Re: Getting Phryne’s Style

Inspired by Miss Fisher’s Mysteries? Want to dress more like Phryne? Luckily, adding a 1920s flare to your modern wardrobe has never been easier.

Phryne's Black and White Coat

Inspector Jack Robinson (Nathan Page) and Phryne Fisher (Essie Davis) in a black and white coat with an Oriental design.

Add a jacket or cardigan. One of the things that immediately strikes the viewer is Phryne’s wardrobe of eye-catching jackets. The jacket, duster, or cardigan frequently functions as the statement piece with the rest of the outfit solid-colored and simple. Jackets are very in fashion nowadays, but you’ll have to use a number of different search terms to find them. Use “kimono”, “jacket”, “shrug”, “cardigan”, and “duster” and see what you can pull up.

Another option is to create your own shrug or jacket from a long, rectangular scarf, shawl, or stole. Fold the stole in half length-ways and knot the short ends together to form sleeves. If the shrug is falling off your shoulders, tie another knot about 6-12 inches away from the first one, further down the arm of the jacket. Slip your arms through the sleeves and voila! instant shrug. When I was a young dancer, we would use small veils (about 72″ long and 36″ wide) to make shrugs for our bellydance costumes. You can also sew the sleeves partway closed in order to form a more permanent jacket.

Phryne's Cream Cardigan

Phryne (Essie Davis) sports a scarf made of assuit, a vintage Egyptian textile very popular in the 1920s, over her cardigan.

Add a scarf. Indoors or out, Phryne is often seen wearing scarves, usually long rectangular ones. If your local department store isn’t carrying anything you like, try the on-line shops of major museums (e.g. the Metropolitan Museum of Art). Museums often sell smart scarves as part of their revenue-generating efforts.

Use your costume jewelry in innovative ways.  One of Phryne’s brooches, for example, will appear variously as a hat decoration, scarf pin, and robe closure.

Phryne's Embroidered Black Coat

Phryne in another one of her fabulous coats, this time a long black duster with embroidered trim.

Experiment with ethnic designs and textiles. In the 1920s, there was a lot of fascination with the Far and Near East on the part of the general public and the fashions and accessories of the time reflect that. This was the era in which King Tut’s tomb was discovered among other things. Today, there is a similar vogue for ethnic designs so take the opportunity to add a print blouse (or scarf) to your wardrobe.

Go for a clean, streamlined look with strong, intense colors. Although Phryne can and does wear pastels, more often than not, she favors deep colors such as navy blue, black, and winter winter. Black and white together is a favorite color combination for her. When she wears prints, they tend to be simple geometric designs such as circles. And while we see her wearing fancy ballgowns from time to time, mostly she wears very non-fussy pieces–wide leg pants, sleeveless blouses, short jackets, tear drop earrings.



Re: Miss Fisher’s Mysteries

Range of Phryne's Outfits

“Dot, a woman should dress first and foremost for her own pleasure. Having grown up in second flannels, there is nothing quite so divine as the feel of silk underwear, the touch of soft fox, the slither of a satin skirt. If these things happen to appeal to men, well… really that’s a side issue.” Miss Phryne Fisher, Murder a la Mode

I have only recently discovered the wonderfulness that is Miss Fisher’s Mysteries, an Aussie detective series set in 1920s Melbourne, following the adventures of “lady detective”, the Honorable Phryne (fry-nee, rhymes with briny) Fisher and am totally captivated. Phryne is the woman that we all want to be–witty, resourceful, and fighting for the rights of the underdog–whilst still looking fabulous in a dazzling array of 1920s outfits.

I love the fashions of the 1920s and Miss Fisher’s Mysteries is a buffet of delights. Naturally, the person with the best clothes is Phryne herself played by the divine Essie Davis (The Babadook, Lady Crane on Game of Thrones Season 6).  Phryne’s family, headed by her drunken gambler father, lived in poverty until her father inherited money and a title (the other heirs having died during the Great War). Fine clothes are, in part, Phryne’s way of making up for the deprivation of her childhood. Phryne is a liberal minded woman with an interest in the arts so her clothes reflect her modern, non-traditional, fashion-forward perspective.

Phryne's Linen Hat

Phryne Fisher (Essie Davis) in her linen hat and car coat.

One of the things that I like about Miss Fisher’s Mysteries is that Phryne is shown wearing the same costume items (in several different ways) throughout the episodes just as a real person would. The linen hat and car coat (above) make a number of appearances throughout the series. While Phryne wears a number of different hat styles, the curved brim hat tends to be her signature look. The brim echoes the curve of Phryne’s bob and draws the viewer’s eye to the actor’s face.

Dot and Phryne in her harlequin coat

Dot Williams (Ashleigh Cummings) and Phryne Fisher (Essie Davis) in Miss Fisher’s awesome Hispano-Suiza motorcar.

When Phryne first met Dottie Williams, the latter was a mousy maid in an undesirable employment situation. Over the course of three seasons, Dot gradually evolves into a self-confident detective’s assistant. As she does so, her fashions gradually become more modern–although never as modern as Miss Fisher’s–and her colors become stronger.

Jack in his detective wear

Inspector Jack Robinson (Nathan Page) in his working day detective garb.

Phryne’s ally on the police force–and her partner in a slow burning and elegantly underplayed tango of attraction–is Inspector Jack Robinson (Nathan Page). Jack is almost always dressed noirishly, a good man walking the mean streets, so those occasions when he appears in civvies are always worthy of note.



Phryne and Dr. Mac

Fresh off the boat. Phryne Fisher, looking smart in her nautical ensemble, walking arm-in-arm with Dr. Elizabeth “Mac” Macmillan (Tammy Macintosh).

Phyrne as Cleopatra Close Up

Phryne as Cleopatra

Phryne Fisher (Essie Davis) rockin’ it as Cleopatra a la Claudette Colbert at her cousin’s fancy dress party.

Phryne Stilleto in Garter

Next to a gold-plated, pearl-handled revolver, a stiletto in the garter is the ultimate must-have accessory for the fashionable sleuth.


Re: Hecate

Mom as Hecate II

Lori Russell as Hecate (October 2015)

Mom as Hecate III

Lori Russell as Hecate. Jasmine, the pensive Golden Retriever mix, as the messenger to the Underworld (Oct. 2015).

Alas, life and work, those two time-consuming things that get in the way of costume blogging, kept me from posting these photos last Halloween, but I figure better late than never. This is my 85-year-old mother, Lori Russell, costumed as Hecate, goddess of the crossroads and the dead. Dogs were animals sacred to Hecate hence my dog, Jasmine, making her costuming debut. No matter what photo I took, Jasmine always seemed to be mirroring Mom’s expression.

The Take Back Halloween site has a more modern take on Hecate, but I decided to take the goddess back to her ancient Turkish roots. The hat was a happy accident–a pillbox leftover from a hat-making project. Mom is also wearing an Egyptian baladi necklace, a short Indian veil over the hat, a beaded Egyptian dance shawl, and a silver-striped baladi dress (made from two large veils) over a long-sleeved black dress.

Re: Minimalist Halloween Costumes

Pineapple CostumeKelly Mindell modeling her pineapple costume. Photo by Jeff Mindell.

One of things I became fascinated with this past year was minimalist Halloween costumes. I was turned on to the idea by Kelly Mindell of Studio DIY in Los Angeles. Above is a great picture of her pineapple costume. Check out her other costume designs on her blog. Kelly helpfully adds links to basic dresses you can customize.

For the purposes of this post, I’m defining a minimalist costume as one that creates, as simply as possible, a striking and unmistakeable graphic image. Which set me to thinking: what kind of Halloween costumes lend themselves to these stripped down, but powerful designs?

Bedsheet Ghost

The classic bedsheet ghost costume is probably the most basic minimalist Halloween costume of all time. Unfortunately, the old bedsheet-over-the-head costume has lost ground in recent years to the more realistic specter costume.

Skeletons are very bare bones (pun intended) and have been gaining ground in recent years, thanks to the popularity of Day of the Dead celebrations.

Skeleton Family

Pumpkin costumes are readily recognizable as a Halloween staple

Child's Pumpkin Costume

Love the vintage vibe of this fantastic child’s costume.

Pumpkin Costume

A more standard take on the traditional pumpkin motif.

Moving away toward more modernist designs, I really like the streetlight costume. It’s bold, graphic, and colorful. If you’re able to find some battery-operated lights, that just adds to the fun. Do a search for “traffic light costume” to see some of the great variations out there.

Traffic Light and Cone Costume

Janelle from Canada submitted this traffic light and traffic cone couples costume to Coolest Homemade

Anything that creates a strong visual image is a potential costume generator including Surrealist paintings.

Son of Man Painting

Son of Man painting by Rene Magritte.

Son of Man Group Costume

Son of Man group costume.


Re: Crimson Eeeek!

Crimson Peak Poster

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a handsome, brooding, Bryonic hero possessed of decaying mansion full of dark secrets must necessarily be in want of an innocent bride to share it with.

Okay, that’s not how Crimson Peak opens, but it should.

It’s a shame that a perfect Halloween movie like Crimson Peak should come out too close to Halloween to make an impact on this year’s costume season. Not content to allow all these cool Victorian Gothic costume ideas to go to seed, I have come up with a couple of ideas for re-creating major costumes from the film.

I picked what I regarded as some of the most iconic images from the earlier trailers and stills–the Sharpes in their black visiting outfits and Edith in her long white nightgown. The idea here is not create exact reproductions, but to mimic the look of said costumes for the average Halloween party or costume masquerade.

The Sharpes Crimson Peak

Although Lucille and Thomas Sharpe have other outfits, I felt that their “vampire visitation” gear was the easiest to reproduce. For Lucille’s outfit, I would recommend finding a Wicked Witch of the West costume and adding black and white lace to it. If you already have a Victorian-style blouse and Gypsy style-skirt with ruffles that you can tuck into the back for a bustle effect, that would probably work, too. Complete the outfit with black fingerless gloves, black parasol, a red rose pin, and a black lacy hat. Extra points for adding the blackened floral trim. You might be able to get away with a black placemat with added lace for the hat.

Lucille Sharpe

Thomas Sharpe

Thomas Sharpe’s outfit is a lot easier. Black pants, black vest, white shirt, black cravat, and black frock coat. Extra points for adding the silver watch chain. If you can find a Victorian vampire or Abe Lincoln costume, you may be able to re-purpose the frock coat.

Both siblings sport tinted round spectacles. I would recommend raiding the “hippie Halloween costume section” for John Lennon-style shades.

Edith with Candelabra

The extra-poofy sleeves of Edith’s white nightgown are the hardest part of this costume to get right. If you have a poofy shrug, you can wear that over any sort of white nightgown or white dress with a  wide skirt. Failing that, I recommend checking out thrift stores for a wedding dress with puffed sleeves.

Since Edith is a damsel in distress, it seems only right to distress the hem of her dress with red paint or dye in a spray bottle. Important props: long blonde wig, candelabra, and bloody knife.

Re: Krampus Your Style

Krampus the Christmas Demon

Krampus the Christmas Demon (

Every now and then, I run across a Halloween costume that just makes me insanely happy on a very deep, spiritual level. Krampus the Christmas Demon, which I found browsing the Theatrical Costumes section on the Spirit Halloween website, is one of them. Most people are generally aware of the Germanic tradition of St. Nickolas rewarding good children on Christmas. What most people (or at least most Americans) aren’t aware of is that traditionally St. Nickolas is accompanied by a helper who punishes the bad children. This helping figure is known variously as Black Peter or Krampus and he either hands out switches or, in the case of Krampus, pops the kids into his sack and eats them for dinner.  (‘Cause it’s not really a Germanic holiday unless some kind of punishment is being doled out).

The very best part about this costume is that you can scare the beejezus out of  your neighbors on two separate holidays–Halloween AND Christmas. Heck, catch your neighbors at the right time on Christmas morning and Mommy and Daddy will happily stuff little Johnny into your sack for you. Your problem is going to be giving the little devil back.

Add to this the Krampus movie coming out in December and this costume couldn’t be more timely.

Re: Halloween Costume Forecast 2015

And for our fearless (or fearful) Halloween costume forecast for this year. By shaking my trust Magic-8 ball, I see that the most popular costumes this Halloween will be as follows:

  • Zombies and Minions will still be going strong as will Pirates and Vampires.
  • Politics will produce the usual strange bedfellows (Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton for this year).
  • You can’t rid of superheroes with a stick (although Ultron gave it a good try).
  • There are interesting costume flicks/TV shows out there (Crimson Peak and Outlander come to mind), but they are too new to make much of a showing.

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