Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Cleopatra Halloween

Candy corn, pumpkins, streets lined with golden amber leaves, jack-o-lanterns, goblins and a chill on the breeze. Its almost Halloween, one of my favorite holidays of the whole year. I dont know if its that particular smell that permeates the air, a scent that only the cold can foster, mixing with leaves fallen from the trees and fire places burning in the distance, maybe its the feeling of a cozy corner on an overcast day, candy lined shelves in stores or the excitement that we get to dress up and be anyone, or anything, we want for a day.

10 days and counting, if you havent decided what your costume will be this year, its time to start! I always begin my plans for a costume at the end of September. This year I wanted a vintage mid-century based costume and the stunning makeup and wardrobe design for Elizabeth Taylor in Cleopatra immediately came to mind. I love a costume where you really get to transform, change your hair color, load on the fake blood, glitter, fangs, accessories, glow in the dark, go all out! For this look I would get to once again use my trusty little black wig. I bought it for my costume of Mia Wallace from Pulp Fiction while I was in collage and have used it at least two to three times a year since. I gave it a haircut a few times too.

Elizabeth Taylor and the Queen of the Nile, what powerfully beautiful muses to inspire this night of endless possibilities.

All Photography by me (Laura Okita)

For this costume I knew I wanted to make my dress. I wanted something that would feel like the real Cleopatra, but still be recognizably inspired by the movie, yet wearable on any other day. This gold brocade fabric was perfect for the dress, giving me a little structure to work with for the wrapped mummy like drape of the mid-section, and I knew it would photograph well. It is actually two pieces, a bodice and skirt with sequined details on the back. I made the hemline short because on Ancient Egyptian walls it seems to be the length of choice and also to give it a little Mid-Century pinup feeling. This is the first dress that I have draped completely without using the patterned sloper I made a few years ago.

Yes, I am obsessed with this necklace from Amarcord!

I was inspired by the fashion of the film, but also enjoyed one of my old interests from school. Growing up I always wanted to be an Egyptologist. I taught myself to begin reading hieroglyphics, studied Egyptian mythology, history and even have the hieroglyphic dictionaries still sitting on my shelves. I graduated from the Univeristy of Colorado at Boulder with a degree in Anthropology, where I was honored to take a course on Egyptian Hieroglyphics from an astounding professor in the field. I was in a serious relationship that moved me to NYC after graduation, combined with a seeming fate tied to fashion both led me in another direction, but I still remember my early passions and am glad whenever they can come back to life through my current work. A perfect theme taken from Egyptian mythology, the afterlife.

I hand drew and made the hieroglyphic wall background for the header image. It was fun to visit some old friends and rewrite the symbols once more.

Sister Post with Halcyon Fair

A few weeks ago my good friend Maura of Halcyon Fair was in New York City. We have so much in common, we order the same thing at restaurants, love the same movies, music and of course vintage fashion... so we decided it would be fun for Halloween to do a sister post. Check out the link below to see Maura's Egyptian Revival. Didnt she do a fantastic job on her makeup? And her dress is vintage 1930s.

Photo courtosy of Halcyon Fair

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Vintage Pigment MakeupTutorial

Pigments are one of the most versatile products in the cosmetic family. Sparkling and popping in their hundreds of colors and textures, they draw a strong intrigue paired with a certain intimidation if you have never used them before. You can find my tutorial on Lookbook.nu showing you 7 reasons why not to be shy with pigments. You will see they are very easy to use and to mix.

Here are a few snaps from the final look. Get a little vintage victorian inspiration just in time for Halloween.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Photography Tutorial: How to Take Self Photographs Part I

Bunny Yeager is not only one of the most famous female photographers, but also one of the most famous pinup photographer and artist. In her early career she photographed the infamous Betty Paige for Playboy Magazine. She would later go on to publish in Cosmopolitan, Esquire and WWD. Among all of her many accomplishments, she is most inspiring to me in her book, "How I Photograph Myself".

If Bunny Yeager could photograph herself in film, we as bloggers can surely make better use of our digital cameras. This is part one of a four part photography tutorial series where we will take a look at the entire photography process from start to finish.


All you need is a basic tripod, a remote for your camera and of course, your camera.

Tripods range in price from $15 into the hundreds. What makes the difference in price range? Weight and stability. For most purposes an inexpensive tripod is just fine - mine was only $30. If you are carrying the tripod around all day you might want something lighter, or if you are often shooting in a windy dangerous location, something more robust and resistant to wind or falling over.

If you go into your local camera store, they should be able to help you find the correct remote for your camera. Some have a few options depending on your camera brand. Needless to say, you want one that is wireless.

There are blogs and books written about cameras, but for this post, I will just highlight the basic options.

For a beginner I would divide cameras into those that have a permanent lens and those with changeable lenses.

There are a lot of good cameras with permanent lenses. The most important thing is to find one that is able to take RAW images, not only JPEG. These are good starter cameras, smaller, lightweight and less expensive.

For cameras with changeable lenses, I would divide them into two sub lens categories. Zoom lenses and fixed lenses. A zoom lens will allow you to zoom in on a subject and usually can accommodate both up close shots and long distance. A fixed lens has a set focal length. This means that you will need a wide angle fixed lens (larger frame captured near to camera with lower mm number) for portraits and up close images, and a for a general fashion shot, you would want something in the 35 - 80 mm range. Anything larger in mm would be for long distance (much less captured in the frame near to camera with higher mm number). It all gets confusing so here's a summary of what you need to know:

Beauty: 28mm
Fashion, Editorial, Street Snap: 35-55mm
Long distance: 80mm and higher
Landscape: 28mm and lower

A fixed lens for me is more vintage and relates better to film photography. They take better, more clear pictures, however, the zoom lens has the advantage of greater versatility and less needed equipment.

Photography basics

Now that we have our cameras sorted out, there are a few things to know about principles in photography. Cameras and their proper exposure have 3 things to consider, ISO, Shutter speed and Aperture. With digital technology, you can also force the camera to shoot brighter or darker. Most people will teach you that they relate to each other in an equal triangle, but because of the force option, I think of it more like the hood on a hoodie sweatshirt. If you pull the string on the hood on one side, the string will become shorter on the other side. If you lengthen the shorter side, the longer side will then become short. If you pull both sides, the whole hood will become scrunched up and smaller but the strings will both be longer. This is how ISO, Aperture, Shutter speed and forcing relate to one another. I will elaborate upon this relationship more in part III film photography. For now, we will just focus on Aperture.

Apeture is how sharp or how wide the camera focuses. A low aperture number such as 2.2 will put only a very small precise distance in focus. Everything in front of and behind that point will be blurry or out of focus. With a high aperture number such as 10, the whole picture may be in clear focus. In the image above, the left side image was taken with an aperture of 2.2 and the right side was 10. You will notice how in the left side image, the bench rails and the trees in the background are much softer than the right side image. Using teh aperture carefully, we can compose images with more interesting textures and backgrounds, or put focus on areas of importance.

Set Up and Location

When I arrive at a location, I set up my tripod at the height I know will give me the best angle. I attach my camera and make any setting adjustments for light and aperture. Next, I jump into position and take a test shot. Then, I check to make sure I am in the frame how I expected. Sometimes it takes me a few times with re-positioning the camera to get it right. I then just use my remote to click away. Its pretty simple. 


I have had a lot of comments asking how to get more dynamic angles when photographing one's self. You really just want to make the most of your surroundings and experiment. I stand on benches, jump, lean over or squat awkwardly in front of the camera. I am sure it is quite an entertaining thing to watch. There are no rules when you photograph yourself so just be creative and have fun. 

Here is the final look from my tutorial. I was inspired by Audrey Hepburn's classic style for hair and makeup. I think this is the first time I have worn pants on my blog! I dont usually wear pants but I thought that Audrey and Bunny would appreciate the pants as an important part of change for women in history, and for a fashion world that sees beyond gender. So dont be intimidated by equipment and technology. There are no more rules for behind the camera, lets be who we want to be and not what the world tells us to be. 

Final Results

Gifted Items 

Necklace from Amarcord 

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

The Traveling Vintage Dress

I love following other vintage blogs and when Joanna of Dividing Vintage Moments announced that she would be hosting a Sisterhood of the Traveling Vintage Dress, I was so excited to get involved. What a fun way to get to know other bloggers. The dress is set to travel though the USA, to Canada and then on to Australia. From this one beautiful vintage 1940s dress we can experience each girl's personal take on vintage fashion. That to me is the essence of fashion, to express one's feelings, personality and fantasies through what we wear. Fashion provides the canvas for endless possibilities of creative expression, it wraps around cultures and through time, provides an escape, it entraps, inspires, empowers, it lines the world in silken sequined dreams of endless possibilities. Through out history, fashion has been powerfully used to control, to liberate, to oppress and to break free. The human need to express one's self through clothing has and always will be one of the most intricate parts of the fabric of human culture.

I take all my own pictures (Photography Laura Okita)

One of my favorite times in fashion history was the late 1940s. With photographers such as Richard Avedon, Irving Penn, Henry Clarke and Norman Parkinson, Dior's the new look and the rise of publicity in fashion, the late 40s fill our imaginations with visions of black and white, femininity and couture. While I rarely do a full head to toe look in one era, I wanted my turn with the dress to relate to this feeling, and I wanted to show a little bit of NYC. These pictures were taken just around the corner from Irving Penn's photography studio on Fifth Avenue. Every time I walk by it, I get the chills and imagine all that must have transpired there. I dont know where this dress once lived, but I wanted to give it a glimpse of New York during it's time.

Here are the amazing ladies who have so wonderfully worn the dress so far:

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Tutorial How to do Natural Makeup

Things are not always as they seem, sometimes we tend to make them more complicated than need be, and other times, the simplest matter holds more complicated secrets and alluding details than we perceive. This is true when I think of impressionistic art. It seems easier to lay paint strokes at a whim in large shapeless forms, but this symphony of chaos is actually much more difficult than the perfection of a clear image. 

Natural makeup, when done well can also be more difficult than the use of strong colors, creams and eyelashes. I am actually guilty of applying a lazy eyeliner because I know the false lashes will cover parts of it and act as a guide for correction. When you apply natural makeup, however, it should define and enhance natural features, it should address imperfections in a way that doesn't look like you are covering up. It should look effortless. As I will show you in my tutorial at the end of the post, the key is in a good skin foundation and really getting into the eyelashes. 

I take all of my own photos (Photography by Laura Okita)

With my husband away in Europe working and Paris fashion week coming to a close, my thoughts have been constantly on the catwalk. I am really excited about the revival of 70s rock. For Spring we will see a lot of fringe, bohemian dresses, high boots are making a return, overalls with a modern spin, and large scale boho prints. For makeup we see the usual split between natural looks on the runway in New York and splashes of colored cateyes and exaggerated wings in Europe. There has also been the interesting dusting of glitter here and there. I cant wait to see what comes into full bloom this upcoming spring.

This is a fun 1970s fringe dress, vintage renewal from ModCloth. It has a magnificent metallic shimmer to it that ads a great contouring affect.

The necklaces are vintage from Amarcod, one of my favorite weekend shopping destinations in New York City.

For a little touch of extra glamour I used Jin Soon Gala Nail Toppings. I like this glittery polish because it has a variety of texture and metallic colors in it.