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Wednesday, May 27, 2009

At home with . . . Amelia E. Valentine

As a college Freshman, I was introduced to vintage clothing. Shortly after that blind date, we (vintage couture and I) began a torrid love affair that has lasted for 26 years. Actually, the relationship has taken a turn toward the voyeur-esque nature, since most vintage fashion seems to be constructed in one of only two sizes: "-YOU-HAVE-GOT-TO-BE-KIDDING-ME" and "ARE-YOU-SURE-THIS-IS-ADULT-CLOTHING?"!! Due to the fact that I'm fond of that stuff they call "FOOD," and on occasion like to participate in that other thing . . . what do they call it? . . . Oh yes, "EATING!", fitting my body into vintage garments these days is rare. In college, however, a friend and I thought it might be fun to see if we could pull off a "silent-film-starlet-flapper" type look for a Gatsby themed party we were invited to. Well, a can and a half of Aqua Net, two tubes on "Riotous Red" Clinique lipstick, three broken tweezers (heavy brows did not fit the profile), two $20 fringe flapper dresses, and a couple of Route 44 Lime-Aides with a dash or twelve of Jose Cuervo later, we resembled the cast of To Wong Foo Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar - except not as feminine - Think more like Jack Lemmon in Some Like it Hot or Jack Benny in drag.

After stabbing ourselves with fifty-four-bazillion bobby pins and poking a new hole in the ozone layer spraying our follicles into place, we arrived at the party. All the other girls turned as we entered and Oooh-ed and Aaah-ed in unison. However, I was fairly sure I knew what they were thinking, having thought it several times before myself. I had on occasion, when seeing a look or an outfit on another woman that was heinously ugly, had chosen to compliment her instead. Superficial? Maybe. Catty? Sure, but I had to compensate for the dear-in-the-headlights-gaze and the head tilted slightly askew like one of those dogs on a World's Funniest Videos clips that hears a strange noise and can't quite figure out what it is or where it's coming from.

Amelia E. Valentine, in contrast, really rocks the "retro-fashionista immersion look." She is flawless in her present day interpretation of the old Hollywood siren style, with the perfectly coiffed pin curls, flawless red rosebud lips, and lined eyes. She looks radiant in her Peter Pan collar, powder-pale complexion, and auburn bob haircut. It's almost as if Greta Garbo or silent film star Clara Bow had thrown up directly on her - and I mean that in a flattering way. She's simply stunning! A quote made by Coco Chanel came to mind the first time I saw photos of Amelia on The Queens of Vintage social network - "In order to be irreplaceable, one must always be different." I think Amelia has that nailed, and you can share her penchant for altered-vintage clothing at her online Etsy shop. Her posts on her Live Journal called The Life and Times of Archy and Mehitabel where she shares ideas about living the Vegan life, posts photos of daily retro outfits and shares samples of her embroidery and art, is a fun read. Amelia has shared a glimpse into her world in Austin, which one can tell from her photos is quite unique and dear to her heart. The way she's chosen to express herself so uniquely proves another of Coco's adages, and that is elegance does not consist in putting on a new dress - but rather it is something that exists in ones daily presence and interactions, etc. Thanks, Amelia, for sharing your adventures and collections, your funky, fun shop, and your very lovely vintage inspired life!

I live in . . .
I live in Austin, Texas after a time in Oregon for my MFA.

I'm studying to be . . .
I'm studying to be a teacher of Gifted and Talented students at Texas State, but for the time being, I make vegan soft serve and sell Hello Kitty at Toy Joy.

I choose this profession because . . .
I choose this profession because I love teaching young, curious minds.

When I was a child I wanted to be . . .
When I was a child I wanted to be a Biomedical Engineer, someone who makes false limbs and organs. I was always rubbish at science and mathematics so I never thought I could be an engineer. Now I just have an appreciation for the curious and Victorian.

I’m listening to . . .
I have the most varied musical palette ever. I love 1930s and 1980s pop! I've been working of expanding my tastes to more contemporary things so I can open the Austin Chronicle and be familiar with the show listings! Lately, I’m listening to Francois Hardy, Nico, Balkan Beat Box, Spice Girls, Rainer Maria, Vashti Bunyan, The Pipettes, Prince, and Dan Deacon.

I’m reading . . .
Since graduate school, I always accidently fall asleep if I read a book. I have an subscription and I love listening to books while I'm doing embroidery or while cooking. Steve Martin's “Born Standing Up” was a hilarious tale of his rise to fame and he even plays banjo between chapters. I just finished Neil Gaiman's “The Graveyard Book” and scared myself silly! I never read his books when I was younger but now I can't get enough of him.

My artistic heroes or muses are . . .
My artistic heroes or muses are Doris Salcedo and Tom Friedman - they are both sculptors who use domestic materials in poetic ways. My favorite Doris Salcedo pieces are when she uses clothing such as burying clothing in concrete or caging high heels behind animal skins. Tom Friedman just astounds me! I found one of his books when I was 19 and I just stared at it for hours. His sculptures are out of aspirin, detergent, his own signature, play-dough, anything really. He is what obsessive art making is all about.

I would describe my style as . . .
I would describe my style as 1930s Chorus Girls meets Sweet Lolita meets Flapper Fantastique.

My favorite color is . . .
My favorite color is teal because it matches everything.

If money were no object . . .
If money were no object I would travel the world for five years on a giant food tour: olives in Greece, Mangos in Brazil, Dumplings in China, Fairy Bread in Australia, Curry in India... the list goes on!

I’m creatively moved by . . .
I’m creatively moved by exposure to other busy people. I get my energy from other artists and creative people.

I received my education and training from . . .
I received my education and training from the University of Arkansas (BA), the University of Oregon (MFA) and Texas State (M.Ed, forthcoming).

A perfect day would include . . .
A perfect day would include homemade vegan breakfast, a long walk, good iced tea, a kiss on the forehead before I fell asleep.

My favorite place in my studio is . . .

My favorite place in my studio is the sunlight that falls on my studio desk and illuminates my in-progress projects.

I collect . . .
I collect ephemera: Vintage Valentines, human teeth, 1930s silk dresses, photographs of strangers.

My favorite collection is . . .
My favorite collection is my 1920s/30s valentine collection. I even have two of them as tattoos!

I’m spiritually moved by . . .
I’m spiritually moved by good food (and little else).

If you had a mission statement, what would it be?
The Ladies' Society for the Reinstatement of Proper Undergarments is a self-created group that endorses my products whole heartedly. We have monthly tea meetings where we dress in full regalia and try not to stain our stockings with jam.

How did you acquire your love of vintage?

When I was a kid I watched Betty Boop cartoons and I remember feeling this strange sensation while watching a rotoscoped Cab Calloway sing “St. James Infirmary Blues.” I knew I was traveling in some way, it was like an out of body experience. Since 2001, I have been a part of an online community of "time travelers." We are young people who wear vintage clothing, listen to old music, and watch classic movies. We gravitate towards the period from 1920, when film making came into its own as an art, to around 1948, when the long playing record was introduced. We do this not just in an attempt to appreciate the past, but to adopt it. Our goal is to internalize the gracious values of this earlier era in order to combat a world that is quickly moving in the opposing direction.

Do you have a fashion icon or era in fashion that you emulate?
I study the years of 1929 – 1936 and watch Pre-Code movies to try and grab the style from this era.

Who are your favorite designers?

John Galliano, Milla Jovovitch

What do you do when you're not blogg-ing or journal-ing or Etsy-ing?
I work at a toy store and make little clothes for my Blythe dolls, Violet Crown and Odile. I'm also slowly learning Portuguese from my sweetheart, who is from Belo horizonte, Brazil.

What are your personal favorite blogs or websites?

Roxanne Carter:
Amy van Doren: It'll Take The Snap Out Of Your Garters!
Queens of Vintage

Where are your favorite places to shop?

In Austin, Texas I like to shop at Amelia's Retro Vogue and Blue Velvet. Otherwise, I go to estate sales or shop on Etsy or Evilbay.

Are there any trends your are particularly inspired by this season?
I bought new socks from, does this count?

What trend from the past would like to make a comeback?
Tweed jackets with nipped in waists.

What clothing items would you say are timeless?
Peter Pan collars on dresses, t-strap heels, fruit prints, Seersucker, mother of pearl buttons, lace headbands

What beauty product can you not live without?
Lush's entire beauty line, especially Henna for my hair and Aromoco and Massage Bars for my body!

Amelia was also featured in the book What I Wore Today

Amelia's embroidered hankies are part of an exhibit at The David Winton Bell Gallery at Brown University called Inappropriate Covers, an exhibition of multimedia works by 11 established and emerging artists, through Friday, May 29, 2009.


Anonymous said...

I liked the descriptions of your outfits and how you got ready, somehow without bodily injury.

Does Ms. Valentine ever sleep? She is into so many cool things. I like the "Society for Reinstatement of Proper Undergarments" and... who knew you can get vintage tatoos on your bod.

You filled the post with tons of great links and yours pics are great, too.

pirate grrl said...

i love her...thanks for the great time spent with her...