Thursday, June 28, 2012

Clothing and Culture: On Spending a Day Hanging Out With People in Bunads

I went to a wedding this past weekend, and it was... different.

My friend's now-husband is Norwegian. His mother emigrated from Norway, his parents make their living in large part by selling Norwegian folk art of the carving variety. He's Norwegian. And, as such, he decided that he wanted to be married in a bunad, whatever else happened in the wedding. In the end, their wedding's visual theme was heavily influenced by Norwegian folk culture, right down to the invitations instruction to wear a bunad if we had them. The wedding party wore bunads, and they wanted some of the guests to, if they were able.

Well, it turns out that I had one at my disposal, so long as I didn't mind borrowing it from my grandmother, and the bride was thrilled at the idea that someone from her side would be able to participate actively in that part of the wedding.

For those of you who are unfamiliar, "bunad" is the umbrella term for the various traditional costumes from Norway. They vary region-to-region, and the wearer has the right to wear the clothing from certain areas depending on familial and marriage connections. Here are just a few examples:

L√łken-costume, which is not a traditional bunad but has some similar design elements
Bunads from Telemark
The lovely lady who runs The Random Lolita in her bunad
So I visited my grandmother and tried on each of her three (yeah, three) bunads. The first two didn't fit at all, unfortunately, and would have required a lot of alteration to fit over my busty frame. The third, though, a plain blue and red number purchased in Wisconsin, fit perfectly without a bit of alteration. It was like it was meant to be. My grandmother was absolutely thrilled that her granddaughter was wearing her bunad and getting involved in Norwegian culture, and I was just glad that I wouldn't have to do ample tailoring to get it to fit over the frontal units. (Pictures of me in the bunad are forthcoming; my camera didn't work, but the bride's family is putting together a CD of photos from the event)

So, the day of the wedding came, and I got dressed. At first I was worried. I wasn't worried about how I looked or whether or not I was "wearing it right," but simply about the environmental factors. When one is bundled up, neck-to-ankle, with long sleeves and fairly heavy fabric, summer heat becomes a bit of a worry. The day, however, was cool and I didn't have to worry for long.

Wearing a bunad for a day was... interesting. There was constant discussion among the wedding guests about which region they came from, who actually owned the bunad, and how the clothing was put together. Because I was wearing the bunad, I felt fearless about walking up to people and chatting with them about their clothing or their involvement in the wedding. I was part of a traditional wedding procession (walking behind a horse and carriage containing the bride and groom, which involved trekking through fields), got to carry a cake into the reception in a sort of procession of cakes, and even learned how to do some folk dancing during the reception. It was so much fun, and very different from the experience I would have had if I'd just worn a dress.

Moreover, wearing a bunad changed me for the night. This is something that they will never tell you about clothing on a day-to-day basis, but it's true and important to know: clothing can bring something out in you. In the case of this particular clothing, this particular day, it made me feel connected to my heritage. We tell ourselves stories that the past is past and that those from whom we are descended are long gone, but it simply isn't true. We are connected, no matter how tenuous that connection may be. For me, simply putting on a dress was enough to make me feel that connection. I don't often get a chance to run headlong into my heritage, being a twenty-something in America, and this was a great way to immerse myself in it.

It wasn't the prettiest thing I've ever worn, and it certainly wasn't what I'd have worn without the bride's request, but, at the end of the day, I still didn't want to take it off.

 And now, of course, I want a bunad of my own, and don't think for a moment that I won't wear it.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Inspired Outfits: The Lost Boys

As I mentioned last week, I love The Lost Boys and it's a fantastically inspiring movie in terms of style. After writing last week's post, I couldn't help but be inspired myself. This is what came of it:
I wanted to get some rock-and-roll biker style in the jacket, boots, and jewelry. The single feathered earring is, of course, directly inspired by Marko. The lace cami, swishy skirt, and vintage-y tights are more directly inspired by Star, but they work surprisingly well with the more hard-edged leather items.

It's not a directly lifted look, of course, but more of a lifted vibe. Inspiration works in many ways.

Besides, it's fun to be a vampire.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Inspiring Films: The Lost Boys

Sleep all day. Party all night. Never grow old. Never die. It's fun to be a vampire.

Okay, if you haven't seen The Lost Boys and you are at all interested in 1980s movies or vampire films that don't involve sparkling emos, you're missing out. It's a bit of a cult film these days, but it is more than worth hunting down. Take a cast of 1980s hearthrobs, including Kiefer Sutherland, Jason Patric, and the two Coreys – Haim and Feldman, in case you're not  familiar - and add a blend of horror and a fantastic soundtrack and you get this.

In case you're still a skeptic, I'd like to offer you a soundtrack for the rest of this post:

Okay, now to the movie.

As much as I hate to say it, our protagonists aren't the interesting ones in terms of fashion, so I'm going to breeze by them in favor of spending a bit more time on the vampires. I do hope you'll forgive me.

Here are our protagonists.

The younger one is Corey Haim as Sam, whose style can really be summed up with the phrase "Arizona in the 80s."

The older one is Michael, played by Jason Patric. He's essentially got the beginner version of the style worn by our vampire gang, being the brother drawn into their world by the magnetic Star. Think buying your first leather jacket and getting your first rebellious ear piercing, still wearing your old t-shirt.

Of course, what's a vampire movie without vampire hunters? And we've got the most hilariously serious pair in the business, the Frog brothers as played by Corey Feldman and Jamison Newlander. Not the most stylish pair in the movie, though. They spend the movie in more...

or less...

Rambo-esque attempts at tough guy outfits. Even if they're not necessarily the people to take style inspiration from, though, they're hilarous.

And finally we get to my favorite part, and the most stylish: sexy, dangerous, big-haired vampires on motorcycles.

Seriously, look at them in their 1980s rock and roll vagabond glory. Who wouldn't want to party forever with that crowd?

Our love interest, is played by Jami Gertz. In this, she is mysterious and very sexy as Star, a half-vampire who runs with the titular lost boys. She's got a sort of ethnic hippie style, all long broomstick skirts and lacy camis and the occasional shawl.
Seriously, guys, look at that hair. Apparently it's natural.
She's got piles of jewelry and flowy skirts, and she glitters through the movie like a sexy vampire gypsy. This is bohemian at its 1980s finest.

As for our villains, we have this very attractive vampire.

Kiefer Sutherland as David, the leader of the vampire gang, is pretty darn fantastic. Not only is he easy on the eyes, but he's intense, cocky, charismatic as all get out. The real highlight of his costume is the badass black long coat that he wears through pretty much the entire movie. It's the sort of piece that really commands attention without being loud. He's just dark, powerful, and monolithic. ... okay, one more picture of him for good measure.

I make an exception to my usual rule about mullets (ie "No.") for this guy.

Not that he's the only awesome one in this movie. Far from it. One charismatic leader and his soon-to-be-ex does not a gang of sexy vampires make.


These guys form the backbone of the vampire gang, both providing muscle and cannon fodder for the final battle.

Brooke McCarter as Paul, whose hair is enormous, is what I have heard referred to as "the most jaunty of the group." He's got a fantastic leather jacket festooned with a belt and all manner of metal details, including a row of very punk safety pins running down the side. It's very 1980s rock and roll, as it should be.

Billy Wirth as Dwayne essentially holds the function of the pretty one. He doesn't say much, doesn't do much, but he sure does look good with his jacket half-open through most of the movie. Other than his frequently-open jacket, which has this awesome patch down the sleeve, the thing that struck me most about his style was the fang single earring dangling down to the left of his face for most of the film. Wild boy style on a pretty former model? Yes, please.

Alex Winter as Marko is the right hand man to David, it seems. He's another one with a crazy single earring, a white feather this time, but the thing we all notice about him is...


Seriously, that coat? Yes. It's covered, top to bottom, with random fabric and patches. He's even got a few crazy wisps of yarn falling from his shoulder. For a fairly quiet character, he's certainly got the loudest outfit.

And special, final mention has to go to Laddie, played by a very young Chance Michael Corbitt. Look at this kid's military-inspired jacket:

Little vampire's got style.
Like I said, if you haven't seen it, go forth. This movie is full of stylish 1980s vampires and, more than that, is a really fun watch. If you have seen it, I probably sparked a desire for you to watch it again. I don't know if I should be sorry or not.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Inspired Outfits: "Twa Corbies" and "Tam Lin"

There are certain things that most people don't think of looking to for inspiration. Unfortunately, or at least I find it unfortunate, old English ballads are part of that untapped territory. They're not really something people even pursue as literature, and that's a shame. They're beautiful, surprisingly cool, and damn inspiring.

In light of this, I took two ballads, "Twa Corbies" and "Tam Lin," and made outfits inspired by them. The former is a dark tale of two crows discussing their next meal, and the latter is a tale of a young woman rescuing her lover from the fairy queen's decision to sacrifice him to hell.

I told you they were cool.
Twa Corbies - "Ye'll Sit Upon His White Hause Bane"
I wanted to establish a funerary tone for the corbies themselves, being the birds who preside over the dead knight of the story. Gothic Lolita, then, was a natural choice. I also wanted to establish the feathers both in literal feathers and in the fluttering blouse, lace, and layered skirt.

This is, of course, much more of a costume simply due to the raven mask I have included, but the elements would nicely suit a dressier Lolita coord without it.
Ye'll sit on his white hause-bane,
and I'll pike oot his bonny blue e'en,
wi' a lock o his gowden hair, O,
we'll theek oor nest when it grows bare, O,

we'll theek oor nest when it grows bare.

There's mony a ane for him maks mane,
but nane sall ken whaur he is gane,
o'er his white banes when they are bare, O,
the wind sall blaw for evenmair, O,

The wind sall blaw for evenmair.
Yep, you read that right. A couple of crows gloating over the corpse. The colors here are why I went with the blue-black feathered epaulette and gold tone jewelry.
Twa Corbies - New-Slain KnightThis one's for the knight, the corpse of the story. Again, I wanted to establish a funerary tone for the knight. However, this one is a little less Lolita and a hair more straight-up goth with visual references to the military nature of the character.
It's in ahint you auld fail dyke,
I wot there lies a new slain knight,
an naebody kens that he lies there, O,
but his hawk and his hound and his lady fair, O,
but his hawk and his hound and his lady fair".

"His hound is to the haunting gane,

his hawk to fetch the wild-fowl hame,
his lady's ta'en anither mate, O,
sae we may mak our dinner swate
, O,
sae we may mak our dinner swate.
Sadly, I couldn't find anything that was quite right for the hawk, the hound, and the lady to be represented in this outfit, but I certainly found things to match the tone. The new-slain knight is laying there still in uniform or armor, presumably. He is still recognizable as a knight, but dead and dark and cold.
Tam Lin - Janet
Adding a bit more color to the mix is this outfit, inspired by another ballad altogether. I wanted to use the main character of "Tam Lin," Janet, as the inspiration for an outfit, and this is what I came up with.

I forbid you maidens all that wear gold in your hair
To travel to Carter Hall, for young Tam Lin is there.

None that go by Carter Hall but they leave him a pledge
Either their mantles of green or else their maidenhead.

Janet tied her kirtle green a bit above her knee
And she's gone to Carter Hall as fast as go can she.

She'd not pulled a double rose, a rose but only two
When up there came young Tam Lin says "Lady, pull no more..."

I took the green kirtle, the mantle, the gold in the hair, and the flat shoes for exploring the forest. The roses, perhaps the most important plot point of the story, had to be represented, too. I wanted this outfit to be lively, if old-fashioned, and practical for a young lady going out to pick flowers in the woods. It's still pretty, certainly, but it's far from over-the-top.

I hope you found a bit of inspiration in this, and I wholeheartedly recommend that you go out and explore ballads for inspiration. Not only do you get some fascinating bits of poetry from the past, but you can feel culturally aware at the same time!