04 May 2010

Off Playing With the Faeries

After three days at the May Day Fairie Festival at Spoutwood Farm, I spent all Monday in a half-awake daze. Here, though, are the pictures I promised of my outfits from all three days. This is pretty much an unabashed image dump, so I'm putting the pictures after a cut. Because there are so many pictures, I'm keeping the text and commentary to a minimum. I'll catch up with more analysis and examination of faerie festivals and clothing as the summer progresses - there are plenty more of these events on the horizon!

faerie costume, early autumn colors, astrolabe, silkcloque, Reyen Design Studios, Foxglove Fashions
Friday was the most temperate of the three days, allowing me to layer up a bit. I love combining asymmetrical, intentionally tattered-looking layers of Reyen Design Studios' vivid nature-inspired hues and luxurious fabrics.

silk velvet smoking jacket, silkcloque top, silk skirts

Almost everything I'm wearing is silk - at least three different flat weaves plus two types of velvet. The only exception are the harem pants, which are a fine, lightweight cotton.

fairy look, Friday outfit

With multiple layers of skirts plus a pair of very baggy harem pants, my silhouette gets very bottom-heavy.... around calf level. I think one of the things that distinguishes costume from everyday dress is a difference in silhouette, proportion, and visual balance. That's part of what creates the appearance of otherness.

 fairie fashion, altered proportions

The harem pants are functional as well, though. I got into the habit of wearing them while I was bellydancing: full, floaty skirts plus an elevated stage meant a bit too much exposure in certain places!

horns and flowers in hair

I usually wear some sort of headpiece or other decoration with my faerie outfits. It's another easy way to create the appearance of otherness, particularly in our hat-optional culture. I love these twisty gold horns: many European myths describe faerie-type creatures that appear human in every way except for one animal feature - usually horns, ears, or a tail. Yes, I know that there are plenty of other cultural associations with horns on the head, most negative. However, I'm depending on the situation to contextualize the imagery.

Saturday was hot. Swelteringly, blindingly hot. I need a good run-up on hot weather to appreciate it, especially if it comes with stifling humidity. As a result, by the time the light was right for taking pictures right before sunset, I felt grimy, frizzy, sticky and cranky - not at all like having my picture taken. Therefore, I only have two pictures from the day:

me and May Burnett, Custom Fairy Wings, fae of the air and earth, two types of faerie look, Saturday's outfit

Here I am with the incomparable May Burnett, creator of Custom Fairy Wings. We're showing two things: one is why midday pictures should be avoided. We're also a perfect example of the dichotomy in faerie dress culture: the ethereal and the earthy.

May's also highlighting the Victoriana aspect of faerie lore. Legends about faeries re-emerged in popularity during the late 1900s: there are numerous children's books and popular illustrations from that era featuring various types of faeries. There was even a well-known photographic hoax supposedly depicting winged faeries that captured the public imagination for some time.

copper ears by Marianne Bauer, face paint by Patricia Tamariz

I'm using the above-mentioned trope of an animal feature, this time a pair of copper ears made by the amazingly talented Marianne Bauer of Future Relics.

I've been fascinated recently with facial tattoos and skin decorations - not exactly an aesthetic in which I can indulge in my daily life! - so I took this as the ideal opportunity to have one of the wonderful body artists at the festival decorate me. I told Patricia Tamariz to create something that went with my outfit, and I was very happy with the gorgeous artistry I ended up wearing.

One of the appealing parts of face paint, as opposed to tattoo, is its ephemerality. There's no way to get through a day, especially a hot, schvitzy one, without rubbing, smearing, or sweating off some of the design - and even if you do, it's got to come off before you go to bed (for the sake of your skin and pillowcases both). With my training in museum curatorship and conservation, it's sometimes refreshing (and a little unsettling!) to encounter a work of art that can't be preserved, but instead must be experienced, enjoyed, and then let go.

Sunday's outfit, faerie bellydance style

Sunday was almost as hot and oppressive as Saturday - plus, the third day of three is always hard. You've been going full-tilt for two days, sleeping in less-than-ideal conditions, and eating food that stands up to cooler transport well. Looming at the end of the day is not the relaxed lounging around the campfire (or pilgrimage to town for supplies) of the previous two days, but breakdown, a frenzied period of packing up and disassembly, followed by the long drive home (or, for some vendors, the next show). Some of the attendees have been there the entire run of the show too and understand if your energy flags a bit - but some are coming for the first time, and you want them to have just as fun and interesting an experience as the first visitors through the gate Friday, when you were all fresh and perky. Everybody's outfits tend to be a bit more relaxed, though.

back view, harem pants, Central Asian belt

You can really see the harem pants that I use as a base layer here, plus the heavy Central Asian belt that I wear with all of these outfits. I wear it for several reasons: it creates a graceful transition between my bare back and the drawstring-waist skirts, which tend to give me that oh-so-attractive segmented worm look otherwise; my aforementioned history in bellydance; and the way it nicely integrates the two sheathed tools (scissors and knife) I keep on my belt into the rest of my outfit. This particular one is set with cut-up pieces of either bicycle or road reflector instead of gemstone cabochons or glass in most of the pendants, which I find utterly fascinating as commentary on cultural transfusion.

kneeling fairy, Jenn Feldman Glass pendants

Around my neck are my tree pendant from Jenn Feldman Glass plus a new addition - an adorable lampworked sugar skull. You can't see it too well in any of these photos, but it'll be showing up plenty in the future - I absolutely love it!

red and purple outfit, Organic Armor circlet, latex headpiece

The headpiece is an incredible fabric-and-latex piece from Organic Armor. It's got a lot of visual weight, but almost no physical mass - I was surprised to find I still had it on when we got home! I love the Geigeresque aesthetic and the way in which Paul, the artist, is pushing the boundaries of latex as a material and creating such beautiful, unexpected pieces with it.

harem pants, dance pose

Gosh, those harem pants are beyond comfy. I really need to find a way to work them into my street wardrobe. I think I could style them with my military-style jacket and a pair of sky-high heels. What do you think?


  1. Oh the colors and the details! Everything is so lovely! What a glorious weekend!

  2. Who took these pictures of you? If it was The Rob, then I am afraid you can no longer say he doesn't take good pictures of you. That second-to-last one is particularly gorgeous!

    Reading your blog always gets my creative juices going. We need to talk about doing a project that compliments your blog. A photographic book perhaps that explores fashion visually and academically.

    Of course, finding the time is always the issue....blargh.


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