Friday, 28 September 2012

Positive portrayal of alternative in popular media

Us gentle folk of an alternative persuasion have often had a rough ride in popular culture. Deemed outcasts by some, likely bad guys by others, the image portrayed is not always favourable. Whenever I see a programme with this negativity portrayed I wince. Often heavy metal will be playing in the perpetrators home in crime shows, or goths crop up in crime labs as dead body obsessed comedy relief.

Whilst I'm sure most of us can laugh it off, it does present an image that doesn't engender us well to the more conservative members of society.

So here I present to you three what I consider positive portrayals of goth/metal/alt. style in the media, which we should champion and celebrate so that it becomes the norm.

1. Greg Sanders from C.S.I: Crime Scene Investigation

via C.S.I Love You
Greg started out in C.S.I as the loveable but quirky lab tech who seemed to be able to analyse pretty much anything. His trademark was the music he listened to and his metalesque tendencies. As the series has progressed he has become more mainstream, but nonetheless he has never been a caricature. Although he has become a bit more mainstream, he's doesn't ever appear to have lost his alternative edge.

2. Abigail 'Abby' Sciuto from NCIS

via fanpop
 Abigail 'Abby' Sciuto is the goth lab tech from NCIS. She quite simply, rocks. The show has never attempted to poke fun at her lifestyle. She is warm, funny, intelligent, balanced... all things that 'normal' people are portrayed and alt. people aren't usually.

3. Janis Ian from Mean Girls

via fanpop

 I make no secret of the fact that I love Mean Girls. It is an insightful, hilarious film that pokes fun at the stereotypes in US high schools. Except Janis. She's the grounded one, the one with a sensible head on her shoulders. She's also alternative. And I love her for it.

Monday, 24 September 2012

Wardrobe basics: Tops

Zellain from The Morbid Fashion and I are obviously on the same wavelength, as last week she posted her guide to building a Basic Grown Up Goth Wardrobe about the same time I was talking about the evolution of style.

Anyway, reading her post (which was way better than mine!) made me think about expanding on it all a bit further. Thus, a weekly series of posts was born. So without further ado, let us start with Tops.

Tops cover a wide range of garments, from the formal to the informal, the comfy to the stiff.

Starting with shirts.

Black Shirts/Blouses

As you can see blouses and shirts can be quite structured or not so much, some might even be non traditional like the one in the bottom left (which incidentally I am going to go on a hunt for, it is from H&M and costs £14.99). Bear in mind that not everyone can wear a traditional button down, which is why I've included one without the buttons on the front. I am one of those people - I just look a bit stiff and uncomfortable in most button down shirts and blouses, as I have pretty wide shoulders and a relatively small bust.

So if button downs aren't your thing, then something a little formal but different might be just the ticket, particularly for those times when you need something a little more formal.

I have my eye on this top, and will definitely be going to try and track it down!


I'm not entirely sure what you'd wear that top with other than skinny jeans, but that is something to address when necessary. A top like that will serve neatly in formal situations but has enough edge to keep it different.

Next up, T shirts. T shirts are a staple part of my wardrobe, and I couldn't do without them. Patterned or plain, they are functional and can provide either the perfect backdrop for some spectacular jewellery, or display a cutting edge design that sets you out from the crowd. Or somewhere in between.

I think in this day in age a good quality cotton t-shirt can look quite smart with the right accompanying garments and accessories. A good quality black t-shirt that isn't faded can look crisp, professional and polished when paired with a pencil skirt, heels and a statement necklace.

Black Tops

Finally, something a bit different. Look for interesting necklines, detailing, textured fabrics or unusual sleeves. I have a lovely soft jersey top from French Connection which has these incredible shoulder details and a really low back. Unfortunately it is a little short in the body but it looks phenomenal with my underbust corset (and I don't have a photo of it!).

Interesting tops

 I've picked out all black and dark grey tops because that it what I do best, but of course other colours are permissible!

Next week: Continuing the upper body theme with jumpers and coats.

Sunday, 23 September 2012

If you can't say something nice...

Then don't say it. Is what I'm sure nearly every parent has told their child at some point.

Twitter seems to have changed that a lot. I don't know whether it is because people forget that Twitter is a public forum, or whether they believe that the anonymity of the internet gives them license to be rude or nasty, but there are some people out there who would do well to heed their mother's advice.

I think everyone gets to that point sometimes where they are getting annoyed by someone, and you have a choice to make when it happens. Do you a) shoot your mouth off, or b) take a deep breath, make a cuppa and come back refreshed?

I very much think b) is the better option, and I'm sure many people out there do as well. Especially because you can never be 100% sure of intent over the internet. Only 7% of human interaction comes from the words we use to communicate. The rest comes from body language, tone of voice, facial expressions and other non verbal cues. Emoticons help the internet a little bit, but you have to remember to use them. I'm terrible for forgetting, especially on Twitter where there isn't a quick and easy button to press (I use Plume, not the official Twitter app). And sometimes even when you do use them they aren't interpreted correctly. It gets easier to read Twitter when you've met the person, because then you can hear their voice, and chances are you'll know them well enough to know what they are like.

So. If you're getting wound up by Facebook, Twitter, the internet in general, do yourself a favour and go and make a cup of tea.

Thursday, 20 September 2012

The evolution of style

Following on from my previous post about walking the alternative/metal/goth line being 'just a phase', I thought I'd take up the subject of style evolution, inspired by this post by Gala Darling for xojane.

Whilst being alternative/metal/goth may not be a passing phase, there may come a point when you have to make some changes in your look. The hair falls and dark eye/lip combos may have been OK when you were a student in a classroom, but they probably aren't going to cut it in the workplace (unless you have a really really awesome boss). When I was working in the UK I was lucky enough to work for an organisation that didn't have a problem with my brightly coloured hair, and even though I was the public representative for a community, they didn't have a problem with it either (it was quite a handy election tool - no one was likely to forget me!).

Finding work appropriate clothing isn't as difficult as you might think. Clothes and accessories don't have to be boring, and it is relatively easy to work an alternative/metal/goth style into even the most sober of outfits. Assuming you don't have to wear a uniform of course, or adhere to strict rules. In that case it is even easier, you just have to decide whether to take that job or not! For some it will be easier than others. For example, if in your personal style you favour a 1950's sillouhette with pencil skirts and shirts, then that is perfect office wear. You might have to make small adjustments to make it fit with the office, but nothing major. If you spend your leisure time wearing cut off shorts and faded band t-shirts then that might be trickier, but all will depend on the workplace dress code.

While this sort of outfit won't set the world on fire, it will probably make even the most conservative boss happy. via polyvore

But what if you are feeling like your style needs to evolve, and that the time has come, as Gala found, when the attention you get from your crazy coloured hair is not something that you want anymore, a decision that I too came to last year, oddly enough, also shortly before my 29th birthday. Or it may be that you feel that the Victoriana inspired skirts and dresses you've so proudly worn before are not really what you want to wear. Ditto bondage pants and ripped jeans.

So where do you go from there?

It doesn't have to be mainstream! You probably already realise this, but just because you don't really think that shredded Fields of the Nephilim t-shirt really suits you anymore/is suitable for the school run, that doesn't mean that your only path is beige. On the contrary, there are many options of more subtle dressing that do not involve spending all your hard earned cash in Marks and Spencers.

Just remember these three things:
1. Black is always flattering
2. Texture is key
3. Accessorise, accessorise, accessorise (and no I don't mean the relatively beige shop).

Why change a habit of a lifetime? Black is easy. It all matches (actually it doesn't but I'm not going to go there, and most of the time people can't tell) well enough. It is very flattering. Beloved of fashionistas, stylish French and Italian women and goths alike, black is a beautiful colour. Or absence of colour. Whatever. Ignore anyone who says "you'd look lovely if you just wore a bit of colour". Maybe tell them they'd look lovely if they didn't talk so much, or some other witty retort. Probably best not to do that to your Gran though. Maybe just humour her. But just in case you feel the need for some contrast, throw in a bit of beige or dark grey.

via polyvore

Texture is really important in an all black outfit. A lace t-shirt paired with a leather jacket and a denim skirt creates a contrast of textures that provide interest to an otherwise plain outfit. Think about the movement of a garment as well as the texture of the fabric. A full skirt with layers of lace looks marvellous with a pair of Doc Martens, the movement and softness of the skirt contrasting wonderfully with the stiffness of the boots.

via pinterest

Finally accessories maketh your outfit. If Victoriana inspired clothing doesn't really float your boat for everyday life anymore, just wear the jewellery. A plain outfit will be completely transformed by the addition of a cameo or momento mori. Striking necklaces will create interest in an outfit and I personally think they look best with a plain t-shirt or shirt, as it provides a plain background with no distractions or competition.

via pinterest

Above all else, have fun with your look, and be yourself.

Do you have any style evolution tips?

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Autumn is definitely on its way!

Even though the daily temperatures are still creeping into the high teens and early twenties here in Central Europe. Curse those African winds....

But I know autumn is on the way because I have sudden cravings for porridge!

This morning's breakfast was the first bowl of the season:

Porridge made with half milk, half water, topped with raspberries (I buy mine frozen) and a drizzle of maple syrup.

I've been published!!

Today I became a properly published writer! I wrote an article about the Arab Spring for Slink Magazine, and the issue was published today! I'm so excited!! You can find all the details on the Published Work page. It's a great magazine so you should go and buy it anyway!

You may also have noticed that I've made a few changes to the blog. A little bit of a site redesign, I'm not sure of the background just yet but I need to trawl through about 50k photos and get The Beard to do a little editing to find something else. So this one will do for now. I've tried to streamline the content a little bit and make it easier to read, which I hope I've achieved.

I've also added some new pages. I felt it was getting to the point where a disclosure policy might be a good idea, and a separate 'About Me' page, whilst a little indulgent, allows me to write more about myself than the Blogger About Me gadget does! I also realised that my contact details weren't listed anywhere, so now they are.

So that's it really for now, I'm currently suffering with a bad head cold (although thankfully starting to get better) so there probably won't be much in the way of posts from me for the next couple of days while my brain feels like cotton wool. I have a load of things to review soon, and that mentioned giveaway will be coming up shortly.

Stay tuned!

Thursday, 13 September 2012

Getting wider....

My blogging has been a little slack this week - a combination of starting my German course and having a visitor all weekend! Still, fun has been had, and now I can resume.

I'm making a few little tweaks to the layout of the blog, with the aim of making it easier to read.

So, I've made it a little wider, as it occurred to me that my posts look really long and you have to scroll a fair bit, but I'm sure the word count isn't that big. However, I'm not sure whether it is now too wide - we only have widescreen monitors in this house!

So, would you be so kind as to let me know in the comments box whether or not you have to scroll sideways please?

Also, if you have a couple of minutes, could you go and look at this post and check it all looks ok - I've increased the size of the photos as a test for future posts.

Many many thanks! 

There will be some more changes coming up, and I'm contemplating some form of giveaway to go with, so keep your eyes peeled!

Friday, 7 September 2012

Just a phase?

I was chatting with one of the lovely ladies from my German course on the way home today about her daughter liking Marilyn Manson, and she told me that she thinks it is just a phase. My instant response was NEIN!! (or NO), my mother had said the same to me when I was 14, and now I'm nearly 30 and still loving the same things (she was then somewhat stunned that I'm nearly 30, which was nice!)!

It got me thinking - just how many people have had their parents describe their love of metal, goth stuff, black clothes, eyeliner etc as just a phase that they will grow out of, and how many have then gone through life without changing that aspect of themselves?

From this....

I was a late bloomer when it comes to the alternative/metal/goth scene. I didn't really get into metal properly (although I'd always been into rock and prog rock) until I was about 18 when something about Linkin Park made me sit up and listen. That and Papa Roach. Say what you like about the metal/alternative credentials of those bands, for many people they have been a gateway into the genre. I went on to discover Rammstein, System of A Down, Korn (late as I said) then developed my listening further as the years went on to include bands such as Soilwork, 36 Crazyfists, Walls of Jericho and Within Temptation.

via this...

So ultimately for me this has not been a phase. I'm still, if not more of the alternative type than I ever was, even though I'm now approaching my thirties. My passion for all things metal (and music in general) has got me through my life, providing a crutch when I need it and often inspiration for my day.

to this.

I understand why parents are quick to dismiss their children's dalliances with alternative/metal/goth scenes, but really, I think it is one of the only genres that commands a huge amount of loyalty and respect for each other and the craft, and I think this should be encouraged and applauded by parents. I've been to a few clubs in my time, and the rock/metal/goth clubs and bars are always the friendliest. There is never any pretence and the unifying sense of community regardless of language, colour, creed or faith is something that is a positive force in many young people's lives. You only have to look at the reaction to the death of Sophie Lancaster - a normal average girl who was mourned by a huge community scattered all over the world.

So parents: I know the black eyeliner and make up can be a little intimidating, not least on your 15 year old son, but it is OK. Your child is not going to turn into a mass murderer just because they listen to Marilyn Manson. Your child will hopefully grow into the metal/alternative/goth world and appreciate the variations and the nuances. They will hopefully come to appreciate all aspects of the many different sub genres that exist and through this exploration will discover and learn new things every day. They will meet new friends, who will help guide them through their darkest times, like modern day village elders, providing comfort, support and praise when appropriate. They will undoubtedly have to deal with prejudice and abuse (hopefully just verbal) but it is OK, because they will learn to deal with it, and as a result become a stronger person. And on a real plus side, you won't have to worry about turning their favourite white t-shirt pink when they accidentally leave a red sock in their jeans.

It probably isn't a phase. And if it is, well, that's OK too. Just let them go quietly. But if it turns out to not be a phase, embrace it. Be interested. Join in. There is something in the metal/alternative/goth world for everyone. I'm going to see Within Temptation with my Mum in November, and I bought my Dad an Opeth CD for Father's Day, which I am led to believe he liked (and Mum definitely liked it).

Being a part of the alternative/metal/goth community is awesome. \m/

This article from the Guardian about grown up Goths makes for interesting reading.

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

My Wishlist (Sep 2012)

My Wishlist (Sep 2012)

My Wishlist (Sep 2012) by m4dswine

 These are the things that I want the most at the moment (other than world peace, to win the lottery and to have perfect skin and hair). 

Clockwise from top centre:

Canon 600D: I really really want my own DSLR, mainly so I can get back into film making again. This is my preferred body - the bf has a 40D with a couple of lenses so we'd be able to share, although I do want either a 100mm or 85mm fast prime lens as well....

A is for Arsenic necklace: This appeared in my wishlist earlier in the year, and I still don't have it, so here it is again! 

Long Tall Sally grey and black stripy knee socks: I just love these!! Next time they have free delivery before November I might just buy them and have them delivered to my Mum. 

Fashionary: I found this this morning, and it completes my set. It is a sketchbook for fashion designers, with blank pages, loads of information, and pages with templates on for quick sketching (or in my case better sketching). They do loose inserts as well so when you run out of pages, or need more specific templates, like tops or bottoms, then you can just add pages. Fantastic idea and they look so neat!! 

Long Tall Sally black Camden jeans: I really would like a pair of skinny jeans this winter. I could make myself some, but getting overdyed black denim is quite difficult. I suppose if I could find stretch twill it would work ok. But these would probably fit the bill quite nicely. Shame about the price tag. 

In This Moment "Blood": Am currently quite loving this album. It will be mine!! 

There are obviously other things on my wishlist, a bottle of Chanel Noir for starters, but I could only fit 6 things in!

Happy Birthday Freddie!

Today would have been Freddie Mercury's 66th birthday. He was from Zanzibar don't you know? (10 points for anyone who gets the reference...)

I love this song - I made a music video for it for my A-level Media Studies coursework :) 

Happy Birthday old chap!

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Coco Noir

via Chanel

The new fragrance by Jacque Polge for Chanel is described as "a Luminous Orient" comprising of top notes of grapefruit and bergamot, alongside rose, jasmine, Indian sandalwood and patchouli.

When I first read about this perfume I thought I might like it. Then I read the fragrance description and I was sceptical. I am not a lover of 4 out of 6 of those notes. Grapefruit is too fruity, rose too musty, and sandalwood and patchouli I will usually avoid with a barge pole.

So, either my nose is changing or this perfume is magical, because when I sprayed the tester on my arm yesterday, I fell in love.

It starts out sweet, like Coco Mademoiselle but sharper, then quickly dries down into this exotic, bewitching fragrance that reminds me a little of No 5, a little of Coco, but with a fresher twist. I could not stop sniffing my arm, and when I got home it received the cat's seal of approval - it actually made her go a bit nuts and start rubbing up against everything!

It is simple, yet complex. Much like Chanel's clothing designs, it has a simplicity and truth about it, but an opulence that cannot be denied. This is my kind of perfume.

I need it in my life. Trust me to pick an expensive perfume - 50ml retails at €98.

Chanelling Coco...

Picture via
Last week I finished reading Justine Picardie's Coco Chanel: The Legend and the Life. It is a fairly comprehensive biography of the legendary couturier, presenting as complete a history of Chanel's life as is possible (she was renowned for adapting her stories to suit, so sometimes fiction is hard to separate from fact). She is a fascinating woman and one I find myself drawn to, not only for the fashions she created, but for the way in which she lived her life, in particular her attitude towards the established order, which ultimately led to her fame and fortune.

So this morning I watched Coco Before Chanel, starring Audrey Tatou and Alessandro Nivola. It tells her story from her beginnings through to the end of her love affair with Boy Capel at his death in a car accident. The film really captures the spirit of Chanel, and Audrey Tatou is a perfect fit to play the great woman herself.

One of the things that I love about classic Chanel is the combination of simplicity and opulence. Classic Chanel designs are simple, chic, but with an understated elegance and opulence conveyed through the use of luxurious fabrics and perfect detailing. I stopped at the Chanel store in Vienna the other week and just had to linger a while to drink in the beautiful items in the window display.

But it is Chanel's attitude that draws me to her. When she started out as a couturier, it was a man's world. All the great designers were men. Women at the time wore elaborate dresses with corsets to nip in the waist and embellishments that would feed a family for a month. Chanel's simple, unrestricted silhouette afforded women more freedom of movement (indeed Chanel was fastidious about women being able to raise their arms when wearing shirts and jackets, and that waists allowed for eating) and thus more freedom to enjoy life. Her garments, originally tailored from men's suits and shirts, caused a stir, but quickly became a resounding success, following on from the success of her millinery line, a business that started life with simple straw hats embellished by Chanel for her own purposes.

She was famously proud - her lover Boy Capel put up the initial capital for her business without realising what freedom he would create for her, but she became cross when she discovered that she was still indebted to him after some time in business. This fierce independence almost certainly ensured the businesses survival, through two world wars and the odd scandal.

Interestingly, the perfume and beauty side of the business have never really been a part of the business per se - Chanel struck a deal (which she later realised wasn't a fantastic one) with the Wertheimers who owned Bourjois (a long established Parisian beauty company) to produce perfumes and make up using the Chanel name. This is an arrangement that has continued to this day. The perfume and beauty side of the business is so successful that in times of difficulty it was this that allowed the business to stay afloat.

I don't think I'll ever be able to afford anything from Chanel. I would love a pair of sunglasses one day, I think that might be within my reach. And to be honest, as much as I admire the clothing and ethos of Chanel, like with any other designer, I'm not really interested in buying their clothes. But I am a sucker for Chanel beauty lines, although my Chanel make up is rather thin on the ground since the decision to discontinue the lightest shades of foundation!

I finally had an opportunity to smell the new fragrance Coco Noir yesterday. A separate post about that coming up!!

As a final thought, I leave you with Stravinsky's Easy Pieces for Piano. The story is that Stravinsky wrote these for Chanel. See what you think.



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