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..

Monday, 31 March 2014

Is Gothic Lolita a type of Goth?

This is a question I saw posted in the Lolita Fashion Mentoring group on FaceBook.  Here's my take on it as a Goth. 

Short answer: no.  Long answer: sort of...
Gothic Lolita is one of the older subsets of Lolita and is a fashion that applies the Gothic aesthetic to the Lolita template. 

As a fashion, it is certainly Gothic, as the name states, and takes its inspiration from a lot of the same sources as the subset of Goth fashion that is Romantic Goth. Inspiration has gone both ways between Gothic Lolita and Romantic Goth, especially in recent years, and aesthetically they are very closely linked. Both include ruffles, lace, a lot of black and a taste for anachronism, a tendency towards more modest fashion, full skirts, and details from traditional Gothic imagery. 

An aside: I would say that Romantic Goth has suffered in the past from a lot of poor-quality clothes involving cheap, scratchy lace, bad quality velvet and satin, and designs that err towards Hallowe'en vampire and witch costumes, but it seems that in the last 5 years or so, the quality has improved, and the standard has raised, probably partly through social media making it easier for models, photographers and designers to showcase what truly stunning Romantic Goth fashion can look like, thus inspiring the rest of us. Quality is something that is stressed in all forms of Lolita, and I am glad to see this attitude being taken up amongst Goths too. 

In talking about Gothic Lolita's connection to Goth, an easy place to look at is the fashion designer at Gothic Lolita brand Moi-même-Moitié and musician, having played with Malice Mizer and Moi-dix-Moits  Mana. Malice Mizer, original band of Mana, started off with a sound that included a distinct edge of the '80s Goth sound. The style of his rather influential brand - which he named Elegant Gothic Lolita and Elegant Gothic Aristocrat - has certainly taken a lot from the Goth aesthetic. A lot of the early images from the brand, modelled by a cross-dressing Mana, include having teased hair, very large platform shoes, ghostly makeup and dramatic eye-liner, elements which are very distinctly Goth, and have since fallen out of the Gothic Lolita aesthetic, but are still common in the Goth aesthetic.  

Gothic Lolita, however, is much broader than the brand Moi-même-Moitié, as there have been Gothic pieces brought out by plenty of other brands, and the now-infamous black and white colour scheme having had an enduring popularity. Lolita also pre-exists Gothic Lolita, and its earlier incarnations had very little of anything Gothic about them at all. 

Gothic Lolita is also primarily a fashion choice and Lolita a fashion-based subculture, and in that diverges significantly from the Goth subculture, as the Goth subculture is more than just its fashion aspect and places a huge importance on its musical roots and wider creative and cultural aspects.   Gothic Lolita is certainly not tied to the same bands and music as Goth, is not even as closely tied, at least in its incarnations outside of Japan, to Mana and Visual Kei music. 

Aesthetically, the two fashions are related and compatible, and inter-compatible if you want to mix things up (even though at this point it won't be considered Lolita as Lolita means adhering to the template of 'the rules') but they are not the same subculture. They are not mutually exclusive subcultures. It is utterly possible to dress in Gothic Lolita, go to Lolita meet-ups and tea-parties and be active in that subculture and also be active as a Goth; in fact, that's what I'm trying to do, although I don't intend to dress exclusively in Lolita. 

In short, Goth is a subculture that is quite broadly a subculture with a lot more to it than just fashion, and Lolita is a subculture that is primarily about fashion. Gothic Lolita is applying the aesthetic of Goth to the fashion template of Lolita, and as such bridges the gap to a degree. Dressing in Gothic Lolita does not inherently make one Goth, as one would need to participate in the broader Goth subculture, and being Goth does not exclude one from dressing in Gothic Lolita. 

Sunday, 16 March 2014

Nebula Nails

So, I am rather nerdy and I'm geeky too, if we call those who are into more mainstream fandoms, gaming, and gadgetry etc. geeks, and those who are more academically interested nerdy, and always have been. I was one of those children who couldn't get enough of things about astronauts, space, and what was high above us, leading to dual interests in both science fiction and science fact. 
Photographed with flash; the colours are more obvious here.
After seeing a few too many pictures of nebulae full of brilliant colours and glimmering stars (and I am aware that these are often visible spectrum representations of things only detectable by telescopes viewing light in the non-visible, and that therefore these are more coloured representations rather than actually what these things might look like if we could get close enough to see them) I decided to have a go at painting some onto my nails.

This was not done as a tutorial, so I don't have step-by step photos. If you want to paint your nails like this, be prepared to spend some time and effort, and to make a mess. 

First of all, prepare your nails as you would for any other painted design. Secondly paint them plain black. I used Model's Own in 'Black Magic' because it's really cheap, has a good gloss finish, and is pretty opaque after the first coat, but it's really up to you what brand you use. Wait for the black coat to dry completely. 
Trying to photograph these was HARD
The next step is to get the swirly nebula effect. To do this, you need to use the "water marbling" technique. This involves a glass of room-temperature water, and floating droplets of nail-polish on the surface. There are several good tutorials for this on YouTube. In order to get the desired nebula effect specifically, I used a variety of colours and squiggled them up together with a tooth-pick. You don't want to create a neat "petals" or "peacock feather" effect, you want to create the effect of swirling luminous clouds. As to the colours, I used shimmery blues and purples with some black. You want to use quite runny nail-polishes for this, so that they spread out over the surface of the water. 

I used La Femme's UV pastel blue and UV pastel lavender (I'm not sure what the official names are for these as I've nearly worn the labels off!) as the lightest colours. These are not UV set acrylic colours, they are nail varnishes that glow under a UV light or "black light". This means that under a UV light my nails will look even more celestial as my nebula nails actually glow. 

Hopefully the swirls are more evident here.
The rest of the colours were shimmer or metallics, except for the blacks. I used Barbara Daly's 'Purple Velvet', Constance Carol UK's Diamond Gloss in 338 'Cardinal' (a very vivid purple, I love this colour) and Jess in 'Blue Moon' (an iridescent purple/blue shimmer that works really well for this sort of effect). The black I used in the marbling was Revlon's Top Speed, also in a black called 'Black Magic'. You want more black than colour in the mix.

With the water marble method, I really recommend covering the non-nail parts of your finger in masking tape, because it's a lot of clearing off afterwards, otherwise. Actually, it's still a lot of clearing off, it's just less than it would be otherwise. Wait for it all to dry, THEN clear off all the extra polish, because it's so much easier to get off with some cotton swabs and nail-polish remover when it is dry. 

Tried really hard to capture sparkles.
Finally, when all the marbled nail-polish has dried, go over it with a clear glitter varnish. I used Rimmel's 'Disco Ball' which has sparkles that shimmer all colours of the rainbow or silver depending on how the light hits them. I love the stuff! Unfortunately it is really hard to successfully photograph. 

If you chip your nails after this, I recommend using a tooth-pick and carefully trying to match up the marble pattern for best repair results.

Thursday, 13 March 2014

Goth Is Not A 'Hipster' Subculture

I guess this was inevitable with how 'hipster' has become the quirky edge of the mainstream, and how elements of the Goth and Punk aesthetics have been taken up again as visual short-hand for "rebellious" or "edgy", but there are now people who seem to be treating Goth itself as if it is some form of hipsterism. I guess it is because those who appropriate Goth aesthetics and those who are actually Goth are not very visually distinct, combined with how there's an overlap between teenagers using Goth as a means to rebel and be "different" and unique and slightly older hipsters using all sorts of other things for the same ends. 

Aside: I'm not going to say that "Nu-Goth" or "Pastel Goth" are inherently 'hipster', because those things are aesthetics, and many of the people participating in those aesthetics do have a solid grasp on the actual Goth subculture, and are hybridising it rather than just co-opting Goth for a trend. 

Hipsters are apparently people who skim elements from other cultures, who as it was eloquently said on the PBS Ideas Chanel video on Youtube about hipsters, "hipsters enjoy things ironically, and not effusively" that they,"adopt the styles and affects of many cultures, cultures that aren't "theirs", that they don't actually belong to".  Hipsters are inherently appropriative; they seek the cultural capital of other groups, the "authenticity" as a means to make themselves seem more unique, quirky, individual, etc. Hipsters seem to try to buy individuality.

I think this is one of the reasons there has been such a huge outcry over cultural appropriation recently - it is even more infuriating to have people using the trappings of your culture for such purposes if you are part of a minority living in America, Australia, parts of Europe, etc. and have been on the receiving end of discrimination and prejudice because of that culture (or subculture), some of that institutionalised, and now that sort of appropriative outlook has become much more mainstream, whereas 5 to 10 years ago, trends (from what I saw, at least) were a lot more of what Hipsters would call mainstream, and using elements from 'Ethnic' things was seen as a bit "hippie" and weird. 

The Goth aesthetic might have its roots in plenty of pre-existing things (like all art movements) but instead of divorcing meaning, it is primarily built around meaning; ripped fishnets may look nice, but they also connect back to the Punk scene and the early days of Goth and Deathrock, pentagrams are often worn by either practising Pagans or at least people who know of both what they represent in terms of modern-day Neo-Pagan and occult circles and their historical significance, and a lot of avid corset-wearers can tell you more than you thought there was to know about corset history, tight-lacing, boning types, and for the uninitiated, the difference between an under-bust and a waspie... 

Each facet of the Goth aesthetic has behind it a string of connections and interconnections that we, for the most part, understand and care about. It is what ties our aesthetic to the air of morbid curiosity and appreciation for the darker things in life. We don't just look a bit like vampires, a lot of us are very well versed on vampire lore and fiction (for the most part though, WE DON'T THINK WE'RE REALLY VAMPIRES) and there's a reason why raven and bat skulls are more popular than other animal skulls, etc. There's a strong connection to the context, symbolism, inspiration and, for lack of a better term "art history" of our cultural capital. Part of what makes our subculture the way it is that most of us have an interest in that subcultural "art history"; most of us are actively interested in learning about what is behind what we wear, the music, the books, etc. 

I'm not going to say that Goth is not pretentious, as Goth, especially Romantic Goth is inherently a bit pretentious - we KNOW there is a discord between dressing like a vampiric European noble, acting anachronistically and living in the modern world. Some of that is escapism, some of that is a gilded view of the past based in a yearning for a world where doing the old-fashioned things we like in our context is a bit more acceptable, but a lot of that is genuine appreciation and enjoyment of the things we do. It might be pretentious, but at least it is an honest representation of ourselves and our passions; we're aware of those pretensions and take them with humour. 

Monday, 10 March 2014

Romantic Goth and Gothic Lolita: Where I Stand

Recently, I've been getting quite into putting together a Gothic Lolita wardrobe, as an addition to my usual Romantic Goth (or should that be Gothic Romantic in my case?) wardrobe. Thankfully, while the styles are different, there's enough overlap for me not to have to do too much shopping - already have black ruffled blouses, a coffin handbag, a black cat handbag, lots of lacy accessories, fancy tights and ruffled socks,  a selection wigs, a few skirts with enough space for the pouf of petticoats, etc.  This expansion of my style is exactly that - an expansion. I am not "quitting" being a Goth, I'm just adding more variety of black outfits to my selection of black outfits! I don't plan on venturing into Sweet Lolita or Country Lolita or whatnot, just sometimes wearing outfits that adhere to the stylistic 'rules' of Lolita but are very much rooted in my being a Goth. 
Very much still a Romantic Goth
Webcam selfie
Why have I got into the Lolita subculture, then? The emphasis on outfits being well put together, on being co-ordinated is something that appeals to me.  It is a view of fashion where looking good is a skill. The anachronistic stylistic influences are something I was bound to adore - I've always been one to scavenge from various centuries and mix it all together like some kind of vampire that has been adding and altering clothes for hundreds of years with little regard to what is in fashion at any one time, or some kind of time-traveller that has hopped between times and places so often that their wardrobe doesn't really belong to any of them. Lolita provides a framework for these mixed influences, and makes it possible to combine them in a way that is aesthetically pleasing rather than incongruous. 

Finally, a sense of community - there IS definitely a Goth and Alternative community locally, even if it is a small one and even if the Metal community is certainly the predominant local one, and while I certainly do have a circle of friends that share some of my interests, I'm far more likely to have friends who want to go clubbing or to the pub than a tea party or picnic, and I am more inclined to the quieter, more sedate activities of the latter. Don't get me wrong, I do clubbing, but I see that more as an opportunity for some good music and plenty of dancing than socialising, especially as I can hardly hear myself talk, let alone anybody else. Lolitas tend to gather to chat over tea and cake, or perhaps go ice-skating or to the botanical gardens - these are the sorts of group activities that I feel far more comfortable taking part in- even if I might want to go for a stroll around the graveyard or go visiting old buildings too. 

None of this means that I am abandoning my Goth side - this is all in addition to the Goth things I continue to do. I am still going to float around in floor-length skirts and wear fingerless gloves and an over-sized ankh pendant. I'm still going to go visiting graveyards and old buildings and take photographs of ruined castles. I will still be me, and still be Goth, just with a few new dresses.