skulls on skulls

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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 witching hour

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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.

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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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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.

raising the comatose

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This could very well be the longest I’ve ever gone without blogging. To use a cliche, the time sneaked up on me. One day I’m on top of my carefully cultivated universe; the next, I’m lucky to break 30 pageviews. My Kingdom for a Hat, the gritty reboot: wherein my empire crumbles.

I kid. I’m not viewing it as a bad thing. I’d been feeling for a while before my impromptu break that my life was growing increasingly performative. Even though I dress and blog first and foremost for myself, even though I love sharing my sartorial passions with the internet, I am fundamentally an introvert, and sometimes it’s all just too big. I was putting out way too much. Endlessly commenting and collaborating and discussing. It was starting to feel shallow: like I was slowly chipping away at my own interior in the name of beautifying the world, until I was running on memory and there was nothing left.

So for a while I eased up on flamboyance. I wore less jewelry than usual. I wrote some poetry and took some long walks. I cooked a lot of interesting meals, of which I will not be posting pictures because I don’t really want to be that kind of blogger. Suffice it to say that apple slices work marvelously in onion omelets. Josh and I took a stage combat seminar, which kicked my ass in an “I’m gonna sleep so well” kind of way. Most significantly of all, I started writing my religion blog again. Other than costuming, spirituality is the other big passion in my life, and I feel a little off-kilter when I’m not properly indulging it.

For two weeks I concentrated more on the meat of my day-to-day life than the flashy skin I present to the world, and lo and behold, it’s left me more than ready to start effusing again.

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I go really hard, and then I simmer down. That’s the way I work. I’m pretty intense. Sometimes I need to force myself to balance things out.

I love fashion. I love costuming. I love the history and semiotics of clothing, but I am not just a fashion blogger, and I would often do well to remember that.

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The angles of the sun already feel autumnal to me. There’s a certain crispness unique to spring and fall, in contrast to the heavy blur of summer. I’m eagerly awaiting rich colors and baked squash and haunted houses. Mostly the haunted houses.

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My mom (who took these pictures, because I misplaced my tripod) said I looked like an Englishwoman on safari. I’m definitely feeling a more bohemian, prairie-chic vibe these days. I’m not without my pops of modernity, though. I really like the surprise of my tights and fingernails.

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I should take pictures at sunset more often. Loving the little hints of glare.

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Dress & Belt: Downtown Threads Hat & Boots: Battery Street Jeans Necklace &  Tights: Gifted

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I’m back.

deadly she-beast

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First of all, I’m very proud to announce that “punk girl meth porn” and “grandma’s special old hats” were two of the search terms that led to My Kingdom for a Hat this week. Y’know, meth porn is a damn hard genre to break into. Finally some recognition!

~

This past Saturday, I represented Wings of Sin in Crosswalk: A Fashion Show Styled by Sound. All proceeds went to the Committee on Temporary Shelter (COTS), which was pretty cool. Wings of Sin specializes in “post-apocalyptic” fashion: organic, animalistic, and eerily utilitarian. In the great pantheon of goth subcultures, it’s definitely tribal goth. Its creator, Melaney, takes things a step further by actually being a belly dancer: she performs with her troupe, the Accaliae, at underground events around the state. I saw her at Spectacle of Sin well before I knew I’d end up modeling for her shop. She’s fantastic. I want to be her.

(Does anyone else think that the use of “sin” in pagan/goth/fetishy naming convention is getting a little old? Other words exist, darklings! I don’t hear “bacchanal” used nearly enough.)

This was my second-ever fashion show. I have, however, been in more plays and cabarets and choir concerts than I can count, and I’m no stranger to infectious backstage chaos. It’s a series of pleasant little disasters. (Maybe my walk down the runway really was post-apocalyptic.) It all makes me feel so alive.

Forgive me the poor quality of the backstage shots. The lighting wasn’t exactly prime for a shoot, but I wanted to capture some of the energy anyway. My mom snapped the runway ones.

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About nine designers participated in the show, each with a distinct look. It was easy to tell which group each model belonged to. We Wings folk definitely got some side-eyes. Let’s put it this way: I had, by far, the FEWEST tattoos.

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I wore a black infinity dress, which I hiked up to my neck and left plunging in back, and a chain-link necklace. All the accessories were mine, and I did my own makeup.

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From Damaged Goods t-shirts. I loved this model.

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From my favorite designer after Wings of Sin, Scandalous Fox Paws. I absolutely loved their medieval-inspired dresses, so much that I contacted them after the show asking if they needed models. Here’s hoping they get back to me!

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Copyright Where Clothes.

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I realize it’s blurry, but that’s meeeeee! The announcer introduced us Sinners as “deadly she-beasts”. I wish I could have someone follow me around and preemptively introduce me that way.

By pure coincidence, I was first down the runway. We shuffled ourselves at random, and I ended up in front. My friend Zoe tackled me afterward: “you opened the show!”

“It was arbitrary.”

“No one has to know that!”

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Copyright Where Clothes.

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Copyright Where Clothes.

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Copyright Where Clothes.

noontime ghost

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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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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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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?

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

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wings of sand

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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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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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hats for days (shameless self-promotion)

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Saturday’s Savers run produced a delightful heap of Etsy fodder. I thought I’d take a break from your usually scheduled eccentricity and promote a few things I thought my viewers might like. Click to buy this hat here! It’s in fantastic condition for something as old as I estimate it is. Perfect for all your vintage-vixen needs.

But first things first (well, technically second)…

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I’m thrilled to report that I’ve made the top three of the Seven Days best-dressed competition! The second round of voting closes on July 10th at 5 pm, and I would greatly appreciate your vote. It takes just a few keystrokes. Click here to vote! Facebook might require you to “like” the page to see my entry, but this app is minimally invasive and you can unsubscribe from it immediately after voting, so I think it’s worth it. Thanks in advance!

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Vintage Oscar de la Renta by Bollman Hat Company. Click here to buy.

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Vintage Janyth Roy New York. Excellent for steampunk cosplays. Click here to buy.

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Vintage Monseigneur. This is probably the oldest one I’ve come across, and I think the price is well worth it to own a piece of history. (Slight fraying on ribbon.) Click here to buy.

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Vintage pillbox. Comes with two real live pins. Click here to buy.

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Slinky siren cocktail dress. Leslie Fay Evening, size 6. Fits like a glove and hugs like a lover. Click here to buy.

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Vintage Boston Maid dress, size 12. I felt like a grown-up Eloise just modeling it. Click here to buy.

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Ferns ‘n’ feathers dress. Vintage M.L.S. Ltd New York, size 12. Doesn’t drape too flatteringly on me, but I’m sure one of my bloglings could give it a good home. Click here to buy.

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Vintage Evan Picone dress, size 8. USA-made by Ladies Garment Workers Union, which I think is pretty damn cool. Click here to buy.

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Fifty dresses in one! Guys, this is the one it hurts the most to part with. Alas, though, it does not zip over my rather significant bust (it’s a size 4). It deserves a good home. Click here to buy.

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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wicked west, sordid south

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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.