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, 28 July 2014

Vintage Inspired Gothic Makeup

I am calling this vintage inspired rather than vintage because it is not accurate to any one period and is very much of a mixture of '50s inspired vintage and Gothic elements.  

Raven recently bought me the Adare dress by HellBunny, which is an A-line skirted, sweet-heart neckline dress in a vintage-inspired cut reminiscent of '50s designs, but with a Gothic print and Gothic detailing in the ribbons up either side. I will do another blog post that is an outfit post for the dress;this is just about the make-up.

Doe-eyed selfie.
I was aiming for make-up that complemented the vintage theme of the dress and the outfit I was wearing, and that wasn't to overtly or traditionally Gothic, as the weather and the outfit were both quite summery, so I did not want to wear lots of heavy make-up. I opted for tinted primer, concealer and powder rather than thick foundation, and also wore sun-screen because it was bright out and I burn easily. I contoured my cheeks and used a little shimmer. Pale skin was fashionable in the '50s, so I didn't really have to do anything there!

I'd rather condense selfies into not too many images.
Whenever I think of '50s pictures of women, I think of that rich red lipstick. I was trying out a new lipstick I'd bought - 'Russet' by Miss Beauty London. It's a really rich, almost blood-red colour, and I think it makes a nice pop of dramatic colour without being too bright to be Gothic as I felt a rich, bloody red would be a bit suited. My lips were over-drawn slightly for that full, pouty Marilyn Monroe look.

The eye make-up is certainly more a nod to the Gothic than to vintage styles; from what I have seen of vintage make-up adverts, pin-ups and photographs, eye makeup tended to involve black mascara and winged eye-liner to create definition without being the dramatic centre of the look. I went for something heavier as one of the trademarks of Gothic make-up is dramatic eyes. I lined both lids heavily and went with the 'cat' winged looked, then made them smokey with a black blending into a rosy red; this was to complement the red of the lipstick. I used white on the inner corner and waterline to give a more doe-eyed look.

Very blurry feathers close-up.
None of my make-up designs are complete without me drawing something in eye-liner, and as there are feathers on the dress, I decided to draw a few feathers encircling one eye. Drawn designs are something of a trade-mark of mine, and the outfit certainly wouldn't have suited any of my elaborate scrolling foliage, so I drew some feathers, carefully placed to help define my cheek-bone. Certainly this is not very vintage, but it is very much me

One thing I feel I should have done but did not, is fill out my eyebrows more. I usually have eyebrows that are plucked to a thin line, and most vintage looks, especially those of the '50s, have fuller, defined eyelashes, and while I did pencil them slightly to darken them, I was unsure about successfully filling them out when there's so little of my natural eyebrows left. Also, I don't usually use blusher, so I think I may have ended up a bit heavy-handed on this look. A much more pastel pink would have probably been more suitable. 

This is quite the deviation from how I normally look, so I would appreciate constructive criticism (and links to tutorials I can follow, in order to improve.) 

Friday, 25 July 2014

Rait Castle & Barevan Graveyard: Raven's Photographs

Raven is photographer at ::Chance Photography:: and these are his photographs from the photography trip. 

✥ Rait Castle
Rait castle is located roughly two miles south of the town of Nairn, and about sixteen miles east of Inverness. A modest castle in my opinion, it could easily be mistaken for a derelict chapel or church.The castle is reported to be haunted, but this wasn't a ghost hunting trip, and it was far too bright a day to tempt out anything spooky!

The image above is a simple one, I liked how the shadow matched the line of the top of the wall. All I had to do was line up the shot and hope for the best.
I decided to keep the sky a slightly desaturated blue as I didn't want to detract from the detail in the walls, which came out really nicely with a slight tweak of the contrast.

HouseCat: I really like this photograph, for its balanced composition and very unusual angle. I don't think I've actually seen an intersecting walls photograph quite like what Raven has done above. This has got to be one of my favourite photographs by him. I need to persuade Raven to print one off for our walls!

Here we have a classic angle of the castle - simply google "Rait Castle", and you'll see what I mean. I am pleased with the way the colours came out on the walls, and the way the reds pop out against the greens of the foliage.

HouseCat: There are indeed about 10 photographs from a similar angle on the first page of Google Images - not something we actually looked at before out trip to Rait Castle! I think this is the most obvious angle from which to take the castle, partly because there is actually enough clear ground on that side of the castle to step back far enough to get the whole length of the castle in one shot, which there isn't on the other side. One thing that is interesting is how every photographer's image, even from very similar angles, has different results. Weather, and thus lighting, is certainly one factor, but each photographer has chosen a slight difference in distance from the castle, or angle to the castle; different cropping, different saturation. Raven and I went to the same place and chose completely different sections of the building, but even between photographers who chose the same things, there's a lot of difference. 

This one is one of my favourites... Simple but effective, in my opinion. I enjoy taking photos like this one. I think it is because of the way the light bleeds in, highlighting details that would be otherwise washed out if you used a flash, or if it was in broad daylight.

This is a macro of algae on the wall. Nice and simple again... The thing that drew me to the shot was the clear division between cold rock on the wall, and this lush green algae bursting its way in.

HouseCat: Raven has a very good eye for small details, things that most people would miss. The world is very interesting if you pay enough attention to spot the fur at the edge of the algae in a crevice of a wall!

Shots like the one above are what I like to call "grab shots". I saw the House Cat taking a photograph (using one of my lenses) so I took the opportunity using my telephoto, which proved effective by blurring out the background, and really making her stand out in the image.

This was me taking those photographs of the windows on the upper storey of the castle. Usually, when I am not actively modelling, I try and scurry out of photographs because I'm not really very photogenic without making the effort to be (I discard half of my selfies because I end up looking ungainly with a weird expression on my face!). I think he's managed to get a good composition for a photograph that was taken slyly as I concentrated on making adjustments. 

In summary, it is a lovely little castle, and I hope it stays protected for a long time to come. I found myself imagining what it would have been like in its day, and what kind of people walked it's hall.

✥ Barevan Graveyard & Chapel
This is a graveyard we drove past on our way to Rait castle, and we agreed that it would be a good idea to stop there on the way back... Which we did.

This is a very old grave yard indeed, and a rather pleasant one at that.I have always found grave yards to be quite cold, but this one seemed rather welcoming in an odd kind of way... almost as if it liked being visited from time to time.

Another two photographers were in our group - Suzy Bugs, who was taking only wildlife photographs, so is not taking part in Architectural Photography Week, and a Goth-y friend who goes by the screen-name Hemlock. Hemlock lives in the area and knows the countryside there pretty well, and it was he that pointed out the farm track to Rait castle (so we didn't have to park at the side of the road and hike the steep way up!) and also pointed out this graveyard.

Here is an image which really caught my eye... I don't think the photograph does what I saw justice to be honest. I found the way the light gently flowing through the trees onto the stone and foliage was quite eye catching.

HouseCat: I tried to take photographs of  chapel from this angle (not realising that Raven was too!), and I could not get anything as pretty as this; it's a testament to Raven's skill that he actually got something where the all the different layers and light levels in the image, from the brightness looking into the chapel through that window, to the details of the stones in the shade, are visible and nicely captured. 

Here is a simple photograph, which was initially intended to go in my texture library. It is a close up of a large stone sphere. I liked the way the structures of the rock are revealed through the polishing of the sphere, and through weathering over time. This is located in a smaller section, which belongs to the Cawdor family.

And here, we have the final image from my little set... The watchman. He can be found watching over the graves in a tree in the corner to the left of the gate as you come in.This character seems to get mixed reactions off different people. Some think it's creepy, having a face in a tree (which is totally natural, I might add!) but I, personally, found its smiling gaze to be rather endearing.

All in all, a great day was had by everyone involved, and it was nice to catch up with a couple of friends. I'll have to get back to Rait castle and do a shoot with a model or two at some stage, but anything like that is a way off yet!

Housecat: I volunteer to model, but Raven is probably sick of taking pictures of me! I hope you all enjoyed today's guest post by Raven. Hopefully Hemlock will be sharing his photographs from the trip tomorrow, and I will be back on Sunday to finish architecture week. 

Raven's photographs are NOT under the same "share if you properly attribute them to me and link back" rules as mine. I do not take photographs as a means to earn money, but he DOES, so please respect his work. If you want to share these photographs, share a link to the blog, rather than sharing the photographs themselves. Both of us will be every unhappy if we find our work being used commercially. This applies to all of his photographs on this blog, not just the ones here. 

Thursday, 24 July 2014

Barevan Church and Graveyard

In which I take even more photographs of windows...
After visiting Rait Castle, we headed to Wester Barevan, south of Achindown and Nairn, to visit the ruins of Barevan church, which has been ruined for a very long time, long enough for graves to have been lain in the floor of the old church. Barevan church and graveyard, in the summer sun, is one of the most peaceful and picturesque graveyards I have ever been to. It is almost like a garden, rather than a graveyard, and has plenty of pretty trees and nice views. 

A grave is lain where the altar once was... Eerie.
However, all it takes is a change of weather to give it an entirely different atmosphere. When the clouds roll in and obscure the sun, and when the wind rattles the leaves, it suddenly feels much more exposed. It is not quite as bleak as the wilder, open places of Scotland, as there are trees and it is circled by woodland and hills, but suddenly the weather seems very much there, and the stone walls seem greyer, and the lack of a roof suddenly becomes a concern. 

I heard you like windows, so here are two windows
seen through a window, viewed in a browser window,
perhaps on a computer running Windows...
The style of architecture, from the rough stone walls down to the Y-tracery on some of the double windows being carved from single pieces of sandstone, reminds me of Rait Castle, and I wonder if they were built at similar times or even perhaps by the same people, or whether that is just how things were done in that place in those times. As you may have noticed, I still have my obsession with photographing windows. 

Narrow depth of field, focusing on stone texture
I really enjoyed photographing the ruined church. I had some fun trying out new ideas with the photography, such as the photograph above. Normally at this point, I would be elaborating on the history of the architecture, but I really don't  know very much about the history of this graveyard - to me it is this is a totally unknown and unexpected graveyard in the middle of the countryside; I have no idea of why it is there, or what sort of congregation it would have had - there's not much settlement about it nowadays, but maybe more people lived there in the past. 

That one rock makes it seem more desolate than it is, by being less desolate.
I still think the strangest thing about that place is how quickly it changes with the weather, how rapidly it goes from almost serene to foreboding, how rapidly the clouds and wind can change how it feels. I will finish with two colour photos, taken within an hour of each other, which I think illustrate this point. 

This photo was taken a couple of steps away from the one above.
The clouds are dark and flat, what little blue is in the sky is quickly retreating and the walls are caught in shadow. Less than hour earlier I took quite a different photograph, looking in through the door of the church at a head-stone, and it seems so bright - like another time and another place, somewhere sunnier and with bright walls and green vines. 

Tomorrow I will showcase a guest post from Raven of ::Chance Photography:: with photographs from both Rait Castle and Barevan graveyard. Architecture week runs until Saturday, so stick around for more photographs!

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Rait Castle

In which I show that I am indeed slightly obsessed with windows.
I organised a photography trip last Sunday to Rait Castle with Raven and a couple of friends. I'm starting off with my photographs, and have asked those that came with me if they would like to share some of their photographs of the same day, and these will be displayed in a couple of days. 

Rait Castle is a ruin between Nairn and Cawdor, on hill near some woodland, and overlooking the A939 and is an odd sort of place to, as the road to go towards it means taking a road away from it, as there's no direct access from the A939. It looks like a ruined church from the road due to having a tower and Gothic arched windows, but it was in fact a small and mostly non-defensive castle; the ground floor windows are narrowed and designed to limit access, but the upper windows being so large mostly negate this, and there are no earth-works and only small compound walls. It was more a grand country residence than a fortified structure. 

Rait Castle from the outside

Bright sky, dark stone
That said, it has a bloody history as can be read ::here:: on the Rait Castle website, and there are stories of the ghost of the murdered daughter. I had read all of this before visiting, but bloody family feuds and murder aside, there was nothing eerie or creepy about the castle itself. It is ruined, and I am sure it could look creepy, especially on the shaded interior, in the right weather conditions, but it did not feel creepy. There is, however, a ruined structure behind the castle that is largely overgrown and that does have an unnerving aura about it. According to the Preserve Rait website, it is likely the chapel. It is all over grown with brambles, wild roses and other sharp and woody thorns, so I was rather discouraged about exploring it. It gave me, and the others in the photography party, what I would call 'the heebie-jeebies'. Maybe the young maiden went to the chapel to beg God's aid mortally wounded, with her family slain around her, and maybe that is where she finally died... 

I have something of a fascination with the windows, and with windows in general. This is something that comes very much from the design geek within me, and I am a little afraid to share my thinking here lest it come across as pretentious art-school nonsense. I especially like the windows through old thick walls like here at Rait Castle because they create their own transitory alcove space, up to whatever grille or glazing would have been there. Empty windows dividing an outdoor space are certainly something I find really interesting, especially when nature has sprouted plants on what would have once been the interior, and when whatever roof once made the interior an interior is gone, so while the window still provides a view between spaces, the fact that they are all really part of one space is visible. 

Light shines through
For a long time creating sheets of glass like we have today was pretty much impossible, and only small pieces of flattish glass could be made, so if one wanted a big window, it had to made up of lots of little bits leaded together. In some cases, windows were just a very narrow gap that could be shuttered or curtained in bad weather. I didn't actually spend that much time trying to figure out how the windows at Rait would have been, but I guess that the big Gothic arches with their lovely carved stonework may have had leadlight windows, possibly with stained-glass sections for heraldry. I'm not sure what window the girl who lost her hands tried to climb out of, but having looked at how narrow most of them would have been with the central pillars intact, she must have been very slight; it would have been more reasonable that she tried to climb out of the upper door. 

I am curious as to how the building lost its front wall when the rest of the stonework has remained pretty intact. What remains of the front wall is very sturdy, and I do wonder if stone was deliberately taken from it rather than it crumbling or collapsing over time. The walls are several feet thick and built to last; the main threat to the building is the vegetation, as roots can penetrate small cracks and then grow to slowly push things apart. The roof would have been wooden, possibly slated, and I can imagine it being robbed for slates and the beams rotting over time. Considering how old it is, and for how long it has been abandoned, it is remarkably well preserved. 

Tomorrow I will be posting about Wester Bareaven Graveyard and the ruined chapel there - I got to borrow a Nikon, as my Canon had run out of battery, and I had a lot of fun photographing mostly the chapel ruins. 

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Wallingford Castle

In which I photograph everything but the castle...
Another place I went to on my travels earlier this year was the ruins of Wallingford Castle in Oxfordshire. I was in the town because it is near where some relations of mine live, and Raven and I were visiting them. There Wikipedia article on the castle's history can be read ::here:: and is a good place to start, although while long for a Wikipedia article, it only really skims what is a approximately a millennia of history. Considering the wars, sieges, and floods it has survived and its varied uses from defensive castle to prison to location for a stately home, it is a piece of land with a LOT of history! 

Exterior of College of St Nicholas
The weather kept changing between cloud and sunshine, and as such it was hard to get a consistent set of photographs. Unusually for me, I tried photographing mostly in colour as one of the interesting things about the ruins is how many colours of stone were used to build them and the vibrant lichens that grow upon them. Most of the photographs are from a Gothic and ecclesiastical building called the College of St Nicholas (which was an organised community of priests, not the modern usage of the word to mean an educational establishment) as that is one of the buildings that remains more intact than most of the castle, of which some sections of wall remain, but which is mostly surviving earthworks. 

Spring flowers and picturesque ruins - not that Gothic!
I had a nice day out, and went for a lovely stroll around Wallingford town. I wore a frilled jacket and layered skirts, as while it was quite bright, it was not overly warm outside (British springtime). Raven took a picture of my standing by the wall. My hair looks rather blue here, but I can assure that it is the same emerald green it has been for a while. The wall does not look that tall in the first photograph, and as I am 5'9" tall, that should give some sense of scale to the wall.

Being thoroughly distracted by
my adorable not-quite-2-yet niece!
I will be back in the future, that is almost guaranteed, as I try to go back to visit my family in England as often as possible. The next time I go, I will try to take some more atmospheric photographs, and to take more photographs of what remains of the castle itself. I have been photographed here before, a long while back, by Raven when we were first dating. I would think it a lovely location for a photo-shoot. 

Fancy monuments. 
Just off the edge of the castle grounds is a small and ancient graveyard, once that to All Hallow's Church, which is no longer there, and with the relocated monument to Thomas Bennett's charitable bequest to the town, which is now by the road and I think this has contributed to its need for renovation recently as the the fumes combined with British can't have contributed well to the sandstone's longevity. Inside the monument is a carving of a vaulted ceiling, which really requires clambering into it, or at least sticking your camera in and hoping for the best, to get a good view and therefore isn't properly photographed here. 

Monday, 21 July 2014

Douglas Castle Gatehouse

Sometimes beautiful things are found in unexpected places.
Quite grand for a picnic area
During the school's Easter holiday break, Raven and I went on a road-trip down South to and through Wales, and then back North through England and then to Glasgow back in Scotland. On that trip, we came across Cairn Lodge motorway service station, near Happendon, in South Lanarkshire, Scotland. It was a particularly unexciting service station with canteen food and dry chocolate muffins, and right until I looked out of the service station window, I would have quickly forgotten about it. 

I love arches!
Behind the service station is what remains of the gatehouse and stable-block, as pictured pretty much in full in the first photograph. I have not been to Douglas Castle, but all that now remains, apart from these parts of the stable-block, is one tower. According to ::this Wikipedia article::, a vast country residence in the Gothic style was planned, but once begun never completed, and in 1938 the castle had to be demolished after nearby mining caused subsidence issues. Interestingly, it was the 13th Earl of Home, who sanctioned the mining, and did so with the philanthropic idea to relieve unemployment in the local area. I guess 13 can be an unlucky number for some. It is apparently the inspiration for 'Castle Dangerous' by Walter Scott. 

I don't know if the stables are now a private
residence or staff area. Either way, not a castle.
I, of course had to take photographs. It seems a reflection of the modern age that all the grand Gothic architectural ambitions of the medieval noble House of Douglas have come to being a lone tower and an amusement for tourists in a motorway service station car-park. All is transient. 

Sunday, 20 July 2014

Inverness Cathedral

The first instalment of Architectural Photography Week!
Firstly, this week is going to be architectural photography week here at Domesticated Goth. For the next few days, expect plenty of photographs of various buildings and ruins I have visited, and a few guest posts from better photographers than me as on Sunday 13th we went on a little trip to some interesting locations. 

The rose window has a pentagram
(and I've only just noticed!)
Secondly, enjoy these photographs of Inverness Cathedral. These are the only two I've taken that turned out well, and all the others are just the same angles with different settings as I played with the 'proper camera' on manual. Raven helped me, as I'm quite the photography newbie when it comes to the technical side of things. 

This one was intended as a cover picture for my Facebook
Inverness Cathedral is reasonably small by cathedral standards, but is beautifully decorated both inside and out. It is Victorian (1860s), built in the Gothic Revival style and it was designed by Alexander Ross, who also designed Eden Court, the bishop's house just a little further down the river. The two towers at the front were supposed to be full spires, but were never built at such. If you go inside the cathedral, there's a lovely watercolour painting of the original design with the two spires, framed up nicely and on display. I personally feel that the original design would have appeared more cathedral like, rather than church like. 

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Old-School Gothic Lolita Headdress

I swear it isn't green in real life. 
Back in April, I tried my hand at sewing a Gothic Lolita/kuro Lolita headband in the old-school style. These are the fabric head-dresses with lace that were an iconic part of the Lolita style about 10 years ago, but which have since gone out of popularity in favour of bows and bonnets, then more recently, floral crowns and headdresses. I quite like the old-school Kuro and Gothic Lolita styles, so when I finally got my sewing machine running again, I made this.

I hadn't sewn in ages, so it isn't perfect and I know there's several things that could have been tidier (the ribbon criss-crossing it is too loose, for a start, and the whole thing's been worn a few times before this photo was taken so it could have done with ironing flat again, the corners of the crochet lace weren't sewn the flattest, the bows at either end need to be more secure because they keep pivoting, etc.) I had to boost the photograph to make the headdress visible as it's all black-on-black; the blacks match better in real life! Other than that, I am quite happy with it. I hope to make a second one at some point, and improve on this.

Sunday, 6 July 2014

Stereotyping From Within The Subculture And Inclusivity: Part 3 - Pale Is Not The Only Aesthetic

This one is so basic that I'm really annoyed that I have to even mention this, but you don't have to be as pale as paper to be a Goth. The very fact that there is this sort of notion within the subculture at all makes me irritated. 

I am very much the super-pale Goth stereotype. I am naturally very pale, and in the Goth subculture was very grateful to find a place where the same pallor that made me the object of ridicule ("oi! Vampire!" and that was even before I turned Goth!) and perpetual inquiries after my health ("Are you feeling alright? You look awfully pale...") and suggestions of good fake tans (No thank-you, I am quite happy looking the way I do) it was nice to find somewhere where this was not just accepted but seen as ideal of beauty. As such it can be easy to loose sight that other people within the community with darker skin ranging from more tanned European skin tones to very dark skin from African and Australasian/Pacific ancestry can feel like the community isn't as supportive of them. 

There is a VERY good article on this at Coilhouse which I think all readers of this article should read ::here::

The usual excuse I hear is that pale skin is better for the cool-colours and monochrome aesthetic. Yes, unnaturally pale people are closer to monochrome, even more so if they actually paint their faces white, and thus fit the cool-colours only palette, but since when has this been the only way to achieve a Gothic aesthetic? And this is coming from one of those naturally ridiculously pale people; I have no necessity to think up what sort of colours co-ordinate with warmer and darker skin tones but I can still do so without much effort; all black works with everything, for a start. Goths who say it's impossible for dark skinned and warm-skin-toned people to do Goth properly either have no imagination for makeup or fashion or are just trying disguise their racism or silliness (because more tanned Goths of European ancestry get this nonsense too). Heck, if we can have people who are tattooed rainbow colours being acceptable Goths despite definitely falling out of the 'monochrome and cool colours only' bracket, then we can certainly dismiss the argument of "but warm tones aren't Goth!!". Also -what about all the Goths with red, auburn and other warm-toned hair (red, auburn and copper being particularly Pre-Raphaelite and particularly Steampunk related at the moment). 

Beyond the aesthetic argument, why should not being pale be any barrier to participation in the subculture? Goth is a vast and varied subculture, anyone who likes the music, the culture and the fashion can join - no restrictions on skin tone, race, ethnicity, religion or locale, because none of these things are even vaguely criteria for what Goth is. Go read my article ::What IS Goth?:: and see if I mention on there "must be as pale as Death's bleached skull"  - hint: I don't. 

This may seem like shocking news to some, but the subculture has been world-wide for years and there are even Goths in the Middle East and South America (I've seen the photographs from World Goth Day club nights in Brasilia - there were some awesome outfits going on there, and everyone looks like they had a lot of fun!). The scene has its own local characteristics wherever it sprouts, but it always has the same roots. An appreciation for the macabre is a part of human nature - there have been people with a dark wardrobe and appreciation for macabre beauty for a long time throughout history, long before the Goth subculture ever appeared and there are eccentric and darkly minded people all over the world. In the age of the internet and mass globally-distributed media it's not surprising that the subculture has spread as people find there's an entire subculture for people whose taste for the darker things might get them ostracised from mainstream society, whether that's in England or Turkey or Japan or America or Sweden or South Africa or anywhere else, and connect with like-minded individuals. This is a good thing and the diversity of input into the subculture stops it going stale. 

Talking of stale, I feel like there's a certain staleness in Gothic imagery and photographs (and remember that those photographs are aspirational material for many Goths) and they include an awful lot of very pale people, often women, looking undead in lovely anachronistic outfits, probably in a graveyard, in a creepy forest or in front of a cathedral - it's gorgeous, it's surely beautiful, and I am certainly a fan, but it is not the ONLY way to do Goth; it's not Dracula's wives or bust. I'm sure a lot of this is artistic laziness instead of deliberate racism; it's easier to just recycle the same imagery that's been around since  pre-Raphaelite depictions of Ophelia and probably before than come up with something completely new (they were old by the time of Hammer horror movies and The Addams and Munsters); it is a visual language so often repeated that we all know it like the words to a familiar song, but we can do so much more than that, and it is about time we stepped up to the plate and started embracing a more diverse set of Gothic imagery. 

There is no reason why post-apocalyptic Goths have to be pale; after all I'm sure even the palest people will develop tans after the sunscreen factories get nuked and radioactive killer zombies tear holes in your parasols. There's no good reason why vampires have to be a particularly pale version of European (anyone seen the Blade movies? Ok, just the first one?). Anyone can be the ghost lurking in the shadows of a haunted house or the unfortunate person to find the ghost. Even the Gothic clichés don't have to involve only very pale people. I'm sure Goths of parent cultures other than our own will have their own ghastly folk tales and history to bring to the table of ghoulish delights, and I am fascinated to see what can be done. We've had thousands of permutations of aristocratic European vampires, haunted mostly-wooden American houses with creepy things in the basement, and black clad witches in grim and tangled forests, and while I am sure there's plenty more permutations possible and I will always enjoy these themes, our grim folk mythology isn't the only one. 

If you are a Gothic artist or photographer, or any other form of visual artist in the scene, and you find yourself mostly making images of pale (and often very slender, and often female) people, question why, and question if you can't be a bit more diverse and try something different. Heck, it would be nice to see a greater balance of images between every other gender/sex and Gothic women, as most of the images I see are of women Goths! It will probably go a long way to make Goths with a broader range of skin tones feel a lot more like a valued and equally aspirational sort of Goth. 

There is nothing wrong with being a freckled Goth or a goth with olive, chocolate or walnut skin, or a Goth with inked skin in a variety of colours put there by tattoos, or with being a very pale Goth - I'm hardly saying it's passé and ugly now! We're all Goths, and no value judgement should be put on how Goth someone is because of skin colour, ethnicity or parent culture. I really want everyone within the subculture to feel that they can be comfortable in their own skin and not under any pressure to live up to some beauty standard that expects them to be as pale as the moon (and as thin as a willow leaf.. but that is another topic for another article.) and I especially think Goth should be a haven, especially for those who experience prejudice outside of the subculture, whether that is racism, ableism, homophobia or anything else, not to mention that our unusual tastes and interests can often make us outcasts to a degree at the best of times. 

I do not want to see Goth turn into something with the same rot as mainstream culture, just with a darker aesthetic, and I do sometimes worry that is starting to happen. I get worried when I see Goth adopting narrow standards of beauty, because it is both contrary to what I feel are the principles of Goth and something that causes, or is at least contributory to a lot of body-image and self-esteem issues in mainstream society, especially when these standards of beauty go from being what the fashion media are looking for in models to something the nastier people in society use to measure each other and judge. 

From what I've seen of old photographs from the '80s and '90s, there were quite a few people with a broad range of skin-tones and ethnicities in the scene. I don't want to hear any more reports of Goths with darker skins or from non-European ethnicities not being accepted as "proper Goths" (who put you in charge of deciding that?) or having their Gothic credibility questioned. If they are at the Goth club, wearing the same kind of clothes as you, and dancing to the same music as you, what gives you the right to question the legitimacy of them being there? Chances are they are there for the exact same reasons as everyone else at the Goth club, or spooky picnic, or internet forum about why Siouxsie Sioux is a wonderful singer or any other place where Goths interact socially. 

If you are still not convinced, then go visit some wonderful bloggers like ::Madame Mari Mortem:: and Colour Me Goth who are very damn Goth indeed. If that does not satisfy, have a look around Tumblr too.  

Dear Goth community as a whole, please stop making up excuses to be exclusionary; you are making Goth look bad, giving credence to the terribly mis-informed people who think we're Neo-Nazis, and making people who can contribute to the Goth scene just as much as anyone else feel left out. 

Saturday, 5 July 2014

Stereotyping From Within The Subculture And Inclusivity: Part 2 - Gender Roles In Fashion

I feel like I should debunk each of the stereotypes and that we within the Goth subculture impose on ourselves and our community.  Today I am tackling another topic which affects me personally, and that is how it seems that Goth fashion (and interests, but today I am talking about fashion only) for female-identifing members of the community seem weirdly limited, and that there is another relatively narrow set for male-identifying members of the subculture, but for them a bit more breadth and freedom. 

As I mentioned yesterday, Goth, in being a sub-culture, does inherit some of the values of its parent cultures, but also has freedom to adopt its own values and needs to have the self-awareness to realise when it has adopted harmful or negative values from its parent culture. One of those appears to be that women dress one way, and men the other, and I feel that this is very narrow, and does not accommodate those who do not consider themselves men or women, and those who disregard any gendering of fashion, and various other positions. 

Within Goth, I tend to see a rather narrow set of fashion archetypes for women and female-identifying/dressing Goths. This is something I addressed quite broadly in ::this:: post, and I would suggest readers go back and read that post, because this is very much a sequel to it, as well as a sequel to yesterday's post. Goth is niche enough fashion, I know, but in a subculture where I thought gender boundaries in fashion would be more blurred, there is a surprising rigidity. 

I think the easiest example of this is that collections of Gothic trousers for women tend to focus on skinny jeans (I know there are exceptions, but this seems to be the main trend) whereas Gothic trousers for men, while including skinny jeans cut for a different body-type also include the baggy trousers with pockets and straps, Romantic Goth trousers that lace up down the side, brocade trousers, knee britches, etc. I found some brocade effect trousers, but they're skinny cut, which I hate; I do not have skinny legs, and therefore I either have to buy trousers too large at the waist/hip to fit over my legs, or have them uncomfortably tight. Either way, I can find literally hundreds of differing skirts and dresses in a wide variety of styles from bustles to mini-skirts, to Gothic Lolita skirts designed to accommodate a petticoat, to pencil skirts, to industrial skirts that are (wonderfully) marketed as unisex (that is the sort of thing I want to see more of!). Men do have the option of skirts and kilts in industrial fashion, but there's a huge dearth of skirts for men too, although by the very nature of many skirts being only fitted for a narrow section at the waist, quite a few skirts for women are wearable by men, whereas as many trousers need to fit well from the waist to the upper thigh, men's trousers can look ungainly on women (yet I still wear Raven's combats... I think they're comfortably roomy, but hey...). 

For legwear I actually like, that is cut to fit my curved female figure, I have to shop from retailers half-way across the world from me that stock Ouji/Visual Kei fashion - in fact, Japanese Alternative fashion is quite pioneering for its gender-fashion flexibility in general - just think of Mana and what are known as 'Brolitas' in the west, and of the androgynous styles and girls who both cosplay and dress in 'male' fashions (girls in 'dandy', Ouji and prince styles, for example, or wearing Gothic Aristocrat fashion in the 'male' archetypes). I really wish more of this sort of flexibility appeared in Goth in Europe, North America, Australia, etc. 

I think men and male-bodied persons wearing clothes that are traditionally female gendered (platform shoes, long skirts, etc.), and male cross dressing in general is more frequent both in Japanese Alternative fashions than women and female-bodied people approaching clothes tha are traditionally gendered male. Goth. In the UK, I have seen quite a few male Goths wear skirts or completely cross-dress at Goth events, many of whom I know for a fact identify primarily or wholly as male, and I have seen quite a few transgendered and gender-queer Goths whose birth sex was male, and more flamboyant gay Goth men who are not afraid to wear garments and makeup that is seen by mainstream culture as 'for women' but are not trying to appear necessarily feminine, but rather ostentatiously masculine. I am very happy that the Goth subculture appears to be a largely accepting place in this respect - not being male, or male-to-female or otherwise flouting the gender binary from a place that is seen as originating as male, I cannot speak from their perspective or claim to know their experience, but I have certainly seen no overt hostility, and generally from the social encounters witnessed, a generally very accepting atmosphere. 

I think this climate of acceptance goes for Lolita to, where I think the women who are hostile to 'Brolitas' and interest in the subculture from those they perceive as male is a minority - all the advice boards, forums, communities, etc. where this has been raised from those Brolitas, transgender Lolitas and other gender-variant Loltias who have been curious and afraid has been vastly positive, and the nasty comments about them restricted to the likes of Behind The Bows and Lolita Secrets and other internet spaces dedicated to being nasty to people behind their backs and unkind comments, and coming from being newbie Lolita who was very off-put in general by the attitudes I found in these places, and then interacting with the wider community and finding that there's generally only drama and unpleasantness if you go looking for it and that the community as a whole are quite pleasant and helpful and a lot less elitist and rude than they are made out to be. 

However, I still see that most female Goths follow the same few fashion archetypes and I see very few tomboy Goths, practically styled female Goths, butch Goths, female-to-male transvestite Goths (or Steampunks, as I once was, with my male Steampunk alter-ego Raphael...), or other female identifying and women Goths who wear things that are not trying to enhance secondary sexual characteristics in either the fancy skirts, corsets and frills style, or the mini-skirts/booty shorts ripped-fishnets and high-heels vein, or something in-between. Most of the Gothic fashion shoots of women are while certainly beautiful, often very similar - a thin, pale woman in a corset that accentuates her waist and bust, miles of beautiful fabric and lace, long black or red hair, plenty of accessories and a scenic location, or a scantily-clad almost post-apocalyptic young woman wearing plenty of ripped and revealing clothes. I have dressed in both of these manners and have nothing against either of them, in fact, I am especially fond of the almost vampiric or witchy styles of rather elaborate anachronism, as anyone who follows this blog is aware.  I have also posed in an abandoned and ruined building in platform boots and ripped fishnets on my arms (something I ought to post here!). 

I  wish there was more variety, and that the variant images and styles were more popular, because as it stands, I feel that there is a certain pressure to dress a certain way to be accepted within the Goth community, which is ridiculous coming from a community that faces prejudice and a distinct lack of acceptance from many quarters because of the way we dress, and that my more traditionally feminine fashion will get me more page-views, more positive attention and more compliments and re-blogs than if I posted pictures of me in more traditionally masculine styles, and that the notions of what is beautiful in Goth are black-mirror reflection of what is beautiful in mainstream fashion and mainstream culture, and that is sad for a subculture that is supposed to seek beauty in what is considered taboo, in what is considered ugly, and that embraced this in its early days, but does not seem to do so now.  Fashion might be 'mere clothes' but we are not embodying the values of our own subculture, and we can do better than that. 

I am also concerned that the gendering of fashion in Goth will seem alienating to those whose gender identities do not conform to any binary notion and wish for their outward appearance to reflect this, and being alienating is something that the Goth community should really avoid. I would hope the popularity of figures in the online Goth community such as Sebastian Columbine who do not identify with the traditional gender binary is a sign that we are an accepting subculture, but I know that is not always the case. 

I am on summer break from work for the time being, and I hope to showcase a lot more outfits involving trousers and shirts now that I have the opportunity to dress for myself daily rather then spend 5 days out of 7 dressing for my work environment. You have seen me in skirts hundreds (it must be hundreds by now) of times. I think I have appeared in my work trousers twice on this blog, and in Goth trousers three times. It is important to embody the change you want to see in the world, so I am going to start by showcasing two things I wish to see more of in Goth fashion - women wearing dandy/historical male aristocrat inspired outfits, and women wearing practical Goth fashion. If anyone can send me links to Goth bloggers who specialise in tomboy, dandy and even butch fashions, I would be interested. 

Note: I have tried to word my references to people who do not identify as men or women correctly, if I have unwittingly used the wrong terminology, I am sorry and mean no offence. I am coming at this as an outsider, as I neither consider myself a part of the gender binary (I am a woman according to my sex, but do not think that this determines anything about me beyond some biology only really important to myself, Raven and my doctor, and those who are involved in my physical training.) nor as a gender identity that isn't cisgendered because I consider gender a cultural construct that I personally reject, although I will be respectful of others who identify in a different manner and have different ideas about the nature of gender, or who agree that it is a construct, but find it a helpful one.  I would presume that Female-to-male transgender Goths are not female identifying, and will be mostly dressing in clothes gendered as masculine and if not, would probably prefer to be seen as approaching female gendered clothing from a male perspective. If I am wrong on this, feel free to correct me. These are things outside my frame of reference, and I am very wary of talking about people incorrectly or accidentally offensively, but I hope that it is clear that I am trying to encourage acceptance of a wider variety of clothing choice in relation to perceptions of gender and that I have absolutely no negative opinion towards how others identify and while I may be ignorant, am not wilfully so. 

Friday, 4 July 2014

Stereotyping From Within The Subculture And Inclusivity: Part 1 - Financial Snobbery.

Firstly, happy Independence Day to my American readership. Have fun, enjoy barbecues and pyrotechnics if you are into that sort of thing!

I was reading ::this:: post by Fee over at 'An Honest Drug' and the posts she linked to - Nicolette Mason writing on IFB ::here:: it got me thinking about inclusivity in the Goth subculture in general, and about how I think certain stereotypes are being perpetuated within the online Gothic community. I think how Goth represents itself online is very important as a lot of Goths, especially younger Goths who don't have access to the clubs and gigs of the adult Goth scene, rely on the internet for a connection to the broader Goth scene.

I am going to try and avoid simply repeating what has already been said about those who blog commercially having various pressures around them to adopt mainstream values and deviate from their image (basically, a pressure to 'sell out' to some degree, like with any creative industry) partly because it is too general for the audience of this blog and my interests, and partly because I simply don't like repeating what others can say better.  

I have tried to debunk mostly stereotypes imposed on Goth from the outside, such as Goths not being a subculture of depression (to be found at ::this:: post) and Goth not being an inherently middle-class subculture (to be found at  ::this:: post) to my being an example of the fact that Goths are not all teenagers and we do grow up and get proper jobs while remaining alternative. What I have not spent much attention to, though, are the stereotypes perpetuated within the subculture.

The first one I would like to debunk is that you have to spend lots of money on clothes, trinkets and generally applying the Goth aesthetic to your entire lifestyle, and that the flashier, more ornate clothes you have and the amount of times you can go to Gothic festivals (especially if you're travelling across Europe and America to go to them) can somehow dictate how Goth you are. I have mentioned this tangentially in various past posts about being a Goth on a budget. (::Here::, ::here:: and ::here::, for example) but you do not need to be rich to be Goth any more than you need to come from a middle-class background or be middle-class (as these are all tied to socio-economic status).  This is basic snobbery, and Goth is not run by the Goth oligarchy, because Goth has no leaders.

I am tackling this first, because as followers of my blog may well know, I am not very well off - my job is part-time and barely covers the rent, and to contribute towards utilities, taxes and bills I have to busk in my local city (followers of the Domesticated Goth page on FaceBook will know I do this). Currently money is very tight, and as I have mentioned before, I may well have some big life changes ahead, and I am not feeling that financially secure at the moment. I certainly feel a little left out when I see the beautiful gowns from WGT showcased on Viona Art, for example, or when I get the newsletters and FaceBook updates from my favourite alternative craftspeople and sellers and would like to purchase their wares and know that I can't even afford the sale items right now.

Nobody has been obviously and outwardly snobbish towards me, but I can't help but feel that I and my Gothy endeavours get more than slightly less attention than that of some of my wealthier comrades in Goth who get photographed seemingly endlessly in their finery at festivals, seem to be constantly updating their blogs and FB feeds with haul posts and product reviews and always seem to be slightly better dressed and slightly fancier than I can be. I cannot be honest without saying that I am a tad jealous, and I don't like being a jealous person, or feeling like there's a climate within the community that is contributing towards that jealousy.

I think it is important for me, and for other Goths not to get too caught up in this sort of materialism and commercialisation of the subculture. Independent craftspeople are certainly the lifeblood of the subculture, and buying their wares is certainly far better than buying mass-market stuff aimed at our demographic by large businesses who are not part of the subculture and don't care about it, but we shouldn't judge each other or ourselves on how much we buy, regardless of where those things come from. Your spending power is not a mark of dedication to the subculture. In some ways, I guess the percentage of one's income spent on the subculture could be seen as mark of dedication, as it shows the level of investment of one's resources, but compared to the time spent on and within the subculture, and one's contribution to it, even that sort of monetary marker is largely irrelevant.

Another factor is that having more money allows for a more polished internet presence - better quality photographs taken on cameras rather than poor-resolution phone cams (like on my old smart-phone), a larger wardrobe of more expensive and fancy clothes, and often less pressures on time for those who earn enough from one job to not be running about between various sources of income, etc. Some have even paid graphic designers and professional photographers, etc.

If you have money it is easier to produce higher quality content, but it is not the only way. I am lucky in that I can get Raven to photograph me sometimes, and the difference between his work, even on an off day, and my best selfies is staggering.  I know a little about web-design, and sometimes have days where I can spend days tweaking the Domesticated page, so I hope that my blog here is good from a design perspective (although comments and critique on this are always appreciated, and I know I need to update both the photo gallery and the site map) so while I don't have money to spend on high-end cameras, and while I'm not paid to model, I still have a few good images here and a relatively aesthetically pleasing blog.

Yes, this might attract readers, but it is the product of handwork, careful investment and a lot of hours, and not of a large budget, and as I have mentioned in my various posts on being Goth on a budget, there are plenty of ways to apply "time and effort" as a way to get a polished Gothic lifestyle in real life, and not just the internet, and as I would like to re-iterate, I think it is time and effort that prove real dedication the subculture, not how much one spends on it. There are many teens who have gone through a Goth phase that has not lasted who amassed lovely collections of Goth things because their parents bought them these things - and while there is nothing wrong with Goth being a transient phase for some, and I am not bitter towards those whose parents could buy them such things, to them Goth was not going to be a factor in the rest of their lives. I am quite grateful for the existence of these people, for when they leave Goth often they sell their things cheaply on eBay or donate them to charity, and I then end up with them at a price I can afford!

As Goth is a subculture with many of its own values being outside of the parent cultures, yet being influenced by them, we should try and be self-aware of how much we adopt the more negative values of the parent cultures when, in having our own subculture, we have greater freedom to adopt our own. Any kind of materialistic snobbery is something I think we should avoid, especially when younger Goths feel like they cannot participate because they cannot buy or have bought for them elaborate clothes and masses of black candles.

Yes, the dark and macabre have become more commercial and mainstream, and in some ways this is a sign that we are gradually becoming more acceptable to the mainstream (that itself is another topic for debate) but just because these things are available does not mean we have to buy them, and it does not mean that our subculture should stray too far from its Punk, working-class roots, and from the DIY attitude that spawned a lot of it. Early Goths may have had to be resourceful and thrift-shopping DIY-ers out of necessity, but even if we have everything from Hot Topic to Lip Service and Hell Bunny via Hysteria Machine, ::Kambriel:: and ::Merimask:: but that does not mean that the resourcefulness and craft skills of early Goths are not things to embrace and inherently worthwhile and valuable. I admire a Goth (or Lolita, or whatever) who can sew their own finery more than one who can simply buy it.  

I have noticed that DIY and crafting blogs tend to be especially popular if they have budget projects, and many of those are written by people who DIY due to financial constraints, so while the bloggers must have at least access to the internet (although that could be a friend's internet or library/municipal internet access), there is a space for poorer bloggers in the Goth blogosphere and I am glad when people are reasonably open about being on a budget, because I think it makes other poorer Goths feel like they are still part of the subculture and they're not alone or shameful because of this. Class and wealth is a HUGE divide in the wider world, and an insidious part of many other prejudices, and I feel like it is the sort of insidious thing I do NOT want to see take hold within our subculture.

An aside: I tend to avoid discussing politics and on my blog because it is off-topic and could easily derail what I am trying to do here, but the financial and resource inequality of our world is something that makes me vastly angry, and how all sorts of other prejudices are spread by those who wish to perpetuate that inequality for their own gain. I see too much "divide and conquer" perpetrated by those that see it as a means to profit and power, and too much advertising fosters a sense of self loathing to create a market for products that remedy made-up flaws.

We should be proud of our own creations, show-case them on our blogs, and when we see other Goths online and in real life, use their resourcefulness, ingenuity and creative skills to be fabulous and interesting, mention that - not in a patronising way, of course - because it is the sort of positive thing that ought to be reinforced and often the sort of thing that is quite admirable in many ways. I know I do my best to be a resourceful and creative Goth and to help others with that, but there are many who out-do me by far. Remember that Goth came from Punk, and that poverty is not shameful for the poor  -especially in a world where many countries have gone into recession in the last 5 years and where so many people have fallen beneath the poverty line. The only people who should be ashamed of poverty are those in power, both financial and governmental, that have allowed and encouraged such a world of inequity. 

You do not need a huge wardrobe of the fanciest anachronistic Goth clothes, three pairs of New Rock boots for every season, every Goth album ever on MP3, CD and vinyl, and to go to every club night and festival in a thousand mile radius to be a 'proper Goth'. You just need to love what is macabre, dress spooky, love some music from a more sombre sort of rock and see the beauty in darkness - spending power is irrelevant. 

Thursday, 3 July 2014

Contemplating Going Back To Black

I am still in love with my (as of yesterday, very bright) green hair, even if the upkeep can get annoying at times, but sometimes I miss my black hair.  I have curly black wig, but I'm thinking of buying a long straight black one with a style similar to these photos (not necessarily with the mini 'pig-tail' style).  I feel that fringes (bangs, to those who use American English) generally suit me quite well and are easier to style than swept across styles. I currently have a swept across style, and I'm never quite happy with it, whatever I do with it. 

DIY haircut and mini-pig-tails.
It is also considerably easier to co-ordinate black hair with pretty much any secondary accessory colour - green hair limits my style options to either all black (which is not really a problem as that is what I mostly wear) or a colour that compliments green, which rules out wearing a lot of my red garments without a wig, including a rather gorgeous HellBunny dress that I actually bought new (a rarity for me) and is certainly one for special occasions such as dates with Raven! I have actually quite a few red and black or red garments, despite most of my wardrobe being black. 

DIY haircut with hair left flowing.
I will probably go with the option of wigs, because wigs just add to options - some can be highly naturalistic, and I can have a different style with every different wig, and with the option also of styling the wigs. I can also still have brightly coloured dyed hair most of the time. In not being able to use permanent black dyes, I have re-discovered semi-permanent coloured dyes, to which I do not have the same itchy allergic reaction. 

A bit dry and straggly looking, but with flowers.
While I do have a curly wig already, the ends are getting frizzy (something I really need help with reviving) and the style is only really suitable for Classic-inspired Gothic and Kuro Lolita or similar  outfits. A fringe and straight long hair is a very versatile style that goes with a broad variety of Gothic styles, so would be far more frequently worn than the curly wig. I do like the curly wig, and I deliberately took the selfies below in a soft style because it reminded me of Edwardian and later cosmetics adverts with the lovely watercolour paintings of the women with curly hair. The face shapes considered beautiful then seem rounder and slightly softer than the women in many modern adverts who now tend to have more angular faces with prominent cheek-bones. 

The curly wig. Late afternoon photos are much warmer!
Wigs, however, are expensive (well, good quality wigs are) and I have greater financial considerations at the moment, as I have several known expenses ahead, and a few of unknown magnitude. I can't divulge too much right now, but come the autumn, my life may change very drastically - hopefully in a positive way - and I need to prepare for that, and therefore buying a wig is not my priority. Also, the weather tends to be quite warm in the summer, even in Scotland, and wigs can be quite itchy and sweaty on a hot day, especially with my natural hair underneath acting as an insulator. As such, I will have to delay my purchasing a wig for the time being.