nonchalantly bloodstained

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Franceta Johnson posted an incredibly salient rant today about how tiresome the “glorified selfies” aspect of style blogging can get. She yanked the words right from my brain: there’s practically nothing inspired about three posts a week featuring the same poses, same background, same suspiciously grainy mirror shots. Your outfit better be hella impressive if you’re going to rely on those tropes post in and post out. I suspect that, too often, formulaic photo technique and unvarying background makes fashion photography less of an art form and more of a consumerist “this bag speaks for itself” label circlejerk. And that’s so not what I want my work to be about. The materialism of much of high fashion culture gives me serious misgivings. I love clothes because of the stories you can tell with them using nothing more than fabric draped around a human form. I’m fascinated by just how many volumes color and texture can speak. A $1,000 dress isn’t worth a damn thing if you can’t give it artistic relevance.

I’d really like to move away from your average “stand and pose” fashion photography. We (read: fashion bloggers) all succumb to that sometimes, but if I’m modeling an outfit, I damn well want to model it! To move in it, to play its nuances off the background and the light, to make my photos suggest a story more than the sum of their individual parts. I like working in themes. I like syncretism. My favorite magazine, Vogue, treats its clothes as costumes and its sets as artistic playgrounds. It contextualizes and refines the outfits and the sets until each photo is a complete story unto itself. That’s what I strive for in my fashion photography.
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Today I’m trying to parody the “lazy Sunday” aesthetic. No big deal, I’m just hanging around my kitschy little apartment, absurdly fancy as usual. To further queer the imagery, I played with the light and turned the shots dark and dramatic, not what you’d expect of a cute retro kitchen.
Oh, and the whole shoot was a little inspired by Amanda Palmer’s “The Killing Type” (super super NSFW).
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The shock value works on another level, too: “No big deal, I’m just drenched in blood.”
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Dress & Belt: Downtown Threads Shoes: Old Gold Tights & Bow: Spirit Halloween Glasses: Zenni Optical
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My Karen Walker face.

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As I bounced down the street in my cheap Spirit Halloween finery, an irrationally angry girl yelled “FREAK!” at me from a passing car. I have to say, I’m disappointed that was the best she could do. Scoundrel, slattern, harlot, blackguard, rapscallion. Someone needs ten vocabulary drills, stat.

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I really love creepy-cute. There’s something so adorably eerie about smoothing the raw edges of horror into something youthful and hyperfeminine. It’s a dichotomy that makes people look twice: “how cute…wait, are those skulls?” It turns the placid unsettling. I’m also a big fan of imbuing femininity with power, and few things scream “power” to me more than the macabre and the paranormal.

It’s also interesting how context influences and corresponds with individual items. Do the skulls make the dress macabre, or does the dress neutralize the skulls? It’s hard to parse the exact percentages, which makes the social response so interesting: what exactly are we reacting to? Is it just the shock value, or something more nuanced?

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I think so much about clothes. Do other people think this much about clothes?

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I love tightly wound color schemes with one real shock of variation.

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The fickle weather turned some of these shots a little grainy. I kind of like it. It complements the pastels.

(That’s hair dye on my wrist. I don’t have the plague.)

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Dress & Belt: Old Gold Cardigan: The Classy Closet Necklace & Suspenders: Battery Street Jeans Tights & Shoes: Gifted Headband: Creative Habitat

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the unbearable brightness of being

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I’ve been mired in a phase of dreamy, romantigothic lingerie-inspired fashion. Lately it seems that the ambiguity of pastel folds just has more to say than anything sharper and stricter-bodied. Like there’s a secret embedded in each lacy layer.

Also, I just really really enjoy being a flapper.

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I’m watching this blog inexorably become about more than just aesthetics, and that feels right. First and foremost, I like to think. I like to create. Fashion happens to be the point at which all my creations coalesce – because, I think, its relation to its audience is so immediate. It draws the eye with physical beauty, then seduces the brain into staying for the story. I love that clothing, the semiotics and theatrics of it, operates on multiple levels. On the one hand, it’s a statement on history and perspective and the thousands of tiny events informing the creation of a single garment. On the other, maybe that’s just some really really pretty lace.

I’m a writer, a haunter, a witch, a feminist, a lover of logic and debate, an amateur scholar of religion. Curating my collection of eye-catching clothes is the locus around which my other passions gather. I love clothing because I can make it say any damn thing I want. I can use it as a segue to say something about poetry, witchcraft, feminism, spirituality, or all or none of the above. I can connect my getups to anything or to nothing. Sometimes the sheer amount of things in the world really cows me. There’s so much to learn about and puzzle over and recoil at. Ultimately, fashion (and all art, really) is not exempt from the world: it’s just one corner of some grand exhilarating web. It’s so much more rewarding when we can make some sense of where it came from and what it’s trying to say.

(Or it might just be a really kickass dress, nothing more. That’s the other great part: sometimes a cigar really is just a cigar, and we as art-consuming masses get to decide when that is.)

Expect more poetry from me. Expect more stories and political commentary and spiritual affectation. I believe that all arts are connected deep in some expressive place. Fashion is much more than the clothes on our collective back: it’s how we live.

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This look, to me, says “pajamas for day(s)”. It’s just sturdy enough to pass public muster, but all the elements of sleepwear are there: the slip, the oversize blouse worn like a robe, the slippers. The fascinator pulls the look into daytime.

I love how bright and airy these photos turned out. Photographing white can be risky, and I’d like to get better at it, but I do like this slightly ethereal, slightly eye-searing effect.

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I usually don’t go for big, ostentatious bags (I carry enough tension in my shoulders already), but I couldn’t resist this one. I love the Moulin Rouge-esque pop it gives my flapper garb.

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Slip, Shoes, & Bag: Battery Street Jeans Tights & Blouse: Gifted Fascinator: Old Gold Necklace: Family heirloom

i was never here

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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.

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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.

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

psychobilly (qu’est-ce que c’est)

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Sometimes you just have to go full screaming loligoth.

Despite my frequently fluorescent appearance, I’ve long considered myself goth at heart. I feel most at home in the underbelly of the world, consorting with the macabre. Pondering death, and the attendant thrill in the pit of my stomach, makes me feel alive.

Goth was the first subculture I really identified with. I’ve since found less cliche ways to indulge my penchant for the dark, but I still smile on girls tottering down the street in towering heels and loligoth corsets. I cringe to remember twelve-year-old Skye thinking her Hot Topic kneesocks were the absolute height of MySpace cool, but sometimes I like to indulge her. This is how I desperately wanted to dress all through middle school.

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So I went fully magenta. Bleach and all. You might recall that my hair used to be like this. I started phasing out the bleach about a year ago in hope of still having hair by the time I’m forty. I tried to get into more subdued hues, but I just never felt it. Hot pink is my natural color. I feel my very best topped by a mop of magenta. So after considerable deliberation and consultation with a hairstylist friend, I’ve started bleaching again. Feels so right.

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I bought these shoes when I was 11 to give me a height boost under a long dress I’d bought for Halloween.

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Dress: Hell Bunny Shirt & Voltaire Necklace: Gifted Skull Pendant & Hair Bow: Battery Street Jeans Belt & Skull Necklaces: Old Gold Shoes: Dirt Chic Tights: Sox Market

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a brief moment of silence

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…for my jewelry box, which I left sitting square on my bed fifty miles from where I currently write to you. Until this coming Saturday, I will be without any baubles save for the ones on my person when I arrived. After I’d mourned appropriately, though, I decided to take the sartorial challenge presented to me without losing any of my gaudy flair.

I work at a summer camp called the Talent Development Institute, which is not, despite its rather austere name, any kind of summer school or correctional center. It’s just a camp for kids who don’t, for whatever reason, get a lot out of school: TDI is a place to try all manner of interesting, educational pursuits without grades or cliques looming. I have been involved with this camp for eleven years, and it’s given me most of my best friends and a lot of creative direction my life might’ve lacked otherwise. Once upon a time, I was but a wee stage whore: now I’m in my third year as one of the camp’s three theater teachers. I am affectionately referred to as “crazy costume lady”. Children are hella observant.

Today’s challenge: going without jewelry while still managing to present as the crazy drama teacher you all knew and some of you loved.

TDI is held at Vermont’s Johnson State College, which is where I took outfit pictures during my break today.

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This is almost a hobble skirt – or, at least, it gives the appearance of one – but it moves beautifully when I walk. I love sartorial surprises like that.

I’m not usually an earth-tone gal (gee whiz, couldn’t have guessed), but this skirt’s shape and texture were magnificent enough to override its shade.

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TDI, objectively speaking, is a bit of a sausagefest. About two-thirds of both campers and counselors are male. Demographically, this makes sense – boys, due to their higher incidence of ADD and autistic-spectrum disorders, are more likely than girls to be bored by school. That said, I’ve noticed that even among young ages, there’s pressure in this environment to be “one of the guys” in a way that not all girls are comfortable being. Of course the sexes shouldn’t be absolutely segregated, but I do find there’s undue pressure on girls to adopt “boy” activities, and much less on boys to tap into their feminine sides. I’ve written many times on the power of femininity, and how clothes and dolls and indoor games are not “lesser” for their association with the fairer sex. While I’m at camp, I like to live that principle, model it for the young ladies in my care. Over the years, I have gone out of my way to brand myself as the “girly” counselor – the one who will paint your nails and share her fashion magazines while still displaying intelligence and being a kickass theater teacher. Embracing natural talent and intelligence, as kids are urged to do here, doesn’t mean giving up “frivolous” things like fashion.

And the little girls just eat me up. I’ve accumulated a passel of them following me around, squeeing over my accessories and asking me to take their pictures. I value all my campers, but watching the more femme girls of the bunch take in a grown-up version of themselves and realize that they can be vampy without being vapid is very gratiying.

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You see why I love this skirt so much? I feel like a mermaid.

Top: Old Gold Skirt & Bow: Battery Street Jeans Belt & Hat: Goodwill

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The costumes I brought for my younglings. They spent the day in textile heaven. This trunk contains about two-fifths of my total costume collection, and I was gnawing my nails to stumps as they pawed through it, but they turned out to be perfectly gentle.

Pictures of them in their finery to come soon!

flappers don’t smile

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…except when we do, because we gotta keep y’all guessing somehow.

In yet another amateur-photographer cliche, I’ve tried my hand at the ubiquitous train-track pics. There’s a right way to do those, but I’m not entirely sure this batch of photos falls under that umbrella. They weren’t quite as evocative as I wanted, but I figured I’d post them for the outfit porn and get critique on my photography technique later.

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Sometimes in photos my hair falls into an A-line bob. I’m debating getting it cut like that once and for all.

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I can take or leave monochromatic (and I usually leave it), but I’ve got a lasting love affair with sharp, succinct duochrome. I’m always looking for clothes that seem likely to stand out on a stage, to broadcast their symbology loud and clear across a packed house, and concise duochrome, with maybe a pop of a third or fourth color here and there, is one of the best ways I know of doing that.

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My style is perpetually indecisive about whether it wants to pledge loyalty to flappers or to the New Look. I go back and forth every damn day – sometimes in the same outfit, as you can see. Tim Gunn writes in his Fashion Bible (one of my favorite fashion books ever, by the way) that dresses can be divided roughly into “Cleopatra” (fitted) and “Helen” (draped) styles. Most women apparently prefer one or the other. If that’s true, then I’m fucked right and proper. As personal styles go, mine isn’t terribly defined. I don’t consistently favor certain silhouettes or even fabrics. I like interesting clothes, plain and simple. I’m more invested in exploring the fashion world in all its schizophrenic glory than in hewing to one particular style.

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Dress, Belt, & Blazer: Goodwill Bracelet: Old Gold Necklace: Battery Street Jeans Hat, Shoes, & Tights: Gifted

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arson, murder, and unabashedly fluorescing

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No part of me is, will be, or ever has been subtle. But I’m of the opinion that (almost) any publicity is good publicity. I hardly care whether the heads I turn are fixed in sneers or smiles: at least I’ve been noticed. At least I’ve done my part to keep Vermont blossoming with eccentrics. The function of art is not just to please but to provoke. I just want to make you think: I don’t give a damn what conclusion you actually reach.

I took these pictures in City Hall Park. I’m not sure how flattering the light was (and try as I might, I couldn’t crop out all the passersby), but I feel that City Hall Park pictures are an amateur-Burlington-photographer rite of passage.

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It seems I’ve laid a small child. Curious.

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My lipstick is terribly smudged. Thanks, Obama Josh.

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Josh yelling from out of frame: “don’t fall in the malaria fountain!”

And we laughed, but seriously, that fountain is really, really gross.

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Blouse & Peekaboo Bra: Handed down from Mom Skirt: Goodwill Belt & Necklaces: Old Gold Bracelet: Urban Outfitters Tights: Handed down from Marissa Hat: Handed down from Josh Shoes: Gifted

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Vermont’s alternative paper, Seven Days, holds a yearly “Daysies” competition, in which readers choose the best stores, food, and attractions from around the state. This year they’ve added a “best dressed” category, and it would blow me away if y’all could take the time to vote for me. Click here to vote, and comment with any questions. Thanks so much in advance!

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First of all, this photo summarizes my existence beautifully. Preening pose, colorful hair, moldering corpse in the background.

It says a lot about me that when I make a point of doing early-’60s chic, the resulting look is identical to what I wear day in and day out. I’m fully aware that I have a uniform. High-waisted skirt + colorful blouse might get old someday, but for now, if it ain’t broke by god don’t fix it.

Yesterday’s look was extra-authentic, though, thanks to the hair and makeup I was still sporting from my Owlhurst shoot that morning. The sheer blouse and skirt brought a bit of era-mixing to the metaphorical table. Overall, I’m satisfied with this look, even if it is fairly basic. I’m still embracing my inner grandma – I’m just dressing like she might’ve in her prime.

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All these colors work together so precisely that I feel like I’m wearing a costume. Like I’m playing a ’60s girl on stage and this is what the costume mistress has put me in, assaulting the audience with the most obvious possible semiotics of the era.

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Yesterday I wore this to my Owlhurst shoot. Josh, as you might recall, ended up modeling a bit. After we’d wrapped up and changed back into our own clothes, Erin tossed us a cloth bouquet she had lying around: “Let me take some coupley shots of you guys.” We gladly complied, and I’ve been looking forward to posting the results.

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Josh has the elfiest elf ears I’ve ever had the pleasure of nibbling on.

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Blouse: Yard sale Skirt & Pink Bracelet: Goodwill Belt & Necklace: Old Gold Gold Bracelet: Urban Outfitters Shoes: Gifted

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A girl once sneered at me “Halloween is in October!” as we passed on the street. Not as far as I’m concerned. Not only do I start planning my costumes in July, I do my best to inject my favorite day of the year into the rest of my life. Everything I wear is at least a subtle homage to my god of costumes and candy, but sometimes I go all out. Today marks my bright, summery tribute to that day of days.

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The blazer doesn’t look great unbuttoned, so you can’t see the glittery spider on my shirt. Skulls on spiders on spiders. All I need in this world.

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Josh is an artist. A real live one – he has his master’s in fine arts. He makes mostly theater props and steampunk paraphernalia. He happens to live with two friends who share his proclivities, so they turned their apartment’s spare room into an art room It’s sunny and colorful and pleasantly cluttered, and it’s where I took today’s pictures.

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Slightly visible behind me is Josh’s golem, Woodhouse, whom he made from glue and plastic to resemble a decaying corpse.

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I really like the soft light in this shot.

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Top: Goodwill Blazer: The Classy Closet Skirt & Skull Necklaces: Old Gold Shoes: Danform Spider Necklace: Battery Street Jeans Tights: Handed down from Marissa Hat: Gifted

I’m an unabashedly huge fan of Celtic Woman. If cheesy Celtic girl groups are wrong, I don’t want to know what’s right. The best part of this song? I actually am the sky. Well, the Skye.