26 April 2010

Faeries in the Bottom of my Garden

I have a confession to make, Fabulous Readers: I live a double life. Most of the time, I sport the slightly offbeat street style I've highlighted up until now. On weekends in the warmer months, though, I go off and play with the faeries!

I've featured a few pieces - mostly hand-dyed silk tank tops - from my friends David and Dorita, the immensely talented artists of Reyen Design Studios. Those aren't their signature product by any means, and barely highlight their incredible artistry. I'm lucky enough that they invite Fabulous Husband and me to attend various faerie-themed festivals with them. The first of this season is this weekend: the May Day Faerie Festival at Spoutwood Farm.

Faerie culture (no relation, by the way, to Fairy Kei, a pastel-hued 80s-inspired Japanese street style) means different things to different people. Some are inspired by books, movies, and art by creators like Jim Henson, Brian Froud, Amy Brown, and Charles de Lint; others are looking for a mystical, creative earth-based spirituality; some just like creating and wearing fantastic costumes, which often feature nature-inspired motifs, flowing, asymmetric cuts, and animal elements - up to and including prosthetic horns, wings, and tails.

There's a semi-serious side to all of this: it isn't just people wandering around in funny outfits. Environmentalism is a major concern (Spoutwood Farm is an organic CSA and ecology education center), and the gatherings attract - and support- a wide and varied array of independent artists, from textile artists to painters to jewelers to woodcarvers to soapmakers to musicians.

All of this is inspired by the various faerie myths that occur around the world. Every culture has its legends of spirits that live in wild places. We're not just talking Tinkerbell, either: pick up a copy of the original Brothers Grim fairy tales or Andrew Lang's fairy books if you want a hint of how terrifying faeries can be!

As a social theorist and fashion historian, I'm very interested in these festivals and people's attraction to them. Why faeries? And why portray them in the many and varied ways in which participants dress? Unlike re-enactment societies, there's no attempt to recapture a previous era: it's pure fantasy, albeit fantasy strongly informed by myth. Perhaps it's a yearning to escape the impersonal and mechanistic nature of modern society, to re-connect with the natural world? What is the significance of the sometimes over-the-top costumes?

There is, if not a full doctoral dissertation, at least a solid MA thesis in there for an interested student of modern alternative subcultures.

We're leaving Thursday, and will be incommunicado from that point until the end of the weekend. I know form prior experience that there is no such thing as a wireless connection in this particular faerieland! I will, however, try my hardest to get pictures of the weekend to post next week (Yeah, we know how well that worked last time, right?).

Until then, here's a few shots of me from a festival last year, for a visual point of reference:
faerie fashion, silkcloque halter, hair falls

faerie dancing
Silkcloque halter top, Reyen Design Studios
Dichroic glass tree pendant: Jenn Feldman Glass, remixed
Hair falls, self-made
photos courtesy of Doug Greene of Greene Lady Music

I'm more than happy to answer any and all questions left in the comments. For more pictures of faerie fashion, check out past years' slide shows from Spoutwood and Faerieworlds.


  1. What a fascinating post! It made me think how the outfits we wear every day can actually be tools that take us (both body and mind) to different dimensions of our existence. Clothing is never "just" clothing, and faerie fashion seems like a really interesting way of expanding our understanding of what we wear and why. :)

  2. So true about the nugget of a project for an MA. I perform at the Kansas City Renaissance Festival (yes, I'm that kind of geek) and Ren Faire can be subcultural in a somewhat similar way. Or maybe I only think that since our Ren Faire has a huge faerie contingent.

    Have super excellent fun on your trip!

  3. This is such an incredible look for you. Absolutely stunning!


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