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!
Source: 365 days of Halloween on Tumblr
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.