Monday, March 28, 2011


Skeleton key pendant from Nesting Nomad

Having been a scarf girl all winter, the warming days have got me thinking about how I'll decorate my neck for summer. For the past couple of years I've been resolutely anti-necklace, but there were phases in the past when I'd pile on strands of beads or Indian-import pendants of amber or lapis.

Mourning locket from Lyonesse 4 Gems

It's the pendants that are calling to me now, though in vintage shapes rather than exotic baubles. Things that speak of darkened attics, secret compartments, treasure chests and dusty velvet boxes. So, I did a little Etsy window shopping.

This circa-1962 "Limoges Jewels from France" pendant (above) from Stix and Stones Vintage is both spooky and pretty, the dark-haired beauty floating all ghost-like in a silver bezel.

Another take on the cameo comes from The Vintage Vanity, based here in Asheville. I've bought jewelry from this shop before and love how the artist reuses old and cast-off pieces in new ways. Above, it's "a vintage butterfly pendant, vintage cameo pendant, vintage floral earring with rhinestone centers, vintage glass cut bead, and vintage/reused chain."

Nesting Nomad, also from Asheville, is one of my favorite jewelry designers. She also uses vintage and antique found items, though some (skeleton keys, pieces of old maps, copper coins) were never intended as jewelry. This antique brass locket was meant as decoration. With a brass chain and an attached aqua bead, it seems other-worldy and magical.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Of Goth and Peter Murphy

I recently had an interview with Peter Murphy (above) of Bauhaus. One of the things he told me was that Goth was never his thing and he kind of wants to refuse the whole "Father of Goth" title, but he also takes it as a compliment.

Image from HubPages

I get that, but I also get the sleepy, sexy draw of Murphy's iconic voice. Within his own heart, Murphy may be all things light, but his music emanates a seductive darkness. Murphy's velvet purr alone carries all the drama and intrigue of an interview with Lestat himself; on stage the singer's carved cheekbones, luminous gaze and the narcotic embrace of his baritone are spellbinding.

Needless to say, I've been thinking about Peter Murphy a lot lately. And about how, even if he didn't set out to create the Goth scene, we still owe him a dept of gratitude for a haunting and achingly-lovely soundtrack.

Image from

My earliest gothic intrigue was when I was 16, still in high school but living away from home. It was a snowy winter, I had a corner in a garret apartment with mattresses on the floor a white pet rat named Valentine who chewed her way out of her cage and became feral behind the appliances. A strange time of writing poems huddles under blankets in the kitchen and strolling through the sparse browns and grays of the cemetery in a leather jacket and frayed black skirt.

Image from

Only later — in warmer and better furnished apartments — did I come to realize the artistic integrity and the elegant aesthetic of goth. It's not only a style to be adopted by girls in black nail polish, clutching Ann Rice novels to their chests. It's not only a uniform of torn fishnets and fussy chantilly lace. Nor is it the mass-produced commercial property of Hot Topic.

Image from Used & Abused Vintage

Today, even those of us too old and/or too ensconced in the establishment for full goth attire can still adapt a piece here and there. Thanks to steampunk, Coraline, The Nightmare Before Christmas and Helena Bonham Carter there's plenty of mainstream-ish inspiration. A handmade pieces from Etsy, a Victorian frock coat, a pair of button shoes, and antique broach and maybe a Bauhaus album for atmosphere...

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The timelessness of trousers

According the Fashion Encyclopedia, "Like many of the popular fashions of the 1930s, the pants suit was associated with a Hollywood starlet. Actress Marlene Dietrich (c. 1901–1992) wore men's clothes in many of her movies, but she was especially known for wearing masculine suits in her public appearances. Women's pants suits generally had flared or bell-bottomed trousers, and the jackets were tailored in slightly softer versions of men's styles."

McCalls pattern from 1934

French designer Paul Poiret is credited among the first to create women's pants — his were harem pants in 1913, inspired by the opera Sheherazade. Coco Chanel also did much to further women's trousers into mainstream fashion, though it was sheer practicality that was probably the swiftest harbinger of the change in female style.

1940s-era photograph from

First during WWI and then again — and more so — in WWII, women had to pick up the slack in the American work force. Trousers were preferred (and accepted) as work wear. Watch the 1984 Goldie Hawn/Kurt Russell film Swing Shift for inspiration.

But certainly it was icons like Dietrich (above) and the fabulous Katharine Hepburn (both born during the Edwardian era — when corsets were still being worn) who elevated trousers from workwear to chic apparel. Both women emanated such self-possessed cool and glamor, both portrayed femininity with a hint of androgynous magnetism. Hepburn (top of the post) especially embodied timeless allure. That quality, of course, had everything to do with her comportment, her grace and her magnificent talent. But those trousers certainly didn't hurt.