Thursday, February 15, 2018

The Gothic & Lolita Bible - a gothic style touchstone.

Way back in 2001 I fell in love with a magazine called the Gothic & Lolita Bible. The text was in Japanese, but honestly, it was all about the photos. Created by visual kei musicians Mana and Kana the Gothic & Lolita bible was full of amazing pictures of gorgeous people wearing ornate and beautiful clothing. It was like a Sears catalog for angelic freaks.

Although none of the clothing was available in the US (and buying things on the internet was still kind of sketchy proposition) this quarterly publication became a vitally important inspiration for a community which was already starting to rebel against the gaunt fetish look popularized in the pages of Propaganda and other gothic publications.

Lolita style embraced (and still embraces) an almost roccoco aesthetic, proudly proclaiming that the more ruffles, sashes, crowns and crinolines you can stick to yourself the better. If you look like your name should be announced by a servant upon entering a room, you're pretty much there.  Because it originated as part of a cultural backlash against sophisticated fashions that only looked good on tall, rail-thin, fashion models. Lolita clothing, with its confectionary layers of crinolines, and its predelection for full, flouncy, skirts is flattering on a a wide range of body types. As the Lolita Bible began to influence the American goth scene, the creak of leather, and rattle of chains was soon joined by the rustling of petticoats. Rubber shirts soon shared closet space with elegant waistcoats, and perfectly cut trousers.

In addition to providing a remedy for fashion enui, the Gothic & Lolita Bible was also gateway drug to Japanese culture. After all, we had to go out of our comfort zone, and into Asian bookstores if we wanted to get our hands on it...and along the way many of us stumbled into anime and manga. I personally worked my way through the Dirty Pair (a couple of adorable lady spies, who inevitably left mass destruction in their wake), Ranma 1/2 (a young boy who turned into a girl whenever he got wet - with hilarious results), the death-rock hijinks of Detroit Metal City, and eventually into the darker works of the profoundly disturbing genius Junji Ito. I deeply love all of these things, and I am eternally grateful for them.

Even though I am a bit long in the tooth to pull off the full-on Lolita style, I still take inspiration from it. I love my full skirts and crinolines, coffin shaped purses, and bat winged backpacks. And I still love anime and manga. I owe much of that to having been lucky enough to discover the Gothic & Lolita Bible.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Gothic Film 101 and 201 - notes and upcoming screenings

In the Spring of 2017, Eldergoth Central began sponsoring a series of film classes at Scarecrow Video in Seattle. Eldergoth Central is a facebook group and online resource for aging members of the gothic and punk subcultures.

The first series, Gothic Film 101, covered the basics elements of Gothic film and literature. We showed five films - Jane Eyre (1943), The Haunting (1963) Sunset Boulevard (1949) I Walked With A Zombie (1943). In the Fall of 2017 we followed that up with Gothic Film 101 part 2: Gothic Ghosts and shadows. For this series we showed The Innocents (1961), The Uninvited (1944) , and Crimson Peak (2015).
Although every film in the Gothic Film: 101 series is different from every other, they all fall into the same genre and are defined in both film and literature by one or more of these seven tropes.

1. The Gothic heroine is usually an innocent young woman who is placed in a setting which makes her uncomfortable, often physically (drafty old castle) as well as morally/spiritually. In some films, such as Sunset Boulevard, the heroine is a male character who fulfills the same role.

2. The Gothic hero is tall, dark, brooding, and emotionally unavailable. He is often hiding a tragic secret, or hiding from a dark past. The Gothic heroine with love him and fear him in equal measure. Hero characters are not always male, in The Haunting, the role of the hero is taken on by Hill House itself.

3. The Gothic environment is always in a state of decay, whether that be a crumbling mansion, a castle that has seen better days, or an antebellum plantation slowly being reclaimed by the swamps. This environment is reflected in the crumbling sanity or emotional state of at least one of the characters. In Roger Corman's Fall of the House of Usher, both the mansion and the Usher family are falling into ruins.

4. Hints of deviance. The Gothic imagination is rife with family secrets, murders, unhappy marriages, bastard children, and incest - whether spelled out specifically, or hinted at. It is exemplified in the unhappy relationship between Thomas and Lucille Sharp in Crimson Peak, or the strange secret moments shared by the children in The Innocents.

5. The weather. A thunderclap is the ALL CAPS of the Gothic. When there is a deafening crash of thunder, it means that something big is happening, or is about to happen. Other popular weather options include sudden gusts of wind, mists and fogs, mysterious cold spots, and pretty much anything that happens on the moors including moonlight, sunlight, and the scent of wild heather.

6. The past intruding on the present. There is nothing a Gothic writer loves more than a good old-fashioned family curse, an evocative painting with a story to tell, or a ghostly apparition. The Gothic character cannot exist fully in the here and now, but must be constantly pursued and haunted by something from his or her past. In Rebecca, the young heroine is haunted by the fear that she will not measure up to the standards set by her husband’s deceased wife. In Jane Eyre, Mr. Rochester is haunted by his disastrous first marriage to a madwoman.

7. A hint of brimstone. Not every Gothic story has a supernatural element, but many of the true classics do. In Wuthering Heights, it is the ghostly palm print of a young woman on an icy windowpane, in I Walked With A Zombie it is the mysterious power of the Voodoo priest, in Sunset Boulevard - the ghostly presence of Norma Desmond, alive but haunting her own home.

In 2018, I will be continuing with the gothic films series, this time focusing on the seven films that constitute Roger Corman’s Poe Cycle. Instead of discussing how these films fit the definition of Gothic, I’ll be talking about their influence and background. We will have the chance to read the original works by Poe, learn about 1960’s low-budget horror films, and enjoy Vincent Price in his heyday as master of the macabre.

Gothic Film 201: Corman’s Poe Cycle, will be presented every 3rd Thursday at 8pm in the Scarecrow Video screening room at 5030 Roosevelt Way NE, Seattle Wa. 98105

·      January 18th -House of Usher (1960)
·      February 15th -The Pit and the Pendulum (1961)
·      March 15th -Premature Burial (1962)
·      April 17th - The Raven (1963)
·      May 17th- Masque of the Red Death (1964)
·      June 21st – Haunted Palace (1963)

We will take a break during July and August, and the series will resume in September

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Holiday Shopping Guide

Whether you call it Christmas, Yule, the Holiday Season, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa or simply "Oh god, is it THAT time of year again",  you will probably find yourself in the market for some gifts, and if you have one or more family members of the gothic persuasion it can be hard to find just the right present.
Here are a few of my favorite sites.


One of the best kept secrets of gothic clothes shopping is Chicstar. They make many of the clothes that you will find on other sites, but their prices are better - and yes, they DO have plus sizes, but they don't seem to have menswear. Sorry guys. 

Dracula Clothing: Although I haven't shopped through them personally, Dracula Clothing has decent prices, and a good looking line of menswear.

Wild West Mercantile: Are you looking for a puffy sleeved shirt to compliment a victorian outfit? A snazzy western shirt for a cool gothabilly look? Check out Wild West Mercantile. They've got a huge selection, including costume pieces and accessories. This is a good source for basic steampunk stuff as well.
 Wild West Mercantile

If you are looking for a beautiful accent scarf, or a special hand made dress or ritual cloak, Autumn Moon has a great selection, and as an added bonus it is Eldergoth owned and operated.
Autumn Moon Enchantment


Some of the most beautiful and inspired gothic jewelry comes from high-end seller Bloodmilk Jewels. I love almost everything on their site - and just because I can't afford it, doesn't mean I can't windowshop! 

If you are a UK shopper, and your wallet isn't bursting at the seams, you can find cute, inexpensive handmade jewelry at Metal Liquor.
 Metal Liquor UK

TM Originals is a Seattle based jewelry company owned and operated by one of our very own Eldergoths. She works in enamels, metals, and with resin. I love the coffin necklaces.
TM Originals

Jason Soles is a multi-media artist who creates work in resin and bronze, I'm including him in the jewelry section because I love his bronze vertibrae necklaces. 
Mr. Soles Etsy Shop

Plesiosaur sells adorable enamel pins of octopus, cuttlefish, and other adorable animals.
Cute Animal Friends!

Household Goods

Candles make everything more gothic. Whether you're sneaking down a staircase in your nightgown, or mastering the art of Vampiric Seduction™, you are going to need mood lighting...preferably mood lighting that smells nice.

With scents ranging from Absinthe, to Coffin dark candles offers a wide range of candles hand crafted for those who fear the light.
Dark Candles

If you prefer unscented candles that look ghoulishly gorgeous, then Grave Digger Candles is going to be your favorite place ever. I'm in love with their signature spinal column candles, and vertibrae tealights.
Grave Digger Candles

I love tea - and although I have plenty of sturdy coffee mugs lying around the place, there are plenty of times when only a fancy tea cup will do. Angioletti Designs provides a wide array of teacups decorated with skulls, bats, and attitude.
Angioletti Design

Who doesn't  love movies?  If you are looking for great prices on original (not reprints or reproduction) movie posters check these guys out. They auction thousands of posters every week. Honestly I can't even look at this site until I get more wallspace.
Movie Posters

Monsters and miscellaneous horrors: 

Ann Koi has been making monsters for most of her life, she paints, she sculpts, she does resin casting, and she even wrote and illustrated her own graphic novel. Visit her site and get yourself something strange.

Tinplate Studios claim to be mostly steampunk, but if you look past the airships, you'll find plenty of straight-up horror pieces. Everything from Lovecraft inspired beasties in jars, to teacups containing very special surprises.
Tinplate Studios

As John Waters once said "If you go to someone's house and they don't have books, don't fuck them" La Creeperie is a site that specializes in horror books, if you grew up loving the cheesy paperbacks of the 80's and 90's La Creeperie will steal your heart.
La Creeperie

Tormented Artifacts have little leathery wings that you can add to boots, backpacks, or whatever. They also have masks, purses, and a whole lot of leather. 
Tormented Artifacts

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Propaganda Magazine and the birth of the übergoth.

 If you were a goth in the 1990’s you probably remember Propaganda.  It was a low budget, black and white magazine that was vital to goth culture in America. 

Between the music reviews and adverts for cassette singles of up and coming goth, industrial, and punk bands, there were gorgeous models lounging on tombstones, entangled in fishnets, or resting (one would hope) peacefully in exquisitely fitted coffins.  Pale and slender with heavy lidded eyes and languid postures, these exquisite creatures inspired a generation. We saw them laid across the page like freshly cut lilies and projected ghostly and dim on the walls of countless club nights and after parties. For better or worse, they were guideposts to what we were supposed to be.

Back in the day, or more appropriately, the night, Propaganda was the only guide we had to help us navigate the dark waters of our personal weirdness, and many of us still have stacks of back issues hidden away like nostalgia landmines waiting to go off the minute we open that box in the back of the closet.

In addition to helping create the American gothic subculture, Propaganda defined the way that goth was supposed to look. There were two basic styles in Propaganda, fetish and aesthetic, but in the real-life subculture, there was much more going on. Post punks and early goths came in all shapes, sizes and colors. We took our cues from glam, punk, horror, and metal – taking what we liked from wherever we found inspiration.

Before the carefully curated images in Propaganda, goths expressed ourselves differently. It wasn’t just attractive people in poet shirts draping themselves over tombstones (Dave Vanian being a delightful exception) there was also HUGE hair, bright colors, and the many of the trappings of the Punk movement from which we were still emerging. I will NEVER stop loving huge, colorful deathhawks. Sorry...not sorry.

The advent of Propaganda, with its focus on decadence and fetishism added refinement to what had, before then, been a riotous melting pot of ideas and inspirations, but it also gave people the idea that there was a right way to be gothic, and that people who weren’t pretty enough, pale enough, or slender enough were somehow doing it wrong. Early photos show goths of all shapes and sizes, and I was struck by how much fun they all seemed to be having. Post Propaganda goths weren’t dour and joyless, but they did take themselves more seriously.

It was during the 90’s that I first noticed how strongly goths were embracing the concept of gatekeeping. Suddenly everyone had gotten the idea that people who were less informed about music, fashion, and the Vampire Lestat, were clearly poseurs who were bringing the tone down for all us*

Some of this attitude came directly from people's interpretation of Propaganda, although I would be remiss if I didn't acknowledge the malign influence of Steve Strange during his tyrannical reign as enfant terrible of London’s new romantics as another factor. It got so ridiculous that here was a point in the 90’s when just stepping into a goth club was like being thrust into an all fake vampire production of Dangerous Liaisons. (I still have my fangs and folding fan).

It has only been in recent years that we've started to step back from the idea, that in order to be properly gothic one has to fit a specific set of physical and philosophical characteristics. Goths can be any age, shape or color, and as much as I love the little collection of nostalgia bombs, I have to acknowledge that sometimes the things that bring us together, are also the things which push us away from each other. Propaganda was vital to the development of our subculture, but it also contributed to the rise of the übergoth

It's time to step away from gatekeeping and exclusion, and embrace people with new ideas and outlooks. If we are to continue to thrive as a subculture we should be welcoming new people into the fold, not complaining because these kids today are calling it “emo” and getting it all wrong.

* Never mind the fact that the “tone” of which we speak consisted of dancing around to songs about beers, queers and steers and having incredibly dramatic meltdowns because we couldn’t face the harsh reality of last call.


Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Gothic Films 101 free film class!

On the 3rd Thursday of each month, I will be teaching a gothic film class at Scarecrow Video in Seattle.

Before each screening we will talk about the basic elements that define the gothic genre, and afterward there will be a discussion about whether or not the film fits into the genre.

March 16th - Jane Eyre
April 20th - The Haunting
May 25th- Sunset Boulevard
June 15th - I Walked with a Zombie

Scarecrow Video is located at 5030 Roosevelt Way NE, Seattle, Wa. 98105
Screenings are free to the public and start at 7PM.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Seattle Eldergoth Meetup!

Join us for an eldergoth meet-up in Seattle next week.

Wednesday February 22nd.
Northstar Cafe:
8580 Greenwood Ave N. ( the big, green building that used to be a Chinese restaurant)
Time: 8 P.M.

This is an informal, hang out and get to know each other event - you don't have to dress up unless you want to.

Reply to this post if you plan on joining us so that I can be sure we've got enough seating.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Bats Day at the Fun Park

For those of you who aren't into the whole Disney thing, Bats Day is an yearly event in which goths from all over the world swoop into Anaheim and attempt to overrun Disneyland.  I'm told that it is great fun for goths of all ages. The 2017 event will be my first ever Bats Day, and I am already putting together park friendly outfits - even though the event doesn't happen until May.

My past experiences being goth at Disneyland have been, for the most part, extremely positive.
The one less-than-stellar memory I have is of a time when Jillian Venters and I were trailed through the park by a rather zealous church group, who felt it appropriate to pray for our souls, and sing hymms to us until park security politely asked them to leave us alone.  It was here that Jillian truly earned the title of gothic Miss Manners, not by being kind to our dogged Christian pursuers, but by convincing me not to fly into one of my infamous fits of temper and attempt to rend them limb from limb. 

Fortunately for all of us, The Lady of Manners dragged me away from these misguided evangelists and onto the nearest ride. Unfortunately for all, that ride was It's A Small World. By the time the ride was finished, I was either pacified, or beaten into submission by the relentlessly cheerful promise of a world united by friendship. I was mortified and angry at the time, but today it is one of my favorite Disney memories. Time, distance, and a sense of humor are great healers.

I am excited for Bats Day at the park because I've never really been with crowds of goths outside of a club situation. I can't wait  to see what we look like in broad daylight (albeit protected by parasols, sunscreen, and big hats). I really hope to see some of you there.

If you are going, here are a few helpful hints for surviving the California Sun.

1. Sunscreen: Wear it, and don't forget the back of your neck. I always forget the back of my neck.

2. Shoes: Comfort is more important than looks, but if you must wear crocs (I have knee and foot pain and they are often the only things that don't hurt me) try and get the black ones.

3. Parasols: These are lifesavers when you are stuck outside, but can be dangerous in a tightly packed crowd. Try not to put anyone's eye out.

4. Did you know they make black t-shirts that get cooler when you sweat? Search for "cooling tank top" on Amazon, and you'll find lots of other options as well.

5. Why don't they make bras out of that cooling T-shirt fabric? Because they hate our boobs, that's why. Improvise by tucking a damp paper towel or lacy handkerchief into your ensemble. Re-dampen as needed.

6. Dress to survive the heat : PVC looks great at the club, but they it will turn on you like a rabid badger if you wear it in direct sunlight on a hot day.  Yes, I am the sad voice of experience. Cotton and lace are your friends.

7. Stay hydrated:  Bring a water bottle, fill it up at the drinking fountain. You will save a hundred dollars and it will keep you from passing out on the kiddie rides and looking like a fool.

8. Be kind: Remember that there will be thousands of non-goths at the park that day, and many of them may have never encountered us before. If you find yourself being stared at smile and wave, if you are harassed, tell a cast member.  Be especially kind to the cast members, they have seen things...things they cannot unsee.

9: If you are shopping in the dealers room, please try not to block the aisles. It is rude to hog the space in front of a vendor's booth if you have no intention of purchasing anything from them. Step back and let the people who want to spend money get in there.

10 . Don't invite drama: It is going to be difficult. The sun will be beating down on you, the lines will be long, your significant other will probably be making eyes at Maleficent and the Evil Queen, or worse yet, Gaston! This would be an ideal time to storm off into Cinderella's castle for a prolonged weeping and pouting session, wouldn't it? Part of being a somewhat responsible person means doing your best to make sure that the people surrounding you get to enjoy their day. Don't drag them into your drama. Save that for later, at the dance.