the witching hour

witchy I

I’m on the upswing from a month of serious misfiring in my inspiration lobe. I know I said my hiatus was over, but I spoke a little too soon. For almost one whole month, the longest I have ever gone without blogging, I barely imbibed any fashion media at all. Suddenly everything I loved was just a little too glitzy. Too performative. I harbor great admiration for anyone who can effuse and effuse and effuse without any blows to their sense of personal peace, because I’m sure as hell not one of them. I was swimming in circles in a fishbowl of my own making. The metaphorical paparazzi were banging down my door – and, worse, I was inviting them.

So I went cold turkey, whatever the hell that means. I wore less jewelry. I fattened myself on books I’d meant to read for months – House of Leaves, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. I cooked elaborate meals and decorated my new apartment and filled several notebooks with word vomit. I spent afternoons supine on friends’ floors with mugs of earl grey. I read webcomics in bed with my boyfriend until the laptop screen singed our eyeballs. I strolled the beach in a vintage bikini. For one month (well, six weeks, if you count my original proto-hiatus), I focused more on living my life than on performing it.

My blogging feels more informed now, more like a personal niche I’m cultivating and less like the mad momentum of someone who’s in way too deep. It’s a choice. I was worried that I would strip away my performance and attendant bravado to find nothing underneath. That absence of blogging would inevitably become absence of identity. Now that I’m sure I haven’t pigeonholed myself at the callow age of nineteen, I am much more confident in the future of My Kingdom for a Hat. It is one of my many artistic media. It is not all I’m about. My little vacation illustrated that more viscerally than platitudes ever could.

That’s the trouble with a career in creation, I suppose. Parsing what is you and what is just the veneer of you.

witchy II

I am a witch. I have always been a witch. I was scared off for a good year and a half by some unpleasant experiences, but my witchy affinity runs too deep to ever really quit me. Autumn is always the dawn of my inspiration. The Mabon/Samhain season gives me such profound peace that it’s hard for me not to believe in some truth to spirituality. And few things make me feel witchier than dressing up like a harvest goddess.

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witchy III

I am, in the strictest sense of the term, an atheist. I believe in no gods. I do not pray to any deity or anthropomorphic representation thereof. That was one of my biggest problems with Wicca: I just couldn’t suspend my disbelief thoroughly enough to incant to Diana and believe I was actually accomplishing anything.

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What I do believe in is collusion. I believe not in physical manifestations of spirits, each governing a different arena (Sea God, Sky God, Sun God), but rather in one singular, ineffable divinity that pervades every damn thing. In Chinese philosophical terms, the Tao. When I work a spell, I’m not supplicating before a deity, I am taking charge of the Tao residing in me and realizing its connection to the rest of creation. I am Sea is Sky is Sun. Fuck if I know whether my work actually effects change. On a quantum level, maybe. (That’s another area I’m very interested in, which I could wax positively lyrical about: the confluence of science and spirituality.) I do know that universal cohesion is one of my most fundamental urges. I can’t touch a person without, on some level, being cowed by the fact that we’re all carbon and so are the stars and we’re really just little pockets of the same overarching essence. I can’t smell a flower without pondering the energy manipulation that brought it from seed to stem to scent. This is the way I naturally see the world. Whether or not it means shit in the wider scheme of things, satisfying that structure gives me a deep, clean kind of peace.

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Dress: The Classy Closet Jacket & Belt: Downtown Threads Boots: Battery Street Jeans Pin: Savers Tights, Scarf, & Pentacle: Gifted

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If you appreciate my thoughts on spirituality, check out Sacred Syncretism, my religion blog. I’ve been trying to put more effort into it lately.

peasant in lace

lacy XI

I love fairy tales. I always have. I love them for their darkness and their spite, their sickness and their slanted sort of health. I love hidden variations on their themes present, unexpectedly, in the oddest corners of literature. I love seeing them twisted and hinted at and expounded upon. My most evocative mindscape – well, one of them – is a rambling Bavarian cottage lousy with secrets and maybe-truths.

Today I’m Cinderella simultaneously before and after. Cinderella in her lacy altogether returning to the hearth she once called her whole world. The tricky part is figuring out which, the before or the after, is the tragedy.

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I wrote this poem when I was fifteen. I call it City Girls.

Stories are just that,
stories,
flights to pace and prowl,
the bones of poetry and secrets:
into these we build our lives.

Do you remember
the stories from your childhood
do you –
ever let those musty books
take purchase in your mind?

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Do you ever let those figures
reassemble,
the bones of creation,
the archetypes of nascence,
to be filled in by the
flesh and faces
of real time?

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That woman on the corner
could be Rapunzel,
skinny and cigaretted
her walk-up patio perched high
against a low-down world.
If I wanted to see her
I’d take the stairs
because her hair’s too short and smoke-stained
to ever really shine.

Or –
Snow White for the cyber age
Chinese chambermaid, quietly bred
emptying the wastebasket
every morning
on the corner of Seventh and Main.
Rapunzel smokes,
oblivious to the congress
of colliding tales
just below her window,
every morning.

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Snow White
stands under five feet
and she’s got
thin humble lips
and a home-stitched face
not anonymous enough for comfort,
and no one will exalt her
in a transparent coffin
when she pops off.

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Snow thinks the subway is
a luxury:
for all its jerks and belches
there she can rest her
bound and weary feet.
Sharing her low-slung plastic bench
is the girl in yesterday’s makeup
and last week’s clothes.
Frosted hair won’t come
back into fashion in greater Manhattan,
but her crowd appreciates it;

they’re the ones flicking cigarette ash
into drainpipes
and fending off the down-lows
in their potbellies
and leather jackets
who crave more tricks than
they can pay for.
Where is she going, dressed like that-
is there an appointment in the world
worth requiring such an abusive shade of red?

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lacy X

I’d like them all to meet, someday
in that pub above the laundromat
Rapunzel with her bored lips,
Snow White with her deference,
Sleeping Beauty with her pierced-heart narcolepsy.
Each asleep in one way or another,
each missing a piece potent enough to
wake up her corner of the world.

lacy V

Blouse: Downtown Threads Skirt: Goodwill Boots: Battery Street Jeans Hat, Tights, & Bra: Gifted Necklace: Family heirloom

~

I cringe to disrupt the mood of this post, but I want to emphasize that this poem is absolutely not to be read as sex-work negative or prejudicial in any other way. Sex workers are laborers who deserve to see their work legitimized. Sleeping Beauty has a hard life and she is a prostitute, not necessarily because she is a prostitute. (The same can be said, in different ways, of my poem’s other two characters, though their lives aren’t quite as politicized.) Sex workers’ lives run the gamut of human experience, because they’re, you know, human. I apologize for the aside, but the safety, autonomy, and legitimacy of sex workers is one of my pet issues. If you’d like to learn more, I highly recommend the blog Tits and Sass.

i was never here

summer witch III

summer witch IV

On my best days I feel like a ghost. Silently transcendent, able to engage and disengage effortlessly with my world. Humanity moves through me but doesn’t linger; any dwelling is my choice and my choice alone. On my best days I’m the Buddhist I never quite got the hang of being.

summer witch II

I love vintage first and foremost because of its history. While certain fashion eras do appeal to me on the merit of their designs, I find that my appreciation takes a distinctly modern point of view: I wear these precious metals and stiff, splitting fabrics because they’re so old. “Vintage-inspired” doesn’t cut it; I want the real thing, skeletons, spiderwebs and all. Some vintage ladies dream of jetting back to when the eras they love were shiny and new, but I like my musty leather and shirtwaist frocks with a few decades of history stitched into their fading weave. Wearing the past makes me feel storied, like I’m collecting my inheritance as a citizen of this planet. On my best days I have a foot in every world.

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These photos turned out a little pale and overbright. I could have fixed them, but instead I ran with the concept and utterly washed them out for a “between worlds” sort of effect.

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No matter how far afield I wander, I always make it back to fashion inspired by witches and ghosts. It’s what I am.

summer witch XII

Slip (worn as a dress) & Blue Bangles: Old Gold Boots & Silver Bracelet: Battery Street Jeans Hat, Tights, & Necklaces: Gifted

noontime ghost

cottage I

This past weekend I visited my godparents’ retreat in Wolcott. This year marks my eighteenth summer camping there, and it’s long felt like home to me. It is ragged, pristine, spectacular isolation. It’s a place where you can’t help but hear yourself  think, and I, for all the noise I pack into my poor obsessive-compulsive mind, always benefit from that.

My godparents, Bill and Betsy (which may go down as the most “olde-Vermont” couple names ever), bought the land twenty-something years ago in hopes of starting a Christmas tree farm. I don’t know the exact turn of events that made them break ground for a cabin instead and let the evergreens grow twenty feet tall, but I am glad they occurred.

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cottage III

cottage IV

For this shoot, I wore an antique-store dress I bought to flip on Etsy but couldn’t resist a few photos in first. It has no tag; the stitching reveals it’s homemade. I’d place it in the 1930s, maaaaybe the ’40s for someone with a lot of rations saved up. It’s so soft (remarkably well preserved) and fits like it was made for me.

You know how I like my queering, though. My original concept was a basic ’30s-housewife shoot in the rustic, candlelit cabin, but it soon evolved into a mishmash of a few different themes. I decided to go for a pop of mod color and sharp angles with my hair and makeup to contrast the wistful ’30s. I like that it made the look more challenging and added another layer to my housewife character. I also really love images with obvious flaws or inconsistencies that are not addressed. It jars the eye, adds a dash of absurdity, and ultimately leaves viewers to fill in the gaps. I like my art a little hard on the brain.

Seeing the photos on my computer screen revealed another layer. The light in the ones I liked best had a distinctly antiquated, almost eerie, tinge to it. Inspired, I ‘shopped the pictures and upped the exposure to suggest a full-on ghost vibe. Nothing particularly unique about that, especially coming from me, but I’m enchanted by the idea that you can’t tell exactly when my ghost is from, what with her Depression dress and fluorescent mod hair. Ambiguity is one of my favorite themes. It’s its own kind of artifice.

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There’s something lovely about a ghost in broad daylight, unafraid of the sun.

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This one reminds me of an old Dutch painting.

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I edited some of the furniture shots just a little overbright, with just a little more oomph to sit up and pay attention to than the rest of the photos. I consider over-sharp light just as spine-tingling an aesthetic as under-sharp. It’s pregnant somehow.

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cottage XXVIII

I find mirror shots so spooky.

True story: I’ve had this lifelong fear of my reflection winking at me. If I have to pee past midnight, I book it to the bathroom while trying to avoid a glimpse of myself in any unshaded windows.

Is it Halloween yet?

cottage XXXIV

I found this one so deliciously absurd. Anyone else see it?

cottage XIV

wings of sand

socialite I

On Monday, I traipsed to North Beach for a sunset shoot with Morgan Sweeney of Socialite Photography. My friend Rachel had modeled for her and recommended we meet. Here’s the first batch of the photos we took. You’ll have to excuse the simple outfits and repeat dresses: when I model for others, I prefer to keep the focus on my poses and physicality rather than on the clothes.

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socialite V

I am a water child through and through. I can sit and watch the waves for hours; twenty minutes of swimming leaves me feeling positively drugged. A great deal of my natural anxiety falls away in the presence of open water, and I hope that shows in these photos.

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This shoot was unique in that I worked with two other models, neither of whom I’d ever met. We all took turns posing under Morgan’s lens. One of them asked me, as we were wrapping up, how I managed to put such energy into my shots. Aside from its flattery, the remark forced me to explain my process, which was useful for both me and the other model. Before I started modeling when I was eighteen, I’d been involved with performing arts for eleven years. I sang in three choirs and did every theater camp my parents were willing to shell out for. I’ve also volunteered at a haunted house since I was thirteen, so I’m no stranger to cackling, over-the-top theatrics. Modeling, to me, is quickie acting. I do my best to tell a story, however short or slight, with each shot. I think of the scenery as my stage and my body as colluding with everything around it, and I use that inspiration to invent a character to portray.

socialite VIII

I’m moving in a little more than a month. Since my student lease ended in May, I’ve been more or less living with Josh, with occasional trips to my parents’ house for meals and outfit pictures. I’m officially setting up shop on (knock on wood!) August 16th. Though I’ll have two roommates, the apartment is bigger than any I’ve ever had. I’m already envisioning a wall of fabric shelves, an antique dress form, and a huge-ass bulletin board to pin my designs to. I think I need to change my panties.

And I’m really going to need the extra work space, because I’ve been getting an unprecedented number of opportunities lately. On Saturday, I’ll officially begin modeling for Wings of Sin, a local goth designer! I’ll be walking in her fashion show on Saturday as part of Crosswalk, Burlington’s first official fashion weekend. If you’re in the Burlington area and feel so inclined, click here to purchase tickets and see me in my real live gothy glory.

As for those other opportunities I mentioned … let’s just say you should expect an unveiling very, very soon.

prairie luxe

prairie III

I love the versatility of this dress. The loose silhouette and the hardy fabric ground it, while the lace detailing inches it closer to formality. I couldn’t decide whether to dress it up or down, so I went with a whopping “both”. I put together a more relaxed formality than usual, though, hoping for a look equally fitting for the symphony or an impromptu bluegrass show.

prairie I

Taking pictures in this spot, about 100 yards behind my parents’ house, is always delightfully surreal. It warps perspective somehow; the backdrop seems to drag on unbroken. The trees seem far too bright for midsummer.

prairie V

Absolutely in love with these panels. Josh, you’ve got a rival.

prairie IV

My pink hair never lets me slip fully into the dreamy forest aesthetic. It always seems to add an Alice in Wonderland pop, and I love it.

About this dress. I realize it’s what a lot of people would consider “unflattering”. I freely admit that this particular cut adds about fifteen pounds. I was even a little jarred when I saw the shots: “where’s my waist?!” I would not have worn this dress a year ago, and I consider wearing it now emblematic of how my stylistic outlook has evolved and matured. I’ve come to turn my eye more toward evocation, toward color and texture and cohesion, than to fit and flattery. Sure, it’s awesome when a piece fits like it was made for me and makes me feel like a bombshell. But if I have to choose between a mediocre well-fitting piece and an awkwardly hanging one that tells a story, you know which one will win. I’m doing my damnedest to quash the little “but it makes me look faaaaat” voice – because really, is looking thin more important than telling a story? Than making a statement? Than being a standout artist?

I don’t think fashion, or any art, should constantly affirm who we think we are. Let it surprise you. As a costume designer, I’m already accustomed to looking in the mirror and seeing someone radically different every day. Applying that principle to the very flesh I live in is costumery’s ultimate extension.

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I love the contrast of highly stylized Loli face above + a more serendipitous statement below.

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Dress, Belt, & Brooch: Savers Boots, Bow, & Shawl: Battery Street Jeans

Friendly reminder to cast your best-dressed vote here! Voting closes tomorrow at 5.

prairie X

wicked west, sordid south

woods I

I’ve always been drawn to the “weird West” and “southern gothic” aesthetics and assorted paraphernalia. Spooky, ghost-dripping Americana tingles my spine and makes me yearn to crawl beneath the skin of the world, into the underbelly of fog and freaks. My mindscape resembles Deliverance, O Brother, Where Art Thou?, and a Flannery O’Connor novel. But only in the summer does this particular demon haunt welcome me: something about the way summer trees are just a little too ripe evokes its specter like nothing else.

(Before you ask: every other season has its associated ghoulies and ghosties, too. But this one has long been my favorite.)

Today in theatrics: the forest is just slightly too bright not to harbor some atrocity or other. I also pulled inspiration from Amy of Amy Flying a Kite, whose romantic prairie aesthetic often informs mine.

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“Follow me.”

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Weird West and southern gothic are all about queering traditional landscapes and mythologies. To find my place in that tradition, I (GASP!) modernized this prairie look a little with printed tights and generally eclectic accessories. As a costumer, I love exploiting and/or squashing expectations of a particular look, and today I did this by pulling the eye out of the past and a little more abruptly into the modern than usual.

And let’s be real: my pink hair always does that whether I intend it or not.

Also, if I have to choose between hewing to every period detail and setting the mood I want to set, I’ll usually choose the latter, even if it means a little imprecision.

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Oh lord, these boots. I found them at Battery Street labeled only with the tag “very old boots!”. They’re so fragile they seem about to liquefy. One is missing most of its tongue. And they fit me almost perfectly. A little pinch at the toe is well worth it to wear a piece of history.

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This is my pet gremlin. We call him Nick Teppelin.

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Dress, Hat, & Boots: Battery Street Jeans Tights: Plato’s Closet Belt: Goodwill Necklace: Handed down from Mom

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One of my favorite photos of myself ever.

louche lady

morgaine I

I’ve been sitting on this idea for a few weeks now. I had meant to take a backlog of photos before leaving for camp, but heat caught up with me: I melt so easily that posing in full-length dresses in 90-degree weather would’ve made a sullen, sweaty mess. All I can offer for now is the first round, but I’m pretty damn proud of it.

I’ve mentioned before that I am first and foremost a costume designer. My daily outfits are a natural extension of that theatrical sensibility, but there’s just nothing like rolling up my sleeves to costume a show and pinning feverishly until everything is just right. Teaching theater this week has reminded me of just how much I love it.

Lately I’ve been trying to market myself as a freelance costumer. Working in the underbelly of Vermont’s ragtag theater scene would be a childhood pipe dream realized. Outfitting the stage with my vision is almost as good as occupying the spotlight myself, I figure. In the name of turning this blog into not just a personal outlet but a CV of sorts, I’ve decided to start an ongoing series of costume-design posts. All my favorite fictional characters and historical figures are fair game. The Louche Ladies.

Today I start with my favorite mythical witch of them all: Morgaine le Fay herself.

morgaine II

Although my favorite interpretation of Morgaine, Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Mists of Avalon version, treats her as rather plain and pious, I decided to go fully regal with this look. I admit I was constrained by what I had in my closet, but I also wanted to broadcast power in a more immediate way than I think plainer clothes could’ve accomplished. In this spangled dress and shawl, Morgaine colludes directly with the dark around her. She establishes her dominion via her finery while still, with the dark themes, acknowledging the partnership inherent in her craft. The spangles, in my mind, represent little sparks of ghostly light she’s pulled from her environment and fastened to her person.

I whitened my face and put on extra lipstick for a bloodthirsty kick. I can pull off the pale, doughy-limbed medieval-painting look pretty well.

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I didn’t get as many pictures of this look as I would’ve liked to. My camera shit out around the ninth shot or so, and dusk was over by the time I’d finished charging the battery. On second thought, though, I like the photoset as it is. This look doesn’t call for too many close-ups. The power is best appreciated as a whole.

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A shawl atop empty air. She’s in ghost form.

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I do wish I’d gotten a better shot of the Celtic-knot headband. It was the perfect touch.

Dress: Stella Mae Shawl & Headband: Gifted Bracelet: Battery Street Jeans

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ny7NZPfl0l4