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..

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. 


  1. Great article, HouseCat. ;)
    I'm at that point where I've settled into my style a little while back now [I'm 28].. yet it is still constantly evolving. I know what I like [black, how cliche], and almost anything in my wardrobe could be mixed and matched in some crazy way and still work [how.. practical?]... Overall, it's confidence that should determine the outfit- I once read, "you should wear the clothing; it shouldn't wear you." You can't take fashion too seriously- have fun! And, as with fashion, you can't take others' criticism too seriously either. I know I get a lot of it, but I also get even more compliments. The bad comes with the good.
    I have the bad habit of buying more hangers despite limited closet space... My closet is a little ridiculous right now, but I love rummaging through and rediscovering things I haven't worn in a while. And playing dress-up- that's one thing we should not 'outgrow'! ;)

    1. We are similar ages, and I'd guess at similar points of settling into a style. I think there's different levels of 'seriously' - I think it's fine to treat it as a hobby and make an effort, but I also think it's important to remember that clothes don't define a person, and neither any other part of the 'fashion' world; they're adornments, artistic and creative, but adornments, and it's important not to let it become consuming.

  2. These are fantastic tips! Personally I am slowly adding new pieces from thrift stores that fit my style, as I have a very small wardrobe due to limited funds.

    I also found a tutorial on how to make a dressmaker dummy for those interested:

    1. Oooo, that's a useful tip!

      I'm on a budget too, and I've spent about 10 years building up my wardrobe - and thankfully I've stayed approximately the same shape all that time, so I haven't outgrown or shrunk out of too many of my clothes, letting me accrue a reasonable collection. Nobody needs to rush these things.


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