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..

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Casually Romantic Goth

After 7 of my fanciest outfits, I thought I would share some of what I look like on just an ordinary weekend.

As readers may know, I love fancy things - whether that is clothes, architecture, artwork or really anything - but that does not mean I think everything should be as fancy as possible all the time. Firstly, I feel that if I wore my fanciest clothes everyday, that they would start to loose their specialness to me; with time becoming ordinary, and secondly, it just would not be practical, and my nice things would get ruined as I snag lace, get ruffles mucky and long coats and hems get trapped in doors. There are already so many jackets I have waiting to have buttons sewn back on because I've managed to catch them on something! 

That said, I do not want to abandon my personal aesthetic completely, and so a lot of my casual outfits are still a bit more fancy than more mainstream casual clothes, but they include cuffs that are less likely to get snagged, often trousers rather than skirts. Accessories, my unnatural hair colours (whether dyed or wigs) and choices in fabric all help to keep things within the aesthetic I prefer. 

One outfit photo, and three trying to show the make-up!

This is a summer outfit I wore to a friend's 50th birthday party. It was a summer's day, a casual garden party, and they are not Goth, so I didn't go for one of my more elaborate outfits, and instead went for just a weekend's summer outfit - my casual is still fancy enough for a mainstream garden party!

I picked floaty top that sits somewhere between hippie and Goth in its semi-sheer fabric and Medieval fantasy inspiration, a plain maxi skirt, and a belt to add interest and pull the top in at the waist, as it is quite loose. It was Gothic, but without overt morbid symbols - no skulls, no zombies, no coffins - just plain black crystal stud earrings, a silver bracelet of studs-as-beads, and a black metal laser-cut effect foliate necklace from eBay. It is hard to make out on the photographs, but I painted my nails an iridescent lavender-grey, with black tips. I wore make-up that was pretty natural-looking for my face and lips, but dramatic around the eyes, and while it's hard to make out, I had green eyeshadow to match my hair, and little leafy scrolls in the corners to match my necklace. The sleeves end short of my wrists, so even with their long drapes, they rarely get caught in anything. The lace detail around the square neckline (I love square necklines!) and the design of the sleeves make this a top that is fancy enough for my tastes, without being oodles of brocade and velvet and suchlike. 

This picture is dark! Details more visible if you click to enlarge.

The above outfit was just what I would wear on any Saturday. I have brocade trousers (I think the brocade is actually visible on this photo, for a change!) a lace-up crop top, and a cardigan with lace panels. What you can't see is that I'm wearing it with New Rock boots, because my mirror isn't long enough to show boots. This was quite a bit later in summer (you can see my hair has grown out a bit and faded) and the weather was a bit cooler, but it was still warm enough to warrant a thin cardigan and a light blouse. The blouse, hard as it is to see, is of a synthetic satin with deliberate crumples, and laces up the front with ribbons - a design that is quite Gothic even if the top was originally from a mainstream shop, and bought in a charity shop years ago. The cardigan has ties at the neck, which are not visible in any of these photographs, and the lace panels give a square neckline effect without actually having that much neck and upper chest uncovered if it gets cold enough for me to want to do the whole thing up (it didn't, so it is just tied at the neck here). I saw no need to bother with make-up, and just wore a studded cuff on one wrist, and a skull bead on some black ribbon on the other, along with my usual rings.

The brocade of the trousers, lace on the cardigan, and materials of the blouse, along with the New Rock Boots, all combine to make it an outfit a bit fancier and the studded cuff, boots and green hair, as well as the all-black outfit, keep the outfit firmly in the Goth aesthetic. The outfit is pretty practical, with comfortable boots, trousers, and a top that has little to catch on things and is warm once buttoned up. 

I like that I look a bit androgynous in this outfit. 
This outfit has taken a bit of inspiration from Japanese Goth and Visual Kei fashion and is a step up in fanciness. Again, it is based around trousers for practicality's sake. I'm wearing slim-fit black jeans from H&M with rather ornate embroidery down the sides. (I really need to get a good photo of them!), my favourite blouse that I have ever owned (and which thus turns up in a lot of my outfit photos) and is from Zanzea, and more accessories than in the other outfits. I remember that I wore boots, but I can't actually remember which pair! I'd guess probably my army boots, as I love them and wear them as much as I can due to them being very, very comfortable!

I am wearing lace fingerless gloves, which something I almost constantly do if it is not too hot out! I actually feel weird going out without some kind of gloves on. Around my hips is a belt with mesh and  lace over-skirt style panels from Gothic Lolita and Punk, and instead of my real hair, which was actually at a pretty similar length, I went with the black and red wig as it is much easier to style into that Visual Kei style with individual locks of hair coming to points, and volume at the back. The crescent moon earrings were a gift from Raven and bought for me in Wales. 

Again, I am wearing very minimal make-up, just some concealer, tinted lip-balm (to actually make my lips less pink) and a bit of shimmery eye-shadow in a natural colour. The minimal make-up was more to enhance my natural features than to do anything artistic like I would normally do - quite a different ethos than I normally have when it comes to make-up!

Altogether, this outfit is more androgynous than my usual outfits, which are often what would be traditionally regarded as feminine. Personally, I think clothes are for whomever they fit, and dislike the gendering of clothes. 

Finally, a very fancy outfit, and quite an old set of photos that people who read this blog will have seen before. This is about how fancy my "just going out" outfits get; this one was for lunch with friends.

When I write this blog, I tend to showcase my fanciest outfits because they often feel the nicest, the most special, but I sometimes feel like I'm unwittingly contributing to a sense that Goths need to be at their fanciest at all times, or perhaps that I am fancy all the time - neither of which are true. 

Monday, 27 October 2014

7 Days, 7 Corset Outfits!

Initially, this was supposed to be a 14 day corset challenge, but I pretty much failed that half-way through. Putting together a corset-centred outfit is time consuming, especially the getting dressed and getting laced up part, and even with Raven helping me I decided it just was not practical to wear every day. While my corsets are comfortable, they do restrict mobility to a degree (especially bending over) and when I have practical things to do, I'd rather not be wearing one. I was on October holiday, as I work at a school, and thus had two weeks where my outfit choices where not dictated by what was work appropriate, and I wanted to see if I could wear corset-based outfits for the whole duration. I know some people do wear corsetry every day, but I have discovered that it is not for me. Part of it is that my corsets are all really outerwear corsets, rather than underwear corsets, and for an outfit to incorporate a corset and seem fitting, to me at least, it needs to match the corset for fanciness, and I just do not feel like I can carry that level of fanciness on a day-to-day basis. 

Firstly, I'd like to apologise for the photo quality; most of these were taken either on my smartphone or my webcam and neither of those have particularly amazing cameras, although the smartphone is considerably better than the webcam. My laptop's camera is actually relatively good in daylight, but really struggles with artificial light. All photos were edited at ::PicMonkey:: which is a free online photo editor, aimed at making selfies and similar funky and fun.

Day 1 Outfit Rundown:
My natural waist here 29 inches and my corseted waist here is 25 inches here, in a 24 inch corset. While I can lace them all the way, I don't wear corsets frequently enough to find lacing myself down to 24 inches very comfortable, so I tend to leave a bit of breathing space.
⚰ Corset: Corset Story UK (secondhand, eBay)
⚰ Blouse: Zara (secondhand, charity shop)
⚰ Cameo necklace: Rock & Roar
⚰ Wig: Coscraft
⚰ Shrug: Tesco (secondhand, charity shop)

The Coscraft wig tends to end up a bit spidery, and the ends of the fibres were a bit frizzy when I got it, and have only got frizzier. I have noticed this is a common problem with synthetic black wigs, that the fibres have a tendency to frazzle at the ends more so than other colours, and I wonder if this is something to do with whatever is commonly used as a black pigment altering the synthetic hair plastic somehow. That's not to say my other wigs do not frazzle - they do - it just seems something that black wigs are predisposed to do so much faster, and I've had black wigs from four different quality brands, and the only one that has been silky and stayed silky was really cheap on eBay from China, which then proceeded to moult rapidly and thin much faster than the more expensive ones. If anyone knows a brand that sells black wigs that stay as silky as their more brightly coloured wigs, then would love to hear recommendations.

I am a sky-pirate, just for one day... 

Day 2 Outfit Rundown 
I had this corset fully laced to 26 inches for this outfit. 

⚰ Brocade trousers: Primark
⚰ Blouse: Gothic Lolita & Punk 
⚰ Corset: Leatherotics 
⚰ Frock-coat: Hearts & Roses London 
 Wing pins: eBay 
⚰ Wig: Borrowed from Raven 
⚰ Goggles (barely visible): modified by me, originally bought on eBay.

For my second outfit I was inspired by the buckled corset to create an outfit with distinct Steampunk influences, yet not one that is truly Steampunk, just Romantic Goth making a nod towards the Steampunk aesthetic. I love the 'sky pirate' character that often turn up in Steampunk fiction - it appeals to me in the same way as Firefly and Serenity do. Unfortunately all of these photographs have the goggles I was wearing cut off (but those who follow the ::Domesticated Goth Facebook Page:: will have seen the full body pictures, and some of these photos, already!). I chose the wings double-brooch (which I wore as collar pins) as a symbol of flight. I have some pleather gloves that I think would have suited this outfit, with straps and studs, but I can't find both of the pair right now.

This outfits seems quite androgynous for one involving an under-bust corset which is very specifically designed to both cinch my waist and emphasise my bust! Partly this is because the combination of frock coat, frills and trousers is traditionally considered male, and partly this is because the wig and that specific make-up (with its heavier brows and contouring on the cheeks, but lack of blush or lipstick) seems more akin to that from masculine Visual Kei artists than my usual styles, and take some of the softness away from my features. I liked the combination of 'effeminate' and 'masculine' elements in this outfit, as it feels like a way to incorporate my 'tomboy' side with still loving all the ruffles and lace of Romantic Goth. I'd quite like to do another version of this  outfit with a waistcoat rather than a corset.

An almost monochrome aesthetic.
Day 3 Outfit Rundown 
This is the same corset as in the first outfit, and laced about the same amount. I feel that even when it is not fully laced, it gives me quite defined curves.

⚰ Blouse: G:21 (secondhand, bought in a charity shop)
⚰ Corset: Corset Story UK (secondhand, bought on eBay)
⚰ Lace mitts: Accessorise 
⚰ Overskirt: Don't know! (secondhand, labels removed before I bought it, so I don't know)
⚰ Skirt: Marks & Spencer (secondhand, bought in a charity shop)
⚰ Wig: Coscraft
⚰ Necklace
: Restyle

This is a very classically Romantic Goth outfit, with make-up and clothing choices that put me very much in the greyscale. I am not naturally that desaturated and pale; I used white foundation (and remembered to apply it to most exposed skin) to take the rosiness out of my skin tone (I'm already very pale) and used grey and silver as shading on my face, in order to aim for something akin to being a black and white photograph of a person but alive in the polychromatic world. Having naturally grey eyes helped! The entire outfit was built around matching the aesthetic of the pewter raven necklace with its black 'stones' (which I think are either plastic or glass) which was both wonderfully detailed and very Gothic, and made me think of old black and white horror movies.

One thing I would improve is choosing a top with a different line of frills the nest time; I feel like the line of the corset and the line of ruffles should match, as with the ruffles across the top of my bust, this looks a little strange. 

Day 4 Outfit Rundown
The same corset as the second outfit, but with a dramatically different outfit. 
⚰ Jacket: Dark Star, (via Far Fetched, Inverness) 
⚰ Blouse: Zanzea (Christmas present from Raven) 
⚰ Corset: Leatherotics
⚰ Cat handbag: H&M 
⚰ Lace Mitts: Accessorise

I tried for a more casual outfit, but as corsets seem fairly fancy to me, the rest of the outfit ended up fancy anyway. It's hard to tell in the photographs, but I'm wearing a skirt with it - if I had a longer mirror I'd show that it's floor-length. I love pairing purple up with the blueish green of my hair, so I picked this rather fabulously patterned cropped jacket from Dark Star. Far Fetched were very accommodating, and as I am a regular customer (they sell incense... ) I was able to pay for it in instalments, and therefore buy a much fancier jacket than I could normally afford.  One of the reasons to support independent retailers is that it is far more likely that they will allow payment plans for items that aren't expensive electronics! 

I don't take myself too seriously, especially when doing a 'duck-face' pout!

Day 5 Outfit Rundown
This is probably my favourite outfit from the week! 
Corset is a 24 inch corset, again laced a bit loosely, somewhere between 25 and 26 inches at a guess. 
♛ Wig: Coscraft 
♛ Necklace: eBay 
♛ Shawl/chiffon cardigan thing: New York Laundry (modified by me, bought secondhand, charity shop)
♛ Blouse: H&M (secondhand, eBay)
♛ Corset: Corset Story 

♛ Skirt: Marks & Spencers (secondhand, charity shop) 
♛ Lace Mitts: Accessorise

This outfit was all about the lovely sleeves off this cape/shrug/over-shirt/cardigan thing... It's loose, floaty, sheer and light synthetic chiffon with vast bell sleeves that end in ruffles, and it swishes delightfully. I bought it for £1.99 in a charity shop and decided that the neckline was too plain, so hand-stitched that crochet-lace (venise lace?) collar onto it, and the collar was cheap on eBay. Originally the collar was for another project entirely, and I bought somewhere around a year ago, but it was too big for the blouse I wanted to sew it to, so it just lurked in my sewing supplies until I figured it would go well with this item. I also changed the black buttons on the top for silver-tone metallic ones, and instead of doing the bottom buttons up at the front, I like doing them up behind me when I am wearing a corset, to emphasise the curves of the corset.

This many selfies of the same outfit is probably a sign of narcissism... 

I really like how this outfit turned out (probably a bit too proud of it, actually!) and it is certainly an outfit I'd wear again, especially that top! I just love the big, floaty sleeves. I'm a bit annoyed with the photographs, though; on the whole they're a bit hazy, and a mixture of washed out and strangely dark. I think I over-lightened my face in the third picture down, in order to try and make it visible - at least I look ghostly, which seems apt in the run-up to Halloween! 

Spiky! Now, which supernatural foe am I supposed to slay? 
Day 6 Outfit Rundown
Same corset as before, laces to 26 inch waist. ⚰ Spikes: (an assortment of places, mostly market stalls in Camden, Reading and Bristol; I've had them so long that I don't remember where I got them all) 
⚰ Upper set of choker spikes are from a wholesaler on eBay, Phoenix1900 
⚰ Blouse: Zanzea (Christmas present from Raven) 
⚰ Corset: Leatherotics
⚰ Belt with overskirt: Gothic, Lolita & Punk
⚰ Mesh gloves: (secondhand on eBay, unbranded)
⚰ Skinny trousers: H&M

This outfit is far more modern in its Goth. I picked buckled accessories with spikes and studs and obvious eyelets to co-ordinate with the studs and buckles on the corset. The last two outfits with this corset were based more on anachronistic ruffles - this one is far slicker. I am wearing skinny black trousers with it, and picked a fitted shirt and stretch mesh gloves. I guess this sort of fashion style is rooted more in Underworld and Resident Evil than the usual period horror inspirations! I felt rather badass wearing this outfit (although I don't think my martial arts skills and weaponry are quite up to par with those of my pop-geek culture heroines!). I finished it with my eternally comfortable army boots.

My make-up isn't actually as pale as it appears in this photograph; that's a byproduct of my tinkering with the contrasts and such to make the detail apparent in what was quite a dingy and poorly lit pair of photographs. As you can see, I have been given a new smartphone, but it is 'only' a cheap one, and the camera is not a significant improvement upon the last smartphone camera, so I am afraid that the photograph quality is still lacking. I have noticed that the flash on my new smartphone isn't very powerful. At least it's still better than the webcam! 

These photographs officially suck
Day 7 Outfit Rundown
This is a new corset I ordered cheaply on eBay. It is supposed to be a 26 inch waist and suitable for tight-lacing, but with its use of spiral steel bones throughout, rather than rigid steel bones, I am reluctant to lace it all the way in case it warps. 
⚰ Dress: Tic Toc
⚰ Shrug: Tesco (secondhand in a charity shop!)
⚰ Corset: eBay
⚰ Belt: (unknown, secondand, charity shop)
⚰ Necklace: Phoenix1900 on ebay. 

I am really disappointed with how the photographs came out for this, but I really don't think either my smartphone or my webcam deal with electric lighting indoors very well. My older smartphone coped much better, as is evident in fourth set of selfies. The dress is stretch lace, and very slinky, and the shrug is woven lace and a nice pattern. I tried to highlight the belt, but the swirling plant designs on the metal are lost, as is the intricate lace of the choker. 

Saturday, 25 October 2014

Gradient Green Hair

This time, on updating my green dye (it fades after a month or two, and the roots start to really show), I decided to do something different. 

I usually use a combination of Stargazer UV Green or African Green for the highlights and Stargazer UV Turquoise or Tropical Green for the lowlights, and thus get green hair with some dimension to it. This time, I decided to do something a lot more dramatic and give myself gradient hair. I've heard gradient hair called "ombre" but I'm pretty sure that only applies to where you've bleached the lower half of your hair and then maybe applied colour over that - a bit like how my hair dye goes after really growing it out! 

This was done by bleaching out my roots first. I hate trying to bleach my roots as they never quite bleach as pale as the neighbouring pre-bleached hair because it's almost impossible to not get bleach on the neighbouring sections, so the already-bleached hair becomes double-bleached, and the roots only once bleached, and then it still doesn't quite match... argh. I am generally not the best at bleaching my own hair. I have to bleach all my hair twice to get it from nearly black to blonde, too, so the second time I have to try and be extra-careful not to re-bleach what was bleached the previous time, because otherwise my hair will get all brittle at that point and is liable to snap, and while I quite like my hair short, an inch and a half long is shorter than I'm prepared to have right now. Sometimes this means I get a narrow stripe of slightly darker hair where I've strayed too far from the previously bleached hair and only double-bleached parts of my roots. If anyone knows how to make this an easier and less frustrating process, I'd LOVE the advice! 

(As long as the advice isn't "go to a hairdresser's salon" because I can't, due to aerosol allergies and cost issues.)

Once all my hair was as blonde as it was going to get, and I'd done my very best to not frazzle it, I started applying the dye. I love Stargazer because it's very cheap and very vibrant and stays quite vibrant for a while, and I used the UV Green for the top section. One of my friends suggested mixing conditioner in with my hair-dye to get softer hair and to help it after bleaching, so I did that, and combed a mixture of UV Green dye and conditioner down about four inches from my roots. The next section was a mixture of UV Green and UV Turquoise and conditioner, down another couple inches, and then UV Turquoise and conditioner for the rest down to the tips. Once I had washed out all the stargazer dye and conditioner, and dried my hair, I put another coat of UV Green over my roots for an extra vibrant neon green, and then got some Renbow Crazy Colour in Pine Green and rubbed it on the very tips of my hair. 

Of course, I can't have this for work, really. As I have had two weeks off from work on holiday, and this week coming is the Halloween week, and work are being quite permissive in the run up to Halloween (I work at a school, so they really get into the Halloween spirit for the children), it can stay until the weekend. After that, I am using up the remaining Pine Green and having dark green hair, but for now, I get to enjoy my fabulously bright gradient hair. At sunset, it literally glows in the UV twilight. 

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Developing Personal Style

3 Tips for all styles (not just Goth) on how to improve your wardrobe and find your own personal style. 

☠ Purge and Replenish 
At the moment I am tidying my wardrobe and came to that moment of "I either need more hangers or fewer clothes" and when this happens, I tend to chose having fewer clothes. Partly, this is because it saves me buying more hangers, partly because it stops me ending up with more clothes than space for clothes (I have limited wardrobe space, as my wardrobe gets used as a store cupboard for other things, like swords and roller-skates), and partly because it helps me develop my own style. 

I end up sorting through all my clothes and assessing what I want to keep, and what I want to get rid of. This can be quite brutal if I've happened to find several bargains in charity shops, been gifted nice things, or been particularly lucky on eBay, as I often end up throwing something out for every new thing I have added. By doing this, I end up with a slowly growing core of clothes that I really love and never decide to throw away (as long as they still fit) and end up giving away or selling things that either do not fit, or which I am just not that fond of. 

Through gradual and constant repetition of this process, I get a better idea of my own personal style, which items fit within that. Items that are an experimental addition to my wardrobe may stay if I like how the experiment turns out, or will be discarded the next time I find something nice, so there is a constantly evolving collection. Over time I have come to know what cuts I like, which things I wear frequently, which things are flattering, and which things are likely to compliment other items, and I credit a lot of this to constantly re-assessing my wardrobe.

This does not necessarily have to be a rapid or expensive process, just one done with thought and consideration.

☠ Take Selfies
This may sound vain, but it can actually be helpful and constructive. The idea here is not necessarily share them with others, but to take pictures to view yourself, as sometimes seeing your image in a photograph gives a slightly different viewpoint or the camera 'sees' things differently to the way your eyes do, and then this fresh image can help you re-asses your outfit. 

Sometimes sharing can help, but I suggest sharing your selfies to a group or forum that is a constructive criticism group (for Lolita fashion, I suggest joining the ::Lolita Fashion Mentoring:: group on Facebook for newbies, and asking for constructive criticism in ::Closet of Frills::, also on Facebook) rather than to your Facebook feed or Instragram or Tumblr, because it is easy to start posing and lighting pictures to make present a nice image rather than to take an image that is there to give a clear image of how your outfit looks, flaws and all, for criticism. Also, look at other people's images in these groups, and read their feedback, and learn from that too. 

If you are going to post an outfit image for review, I think it is important to get a clear whole-body photograph, with lighting that gives clear visibility of details, drape, etc. (difficult with black clothes!) and to also include detail shots if there are specific details you feel contribute to the outfit but are not necessarily visible on a whole-body photograph.

Remember that constructive criticism is a mixture of tips that genuinely work and personal opinion; for example, a lot of Lolitas think that fingerless lace gloves are not suited to Lolita, but I think that as long as the lace is good quality, that they do as I cannot see a good reason for them to not fit in the Lolita aesthetic. If you really love something, wear it, but also do listen to those who give reasons with their constructive criticism. 

☠ Test Outfits Before Wearing
If you have a dress-maker's dummy this is probably the best way of doing this, but if not, there's plenty of ways of constructing make-shift mannequins to fulfil this. One thing I do is take two coat-hangers, one being my 'shoulders' and the other suspended below to be my 'hips' and hang my clothes from the pair as if I were dressing them; that way I get an idea of what the clothes look like together before I actually put them on. I tend to only do this with outfits for special occasions, especially as I can get four (or more) coat-hangers, and put together two outfits next to each other for comparison. This does not replace testing an outfit on at home before an occasion, but it does help the process. 

Another option is to do a 'flat lay' - this is laying out an outfit on a bed or (clean!) floor to get a two-dimensional representation of how an outfit might work. Layer clothes carefully so you get some idea of how layering when worn will look like, and remember that details can be lost in layering, so if you have a nice print, embroidery or other detail in an item that you wish to showcase, do check to see if they're still visible once worn.

Whichever option you choose, this is a good way if assessing how items combine. You can also note down which items go well together, but just do not suit a specific outfit (or 'co-ord' short for 'co-ordinated' in Lolita parlance) and which items just don't seem to fit any outfit (even if they're nice on their own) and mark them as something to either replace, or build an outfit around that does work (depending on whether you are trying to expand or reduce your wardrobe). 

I hope people find these tips useful in developing their own personal style and and in improving their outfits. Developing your own style is based around what you personally like (rather than what is trendy, or what is popular with others) and on what sort of things look aesthetically pleasing together (including deliberately clashing, if that is your thing) and learning over time what suits you, in your own estimation. 

Don't rely too much on others; it is useful initially (especially in a fashion like Lolita that is built around a framework of 'rules' or 'guidelines' that are based in what is tried and tested to work to create a certain aesthetic) but in the end, for something to be your own personal style, you need to develop it yourself. You can learn from others and imitate to a certain degree (but outright copying people's style is considered a bit weird and rude) but remember, that your style is something that should come out of your aesthetics, not someone else's. 

Be patient, especially if you are a teen; you probably won't settle into something that is your groove, your style, your own way of doing things until you're in your late 20s or even early 30s, and it is perfectly fine to experiment. I went through several different subcultural styles and variations on Goth before I settled on Romantic Goth, and even now, my style is evolving (just more slowly) as I evolve. We all change over time, and it is important not to stagnate. 

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Being Neo-Pagan AND Goth

The problem with being a 'Witch' and vaguely resembling a fantasy witch is that people assume that I'm a witch based on how I look. The problem with that is that their version of 'witch' is often an assumption quite far from what I actually am, and that Goth and 'witch' are not synonyms.

There's several versions of this, and it comes from different mindsets and different assumptions, so I don't want to tackle this as if it is all the same thing. 

The first and most obvious is when non-Pagan strangers ask me if I'm a witch. There are two general versions of this; the one where the asker does not sincerely believe that I am a witch and is asking me it as a mocking question, and the one where the stranger has correlated my outfit with the idea of the fantasy sorceress and genuinely thinks that I might be a practitioner of the occult; and the rarest sort is that some have a vague idea about Wicca and modern Witchcraft and have spotted a pentacle or moon symbol somewhere upon my person, but most of those that ask are of the first two sorts, and of the second sort, they seem to think that I spend my Saturdays sacrificing goats on windswept hillsides or something with the look of fear they give me, and there's a subset of this group who are very intent on saving my soul from the Devil. 

Goth is not a religion, it does not require being a member of any religion, and you get Goths of all religions (Go look at ::Priestly Goth:: and its sister site, ::Priestly Goth Blog:: - the pages of a Pastor, painter of icons, Goth and political blogger. Not the only person who has chosen a Christian religious life that I know that also has a Goth streak!) and of none. I do think that as Goth has a Romantic aspect to it, that it tends to attract people who have a spiritual nature about them, and while yes, there are higher percentage of Goths who are on mystical and occult paths than in the general population (and I include in that Goths who follow the more mystic aspects of mainstream religions, too), it is by no means that all Goths are Pagans. 

I always find it hard to deal with these situations; I usually start with "that's an unusual question" - after all, how many other people has this person asked this question to? Probably not many, if any - and then try and figure things out from there. I don't use the word "witch" very much anyway, as I have explained in ::this:: earlier post, but my answer is going to be very different between someone who says "I noticed your pentacle ring and thought you might be Wiccan" and someone who says "Don't you Gothics (An aside: Gothic is an adjective, not a noun! People need to learn this!) worship the Devil?" I never lie, but I tend to word things carefully to neither confirm nor deny and to steer things away from me, personally. If people are ignorant but genuine curious, then I try to politely explain that they've been misinformed, if they're judgemental and going on a religious tirade, then I extricate myself from the situation. Whatever I do, I'm conscious that it will reflect on Goths as a whole, and therefore try and be as polite (but sometimes firm) as possible and make sure I do not let things devolve into an argument. 

Those who think I am some kind of crazy person and that my clothes and religion are both signs of this probably are not going to listen to any protestations otherwise, so I feel the only answer is to be a calm person and let my actions, and for those who are more than just a judgemental stranger, my life demonstrate that I am not some person wildly disconnected from reality and trying to live some delusion that they are in fact Morgan La Fey or something (there's nothing wrong with the occasional bit of dressing up as long as you're fully aware it is only a costume.) and that I am no crazier or more deluded than any other religious person may be, as there will always be the more militant atheists who try and make an issue of any religion, especially fringe religions. I am of the opinion that as long as a person is not hurting others or themselves through their religious choice, it is of no concern to others and that if you wish to engage in religious debate, it ought to be a polite discourse and not a personal attack. 

Prejudgement from Other Pagans
The Curious Professor Z wrote ::this:: very well-written, researched and thoughtful article on this topic already, and I encourage you to read it.

The most frustrating is probably when other Neo-Pagans think that Goths who are involved in Neo-Pagan spirituality, the Occult and Witchcraft are not sincere about their beliefs or, are coming at it because it is 'spooky' rather than because it connects with them on a deep and spiritual level. I find it frustrating because both Goths and Neo-Pagans are groups who have made choices that have separated them from the mainstream and opened themselves up to the assumptions, prejudice and bigotry of the ignorant, and so I'd hope that from the experience of having been judged and assumed about, that Neo-Pagans who are not Goth would be more inclined to ask questions and judge the sincerity of a person's belief on their actions, not on what subculture they are part of.

I am certainly not into Neo-Paganism as a way to deeper entrench myself in the 'spooky woman' role; this is not some blurring of the lines between everyday life and L.A.R.P. I was pagan before I was Goth, by about three years, although I definitely had Pagan attitudes and ideas that aligned with Neo-Paganism long before that, right from when I was a small child, although I did not know what Neo-Paganism was then.

To be fair, the Neo-Pagans I am currently involved with in my local area seemed pretty open and willing to give me a chance when I joined groups and starting getting involved with the Neo-Pagan community here, and I think that's partly because as the Alternative community in general is small here, people who stand out because they act and dress differently and their thoughts do not align with those of the majority, stick together, whether they're hippies, Neo-Pagans and Witches and other people who practice Alternative spiritualities, Metalheads, Goths, or any combination of the above or people who I haven't mentioned yet. My encounters with Neo-Pagans who have been judgemental have primarily been online. I think the internet is a medium through which some people forget their manners, as there is a distance in typing at a screen that can make people fail to realise there is still another human somewhere reading a different screen at a different keyboard, but not that unlike them.

The other assumption about being a Goth and a Neo-Pagan is that there are other Neo-Pagans who think that we practice curses and magic for evil purposes, that we sacrifice living things and are liable to commit some kind of sacrilegious practice or whatnot, and I think that comes from the same misinformed place as the non-Pagans that think this; they think Goth is somehow linked to 'black magic' (side note: magic does not come in 'black' and 'white'; a growth spell or a love spell can be just as destructive as a diminishment spell or separation spell, and the latter two can actually be used helpfully) and evil practices, and it just is not! It is a common misconception, but it just is not true. Goth does not have any religious affiliation, and does not involve a deliberate desire to be purposefully immoral in any spiritual or more mundane way.

As per usual, I remind people to check their assumptions, or rather, to try and avoid assumptions and to approach things from a place of learning. Goth is a subculture encompassing fashion, art, music and an appreciation for darker things; it is not an anti-moral code, a religion or a cult and has no bearing on what a person choses to be their religious, spiritual or atheist path. 

Monday, 13 October 2014

Alternative X - The Last One At Karma!

As readers may know, Inverness has - or possibly had - two different club nights specialising in alternative music: Rapture, which was metal and rock, and Alternative X which was more diverse, also including Goth, Industrial, EBM and Punk music. Recently the Karma Lounge, which hosted these events, closed. As yet no new venue has been announced for either, although there have been various suggestions from within the community. 

Pre-clubbing selfie. Note swirls and bat hair-clip! 

Raven and I went to the last Alternative X hosted at Karma, which was also a celebration of one of the organiser's birthday (Debra's). This was back in early September (5th), but sadly my computer broke (rather literally; mechanical hard-drive failure) shortly afterwards and I did not get this blog post finished. My apologies for this event review being so long after the fact!

My "how do I get the webcam to work?" face

It was a busy night by Alternative X standards, and I got to spend a lot of time with good friends. We stayed out pretty late! I can't remember how late. I drank more than I usually would hence the ridiculous poses in the coffin booth - at least it shows how green my hair was (Stargazer's UV dye range glows pretty well under a UV light, I found out!), we took a taxi back home rather late indeed, and fun was had by all. My favourite thing about Alternative X and the other Goth nights is that I get to see all the friends who live too far away from either my home or the city to see regularly, which is always nice. The Highlands are quite a sparse area, and those in the scene here are quite spread out over a wide area; it can be hard to keep in touch in person.  I really wish I had a couple of photos of Raven, because he wore a black kilt out clubbing!

I hope Alternative X and Rapture find new venues; it's nice to have at least one night every month or two where I can go to a club and hear music I like and dance, drink and socialise with other alternative types! Inverness and Highlands don not have much in the way of alternative events and it would be a shame to loose what we already have. 

Sunday, 12 October 2014

Edinburgh City Part 7: Edinburgh Castle (Interior)

In yesterday's post I covered the castle's architecture and exterior with a series of black-and-white photographs. Today I'm going to show a few photographs of the interior. In colour, to show the rich warm tones of the decor - I guess an antidote to how grey and bleak the weather can be high on the castle crag. 

Royal Palace

A big warm fire! Just not with much actual fire in it.

Apparently the room above is part of a suite of rooms which are still, to this day, used as state function rooms. I wonder if dinners are served here, or if antique furniture is brought out for people to sit around some grand table. One thing I observed was that, apart from the paneling and built-in furniture, there rooms were quite bare of tables, chairs, cabinets, etc. and I wonder how much more homely and also how much grander the rooms would have been when they had chairs on corners, tables, beautiful items on display, etc. Some of the rooms have portraits and paintings on display, but most do not. I wonder if this is because for a long time the castle was used as a military fortress rather than as a royal residence. 

Gilt panelling with fluted

I'm sure all the polished wood and gilt, as well as the polished brass plates behind the 'candles' (now replaced with electric lights designed to look a bit like candles of you squint sort of side-ways...), are all part of a carefully thought-out attempt to give the rooms a sense of brightness and warmth. My interior photography, especially with a point-and-click camera and inadequate lighting, does not do the richness of the wood justice; I presume it's all oak, and the grain has been polished (or oiled?) to perfection. 

Great Hall
The great hall was the heart of most castles, and even Edinburgh Castle, so modified for changing times over the centuries, still has its. Most of the hall is decorated with the contents of an antique armoury; swords, halberds, armour and suchlike cover every wall, some in mountings that almost seem like they're part of an actual armoury if it wasn't for the elegance of the wood-work, and some arranged in fanciful patterns on the walls. Somehow it made me think of Raven, and his collection of knives and swords (I have my own collection, too, but his is more expansive!) but this collection of matched weapons was clearly meant for a lot of guards rather than one man! There were some miniature cannons, too - I'm not sure if they were actual weapons, or symbolic decorations. The armour below is part of this display of militaria (and there's one of the mini-canons!). 

I apologise for the blur and camera shake!

Of course, the hall was not built as a military museum or an opportunity to show off a vast number of swords. People would have met here, feasted and banqueted, got tangled in the complex webs of high society and politics (very much the same thing in the times of monarchy and feudalism) and suchlike. Even dressed in my Gothic Lolita frills, I felt under-dressed for the venue (despite all the other tourists in their casual, ordinary clothes...) and sort of wished I was wearing something a bit grander - in retrospect quite a silly thing to think!

I want to sit by this window with a warm cloak and good book!

I like this window. I like the geometric pattern for the leadlights that is not just rhombuses of glass, and I like the stained glass heraldry inset, as it is colour, but not overwhelming colour that will reduce some of the light coming in (as can happen in churches, and partly why later Gothic architecture had such an emphasis on huge windows; it maximises the light AND allows for glass that does not have the clarity of modern glass, and also for stained glass). Maybe it was the weather, maybe it was reading the accounts of past resident royalty who thought the castle a cold and drear place, but I was acutely aware of how light worked in the building that day.  I quite like this nook, too; the way there's private seats in the window bay. 

I wish I had captured a few more photographs of the great hall, especially the amazing roof beams and the screens and ornately carved panelling. It is a really splendid room and I wish I had more to show my readers!

I find interiors like this and that of the National Portrait Gallery very inspiring, but it's hard to channel that inspiration when I don't live in a grand house with high ceilings and I do not have seemingly inexhaustible wealth to fund such grand things. Maybe one day, with enough time and enough patience and enough skills learnt, I could learn enough crafts and spend enough time decorating to have something splendid, but it is really nothing but a dream. 

Thursday, 9 October 2014

Edinburgh City Part 6: Edinburgh Castle (Exterior)


One of the main reasons I went to Edinburgh was to photograph the castle. As Scotland's largest castle, and one of the more impressive, situated as it is on a rocky volcanic crag high above the city, looming over everything as a stony sentinel, it seemed the perfect subject for a display on castles for the Primary 4 class at the school I work at, and I personally adore castles and want any excuse to visit one. 

Looking left from the entrance bridge.
The guttering looks a bit like cannons.

Once at the castle itself, the city seems opened out all around, and just how high and isolated an outcrop the castle is seems very apparent. The views are amazing even on a dull and hazy day like the one of my visit. I am sure that on a clear and bright day that one would be able to see for many miles in any direction. I tried to take some photographs of the view, but they were mostly quite hard to make out, so none of them will go on the blog. 

Looking up from the entrance gate to the
Half Moon Battery, built for huge cannons.

So much of the rest of Edinburgh seems to have been built with at least some inspiration from the castle; all the castle-like details of the Scottish Baronial buildings that seem everywhere, the vistas that seemed planned to give you a good view of the castle, the gardens between Prince's Street and the railway that make the castle seem somehow separated from the city itself, etc. etc. Not many British cities still seem to have their old castle at their heart. Only Stirling, which also has its grand castle perched high above a steep rocky outcrop, seems to have some of this, but Edinburgh certainly seems built around its castle more than just geographically. Oxford, for example, still has its castle, but that castle has been swamped by the far grander buildings of the university and re-purposed so many times; it feels like it has been subsumed by its city.

Where the gates had once been underneath the Argyle Tower.

I took the photograph above because even before I read on a plaque that there had been many gates (five, if I remember rightly), the ribs in the vaulting made it clear that there had been defenses there before. I was surprised not to find holes of some sort to shoot down upon, or pour boiling liquids upon, invaders as I have seen this in other castles. Medieval warfare was grim, bloody and painful. Combined with the steep rocky crag the castle is built upon, the one main road up to the entrance, and the terracing that would make it so easy for archers or muskets to shoot down upon attackers, the castle is certainly not a structure that would have been easy to get into!

Looking up to what is now the castle shop!

Entry to the castle is not cheap. I think it cost me £16 just for myself. I then purchased a guide book, a few history books, post-cards and snacks all on top of that, making it quite an expensive visit. I am quite glad I had money saved up as otherwise I would not have ordinarily been able to afford such a trip. I think it is cheaper if you are a member of Historic Scotland - something I am seriously considering doing as I am quite fond of visiting historic sites (as visitors to my blog should know!). 

Staggered walls of castle shop.
Looking up at some clouds being interesting!

As I mentioned in yesterday's post, the weather was grim, bleak and windswept. The skies were grey, pale with wan sunlight and the wind made the day far chiller than the the day before, when it was sunny, warm and humid enough to have me nearly fainting. It was not the prettiest day for taking photographs; I prefer it when it is partially cloudy so that I get interesting contrast with the clouds, or at least when the clouds are being dramatic. The sky that day was dull, often quite flat, with the occasional interest of denser, darker and more leaden skies that came with unfulfilled promises of rain. Every now and again there was a slight break of blue through the cloud, but very little. 

Rear view of the shrine of the Scottish National War Memorial

One of the more recent buildings is the Scottish National War Memorial, built over what, if I remember rightly, had once been both a barracks and a church at different periods. I don't know how much of the architecture is 20thC and how much is an adaptation of older buildings, but I do know that it is a place of reverence and remembrance. Photographs are not permitted in the Shrine itself, to preserve the dignity and attitude of reverence, but I can say that it is both somber and beautiful, with the names of the war dead from all three branches of the military kept in a metal box designed to resemble the Ark of the Covenant. 

The archway, looking in from the approach.
The shrine is accessed via the inner courtyard, and under this arch. I don't know if this arch is a structural brace between the two buildings, or if it is a walk-way for uses I cannot fathom, or part of a tall gate that once sequestered off this royal section of the castle. Anyone who can explain it to me has my gratitude if they do so. 

The same archway, this time looking outwards.

Through this archway, inwards, is a courtyard. The inner courtyard is called the Royal Square, and it is surrounded by the Great Hall, the Scottish National War Memorial, and the Royal Palace (which holds the Honours of Scotland; the nation's crown jewels, comprised of a rod, sceptre, crown and sword, and the Stone of Destiny). This was not quite as grand as I had imagined, but Edinburgh Castle, with all its military architecture, cannons and defensive location, was primarily a working fortress and not decadent palace. That's not to say the interiors are not sumptuous - I will post later another blog entry with some colour photographs of the interiors - just that I have been to fancier places. It was a dreary day when I was visiting, and it lent the castle interiors a dreary atmosphere, even with their warm simulated candles. I suppose with fewer visitors, more comforts and all the big stone fire-places containing a lit and roaring fire, it would seem a lot more cosy.

The Royal Palace. At four storeys and with a tower, it's quite tall.
I visited both the Royal Palace, some rooms of which are apparently still used for state functions (I can assume only small ones, though) and are finely wood paneled and luxurious. There's a lot of heraldry about the place - I guess that sort of decor was done to impress visitors (the nobles that once would have come, not present day visitors) with the long hereditary claim to the throne, especially as it was a rather contested throne.

Mary Queen of Scots gave birth in rooms in the older parts of the building, to the boy that later became King James VI of Scotland and I of England, and a few Kings later, Mary and William of Orange became King and Queen and it got complicated, Jacobites and Hanoverians fought over who would be King, and whether parliament could interfere in the succession and 'divine right of kings', quite literally with battles and suchlike, culminating in the Battle of Culloden (not to far from where I now live) in 1746. Politics then was more complicated than what you get in a George R.R. Martin book, and just as deadly, even if with fewer dragons.  The depute head at the school I work at has tried explaining the complexities of the Jacobite uprising to me, but I must admit I lose track of which factions were on which side, and why, and the complexities of fractioning Christian sects of the time that underpinned a lot of the conflict confuse me utterly. As with most conflicts, I am at a loss as to why all of it should have escalated as far as lead to murder, death and battle. 

I have forgotten exactly where this door is, but I think it is
an entrance into what is now the Visitor's Information Centre

Edinburgh Castle is on an ancient site, apparently used as some that could be fortified from as far back as the Iron Age, and still in use a while later, as Edinburgh is mentioned (as a large banner at the castle proclaims) in the Y Gododdin, some of the earliest Welsh poetry, as where warriors feasted for a year and a day before going off to die in battle. A quick hunt of the internet makes it seem an epic poem worth reading - in English translation for me, perhaps in modern Welsh for Raven. It's a lot of history; more than I could take in through only one visit; I'd have to read more books and visit a second time at least, to even start making sense of it all. A lot of the castle's history is military history as it was an army fortress for just about as long as Britain has had a proper army rather than just those called up to fight for local lords, and before that it was a fortification too. It's still a military place now, though now one of museums and offices, the annual Royal Military Tattoo (for those who don't know what that is, it's about marching bands, dance and pipers, not about getting inked!) and suchlike, rather than a working fortress. Military history is not really my area of interest (unless you count the 'Sharpe' novels by Bernard Cornwell. I'm pretty sure that does not count, though!)

I think this is the Argyle tower and junction with the top
of the Laing Stairs, but I am not entirely sure. 

I enjoyed myself and I really enjoyed the architecture. It's a pretty large complex, the sort that brings to mind the epic 'Gormenghast' of  Mervyn Peake, but less malevolent in architecture, yet with the slopes of the hill up to the crag all covered in old stone buildings, some more Gothic than others. I took so many photographs while I was there, but many of them ended up relegated to my discard pile. I hope you enjoy the exterior photographs here - later I will display some of the colour interior photographs. I think the autumnal grey of the weather just made the place seem colder and learning its conflict-ridden history just makes it seem a place full of the blood and sweat of warriors and soldiers from centuries past. The stones are greyed and the sky is greyer; monochrome photography seemed fitting. 

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Edinburgh City Part 5: The Hub and its Spire

This really is a fabulous building. I was walking up the hill to the castle and could not help but be stopped, transfixed in awe at it. I was already running behind schedule for the day (with my mission being photographing the castle thoroughly to produce a display for the school) but still had to stop and take pictures. 

I have a fondness for setting spires diagonally.

When I went on the ::history:: page of The Hub's ::website::, and read that it was a collaboration between James Gillespie Graham (who designed St, Mary's Catholic Cathedral, featured yesterday) and the famous Augustus Welby Pugin (Think 'Palace of Westminster') and I was both delighted and not entirely surprised. Everything about this building is wondrous, and the more recent conversion and restoration have been done most tastefully and include the work of a lot of modern crafters of great skill. 

A sense of verticality.
Photo taken after castle visit, hence duller sky.

It's dominating spire and wonderfully vertical architecture draws one to look upwards to he heavens and even on a cloudy, awful and drizzly day like the day I was there, it is beautiful. The page says the spire is the highest point in central Edinbugh, but after walking uphill into the castle and looking up at some of its towers, they certainly seem higher up, even if they are shorter towers. I am not a surveyor, though, and appearances can be deceiving. 

The sky was white with cloud, but weirdly bright.

The Hub is currently a venue associated with the Edinbugh International Festival (an arts festival) and includes a cafe. When I was there, the entrance was lit by flaming torches flickering in the wind (it certainly gets breezy on that hill, even if all the buildings make it look less exposed) and a piper was standing by the door. The next time I go to Edinburgh, it will certainly be somewhere I will have to visit the interior of, rather than just walk past.

At least the clouds were vaguely interesting here.

I'd like to visit this building again when the weather is more conducive to good photographs. The skies are dull and white here because they were dull and greying white with cloud on the day. It was also a rather windswept day. A calmer day with more varied and interesting clouds would be preferable. 

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Edinburgh City Part 4: Pictures of Us

St. Giles' Cathedral is in Parliament Square in Edinburgh, and I was posing in Parliament Square, trying to get the beautiful Gothic (and it is original Gothic, not Gothic Revival) architecture of the cathedral in the background. 

I was going for a classic Lolita look, just in black, with my Baby, The Stars Shine Bright dress, a velvet blazer and two different cameo necklaces. The fingerless lace gloves were so that I could fiddle with the camera and keep my fingers warm at the same time, and the head-dress is a rosette style one by Alice And The Pirates. The waist-ties are undone on the dress because I didn't find out until after I had gone out just how uncomfortable it was to have them tied under my blazer!

Both of these photographs above are by K., just taken on my camera. I did the re-touching afterwards. The following two photographs are of K. by me. I'm usually the one wearing Goth, and she's usually the one wearing Lolita, but for a change that was swapped that day. I think K. is the better photographer! 

The next time I go to Edinburgh (and there has to be a next time!) I will have to take some proper photographs of St. Giles' cathedral - especially the famous lantern spire. There are several other beautiful churches and other buildings on the Royal Mile that deserve photographing too. I was in Edinburgh for only 2 days and took so many photographs as it was - another trip with more photography time would be even more productive, although I think I would have to be much pickier with my photographs and write my blogs as a travelogue; I have written four blog entries about my Edinburgh travels already, and that's before getting as far as the castle!

Many thanks have to be given to K. for letting me stay in her apartment in Edinburgh, for being an excellent tour-guide, and for helping me out when I lost things and thought I would not be able to get home. She is a fabulous host and very kind.