Wintersmith (or confidence breeds confidence)

Photo by Carlos Adama

Since it’s been a heatwave here in the UK, of course I thought a throwback to winter’s chill was in order. Plus it’s been a little while since I did a lolita piece and I do love to go just that little bit more flamboyant every so often.

It’s something that I have always loved to look at, avantgarde fashion and alternative style, but for a long time I never felt like I could pull it off. After all I had a lot of issues with my appearance and despite not ever wanting to wear “fashionable” clothes, I never felt a pull towards the high street styles, I couldn’t quite bring myself to stand out so much from the crowd. It took me a long time to realise that I didn’t have to hide to accepted, purely because their are people who are never going to accept me for who I am so why should I pander to their ideals and sensibilities?

In this vein, I decided to start dressing how I wanted to, screw the rest and I pushed myself to drag the confidence I needed to do this from the very depths of my soul. So, let’s talk about confidence.

Confidence in one’s self is hard at the best of times but how to be confident when you are struggling with dysphoria or any other body issues is a completely different kettle of fish altogether.


Walk, walk fashion, baby

I’ve talked about days when you want to just cover up and hide, but I really want to talk about how you can overcome that. Let me introduce you to the art of distraction.

Let’s have an example shall we. Today I am really not 100% ok with my hips, am actually about 0% ok with them. There isn’t a huge amount I can do about that, they are wide, that’s the shape of my body, but instead of trying to hide them with baggy clothes, I’ve put on a shirt with a great pattern and slightly unusual colours and suddenly no one is looking at my hips, heck I can even wear skinny jeans with this top. It’s about making people look at something else.

You take this to the extreme with alternative fashions like lolita and you can get things like the outfit above. Not only person was looking at my figure because you know what, that ridiculous feather cape was the star of the show.

This look, along with many of my lolita, ouji and kodona looks, is almost theatrical, and is the other half of confidence. Acting. You are acting a character, you are letting the clothes build that for you to play and you can let yourself be whoever you want to be. Trust me, you put on a feather cape and floor length coat and you feel like you can do anything. Clothes inform your behavior, your body language, your self esteem. You tell yourself “today I am going to rule the world” and with the right look you will believe it. Also helps if you play the Imperial March on repeat while you’re getting dressed. Just saying.

Distraction can help you fake the confidence while helping you create it for real. The more you wear interesting clothes, unusual looks and adding those key pieces to your wardrobe, the more confident you will feel in yourself.

You don’t have to be scared of looking outrageous. You don’t have to hide behind baggy clothes and plain outfits because you can hide in plain sight. You can have people turning heads to look at you and not one of those people will think “oh look at their body” because they will all be thinking “I wish I could pull off that look”. At the end of the day, you are never going to be able to please everyone, so if you simply please yourself then that will rub off on other people. Maybe not all of them, but haters gunna hate.

Outfit Breakdown

I’m going to go straight in with this one and say that it’s basically completely handmade, using my own altered patterns. Sorry about that. This being said, a lot of this look was inspired by other pieces I’ve seen in lolita stores so I’m going to do my best to find alternatives as well as link to patterns that you could use to make something similar.

I’ll just preis this by saying, this was for a Christmas party with my Lolita Community. Now, I’ve talked before about how I don’t really do OTT but I felt this was a perfect moment to push the boat out and go completely OTT. And even then I could have gone so much further with this look; though I can see myself probably making this look even more extreme in the future, because sometimes you need to have no chill – pun intended.


Kodona Extraordinaire Elliot Ryan

Shall we start with that cape? It’s one of my favourite things I have ever made. 300 goose feathers, sewn by hand onto a lightweight cotton, circle capelette, with a velvet trim to finish. It’s about as austenatious as you can get. And what is wrong with that? Remember this look is all about creating confidence, and nothing does that like telling the world you give no f*cks even if deep down inside you want to run away and hide. Feather cape = no f*cks. Plus the chain clasp that’s holding it in place acts as an extra little accessory, I’ve added a mirror and a rose charm to it (both references to the original inspiration for this outfit, Wintersmith from Terry Pratchett’s Discworld.)

Let’s move onto the waistcoat, because that’s what it is, a floor length waistcoat, and it’s made of velvet. That’s right. Velvet. You all know how I feel about velvet, I’ve talked about it in the past, but this look, this is the time and the place for this most unapologetic of fabrics. Because what else could go with feathers? This isn’t a look for going half-arsed. It’s a statement beyond statements.

Velvet is a very difficult fabric to pull off. You can’t just throw it one with any look, or make any type of garment from it, despite what the high street might be telling you. It oozes richness and gives the wearer an air of levity, that few other fabrics can provide – see silk and furs, and that’s probably it. Now, you shape that velvet into a full length, large circle coat, and you get flair and dynamism. This coat flows out behind you like you own the ground you are walking on. This look is telling the world that “I’m royalty from some fairy realm and I’m not going to even give you the time of day”. You want confidence, you get a floor length coat. Doesn’t have to be as extreme as this look, but a proper, full length coat with a good collar and you can trick everyone and yourself into believing that you are a confident human being. Promise.

As for getting your hands on something like this, I’d have a look on Alice and the Pirates, FanplusFriend, Altelier Pierrot and possibly Classical Puppets. You can also always look on Lace Market and Closet Child as well as for second hand pieces. I’m also going to throw E.L.E.G.Y in here. They are small indie brand that have some glorious pieces, but they sell out fast so keep an eye on their pre-orders if you want in!

ouji examples

Found on Buttcape.Blogspot

So next up is the pantaloons, which you can’t really see in this picture, but are cut in the style of Georgian breeches, just under the knee and fastened with a button. I am never making or wearing breeches in this style again. It’s a pain. They are the worst to wear and there was much drama with the fitting. I would suggest to go for a longer style of pantaloons or in fact a military trouser if you’re really wanting to play around. And to not make them from velvet. Don’t copy my mistakes good people.

You can look for pantaloons in this style from the same places as the waistcoats, but I’d also recommend looking in vintage stops and on ebay. Not necessarily for pantaloons, or brand lolita, but for cool vintage military trousers and possibly some cute long shorts. You can have a bit of a play with the look of the bottom half of this style of outfit (though the lolita elite might have my head for saying so.)

The blouse is actually the easiest part of this look to talk about. It’s from Infanta. It’s blinking lovely. It goes with almost all my lolita dresses (such a good find) and has flair coming out the wazoo. The flamboyance in cuffs, with the layers of lace allow for way of moving and talking with one’s hands that creates elegance and charm, key factors in this confidence thing we’re trying to create. You might feel a bit fop-ish but you’ll look amazing.

Right-ho, how are we all feeling? A bit overwhelmed? Yeah, me too. This look is overwhelming but do not be put off my darlings, if I can wear this, you can too. So let us push on.

Accessories. I’be already talked about the charms on the cape chain, but there are a few other pieces that pull this look together. As I said above, this whole thing was inspired by Terry Pratchett’s Wintersmith, the god of Winter from Discworld. He has certain items that are associated with him, the mirror, the rose and an iron nail, something I went and found and made into a pendant. Now, that’s not all the sensible or normal, but such a hard piece in a outfit that is predominantly soft (feathers and velvet) creates a juxtaposition, causing the different items to stand out. This means that you have to look at it twice, first you take in the outfit as a whole, and then that nail catches your eye and makes you look again, seeing all the little pieces on their own. It’s a clever way of distracting people from the body that is wearing the outfit, while still showing off the look. This is a technique that can be used on any look as well. Tip of the day that.

There is also a broach at the neck, it has a small image of stage in the snow. This again, means that people aren’t looking at you, they are looking at the small detail in the broach or the necklace of the ring, whatever piece you decide to use as highly detailed distraction. Also it’s really pretty and sometimes that’s enough. The broach is from Etsy store Curiously Charmed, which you should all check out!

I don’t really want to talk about the shoes. I’m not happy with them. They are the one thing that I desperately want to replace if and when I wear this again. Next!

You may have noticed that I’ve used a wig for this look. Pretty sure I’ve talked about wigs and how they change your look before in other lolita and ouji articles, but the reason for wearing one this time is purely that my hair looked wrong. It’s ginger and ginger would not work here. It’s worth thinking about sometimes with these more OTT looks.

I’ve saved the best until last, the crown. It was made for me by my wonderful friend Alyson, and is actually just cardboard and tinfoil with some rivets. It’s very clever, and shows that with some patience and skill you can do pretty much anything on the cheap. As for the reason for wearing a crown, well it was pretty much, go big or go home. I have wanted to do a proper Kodona prince for years and finally had my chance, so I was not going to let it slip by. If you want to prince it up yourself ebay has loads of good crowns (look for prom crowns to get the best selection) and you can always make your own (these tutorials are good).

I hope this has been helpful in some way, and if you like what I’m doing please support me on patreon.

Or you can buy me a cuppa on Ko-fi!

Check out my other work on The Nerdx and Women Write About Comics – written under Holly Rose Swinyard.

That’s all for now,

‘Olly out!

Written by Holly Rose Swinyard


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