All That Flickers

“Halloween is a lot of pressure for someone who likes to dress up as much as I do,” answers Sarah Sophie when I ask her what she wore this weekend. “People expect major costuming but I’m actually not that good at it!” Maybe it’s because she’s NEVER out of character. Maybe it’s because she lives a life of fantasy and magic ALL year round, creating a world of fun and games for her kids. Or maybe it’s because Sarah Sophie Flicker thinks that Halloween is “amateur night” and EACH place, each day, rain or shine, should be looked at as an opportunity to hopelessly escape into another time. She takes on-line ballet classes with Mary Helen Bowers, who trained Natalie Portman for her role in Black Swan, and pretends to be a ballerina. She performs as a trapeze artist with a gang of modern day troubadours called The Citizens Band. And she gets lost in so many eras it’s impossible to wear sweats and a T-shirt. And why should she? She’ll be a “flapper gal”, or “hippie earth mother” (when she’ pregnant) or “chorus girl on her way to rehearsal” before she’s the “girl next door”, even if you ask her to play one. “Part of my downfall as a commercial actor was that I would get called in to audition for an “all American girl” and I just couldn’t do it.”

Luckily Sarah Sophie Flicker doesn’t have to worry about dressing down. She’s an artist who makes a living doing exactly what she’s good at and loves. And she has an equally incredible and creative group of friends who all seem to be dipping into each other’s pots of gold. For starters she’s an Editor at Large at Lula, that super cute fashion magazine out of London. “I think it is such a positive, feminist and smart publication!” she attests. “Aesthetically, it really speaks my dreamy, mythological language a well.” Then there’s the production company she started with her friend Maximilla Lukacs, The Belles of Black Diamond Field (named after the first female coal miners around the turn of the last century). They makes art films, music videos (including some for Karen Elson, another friend) and lately, fashion films. She also writes for Zooey Deschanel’s website, Hello Giggles, about whatever blows her skirt at a moment’s notice. “It seems to be part of a pro-girl, pro-feminist, pro-fashion, pro-flouncy, girly, lace-y movement that I love,” she dotes. And then of course there’s The Citizens Band, a social awareness cabaret act she started with friends in 2004 after Bush was re-elected and sadness about the political climate kicked in. They refurbish old and original songs that tell the story of what goes on in the world politically today. “Right now Depression Era music is really informing the shows. It’s comforting, on the one hand, to know that we’ve been here before, we got out of it, and we can dig our way out again. But it’s also crazy to think that we are repeating this same cycle all over again and that we learned nothing from it the first time. So, really, the world is endlessly inspiring, or depressing, depending on how you perceive it. On the other hand, there is a lot of singing, dancing, trapeze-ing, showgirl shenanigans, and old theater tricks to keep it fun and otherworldly.”

We came up with the idea for our shoot while vintage shopping in Los Angeles this summer. We would take a trip to the North Fork of Long Island and shoot all the showgirl costumes she’s been collecting since high school in San Francisco. “A lot of my friends worked at The Wasteland on Haight Street. That place was a treasure trove and we had an all access pass. I also modeled for the store and had a crazy good discount. We were seriously dressed to the nines all the time! Now, I find most of my costumes around Halloween in vintage stores or on the internet. I went to law school – I never took the bar – but I learned how to be a mean researcher. Thanks to law school I can find anything online!” We made an entire weekend of it, with farmer’s market food, cups of tea, invigorating walks and endlessly entertaining talks. Sarah Sophie dragged a suitcase full of vintage leotards, feather head dresses and sequined costumes to the island and prepared all the looks in a matter of minutes. We spent hours darting around, from the beach to the top of the roof, creating her story. It was endearing to see her eyes light up each time she picked up a new costume and she’d say: “These things make me crazy happy.”

November 2, 2011

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