How To Dress Like A Victorian Goth (Without Looking Frumpy)

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I have dressing Goth for (eeeek) a long time. Ok, so I will let you into a secret – Los Lobos were about to become number one with a song about a little goat…

Something like that.

In fact, it might have been Los Lobos’s fault that I turned to black, painted my nails black, gave up smiling the following Lent and started panting after Robert Smith from The Cure.

Today, I am a little more conservative my approach to Victorian dressing. I guess it’s the corporate world that did that to me. Although I have to admit, on particularly difficult days (and there can be few) I will go out and out Victorian (minus the bustle of course.)

Thanks to more recent years of secretly sourcing stuff online, finding that unique look has never been so easy. (So, why do normal people look so, normal then?) Now, I can find the cheapest, fanciest, gothic-ist and Victorian clobber anywhere and have it delivered to my door (ah! Christmas!) Even Primark (cough) is one of my favourite shops for tights, gloves and just about anything black.

Ahem.

Ok, so here today, I am going to share with you some of my favourite things in my wardrobe. Yes, I am going to let you take a peak inside!

 

Blouses:

Perhaps the first stop in my wardrobe in the morning when I want to make a bit of an impact at work is this beautiful blouse. High necks, lace frills and tight cuffs and puff sleeves on any blouse or shirt will put you straight back into 1891. Perfect!

blouse

Women’s Gothic Victorian by Scarlette Darkness

 

Boots:

Boots were the staple diet of the Victorians – everything was lace up. If you couldnt’ do up your laces during the 19th Century, you were probably in trouble – or you didn’t have any shoes.

Gibson style was all the age for both men and women but it was the well dressed ladies in this era who lived for their boots. I have to admit, calf length styles were the most popular. Despite the fact that most of the time, you couldn’t see what was on their feet for layers of bustle and crinoline, boots and shoes were vital – especially if there were in the same colour as your dress.

These days, I think knee-high lace up boots look more stylish that something only half crawling up your leg. As I tend to wear knee-length skirts (popular for Victorian girls up to the age of 12) simply because they are more practical for the 20th century, showing off a cool pair of long boots makes the outfit not look so well, frumpy.

how to look victorian without looking frumpy

Joe Brown ladies lace up boots

 

Coats:

You can’t possibly step out in the world in a Victorian outfit without finishing the look with dark frock coat. This has to be my favourite, but I will let you in on something. I took the sewing machine to it. I simply couldn’t stand the up down hem going on around it. So I turned it into a flared riding coat and raised the hem to an equal length at the front. Now it sits to my knee comfortably draping down to mid calf at the back. Much better. Even so, this is a beautiful coat which looks great with A line frilly skirt and of course, all the trimmings above!

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Corduroy frock coat in black – yest black. It’s not brown, although it looks as though it is

Skirts:

So, we get to the bottom half at last. So, the dilemma I have each day is do I go for a skirt or trousers? The thing about trousers is that I suddenly feel like a bloke and that I should be slapping my thigh at every avaliable opportunity like I am Anita Harris in panto. Still, with a long pair of riding boots, they are idea for being heavily practical. For preference, it has to be a skirt and the following has been my favourite for a few years now. It even comes with a giant ribbon at the back.

High waisted and with a zip, it might look like you won’t be able to breathe but it is comfortable. Just make sure you get a bigger size than you think you need. Click on the link to find out more if you want to find out more about this skirt featured below. (By the way, you might think that this skirt is knee length, it’s not, just above actually. So the image is a little confusing!)

 

how to look victorian without looking frumpy

 

 

 

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Curses, Destruction and Skulls of Kings – Welcome to Winchester Cathedral

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Voted the best place to live in Britain back in 2016, Winchester appears on the outside a sleepy yet historic market town. After all, Colin Firth comes from here, but though the town might be better known these days as the place of rest for Jane Austen, the cathedral which has housed her grave for the last 200 or so years has a very dark side.

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The great King and Queen burial mystery to be revealed

Some of you may be aware of the four wooden chests that are supposed to house the bones of the first kings and queens of England. In this, it is thought that the true identity of these bones will be at last uncovered.

Why are there so many early monarchs buried at Winchester? Because during Anglo-Saxon England, Winchester was the capital and hugely important. People travelled across the country to the Cathedral on pilgrimages to see the tomb of St Swithun, the Cathedral’s patron saint. When he was originally buried in the Old Minster, when the Cathedral which stands today was built, his tomb was moved inside the new building on the 15 July 971.

It then rained solidly for 40 days and nights (hence the curse, it is said now, that if it rains on the 15th July, it will rain for 40 days and nights thereafter.) A curse that may well have some proof after the smashing up of his shrine by King Henry VIII’s men in the middle of the night in 1538.

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Winchester Cathedral was, and still is, one of the largest Cathedral in Europe and the longest in its Gothic style. It is thought that it is also the burial-place for two of the four Danish Kings who once ruled England. Also, King Canute is thought to be there and his son Harthacanute. The last king to be buried at Winchester is thought to be William II in 1100.

I say’ thought’ because we are not entirely sure. During the destruction of the Cathedral during the Civil War in 1642, the Roundheads charged violently through the Cathedral smashing up everything in sight. They found the caskets housing the kings, queens and possibly, the bones of three bishops too, using the bones they found to smash the stained glass windows.

When the local people finally came back in to literally tidy up the mess, the bones had been scattered everywhere. Attempting to carefully place what bones they could find back in the caskets, it was later discovered that there were six skulls in one casket and a lot of leg and arm bones in another. The monarchs and their bishops had been completely mixed up!

It is hoped that this year, concluding the birth of the nation project, the University overseeing the carbon dating of the bones and identification may well announce to the world exactly who we have in the caskets. A very important announcement indeed when it does finally take place.

The deep-sea diver who spent almost six years in the dark to save the Cathedral from flooding

When cathedrals were built hundreds and hundreds of years ago, British builders, most of the time, weren’t the best in the business. Many buildings still around today from Norman times (and there aren’t that many) have been built on top of and extended far more than they were every supposed to take often resulting in either complete or partial collapse. Cathedrals, in the particular have played victim to such dilapidation and Winchester was no exception.

At the turn of the 20th century, cracks had started to appear where the river Itchen close by had started to make its way through the foundations of the building. Where some underpinning had been attempted in the past to stop the whole thing falling down, more damage appeared to have been the result.

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A naval trained deep-sea diver by the name of William Walker and a colleague were sent to do the job. Why a dead sea diver? Because the foundations were flooded full of silt and peat-dyed cold water. To hold the building up, concrete needed to be set under it and tonnes of it. What’s more, it had to be done by hand. There were no machines at the time which could do the job.

Every wall on both the south and east of the Cathedral needed to be underpinned or the whole place would collapse. No could get under the Cathedral to do the work without drowning. Walker’s colleague gave up after two weeks complaining that the job could not be done.

The conditions were so dark, cold and bleak that he had said that the job wasn’t going to ever be successful. Yet, Walker soldiered on, with bare hands, 20 foot down under the Cathedral, completing the job. It took him from Monday to Friday, every week, for six hours a day, for five and a half years. There is more to find at the Cathedral about its extraordinary history and the people who now lay within its walls. I recommend you go as soon as you can as it’s well worth the visit.

Goth points: 8 out of 10 – for its dark past and it’s beautiful leaning yet imposing and frightening architecture. Small children give this place a wide berth from the outside.

Goth day out? Yes, I recommend rocking up for one of the free tours – link below. The guides are a wealth of information about the place you won’t find anywhere else.

Ticket prices: £7 per adult and student concessions are available. Any ticket will get you free entry for the next 12 months from issue. We like these kind of tickets.

How to get there: Winchester is off the A34 in Hampshire. It can be found from the M3 too. Once you have parked (parking is fairly cheap in town and there are plenty of multi-storey car parks) all notable places of interest are sign posted on every street corner so you can’t get lost. Tourist information is in the Guild Hall which is also sign posted so you won’t miss that either.

Cool links if you want to find out more:

William Walker 

Guided tours are Winchester Cathedral

 

Goth posts and pages:

Must Visit Places If You’re A Goth: Bran Castle, Romania

Do’s and Don’t’s when buying a Vintage Pocket Watch

Fright Nights: Why I Still Watch Most Haunted

Goth Days Out: Fit For A Whipping Boy – The House Of 17th Century Dark Decadence

 

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Must Visit Places If You’re A Goth: Bran Castle, Romania

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bran castle

If you’re getting fed up with Whitby twice a year and the thought of rocking up at a Steampunk weekend instead surrounded with all that brown really sickens you, then why not venture afield (while we still can from the UK) and take in some true Gothic culture (after all, the Victorians got everywhere and even beyond Brighton.)

In this new series, I uncover the darkest, Gothic places, buildings and dwellings which are seeped in mystery, death, angst and well, a lot of distraught lives, lost, loves never forgotten and just about anything else suited for Goth lovers everywhere.

 

In this post, we take a trip to Bran Castle, the home of Dracula, Romania

 

Take a trip to Bran Castle.

Ok, the most well read of us Goths will know it’s nestled in Transylvania in Romania and is the setting for Irish author, Bram Stoker’s Dracula, which, as we all know, was written in Whitby in 1897, while he visited the town.

It is thought that the novel was a deep expression of his own private life and of those closest to him, one of which, was Oscar Wilde. During a time when expression of one’s own alternative interests were repressed in society, it was no wonder that such cultural iconic works rose to the surface.

 

Why visit it?

Without stating the obvious link here (You are an intelligent Goth, so I won’t insult you,) this Medieval fortress is a landmark not only in Romanian history but in European history with a timeline that dates back to the 13th Century.

It has played audience to some of the most prolific events in social history – wars, battles, conflicts, downfalls, royal residence, Saxon invasions, WW2, the list is endless. It is one of the few remaining buildings that can safely say it is has seen both the darker and lighter sides of man over almost the last 1000 years.

It does come of course, with its own myths and legends which are not even remotely true. But then again, true stories of not, this castle draws thousands of visitors to it each year. Why? Because of the mystery of it and of course where it really did have a connection with Vlad the Impaler. Come to Bran and let your imagination run with it.

 

bran castle

 

Bran Castle – where the heck is it?

Just the directions to this iconic building is Gothic enough (and yes, you can imagine trekking up the mountains in a Hanson cab and pony.) The Bran Castle is sited at the entrance to the Rucăr o r the Bran passage, somewhere along the road which connects the town of Braşov (which is about 18 miles from the castle) and Câmpulung. Bran Castle sits proud surrounded by the great high peaks of the Bucegi and the Piatra Craiului Mountains in northern Romania.

 

Celebrating Dracula at Bran Castle.

Without it sounding too over commercial, Bran Castle has played host for many a rendition of the classic Gothic novel over the decades and if you are lucky to be there to witness a performance, then do see them! The love and adoration for Stoker’s works fill this place almost all year round (in between Jazz festivals and family events.)

 

Best times to visit

Go during the slightly warmer, summer months (April to Sept) as the castle during the week is open another 2 hours later a day than it is during the winter. Bear in mind that the castle doesn’t open to the public each day until around midday on a Monday. Great if you want a lie in, in true Dracula style of course.

 

When’s it open?

It boasts as being open 365 days a year and for most highly sought after visitor centres, it is reasonably priced (less than a tenner for each adult) and children under 7 go free (although, they may not be allowed out again.)

 

Where can I stay?

Sadly, you don’t get to stay in the castle, but there are a vast number of ‘mini Bran’ looking hotels around the area to choose from all with delightful names with either the words ‘Bran‘ or ‘Casa‘ in the titles. Click on either of the three links to find somewhere to stay.

Go to the Bran Castle site.

 

 

(All links to sites here are NOT afflilate links. I write for the love of sharing)

 

 

Further reading by The Black Bacarra

Do’s and Don’t’s when buying a Vintage Pocket Watch

Fright Nights: Why I Still Watch Most Haunted

Welcome To The Black Bacarra Blog

Goth Days Out: Fit For A Whipping Boy – The House Of 17th Century Dark Decadence

Goth History Part 2 – The Lost Goth Shop Years

 

What it (was) is like to be a Goth

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gothic charm school bookReading Jillian Venter’s Gothic Charm School it has allowed me to look back over my life as a Goth over the last (mumbles in her mittens here) 30 years – good grief!

Even when I have been through other phases of my life (hippie at college – it has to be done, Princess Diana flick and matching wardrobe to pastel queen) I have always been Goth. Why? Because Goth is more than just dying your hair black, wearing black and listening to The Cure (backwards) it is actually a state of mind in the sense that you are drawn to the beauty of darkness in the world, especially in history.

How it was to be Goth then

Back in the mid eighties when the world was swooning over Michael J Fox and Back The The Future (yes, I was a fan too) I found a comfort in wearing black. A few of my friends (boys) where dolling up in black drain pipes and winklepickers that went on into infinity. My friend Doc introduced me to The Sisters of Mercy and The Cure.

I had already built up quite a fancy for Simple Minds and U2 but I was after something more darker. In those days we didn’t really go to clubs. In our little village, there was nothing to do. A bus came through once a week. There were pubs which were oldly worldly and full of jodpurs and tweed so it wasn’t the place for Goths. The only thing we could do was catch lifts off our parents to go to the nearest train station (five miles away) and head up to London to hang around Camden and Carnaby Street. The Batcave was a place we only dreamed about. In a small village in Surrey, there we were. Very small and not in the right setting.

Music and the legend of John Peel

We had records and leather thongs around our wrists but really, that was as much as we could do to express ourselves. TOTPs on a Thursday night or even The Tube were shows we could watch if The Mission were going to be on, yet for us, we had to make do with what ever mainstream was punching out into the airwaves at the time. Thankfully we had John Peel on a Friday night on Radio 1 to fill our brains with the alternative and the off beat stuff like The Three Johns and The Cocteau Twins. It was no wonder that many Goths like us at the time were longing for Bauhaus but made do with Aha.

penny dreadful box setEven during my Princess Diana years (minus the smiling and waving and collecting flowers from small children phase) I loved nothing than spending a miserable Sunday with my box set of Penny Dreadful and wishing I was Eva Green. It is an art form – a way of seeing the world so it is not surprising that during these states of navy blue suits, I would often have days of Goth.

Notes for non-Goths

To be drawn to Goth doesn’t mean to say you are about to take your own life and that all loved ones around you need to take flight and call social services. It isn’t like that. It’s a warm family of black cladded people who enjoy beautiful literature like Jayne Eyre and adore weekends drifting around places like Haworth (Bronte country) and Glastonbury. We adore Gothic architecture (see wonderful gothic Wells Cathedral here) and dream of wild romantic yet brooding drifters coming into our lives reciting the works of Shelley and Byron. We’re not giving up on life, we are embracing it.

It’s okay to be Goth no matter what age, where you are and what you are doing with your life. You are amongst friends. We are out there for you.

Where the journey endth…

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It was about 1987 when I first discovered Goth. I mean, for me, it was Fiona prodding me with a slightly chewed cassette tape of Sisters of Mercy for me to indulge in that weekend.

I hadn’t been taken with anything sort of sub culture up until that point. For me, it was all a bit weird, and someone who wore black a lot of the time was bound to be suicidal or just mildly annoyed with the world. Punk had passed me by during the lat Seventies and New Romantics to me where just guys in too much lip gloss. Yet, that weekend, when I randomly stuffed Fiona’s tape into my stereo and hit play, my life change.

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In those days, we didn’t have Google and YouTube. If you hear something you like on the, dare I say it, radio, you immediately grab your phone, Google what you think are the lyrics (if it was Nirvana, these were often debatable) or you go on to YouTube of Apple Music and found your newly heard track – all over and done with in literally seconds. Back then, you had to wait until the next time your mum could take you to the nearest library which had a half decent record section or music shop and half heartedly sing out this track until someone in the shop tapped you on the shoulder and either asked you to leave or better still, told you what you were singing.

At the time I heard SoM ‘This Corrosion’ on Fiona’s tape, I had already a stack of Number One magazines in the corner of my bedroom I was able to desperately flick through until I saw a smallish article on these black cladded, pale-faced sticks. I found myself not looking at the state of Andrew Eldritch, the lead, but the girl looking gormlous next to him – bassist Patricia Morrison, who gave SoM their sombre, morbid but brilliantly Gothic look.

After that, I plunged myself into black. The deeper the colour, the better. In fact, I would have been happy with a black so black that I disappeared into my own black hole. Yet the Morrison look, as much as I craved that dark, sinister yet very feminine look, wasn’t what ended up in my wardrobe. I found that as time when on, I was more Stevie Nicks in a bad mood than I was Patricia Morrison from Sisters of Mercy.

(I made sure brown didn’t creep into my wardrobe – that came later in my 40’s when I found Steampunk.)

Until about 1992, I remained faithful to my Goth roots. I dyed my hair bright, bright white and kept my page-boy hair cut (I was never any good at growing it) under a wide-brimmed black hat. I had lived in my black fish nets with silver seams and darkly long flowing pleated skirt and ankle boots with far too many silver buckles. I had spent years sticking drawing pins into the heels of my worn boots to give them that ‘I couldn’t care less’ clicking sound as I walked pouting along Carnaby Street in London.

After that it was life, motherhood and career which dragged me reluctantly away from Goth. Yet, I spend many years in my corporate life thereafter smiling and nodding at Goths I would pass in the street. I still craved my Edgar books and Wuthering Heights. I clung to all things Victorian and treasured my Mission and Cure tapes in the car. Once a Goth, always a Goth. It’s not a phase you grow out of. It’s a part of who you are. I chose to, and still do, dip into a sea of black flowing dresses and romantic hair dos when I am not in the office. Growing older now, I have discovered my love of Gothic culture again and feel that embracing it now is more about being settled in who I am.

The journey did end once, but I never threw away the map or gave up on the destination.

It begins again….