about buying "off brand" - things that aren't from J-Fashion brands, but this really isn't a problem and if it looks good, it won't get you a negative reaction from the community. All my bell skirts with pouf (and a petticoat or three beneath them) were never intend for the Lolita market, and nobody has ever tutted me for it.  

Make Things and Mend Things
Learn to sew your own clothes - this costs in time, but it does mean you can have nice clothes for the cost of materials and a pattern, or if you learn to draft your own patterns, then just the cost of the materials, and even materials can be thrifted - especially from things like bedding and larger size dresses handed into charity shops, even from disassembled curtains! Also, the sewing skills for making your own clothes are applicable as the skills for mending existing clothes, meaning that you can repair things instead of replace them, and often repairing is the cheaper option. I wrote an article back in July about the benefits of gaining sewing skills, which is ::here::, that I would recommend reading. Also, learn how to transform broken or worn out items into something new and different, so they can have a second lease of life, for example turning old knee-socks into arm warmers by cutting the feet off when the feet wear out, or turning old jeans into a denim bag. Scavenging materials and finding from old clothes is not just thrifty, it is recycling. 

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Transgender Day of Remembrance

Today was Transgender Day of Remembrance, a day on which to remember all of those murdered or driven to suicide for being transgender. It saddens me greatly to live in a world where people will kill each other over something that is really a personal thing. 

One of my friends is a transgender woman, who I will refer to here as only Helena, for her own privacy, and she wrote this on FaceBook, and with her permission I post it here: 

Today is transgender Day of Remembrance, where we take a moment to memorialize the trans people who lost their lives as a result of transphobia, be it because of murder, or because of suicide at the result of bullying or harassment.

Statistics tell us that a person identifying as trans* is murdered once every three days. This does not include suicide or any other cause of death. The trans community is one of the most discriminated-against groups of people, much more than cis-gender LGB people are. Simply coming out with a desire to maybe transition can put a person in danger of attack, loss of friends, getting fired, getting kicked out of the home (often by their own parents), and many other things that most people will never have to worry about.   

What I ask of you is to consider all of the above, and reflect on both the long way we have come in terms of awareness and acceptance, but also the very long way we still have to go. And if you know someone whose gender identity doesn't match what is commonly accepted, be supportive. Treat them as you would treat another person. Stick up for them if they are bullied. Offer a safe space for them to retreat to if they need it. You don't have to understand every minute aspect of our struggle to understand that most of us cannot fight it without your support.

Thank you.

When it comes to those I know who have transitioned, to me, it is as if they had any other form of body modification or plastic surgery, and the only thing that is different to me is what vocabulary I use in terms of new names and pronouns/gender descriptions if I knew them by other terms previously. I guess I am someone who sees gender as very much a social construct, probably because I have never understood or fit into that construct, and therefore gender is not something very relevant to how I see others or myself, so it doesn't really matter much to me whether someone is cisgendered, genderqueer or transgendered. I understand that it is important to how other people see themselves, but that's just not an important thing to how I see them (or myself, which I have written about ::here::). 

People are people, to be judged on how they act, what they say and do, NOT on what their genitals are or what their gender is. That seems like such a basic idea - don't judge - yet it is one that seems to only just be gathering momentum in the last few decades, even after all the hard work of late 18thC and 19thC social activists and those more recently.

Sadly, not everybody comes without prejudice, hence the horrible mess in the world that makes up sexism, homophobia and transphobia - all linked in how they based in the social acceptance of behaviour and characteristics according to archaic gender roles.  Think of how much homophobia is about gay men being effeminate, or lesbian women being masculine, or much of sexism being about how women ought to be meek and caring, and men aggressive and ambitious (in very broad terms). To me, it seems boggling that people develop such intolerance and hatred, and such a lack of empathy as to hate someone to the point of being actively bullying towards them, let alone murdering them. It seems like such a disconnect from basic humanity. Even if you, personally, do not understand, are squeamish about, or dislike what someone else has chosen to do, that does not give you the right to be nasty, aggressive or rude to them. 

Treat each other with dignity and respect, allow people their own choices. If you disagree with them, disagree politely, if you have questions, ask them with sensitivity (and sometimes, if you can't figure out how to ask politely just ask a search engine - as an algorithm, it won't be offended). If someone you know is suffering, and on this day, especially those who are suffering because their gender identity or expression does not fit into the narrow bounds set down from an older world, offer them compassion and kindness. 

Saturday, 9 November 2013

Being Fancy Everyday

Here's an outfit I wore out of the house a couple months ago - one of my more "put together" ones, for lunch in town with friends, but not considerably more elaborate than many I wear. 

I am a pile of frills and lace, I admit it!
I'm wearing a pouf of a skirt, all layers of in-built and extra petticoats with flock and gauzy layers, a fancy shirt with oodles of ruffles at my neck, a waistcoat clasped with chains and ornate buttons (my own modification), lace gloves, fabric flowers in my hair, silver Gothic jewellery, iridescent sunglasses, and Gothic eye-makeup. Not visible are the plum tights I was wearing to match my hair flowers, and the long black "granny boots" too. Quite fancy, quite ornate by modern standards, but other than the "shiny" and fancy fabrics, not much fancier than many Gothic Lolitas and Elegant Gothic Aristocrat fashion followers wear regularly. I'm rooted in European expressions of the Gothic, but I am a big fan of darker Japanese fashions, so it should be no surprise that my outfits are heavily inspired by followers of those styles too. 

In Lolita fashion, there are plenty of 'Lifestyle Lolitas' - those who wear the fashion everyday, and tie the aesthetic into other aspects of their life, the same as there are plenty of members of the Goth subculture for whom the aesthetic and the mindset colour their entire lives, but with Goth, I see more who wear the more casual embodiments of Goth as everyday wear, and reserve the fancy for special occasions, whereas with Lolita it is more a sliding scale of "relatively fancy" for everyday, to "really, really fancy!" for special occasions. There are, of course, Lolitas who only wear Lolita to conventions and meets, those who wear it sometimes and wear other fashions other times, etc. 

Goth being less fancy does make sense - the original Goth fashions grew out of punk, and were full of stuff like ripped tights, skinny jeans, pointy boots etc. and not of the fancy Romantic fashions that grew out of it later, and there is nothing "un-Goth" about wearing, say New Rocks, skinny jeans, a Sisters of Mercy t-shirt, spiked collar and trench-coat instead of say, a bustle skirt, pointy boots, fancy black tights, corset and ruffle shirt with lace gloves. However, is wearing Romantic Goth fanciness too much for anything other than events? 

To be honest, I think it depends a lot on what you are wearing, especially fabrics - if what you are wearing is made of the very luxurious fabrics and styles that are mostly reserved for 'evening' and 'occasion' wear in any century or locale, then you're probably too fancy for just shopping in the supermarket (after all, such things are expensive and delicate, and everyday life will probably damage them), which doesn't mean you can't wear them shopping if you really want to, only that it's probably not practical or sensible and would be a lot like wearing a ball gown to the supermarket, just a black one from several hundred years ago. 
Totally hipster pose... argh!

Hang on! In these pictures I've got synthetic satins for my blouse and skirt, and there's flock on the skirt! Yes, and this outfit is probably good party wear for a more casual party (and I'll be wearing it to one tonight!) or, when it was originally worn, for a Saturday lunch with friends. I made the outfit more day wear than fancy party with a matte fabric modified business waistcoat, matte purple tights, and 'day' Goth makeup rather than fancier evening makeup. If I wore the exact same cut garments, but made entirely of cottons and other matte fabric, then it would look a lot more like anachronistic day wear. I could have easily made it into more 'special' party wear by swapping the waistcoat for a fancy brocade bolero jacket or an ornate shrug, and the tights for patterned lace tights rather than block colour tights, and the granny boots for fancier shoes. 

This is where I think Lolita's and Aristocrat's influence comes in for fancy everyday wear - a lot of the cuts are full of ruffles, full skirts, and rather fancy designs, but they're usually made of lined heavy cottons, and occasionally velvets, rather than satins, brocades, silks and flocks. The've often got prints on them too, which always seems more casual than woven-in designs, and therefore offer a good balance between having a pattern and not being too fancy for day wear. They have plenty of details such as bows and lace, but bows are often of the same fabric as the dress, and lace the same colour, or a complimenting one. Altogether, and despite being a lot more colourful than a lot of Goth fashion, Lolita and Aristocrat manage to be both fancy and able to be worn everyday.  These aspects can easily be incorporated into outfits that are Goth rather than Lolita, and allow those who want to be fancy out and about, to be fancy without looking like you're going to a party or a masquerade ball. 

My tips: 
♣ Wear cottons, wool, lace and matte fabrics for day wear, and brocades, jacquards, flock, devoré and velvets as occasion wear. 

♣ Prints can add fanciness without stepping up the 'occasion' level, and come in everything from kitsch and rockabilly designs of neon zombies to ornate wrought iron gates. 

♣ Accessory choice can make an outfit more or less special-looking.

♣ One or two 'statement' pieces can be made of fancier fabric and be more detailed without necessarily making the entire outfit more of one for a special occasion.

♣ Sometimes less is better - don't heap on the accessories - one bracelet or cuff can be enough, one necklace, one hair accessory/hat, etc. Wearing too much can look cluttered. 

Friday, 8 November 2013

Depression & Things Left By The Wayside

I have suffered from many bouts of quite severe depression over the course of my life. Things are going pretty well right now (well, better than they have been), on that front, but they haven't always been that way, and as some may have inferred from my lack of posting this year, it hasn't always been so good recently. One of the common symptoms of depression is a cessation of doing what you once enjoyed, and over the years, my hobbies have diminished, and each time as I emerge from depression, while I tend to take up a few new hobbies once in a while, so many of the things I lost in the bout of depression stay gone. 

I've just been rummaging through old notebooks and diaries, of which I have quite a few - even before blogging I've often documented myself, not for the gaze of any readership, but as a way of preserving the memory events when my own memory is unfortunately rather fallible, and has been since childhood. I have lost so many memories of my own life, faded away too soon, so now I try and document it digitally and in more old-fashioned ways.  I've re-read accounts of photography expeditions to beautiful ruins, music practice logs detailing a 4hr to 7hr a day practice schedule, the book in which I would carefully staple the poetry I wrote on receipt scraps while working in a supermarket, the daily diaries I wrote, etc. A lot of that is currently missing from my life, and I often complain of being bored and miserable - no wonder! I no longer do a lot of what I enjoyed. 

I will try and take more photographs - and write notes once more in the lined hardback book which contains snippets of technical knowledge I have since forgotten. I will try and keep a diary each evening, as every day has some element of interest to it, however minor. I will try and practice music for at least an hour a day, and write it down in my practice logs (once carefully written in different coloured inks for each instrument I learnt, with a breakdown of what I did during practice and what needed work, and what had improved, with notes of duration of practice and a daily tally), I will try and write poetry again, however awful, and revisit old poems with a view to improving them, etc. 

There are other things that have left my life - I don't do as much archery as I did (and never photographed the quiver I made!), I don't paint or draw half as much as I did, or write as much music. I will also try to live more of a life that is worthy of being written down in ink into my (leather-bound, black, embossed, classic) diary and illustrated in quaint cartoons and hasty sketches,  rather than one that is repetitive and introspective and lived so inwardly. I need to do more, have a few more adventures, and find ways around being bound by transport and funds and lead more of the sort of life that reflected who I was and the creativity that currently remains latent, dormant, and needs waking up. 

Forcing myself to do things rather than remain in my cocoon is something I have to do. It feels easier and safer to dither away on the internet, or sit quietly in the corner and read, or even watch television, but it doesn't help - all it does is add to the guilt that I am wasting my life on not being productive. If I do something, even something as small as writing this, at least I feel that I have been at least a little bit productive, and that makes me at least a little bit happier, and the happier I am, the more enthusiasm I have to do more stuff! 

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Paganism, Fantasy and Life

Originally posted to LiveJournal on March 16, 2008, 14:10 - this one is a touch ranty! 

I have slowly distanced myself from modern paganism, as I see to much focus being placed on the mythology, fantasy and ‘dressing up’ aspect, too much focus on the legends, regarding them as reality rather than symbolism, and too many people turning up to rituals in elaborate costume, fairy wings, pointy ears and all. What is with turning up to rituals in fantasy gowns? I have nothing against self expression and more exotic clothes - I've my fair share of flowing gowns and anachronistic clothes, and I love expressing myself through my dress sense (I have even taken part in a stereotypically witchy photoshoot that I instigated)- but I think there is a time and a place, and there is a line between expressing oneself through one's dress sense, and walking around in fantasy-fulfillment, and I think some of it IS fantasy fulfilment. 

Paganism is path that means you HAVE to face reality, because at least in my path, the Universe is the divine, and to run from reality is to run from the divine. If one is running around as if one is Lord and Lady Sparklemoonrainbow of Avalon, in diaphanous gowns and knightly attire, that is all well and good if you're at the Renaissance Faire, or if it's a bit of role-playing, something fun to do once in a while, but it's no good if you are trying to live a fairy-tale in the real world twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, three-hundred and sixty-five days a year. There is enough wonderment in the natural world without needing to add to it.

There is a difference between injecting some colour and spice into one's life, and trying to improve one's actuality, and running from one's life into a fantasy. I've fled into escapism, and I can say from experience it's a really unhealthy road to run down, because it is burying one's head, like the ostrich* supposedly does, in the sand when the lions are getting nearer, and as the lions get closer, the distance between you and reality has to get larger for them to seem further away.

Paganism is a theology, a disorganised religion. It is one path of spiritual development and it is no more a fairy-tale than an any of the organised religions, perhaps less for those who do not believe in a specific mythos or anthropomorphic deities (Mind you, to an atheist, it is all a fantasy). Many Pagans bitch about organised religions, but organised religions actually take themselves seriously - even if some members are a bit out-there, but every group has it's percentage of the less-than-grounded-in-reality- and most use their religion as a framework to try to understand reality rather than escape it. 

Fantasy and science-fiction are a big part of my "geeky" life. I have nothing against fantasy, it serves as a lens with which to talk that which is beyond everyday life, as well as functions as escapism from reality, but it is NOT reality, and I see too much of it in Paganism. I don't even think escapism is always bad, as sometimes it is good, but in moderation, but not if it takes over one's life, and religion should not be a form of escapism, but for too many it is

If Paganism is meant to be a path of spirituality, then surely it should be concerned with the real, and not be an escapist hobby. Paganism may in many aspects deal with concepts like magic and spirits, and things not mundane (which I tend to approach half with skepticism and half with belief), but it is meant to about the real world, the one we live in, and should be focused on that, not on some escapist ideal world of maidens and bards and such. Pagans live everyday lives, with everyday jobs, and their faith should be a part of that, not an escape from it. Everyday reality can often be very bleak, but it is better to improve it with faith than to escape to faith, because then that faith is not faith at all, but fantasy.

So much Pagan merchandise is decorated with dragons, fae, unicorns, elves, griffins, and other mythological beings, and very many Pagans really believe in these entities, and it seems as if nothing is being done to promote an understanding of what these creatures are –metaphors, symbols, and old superstitions, meaningful, but not necessarily literally real. I don’t have any dragons or fairies on my altar. I don’t think they’re real, and I don’t see having lots of unreal things in a practice about the very real world around us as a help. I have had daffodils, daisies, roses, leaves, plenty of plants on my altar, but they are real, they are of this world, and are parts of nature. I think too much fantasy can get in the way of really connecting, really being part of the world -because it becomes a way of escaping the world.

We still live in the 21st century, and have the knowledge that brings us. I think it very foolish for people to reject modern science in favour of old superstitions. Things are not necessarily right just because they are old. Humanity is now at a standpoint where it can view old myths, legends, folklore and superstition, and instead of taking it all literally, understand what it means. I do not think we should reject old things because they are old either –things are also not necessarily wrong because they are old- but look at them carefully. There is great power in tradition, in old things. Things gain momentum with time, and meaning, and something of a ‘spirit of time’ like a ‘spirit of place’, and that is not something to be ignored, but that is not to say that to connect with it one has to take everything literally. Mythology is powerful not because of what it says, but what it means  beyond the centaurs and Old Gods and heroes.

I think there needs to be a more general re-assessment of fantasy in Paganism, and the role of fantasy. I accepts that a lot of the modern world is not pleasant, but life has had its dark side in every era, and we cannot improve the world by running from it.

*I know ostriches don't really bury their heads in the sand.

November's Bloggery

In the last few months, I have not been blogging much on account of having other things going in my private life that  have been conflicting with keeping up a good blogging schedule. At some point I do intend to retro-actively post about various events I've been to and thoughts I've had, but right now I don't have time for that. For the next few posts, I will be reviving some old posts from my defunct LiveJournal account - most of which were set to "friends only" as I was very reticent about writing openly about my Paganism, something I feel more open about here. As such I will be re-posting them here (with a few tweaks - sometimes my views on things change over time). 

Monday, 21 October 2013

Goth Hallowe'en Costumes

We are a subculture, not a costume.
It is not acceptable to dress up as a terrorist Muslim, it is not acceptable to dress up as a 'Squaw' (that word, by the way, is an insult to Native North American women) and it is not acceptable to dress up as a Chinese person with taped eyes and a coolie hat because these are all reducing groups of people to flat and sexualised or negative stereotypes and perpetuating those stereotypes. 

It's not acceptable to dress up in a skimpy 'Goth' costume with a bad wig, white face-paint and cheap plastic 'collar'. 

'Goth' costumes often present a sexualised (sexy-fied) stereotype of Goth, and one that errs on the 'Goths are people who think they are vampires' and 'Goths are slutty and into kinky sex' stereotypes a bit too much for comfort. There are also those who, like those who wear the racial stereotype costumes, wear them to mock those stereotypes, people who wear Goth costumes in a way that deliberately mock what they think Goths are. THAT really annoys me. 

I live the Goth subculture 24 hours a day; even my dreams run to the same aesthetic as everything else I do, even my work clothes err on the Gothic. I have Joy Division and Dead Can Dance on my headphones when I sit on the bus. I have spider-web loo-roll and black plates. To say I am passionate about my subculture is a bit of an understatement, and to know people use Hallowe'en as an excuse to mock us is... well irritating to say the least. Especially when Hallowe'en is often quite dear to Goths. 

Now, wearing a Goth outfit at Halloween isn't inherently inappropriate. I've actually helped a friend put together a proper Goth outfit at Halloween, but it consisted of clothes that would actually be considered Goth (from her wardrobe and mine) rather than a tacky and cheaply-made, store-bought costume, and she wore Goth makeup rather than white and black face-paint. Her intention was not to mock Goths, her outfit was based on what is authentically Goth in consultation with a Goth, and she wore her outfit as an opportunity to explore a different way of looking for a night. Yes, the idea that it can still be considered a 'costume' could still be grating to some, as to her it was something different to wear for a night and not a form of expressing her permanent inner self and subcultural affiliation, but I don't think that this was not done in any  malevolence and what she wore was actually Goth and not a tawdry parody of Goth.

I know we are not actually 'scary', but a lot of Halloween costumes these days are not based around spooks and ghouls - yes vampires, werewolves, witches and zombies are always popular, but I see people dressed up as nurses, ladybugs, bananas, super-heroes, etc. A costume that is trying portray Goths as a scary entity alongside the zombies, vampires, serial killers and monsters is not appropriate and perpetuates negative stereotypes, whereas a costume that portrays Goth as just a different look is not a problem. Goths often find inspiration in the stories of ghosts, vampires, werewolves and other supernatural horrors, but it does not mean we believe ourselves to be like them, or that we ourselves are dangerous. Our aesthetic often draws from the artwork and cinema surrounding such mythology, and our tendency to seek beauty in dark places does mean many of us particularly enjoy Hallowe'en as a festival of spooks, death, monsters, etc. 

Some of us may celebrate Samhain on the same day, a Pagan holy day, not because it is the Goth thing to do, but because there is significant overlap between the Pagan and Goth communities. 

Note for non-Goths: It is not funny, cute, or amusing to ask, and even ruder to shout, "It's not Hallowe'en yet!" at a Goth, or  "Hallowe'en was last week/month" at them. We know,  this is who we are every day, and you are mocking us. Even the politest Goths get tetchy when they field this supposed 'joke' endlessly.You look like a rude and unimaginative idiot, and not even the slightest bit funny when you crack these 'jokes'. 

I am aware that a lot of this is literally cut and paste from an earlier post I made on subcultural appropriation back in March, but I felt that this point would need repeating nearer Halloween itself, when those searching 'Goth Halloween Costume' may come across it. I did elaborate on it, too, so for those who read the previous version of this post, there are new bits to stop you getting too bored!