New Zealand Burlesque Festival 2013: Evening Done Right

This October, I went to the New Zealand Burlesque Festival. I spent most of my time enjoying the events, performances, workshops, and vendors. Sunday night, for the Burlesque Mixer, I got my camera out to capture some of the event’s style. With the holiday party season coming up, these photos are great examples of successful classy-yet-sexy evening wear for men and women.

Fashion magazines layer item upon item into “evening out” ensembles. And Wellington, the same week as the festival, was full of World of Wearable Art lady visitors out on an urban spree. You could pick out the out of towners by their big vivid bags, colorful necklaces, freshly coiffed hair, and other accessories. Bless! The burlesque performers and lovers, in contrast, seemed to have followed the old dictum of getting dressed and then removing an accessory to avoid overdoing it.

I didn’t notice a single pair of fishnet stockings or seamed stockings all evening. Note in the photos that jewelry and bags are minimal, throats and arms curve unhindered, shoes have clean lines. The clothes fitted, and undergarments were on the job. Some people wore cotton retro dresses on the more casual side of cocktail, and others wore full evening dress. There were many items with one special standout – one guy wore silver leather sneakers, some men and women had vivid pink or blue hair. And when I was editing these pictures, I only had to tone down one shiny forehead: women were clean and powdered and men were immaculate.  BonitaDangerDollandRubyRuinationBonita Danger Doll (left) and Queen of the Festival Ruby Ruination (right). What I like about each of them is that they’ve each got one complex visual item – Bonita’s leopard dress, Ruby’s multicolored hair topped with her tiara – and everything else is very simple.

SalaciousSugar-ESSSalacious Sugar shows us the value of perfect, perfect fit and unusual colors.

ScarlettDelight-ESSScarlett Delight has brought in a vintage accessory seamlessly. I also like the fluid drape of her dress – far more flattering than the stiff taffeta lampshades that endure in formal wear.

MissRedd-ESSNot going to lie: satin is a difficult fabric to wear. MisRed Delicious, one of the core festival organizers, makes it work with, again, distinguished fit.

RachelRougeandBelle-ESSTwo evening classics – an LBD and black-and-red- are refreshed by Rachel Rouge and Miss La Belle. Vintage accessories add light and texture. They both have structured and complex hair, and Rachel’s paler makeup is a fresh contrast against the dress.

HoneySuckle-ESSSometimes evening is the time to try a trend – Honey Suckle’s blonde-and-pink hair sets off her blush ensemble. Her dress has a lot going on, so her hair and accessories stay simple. And there’s pale makeup again.

DliciaMinx-ESSAnother black dress ensemble that has me admiring the sensuous, balanced revealed flesh. It sounds like I’m about to pounce on D’Licia Minx, doesn’t it? But these proportions are the definition of tastefully sexy – she has the 40% ratio just right.

SharpDressedMen-ESSSharp dressed men. Mmmm hmmm. Note how our redheaded friend has chosen lighter garments and shoes.

FlicCaracouandFriend-ESS  Flic Caracou and her friend interpret two contemporary evening frocks the same way, with dark shoes and stockings. It’s more modest, so if you’re a bit shy, take note.

FrenchieKissandJettAdore-ESSTwo of the stars of the weekend, Frenchie Kiss and Jett Adore. Jett is bringing the quirky circus to town – you can tell he’s someone special who also has a sense of humor. And why does Frenchie look so very good? Apart from that million-watt smile, immaculate grooming and quality fabrics add to her aura of perfection.

SadieandVelvetWhip-ESSWhat happens when two women – me and The Velvet Whip – wear green sequins? We admire each other’s excellent taste, of course.

NZBF2013CrowdA whole lot of party happened upstairs! This group shot happened in the middle of the festivities. By the end of the evening, everyone who came in stilettos was sitting on the floor. What stands out in this picture? Vivid hair, lighter frocks, shiny accessories and fabrics, and gray suiting.


Out in the Square 2013, Post I: Burlesque and Retro

Photo post – the Rainbow Troupe’s second performance, and some burlesque and retro style, all at Wellington’s 2013 Out in the Square GLBQT pride day.

Just a hunka' hunka' burnin' love

Miss Honey Suckle as lady Elvis rocked our socks and shook her famous “assels”.

Note the incredible wind bowing down the trees.

Sharing a kiss behind the balloon bunches, right before letting them fly to the skies! Cleverly, they’re in the reverse rainbow order of the backdrop behind them, so they stand out brilliantly.

The butches ranged from boyishly cute to serious swagger!

This year we had both femme beauties and butchy babes for a lighthearted burlesque vision of the 1950s as they should have been.

Yes, I coordinated/produced the Rainbow Troupe again for 2013, with serious production support from Winnie Chester. And what a troupe it was: Salacious Sugar, The Velvet Whip, Atomic Ruby, Miss La Belle, Flic Caracou, Ula Vulk, The Deity Dollicious, and The Purple Rose were our living rainbow, and we had a guest appearance from lady Elvis brought to us by Miss Honey Suckle. More than a few people came by Civic Square especially to see the performance. Thanks to the whole Out in the Square team for making it go like buttah!

And now for some additional glimpses of burlesque and retro style from this fabulous afternoon of fabulosity:

Can I be her when I grow up?

This is my favorite picture of the entire day – a perfect lady. Like the background says, “LOVE!”

Red gold and green!

This stunning burlesque chanteuse shared the stage with us. We’ll be seeing more of her in Wellington!

Not only are they so cute, they're color coordinated

Young volunteers mixing up vintage plus. They were staffing one of several vintage clothing booths – some real bargains out there.

Love the bowler

Edgy burlesque performer Candy Thorne livens up a windy Wellington day.

Bow chicka bow bow!

Miss La Belle, burlesque star and teacher, relaxing after her first performance of the year.

Look out for Post #2 with more great style and atmosphere shots!

This lady, by the way, is magnificently tall

Steampunk Style Everyday…As Seen At Aethercon

One of the delights of Aethercon was seeing other people who had steampunk as a part of their everyday wardrobes. Here’s some inspiring highlights.


Loved loved loved this girl. A good deal of her ensemble came from Covent Garden in London, and she asserts that she dresses like this all the time.

We should have gears and dials on our everyday handbags but only if they functionSteampunk with a piratical flair. Remove the costume-flair pennants and perhaps swap out the blouse, and this ensemble of boots-skirt-military jacket-Jolly Rogers can board and sink us three seasons a year.

It's all going on hereThe tailored layers, the textures, the accessories – even if she left the silver-topped cane at home, she’s ready for high tea anywhere.

This lady, by the way, is magnificently tallCream, white, taupe, and black are layered together deliciously – and note her crocodile handbag on the floor!

This is what I'm talking about, mmm hmmm

She kindly let me take a close-up of her bejeweled, manicured hands and her vintage jade, gold, and pearl sword brooch.

Note the steampunk ensemble in the background

And finally, this irresistible moment courtesy of BodyFX. An everyday look for an alternative steampunk universe. What we can take from it is that great toast-turquoise-and-gold color scheme.

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World of Wearable Arts III: More Audience Style

Now for the second installment of my WOW 2012 attendee style shots. People who came in groups tended to come in equally-dressed-up groups. What really knocked me out was  seeing mother/daughter pairs and trios, and even entire families, dressed to the nines.

Perfect dressy casual, IMHOOn the left, green tones with a shot of orange; on the right, a fuchsia flash who lit up the evening.

"Okay, we're going to coordinate for a full range of hemlines, got it?"Three friends…one color palette…three different ways!

Of course the hat has to match

Blue Lady’s amazing coat is made of fluffy, silky dyed sheepskin, and I loved her friend’s overall elegance.

Family group

Multigenerational trio brings it three different ways.

I wish I was related to them, look at those smilesE is for EXCELLENT – two totally different richly hued looks.

Going for glamThis glamorous quartet had plenty of sparkle laced into their black garments. The red dress really stands out in the crowd!

Notice the ASSEMBLAGE OF GIANT GEMSTONES on the second lady from the leftI don’t even know where to begin with this fab family. So amazing.

Can't sleep, clown purse will eat meWith all of this going on, would you believe that it was the center lady’s hat that caught my eye first? I think she’s my favorite out of everyone.

For everyone I got a photo of, there were two that “got away”, so splendid and busy was the crowd. And I certainly learned a lot, including:

  • Stuff about the new camera (will be tightening up focus especially.)
  • Elaborate hair and sparkly black catch the eye in real life, but purses, shoes, and colors stand out more in photos.
  • Having burlesque content on my blog makes it “risque”. Goodness! I had someone say not to a picture on this basis.
  • Business cards. I will have blog business cards in the near future.
  • People are really wonderful, thank you everyone!
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World of Wearable Arts II: Show Audience Style

A huge part of the fun of World of Wearable Arts is what Wellingtonians themselves like to wear to the show. I went down there with my camera and snapped away. I got so many shots that I’m splitting them into two posts. This one is individuals and couples, and the next one is groups and families.

Looking at the show attendees, I saw black, black, and more black, with very few florals, which are supposed to be in – instead, more than a few all-white looks, and white or orange coats. Lots of that orange, from natural to fluorescent. Instead of a lot of vivid lips – Wellingtonians don’t, as a rule, wear heavy lipstick – I saw pale lips and silver-sparkled eyes (glitter, shadow, body-painting-level art). Many of the best-dressed sauntered in very early to take advantage of catered packages and, perhaps, a cocktail night or something. I missed some lookers while I was checking with event security. Ah, well.

This super-fresh redhead built on classic black with shots of color; her glasses were black and white harlequin. Note the shoes!

The only picture I took indoors – she’s so luxurious yet comfortable, with the glorious textiles and the suede boots.

Sweeping motion with his long silk skirt, which caught the wind, and check out the vivid jewelry.

More vivid color in the night with this caped crusader.

This designer made her ravishing silk outfit herself. She’ll be launching a children’s clothing line soon, she says.

The lady in this well-dressed pair teaches costume at the South Seas Film School.

I just adore men in tuxedos, and the striking lady is one of the WOW designers. I’ve just spent half an hour trying to Google her sv-intense name, to no avail.

A professional photographer makes everything look special! Thanks, Toya at Digitalpix!
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I got dressed for…a photo shoot

Trying something new here, a “what I wore” post.

A professional photographer makes everything look special! Thanks, Toya at Digitalpix!

Navy washed silk shirt with 3/4 balloon sleeves, navy skinny jeans, rich brown boots. Easy on, easy off, looking nice for the makeup artist.

This just happened to be what I was wearing on the day of the photo shoot where my sequined dress was captured in all its glory. The vintage bag is a fun new find that happened to go with the comfy boots – I begged the photographers for a candid with the bag, and this is the result! Dressing on shoot day, I wanted comfortable shoes, to rest my feet after the shoot’s high heels, and to be agile while helping the photographers carry backdrops and props (everyone helped out). I  wore a neutral button-down top, the best thing to don for a professional makeup session. Usually I’d add a necklace or bracelet, even a scarf – the neutral blue palette just begs for it. But no accessories meant less things to mislay at the shoot. As a last note of glamour, my actual hair had been bundled under a wig for the shoot itself, and was still in frizzy shock.

I could list the brands, but…jeez, do you WANT to know the brands? Seriously, do you?

Next one of these will be a candid shot with the New Camera, so it won’t be professional, but it will be far better than recent blurriness. More soon!

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Style at NetHui

Two weeks ago, I came back from a stellar event, the NetHui conference. It was a three-day dialogue about the Internet in NZ involving secondary school students, MPs, judges, and hackers. Amongst the ceaseless conversations with many of NZ’s best and brightest, I noted that many of my fellow females at NetHui were very stylish indeed. Here’s a gallery of some of the great looks.

One of the most moving moments at NetHui was brought to us by Computers in Homes. A young woman who’d had a difficult life explained how being trusted with a computer in her abode, and increasing her confidence and employability by learning how to use it, had changed her life. So if you are looking for a cause to support, one that makes a difference to women and children by empowering them, Computers in Homes is a great choice.

I went to the other side of the planet to get away from this. Nothin' personal, Lisa.

Escape From The Prepicenter

I went to the other side of the planet to get away from this. Nothin' personal, Lisa.

True Prep authors Lisa Birnbach and Chip Kidd walk the preppy walk.

Living in New Zealand after being brought up in New England, I am occasionally asked to explain this thing called “preppy.”And I am reminded of how happy I was, myself, to leave preppy style behind.

From the ages of seven to eighteen, my home was a small town just bordering New Haven, CT. New Haven is the demarcation line between NYC suburbs and “real New England”, as indicated by my family’s bitter inter-sibling rift between being New York Yankees fans and Red Sox fans.  My svelte British mom liked New Haven’s Georgian colonial flavor, the brick and shale and clapboard buildings, the streamlined, classic clothes – the look called preppy that is well described here as “British inspired New England styling“. J. Press, the Yale Co-Op (which was its own small department store with in-house clothing brands until the 1990s), and Laura Ashley were just the thing for the tennis lessons and beach club visits.

Today, preppy styles have been given slimline makeovers and an ironic wink, and there are lots of preppy aficionados – even the Preppy Handbook has been updated. The web page for that update, True Prep, is a preppy primer. Pastels, madras, and tailoring take over the streets of Nantucket in the summer.  On the Boston sidewalks, every other person is preppy, and the look leaks down all the way to Washington D.C. According to True Prep, there are now new-prep variants across the country, from Lily Pulitzer southern belles to dignified Northwestern polarfleece. It seems easier for men, somehow, and easier to subvert today (if you’re read right). Lisa Birnbaum’s witty interview here sums up the subdued ethos of preppiness very well. “Grey and navy,  navy and grey, pink and navy…”

Pastels. For days.

All well and good. For me, as a teenager in the 80s, before the ironic makeover, preppy style in its 80s apotheosis made me think I hated clothes.

I took after my dad’s side of the family physically, with an Eastern European chassis. My cheeks, hips, chest – everything, really – curved. My hair waved and tousled, neither preppy straight nor 80s full, in the years before straighteners. I tried to be a hip ’80s New England teen. Disastrously. Shoelaces with hearts on them (mine had frogs, so wrong), a Ralph Lauren polo, and a Le Sportsac bag. L.L. Bean snow boots in season. A Laura Ashley dress for everyone else’s bar and bat mitzvahs when I was 13. But the pinks and blues and boxiness of 80s wear in New England meant that clothes were just another way for me to be a dork – until I discovered vintage clothing.

Ah, those 80s vintage clothing stores, full of lost treasures. Whatever happened to the burnt-orange 60s evening gown I picked up for a song? The quasi-Chanel 50s suit that even my mom agreed was a good idea? I still have a few pieces of Victoriana from those days, and a retro 40s tilt topper that has since done duty on many a model’s head.

The next step in my style evolution was leaving New England. I relocated to the Philadelphia area. Yes, preppies still roamed, herding onto the Paoli Local R5 commuter train in beige trench coats.  But it wasn’t mandatory. Philadelphia Freedom meant never having to wear a polo shirt again. In 1990, I bought a leather jacket on South Street and never looked back. Henceforth it was all admiring ladies in church hats, Mummers, and clothes from Zipperhead. I spent the 90s after work in sunflower sundresses and boots, polka-dot hot pants, leopard-print leggings from Contempo Casuals, and slinky oddments from the $20 sale bin at Betsey Johnson.  Life got interesting to match the clothes – one memorable evening, I got smuggled into a voguing ball – though I never made it to one of Henri David’s Halloween balls. I’m thinking about the clothes now, but at the time, they were almost incidental, so much was going on.

And then, at 28, I moved to New Zealand…


Reindeer games, anyone?

A Burlesque Christmas

On December 3rd, I went to the Christmas party for Miss La Belle’s House of Burlesque. Here’s some style shots from the festivities!

Reindeer games, anyone?Atomic Ruby, or, as we called her for the night, “Jessica Reindeer.”

A Christmas cracker, she isFanciforia Foxglove in seasonal crimson and green!

Such a lady!The delightful Delicia Minx, elegant for evening.

More lovely than a summer's dayPenny Pins shares a vintage find with us.

Absolutely ravishing, dahlingScarlett DeLight has the best champagne smile!

This blonde beauty is ready for the earth to moveHoney Suckle is as smart as she is beautiful – she picked out those particular shoes after a 5.+ Richter earthquake rattled Wellington earlier that night. “How high do YOU want your heels to be in a quake?”

A quiet moment...beautiful on the inside, tooPossibly my favorite image of the evening: Busty la Belle, having a sweetly pensive moment before performing. What’s under that delicious vintage robe? You had to be there to see it.

Suzanne Tamaki and her daughter modelling Tamaki's designs.
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Style at the Maori Art Show

This weekend, a friend and I went to the Maori Art Market, and we saw some serious style in the crowd. Men were peacocking with tailored coats incorporating Maori fabric, custom-tailored vests, and heirloom jade and bone jewelry. There was a fashion show, and a display by this woman artist shown below.

Suzanne Tamaki and her daughter modelling Tamaki's designs.Artist and designer Suzanne Tamaki and her daughter were head to toe in Tamaki’s designs, including her silk tie belt-wraps and quasi-Victorian jackets and top hats. In the background, “Blankets for sale – WE trade for land, beads, or guns” is embroidered on wool, stabbing at colonial land-grabbing via the needle. The pair are posed in front of Tamaki’s stunning photograph For Maori, For Sure, with its Maori seamstress about to reclaim all the flags – click here for a full view.

Here’s more of Tamaki’s deliciously deconstructed work – blanket labels are incorporated into the outfit on the left.

Tamaki's wearable art.

Also, seen in the crowd, this Pakeha lady had a vivid orange jacket that I loved – she moved among the artworks like a piece of art herself.

Hot jacket, lady!

There were two women wearing the moko who I wanted to photograph -  I think the women’s moko tattoos are attractive and stylish, and their outfits set off their moko like the tattoos were heirloom jewelry – both jewelry and moko tattoos are taonga, treasures. But…I felt shy. There’s been controversy about fashion houses appropriating Maori tattoo imagery. And I note that Maori-generated pages online about ta moko that discuss women’s moko do not include images! So, if you see a lady with a moko in real life, appreciate that you’ve had a glimpse of a taonga.