The Season of the Witch

Selfie of me wearing Illamasqua's Pristine lippy.
Selfie of me wearing Illamasqua’s Pristine lippy.

So being a witch is in– even Urban Outfitters is getting in on the haute occult game, selling crystals and divination tools, usually the wares of the local, independent pagan or New Age shop.

This look is a simple resurrection, Stevie Nicks, but paired way down: 1970s Victoriana dresses in black, layers of jagged hemmed garments worn in an undefinited sihouette.  If you look like you just stepped out of your chicken-footed cottage, you’ve got it right.  It’s all the rage.  But what if the rage is you, and has always been? How do you ride the tide of fickle fashion when the High Street is cashing in on what you love? I say, keep doing it, and do it like you mean it.

A Polyvore Set featuring Feral Strumpet designs.
A Polyvore Set featuring Feral Strumpet designs.

The upside of all this is now that these trends have names–Dark Mori, Nu Goth, etc., I’m able to find my style sisters–like-minded souls on Instagram and Pinterest, mutual style inspirations and co-cacklers. Here are some witchy discoveries– recent and not-so-recent- that I’ve found whist searching the web for fellow darklings.

The Hermit card from the Wild Unknown Tarot by Kim Krans
The Hermit card from the Wild Unknown Tarot by Kim Krans

The Wild Unknown Tarot- She dresses like a witch, walks like a witch and even talks like a witch, but can she divine the signs? Herein we separate the crones from the drones.  The Wild Unknown Tarot is new to me, and the imagery resonates profoundly. Though I first learned the craft through Tarot, I often felt scolded by my Rider Wait training deck, and when I switched to the Golden Tarot, the feeling didn’t change.  I came to reading Runes years later.  They speak to me with more immediacy and appear as allies rather than ominous harbingers, as the Tarot often did. Still, when I saw this deck it rekindled my fondness for Tarot, simplifying the meanings and rooting them in the earth and nature.

Black Lippy in Pristine by Illamasqua.  Part of this trend is black lipstick, and though I have been a non-orthodox sort of goth most of my life I have shied away from this make up staple because I couldn’t find a black lippy with enough coverage and mixing my own out of eyeliner, eyeshadow and chapstick was unpleasant. So one of the benefits of this mainstreaming is that almost everyone is coming out with a black lippy formula.  I have tried many and so far Illamasqua’s Pristine is my favourite.  I do love this make up brand for its original formulas, many of which are supremely wearable and natural looking despite many of the OTT Instagram make up posts using this brand. I do love that they often use older women in their ad campaigns and a variety of face shapes and types of beauty.  They are cruelty free as well.

Image of A England Fotheringhay Castle polish by @lakodom on
Image of A England Fotheringhay Castle polish by @lakodom on

A England Polish in Fotheringhay Castle.  This is my newest obsession, this lichen-green polish with a mysterious scattered holo. I do love this brand, founded by designer Adina Bodana.  Her collections are inspired by English history, paintings and lore.  This particular colour is part of her new Elizabeth and Mary collection and is named for the final place of imprisonment of Mary, Queen of Scots, who was tried and executed in the castle. I love all the movement and depths in her polishes, but this colour is particularly magical. Once I was at the 18th century folly based on Stonehenge which is called the Druid’s Circle.  Moss and bracken have taken over the site giving it an ancient feel.  The site itself has a fascinating if somewhat disturbing history which I’ll save for another post.  But one day during a late summer visit I found deep in the shadows of stone some biolumensecent lichen– green glowing sequins worthy of an Arthur Machen story.  I have researched to find out what kind of life form I had seen, to no avail. It was indeed something from the Twilight realm of the fey. This polish is exactly the same colour.

swirlSwirl Clothing- Ok, I didn’t discover this company recently, but I have to give a shout out to my homegirl Sal and her clothing company.  She designs witch dresses in all sizes, including plus sizes. The simple shapes are perfect foundation pieces for a layered dark mori look, or a minimalist Nu Goth shape when paired with one of my rosary necklaces and perhaps a wide-brimmed hat. Sal has a brick and mortar shop in York as well as an online shop.  I wear her dresses almost every day.

How we adorn ourselves is our most immediate form of self-expression– it can be the most intimate descriptor we have of ourselves.  When fashion takes these shapes and ideas and sells them back to us, we have to keep playing and keeping things true to our own identities while supporting other independent, pagan, heathen and witch-friendly businesses.   What, if anything, in this current trend is inspiring you? What gems have you found?

Feature in the Artisan Issue of One&Other

One&Other, The Artisan Issue. Feral Strumpet is featured.
One&Other, The Artisan Issue. Feral Strumpet is featured.

I’m honoured to have my Tribal Hoop earrings included in the Artisan Issue of York’s One&Other magazine.

The Artisan Issue of One&Other, my Tribal Hoops are featured in the photo on the right.
The Artisan Issue of One&Other, my Tribal Hoops are featured in the photo on the right.

This issue is the second anniversary of this special magazine– it has lived in York about as long as I have. This little free bi-monthly magazine captures the soul of York– not an easy thing to do. Though the city is beautiful and full of history, the constant crowds of tourists can blur its essence.

The magazine captures what is going on, much in the way the LA Weekly did when I lived there, but One&Other is not only stylish and knowing, it’s got soul. Seeing the city through the loving lens of this magazine affirms my pride in living and working here.

Lovely fashion spread from the Artisan issue of One&Other
Lovely fashion spread from the Artisan issue of One&Other

When Alice Ostapjuk contacted me saying they wanted to use my Tribal Hoops in a photo shoot I was thrilled.

The Editorial Director, Vicky Parry says it best:

…We live in a walled city, one that has flourished on chocolate and attracts millions of tourists to bask in the shadows of its iconically-crafted buildings, to a modern labyrinth of eateries and crafts that bring us industry today…

…this issue pays homage to those that have passion; the people and projects that, like ourselves, were borne out of a hunger to create.

Thank you One&Other for the lovely feature– I’m proud to be included with the other artisans of York.

Wrestling with Angels

 Horse Rotorvator is my favourite Coil album.  Sometimes it is the only thing that can dispel the existential chill. The text is from Peter Lamborn Wilson’s Angels. It’s fair to say this song inspired my newest piece, a pin made of salvaged rhinestones and a highly detailed brass wing.

The angelic half-nelson– I think we’ve all been there. This trophy brooch is one of a kind.  (Though some have said that angels’ wings can grow back there is yet no forensic evidence of such phenomena.)

Or grasp the ocean with a span…

My building is on the right.  Taken with my mobile phone.
My building is on the right. Taken with my mobile phone.

I have a job in the very heart of the city, across the green of St. Paul’s Cathedral. This morning I sat alone on the steps of the cathedral, before the rush of commuters and tourists, listening to the slap of water on the steps. Bucket after soapy bucket the water coursed down, and the man who washes the steps of St. Pauls smiled at me.

My job isn’t very glamorous. There are moments where the monotony can get to you, and your life flashes before your eyes. You have no choice but to luxuriate in the emotional channel-surf/reverie. It’s almost like being high. Or you can look at it that way.

After work, I went to a birthday get-together for a dear friend of mine. The pub was a trendy place full of media professionals. All the people who showed up for the shindig were were fashion designers and fashion-industry media types. I had just come from work sporting my Marks and Spencer synthetic suit, my best attempt at faking a professional face. The men were wearing bespoke suits that cost more than I made in a month.

So I met the social challenge with gusto– I stared at the wall. I was happy the walls were entertaining– filled with posters, a rhino head and naked ladies embroidered on hankies in a faux naive style. I read with irony a green 70’s poster in a circus font:

Tis true my form is something odd, But blaming me is blaming God. Could I create myself anew, I would not fail in pleasing you. If I could reach from pole to pole, Or grasp the ocean with a span, I would be measured by the soul, The mind’s the standard of the man.

a poem attributed to Joseph Merrick, the “Elephant Man”.

I looked to my lap and was mortified: in this crowd of fashionistas, my fly was open.

A man sat between my friend and I and I decided I’d had enough of the freeze outs from the table; I introduced myself. He asked me what I did, which is the rudest and most suspect of questions a stranger can ask. I told him, I needed money so I got a job in the City. He persisted, “but what do you do.” I said I worked at (insert name of multinational investment banking firm here), and this impressed him. He rubbed his fingers and thumbs together in the universal “moneymoneymoney” sign. I told him the best part of my job was that I got to go to the Tate during my lunch break and I as mumbled something about Cy Twombly I could tell he wasn’t listening anymore. He said, “That doesn’t sound good. The best part of your job is your lunch?”

I think most of the people working in the city could say that, frankly. A lot can be fit in an hour. A lifetime if you try. I make every lunch a pilgrimage. I go to the Tate and visit the Francis Bacon paintings. I sit in the church yard of St. Pauls. I watch detritis go by in the dirty river from my lichen-covered perch on the bank. Tourist season is waning, and I take my lunch late. On gloomy hours like this afternoon, the city and I have bit of privacy. If I listen closely enough it whispers endearments like a stubborn, proud lover.

At lunch, I perch on the bank and watch tourists wobble over the bridge
At lunch, I perch on the bank and watch tourists wobble over the bridge

Putting the Primal in Primark

Image by on flickr
Image by on flickr

Yesterday I was in Ealing where a new Primark has opened. At first I didn’t realize this. I used to live in Ealing where there is a shopping centre which housed a library I would frequent. That library has since closed. When I first saw the huge crowd lounging on the benches in the centre of the outdoor mall I naively thought that maybe the library had opened again.

No one ever used that library. These people were here for Primark, which is a phenomenon. The clothes are dirt cheap– cheaper than most clothing in America, even. More recently the store has been upping its game style-wise, carrying runway inspired clothing with vintage prints and tailoring (if you can call it that). I admit I was very tempted by the 60’s print summer coats and the 80’s-40’s cocktail dresses, but shame won out.

I have never been a “saler”– someone who goes to sales to get a bargain on things they really don’t need. I have read about women fighting over things in sample sales, or adopting competitive shopping attitudes, and this behavior is encouraged in women’s magazines. There is something about the absurd prices in Primark– basically, you can afford EVERYTHING– that brings out a version of this behavior. Except that no one is really fighting with each other– it’s more a private fury. Shoppers wander the isles like mesmerized Augustus Gloops, filling their massive, Primark-provided mesh baskets with £2 tee shirts and £10 dresses.

If there is a true representation of London demographics it can be found in Primark, from the groups of muslim women in hijabs and chadors, Polish families, bored British teenagers and even white, middle-class mums with their heads down. The people leaving with huge bags are not poor– many are fashionistas who no doubt have closets full of clothing already.

Last month, Channel 4 cancelled the airing of the expose documentary, “The Devil Wears Primark” and one has to wonder what the claimed “editorial reasons” were. The opening of any Primark is an event. Could it be that Primark is so successful, that people seem to need this store so badly that they wouldn’t dare spoil the party?

Yesterday as I walked around the disheveled racks, dodging the aggressive, buggy-pushing mums and giggling teens, I saw a woman looking through the shoes while she breastfed her infant. In general I am not against breast feeding in public, but it is a bodily function and hey, the kid is still eating in a store. Does one really need to be shopping while doing this? But it must be the Primark spell cast on even a nursing mother. She of course doesn’t know about or can’t think too long on Primark’s history of child labor.

115 million children are trapped into forced labor in India. It has been documented that beaded clothing in Primark was sewn by children in refugee camps earning 60p a day. Rahila Gupta argues in the Guardian, “Maybe, as with messages on cigarette packets, we should pass legislation to ensure that every item produced in inhumane conditions comes with a warning.” Preferably the warning should be sewn on the outside of the garment.

I love clothing and fashion but it seems like every high street chain is guilty of sweat shop abuses, and this just affirms arguments bloggers like bitsandbobbins have been making, that the future of fashion is not in this cut-rate trend, but in using what you already have in new ways, making your own, and realizing that style is really a personal vision projected onto the self and the rest of the world.

Couture is Dead, Long Live Couture

Juliana Sissons Knitwear

Last night my friend Kate and I hit the V&A late– it was some kind of couture evening, so they had movies, wine, DJ’s and workshops. We went to a pattern cutting workshop taught by knitwear designer Juliana Sissons. She was a pattern cutter for Alexander McQueen. We learned how to make a pattern block and got started on making a corset pattern. She gave us handouts for making a 19th century corset and I hope to attempt making one.

She was a great teacher, but beyond that her knitwear designs were spectacular. This is one of her designs to the left. Here are her designs from London Fashion Week, 2006. Totally inspiring. It made me want to break out of the chunky knitting i’ve been doing and really dive into some lingerie inspired matrix-y sweaters.

We watched most of The Secret World of Haute Couture. The director’s persistence in gaining access to the highly guarded world of designers and their obscenely rich clients was admirable, and the film argued convincingly that this was a dying art, as even rich people are wearing pret-a-porter now. But the hideous women clients and the designers themselves seem to belong to such a rarefied and sychophantic world where starving was openly mentioned numerous times– it was hard to feel convinced by any of it. We found ourselves laughing openly at much of it. After watching countless rich ugly women in ugly clothes, we decided to go get some wine, listen to the DJs playing remixes of 80’s stuff like Bronski Beat and people watch. Maybe it’s time for couture to die, I thought while looking around at the street-wise fashion in the main hall. I love people watching at the V&A– it’s the one place in London where you can count on seeing people dressed in high spirits.

Hounslow Homegirl Does it Again

M.I.A.’s new video Boyz. She tried to get “every dancer with a name in Jamaica” in the video. I love her– her music, her 80’s radioactive tropicalismo aesthetic, everything. When I hear her music I think, that’s a London I love– screw the estate agent buckle-down, the “white girl respect your race” knuckleheads on the bus. Somewhere in her music I hear new London’s marching orders, burning up every St. George flag into a day-glo pixel kaleidescope.