sepia-colored glasses Part II

Gibbous Fashions - photograph by Peter Hinson
Gibbous Fashions - photograph by Peter Hinson

by W.H. Muse

Installment II: more antiquated trends in alternative fashion

Trashy Diva . Topsy Turvy Design . Vintage Hair

Swing dance, hot rods, and greasers!  Nothing conjures up nostalgic fantasies of retro styling like the 1950s.  With the incredible success of the TV series Mad Men, a renewed interest in vintage fashion has taken America by storm.  Though 50s-style fashion is nothing new to underground culture, its always worth a second look for attire ranging from the kitschy and fun to the elegant and sleek.

Retro clothing is varied in appearance and loosely covers 40s to 50s fashion.  Popular women’s styles include skinny pencil skirts paired with blouses or cardigans, fit and flare skirts and dresses, and high heels.  Relaxed or summer fashions might include high-waisted skinny pants (often cropped) and bikinis in fun prints (more modestly cut than modern day bikinis).  Women’s hair is elaborately styled and waved, frequently piled into full and structured up-dos or let loose with wavy curls and “Bettie Paige” bangs (which are blunt-cut in style).

Retro clothing manufacturers are as many as there are variations in approach.  New Orleans’ designer Trashy Diva rises to the top of the pack with her bold prints and exquisite eye for detail.  Though the garments featured on the site are distinctly vintage inspired, they are crafted with an eye for wear-ability, allowing the garments to showcase the figure underneath them.  The company’s strong suit feature full-skirted halter dresses that even come in a more affordable cotton line.

If you’re looking to add some flair to your outfit from the neck up try milliner Topsy Turvy Design outfits with a cocktail hat or hair accessory worthy of the most elegant of events.  Her burlesque styled section contains a treasure trove of vintage goodies from leopard pillbox hats to elegant cocktail hats adorned with rhinestones.  She also offers a delightful array of “fascinators”.

Adding some 50s flair to your wardrobe can be as easy as heading to your local thrift shop.  The sharp-eyed vintage shopper can spot a full-skirted dress or veiled cocktail hat in any local thrift store.  However, one of the least expensive and most impressive ways to emulate a vintage look is to style your hair accordingly.  The livejournal community, “Vintage Hair” contains free instructions for dozens of styles. Many of which require little more than a curling iron, gel, bobby pins, and a bit of free time.  An impressive hairstyle is an excellent and thrifty way to add panache to a simple outfit. Break out the curling iron and practice, practice, practice!

egl . Candy Violet . Refuse to be Usual . Viona Art

The word may conjure up heart-shaped glasses and Nabolkov’s famous novel but Lolita fashion and culture is a far cry from these adult themes.  Instead, this frilly style emulates the innocent splendor of a little girl’s tea party complete with frilly dresses, whimsical imagery, and perfectly curled hair.  This trend originally gained a cult following in Japan before achieving international recognition.  Nowadays, Lolita enthusiasts can be found across America organizing elaborate themed outings to parks, parties, and social events.

Classical Lolita fashion resembles little girl’s party dresses, often with a historical or Victorian influences,  including lace, frills, and hyper-feminine elements.  Many Lolitas are brand conscious, favoring the designer styles of Japanese brands, such as Metamorphosis and Angelic Pretty.  Traditionally, Lolita fashion follows fairly strict rules, highlighting full skirts that end around the knee, fluffy petticoats, modest necklines, and a “cute yet elegant” style motto.  Some classic sub-genres of Lolita fashion are “Sweet Lolita” (pastel colors, lots of frills), “Gothic Lolita” (black or darker color schemes and classic Gothic elements such as crosses, veiling, etc.), and “Classic Lolita” (muted colors, more subdued look than “Sweet Lolita”).  If you’re interested in learning more about Lolita fashion and absorbing some of the imagery associated with it, the popular livejournal community, “egl” is an excellent start.

If Lolita fashion is your sugar-sweet cup of tea, you’ll find much to covet in the elegant styling of US designer Candy Violet.  Her line features coordinated skirts, tops and sweetly elegant dresses in classic Lolita style.  Original prints, such as the Eiffel tower on the “Paris Chic” skirt and playing card themed clothing distinguish her from other American Lolita designers.  Those less interested in full-on Lolita fashion will discover a more whimsical line of casual tops featuring carousel horses, playing card suits, and royal crest artwork.

If this style leaves you with a toothache, you may yet enjoy some of the accessories.  A popular look is the frequently copied Vivienne Westwood rocking horse shoe.  Shoes or boots in the Lolita style feature a wood-look platform with an extreme cut out in the front.  (Similar, of course, to the design of a rocking horse!)  Popular ebay seller, Refuse to be Usual offers a wide variety of shoes in this style. This seller offers a fantastic range of footwear from ballet-styled mary-janes that lace up around the leg to boots of all kinds.  They also offer a wide variety of Japanese inspired fashion, including a variety of Lolita clothes.  Another Lolita style accessory that’s an excellent option is a miniature crown.  A bit of Internet research will reveal a host of tutorials explaining how to make your own crown from craft wire, beads, and a little ingenuity. If crafty is not your forte, you can buy an exquisitely crafted, ready-made crown from talented photographer/stylist Viona Art.  Viona’s crowns sparkle and shine with gemstones, luxurious faux fur, feathers, gemstones, and trims to match a variety of outfits and moods.

Lolita fashion can seem like a slightly daunting, specific, and expensive style to navigate. Keep in mind that it has many elements you can add to your wardrobe.  Try a full and frilly skirt with a petticoat for a figure flattering look that’s comfortable and easy to dance in.  Casual tops with feminine details or t-shirts with “royalty” themed artwork can add a dash of Lolita to everyday dress.  Miniature top hats or crowns can bring a touch of irreverent whimsy to your wardrobe, regardless of whether you envision yourself as a young princess or an elegant aristocrat.  Most of all, try trading in some of your tight, low-cut, and revealing garments for clothes that are modest, feminine, and above all, elegant!

Loved To Death . Gibbous Fashions

Wasp waists, curiosity cabinets, and slums out of a Dickens’ novel alongside towering mansions all  stem from the Victorian era.  Ripe with social paradox and complexity, the Victorian era is a natural source for inspiration for alt fashion.  Whether choosing to take cues from tattered ruffians or the cultured gentry, macabre sentiments or the average and innocent, clothing inspired by this period is sure to enrich any wardrobe.

Ladies’ Victorian fashion features excessive amounts of rich fabric, creatively draped skirts, defined waists, and an emphasis on glamour.  Iconic clothing and accessories from the era include corsets, puffy sleeves, bustles with yard upon yard of voluminous fabric, granny-style boots, parasols, and top hats of all sizes.  Victorian inspired fashion is incredibly popular in the goth subculture. Inspiration is mainly from mourning fashions of the era with a dark palette, richly beaded rosaries, and veiled hats that swathe the face but is certainly not limited to that genre. Other clothiers draw upon the Victorian fascination with more  unusual or sinister lines.  Fashionable Victorian households kept “curio cabinets” or displays of items as souvenirs from travels abroad. These usually consisted of unusual taxidermy, “conversation pieces”, or strange objects.  This theme has also weaved its way into modern clothing and accessories.

If your taste is for the odd and macabre, the taxidermist jeweler, Loved To Death can bring a little touch of the “curio cabinet” to your home or wardrobe.  Their jewelry features chrome and gold-plated authentic animal skulls and bones, bird claws, and teeth incorporated into jewelry.  These statement-making pieces are strung into necklaces, set on elaborate vintage cameos, and adorned with feathers, creating wearable art that is as beautiful as it is startling.  Loved To Death enforces a stringent “no-kill” policy, using only recycled or by-product parts in the creation of their art-memorials.

The oft-neglected fashion underworld of paupers will take heart in the clothing revolution of Gibbous Fashions.  Rejecting the prim and proper style of the Victorian era, Gibbous’ creations feature a collage or composite look that incorporates hundreds of fabric and trim scraps sewn together using intricate stitching patterns.  Far from resembling a hippie patchwork project, the viewer can imagine a mad seamstress or creative peasant assembling these clothes from the cast-off scraps of the wealthy.  Gibbous’ creations are one-of-a-kind and hand-made, allaying any worry that you will see your fashion doppelganger out and about.

Victorian fashion is easy to add to your wardrobe and remains a lasting favorite in alt fashion.  As a frequently re-visited theme in mainstream fashion you can rest assured that  lace, satin, and silk blouses with Victorian-esque ruffles, puffy sleeves, and a fitted silhouette can be easily found at virtually any major retailer or thrift shop.  Accessories are also an easy way to add some 19th century charm.  Try lace gloves (fingerless or fully-fashioned), cameo brooches, or strings of long pearls to accent your outfit.  If you don’t have the money to buy a bustle, try using a garter belt to gather up a plain, full length skirt for a can-can girl look. If possible, consider sewing your own for that dab of uniqueness.  As for the ultimate investment, contemplate purchasing a corset or a pair of button or granny boots.  Corsets (underbust or overbust) can be extremely versatile and an “instant outfit” in their own right when paired with an elegant skirt.  The right pair of vintage-looking boots can easily make the transition from office to club as well as add some warmth and personality to your look.  One of the best parts about Victorian fashion is its versatility and timelessness.  You can be sure that the gorgeous silk blouse you buy will now be just as stylish ten years from now as the day you bought it.

from the February Issue of Auxiliary Magazine

Auxiliary Magazine
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