Friday, August 22, 2014

A Feminine World

"I am completely tied up with softness, fragility, and the problems of a feminine world"
-Lillian Bassman

Photography by me (Laura Okita)

I had had a "look but dont touch" kind of relationship with the fashion world since I was a teenager. Always viewing from the backseat, strapped into a suffocating safety seat. That's how I felt anyway as a young model. I wanted to be a part of the real magic, I wanted to contribute, create, to understand, I wanted to be inspired. I was continuously washing ashore in someone else's vision. Shipwrecked to me, unable to swim in the moment they were experiencing, only to drift back out to sea again. I could recognize during a photo shoot or in a fitting that the photographer or designer was in their world, momentarily opening a window, reflecting like a mirror to show what existed in their imagination. I wanted to show mine too. I was thirsty for it, floating in this sea of undrinkable water. The only problem was that my world was still in little pieces in a box with no user's manual to be found. I needed to throw away the manufactured box and start from scratch.

I began to understand where the foundation would lie when I started to pursue my long time interest in vintage fashion and photography. For me, taking a step back to understand how things were done with less technology showed the way in this complicated world of gadgets. The past revealed the secrets of the present, and presented a map of how to get where I wanted to go, or rather, how we have come to where we are.

In the early days of my blog's journey I was trying to find a voice. I thought I would find some niche in sharing existing vintage photographs and attempting to educate about fashion history. I came across Lillian Bassman while doing research for themes and images. Her haunting work stood out to me at the time, but having never taken photographs, other than of my cat or selfies with an iPhone, I couldnt really understand her, yet. I was still in the backseat, now, without a driver.

My voice finally began to squeak when I started taking pictures with film. It was something about the process and intent, the necessity to capture the moment that cannot exist with a 100 bursts of shutter per second. I started taking my own pictures of myself for my blog. This developed my preferences for photos. Even though I like to use natural light, I have drafted my own rules about shadow and how they should appear. Im a really soft, feminine person and I think that translates through my pictures. With taking my own photos in film and digital, the frame was now going up. I finally felt like the captain of my own little raft, turbulent, unnoticed, but exhilarating.

It was while I was out shooting this set that I wanted to play with exposures. In the darkroom, you can force film to do things, and with a digital camera, it has what I think of as "force" buttons. I wanted to see what I could force it to do.

When I was finished with the pictures and ready to start composing the blog post, I remembered Lillian Bassman. I started reading about her and found that I can relate to her pictures so much more now. I have had the same feelings about the balance between popular culture, fashion and art. Models are neither the stars nor are they mere objects, they are the subjects. She captured femininity and clung to the freedom of art. I think that she was a feminine feminist, complicatedly one in the same. In balance. I dont know how similar we really are since I did not know her personally, but I definitely identify with what is quoted in her interviews. I admire how she was strongly and passionately true to herself and to her art.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Interview with The Vintage Romance

Starting this blog has allowed me the opportunity to meeting and become friends with so many wonderful people in the vintage community. I love reading your comments, visiting other blogs in the community, and discovering everyone's unique views on vintage fashion. It is so much fun to see how we all inspire each other.

One such vintage blogging pair that has really inspired me over the past year is the gorgeous duo from The Vintage Romance, Isabelle Gloria and Elaine Valerie. I am glad to introduce them to you, if you havent already met, in an exclusive interview!

I love that you work as a team, its very unique for vintage bloggers. How did you meet and decide to start working together?

We've known each other since we were children and sort of grew up together, which is a good base for a deep connection and friendship. There is a very tight bond between us because we experienced so much together. We've wanted to start a project for a long time, as we both share the same passion for art, beauty and photography. We both have been running our own fashion-blogs before we started with 'The Vintage Romance', always eager to take good photos during runway shows like Berlin Fashion Week for example or making outfit-posts or simply posts about things that inspire us. And then, on a cozy, cold winter evening in January 2013 we were at a wonderful, inspiring party during Fashion Week in Berlin when we decided to shake hands on our future vintage themed project. We thought that we both have great preconditions because we love to take photos, we both are able to do editing and design-work and we both are able to do makeup and hair. After some months of planning and preparing, we finally started our blog The Vintage Romance.

Your photos and blog are so beautiful right from the very first post! Tell us about yourselves, what is your background before your started The Vintage Romance, where are you from?

Thank you! We both were born in Germany and we both are professional media designers. We took a experimental tour through the Gothic scene as teenagers, which in our opinion is a very interesting, beautiful scene where it's all is about morbid, fascinating beauty and inspiration. We still love it and feel influenced by this subculture until today. To us it was no surprise to have bumped into this colorful, inspiring new retro scene that has developed a lot during the last few years. It even feels like a natural evolution to us - the black and studded leather from our teenage years mostly might have turned into colorful blossoms and cute girly dresses, but the desire for perfection and beauty hasn't changed at all. Everybody needs a transformation at some point in their lives. To us, it feels more like 'us' and ladylike now to style like all those stunningly glamorous Old Hollywood Divas, but we still adore the Gothic look, and sometimes readers of our blog can see our interpretation of Gothic Vintage in our posts.

What is it like working as a team? Do you have roles that you have developed or are you always sharing different aspects of your work?

It always depends on how much work the other girl has besides the blog. We try to keep our roles the same. We both take photos and we both work on their editing. We think a lot of people don't feel like it's 'their own thing' if they do something together with another person. But we truly don't have these problems because we know we wouldn't be who we are if we didn't support each other. The blog and everything we do is our baby, we do it together will all our heart.

One wonderful part about Europe is how close it is to travel to other countries. What is the vintage community like where you live and does it differ from country to country?

We love to see the vintage community grow every day. It's almost like a 'new old era' has begun, and a lot of people start to appreciate the perfection and beauty of the past times again. We noticed that many people that we know from our teenage years in the Gothic subculture have started to embrace the more colorful vintage looks as well.

What inspires you?

Elaine: People that have experienced many things inspire me, life, artists with their stunning artwork push me to become better at what I do every day – photographers, painters, models, musicians. Life itself inspires me – simple things like rain dripping against a window or rays of sunlight that peek out of thick clouds over a lake.

Isabelle: It's almost the same with me. I love the nature, I love the little things in life which can mean so much once you notice them. I'm a spiritual person and if you give yourself the time to think about life and how everyone and everything's connected it's the biggest inspiration you can ever get. I try to be positive all the time. Sometimes I even get inspired by something that might seem bad in the first instant like an open heart surgery I had to undergo when I was 19. It frightened me first, but I put together my thoughts and stayed positive. It was the best experience for my personal growth and wasn't horrible at all, although it was objectively considered, since it wasn't a easy routine operation.

Do you have any favorite vintage movies, actresses, designers or artists?  

Elaine: Bettie Page with her famous bangs and black hair inspired me already when I was 14 years old. Her look was gorgeous and I dreamt of wearing my hair like her back then but didn't dare to color it or to cut bangs, haha! I'm still a huge fan of her – she's got a wild and naughty style, mixed with this innocent girly look and her cute pouts.And I love all of those hand-drawn Disney movies that show a perfect world, like 'Cinderella', 'Dumbo' or 'Alice in Wonderland'. 

Isabelle: To talk about modern times: Dita Von Teese! Which vintage-girl doesn't just love her? She and Marilyn Manson were the couple of my dreams when I was younger. I liked the perfect porcelain doll next to this controversial rockstar with songs to die for. They must have had interesting conversations I think, haha. 

If you could live for one year in anytime era in any profession, which would it be and what would you do?

We guess we would love to take a peek into the 50s and we would choose to be actresses in Hollywood. Such a lame answer, we know! But we think this life would be very interesting! The war was over in the 50s, people had more fun and joy in life again and it was all about Rock'n'Roll and pretty Pin Up Girls. We'd love to see how Hollywood grew to the land of dreams and what the life of a real star was like back then, without todays' luxury of the internet and social media.

What does the future hold, for The Vintage Romance and for you as individuals? 

We hope that we will continue to run our blog together for many, many years as we love working on it!

We think it's fun to create something artistic for our readers and we don't want to limit ourselves by simply making posts about a special decade, because we love so many different decades from the past. Even baroque or antique themes might be possible on our blog in the future. We always try to put a little modern twist and our personal touch into each blogpost, and we could never only wear original vintage clothing, as we think that this would limit our creativity immensely. Experiencing our freedom and living our passion is one of our most important goals. To feel like home, it's always important to be surrounded by our families and loved ones, even if we like to travel a lot to see more of the world. Our motto is that everything's possible as long as you believe in yourself. Everyone can create their own reality.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Short and Mod

I am now in Japan for the month of August! Being away for the remainder of the Summer, I already feel like the season is passed, except that the extreme temperatures and humidity here remind me that Autumn is not yet upon us. I suppose it is more metaphorically that Summer is coming to an end. The next season is waiting for me in New York when I return. Tapping its fingers impatiently. Fashion week is crouching, ready to pounce and my fall wardrobe will be in much need of airing out. Its always hard to put the bright cheery florals of Summer back into hibernation for the seemingly endless winter. I almost mourn the loss, transitioning into winter blacks and heavy wool.

Not today. I will protest the inevitable. Let's celebrate the bright sunshine for one more moment. This cheery little linen dress is perfect for a lemonade garnished with mint, or maybe lemon flavored ice cream .

Its seems my signature or rather (bad) habit to mix decades together. I really cant help myself! There has always been so much recycling of trends since the turn of the last century. It feels the pieces are asking for it. These sunglasses are 1930s but they are so Mod 1960s and the Marc by Marc Jacobs shoes fit right into line with their intention of seeming much older. I guess good fashion never goes out.

This post is short and sweet and mod. Im looking forward to sharing adventures from Tokyo with you soon and promise not to be as quick as the months of Summer. 

Monday, August 4, 2014

Bright Noir

This summer I was lucky to have the opportunity to do an editorial collaboration with the Photographer Alexandra Roshan Gottlieb. We shot 5 vintage inspired looks at a beautiful house on Long Island, one that inspired the set for the film The Great Gatsby. I wanted to have the feeling of Film Noir, but with that sunny bright breath of Summer.

Photography: Alexandra Roshan Gottlieb
Model, HAMUA: Me (Laura Okita)
Video: Filming - Alexandra, Editing - myself

Bright Noir

Dress: Forever Unique

Dress: Bariano

Dress: Forever Unique
Necklace: Sayaka Davis

Bolero: Darling Clothes
Shorts: Paper Mothball Vintage
Necklace: Vintage

Dress: Darling Clothes

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

A Fairytale with Pinup Darling Clothing

I was recently invited by Pinup Darling to photograph a small collection. After seeing the soft pastels, romantic chiffons and crystal beading worthy of a renaissance painting, I was inspired to do something a little different. I traded in my signature red lip for a dusty rose, let my hair down, and paired it with these beautiful hair accessories made by Fairytale Flower on Etsy.

And so the Fairytale begins, Once upon and time, at bottom of the mossy steps leading to the base of the castle, a dark storm was brooding beyond the bright clouds overhead. Was it the galloping of thunder or the rumble of horses approaching, shaking the earth, releasing the musty smell that permeates the air just before a storm...

Photography by me (Laura Okita)

Dresses and Hair Accessories are gifted items

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Primary Summer

A low warm tone wailed and bubbled trailing off into a vibration, coming back as a blare, almost a cry. It was like honey dripping into hot, dark tea, solid melting into liquid at the bottom of the cup. The spot light appeared on an empty stage. The trumpet began a sultry ebbing pattern interrupted by notes spilling off the piano as the glitz of a million tiny sequins flashed. It took her weeks to painstakingly sew each one on the costume by hand. Now the world would see its anticipated extravagance, but few would ever know the pain that goes into the process. After all, that's the show, the stage, the theater, creating the spectacular illusion of a world impossible to exist in reality, but thriving in the eyes of the enchanted observer.

Photography by me

I had a little fun with my makeup and that's not my natural hair. Im still a blonde. I found a vintage swim cap that inspired me to do a 1920s beach bathing suit look. This is actually a vintage Tadashi romper. For my makeup I used these water color like pigments. So much fun, they work just like the water colors we used as children. Add water to your brush, lather and soak up some pigment and paint! I ended up with about the same color mixing mess on the pallet as I did in grade school. For a perfect round blush cheek, try using another elementary favorite, a ruler with shapes cut out...  choose the circle and use as a stencil! Really fast and easy. Tip: when using strong colors on your face, apply a little heavier foundation on that area to protect your skin from absorbing any of the makeup color, preventing stain.

I have been obsessed with 1970s film and coloring ever since I saw American Hustle. Its something about that paper texture and the film grain. Even though I was shooting for 1920s, I let a little 70s leak through.

If you haven't found me there yet, Im on  Instagram and YouTube. Here is a little video form the shoot that can also be found on there.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Rose Colored Glasses

Its summer in the city! I've been saving this vintage dress, dotted with speckles and roses in an oily-painted pattern for quite a long time. I bought it before I began my blog, waiting for just the right time to wear it. A whole long line of tiny buttons run almost the length of the dress with little pin tucks at the waist. The coolness of the silk crepe and wide off the shoulder collar make it perfect for July.

I was really excited when Grey Ant invited me to model in their recent campaign and I got to keep these stunning cat eye glasses from the shoot. The almost rose colored lenses were just too perfect a match for the dress, so I put on my best 1950s housewife attire and took off with my trusty tripod in hand.

Photos by me (Laura Okita)

Vegetation really seems to thrive on the East Coast, but we are well past the flowering season. Now, its mostly overgrowing shrubbery and shady tree lined streets - well shade if you are lucky. I almost would have missed this darling little rose bush if I hadn't gone to a different deli the weekend before last. All week I waited nervously hoping the flowers would survive the latest heatwave long enough for pictures. I did manage to catch a few determined blossoms. There was also this little apple that just rolled its self right out off the tree in front of me while I was taking pictures, almost as if it was asking to be included in the pictures. I picked him up, but I've read my fairytales, I didn't bite even as tempting as he was. Sorry little apple, only pictures today.

My old tripod broke recently so I wasn't able to raise the camera up more than half way. I finally got a new tripod and a new wireless remote, new glasses, it was a fancy new day haha. I had a lot of fun playing with the camera even though it was so hot. I was almost dizzy and had to call it a day, but thankfully I remembered my sunscreen, and with so many foundations now including up to 50spf, there is no excuse to go without.

The details... Vintage gloves, I buy a pair in every color I can find! A vintage handbag and scarf to go with my necklace from Me&Ro, engraved with little (of course) roses.