Proudly Goth in Every Way

I have been a goth for about 10 years now. And I don’t mean that in the pejorative way as an all-black clad edgelord even though everyone around me will agree that I am one of those. But I want to talk about being a goth, the evolution from emo to now a pastel goth and why I’m fine identifying as such despite being nearly too damn old for such a thing.

I have a comic book past: I lost my parents young, I was always just a little above average in intellect and maturity in comparison to my peers and I had quite the taste for things that were not too happy, too nice or too upbeat. But I had an aunt who was concerned about my image and the crowd I found myself in with being goth so I never outwardly looked very goth. Even during the height of my emo days in high school I was still a pink dot in a sea of boys in black trench coats and bullet belts if you can imagine such a thing.

It wasn’t so much that I resented my aunt’s mandate on my wardrobe but even when I began my job at the local Goth Barn I only went to so far with being a goth. I got to wear more black, I got to wear the t-shirts of bands I listened to and I got to accessorize but that was about it I never wanted to wear super skinny jeans or TRIPPs or anything. I may be a vampire but I am for sure vain and have always been.

It isn’t all black roses and My Chemical Romance shirts being goth. I absolutely understand all the criticisms a parent or society has with the term. Within the goth community there are very strained discussions of mental illness that glorify self-harm and not being medicated for serious mental health issues. It’s a community that is synonymous with melodrama and especially unearned melodrama. That was always difficult in high school listening to people go on about their problems that were not so problematic. That melodrama makes it difficult to want to be better or to change your situation. Wallowing in darkness is never a good way to cope with issues and the anti-authoritarian and especially anti-parent/guardian messages behind a lot of goth culture is risky; sometimes parents can be less than sympathetic and understanding but most of the time, it’s well-intending guardians just doing their best with complex emotions. But there’s an allure to rebelling against a machine. There’s absolutely an allure to the old photos of me in all black surrounded by a family of brightly colored outfits.  There’s an allure to being a little overly dramatic. But I can understand that to parents, it’s likely a little distressing to see their usually bright child descend the stairs fully as a vampire going on about how life is pain and death is a sweet sweet embrace.

We’ll skip over the college and post-college years except for one footnote. The lace dress. Yes, the lace dress. So when I was in high school I was inviting to a homecoming dance once. Once. And I got a dress from Torrid (previously the plus-sized Hot Topic) and it was black and lace and short and wonderful. I wore that dress in my senior photos, to conventions for gothic lolita, to my college graduation party that my anime clubbers threw for me. That dress was just recently donated and I miss it but that’s about the extent of my prior gothic impulses. A notable appearance of The Dress was at a local Twilight prom that I was brought to against my will. My former best friend liked the books and wanted me to go with him as he platonic date. It was held a bookstore and truthfully we were both too old for this but it sounded like a good idea to him and he said it was an excuse to look better than everyone else so I got dressed and went with him. Immediately a gaggle of teens asked if he was the Edward to my Bella and I said that I would sell him to them for a dollar. The night ended with us at the local IHOP me still in my black lace dress and him a little angry that I was willing to sell him off so quickly.

THE Lace Black Dress

My first office job forced me to dress decently and I did my best to stay with light colors because that is what’s socially acceptable. I had to be amiable and kind and outgoing even though my personality had always tended towards being a bit of a misanthrope and a vampire.

It wasn’t until the last few years and my cosplay resurgence that I found my love of black dresses.

I love black dresses. I own at least 5 of them. They’re modest and make me feel attractive in a way that I have not felt since I was a teenager. This coincides with my reemergence of loving the paranormal and my love of cameos. I’m primed and ready to be a casual witch.

Now my wardrobe is that of a pastel goth. Now, those things sounds like they don’t match but they absolutely can! I love pastel colors, thanks to all of this melanin, they really pop on my skin but I usually pair them with creepy-cute accessories like haunted castle rings or ouija board necklaces. Accessories really are the heart and soul of my wardrobe. It takes more than just a black dress and tights to be a goth. It’s also about the necklaces, rings and more. I also get to explore with makeup more now. I wear more highlight now so the light catches just right and I love bright red lipstick because it really pops on an almost all black and silver canvas. I’m a sucker for a bold lip and now if the occasion permits, a bold eye.

I also prefer the silhouette that being goth allows me. I can be modest or show skin as I wish. I can wear some bright colors and still tone them down with blackout tights or I can wear all over all  black and just enjoy the aesthetic of looking like a Victorian vampire.

But there’s something about being labeled as “goth” that I actually really enjoy. If being goth means that I like ghost stories, vampires, cameos and lace: then I’m happy to be a goth. If being goth means that I am honest about my emotional health and refuse to put on a brave face all the time because happiness is normative, then I’m proud to be goth. If being goth means that I feel the most comfortable in my skin that I have in all of my years, then I am proud to be goth.

Why I Started Wearing Jewelry

I almost never wore jewelry when I was in high school. Sure, I wore earrings but I never wore necklaces or rings. I did wear the occasional bracelet but I was born in the 90s so of course I did. But let’s back up. Why am I writing this? Well, I started wearing more jewelry as part of my great post-grad glow up and it’s interesting to go from someone who seldom accessorized to someone who loves necklaces and rings. But that wasn’t quick; it was slow, painful and involved many many lost opportunities to be even more fashionable than I was as a fledgling.

Let’s recap: in high school I had a controlling aunt who policed my image aggressively. There was absolutely an ideal I had to fit and while I don’t fault her for not letting me leave the house as I wished as a young person, that doesn’t mean that controlling nature was always handled n the best way. I dressed mostly preppy through most of high school and into college: lots of Old Navy v-necks, jeans and my one rebellious items were my black Chuck Taylors. I had my ears pierced as a teen somewhat against my will (another aunt was getting married and to be part of the wedding, I needed earrings) and I did love my earrings as a teenager. Because of hubris and an apparent lack of pain sensation, I ended up with three piercing holes in my ears and that was perfect. I could wear a pair of hoops and a stud that matched whatever color I was wearing (probably purple or black). I never wore a lot of necklaces back then for mostly two reasons: first is that I had and still have eczema and sensitive skin and that I did and still have more chest than my frame should allow. To the first point, the costume jewelry I wanted to wear reacted very poorly with my sensitive skin. Why did I want to wear mostly gaudy costume jewelry? I was a goth (still am a goth) and that meant vampire chokers, bat earrings and bracelets with broken heart pendants.  

My first job at the local goth barn (Hot Topic) meant more jewelry but it never really went beyond earrings and the off bracelet. Which brings us to the second point: I am a small and chesty thing and most necklaces I tried to wear ended up being eaten by my cleavage. That is something entirely preventable but it really soured me on the whole thing as I had a weird relationship with my chest that has continued on into my adult life. I didn’t like wearing a piece of jewelry that drew attention to a part of me that as far as I was concerned already drew too much attention.

This weird relationship with accessories stayed the same through most of high school and almost all of college except for when I began cosplaying more in earnest. Costumes meant jewelry sometimes and I continued to make costumes, I continued to wear the pieces that mattered to that character. And that’s an odd thing to consider sometimes. At times, an earring, bracelet, necklace or similar can be the difference between an okay costume and really hitting the nail on the head and knocking an outfit out of the park.

Office jobs were really what got me to wear jewelry. There’s something about wearing earrings regularly that just make you look like you’re more of an adult. Even if I’m wearing skinny jeans, ballet flats from Payless, a t-shirt that may or may not have been a gift; you look just a little better with earrings.

It was not until recently with my full acceptance of goth into my heart that I found my one true love: cameos. I’m at my core a moody Victorian poet so I love me a cameo. And after purchasing a cameo from a woman who sells them out of a trunk and claims to bless each and every single one, a long-lasting love affair began. But cameos don’t always come on chains: I had to make my own necklaces and thus, a match made in glorious Hell.

One Gifted
One Purchased
One Made

I love it now when I get a compliment on a cameo. I like building outfits around my necklaces now. I like being able to show off a part of myself in the things I wear, which brings us to another aspect of my personal style: rings.

I am not proud of many parts of my body but I do think I have nice hands. Delicate fingers, soft hands and small palms mean that rings look good on me. The problem is that I am right-handed so wearing a ring on my right affects how I hold a pen so I tend to wear my rings on my left. I am not married but it’s a good way to be fashionable while also scaring off unworthy men.

This ties back into the otaku part of me that is a constant undercurrent of my existence: decoden. Decoden is a artform that has an emphasis on cute, mini and kawaii items and I especially love decoden rings. I love being able to have a little tray full of cake or a tiny donut on my finger: I may be a brat prince but I am a fashionable brat prince. I pick up a few rings at any convention I go to and I am happy to add to my collection of decoden rings.

My relationship with jewelry has changed over the years. I’ve never been big on bracelets but I’ve worn more necklaces in the past few months than I have in nearly my entire existence. What prompted this change? I’m not sure. Maybe I am simply getting older. Maybe I am more fashionable than I was. Maybe it’s just part of growing up and changing? Will things always be like this? Who knows. Will I continue to enjoy all of my cameos and rings? You bet your butt I will.