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Not just skin deep – stories in alternative adornment

Not just skin deep – stories in alternative adornment

Maternity ward seedlings, row by row, each tagged and largely homogeneous in their unadorned crying infancy. We all begin in the same way, but what makes us human is how we end up. The desire to express, to adorn, to convey. To become ourselves and represent our thoughts, feelings and beliefs and make them all that more tangible. No more so can we find this within the alternative scene. People who embrace art, creating the body they were meant to be born with and decorating their dwelling of skin.

To celebrate the beauty and diversity within our scene, I wanted to delve into the stories behind some of the spectacular examples of beauty within some of the more interesting alternative subsets: Cyber, Vaudeville, Lolita, Vintage and give a glimpse into my own story too…

Lady Amaranth

My adornment is not just a covering, it’s an organic part of myself, growing with me as my insides seep out through my skin and manifest in velvets and lace. Inside dwells a fantasy far removed from the hum drum of daily living and only when I turn myself outside-in can I feel complete.

I was always drawn to the darker side of things, to the fantastical eerie magnificence and abstract beauty in a world where plastic smiles supporting the drudgery of nine to five is all too commonplace. And it holds power for me; the black and bold colours I choose to wear, and the feminine corseted silhouette which hints at far more than it’ll ever say.

My make-up is my paint. When it touches my skin my mask disintegrates and I once again become that little girl whose edges overflowed not knowing the binds that society would place on her all too soon.

Markabre Charade

Subcultures can often be a microcosm of the prejudices of society in generally. It’s a shame people need to confine themselves to the dictates of a labelled “alternative” look. That’s not alternative at all.

My style may be marginalised by the majority but that doesn’t mean I see it as restrictive in any way. I don’t think it’s as simplistic as there being one outfit that is quintessentially Markabre because I like to think of my aesthetic as very fluid and an extension of myself; I am not a fixed idea or sentiment. The way I combine stylistic elements enables me to change the focus of how I project myself. I don’t dress to show off a typically modern masculinity although there is a lot of drawing on a richer masculinity of the past.

As the moniker suggests there’s a macabre influence, but it’s the spit, sawdust and greasepaint of vaudeville, circus and carnival rather than your cliché graves and ravens. People are far more unsettled by a dandy than a teenager’s trite rebellion of obscene t-shirts. A woman can dress to be seductive and sensuous. I try to retain that right for men too but ultimately I dress for myself.


If I had to describe the way I express myself through my image, I suppose it would be something along the lines of ‘Cyber-glam-gothic’: Barbarella meets Elvira in Tim Burton’s bedroom if you like!

16 years ago I began as a fledgling ‘traditional’ goth in velvet and lace, and over time my love of EBM and industrial music began to influence my look, and although I still hold my gothic aesthetics dear, they have taken on an altogether more technicolour hue!

I adore wearing tight corsets and sky-scraper platforms; BIG hair is also a must, usually as bright and colourful as possible, made from plastic, rubber, and all sorts of other synthetic materials! The make-up I wear compliments my outfits, with bright vivid colours and dramatic lines; it brings everything together. Everything co-ordinates to create my overall larger-than-life, vivid, almost comic-book style!

Debra Decay

About 3 years ago, I started modelling and did loads of research on the era of my favourite actress Marilyn Monroe. I became enthralled by the early pin-up work she did, epitomized by artists such as Gil Elvgren. I’d always dressed alternatively but the fashion and styling of the 50’s crept into my modelling work and then became part of my everyday life and seemed to suit me more than anything else. I even found that the make-up techniques used in the 50’s suited me. I’m frequently told that I have an old fashioned look even when I’m in contemporary clothes, as that’s how I do my face every day. I love getting dressed up for an event as when I’ve got my hair done and seamed stockings on it evokes old Hollywood glamour. To me, being glamorous, stylish, sexy but not slutty beats being fashionable any day!


My interest in Japanese culture developed at a young age from watching anime such as Sailor moon and Tenchi Muyo! From that I discovered Cosplay and came across the visual Kei band Malice Mizer. I was specifically interested in the guitarist Mana’ style and as soon as I found his clothing line I instantly fell in love with Lolita fashion Lolita is hard to define – the style is influenced by the Rococo period and Victorian children’s clothing, though the fashion has evolved drastically and has a variety of sub styles (sweet, gothic ect) the elements are still the same (full skirts and petticoats/lace ect)

My style icons are Vivienne Westwood, Kana and I also take inspiration from artists such as Trevor Brown, Ai yazawa and Junko Mizuno. I love wearing bold clothing that makes a statement. Even if I am not wearing Lolita, I feel like every day is worth dressing up for. With make-up I can totally change my image and it just adds that finishing touch to an outfit.

Photography: Andy Dendy

Make-up & MUA: Illamasqua


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