A Retro Revival

Arts & Culture, Fashion — By on May 31, 2013 11:45 AM


As the world slips into slacks and furrows into fur, the rise of a new culture threatens to dethrone the Gatsby empire.

Initially used to describe the fashion and vehicles of those who built custom cars in the 50s, Kustom Kulture is today synonymous with rods and rock ‘n’ roll.

The return to the 40s, 50s and 60s is proving particularly popular with the younger generation.

Twenty-one-year-old retro revivalist, Hayley Stavrou, said her parents first introduced her to the culture.

“My parents influenced me from a very early age… I’d listen to the music and watch old films from the era,” Ms Stavrou said.

“I love everything about it – from the cars to the music, the fashion, and even the way people conducted themselves… everyone seemed so elegant and mature.”

“Being a ‘curvy’ girl, the fashion also helped me embrace my body shape… I struggled a lot with body image and so it was nice to find something I loved and made me feel sexy and classy,” she said.

Ms Stavrou, who has participated in the Rock and Roll Rendezvous and modelled for custom clothing store Delerium Emporium, said the culture is empowering for women.

“I look up to [organisations such as] the Land Army, the Suffragettes, and the iconic Rosie the Riveter, who all helped empower women and encourage them to aim for more in life,” she said.

The search for a strong female identity has rekindled a fascination with the pin-up girl and, by extension, burlesque.

While Kustom Kulture is not traditionally associated with burlesque, it has fuelled interest in the performance art.

Julie Cooke of Lady Love said attendance at the dance studio’s burlesque class had sky rocketed in recent months.

“We’ve had women of all ages and from a range of backgrounds coming to us for classes,” Ms Cooke said.

“For some, burlesque is an escape from reality, for others it’s a fun workout which makes them feel sexy.

“We cater for this with our own unique style which incorporates different costumes and props.”

Twenty-two-year-old Lucy Ahern attended burlesque classes following a performance she had seen at the Adelaide Vintage Expo.

“I loved the cheekiness, glamour and confidence these women had, and it encouraged me to give it a go myself,” Ms Ahern said.

“I think the general perception is that it’s just another form of stripping, but there’s quite a bit more to it than that – for many it’s a way to get a political message across, or to subvert gender stereotypes.

“While they may be taking their clothes off, there is often a bigger statement going on.

“For instance, Imogen Kelly’s Marie Antoinette skit is funny, sexy, and utterly entertaining – it’s not just stripping,” she said.

“We sometimes have to deal with the ‘stripper’ comments, but we don’t mind as we’re very proud of who we are and what we do,” Ms Cooke said.

“I haven’t taken burlesque classes, but I’ve found my involvement in pin-up photo shoots to be equally empowering,” Ms Stavrou said.

“Hopefully we’ll have more people involved in the future and hopefully there will be fewer stigmas attached to the pin-up or burlesque culture.”

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