We’re now five events into Walter’s Wardrobe, with the creaky doors opening in no less than one abandoned Victorian theatre, one gothic castle and three stately homes from various periods. But what really goes on behind the wooden doors? As ‘Ruffles & Ready’ took the stage this April, I thought it was about time I explained what goes on within the Wardrobe…
Who is this elusive Walter character and what’s with his Wardrobe?
Walter is my big black tom. Hand reared from weeks old, but born to a farm cat stray, his questionable manners and anger management leave plenty to be desired. Yet there is something irresistible about him. He owns my heart, like my passion for fashion and no matter how much stress he causes, he has an innate ability of sucking me back in. Always.
As for the wardrobe; the concept derives from the imagination of C.S. Lewis and his magical knotty pine that endorsed my childhood. As the wardrobe doors open, photographers are invited to step through the doors of reality, wade past the fur coats of normality and straight into a new kind of Narnia, shooting models in couture costume at alluring locations.
How did Walter’s Wardrobe begin?
The thing with the Wardrobe, is that it was never meant to be. I’m a qualified writer turned model, now working in a 9-5 office occupation. Hosting fashion shoots for photographers, was never my original agenda. Yet, as I tried to leave, I found myself bathing in reluctance.
I knew gorgeous models, great makeup artists, exquisite designers, fascinating locations…and a persistent desire to be involved. I don’t want to be a photographer, but I do want to make photographs.
Walter’s Wardrobe represents a natural progression; from wannabe model, to wannabe stylist and event planner. Nothing more, nothing less.
Ruffles & Ready
After 2016′s autumn production, House of Two Halves, it was set to be a comfortable six month break for Christmas…or so it would seem. The final cracker had barely been pulled before location scouting began once again. Plans for April were imminent; Ruffles & Ready was coming.
The venue needed to follow my strict criteria: an essence of opulence, a bit of baroque, ornate with an abundance of history. Locations with whispering walls are the places that call to me…and this one, most certainly did.
Haunted by the ghosts of the past, once again I stumbled across this location through the tragic historical stories that consume my imagination. This time, entranced by the story of two nineteenth century female photographers, who twirled in front of a lit fireplace. I learned that their creole dresses accidentally caressed the naked flames in the library…and they burnt to death, where they’d danced with nobody watching. A harrowing tale of such heartbreaking coincidence, this story could not remain a secret from the photographers within Walter’s Wardrobe.
Not only this, but the tale of Disraeli’s parrot was a key influence in the styling of the titled production ‘Ruffles & Ready’. The exotic bird was gifted to the Lady of the house by our former Tory Prime Minister of the 1870s. Presumed male, he was a finely feathered masculine beauty….until the day she laid 23 eggs in 24 days and promptly dropped dead in her cage. Although considered another tragic tale, the dark comedy of this story became me – yet another example of how life imitates art. I had to have this venue.
You may have recognised her taxidermy body, as the ‘save the date’ notice:
Her sorry story influenced the creation of the below image, captured by Richard Wakefield, featuring the 23 eggs that sorely killed her.
So the hunt for yellow ruffles began – not a common colour inline with my usual themes, but one that undoubtedly had to pay homage to our 137 year old deceased feathered friend.
With the tale of the two girls and the long perished parrot in my mind, inspiration and planning was freshly underway. So when I explained the story behind the search for yellow, to one of the hardest working designers I know, Mishi May kindly offered to create a brand new design especially for us. The addition of Mickey Mouse inspired ears to this outfit, was a cheeky nod to my upcoming birthday; a fortnight in DisneyWorld Orlando in no less than a dozen days from now; paid for entirely by the attendees of 5 Walter’s Wardrobe events, allowing me to reach a lifetime goal of 5 year old me. The Mickey ears remain one of my favourite looks for this reason – a commissioned product produced by Donna Graham.
Nicky Mouse, better known as Nicky Phillips, working the Hollywood look: