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, 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. 


  1. Good topic! I do want to point out, that these gender stereotypes in goth weren't always the norm in fashion. In the late 80s and throughout much of the 90s goth fashion was a lot more fluid and inclusive. There was a concentration on androgyny as both men and women wore the same amount of makeup, same kinds of clothing, etc. This hyper- masculine/hyper-fem is truly a result of the 2000s fascination with the fetish scene and, in my opinion, the hyper-masculine centered terror ebm bands.

    Ed and I shared makeup in the 90s when we first started dating. We shared clothing. It was wonderful. He wore more makeup than half the girls I knew! The scene was a lot more open to people whose gender was fluid, and we liked it that way. Something, somewhere changed ... And this is my biggest pet peeve of the modern goth scene. Part of the appeal of goth, for me, was that it was a safe, non-judgmental place for everyone to be themselves, to express themselves, etc. I'm not sure when this all changed ... But it's a disturbing trend.

    1. I actually quite like a lot of the EBM bands - I think I'm turning cybergoth/semi industrial due to Raven's influence, and that sort of rugged and futuristic-but-practical aesthetic has its own appeal to me. I guess that's where my 'tomboy' side shows.

      Interestingly, Raven, who is into his industrial, EBM and future-pop oontz-oontz music has rather elaborate fashion in his own way, and is into DIY'ing his fashion - painting invisible-by-daylight UV stuff on his combats, modifying welding goggles and spray-painting stuff different colours, etc. I have noticed that many of the girls into the oontz-oontz music (I will keep calling it that until I get to grips with genre names and sub-genre and hybrid distinctions) tend to go for lots of PVC, platform boots and quite revealing outfits, whereas the guys tend to dress like they're from a hybrid between some cyber-y sci-fi film and a zombie apocalypse movie. Tron meets Resident Evil or something. I'd much rather go for the combats, tank-top and lots of spiked stuff with goggles look than the PVC mini-skirt look.

    2. In the 90s (gawda, I sound like an old fart), the Rivethead kids - those who primarily listened to Industrial and EBM - wore very post apocalyptic inspired fashion, with a cyber twist. There was this one woman who only wore tall docs, cut off black military pants, and a cut up t-shirt with lots and lots of hardware. She was truly a Tank Girl ... And could dance! Then we knew a guy who only wore corsets and pvc skirts. He was gorgeous. I think the scene has given too much credence to the normal scenes and followed suit. Boots used to be de rigeur, forget high heels and 'stripper shoes.' Band t-shirts with fishnet shirts underneath, etc. In my experience, no one pushed this super-fem, super-masculine style. I would show up in high docs, black cutoff military pants, and a band t-shirt ... And no one would care. It was freer, more creative.

      I hear you and completely understand. Tomboy, girly-girl, etc ... It wasn't a thing then. At least not in my experience and I'm in the NY scene.

    3. I wasn't a Goth until the 2000s, so the Goths I saw around Reading and Oxford in England tended to only be mall goths because I wasn't anywhere near old enough to be part of the scene! I remember lots of trench-coats and O-ring collars. England, land of rain and therefore trench coats on Goths :P

      I really am going to have to post the photographs from me in the ruins - ripped tights under a Das Klub T-shirt, goggles, braids, enough spikes to sink a battle-ship and lots and lots of buckles on my boots! I've got army boots and military jackets and goggles and ripped stuff, but none of that sort of fashion ends up on my blog, partly because I worry that there isn't an audience for it, and partly because I don't know what words to put up to accompany it.

      What you describe of the scene in the '90s is the sort of thing I wish the scene was like now. If I go clubbing now in trousers and boots, I'm probably the only girl doing so, and I feel a bit left out next to all the pretty ladies in corsets and fancy skirts, a bit dull by comparison, not quite as fancy and cool.

    4. "The scene was a lot more open to people whose gender was fluid, and we liked it that way. Something, somewhere changed "

      That is actually a very interesting topic. I noticed these changes as well. I expected a brighter future.

  2. Hey, just so you know, trans is short for transgender or transexual, most trans people get offended when called a transvestite. Also, female-to-male trans people identify as male, not female. Otherwise, good post.

    1. The "female-to-male transvestite Goth" was a reference to me dressing male in my early Romantic Goth/Steampunk days when I was at college, not to transgender people, although with similar wording in the notes section, I can see where the confusion may have arisen - I am aware of the difference. I am definitely not transgender, and was just experimenting with gender roles and fashion at the time, especially as I found that women's anachronistic fashion and the 'characters' embodied within it tended to reflect historical divides in fashion and gender roles more than I expected - hence part of this article! My Steampunk alter-ego was male because I felt that to be the sort of character I wanted to be, I had to be /a guy/ because women aren't like that... I will blame it on the folly of youth; a woman can be anything she wants to be!

      I presumed that female-to-male transgendered people would identify as male, but just in case they identified as female-to-male rather than just male, I'd just check.

    2. I have changed the paragraph to include a small aside as to why I deliberately meant /transvestite/ Goths in that paragraph and not transgendered - the notes paragraph was partly to explain why FTM transgendered weren't in the paragraph about female-identifying Goths wearing non-feminine clothes. Hopefully I've made things clearer so as not word things offensively.

  3. Hmm...I suspect that individual styles vary on a regional basis and that at times, a Goth's look might incorporate a bit of local tastes. I have a couple of female Goth friends for example, who tend to wear cowboy hats, whether straw or otherwise. For anyone meeting these ladies on the street, there is no mistaking their subcultural affiliation. But that's a part of the culture here in the American mid south, and I too lean toward that type of head covering or something similar.

    That said, there's an interesting mix of styles on display when we hold events. There is a cross dresser who often shows up on our Darkness Resurrected nights, but I'm not sure what this person's gender identification actually is. He/she does seem to prefer the feminine look however.

    Some of the ladies here are into Lolita and some enjoy dressing with a Victorian flair. Others are more into the shorter skirt, torn stocking look.

    Some of the men occasionally wear capes, skirts or the bondage pants that you mentioned above, while others such as myself, prefer trousers that are a regular fit. I don't look good in thin trousers and so avoid them. A lot of the guys simply put on a black T-shirt and leave it at that, while still others dress impeccably in tails and top hat.

    Considering the conservative nature of this part of the country, I think a lot of the local Goth folk are quite creative in coming up with styles that suit them. Beyond that, I haven't delved much deeper into local fashion. My fascinations lie more with music, literature and good horror films.

    1. While you are describing quite a variety of looks, they still seem quite divided by gender - the women are still more into skirts either modern or anachronistic, men mostly wearing trousers, and with those breaking gender boundaries approaching it from a male direction. That said, with what I have heard (although it maybe erroneous; news distorts fact as it travels) about your area being rather conservative when it comes to gender boundaries and homophobia, I can imagine that there are external pressures, as well as those from within the scene.


Please be polite and respectful. Comments containing gratuitous swearing and insults will be deleted.