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.
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.
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.
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?