Wednesday, February 20, 2019

New Year, New Life, New House

Dusting off this old blog for one Gothic Martha Stewart home tour. Because, whoa, things have changed around here. In the past six months, I'm suddenly in the middle of a divorce from my husband who I'd been with for 26 years, we sold our house of 17 years, I moved 40 miles away, and I bought my first house of my own. One way to mend a broken heart is throw yourself into renovation and decoration projects, so since Christmas I've done nothing but fix up this 1920s storybook bungalow to be my perkygoth manor.

Let me show you around...

Here's what the living room looked like before I got to work. These are photos from the real estate listing so they're very beige (blah!).

And this is what it looks like now.

The walls are painted a pale purplish-pink. All the trim and baseboards in the house are glossy black.
My beloved vintage chair & settee.
I painted the fireplace in a deep cherry.
The framed art on the fireplace is my SCA Award of Arms which is covered with hand-drawn bats.
The hutch is filled with vintage china & crystal. The couch is new & quite comfy.

The living room opens up to the dining room. Before photos...

Those were really crappy sconces -- talk about cheap & no character! They were an insult to the period style of this house.

Dining room now...

New dining table & chairs, which are upholstered in black & white script. 
The walls are painted in a very dark purple that took many coats to achieve. 
I wanted the wall colors to go from light in the living room to darker in the dining room as you enter the heart of the home.
Inexpensive yet fabulous crystal sconces from Amazon & a mirrored console table make this the swanky gothic '20s bar it deserves to be.

The bathroom, at least, had '20s charm as-is.

Just needed some accessorizing.
Since the floor tile was grey, I used grey & black, which also keep it from being too dark in such a small room.
Had to add some storage.

There are two identical bedrooms on the first floor. They were staged in such a dull fashion.

One is now my home office (not pictured because it's still a mess), and the other is my bedroom. It's kinda my favorite thing.

My black cat loves this fluffy black rug.
The headboard is black velvet.
The house came with these custom black-out blinds, so I mixed valances with full curtains since they're just for looks.
My mom helped me paint every room. We were originally going to stencil these bats, but it wouldn't work. So I drew each bat on matt black vinyl Con-Tact paper & cut them all out, then stuck them on the walls.
This dresser used to belong to my father. I've swapped out the knobs a few times.
I've had this dumpy little desk since high school. It will not die! So I covered the top in glittery black vinyl & the sides in pink stripe vinyl, bought a mirror & clip-on lights, added a little chair, & now I have a great dressing table
One side of the table has a shelf, where I keep the books I intend to read in bed. Someday...
I bought a wall-mounted jewelry armoire.
Now I can see my jewelry; things aren't jumbled up in boxes or piled in drawers.
All the closets in this house are walk-ins. I have a tower of shoe organizers to the left, plus shoes on the wall. On the inside of the door are my scarves. My frequently worn clothes hang in this closet, while jackets & dressy items are in the office closet.

My new home also has a sewing/craft room upstairs that I haven't unpacked, plus a sweet little turret room that I have super gothy plans for. But decorating the living room, dining room, & bedroom were essential so I could start living here and feel settled in.

I'm still not happy about the route that lead me here, but the place I landed is sweet, and I'm making it truly mine.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

It's Just Shoes

There's no other reason for this post except these shoes. I'd always wanted some kind of open-front laced or buckled shoe like this and had considered many varieties, from expensive Fluevogs to the cheapo Pleaser Bordello shoes.

Then these American Duchess ones came along. The sizing of this brand can be off for me; they tend to run narrow, and my foot is wide. But this style compensates. Plus, the curved heel is quite walkable.

What I'm wearing: Black & white stripe knit jacket, Marshalls | Black T-shirt, Target | Black skirt, NY & Company | Hot pink tights, Hue | Black tango boots, American Duchess | Silver skull earrings, random accessory store

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Always an Anglophile

Before I was ever goth, I was a HUGE fan of all things British -- British history, British literature, British TV, British science fiction, etc.

British punk, new wave, and gothic music was a natural outgrowth of that. My first favorite band was the Beatles after all.

What I'm wearing: UK flag skull sweater, Torrid | Black skirt, NY & Company | Black tights, Calvin Klein | UK flag pumps, gift from my husband | Silver skull earrings, random accessory store

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

CorpGoth's Basic Shopping Tips

This post is inspired by some friends discussing online how much they hate shopping because they can't find anything they like in stores right now. Which I understand to some extent, but then I also think, "but hey, there's so much *choice* out there, I bet you can find something you'd like, you just have to hunt for it!"

Shopping for clothes isn't easy, & if you've ever watched "What Not to Wear" or other makeover shows, you realize that immediately. It's not just difficult for "hard to fit" women -- let's face it, we're all hard to fit because clothing is manufactured in arbitrary sizes that vary from one brand to another, & that is simply not going to correspond to the myriad of shapes that actual human beings come in! No, no, shopping is difficult for everyone because we have a huge variety of needs, wishes, desires, budgets, time available, *and* sizes to deal with, not to mention we have to take the current trends into account since that will affect what's available in many stores or online (& may or may not affect how we wish to present ourselves to the world).

Still, with all those caveats, it's possible to find clothing pieces that will suit you at many shopping venues, in a range of prices, most of the year. You have to keep an open mind & be willing to work at it, however.

Here are some of my tips, specifically for ladies interested in gothic/alternative styles & needing office-appropriate fashions...

Start with the basics. Every woman needs items like straight skirts, simple blouses, layering pieces (like long-sleeve & short-sleeves tees & camisoles), classic trousers, a good jacket, cardigans, & maybe some jeans & leggings. These are wardrobe building blocks. A goth gal might have them primarily in black, with a few in grey, white, & jewel tones.

Look for the structured pieces like skirts, jackets, & pants at department stores & higher quality boutiques & chains. This is where you shop very mainstream -- think Talbots, Loft, NY & Company, Express, Macy's, Dillards, Nordstrom. You want simple, classic garments that will last for 5-10 years & will go with anything. You can pair a black pencil skirt or A-line skirt with a million different tops, it could go from the office to a nightclub, from lunch with your parents to cocktails with your pals, it will be a true wardrobe workhorse. Don't skimp on price or quality!

On the other hand, you can go cheaper with tops, especially layering pieces. Buy a half-dozen T-shirts & camis at Old Navy or Target -- black, white, every dark shade, & any dark stripe. You can wear these under sweaters, jackets, & dresses or wear them alone with skirts & pants. They'll go with work outfits & with weekend gear.

Get creative with the top layer.  Sweaters, blouses, & jackets are a good place to add fun to your outfit. Look for patterns, prints, & details like ruffles & pleating, even sequins or metallic threads. Go for unusual or rich fabrics such as velvet, velveteen, silk, & leather, either in whole garments or in accents. Dark, rich colors will be more common in the stores during fall & winter, & they'll be on clearance after Christmas / New Years.

Consider all styles of dresses. While skirts & pants are wardrobe workhorses, dresses can be lifesavers on busy mornings. Just throw on a dress, & you're essentially done. So it pays to find out what dress styles suit your body shape & personal preferences. Unfortunately, this means trying on a ton of different dresses!

You may think that you're not the "dress" type or that only certain dresses work for you. But maybe the real issue is that you haven't tried on enough dresses, pure & simple. A-line skirts, empire waists, sheath dresses, tunics, V necks, scoop necks, different sleeve shapes, etc., etc. -- all of these details look different on different bodies.

Don't forget to accessorize. Interesting belts, scarves, hair do-dads, jewelry, & shoes can really complete an outfit & make it personal. Plus, you can draw attention towards the best parts of you & away from whatever you might not be as interested in. For example, a belt can define an hourglass figure, a statement necklace can point towards fabulous cleavage, earrings can show off a delicate neck, scarves can elongate a short frame.

Don't forget that different types of accessories work differently -- wide vs. skinny belts, belts placed at different spots on your waist, long vs. short scarves, scarves tied in various ways, etc.

Bonus point: Accessories can be cheaper than clothing pieces! Buy wacky, fun accessories at Forever 21, Hot Topic, & Claire's, or find unique stuff on Etsy or ArtFire, or make your own from craft-store parts. For a few bucks, you can change an outfit from plain & simple to snazzy & wild.

Consider alterations. Yeah, it's expensive to have a garment tailored. But it's not crazy-stupid expensive. It's not like buying-a-designer-handbag-or-shoes expensive. You can pay $10 to $20 to get pants or skirts or jacket sleeves shortened or $50 for more major alterations. Add that to the price of the original clothing item, & sure, you've paid more, but then you'll have something that fits well & flatters your unique shape.

Did you know that most everything celebs wear & all the stuff on those makeover shows is altered to fit? It's true, & Clinton Kelly admits it. For that matter, all the clothes worn before about 1920 were custom-made or at least finished to fit -- mass-produced sizing is a pretty new concept. So if you want a truly good fit, no matter your size, the best bet is to make changes to the garment. If you're petite, have hemlines & sleeves taken up & waistlines snugged up. If you're tall or busty, buy a larger size & have the garment fitted to you by a pro.

Obviously, this is a better investment on higher quality garments, not cheap stuff from Target. But tailoring a few good dresses, jackets, & skirts, will give you some awesome go-to outfits for any day of the week.

All of these basics will give your wardrobe a grounded place to start from for an artsy, creative, yet office-appropriate look. It's not simple or fast, of course, because it does require a lot of shopping & trying many things on, including things you may not think will work for you. But experimentation, looking at items & in stores you might never have looked before, is how you'll discover what really works & where you can shop in the future.

Related Links:
  • Styling a Single Piece Multiple Ways -- Sal of Already Pretty shows how a basic black skirt can look totally different just by combing it with other wardrobe items.
  • How to Find a Blazer Jacket That Fits -- Excellent tips from Alterations Needed on what to look for in a great jacket, plus ideas of what reasonable alterations might be needed in even the best of them.
  • How to Buy Good Trousers -- Super-detailed analysis of the construction details that separate high-quality pants from poor quality ones, from No Signposts in the Sea. Once you recognize good trousers, those are ones worth alterations too.

What I'm wearing: Black piped jacket, Spiegel | Black T-shirt, Target | Black & white print skirt, White House Black Market | Black tights, Hue | Black kitten-heel pointy shoes, Aldo | Black & white beaded necklace, made by me

Monday, February 29, 2016

Basic Sewing Skills

Because I sew enormous historical and fantasy costumes, people always ask if I sew my own clothes. I immediately answer: HELL NO. I have a job, I have a life! Sewing is a hobby, sure, but it's also a huge time-suck, and when I want something to wear every day to work, I get a lot better return-on-investment from just buying a dress or top from Target or Macy's. Ain't nobody got time for that.

However, having basic sewing skills is a great help for minor alterations that can make off-the-rack clothes fit and look better or be more personalized. This dress is a great example. I saw it on eBay and figured it'd fit, but it was originally about floor-length for 5'2" me. Chopping off a straight hem is super-simple, and hemming by hand gives it a professional look. The alteration took maybe 30 minutes. That's a good ROI!

What I'm wearing: Black pinstripe linen dress, eBay | Black belt, NY & Company | Black tights, Hue | Black heeled lace-up boots, Aerosoles | Black & silver beaded necklace, random accessory store | Black skull earrings, local artisan

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

El Nino, Meh

Winter has been kind of a bust here in Northern California. After several years of dire drought, we were promised an El Nino winter that would fill the reservoirs and replenish the snowpack. Well ... maybe. We've had some rain, but we're nowhere near "normal" levels, plus many communities are backsliding on water conservation thanks to the occasional storms we've had (thanks, guys). Global warming is still in full effect.

So when not dodging raindrops, I can wear a bit of velvet and suede. Just have to keep watching the weather report to see what tomorrow's like...

What I'm wearing: Black velvet jacket, Black House White Market | Black knit top, Old Navy | Purple velvet skirt, NY & Company | Black & burgundy stripe tights, We Love Colors | Purple suede heeled boots, Poetic License | Black skull earrings, local artist

Friday, February 19, 2016

Women's Rights Are Human Rights

"This is truly a celebration -- a celebration of the contributions women make in every aspect of life: in the home, on the job, in their communities, as mothers, wives, sisters, daughters, learners, workers, citizens and leaders.

It is also a coming together, much the way women come together every day in every country.

We come together in fields and in factories. In village markets and supermarkets. In living rooms and board rooms.

Whether it is while playing with our children in the park, or washing clothes in a river, or taking a break at the office water cooler, we come together and talk about our aspirations and concerns. And time and again, our talk turns to our children and our families. However different we may be, there is far more that unites us than divides us. We share a common future. And we are here to find common ground so that we may help bring new dignity and respect to women and girls all over the world -- and in so doing, bring new strength and stability to families as well.

By gathering here, we are focusing world attention on issues that matter most in the lives of women and their families: access to education, health care, jobs and credit, the chance to enjoy basic legal and human rights and participate fully in the political life of their countries.

There are some who question the reason for this conference.

Let them listen to the voices of women in their homes, neighborhoods, and workplaces.

There are some who wonder whether the lives of women and girls matter to economic and political progress around the globe.

Let them look at the women gathered here -- the homemakers, nurses, teachers, lawyers, policymakers, and women who run their own businesses.

What we are learning around the world is that if women are healthy and educated, their families will flourish. If women are free from violence, their families will flourish. If women have a chance to work and earn as full and equal partners in society, their families will flourish.

And when families flourish, communities and nations will flourish.

That is why every woman, every man, every child, every family, and every nation on our planet has a stake in the discussion that takes place here.

Over the past 25 years, I have worked persistently on issues relating to women, children, and families. Over the past two-and-a-half years, I have had the opportunity to learn more about the challenges facing women in my own country and around the world.

I have met new mothers in Jojakarta, Indonesia, who come together regularly in their village to discuss nutrition, family planning, and baby care.

I have met working parents in Denmark who talk about the comfort they feel in knowing that their children can be cared for in creative, safe, and nurturing after-school centers.

I have met women in South Africa who helped lead the struggle to end apartheid and are now helping build a new democracy.

I have met with the leading women of the Western Hemisphere who are working every day to promote literacy and better health care for the children of their countries.

I have met women in India and Bangladesh who are taking out small loans to buy milk cows, rickshaws, thread, and other materials to create a livelihood for themselves and their families.

I have met doctors and nurses in Belarus and Ukraine who are trying to keep children alive in the aftermath of Chernobyl.

The great challenge of this conference is to give voice to women everywhere whose experiences go unnoticed, whose words go unheard.

Women comprise more than half the world's population. Women are 70% percent of the world's poor, and two-thirds of those who are not taught to read and write.

Women are the primary caretakers for most of the world's children and elderly. Yet much of the work we do is not valued - not by economists, not by historians, not by popular culture, not by government leaders.

At this very moment, as we sit here, women around the world are giving birth, raising children, cooking meals, washing clothes, cleaning houses, planting crops, working on assembly lines, running companies, and running countries.

Women also are dying from diseases that should have been prevented or treated; they are watching their children succumb to malnutrition caused by poverty and economic deprivation; they are being denied the right to go to school by their own fathers and brothers; they are being forced into prostitution, and they are being barred from the bank lending office and banned from the ballot box.

Those of us who have the opportunity to be here have the responsibility to speak for those who could not.

As an American, I want to speak up for women in my own country -- women who are raising children on the minimum wage, women who can't afford health care or child care, women whose lives are threatened by violence, including violence in their own homes.

I want to speak up for mothers who are fighting for good schools, safe neighborhoods, clean air, and clean airwaves; for older women, some of them widows, who have raised their families and now find that their skills and life experiences are not valued in the workplace; for women who are working all night as nurses, hotel clerks, and fast food cooks so that they can be at home during the day with their kids; and for women everywhere who simply don't have time to do everything they are called upon to do each day.

Speaking to you today, I speak for them, just as each of us speaks for women around the world who are denied the chance to go to school, or see a doctor, or own property, or have a say about the direction of their lives, simply because they are women. The truth is that most women around the world work both inside and outside the home, usually by necessity.

We need to understand that there is no formula for how women should lead their lives. That is why we must respect the choices that each woman makes for herself and her family. Every woman deserves the chance to realize her god-given potential.

We also must recognize that women will never gain full dignity until their human rights are respected and protected.

Our goals for this conference, to strengthen families and societies by empowering women to take greater control over their own destinies, cannot be fully achieved unless all governments -- here and around the world -- accept their responsibility to protect and promote internationally recognized human rights.

The international community has long acknowledged that both women and men are entitled to a range of protections and personal freedoms, from the right of personal security to the right to determine freely the number and spacing of the children they bear.

No one should be forced to remain silent for fear of religious or political persecution, arrest, abuse, or torture.

Tragically, women are most often the ones whose human rights are violated.

Even in the late 20th century, the rape of women continues to be used as an instrument of armed conflict. Women and children make up a large majority of the world's refugees. When women are excluded from the political process, they become even more vulnerable to abuse.

I believe that, on the eve of a new millennium, it is time to break our silence. It is time for us to say here, and the world to hear, that it is no longer acceptable to discuss women's rights as separate from human rights.

These abuses have continued because, for too long, the history of women has been a history of silence. Even today, there are those who are trying to silence our words.

The voices of this conference must be heard loud and clear: It is a violation of human rights when babies are denied food, or drowned, or suffocated, or their spines broken, simply because they are born girls.

It is a violation of human rights when women and girls are sold into the slavery of prostitution.

It is a violation of human rights when women are doused with gasoline, set on fire and burned to death because their marriage dowries are deemed too small.

It is a violation of human rights when individual women are raped in their own communities and when thousands of women are subjected to rape as a tactic or prize of war.

It is a violation of human rights when a leading cause of death worldwide among women ages 14 to 44 is the violence they are subjected to in their own homes.

It is a violation of human rights when young girls are brutalized by the painful and degrading practice of genital mutilation.

It is a violation of human rights when women are denied the right to plan their own families, and that includes being forced to have abortions or being sterilized against their will.

If there is one message that echoes forth from this conference, it is that human rights are women's rights -- and women's rights are human rights. Let us not forget that among those rights are the right to speak freely -- and the right to be heard.

Women must enjoy the right to participate fully in the social and political lives of their countries if we want freedom and democracy to thrive and endure.

It is indefensible that many women in nongovernmental organizations who wished to participate in this conference have not been able to attend -- or have been prohibited from fully taking part.

Let me be clear. Freedom means the right of people to assemble, organize, and debate openly. It means respecting the views of those who may disagree with the views of their governments. It means not taking citizens away from their loved ones and jailing them, mistreating them, or denying them their freedom or dignity because of the peaceful expression of their ideas and opinions.

In my country, we recently celebrated the 75th anniversary of women's suffrage. It took 150 years after the signing of our Declaration of Independence for women to win the right to vote.

It took 72 years of organized struggle on the part of many courageous women and men. It was one of America's most divisive philosophical wars. But it was also a bloodless war. Suffrage was achieved without a shot being fired.

We have also been reminded, in V-1 Day observances, of the good that comes when men and women join together to combat the forces of tyranny and build a better world.

We have seen peace prevail in most places for a half century. We have avoided another world war.

But we have not solved older, deeply-rooted problems that continue to diminish the potential of half the world's population.

Now it is time to act on behalf of women everywhere. If we take bold steps to better the lives of women, we will be taking bold steps to better the lives of children and families too.

Families rely on mothers and wives for emotional support and care; families rely on women for labor in the home; and increasingly, families rely on women for income needed to raise healthy children and care for other relatives.

As long as discrimination and inequities remain so commonplace around the world - as long as girls and women are valued less, fed less, fed last, overworked, underpaid, not schooled and subjected to violence in and out of their homes - the potential of the human family to create a peaceful, prosperous world will not be realized.

Let this be our -- and the world's -- call to action.

And let us heed the call so that we can create a world in which every woman is treated with respect and dignity, every boy and girl is loved and cared for equally, and every family has the hope of a strong and stable future."

--Hillary Clinton, 1995

Today, on my 47th birthday, this sums up why #ImWithHer -- because she speaks for me and always has.