By Peter Carlson
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, January 23, 2007
Maybe the devil wears Prada in the posh offices of Vogue, but at Gothic Beauty magazine, the devil wears a red miniskirt made of PVC plastic, a strap-up corset, ripped fishnet stockings, knee-high black leather boots with five belts per shin, and a latex bracelet with flying eyeballs, accessorized with a lovely coffin-shaped Demonia handbag.
Gothic Beauty is a quarterly fashion magazine for Goths, published in Portland, Ore. It may be the best Goth fashion quarterly published in Portland, Ore. I certainly haven't seen a better one.
But Gothic Beauty is more than just a fashion magazine. It covers the gamut of Goth lifestyle and culture, which includes furniture made with pieces of old Chevy Impalas, and Krypt Kiddies dolls with fangs and horns and a "bonus baby blood bottle," and the music of bands like Scum and Android Lust, and the sensuous scents of Goth perfumes like Graveyard and Crypt.
Years ago, when Gothic Beauty interviewed AntiSally, who created Graveyard and Crypt, the magazine asked the question on everybody's lips: "How did you come up with the idea to make unusual scents?"
"I live next to a beautiful graveyard," AntiSally explained. "The smell of the grass, the flowers and the soil when it is dug up to make way for a new resident has always been present in my home. Graveyard was the first of the fragrances I formulated. The rest came to me when I thought of smells I associate with good things."
Okay, okay, I know what you're thinking right now. You're thinking, why do Goths need a fashion magazine anyway? If you want the Goth look, all you have to do is pierce half your bodily appendages, tattoo the other half, stay out of the sun long enough to get a corpselike pallor, swab on enough black eye shadow to look like you haven't slept since the Reagan administration, then put on some black clothes and, bingo, you're good to go.
But that is, like, soooo wrong.
"When most people hear the term 'Goth,' they think of vampires, crushed black velvet, lacy Victorian gowns and pale skin," Jonathan Williams writes in the latest issue of Gothic Beauty. "But recently, Goth fashion has been infiltrated by forward-thinking styles more reminiscent of futuristic science fiction than fantastical images of past eras."
For your postmodern, post-millennium Goths, the whole all-black thing is so over. Just ask Acid PopTart. She's Gothic Beauty's star fashion writer, and she has spent the last couple of years chronicling the rise of Electric Goth -- the new style that is "bringing color to a world in black." Goth designers Feisty Diva and Nyla are creating Goth outfits in the full spectrum of neon-bright colors, ranging from Electric Kool-Aid Purple to Attic Insulation Pink.
And Feisty Diva is creating Goth outfits worthy of a Vegas showgirl -- dresses made of pink feathers and fake fur and a huge headpiece that she calls Medical Miracle, which is "a melange of tubes, syringes and scissors."
Meanwhile, PopTart reports that designer Ian O'Donnell is crafting elaborate, custom-made, medieval-style armor breastplates out of aluminum or fiberglass or even a car tire. PopTart was particularly impressed with the car tire attire, which she described as "a breastplate with the appearance and texture of an actual tire tread but still maintaining a beautiful feminine flow."
Unfortunately, we don't see clothes like those very often here in Washington. That's because Washington isn't a particularly Goth-friendly town. In Gothic Beauty's recent survey of the "top cities for Goths," the Washington, D.C./Hagerstown, Md. metro area ranked a pathetic 13th -- which is five places lower than Cleveland/Akron, for crying out loud!
(Hagerstown? How did Hagerstown get in there, anyway? Is Hagerstown some sort of Goth hotbed? The editors didn't bother to explain.)
By the way, the No. 1 city for Goths is Los Angeles, despite the ever-present danger that the SoCal sunshine can turn a Goth's perfect pallor into a hideously glowing tan.
Gothic Beauty's articles are entertaining enough, but the ads are truly stupendous. An ad for Vampirewear.com offers "blood vials, empty vials, rose vials, fangs, shirts, hats, panties, coffin boxes." An ad for "Scarlet Noir gothic and burlesque accoutrements" offers a special deal: "Free death stud earrings with $60 purchase." And an ad for Haute Gothic fashion accessories reveals the company's cheerful slogan: "Death Is Just the Final Stage of Dying."
For years, Gothic Beauty readers have bombarded the magazine's editors with letters complaining that there aren't enough features on Goth fashions for men. Recently the editors heard these heartfelt pleas and responded by asking the guys from the Astrovamps, who bill themselves as "Hollywood's Legendary Gothic/Death Rock Band," to provide fashion tips for Goth guys.
Alas, we don't have the space to reprint all 25 bits of sage advice, but here are some of the highlights:
"Always wear eyeliner."
"Bluejeans are a Goth fashion sin!"
"For lipstick and nail polish, black and blood red are the only colors you'll ever need."
"Black vinyl! Wear it! Buy it! Collect it! Own it! Trade it!"
"To avoid looking store-bought, roll around on the ground a little."
"Paint your fingernails. There's nothing worse than seeing someone with a cool look and outfit, and then notice they haven't painted their fingernails."
There you have it, Goth gentlemen: words of wisdom. Heed them and march on, all the way to Hagerstown.