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British pagan festival costumes are avant-garde high fashion surrealism
10:19 am



I am in love with this pagan portraiture series from photographer Henry Bourne—and frankly a little jealous! While we Americans are left with trace amounts of pagan iconography like Easter bunnies and Christmas trees (all retrofitted to modern Christianity, of course), in the UK, Celtic, Germanic, and early Christian rituals are still celebrated with weird costumes and face paint! I’m also pleasantly surprised to see that they’ve manage to avoid the hippie raver trappings of something like Burning Man—it all looks very “Leigh Bowery does the English countryside.” The amount of work that must go into these seems considerable.

The fascinating thing about these festivals and rituals is that people don’t really remember much about them, or even how old the traditions actually are. For example, the use of black face paint is said to be a reference to chimney sweeps—but that’s a somewhat modern profession—post-industrialization, actually. And one festival makes inexplicable use of reindeer antlers, but no one knows why. The whole thing seems to just be an excuse for (at least seemingly) normal people to do something avant-garde under cover of “tradition.” Bourne’s pagan series has been compiled into a book, Arcadia Britannica: A Modern British Folklore Portrait.


More after the jump…

Posted by Amber Frost | Leave a comment
On the rag: Sci-fi dress warns ‘I’m on my f*cking period’ with LED lights!
11:49 am



The menstrual hut—a tradition found in many cultures throughout history—is a fascinating phenomenon. During menses, a woman is sequestered in a structure away from the rest of the village; reasons for the practice range from religious ritual to hygiene superstition to merely an attempt to keep track of a woman’s cycle. Regardless of “progressive” attitudes towards fertility and periods, I’ve met many a feminist lady who sees the appeal. One, there’s something refreshing about public acknowledgment of menstruation, so often considered a shamefully private affair. Two, while no one I know would want to be forced into a hut whilst on the rag, sometimes a quiet space away from men is exactly what you want for a couple days out of the month! But is there a modern, liberatory alternative to the menstrual hut?

Enter the Fertility Dress!

Artist Elizabeth Tolson is working on a futuristic fashion line called Vessel, the pieces of which monitor the female body with indiscreet technology. The Fertility Dress is an LED-rigged frock that turns blue during ovulation, red during menstruation (duh), and white or yellow “to indicate hygiene,” and the Chastity Dress has an alarm the goes off when you’re groped. Tolson envisions her work as a fascist kind of Atwoodian sartorial control over women’s bodies (check out the awesome dystopian “commercial” for Vessel below), but frankly I’m most intrigued by the positive potential of wearing a dress that screams, “Hey, I’m on my fucking period right now.” Could it be hacked to combine the alarm with the yellow and red lights to deter men? Or would that just attract guys with “filthy and menstruating” fetishes? There are details to be worked out of course, but I think this project has promise!

Also, a very cute Judy Jetson thing going on! It’s like an adorable mobile menstrual hut! What’s not to love?

Via Design Faves

Posted by Amber Frost | Leave a comment
I’d kill for that dress: Gorgeously gothy mourning attire from 1815-1915
09:21 am



Evening dress suitable for late mourning, from around 1861
The Metropolitan Museum of Art recently announced a breathtaking new exhibit, “Death Becomes Her: A Century of Mourning Attire”—upper-class women’s widow couture, if you will. The clothing ranges from 1815 to 1915, when the death of a husband was met with strict social expectations among the English (and sometimes American) elite. During the Victorian era, a widow was expected to observe a year and a day of “full mourning,” during which she would refrain from “society” activities, veiled and wearing simple black dresses. After that, there was a nine-month period where she could drop the veil and incorporate small adornments, like jewelry or a trimmed hem. Then came “half-mourning,” where she could add grey, purple or a little white—this lasted three to six more months.

If a woman did not observe proper mourning etiquette (especially if she was still young and pretty), she would usually be considered not only gauche, but downright libidinous. Additionally, if the mourning attire was too flashy, she could also be judged as advertising her new singledom—scandalous! Widowers on the other hand, were just expected to wear dark clothes for an unofficial amount of time, and they could remarry in as little as a few months without fear of judgement.

If you can’t make it to the Met, you’re in luck! Almost all of their archives are searchable online, and I have compiled an exhibit for you right here. I even added some pieces that aren’t on display, including a dress worn by Queen Victoria herself. Kind of makes you long for the days when people died from a seasonal flu, huh?

1870, with veil

1880, not on view
More after the jump…

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After punk: ‘78-‘87 London Youth’ is my new fashion lookbook
12:38 pm


New Romantic

Sacrosanct, 1986
The range of punk aesthetics is pretty firmly rooted in the brain of any fan, even for the most hopeless of fashion victims. The era just after its zeitgeist however is much hazier—we seem to recall only a loose amalgam of New Wave and post-punk bric-a-brac. Indeed subculture fashion became more diffuse, meandering and harder to pin down, but Derek Ridgers’ new book, 78-87 London Youth is a great photo account of a rich and creative time for underground style that often goes overlooked in the shadow of its (ironically) more uniform punk predecessor.

There’s a few famous faces, including a cherubic Hamish Bowles, but it’s largely anonymous faces that entrance you. You see proto-club kids, luxury goth, high femme skinheads, Norma Desmond-David Bowie hybrids and (my personal favorite) the New Romantic style virtually unknown in the US, but for Boy George and that dashing post-apocalyptic gentleman, Adam Ant. Can we have a comeback? I think I still have my marching band uniform jacket from high school!

Leicester Square, 1982

Hamish Bowles at Café De Paris, 1986

Joshua, Camden Place, 1982
More photos after the jump…

Posted by Amber Frost | Leave a comment
‘My Imaginary Well-Dressed Toddler Daughter,’ a brilliant response to children’s high fashion
10:46 am



child models
“The only thing Quinoa likes to rescue more than puppies are children that shop for clothes at Wal-Mart.”

Pinterest exists outside my purview of femininity. A large part of that is (admittedly) my own laziness. Scrapbooking your lifestyle aspirations requires the drive to parse through a never-ending well of images, constructing and curating your own vision. It also requires… aspirations, which I rarely have.

I’m not crafty in the slightest, nor do I wish to acquire those skills. I enjoy good food, and even looking at the ambitious creations of others, but the idea of emulating a recipe fills me with anxiety.  I even like clothes and fashion, but I prefer not to gaze longingly at stuff I can’t afford, and frankly, most photo editorials leave me bored or annoyed.

But finally, finally, I have found a Pinterest that speaks to my soul (or whatever it is I have instead). “My Imaginary Well-Dressed Toddler Daughter” is the creation of some brilliant mind who is well-versed in the ludicrousness of the children’s fashion idiom. If couture is silly, kiddie couture is insane, and whoever made this board hit the nail on the head with captions and photos about her imaginary daughter, “Quinoa”) (and sometimes her bff, “Chevron.”)
child model
“One time when Quinoa and I got separated in a busy train station, she thankfully remembered our safety training: stay in one place, look spectacular, and don’t talk to poor people.”
More from My Imaginary Well-Dressed Toddler Daughter after the jump…

Posted by Amber Frost | Leave a comment
Subverting American Apparel: an interview with the amazing Nancy Upton

You might have seen the name Nancy Upton trending online in the last few days. After taking offence at the language in a recent talent-hunt campaign by American Apparel (a company whose image is already a source of much controversy, and who are looking for a plus-size model to advertise their new range), Nancy decided to do some satirical beauty shots of herself sexily consuming food and enter them into the contest. Well, the photos came out very well and have proved wildly popular with the public, who have voted Nancy into first place in the competition (even though she has stated that she would not accept the prize if the judges chose her to win). 

All in all this is a pretty awesome story, which touches on female sexual empowerment, body image, sexist corporate branding and the acceptability of sizeism within the mainstream. I sent Nancy some brief questions for Dangerous Minds, and she was kind enough to answer them in some detail:

How did you feel about American Apparel before their “plus size” competition? What was it about this particular campaign that made you want to enter?

I feel like they’ve always gone above and beyond other companies in objectifying women. Basically it was the fact that they were trying to take advantage of a new market but make it seem like they were doing people a favor. I answered this a bit with my Daily Beast article.

“The company was co-opting the mantra of plus-size empowerment and glazing it with its unmistakable brand of female objectification. The puns, the insulting, giggly tones, and the over-used euphemisms for fat that were scattered throughout the campaign’s solicitation began to crystalize an opinion in my mind.
American Apparel was going to try to use one fat girl as a symbol of apology and acceptance to a demographic it had long insisted on ignoring, while simultaneously having that girl (and a thousand other girls) shill their products.”



What’s your reaction to being voted no. 1 by the public?

Complete and utter shock. I never expected to actually be accepted into the contest, and I certainly never expected for people (other than friends who knew what I was doing and why I was doing it) to want me to win.

You’ve taken a bit of flack for supposedly insulting large women with the pics - how do you respond to that?

It’s actually very upsetting for me to hear from women that they feel insulted by what I did. I feel like, being a plus-sized woman myself, it should be very apparent that the photos are done to mock people who are the ones judging overweight men and women. Also, that they were done in the spirit of silly shenanigans and having fun being yourself. I feel like watching a plus-sized model get brutally airbrushed or only shot from one specific, slimming angle for an ad campaign is way more insulting. It’s interesting that by insulting a company that has a history of negativity towards women, I’ve managed to insult the same women the company marginalizes.

You have already said that if you do win you wouldn’t accept the prize - but wouldn’t it be better if you did?

Would it be better? I’m not sure. I wouldn’t appear for American Apparel because I disagree with their business practices, specifically their system of advertising. I feel like putting your face on a product or brand you can’t actually get behind is pretty gross. I’m also not sure it would send a great message. I feel like I’ve had an opportunity to make a statement about standing up (or at least satirizing) for what you believe in, and if I turned around and accepted a job from AA, that statement would be negated to a degree.

Do you have any favourite other models in the comp you think should win?

I’m not going to play favorites, but I definitely think the person chosen should ACTUALLY be unknown, especially since there’s no monetary compensation. Some of the women in the competition not only had modeling experience, but are actually signed with agencies. I’ve always been under the impression that once you have representation, you should avoid contests and stunts like this. But what the hell do I know about the world of modeling?

What do you think as to how large people are treated in mainstream culture and fashion in general, and is there anything anyone can do to affect this?

I feel like it’s a dialogue/presence that is always in a flux between shrinking and expanding. For every “fat best friend” throw away character on television, we get one who is brilliantly written and portrayed. Increasingly we see different shapes and looks being incorporated into major ad campaigns and runway work. Are large people treated well across the board? No. Has their level of representation and respect grown from where it was 10 years ago? Yes.

I think people are becoming more and more outspoken about the role of the plus-sized model in fashion, as well as in other aspects of entertainment and art. If we continue to keep those lines of communication open and express our desires directly and dynamically, change will happen.

Are there any designers/labels/outlets you think DO respect plus size people?

I think some designers have cuts that are more generous or have become more generous as time has gone on. Diane Von Furstenberg, for example. I believe they go up to a 14 now, as does Kate Spade, which is interesting considering their clothing line isn’t even the company’s main selling point.

I’m a big fan of the Dove campaigns. They’re very natural and don’t feel patronizing or cheap. They’re honest, simple and encourage individuality. The Gentlewoman had a great article on Adele earlier this year, and I’m a big fan of the way they profile strong, interesting women in their magazine. Target has a great selection of sizes and, I swear, every time I walk in there, the clothes are better and better.

And finally the photographs are beautiful - can you tell us more about the photographer?

Shannon Skloss, the magnificent. She has a website that will be launching soon, but for now you can find her business page on Facebook. She’s incredibly funny, vibrant and talented. We had so much fun on the shoot, and her work is just outstanding. We were introduced through a mutual friend when I needed some headshots done a few months ago, and I’m so glad it worked out that way.

Voting has now closed on the American Apparel “Next Big Thing” campaign, though we await with interest any kind of statement from the company. Shannon Skloss’ Facebook photography page is here.


Posted by Niall O'Conghaile | Leave a comment
So that makes you a Square: In defense of ‘The Hipster’

There has been a lot of dropping of the H-Bomb here lately, whether it be in relation to riots at SXSW, or criticism of The Stone Roses. The word “hipster” has gone from vaguely meaning “poseur” to being a catch all term to describe anyone with different tastes to ourselves. I think it was time I addressed the matter head on. I’m not going to try and define what a “hipster” is here - if you need a crash course, I’ll point you in the direction of the Wikipedia “Hipster (contemporary subculture)” page, which is surprisingly on-point. I don’t even need to prove to you that the term is media fabrication used to hate on the young - though I probably will. No. I just want to say “Enough! If you going to call someone a hipster as an insult, then you should know that makes you a square.”

The first article I ever read on the subject of “hipsters” was Douglas Haddow Adbusters’ piece “Hipster - The Dead End Of Western Civilsation” from 2008. The article’s shrieking headline and hyperbolic tone should be a giveaway to the author’s intentions, but the fourth and fifth parts of the essay really show the hypocrisy involved. Haddow is at a party taking photos, yet manages to complain about both the other photographers at the same party AND the kids who want their photos taken. It’s genius! And herein lies the rub - the people doing the complaining themselves fit into the neat little bracket they have described. We have cultural commentators and arbiters of previously obscure tastes moaning about the now more widespread acceptance of those tastes. We have opinionistas offering up opinions on why we should hate other opinionistas. Photobloggers bitching about other photobloggers. Fixed gear cyclists who tell us only THEY can ride bikes properly.

Using WIki as a guide, it is possible to trace how this meme caught on in the media, and came to be some sort of established fact . It was not the first time the term was used this way, and “hipster” was not completely pejorative when it re-emerged in the last decade, but articles like Tim Walker’s “Meet The Global Scenester” re-inforce the idea that “hipster” was a stick used by cultural commentators to beat a perceived threat to their roles. There was no talk of the positive elements of the emerging youth culture, a culture these articles sought to define. It felt like it was a backlash waiting for an actual scene to happen. For a time in the early ‘90s, the UK music press lumped shoegaze bands together as “The Scene That Celebrates Itself” - anti-hipster chroniclers could now just as easily be labelled “The Scene That Berates Itself”. 

Originally posted on 04/08/11.

After the jump, the relation of irony and authenticity to fashion and music, new media and new cultural norms versus old school cool, and John Peel as the ultimate hipster.

Posted by Niall O'Conghaile | Leave a comment
Brush up on your gaydar
12:28 pm


Hal Fischer
Gay Semiotics



These images are from photographer Hal Fischer’s helpful 1977 guide Gay Semiotics.


(via WOW Report)

Posted by Tara McGinley | Leave a comment
London in the sixties: 2 groovy short films on fashion and cafe culture

Look At Life were a series of short documentary films produced in the 1960s by the Rank Organization. They were shown in British movie theaters before the main attraction. Shot in vibrant color, Look At Life often focused on ‘Swinging London’.

In these two clips we get a peek into the King’s Road fashion scene and hip London coffeehouses. Groovy.


Posted by Marc Campbell | Leave a comment
Is that a hit record in your pocket or are you just happy to see me?

In 1967 Philco introduced a 3 7/8 inches in diameter vinyl disc they called ‘Hip Pocket Records.’ They had a ‘hit’ song on each side and sold for 69 cents. Is this not groovy?

How did I miss this back in the sixties? As a kid, I would have loved this. In fact, I want some now.
More photos after the jump…

Posted by Marc Campbell | Leave a comment
New Kenneth Anger short film for Italian fashion house Missoni

Rather astonishing news from the fashion and film world. Dangerous Minds’ fave filmmaker Kenneth Anger has released a two-and-a-half-minute film dealing with the fall/winter collection of the Varese-based house of Missoni, produced by filmmaker/Anger manager/Dangerous Minds pal Brian Butler and scored by French composer Koudlam.

Vogue Italia‘s Mariuccia Casadio provides some details:

A man of few words, this fascinating former actor who still takes care of his appearance first filmed the settings for his film “Missoni”: mostly locations near bodies of water in the Sumirago countryside and part of Rosita and Ottavio’s garden. For the indoor sequences, he built a set in the Council Room of the Sumirago Town Hall, a basement room with a vaulted ceiling. The mood of the film and the poses and movements of Margherita, Jennifer, Angela, Rosita, Ottavio, Ottavio Jr. and all other [Missoni] family members are reminiscent of Sergei Parajanov’s “The Color of Pomegranates”, a 1968 film that inspired Anger to create his Chinese box-style storyboard.

Do yourself a favor and go full-screen with this one. And if you’re unfortunate enough to not be familiar with Anger, do yourself another favor and click one or both of the links below. You’ll be glad you did.

Get: The Films of Kenneth Anger Vol. 1 [DVD]
Get: The Films of Kenneth Anger Vol. 2 [DVD]
Thanks to Ian Raikow for the heads-up!

Posted by Ron Nachmann | Leave a comment