Category Archives: Articles


D.I.Y. Cyberfashion.

Over on her personal blog, our very own Jane Tweed turns her dressmaking skills to experimenting with Adafruit’s wearable electronics systems, and discovers some of the problems potentially faced by combining steel thread with lightweight cotton poplin.

The Vault of Heaven (Jane Tweed)

Adafruit’s Wearable Electronics

A video demonstration of what Jane’s finished project looks like.


All The Pink is Mine


Over the past few years I’ve been breaking the social conditioning that occurred when I was a child (not by my parents, but by other adults and other children): “You are a boy, you do not like pink”.  I love pink.  I really, really fucking love pink.  I like several shades of pink, but mostly I like the pink shade that’s on those trainers above and the dayglo pink that is magenta.

There were actually periods in the 80s that were kind to these loves.  In ’87 it was fashionable for boys to wear grey & pink clothing – the senior year in my school could chose their uniform colours and that year they went for this combination, of light grey and a light, baby pink.  Then, by ’89, it was fashionable to wear dayglo colours (aceeeeeed!), which ended up seeing me regularly wearing dayglo pink toweling socks (that material, what were we thinking?).

Sadly pink was lost to boys as the arrival of grunge consigned bright colours to children’s wear and pink to the girls’ section.  And, from that point on the decision to purchase something with pink in it, no matter what item or how much pink, returned to having the stigma that pink was for girls.  All of this became deeply ironic when I learned that pink had traditionally been a colour for boys (thanks QI!).

But then pink came back, as fashion for men has expanded again, so I started expanding the pink in my life, from my basic t-shirts to my nerdy toys (seriously, magenta pink colourways are the best!).  In fact, those trainers up top, which combine my love of pink with my love of camo (and inspired this post), are due for release on Nov 30th and they will be mine.  Happy days.

And, hell, I like pink that much my Xbox 360 controller is pink:


10 Mini Canvases: Nail Art’s Apotheosis


 “Never trust a man who expects you to have long, perfectly manicured nails.”
This was the wise advice imparted to me by a friend, as a gentle precursor to “never trust anyone who expects you to be anything”. Still, ‘perfectly manicured’ is a relative term. Mostly, it’s about having 10 mini canvases for nail doodles.  Plus, it’s a bit like doing discreet cosplay, but just for the fingertips.
These are tips from someone who has limited patience, refuses to invest in expensive products and is intimidated by people who do this kind of thing professionally.
• Top coat is the best.
• For complex things, try doodling them on paper first. Then, try doodling them with your non-dominant hand (unless you’re ambidextrous in which case, so much envy).
• If your design is too tricky, find a way to simplify it. Rather than drawing the thing itself, draw an aspect of the thing.
-Example: Movie Loki is pretty much omnipresent at the moment, and impressive as it might be to have 10 miniature Hiddles-replicas on the end of one’s fingers, it would be a) not really feasible without having to resort to decals and a whole bunch of faff and b) actually a bit creepy. Still, the colour scheme of green, gold and black is doable. Use a fine brush or dotter pen to make a zipper pattern, and you’ve got a nod to the character. Then, use your dominant hand to have a pop at a sort of head/helmet outline (and then practise your best scowl for when people use the word ‘fangirl’ at you as a pejorative).
Loki nails (click for bigger)
Loki nails (click for bigger)
• A simple design (like a ghost) can be striking and fairly quick to do. (Ghost pun courtesy of iguanabones’ bootiful comics.)
-The basic idea is a splodge of white on a black background, dragged into a sort of tail. For the eyes, blob two bits of black and there you have a cute ghost.
Ghost nails (click for bigger!)
Ghost nails (click for bigger!)
• If you have a thing that you are really into (like, say, a comic) and it could easily fill ten separate designs, then go for it. Be prepared for it to take ages. Then, when it’s all done, be prepared for people to look at your nails and say “I don’t get it?” until you feel obliged to try and introduce them to Gillen & McKelvie’s current Young Avengers run.
Young Avengers nails (click for bigger!)
Young Avengers nails (click for bigger!)
• Or just do Batman nails. Everyone knows Batman.
Batman nails! EVERYONE LOVES BATMAN. Click for bigger.
Batman nails! EVERYONE LOVES BATMAN. Click for bigger.
• Get a decent camera, or a friend who will take decent pictures of your manicures for you, because trying to take hand selfies on a cameraphone is rubbish.
• Never trust anyone who thinks your nails are any less than awesome.

Twinkle twinkle little star

I’ve loved science fiction and cyberpunk for as long as I can remember, and while I am primarily a book geek I have a huge soft spot for futuristic films and their fashion. There’s just something about the intersection of style and the utilitarian that gets me every time; lycra catsuits masquerading as smart fabric, aggressive silhouettes, the open guts of technology next to careful seams and tucks.  With that in mind it’s not at all surprising that I fell head over heals for Anouk Wipprecht’s Spiderdress . I was a teenager in the 90’s and so cannot be swayed by mood rings or heat reactive fabrics, but the Spiderdress was the kind of thing that I’d been dreaming of for years.

It’s also not available for purchase (I suspect the price would make me faint even if it was) and much too far out of my skill range to re-create.

Fast forward through the visions of me intermittently sobbing and screaming at YouTube all the way to 2013 when Ada Fruit launched FLORA, their first wearable electronics platform. While it doesn’t mean that I can build creepy robot legs to keep people away from me, the components (batteries aside) are entirely waterproof which makes them functional for everyday use as you can wash whatever you make without having to take it apart first. While the pieces are on the whole purchased separately rather than in kits, Ada Fruit have a range of really interesting projects and suggestions on their website.

Each project comes with a full tutorial including circuit diagrams and the code required to make it work, they even include notes on which parts to change and how for different effects. What I consider to be the most exciting bit is that a reasonable number of the projects don’t require any soldering since all the components can be connected with conductive thread. FLORA is not branded in pink and nothing in the comprehensive guides makes me feel stupid for not knowing some of the basic skills for working with electronics such as, for example, how to solder. But the real clincher for me was that it’s all marketed as awesome. Even the basic projects look great, the Space Face LED Galaxy Makeup would look fabulous with anything in nebula print and I’ve got my eye on the Sparkle Skirt Project.

Presuming that I don’t bleed onto a circuit and electrocute myself, not being the most graceful of seamstresses, I’m looking forward to learning how to do some of the more complex projects. The GPS Jacket which lights up when you reach specified destinations looks like it would fit nicely into my sciencefictionfuture.

Culture, Alienation, Boredom, and Despair: Style and the Manics Fan

we’re a mess of eyeliner and spraypaint
DIY destruction and Chanel chic
in your culture of consumption
this is a culture of destruction

Once it gets dark, the alley outside the theatre fills up quickly. Girls in tight white jeans and huge faux-fur leopard jackets swish their backcombed hair at boys in spray-painted tshirts, tossing feather boas to other girls in second-hand army shirts and combat boots. Most wear heavy makeup: panda eyes and glittering cheekbones. Everybody feels very young. They are beautiful boys and girls tough as nails, and they are here to see the Manic Street Preachers.


As a band, the Manic Street Preachers are just over twenty years old, and for much of those two decades, their eccentric, glamourous, unmistakable style has been adored and emulated by thousands of fans all over the world. From their beginning in the late 1980s, in the village of Blackwood in South Wales, to their triumphant gig at the London O2 in December 2011, the Manics have inspired a level of devotion bordering on fanaticism in their massive fanbase. Manics fans are often notably creative and ingenious in their displays of fandom, designing painstaking replicas of the bands’ outfits, or taking inspiration from the band’s style to formulate a fashion all their own.

Music has always played a large part in the development of modes of street fashion through the years. It is an identifier, a uniting factor to which people – mostly teenagers and young people – can relate. Wearing the fashion of a musical movement signifies one’s membership in the ‘tribe’ and provides a signal to like-minded others that one shares their interests and, more than likely, their societal views and standing.

Musical fashion has also often been related to rebellion and the rejection of conventional, mainstream, culture. So it went with the young Manic Street Preachers, who cultivated an alternative look for themselvs from an early age and used fashion as a means to distinguish themselves from their parochial surroundings. “If you’re hopelessly depressed like I was, then dressing up is just the ultimate escape,” said lyricist Richey Edwards. “When I was young I just wanted to be noticed. Nothing could excite me except attention so I’d dress up as much as I could. Outrage and boredom just go hand in hand.”

The Manics’ fans would, by and large, agree. They follow in the path forged by their subcultural forebears in the punk and goth movements, adopting a style simultaneously designed to outrage the more conservative onlookers, and to mark themselves happily as ‘outsiders’. Elements of glam rock and sophistication (notable in the use of feather boas, leopard-print faux fur, and the iconic face of Marilyn Monroe) combine with torn shirts, battered leather, and DIY stencilled t-shirts: a look that goes from delicately androgynous to outright confrontational, but an unmistakable tribal calling card.

The Manics fandom is a close-knit affair, to which its members hold a familial loyalty – with all that that entails. They are the first to point out the excesses and hilarity that comes with their beloved band – a theatre full of glammed-up audience members cheering on a bouncing six-foot Welshman in a flowery skirt is certainly one of the more amusing sights I’ve seen – but will defend their band to the end in an argument with a stranger. More than anything else, then, in my view the outlandish style of Manics fans is a shibboleth to other fans – if you can appreciate this and sport it proudly, while retaining the ability to laugh at yourself all the while, you get to be in the gang.

And, of course, they look just fabulous.

Street fashion

As this is listed as one of my specialisms on the contributors page I thought I better actually do a post about that. Street fashion/style is about documenting what people choose to wear in their day to day lives. There are plenty of blogs out there which have become influential from just trawling around taking photos of people they meet. This means that most fashion or ‘women’s interest’ magazines now have some kind of section about what a select number of fashion-y types choose to wear to events, particularly models and the kind of people who somehow become trendsetters for reasons I don’t quite understand. This can be interesting in terms of seeing what rich people decide to spend their money on but also has a bit of a level of cynicism behind it as brands have cottoned on to the fact that they can use it as a bit of free advertising by giving certain people their clothes to wear and be seen in. It’s part of the fashion industry now and I can’t begrudge them for it as it is pretty clever but personally I’m more interested in how more average (although still sometimes painfully stylish and probably with plenty of disposable income) people put things together, rather than seeing models outside of shows dressed top to toe in one particular brand. With that in mind I wanted to just recommend a few blogs which I personally enjoy looking at. There are plenty more out there I’m sure and it’s worth looking around if you like this kind of thing so this is just a small section based on my personal taste.

1. The Sartorialist

One of the most influential and best, in my opinion. The creator of this site has released a couple of books of photos from the site and works for a number of fashion magazines as a photographer. This means a lot of photos from fashion shows and of people related to the fashion industry but also a lot of other interesting looking people. The main thing I enjoy about this site is that it’s run by excellent photographers and they go to a wide range of places. Also there’s a more recent focus on taking more close up portraits of people which are mostly excellent.

The Sartorialist The Sartorialist Waris

2. The Locals

Similar to The Sartorialist but based in Denmark and so with more of a European focus. Also goes for more of the unusual and just plain weird than The Sartorialist does.

The Locals The Locals The Locals

3. Wear About

A recent discovery of mine through Tumblr. Blog based in India which gives it a completely different perspective to a lot of the other sites I look at. Lots of beautiful colours and patterns as well as photos from collections shown at Lakme Fashion Week.

Wear About Wear About Wear About

4. Street Gazing

Based in Philadelphia. Very much focused on average people and their daily lives, which is one of its big strengths for me. Also it’s nice to see things from outside of the main fashion centres of the western world for once.

Street Gazing Street Gazing Street Gazing

5. Coggles street style

This is just a section of an online store rather than a site in its own right. It’s based in London and has a wide range of people featured, although it doesn’t seem to be updated that regularly any more. It’s well worth looking through the archives though if you have the time and inclination.

Coggles Coggles Coggles

A Short History of Knickers: Queen Victoria’s Crotchless Panties

So, a couple of years ago a pair of Queen Victoria’s bloomers went up for auction. They had a fifty plus inch waist and had her initials and a crown embroidered on them (in case she left them on the bench when she changed for swimming lessons and couldn’t remember which ones were hers afterwards).

A picture of such

Also, they didn’t join up between the legs.

No one’s did. When you’re wearing a chemise, a corset, a bodice, stockings, multiple petticoats, a dress and various other layers of clothing, in the days before the invention of elastic and your bloomers had to be tied on to your waist (under your corset), your toilet choices were stripping naked or not stripping at all.

Before the 1800s polite women went completely commando; only prostitutes bothered with pants (presumably because their legs got colder?). Then came pantaletters, aka “two tubes tied on with string”, which tended to come undone and fall off one leg at a time. As the crinoline comes in split leg drawers becomes more popular, mostly because of the drafts, but then the crinoline flattens at the front and moves to the back and bustles are the new black. There’s no need for drawers to be completely split any more, so like Victoria’s above they tend to join at the back and split from underneath to the front.

Knickerbockers, that joined up completely, start appearing in the 1850s, but they’re considered terribly unfashionable, impractical, and frankly unhealthy. Plus, when you tripped over your crinoline and when arse over teakettle, you didn’t flash the gentlemen, and apparently that just wasn’t on.

By the late nineteenth century they were beginning to pick up in popularity, if you were the sort of woman who did mannish things like gardening or bicycle riding or anything practical, but your gentry still weren’t terribly keen. Though they joined up underneath, it still wasn’t easy to get them off, so trapdoors were introduced in the back. Think “cartoon children’s onesies”. Which were next up to bat, for fashionable women – as dresses got tighter and more streamlined underwear became an all in one proposition, camiknicker style. Some sported trapdoors, some stuck to split legs.

Mentor is the Memory Word for underwear
Mentor is the Memory Word for Underwear – though we can’t see hers, thanks to her petticoats, chemise, corset etc, her daughter is sporting a nice pair of all in ones.

By the end of world war one open crotch drawers were on their way out – skirts got shorter and dancing got wilder, and apparently flashing your parts at the French Diplomats was no longer the done thing – and with elastic becoming readily available it was even possible to get them on and off with some ease.

If you want to know more about the history of underwear, check out the following:

Rosemary Hawthorne‘s books (aka the Knicker Vicar’s Wife)

Vintage Fashion guild

The Ladies’ Treasury of Costume and Fashion