Wednesday, May 29, 2013

5 Victorian Beauty Tips Guaranteed to Kill You

There are some Victorian beauty tips that have passed the test of time, but it's not secret that some of them are a little worse for you than others. For my post today I've outlined five Victorian beauty tips that were really used back in the day that were more likely to get you the kiss of death than a kiss from your beloved.


Disclaimer: this post mentions and discusses eating disorders on item number four. Please avoid reading this section if that would trigger you. Stay safe, guys.

  1. Arsenic Face Creams - In the 1860's it was a beauty ideal to have a completely spotless face, no Marilyn Monroe beauty marks here! As such, Victorian women attacked their faces with all kinds of lotions, potions, creams and powders to achieve a spotless pallor. One ingredient that was popular in these facial creams was white arsenic, a heavy metal that has some unfortunate side effects. Prolonged exposure to arsenic can cause "headaches, confusion, severe diarrhea, and drowsiness" according to Wikipedia, but symptoms will soon escalate to include "diarrhea, vomiting, blood in the urine, cramping muscles, hair loss, stomach pain, and more convulsions." If you are exposed to it long enough, and in high enough quantities, death may eventually occur. 
  2. Cocaine Tooth Paste - White, pearly teeth were more an ideal than an actuality in early nineteenth century Europe. However, in the Victorian era the explosion of science and medicine started touting the importance of taking care of your teeth, and the discovery that if you kept your teeth clean they would stay in longer was a huge drive to make them an important facet of Victorian beauty ideals. Unfortunately, early tooth pastes weren't exactly great for your health. Homemade toothpaste recipes often called for a drop or two of cocaine to be mixed in. According to WebMD cocaine uses' mental side effects include anxiety, irritability, and paranoia while physically it has detrimental side-effects on one's Heart, Brain, Lungs, Gastrointestinal tract, and kidneys.
  3. Deadly Nightshade Eye Drops - Belladonna, or deadly night shade, is a plant that truly lives up to it's name. An interestingly named website, Belladonna Killz, lists the side effects as "headache, dizziness, anxiety, sensitivity to light, lightheadedness, fatigue, blurred vision, nausea and reduced sweating" and ingestion can be lethal to people and animals. Unfortunately, another side effect is that if you mix it with the right solution of other chemicals, it'll make your eyes dilate. Victorian women loved the idea of having wide, doe-like pupils, and so rushed to their chemists' to buy these Belladonna Eye drops. This did not end well.
  4. Starvation - The rise of the eating disorder is not an entirely new phenomenon. In addition to tight-lacing corsetry, Victorian women engaged in unhealthy eating habits to keep their waist size down. After all, it's not like many people in Victorian England could access the health foods of today to keep trim, and doing jumping jacks in a corset doesn't sound like a plan for all the ages. Fasting and eating small portions caused many women to lose weight during the era, but the unfortunate side effects included fatigue, dizziness, seizure, thinning hair, amenorrhea, dry skin, constipation, heart palpatations, dehydration, low blood pressure, and osteoporosis, according to Timberline Knolls treatment center. If this persisted for long enough, illness and death were soon to follow. 
  5. Iron Curling Tongs - In the Victorian era carefully sculpted curls became one of the most popular hair styles, especially when piled up on one's head with a cute hat. However, the lack of wide-spread electricity meant that modern electric curling irons weren't in use. Instead, iron ones which were heated in the fire and then held with a cloth to prevent burns were used. Unfortunately, these were slightly unwieldy and burns could occur anyway, especially to the scalp, the back of the neck, and the hands (or, more likely, your servant's hands.) If that weren't enough, if your servant was careless enough to place the still-hot iron on a flammable surface, fire isn't that far out of the realm of possibility, especially when houses and furniture were made mostly out of wood. I don't even want to imagine escaping from a burning building while keeping your skirts out of the way. 

So, there you have it! Five Victorian beauty tips that will have you coffin-bound. What are the most outlandish historical beauty tips you've come across?

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Whoops, I cut my hair.

Have I whined about how hot it is lately? I really was never meant for hot Maryland summers. Take be back to Scotland! Anyway, so it was hot one day. Blisteringly so, and I thought to myself, you know what would make me cooler? A haircut. And then I just couldn't get the thought out of my head. And then this happened:


For reference, this is how long my hair was before:


To be honest, I wasn't taking care of it like it needed. It very rarely looked that good! Mostly it was knotted and piled up in a bun at the back of my head. So, hack hack hack! Off it went. Did I mention it was at two in the morning?


It feels healthy, like hair and not straw! I'm really rather pleased. And it should be easier to dye now, hopefully.

To be honest, I thought about going shorter. I've been wary of very short hair because I have this ingrained notion that fat women shouldn't have short hair (stupid, I know. Fuck beauty "rules") and so I've been looking at fabulous fat women with pixie-short hair for inspiration. I don't know if I'll go there or not. I've also been thinking about getting layers, since my hair knowledge is too slim to have done that myself, but for now it's nice.

I can even put it up in a crocodile clip, which I think looks cute.


In somewhat related news, to celebrate not getting the internship I wanted (boo hiss) I've started collecting a mini corp-Goth wardrobe. This pencil skirt was $3 at Goodwill, and I paired it with a black t-shirt, lace shrug, and belt. I think I look cute, if you can excuse the horrible mirror shot.


Oh my. Pencil skirts. This one is cute but I'm intimidated by the concept. My poor ruffle-loving heart!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

World Goth Day Playlist

For the uninitiated, May 22nd is World Goth Day, a day to celebrate the subculture that some of us take for granted throughout the year. Personally, I'm celebrating the day by wearing all black and complaining about the fact that it is ninety degrees outside. However, to someone who isn't miserably overheated and also quarantined for being illness, I hope you all find a way to celebrate in a more fun way.

Here's a playlist to rock out to, whether you're stuck at home melting or out and out doing productive people things.

Happy World Goth Day!

Saturday, May 18, 2013

NBC's Dracula: Godsend or Goddamnit?

I thought we as a culture were done with vampires. Not the Goth subculture, of course. I doubt we'll really ever be over it. But pop culture? Yeah. I mean, Twilight was published in 2005 for the love of Siouxsie, and every other interest seems to be traipsing off to make way for zombies and badly portrayed BDSM relationships. But lo! I was mistaken. NBC has announced and released a trailer for their new series Dracula, starring Golden Globe winner Jonathan Rhys Meyers.


Here's the blip from the website
It's the late 19th century, and the mysterious Dracula has arrived in London, posing as an American entrepreneur who wants to bring modern science to Victorian society. He's especially interested in the new technology of electricity, which promises to brighten the night - useful for someone who avoids the sun. But he has another reason for his travels: he hopes to take revenge on those who cursed him with immortality centuries earlier. Everything seems to be going according to plan... until he becomes infatuated with a woman who appears to be a reincarnation of his dead wife.
From the producers of the critically acclaimed, Emmy Award-winning hit "Downton Abbey" comes "Dracula," a twisted, sophisticated and sexy take on Bram Stoker's classic novel, proving that some stories never die. One-hour drama.
Well, readers, you know me. Give me a vampire and turn of the century frippery and I'm a happy Goth, but it leaves me with some questions.

Why do we keep going back to Dracula?

Besides the fact that there are characters named Dracula and Harker and Renfield, and that it's Victorian, and that he's a vampire, it has very little to do with Dracula the novel. It's a "sophisticated and sexy take" on the novel, sure, but couldn't you have changed the names and just gone with a new series?

There are hundreds, if not thousands, of Dracula adaptations. You all know the famous ones. Bram Stoker's Dracula and Nosferatu are pretty prevalent in pop culture (thank you, Spongebob.) And let there be no mistake there are many vampires that don't bear the Dracula label, but there are many that are. The name Dracula lends a kind of Victorian mystique shorthand to anything that you need to attract an audience. 

So maybe I'm being too picky. 

But finding a version of Dracula that's an accurate adaptation from the novel? Much more difficult. Let's be honest, Dracula as a novel is dense. And who doesn't like Dracula as a brooding Byronic hero with a swooning damsel in a corset? It's more attractive to a widespread audience if it's not just about a monster because over time we've removed the fact from our cultural rhetoric that Dracula represents a time when vampires were monsters. They were big and scary, not romantic and brooding. 

(You can also take this as an invitation to make a fabulous accurate indie Dracula adaptation film. Go on. Please? You're all talented people.)

Anyway, back to the series at hand. Let's watch the trailer:



Ooh! Pretty! Fun costumes, good actors! Maybe it'll be okay after all. Well, at least I have something to watch while I'm suffering through Latin this autumn. 

So what do you guys think? Are you excited for NBC's Dracula?

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

20 Summer Resource Links for Goths

Okay, so, it's not summer yet, but let me assure you my friends: Summer is coming. And, since summer is coming, we Goths know what we're in for-- heat and sun, heat and sun, heat and mother fucking sun. If you're like me, it's going to be a nightmare. So, to help us all out, I rounded up a bunch of links to help everyone deal with the onslaught of summer. Enjoy!



Fashion:

  1. We all know that parasols are great for dealing with summer sunlight, but sometimes you need both hands free! Steampunk author Gail Carriger's tutorial for a parasol holster here.
  2. Sincerely Boots has a great post here on Gothic & Alternative swimwear for the summer.
  3. Shop Well With You has an article here which lists fabrics, their characteristics, and their care instructions. It's a nice guide to consult when deciding whether a particular garment is suitable for your summer wardrobe.
  4. Gertie's New Blog for Better Sewing has a cool post on Summer Sewing here
  5. Jayne of The Dark Victorian has a great guide to wearing Lolita in hot weather here, and many of the tips apply to Goths as well..


Makeup and Hair:


  1. My article on Historical Hairstyles for Long hair to keep your tresses off your neck here.
  2. This wikiHow article is helpful for preventing your makeup from melting or running during the summer.
  3. Total Beauty offers their list of 11 Best Facial Sunscreens here.
  4. Juliet's Lace just published a post on How to Get Lovely Summer Skin here.
  5. If you're planning on being in a pool any time this summer to cool off, here's an About article on chlorine's effect on hair and how to keep from getting horrible damage!


Health: 

  1. Kimberly Snyder has a great post in which she counts 15 Hydrating Foods and Drinks for Summer here. Avoid heat exhaustion/stroke at all costs!
  2. Speaking of heat stroke, Care2 has a post outlining 18 Warning Signs of Heat Stroke here.
  3. I know many Goths are big on sunscreen but you can never be too sure when it comes to skin cancer. SkinCancer.org has a step-by-step guide for checking yourself for skin cancer here.
  4. In the summer, most people tend to stock up on deodorant to keep from smelling, well, gross. However, there are some scientific reports that say that aluminum in certain deodorants is linked to cases of breast cancer. Livestrong has an article here on what to look for in a deodorant to reduce your chances of getting cancer.
  5. If you're a spookling with tattoos, here is a Summer Care guide on About!



Entertainment:


  1. If you're hosting a Goth meet up and have some time outdoors to fill, why not try out some Victorian children's outdoor games?
  2. Summer is a great time to meet up with other Goths and alternative types since summer (mostly) prevents school-related responsibilities from getting in the way. And there's so much to do! Her Curious Elegance has a post on how to host a Lolita meet up, and the guide works perfectly for Goths as well! 
  3. Summer is popularly considered one of the best times to go to the movies. If you're itching to go see something but don't know what, Movie Insider has a great list of summer movies here. I don't know about you but The Guillotines and Blackhats look like fun to me. 
  4. If you're interested in hosting a summer tea party, Elegant Woman has a nice guide right here. If you can stand the outdoors, a garden would be a lovely backdrop. 
  5. Last but not least, if you just want to know that you're not alone in dealing with the heat, just check out the timeless classic Goths in Hot Weather.
I hope you all found some of these links helpful, and that we can survive summer together! Do you guys have any links or advice for Goths coping with the summer heat?

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Review: First Times

Readers, I must confess, I almost forgot about today's post. Instead, I spent the entire day playing a text adventure. Yes, a text adventure, those finicky adventure games where (inevitably) you get stuck typing "use [object]" on every single stationary object in the game until you make something, anything happen. I find myself infatuated with them. Well, one in particular. The game I found most suited to my tastes was First Times, designed by Hero Robb, and let me tell you guys, it was a treat.
If you don't know what a text adventure is, let me explain. You know all those fancy visuals and joystick controls most modern games have nowadays? Text adventures take all of those on board and then toss them off the nearest cliff. It's just you and your keyboard versus the game designer's text. Using simplified language (think: examine ____, use ____ on ____, combine _____ and _____, take _____, talk to ____, etc.) you interact with the objects or characters in the game, put them together, use them on other objects, and try to achieve the end of the game. Sometimes there are characters in the games. Sometimes it's just you. They come in many genres (from comedy to horror to fantasy) and difficulty levels (from easy-peasy to "wow, I forgot to pick up that mote of dust in room #3 and now I'm stuck and have to start over.")

The game I'm reviewing for you all now, First Times, is a horror game that's light on the difficulty but complex in the story and overall extremely fantastic.

I'll try not to spoil things for you all, but the gist of the game is that you wake up in a hospital morgue and have to find your way out. Not hard, right? Well, there are locked doors and puzzles to hinder your advance...and let's not forget the creepy wooden doll people. Yes, creepy, human-like dolls make appearances throughout the game and, let me tell you, they're creepy as hell without having to jump out and scream ooga-booga.

My main praise for the game is that Hero Robb is a master of building atmosphere. In the first room there is a message that appears every few seconds, no matter what you're doing. That text?

clang...
clang...
clang...

And, let me tell you, when you're trying to figure out what you have to do and deal with whatever else you have to worry about and your actions keep getting moved up screen by very persistent "clang"s, it builds tension like no other. And that's not all. Sometimes you can be wandering in and out of hallways looking for something, anything, to do to help you advance in the game. And you do this on your own. With Hero Robb's fantastic descriptions and atmosphere building. It's extremely unnerving.

According to the other reviews on the site, the game borrows heavily from Silent Hill. I've never played Silent Hill games and thus have absolutely no idea what is or isn't lifted from those games. I wasn't missing anything by no having played through those games, and people who commented on the game have mentioned that it's not intrusive.

I was greatly immersed in the game, half wanting to close my browser and never be this freaked out again and half needing to finish the story so I can sleep at night, and my curiosity was sated by every description. I found myself caught up in the "plot" of sorts, and eager to find out what happens next. My suggestion to you, reader, is to make a map. In MS Paint or on real paper, just start charting rooms and directions. If you don't, you're going to get overwhelmed by all the North, South, East, and West directions you have to deal with. I found the controls for the game to be intuitive, but because it is a game you have to operate within certain perimeters. So, stuff like this happens:


Overall, though, I give this game a 5/5. It is great for horror fans, great if you like Silent Hill, great if you enjoy text adventures, and all around fun to play. If you're interested, the game can be played here on the web, downloaded from here to your computer (unless you have a Mac), or downloaded as an App from the Apple store, Android store, or on Amazon for Kindle fire. All of these options are free.

I will make a disclaimer: There is music composed for the game. I muted my computer while playing so I didn't have to listen to it. However, apparently the music can change very suddenly based on game events. If this would startle you in a bad way, I suggest you mute your computer. My imposed trigger warnings for the game are: needles/syringes, blood, surgery, medical, hospitals, animal abuse, abuse. (You never see images of these items or events. Just text descriptions, but as I mentioned Hero Robb is fantastic at descriptions so use your best judgement.)

So, what do you say, readers?

Open your eyes.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

If you needed more proof that Punk is dead...

As you may have heard, the Metropolitan Museum of Art's Costume Institute is currently running an exhibit called PUNK: Chaos to Couture. According to the press release on the museum's website, the exhibit "will examine punk’s impact on high fashion from the movement’s birth in the 1970s through its continuing influence today." I'm fairly sure that this is the basic formula for these kinds of exhibits, but apparently no one involved in the exhibit has any sense of irony. Why? It's just depressing.


Here's more from the press release: "Focusing on the relationship between the punk concept of "do-it-yourself" and the couture concept of "made-to-measure," the seven galleries will be organized around the materials, techniques, and embellishments associated with the anti-establishment style. Themes will include New York and London, which will tell punk's origin story as a tale of two cities, followed by Clothes for Heroes and four manifestations of the D.I.Y. aesthetic—Hardware, Bricolage, Graffiti and Agitprop, and Destroy. Presented as an immersive multimedia, multisensory experience, the clothes will be animated with period music videos and soundscaping audio techniques."

I'm going to make a running leap into Assumptionville and assume that everyone reading this has a basic understanding of what Punk is. If you don't, let's listen to some Sex Pistols to get in the mood.


What are the central tenants of Punk that we can get from this song? Anger, anti-establishment, messy, powerful, and driven. That is what Punk is, and that is exactly what the Met seemed to mention, but then completely forget when curating the exhibit and the guest list for the Gala. 

Besides the fact that the relationship between DIY and Couture is as simple as "they are different except when the latter appropriates the former," the whole exhibit gives me hives. As with everything they can get their grubby little paws on, high fashion grabbed punk by its studded belt and made off with it in the complete wrong direction. By aping Punk looks, Couture is erasing what Punk means. Since Punk is not just a street style, but a political anti-establishment message, they missed the entire point. If the Met's exhibit had any sense of irony about the situation (which I guarantee you it doesn't) it would have been fine because they could have documented how silly it is for the establishment to glorify those who wanted to escape it.

However, the Met doesn't just document this unfortunate homogenizing of a vibrant, passionate movement, but it glorifies it. And then it sticks examples of "high fashion Punk" (well, there's a contradiction if I ever saw one) on mannequins with very silly wigs. They're not even punk, they're just silly.


Of course, the exhibit itself has some "actual" punk items on display. I'm interested to know how they got a hold of these items, but it's nice to see them preserved somewhere, even if the entire institution that preserves them is contrary to their purpose.

Source. 

Part of their exhibit is showing the direct influences on high fashion that Punk has made, and I'll admit that that part is actually pretty interesting. You can see online here some examples of what they think Punk street fashion is and how it relates to high fashion.
 
>On May 6th, the exhibit was the focus of a star-studded (haha, I'm so clever) Gala Benefit, which enraged even more people than the exhibit itself. The attendees at the Gala were not related to the Punk scene at all. Pop stars and actors and celebrities with no ties to Punk. The honorary chair of the Gala? BeyoncĂ©. You know. So punk.

In keeping with the theme of this rather bitter post, let's look at some of the fashion travesties committed in the name of Punk at the Gala Benefit:



(If you don't think that it's funny that Donald Trump's daughter came to an exhibit on Punk we can't be friends.)


 


Pop stars in dresses worth thousands of dollars with mindless cliches (fishnet and studs prime among them) tacked on. So Punk.

There were two looks, however, which I thought were passable. The first was by Madonna, who flaunted the red-carpet dress code by wearing a studded jacket with many belts, a dog collar with a padlock on it, fishnets, and shoes that didn't match at all. As far as "high-fashion Punk" (sigh) goes, she did pretty well. Even if she's pretty much the mother of modern pop music.


The second is Zandra Rhodes, English fashion designer who went all out in a "frumpy" black dress with red sash, pink...thing, her standard bright pink locks, messy makeup, and safety pins all over. It looked messy, unfashionable, frumpy and thrown together. It doesn't capture Punk's effortless style, but it flaunts convention in a way that no one else did. Rock on, Ms. Rhodes.


Let us also praise Grace Coddington, former model and creative director of Vogue magazine, for being a goddess:


Preach.

So, in summary, I'm dubious of the exhibit. The lead curator of The Costume Institute, Andrew Bolton, says that Punk "has had an incendiary influence on fashion" and that "Punk's democracy [ahem.] stands in opposition to fashion’s autocracy, designers continue to appropriate punk’s aesthetic vocabulary to capture its youthful rebelliousness and aggressive forcefulness." Well, that's all well and good, Mr. Bolton, but when you unironically support this misunderstanding of what Punk is, then you've got me a little upset.


If you're still interested in seeing the exhibit (and paying the Met's exuberant price tag to do so), it will be running from May 9th to August 14th.

For the rest of us, here's some Siouxsie to put us in a better mood:



What do you think about the exhibit?

Saturday, May 4, 2013

The Weird World of Etsy "Goth"

Readers, I love Etsy. I love it quite a bit. I like supporting small businesses without leaving my desk, browsing vintage items without the smell of mothballs everywhere, and being terribly amused by the ever-changing market of items to be found there. But still, there's something about Etsy that I find mildly frustrating. That is, the sheer oddness of things that Etsy sellers label "Goth."

Ah, yes, a Leopard print wedding bouquet. Peter Murphy would be proud.


Can I coin the term Bunny Goth with these Bunny ears?


Little House on the Prairie, a novel by Bram Stoker, starring some chick in this Vintage "Victorian" dress.


All of the Trad Goths decorate their jackets in this pastel yellow lace trim.


And what else would you keep your black lipstick and vamp fangs in than a see-thru purse (that looks vaguely like something a Polly Pocket Doll would come in?)


Andrew Eldritch composes all his tunes on a pink plastic piano like this. In the temple of Barbie!


Oddly enough, hats like these are apparently not uncommon among younger Goths. But in gray? 


If you want to go further, how about wolf ears? Definitely the hot new trend in Goth clubs. You can call yourself...Moon Moon?


I've run out of quips, here is a pink kitten sweater.


See, thing is, I think a lot of this has to do with people sticking irrelevant but popular tags on their products so that more people will buy them. Still, if someone is searching for Goth items, how likely are they to buy a mislabeled yellow sundress or pink plastic piano?

Why do you think people are misusing the tag so much? Ignorance, wanting attention for their products no matter what they are? Should we launch a campaign to stop those tags? Answer below!

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Shallow Wants: Summer Sandals

While summer will not technically be here for a month or so, it is definitely starting to feel like summer up in Massachusetts. As my the deadline for my final papers looms, I decided to take a break to sit out in the grass and read a particularly good scary story I've been reading. And as I sat out there and occasionally looked up (and I mean very occasionally, I'm glued to this book) to see the other college women walking around in sundresses and sunglasses and sandals. Now, while I've got some lovely outfits and sunglasses, I started wondering why I haven't bothered to pick up some cute sandals for the summer? They're so useful for keeping cool and being able to easily take them off (and then put them on again when one of the school geese decides that he doesn't like your face...ahem.) 

Summer Spook


So, for you all today, I decided to post some Goth-appropriate sandals that I found around on the interwebs:




((It took me forever to get that pun...Modcloth, "nid" is not "need.")

Merona® Edda Zip Back Low Wedge Sandal from Target - 23USD

Women's Magda Stone Wedge from Payless - 25USD





Failing all of these options, it would be quite easy and fun to find a pair of simple black sandals in whatever style you prefer and then have at them with a hot glue gun and some supplies. I'm envisioning sandals covered in black roses, cameos, studs, ribbons and bows, or anything else you can imagine!

Have you all found any cute sandals lately? Where?