sticking it to seasonal depression

colors II

Say what you will about the dogma behind it – I really $&*$ love Christmas. No matter what you believe, having a huge-ass celebration during the darkest time of the year can’t not be good for you. The ancient pagans knew what’s up. Crit-failing at serotonin production? Make your own, via light-up trees and garish sweaters.

colors I

My ugliest sweater, worn with unironic pride.

Fortunately, I don’t have to rely overmuch on color lately. My life is knit with other joys. It’s been over six months since I left college, and I’m actually starting to make something of myself. I’ve settled into my “jill of all trades” status, and I’m seeing success on a few different fronts. My Prague Revue column is up and humming along. My poem “wherein we luminesce” is currently enjoying the front page of Cowbird. Later this month, my short story “How to Leave a Cult” will be published on elephantjournal.com. And I spent much of today revamping my Model Mayhem account and creating a Facebook page for my modeling persona, now known as Gloria Mundi. There’s so much in my head – so many dark, glitzy, gritty nascent explosions – and I need as many media as I can possibly find.

Also, I would like to start going to church. Any church – I’m not married to any dogma or other. I just enjoy being in the presence of people who believe in something with their whole selves. I guess I’m religious by proxy. I’m drawn to all faiths, regardless of my personal opinions on their doctrine. I’m not in school anymore, but I loved being a religion major, and I’d like to carry that into my post-college life.

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And I’m doing it all while dressed like a goddamn sideshow act.

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Dress: Old Gold Hat & Sweater: Gifted Coat: Savers Belt & Tights: Goodwill Shoes: Danform Pin: Battery Street Jeans

colors III

housekeeping

New in my Etsy shop. Click on the photos to visit the listings.

red coat II

suit jacket I

blouse II

In other blog news…

  • This week, I’ll be sponsoring a giveaway with Marlen of Messages on a Napkin. One lucky reader, after liking my shop on Facebook and commenting with their favorite garment, will receive a $25 gift card to Dressed in the Dark Vintage. I’ll promote it on Facebook when it’s finalized, of course, but keep your eyes peeled anyway. I also bought a month of ad space on Marlen’s blog! I’m five down on the right.
  • I received my first creepy doll contest submission! It sets the bar pretty damn high, but there’s still plenty of time to enter. Find out how here.
  • As of today, I am officially participating in Dressember. If I can wear dresses for a month (is that even a question?), volunteers will pledge to donate to the International Justice Mission’s campaign against human trafficking. I’ll be documenting my dresses both on the blog and on Facebook. Visit my profile here, and please consider donating if you can spare a little.

the sacred in the profane

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church I

church XI

Today my head is abuzz with religious symbols: I’m halfway through an essay on spirituality for the Prague Revue, and it’s got me thinking in loose, drunken hierophanies. There’s transcendence everywhere. More than that, there’s so much to say about it. Although my personal spiritual affiliations lean heavily pagan, I’ve always found a great deal of peace in religion in general. I am naturally drawn to houses of worship, and I’ll gladly sit through almost any service. The pursuit of transcendence and universal truth is a compelling one indeed. Though I didn’t go on to work in the field (let’s be real: who does?), I don’t regret a minute of my religious studies undergrad. It’s taught me to find symbols and sacredness everywhere. In the most mundane of acts. In something as aggressively modern and overtly narcissistic as taking selfies.

A few blocks from my apartment stands a lovely old church that I’ve been wanting to photograph for months. Today’s mindset, combined with four o’clock’s last blaze of light, made it the perfect place for today’s shoot.

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church VI

I felt vaguely blasphemous today, but that was the fun of this shoot. I was, after all, appropriating a holy site to produce my own graven images. Fashion photography is already considered one of the shallower crafts. But when it comes down to it, art is art, whether its medium is my body or the walls of the Vatican. Today’s shoot is the high and the low together. The sacred and the profane. The desperately superficial and the aggressively profound, united finally as just plain art.

I have the modern luxury of loving both fashion and religion. I can even frame my pursuit of beauty as glorification of the divine without getting burned at the stake. And if there’s anything in this world worth bowing down to, I think it’s creative force. I believe there’s room for every kind of art. For worship of everything that wants worshiping. Though it wasn’t this church’s stated aim, today I’m using it to aid my own supplication: to beauty, to art, to erudition, and to everything in between.

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church II

Any art can be spiritual. Any act can be imbued with sacrality. This happens to be mine.

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church X

Sweater, Skirt, & Belt: Replays Coat, Hat, & Tights: Old Gold Pearls: Battery Street Jeans Shoes: Savers

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steam-powered witch

II

I wrote yesterday about my latest inspirations and the way I’ve been integrating them into my daily style. Today I’m illustrating what that actually looks like. This is a far primmer silhouette than I favored earlier this fall, when I was swishing about in cloaks and peasant skirts. The past few weeks, I’ve been all about crispness and crinolines.

I’ve also found myself influenced by Josh’s aesthetics. The man is unendurably steampunk. He wears top hats and white gloves on the regular. Sometimes I like to be his female counterpart in more ways than one. I appreciate our contrasts, but I also like it when we match. Today I attempted to combine our respective styles: I’m a witch, done fluorescent steampunk style. I went for steampunk silhouettes, but rendered in aggressively mod colors.

VI

III

IV

Why choose between a broomstick and a parasol?

I’m not sure how I feel about the contrast between the wall and the grass. It doesn’t look stylized or deliberate enough. It’s too incidental, like I didn’t give enough of a shit to find a cleaner setting. Then again, this entire outfit is a study in contrasts. Why not one more?

Nevertheless, I’ve been thinking of investing in some studio space one or two days a week. I could haul a trunk of props and hammer out two or three different shoots in a place I could design to my specifications. Does anyone in the Burlington area know where I might find such a thing?

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Dress: Handed down from Mom Crinolines, Tights, & Gloves: Spirit Halloween Coat: Macy’s Hat & Necklace: Old Gold Boots: Battery Street Jeans

XI

mall goths and other stories

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Sometimes I just don’t feel right without pagan bling, crinolines, and a big ol’ fascinator. I’m Hot Topic incarnate, right down to the black lipstick and early-’90s Polaroid vibe. I’m playing a character in this shoot, deliberately channeling a very specific feeling, but deep down we all know it’s not really a character. Who among us didn’t have the Spencer Gifts/Inkubus Sukkubus/”you’re not my real dad!” phase? (Who among us ever really left it?) I still headbang to Voltaire doing 70 on the highway. I still keep The Satanic Bible front and center in my bookcase. Too bad I missed my era. I never got to take those 3emo blurred Polaroids for real. Is it unbearably inauthentic if I try to recreate their look in Photoshop?

mall goth I

mall goth IV

Josh, bless whatever passes for his heart, bought me this dress form last month. I love dress forms. They’re delightfully eerie and they have a practical use. One day, knock on wood, I’ll have a whole collection. I need to design more photo shoots with them. They make such creepily evocative props.

mall goth VII

Y’know, I was nervous about posting these. It’s hard to be shitty in the name of doing good. It’s hard to make deliberately bad art and hope people make note of the deliberation. But even harder than trying to be polished is letting oneself not be polished. I think these photos fit the mood I’m trying to convey. And that’s because of, not despite, their terrible, terrible quality. They remind me of the humble, awkward selfies Agent Starling finds in Fredrica Bimmel’s room.

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mall goth II

mall goth V

slowing it down

First of all, let me announce far and wide that I haven’t forgotten about y’all, or this blog, or even (perish the thought) Halloween itself. I lost my $%&*$#& tripod, probably thanks to seasonal gremlins. Although I could probably wheedle some photos out of my loved ones, it’s just not the same as manning the shutter myself. Prepare, though, for a massive backlog of posts (including my excruciatingly belated Halloween costume) when I either find it or suck it up and shell out for a new one. In the meantime, I’ll be filling this blog with writing, non-fashion photography, and maybe a few pretty pictures from elsewhere on the web.  And today I’m unveiling something I’ve been pondering for a while now.

thrifted

You’ve seen this picture before, but look – it’s an entirely vintage/thrifted outfit!

Starting on January 1st, I will no longer be participating in fast fashion. I’ve been disappointed for some time with fashion blogging’s emphasis on consumption over creativity. I’m tired of same-old-same-old editorials with brand names in full, obnoxious view, as though the price tag were the end-all of a garment.  I’m tired of uninspired outfit posts with no story to tell, just a label to flaunt. The way I see it, fashion blogging is supposed to be about bringing the art of clothing to a wider audience. Taking it into our own hands and pioneering new styles. I’m all about the democratization of high fashion (and high art in general). There are so many talents out there whose work might never see the light of day were it not for the internet and blogging culture. So it kinda bums me out when I see post after post about endless acquisition of off-the-rack basics. Where’s the fun in that? Where’s the creation of something the world has never seen before?

On its face, I don’t really have a problem with this. Hell, I’m not immune to attention-whoring when I find a really excellent vintage hat. But I’m tired of pretending that the glorification of status and materialism has no cost. I want to acknowledge that much of American culture’s pursuit of beauty ascends at the expense of human rights and environmental preservation. Yes, I know that Forever 21 dress is cute. But what’s that cuteness worth? Exploited children, shoddy factories, erasure of real craftsmanship? Not to mention that it’ll fall apart after three or four washings, and you’ll be left browsing the racks once again, perpetuating the cycle. I’m done with it.

Starting on January 1st, I will be buying exclusively vintage, thrifted, and handmade clothing. Admittedly, that isn’t much of a statement, coming from me. The clear majority of my clothes already fall into at least one of those categories. But I do occasionally cave in and go nuts at Charlotte Russe or Urban Outfitters. In two months, it stops. As a fashion blogger, I sit in a uniquely advantageous position: I can prove, with visual evidence, how awesome secondhand clothes can look. There’s so much clothing in the world. Why should it fall to ruin because predominant mores decided it’s no longer relevant?

So much of the activism in the fashion world is ultimately superficial. Yes, it’s great that so many people are pushing for a more inclusive perspective of beauty. It’s great that more companies are expanding their audience by marketing to different sizes and economic brackets. But if your definition of “inclusive” includes only those who have the privilege of contemplating fashion in the first place, it’s fundamentally flawed. Compared to the other flaws in the fashion industry, it’s one big ol’ first-world problem. How about including the often indigent workers, the local communities displaced by factories and urban sprawl, the children asthmatic from pollution, in the global discourse on fashion? How about finding balance between luxury and sustainability?

Beauty is tainted when its production is ugly. I am not okay with seeing my art propped up by corrupt, ozone-frying industries. I’m not going to pretend the gobbling of shoddy resources isn’t just another tick of the metaphorical time bomb. And on a more personal level, I care about the fashion world. I love its glitz and grotesquerie, and I damn well want its art to last. It’s the very least I can do to support ethical production and earth-safe materials. We have to lift this metaphorical house from the sand and plant it firmly on solid ground.

Starting January 1st…

  • I will buy primarily from local secondhand/vintage stores. Not only does that recycle the old, it supports the local economy.
  • I will also buy handmade artisanal garments when I can. Etsy is my friend here.
  • No more box stores or fast fashion franchises. No Urban Outfitters, Charlotte Russe, etc. I will, however, keep doing my research, and if certain box stores are particularly ethical, I will continue to patronize them.
  • I will begin making my own clothes more often. I’d like to find sustainably produced fabrics, too, but that will be a later project. I’m easing in.
  • I will keep what I already own. Poorly produced though some of it may be, I find it ultimately disrespectful to throw it out for some grand ideological reason. It was made, I’ve bought it, and I might as well get all the use from it that I can.
  • I will consult Annika’s ethical clothing directory as often as I can. That girl is doing great work.
  • I’m undecided about what to do if someone gifts me a fast-fashion item. Family and friends know about my pledge, and I have no qualms about reminding them of it when holidays and birthdays roll around, but what about acquaintances? Distant relatives? Family friends? Handing it back or asking for the receipt seems like such a cringingly awkward thing to do. Has anyone else who’s made a similar pledge figured out a good system for this?

french maid

french maid II

Earlier this month, I approached Downtown Threads about doing a series of costume tutorials. They loved the idea. I currently have a whole chairdrobe of loaner clothes languishing in my bedroom. Until Halloween, I get to borrow interesting/eccentric/eyesore-tastic clothes from their main store and have my costumey way with them. I get blog traffic, and Downtown Threads gets free promotion. A win-win if I’ve ever seen one.

With two weeks to spare ’til that day of days, the first post drops today. Behold my own painfully literal take on a classic costume: the French maid.

french maid V

This dress reminded me instantly of a French impressionist painting. It got me excited to design a concept rather than a character. I did some research into the artistic dress movement and discovered that this dress fits it not only symbolically but more literally as well: its structure and texture are very much in keeping with the loose, muted, medieval-inspired dresses of the pre-Raphaelites and their ilk. I love it when pieces work on multiple levels.

french maid VI

french maid III

french maid I

For accessories, I turned to staples of the Impressionist period: summery hats, gold jewelry, and heeled shoes with narrow toes. The white tights have little historical precedent, but I think they still work. Most of the time, I’d rather capture the feeling of an era than go for strict accuracy.

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I’ve been meaning for years to get into the Society for Creative Anachronism. My friend Holly promises to drag Josh and me to an event sometime this winter. I need some motivation to refine my knowledge of historical dress. I can date pretty much anything from 1900 on, but I’m ashamed to say I’m utterly lost in older times.

My hair would probably scandalize the entire Society, though. Holly says they’re sticklers. I really enjoy having a few obviously-not-vintage things about me, though. My hair, my tattoos, the stud in my nose. It keeps my costumes fresh. No matter how timeless the rest of my look, there will always be something that breaks the flow. And I’m all about shocking people out of their collective comfort zone.

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french maid XVII

Dress & Shawl: Currently for sale at Downtown Threads Bangles: Old Gold Hat: Gifted Shoes: Goodwill Tights: Sox Market

french maid XVI

strange doll

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Josh’s work is currently being exhibited in a show called Art of Horror. We attended the opening last Friday night. Of the event, I will say that 1) it was very nice not to be the only person wearing a cloak, 2) THERE WERE FINGER-SHAPED COOKIES, and 3) after oohing and aahing over Josh’s piece, I spent most of my time browsing the room devoted to Beth Robinson’s Strange Dolls.

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Beth Robinson might be my favorite local artist. Her work is one hell of a spice in my glitzy, gothy glop of inspiration stew. Today I took advantage of the abandoned shed in Josh’s backyard and delivered my own rendition of a Strange, Strange Doll.

doll I

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I really like the visual mindfuck of a broken old doll wearing an antique cameo. It suggests a matryoshka quality, an infinite recursion of uncanny-valley porcelain skin. If the miniature human has her own miniature human, how far can it go?

doll V

I considered whitening my neck and hands too, but I think I prefer the look isolated to my face. I would much rather stylize a costume than precisely duplicate its source material. I like the allusive and the heavily symbolic. My whole body needn’t be stark white, as long as the parts I do whiten clearly scream “creepy-ass doll”. The cracks needn’t be photorealistic, as long as it’s clear what they’re supposed to be.

Often, though, I wonder whether my takes on classics are too subtle. Too lacking in obvious, translatable tropes. As a costume designer, I think way more obsessively about clothes than most people do. And I want to make sure I’m designing for the more casual onlooker as well as for Srs Fashion Ppl. That’s the challenge I have in designing for the Haunted Forest. Each scene is only three or four minutes long. Any exposition time is precious stuff and will sure as hell not be spent examining the costumes. My task is to rustle up clever, innovative costumes that don’t require more than a cursory glance to understand. And I think I’m doing all right, but only opening night will tell.

(I’mma take this opportunity to plug the Haunted Forest. We run at the Catamount Center in Williston, VT, from the 25th to the 27th. This year’s theme is Olde England – prostitutes, plague doctors, and all.)

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Jumper: Battery Street Jeans Blouse: Downtown Threads Necklace: Vintage Marketplace Bow: Spirit Halloween Tights & Shoes: Gifted

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little red

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In a time when I still counted years

I skipped from fen to forest

with a basket over my arm,

with offal tripe and fruitcake

tucked into a pouch of love

from mother to grandmother,

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and I, the intergenerational messenger,

I skipped from fern to fungi to roots

that stretched out,

angling to ensnare.

red IV

red IX

I counted brushes of my feet against the ferns

and stones against my heels

and whispers of wind

inflating the lining of my cape.

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red XVI

And when a thin, keening voice

wailed my name between howls at the rising moon,

I didn’t stop to let its portent soak.

I was too steeped in my love of the

numerical,

the rhythmic,

the categorical.

red XIX

But the keening voice belonged to a rangy grey figure

who stepped into my path,

on two legs,

deigning to appear more man than beast,

but his snout planed out from his whiskery face

at an indecent angle,

a cockeyed, sinister gesture

(like a butcher, all swathed in blood

but clutching flowers in his hand).

red XVII

His face was athletic –

he’d chased before and he knew all the steps to the dance.

red V

He came forward, snapping

I hid my basket of offal tripe and fruitcake,

foolishly thinking that was what he wanted,

that no thick-muzzled wolf-man was going to snap up

the pouch of love and sweetbreads

sent by my mother, who trusted me

a little too much.

red XVIII

It wasn’t what he wanted.

Of the feast, I remember nothing.

Only that I am glad my cloak was red,

for it hid the steepness of my stains,

and the blood on the insides of my thighs.

“`

Skirt, Hat, Tights, & Pentacle: Gifted Blouse, Brooch, & Boots: Battery Street Jeans Sweater: The Classy Closet Cloak: iParty

Poem by me. Photos by Josh. Autumn by Mother Nature.