Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Must Have: Clear nail polish

A closet filled with black clothes will only go so far in life before they start to show wear. If you're into the antiqued or destroyed look, that's great to a point, but after a while some of those details will impede the wearability of the garment. You're going to need to upkeep those clothes at some point, and one of the easiest and cheapest ways to go about doing this is to buy a bottle of clear nail polish. To get the best results, pick up a bottle in a quick drying formula.

Image source:

1. Stop a run in a pair of stockings with a dot of clear nail polish at the ends of the run, especially useful if you just shreaded a pair of tights and don't want them to completely fall apart!
2. Prevent threads from breaking at the centers of buttons by putting a little dot at the center of the button over the top of the threads.
3. Replace an aglet at the end of your shoelace by dipping it in the bottle, or create an aglet for a piece of ribbon that is currently serving as a shoelace.
4. Avoid the ugly pinkish discoloration of jewelry made of cheap metals by brushing over the jewelry with clear nail polish. Also useful if you worry about cheap jewelry turning your skin green!
5. Keep belt buckles from scuffing by brushing them over with clear nail polish. Two to four layers should be enough, and make sure to let them dry between coatings.
6. Seal the cracking patent leather on shoes with a few thin layers of clear nail polish.
7. If you're out and your false nail or a decoration from your false nail has fallen off, a dot of clear nail polish should serve as a decent temporary glue until you can return home and fix the nail correctly.
8. Coat the metal bottom of your hair spray bottles with clear nail polish to prevent them from rusting and discoloring your counter top.
9. To end the frustration of threading a needle, run the thread through clear nail polish and allow to dry (it shouldn't take more than a minute) so that it has a nice, stiff point to thread with.
10. Keep screws on your sunglasses or reading glasses from falling loose by topping them with a small dot of clear nail polish. Don't use too much, though, or the screw won't be able to turn and your glasses may be stuck open or closed.

I personally use Wild and Crazy's "Iceland" as my clear nail polish of choice, because it's dirt cheap, but other options include OPI's "Topcoat," "Nail Protector" by Wet N Wild, and "Hard as Nails" topcoat by Sally Hansen.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Your Back to School Wardrobe: Do and Do Not

On this Monday, August 29th, I will be returning to my school for my senior year. That means I've had 11 years of experience with "back to school" and all the fun that brings with about five of those years involving me returning to school as a Goth. While my high school years found me at an arts school with an extremely liberal dress code, I still think I know a little about following and bending the rules as far as dress codes go. I don't by any means claim to be an expert, but I have found myself making a mental DO and DO NOT list for returning to school for Goths. So, I hope you find it useful.

Before school starts:
DO check your dress code - Whether it's in your school-issued planner, on the website or in the "Code of Conduct" pamphlet, it is worth a read-through so that you know your school rules and can abide by them. Also, it is useful in defending yourself if someone claims that you should not be able to wear your clothing if your clothing does not break any rules.
DO NOT splurge on unwearable items - Yes, even if you're not the one paying for new clothes, it's not a good idea to go buy clothes you won't be able to wear during the school year. Now is not the time to buy a corset and spiked heels. If you're going to buy clothes for the new school year, keep them wearable and unobjectionable. They will be of more use to you and your money will be better spent.
When shopping for back-to-school:
DO buy from thrift stores - Even back-to-school sales are going to be more expensive than thrift stores and certainly not as unique. Your parents, if they are paying for new clothes, are going to love you for this as well. Check out a couple different ones and, if you can only find a few items at each, remember that nobody ever built a good every-day wardrobe in one afternoon.
DON'T let your parents bully you into "normal" clothes - Of course, your parent or guardian has expectations of you, but don't let them guilt trip you into buying clothes that will make you fit into your peers. If they insist on going to Kohls and Target and other such stores for back-to-school clothes, be grateful that they are spending the money and try to find goth appropriate clothes there. It's not impossible.
When choosing clothes for the first day:
DO Express yourself - If you want to introduce yourself to new people you should be as true to yourself as possible. There is no need to dress like everybody else at your school (excepting in cases of uniforms, of course) if you aren't like them in other ways. Feel free to wear your finery and show who you are. If people don't like you for it, then they aren't people you should be bothered with knowing.
DO NOT bust out the petticoat-enhanced skirts and bustles - School desks are notoriously small and you might not fit! And trust me, it's going to be irritating to carry around that pannier the rest of the day when you find that it doesn't fit in some of the school chairs.
Goth from Old Navy
When choosing accessories:
DO remember that the devil is in the details - Not necessarily in a bad way, either! If your school is restrictive about clothing, there is probably going to be a little leeway with jewelry and accessories. After all, that bat pendant could look like an innocent bird to a conservative professor who is not looking too closely. Accessories can also be the difference between a goth outfit and just a dark one. Take any one of the Polyvore sets I've included in this set, for example. They're pretty basic, but a handful of band pins, pieces of fishnet, a personalized leather jacket, a length of black lace or gothier jewelry will make them unmistakably goth.
DO NOT wear distracting accessories - Whether it be stacked metal bangles or hair bows that won't stay straight, you shouldn't wear these types of clothes to school. A school environment is one that should be conducive to learning and concentration, a finicky accessory is sure to be a distraction to both you and your classmates. If you must wear stacks of bracelets, tuck them in your bag while you are writing so that they don't continually make noise as your wrist bumps the desk.
When Applying makeup:
DO remember that fluorescent light is not the most flattering light - If necessary, wait for a free moment in between classes and uses a pocket mirror to check if the makeup that seemed lovely while you were at home looks spackled-on in this light. If necessary, adjust your routine to perfect the makeup.
DO NOT try new makeup on the first morning - If it doesn't go well, you're stuck with makeup you don't like for the rest of the day OR you have to wash it off and start over, which means running the risk of being late and that is something you do not want on your first day.
Goth from Target

When choosing shoes:
DO feel free to personalize athletic sneakers - Chances are, you will have to take a gym class at some point and you will be asked to supply your own sneakers. These sneakers are endless amusement for customizing. Replacing the shoe laces with ribbon or lace, drawing band logos or spider webs on them, even placing pyramid studs on the side are great ways to customize. So long as you can run in them, they're a safe bet.
DO NOT bust out the precariously high-heels on the first day - Chances are, your school's floor has been waxed at some point over the summer and trying not to fall down on freshly waxed linoleum is harder than one would think. Even if they aren't waxed, trudging up and down the stairs multiple times to find one classroom on your first day is hard enough without the added stress of high heels.
When styling your hair:
DO keep your hair out of your way - That is, if you find your hair to be a distraction. There are any number of ways of doing this, from hair ties to head bands and hair clips, but do something so that you are not fidgeting with your hair during the day.
DO NOT do "big hair" at school - Kids, put away the aqua net. Now is not the time for a bouffant, a sky-high mohawk or teased-tresses a la Patricia Morrison. If only for the sake of your classmates who might have to sit behind you and figure out how to see around your hair, please, leave the big hair for week ends. This also, kids, applies to big hair accessories, like top hats and head eating bows. Leave those for other days or take them off during class.
Goth from Nordstrom

When dealing with teachers:
DO use common sense about offensive clothes - Wearing clothing covered in swear words, sexual language or imagery, offensive slogans or drawings, drug references or "anti-establishment" messages is a sure way to get negative attention at school. I'm willing to bet that these items are against your dress code. Know that in a school environment it is better to be cautious, "free speech" has historically not existed in schools when the authorities determine that the speech is a danger to other students.
DO NOT argue with your teachers about your clothing - Even if a teacher is asking you to hide your pentacle or turn your shirt inside out, they are the authority figure and you had better do as they ask. You would do better to, if you feel that they did this unjustly, record the event on a piece of paper with dialogue as accurate as you can make it and then take it up with the principle of the school. You will show your maturity and be non-disruptive, which is going to impress the principle and make them more likely to listen to what you have to say.

So there you have it: my guide for dressing Goth while learning to be a productive member of society. What are you wearing for the first day?

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Review: "1000 Steampunk Creations"

For my birthday this year I received a copy of "1000 Steampunk Creations: Neo-Victorian Fashion, Gear & Art" by Dr. Grymm with Barbe Saint John from my very-much-a-steampunk-fan mother. I like Steampunk a lot, and though I don't consider myself an expert on it I do appreciate lovely pieces made in the name of Steampunk and wish that they were in a more "me" colorway (black and silver, naturally.) Anyway, on to the book.
This book is, basically, a full-color art book full of pictures of Steampunk goodies. We don't hear very much from either Dr. Grymm or Barbe Saint John, just an introduction at the beginning, which does not explain the details of the Steampunk culture and aesthetic (you are, presumably, supposed to understand this beforehand or interpret it from the book) but instead boasts as to how the art style has grown over time and encourages its readers to "follow the curious tinkerer who lives inside all of us." As someone who understands the foundations of Steampunk already, I didn't mind this, but beginner types might want for a bit of context.
The format of the book is that there are 1-6 pictures on each page with a tag number, artist/creator/designer's name and where they are from, as well as any business they might own. Usually there is only one picture of the piece, but some have shots from multiple angles to show off the details. I found this format easy to view and the simple page backgrounds didn't distract from the lovely pieces themselves. I was also happy that they included the designer's name on the direct page, since I recognized some of them! Designers familiar to the Steampunk community, such as Catherinette Rings on Etsy, are present, but there are more obscure and independent individuals represented as well.
There are seven chapters: "Modified Technology," "Fine Art and Sculpture," "Home Decor," "Fashion and Haberdashery," "Hats and Accessories," "Jewelry" and "Inventions and Contraptions." I thought these chapters were an excellent way to divide up the book, since they cover almost all methods of Steampunk personalizing any object or medium (I love the Fine Art and Sculpture section because there is a wealth of photography in there that isn't just chaps in top hats and ladies in corsets, however lovely those two things might be.) However, my first complaint is that the chapters are extremely varied in length, the longest of which is 84 pages while the shortest is just 14. I think this is a bit uneven and should have been smoothed out somewhat. Surely there are plenty of Steampunk objects for the author to find to fill in the gaps?
My first thought when I picked up the book is that I feared that it would basically be like a Google Image search of the word Steampunk: t-shirts stamped with gears, goggles on top hats, no imagination or appreciation for the Victorian inspiration for Steampunk whatsoever. I was, however, pleasantly surprised. Indeed it is a little bit like an image search, but it's like the authors ran the image search through a fine-toothed comb to get rid of all of the "faux-Steampunk" nonsense. Of course, there is still a little of the "let's slap gears on anything and everything" aesthetic but I gave up on thinking that the world would simultaneously realize that this is all very silly and should be stopped, so I direct my attention and annoyance to a few pieces that are not Steampunk at all, just antique looking or even just odd. For example, the stunningly modern-looking couch made of pipes (tag number 0470) or the plain gramophone (tag number 0008.)
However, like an image search there is no description of the item, so you can't always be sure of what it is that the artist/designer/creator was trying to create, especially in the "Inventions and Contraptions" section. You could, if you wanted, google search the Artist's name to find more about them (Or use the handy-dandy "Artist Directory" in the back of the book) and their object. In the "Image Directory" section you can find little blurbs about the object, but not really much to go on. They could have spliced these little blurbs, some of which are quite short, into the pages of the book on which the images of the objects resides, but for some reason they did not, creating the need to flip back and forth between the page and the directory to figure out what the artist was doing.
One thing that I should have known would happen would be that this book activated the Magpie-like center of my brain with all the "Ooh! Shiny!" stuff in it. Of course, with the Artist directory I was able to look up the people in the book, check their prices and wince a little, calming my inner Magpie quite a bit. Of coure, by all means look them up yourselves, but be prepared for sticker shock. Which reminded me that the spirit of the book is about DIYing to make something match your personal aesthetic, in this case: Steampunk. So now I'm in a DIY mood.
Of course, one shouldn't steal people's ideas, and supporting independent artists is something that all subcultures should be doing anyhow, but taking inspiration is natural. (And, I'll admit, some of the jewelry would be perfect for me if I changed the color and some of the motifs used. Because, while gold/brass, brown leather and scarab beetles are lovely for the Steampunk aesthetic, they can't be matched to silver, black leather and bats in my mind.) And of course, I've been wanting one of Tom Blanwell's black leather plague-doctor mask with silver accents (tag number 0743) before I ever picked up the book. The book just reminded me how much I love it.
(Not the exact picture used in the book, but the same product.)

So, do I recommend "1000 Steampunk Creations" to my readers? Well, it depends on what you look for in this type of book. Do you need a beginner's Steampunk guide with tips on how to make your own creations? If so, then this book isn't for you. But if you either A.) want a pretty art book to look at B.) a book to broaden your horizons on the Steampunk aesthetic or C.) are a DIY-type who needs inspiration for your next project but not a guide to walk you through it, then yes I would recommend it. It is for sale on Amazon currently for $16.50 USD.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Your Guide for Halloween Shopping

Many Goths lament the fact that their preferred aesthetic sense is not easier to shop for. Even those DIY masters that we revere are sometimes wistful that the materials to make their ooky-spooky wardrobes, homes, school supplies, etc. were more easily avaliable. However, there is one sure fire time of year to find goth-appropriate items in main stream stores: Halloween time!

Now, I know Goths have been cautioned against certain parts of Halloween consumerism (I'm looking at you, "Goth" Halloween costumes), that shouldn't frighten any of us from other Halloween goodies. The key word to shopping during this season (and indeed at all other times) is quality. No matter how cute and cheap that skull necklace is, will it hold up or turn that gross shade of salmon-pink as most cheap metal is apt to do? The devil to this is that while quality can be synonymous to expense in some cases, this is rarely the case in Halloween decorating. There is no way to tell whether or not those tumblers from Crate and Barrel are better quality than similar ones from Party City just by looking at them, even if the ones from Crate and Barrel are two or three times the price.

But, before you can judge these items you have to find them, of course. Most Halloween decorations come out during the later parts of August, generally during December and definitely during October (and, of course, the sales after the holiday during November!) Generally, Halloween stock comes out after school supply season in mainstream stores. I'm no good resource for anyone reading from the UK or anywhere else in the world, but here in the United States there are a few stores that I have had great experience in buying items from at Halloween time: Party City, Target, Wallmart, Dollar Tree, even Michaels Arts and Crafts and Jo-Ann fabrics have awesome things for reasonable prices. My best purchase, in my opinion, during Halloween time was a candelabra dripping with black jewels from Michael's. It makes for a perfect addition to my room decor.


Of course, your general sense of aesthetics may be different from mine, but my guide is to stay away from anything that is very obviously meant for Halloween. That includes, of course, paper table centerpieces shaped like tombstones and jointed cut-out wall decorations. In fact, anything made of paper, card board, Styrofoam or rubber is probably not a good idea if you intent to keep it around for more than a few months. Not only do they look cheaper than their counterparts made of glass, plastic and metal, but they will degrade much faster with every day use. The exception to my love of plastic Halloween decorations is, of course, accessories and jewelry. If you do plan on buying Halloween jewelry, invest in some clear sealant and needle-nosed pliars, because it was not created to last for long.

One fail safe type of item to shop for at this time of year is kitchen supplies. This is because these are the types of items that "normal" Halloween celebrating folk want to buy once and then use for many years to come. Cake pans, ice molds, cupcake liners, cookie cutters and even certain plates/bowls/dishes/etc. (plastic ones, I mean. Not card board disposables.) are safe bets, and you'll use them quite often. Of course, you will pay more than if you bought the discount ones from Target at any other time of the year, but that's safe to say for anything seasonal and "special" from any store.

Of course, you won't find great things every year. There are trends in Halloween decorating (yes, trends! You really can't escape them, sorry dears.) that stores observe. Luckily for those whose tastes are like my own, the trend for the past two years at least has been toward decadent, gothic decorating rather than gore spatterings or "cheery" jack-o-lanterns and beasties. Not that you won't be able to find gorey themed treats, but that is not what the market is aiming for. Party city has an option to shop by party themes, the most useful one of which that I have found is "Shocktails", closely followed by "Be Afraid" and "Midnight Dreary." However, they swap these out for new ones every couple of years depending on which lines are falling behind in sales, so there might be a new line on the horizon for those who aren't as into the darkly decadent aesthetic for Halloween as I am. But what about for clothing? I realize that I dithered a lot about home decor in this article (it's a passion, I apologize) but that I left out a bit about clothing. Here is my advice: step away from the costume section, but linger a little at the costume accessories section. While the metal and plastic accessories are sure to be no-goes, there are some great things to be found.

Wigs, especially, are available in all types of enticing styles, though you should use your senses when shopping for them. Are the fibers obviously shiny, plasticky feeling or shedding all over your fingers? Does the wig feel thin, can you see the wig cap when you brush the fibers certain directions? If so, put the wig down and keep looking. Tutus and corsets are never going to be great quality if they come from a costume store. The tulle, boning and fabrics will be cheap, and over all just not worth it. Also pass up the jewelry, but again, linger and keep looking. Certain gloves, stockings, glasses, hats, and even vinyl handbags are exactly the same quality that you can find in any alternative store at other times of the year.


If you're a crafty type of Goth, head into your local craft store to see what they have in sock for the spookiest night of the year. I myself have purchased several necklace charms during Halloween time from Michaels which turned out to be great quality (and I did the lazy thing by just stringing them onto necklace chains that I already had, so imagine what you could do if you decided to make an actual necklace with coordinating accents and metals! And you get the "I made it myself" satisfaction, of course.) and I even bought some ribbon that read "Trick-or-treat!" on it to lace up my sneakers with. Of course, you won't get a lot for your money with small spools of ribbon like these, but they're great for accents. However, beware bulk black lace from these stores. It tends to be scratchy lace of awful quality and isn't really useful for much, even if it is patterned with spider webs.

Visit a fabric store during Halloween time and you might be astounded by what you find. Not only are there the cheesy fabrics with jack-o-lanterns or trick-or-treaters printed on them, but there are lovely fabrics including distressed cheese cloth (fantastic for death-rocker styles), flocked spider web printed patterns (I love these for decor accents, but have plans for a paneled skirt made with this fabric), and a collection of sumptuous jewel toned velvets just in time for winter. However, just because you made it yourself doesn't mean you need to be cheap and skimp on quality materials. In fact, you should be more aware of your materials when buying them for a project. Cheap crushed velvet is still cheap crushed velvet, even when it hasn't become part of an awful Halloween costume.


Stocking up on Goth "essentials" like tights, gloves, kitchen ware and jewelry during Halloween time is a great way to save money, but try not to forget smaller online retailers who offer Halloween specials and are deserving of your contributions. Shops like Shadow Manor, Pushin Daisies and Gorey Details are all stores with Halloween themed finery, go give them a look to see what intrigues your Gothic sensibilities.