We sat down with Tara Tonini in her studio to talk about her company Tara to the T, fashion design, feathers, flight attendants, and daydreaming.
Interview & Cover Photograph: Shoshana of Through the Looking Glass. Article Photograph with Car: Scott Hunter Smith
Tell us about the birth of Tara to the T. How did you get your start?
I’m originally from California and I attended the Fashion Institute in Los Angeles. After working in the fashion industry for a while I was hired by a large corporate company. They snatched me up and moved me to big ‘ol Texas. Tara to the T started out as my hobby, just a way for me to express my creativity and design things that I wanted to make, rather than what I had to design at my 8-5 job. Then in January 2009 I started running my business full time.
What were some of your favorite inspirations in your early hair accessory designs?
In the beginning all of my inspiration came from fashion of the 1920’s through 1960’s. I constructed lots of pillbox hats and fun 1920’s inspired oversized fascinators.
What were some of your most memorable early evolutions?
I participated as a designer in the 2008 Pin Show. The Pin show is a local fashion show that features independent Texas designers. The experience was amazing and it made me very motivated to take my then “hobby” to the next level.
What do you think is secret to your amazing success with the Tara to the T line of hats and hair accessories?
I am an extremely hard worker; I think it runs in my Italian blood, ha-ha. I have also taken several years to create my technique of design and my product is of high quality. I travel the world collecting unique materials and findings to make my designs original. My goal is to create a shopping experience. I have so many retuning customers because they like to hear the inspiration and story behind each design.
Your newest line, Sky Girls is your first full clothing line. How did you make the leap from hats and hair accessories to a full clothing line?
In college I studied apparel, and I always knew in the back of my mind I would enter that market again. So at the 2009 Pin Show I débuted my Sky Girls collection.
What is the inspiration & concept behind Sky Girls?
My Great Aunt was a stewardess during the Golden Age and when she passed away, I was given her vintage Valentino jacket. After doing some research, I discovered that Valentino designed TWA’s uniforms for several years. So my research continued and my Sky Girls line was created.
I wanted to recapture the image of the 1960’s stewardess. She was fun and playful, yet she was a professional and able to travel the world. All of the Sky Girls dresses are 60’s inspired silhouettes, but they are created with modern fabrications. The dresses are designed out of knit, so they are very easy to wear and super comfortable.
In January, you began pursuing your art full time. Please describe your experiences thus far as a full time small business owner.
It has been an interesting six months to say the least. I have managed to launch a clothing line and take my company on the road. Sky Girls is available for sale in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Austin and in New York very shortly. I’m a strong believer that a small business can survive in this day and age, the business owner just has to be creative in a slow economy.
I am extremely fortunate to be surrounded by my very talented and supportive friends; this transition wouldn’t have been possible without them.
With so many projects: the Tara to the T hair accessories and hats line, your Steam Punk line, your burlesque inspired line with Ginger Valentine, and Sky Girls, do you ever find time for yourself? What is your method for juggling so many projects?
I do find time for myself; I just don’t sleep much these days ha-ha. My number one hobby is daydreaming. My boyfriend, Joey Seeman is a very talented artist and we spend most of our time daydreaming and brainstorming. This fuels my fire and gets me behind my sewing machine so I can execute my ideas from my head through my fingertips.
My second hobby is dressing up. By designing everything from retro dresses to Steam Punk accessories, I get a chance to dress up and be creative with the entire process.
As for juggling it all, everyone who knows me knows that I live out of my calendar. My key is to mark everything in pencil so that I can be flexible.. I also lock myself if my studio twice a week, to give myself alone time to be creative and stay focused.
Speaking of your partnership with burlesque entertainer Ginger Valentine, what is the name of the line and describe the concept. What are your thoughts on the relatively recent popularity of the Burlesque revival movement?
While living in Los Angeles, I was fortunate enough to see some very talented burlesque entertainers perform. My favorite book is Pretty Things by Liz Goldwyn and I was able to meet and chat with Miss Goldwyn at a vintage store in Los Angeles one day. So long story short I’ve been a fan of burlesque, its history and most of all it’s costuming for quite some time.
A fellow artist friend recently introduced me to Ginger Valentine and we immediately hit it off! Miss Valentine is an amazing entertainer, her fun and flirty personality shines in all of her performances. I am designing Ginger’s costumes for several upcoming performances and we have launched our Ginger Valentine burlesque starter kit. It débuted at Hot Rods and Heels and we an instant hit for so many of my customers. Inside you get the tips and treats to do a little burlesque of your own. The kits are available on-line June 1st and of course they will be for sale wherever Miss Valentine performs.
What does the future hold for Tara?
My Sky Girls swimsuit line will be for sale in June, I’m very excited about that. I am also having a Carnival theme launch party on Friday June 12th at the Lizard Lounge in Dallas, TX.
What’s the biggest piece of advice you can give to a woman looking to open her own business in a arts related field?
Do what you love in order to live your dream. When there is passion in your heart and a supportive community around you, the possibilities are endless.
Miss Malicious, winner of Texas Performer of the Year at Hot Rods and Heels, talks about diversity, The Lollie Bombs, and pushing boundaries.
How did you come to burlesque? Do you have a background in dance?
I didn’t even know there was a scene here in Dallas until a friend of mine…Ms. Lawless, told me that I should try out for her Burlesque group the Lollie Bombs. And, almost two years later, here I am! Yes, I do have a background in dance. Tap, Jazz and Ballet..a bit of Modern dance as well. I was also a gymnast for a few years. I have been dancing and acting most of my life and this is a great way to combine both!
You have a history of doing very non-traditional pieces with a high level of story-telling in each piece. How do you describe your unique burlesque style?
My style is a bit punky and modern. I like doing pieces that have a bit of substance or an underlying story or are a bit political or, at times, a little disturbing. I like the ability to do something that you usually don’t see. I never wanted to blend with the crowd. I am loud and a bit sarcastic and I think that comes across in everything that I do.
How do you respond to those who feel your style may not be “true burlesque”?
I just think to each their own. I don’t think that I could even pull off a “true classic” routine! There are girls that do a wonderful job of it and I will leave it to them.
The Lollie Bombs are the veteran Dallas burlesque troupe and have achieved a level of notoriety that is rare. What is the secret of the Lollies success?
Diversity and the ability to push boundaries. We are always trying to think up things that are new and interesting. You have to keep people entertained and you can’t do that by doing the same numbers show after show. Our choreographer, Eric Hall, is a huge help to us and I don’t know where we would be without him. He is always game for whatever we bring to the table.
How has the Dallas burlesque scene changed since you came on the scene?
I became a Lollie almost two years ago and I have just seen it explode! There weren’t this many girls doing burlesque when I first started and now there is a wonderful mix of everything! There are more venues and variety shows, New Orleans is going to put on a first annual Burlesque Fest, and it is wonderful to see all of the interest and support for this art form.
Even though you have been a Lollie for many years, 2009 saw Miss Malicious on quite a few bills as a solo performer. It is harder to be recognized as a solo performer when you are part of a troupe? Describe your process of seeking out bookings as a solo performer in addition to bookings as a troupe.
It can be harder to be recognized as a solo performer but it is no secret that all of the Lollies can be booked individually. When I hear about a show I just say “hey, need another performer?” If they like my style then they say yes, if not, I don’t get my feelings hurt. It’s the name of the game. Not everyone is going to like what you do. Bookings as a troupe are usually easier. We have an every other month gig at the Pocket Sandwich Theatre and we love it there! They are truly awesome. We will do conventions and out of town performances. People want the variety and they get what they pay for.
You recently earned the “Texas Performer of the Year” title at Hot Rods and Heels. What was that experience like?
It was awesome. I was in the running with some lovely ladies and was surprised and excited at winning. It is great to be recognized. I don’t perform to get awards but I can’t say it isn’t nice!
Where do you find inspiration for your new numbers?
The entire world around me is inspiration enough. Plus I have a bit of a sick sense of humor.
Who are your favorite vixens? [I use vixen to describe women present and past who use their sex appeal to inspire & gain notoriety]
Of course all of the greats…Betty Page and Dita Von Tease. There are also performers of a different nature like Marilyn Monroe and Madonna who paved the way for a lot of things to happen for women. There are so many women who inspire many to be whatever they want to be.
What does the future hold for Miss Malicious?
I hope great things! I love to perform and entertain people with my sarcastic and punky flair. Being on stage is almost second nature and I will do it for many years to come.
Kali-Ann, winner of Texas Pin-Up to Watch (the newcomer category at Hot Rods and Heels), sits down with us to talk designer labels, pop music, tattoos, and Cheaters.
How did you become interested in modeling? Please describe your start.
One of my best friends, Phoenix Taylor, is a photographer and would take beautiful photos of women. I wanted to do one after seeing them so we did a shoot. It is crazy looking back at the first shoot to the photos now. So, I dabbled in it over the next few years, only really doing shoots once a year.. Last May was when it really took off for me and I started doing it several times a month. Meeting new photographers and companies to work with helped keep me busy.
Describe your Hot Rods and Heels experience: the contest, the show, and winning your category.
I had a blast at Hot Rods and Heels. I haven’t been to many burlesque shows but the more I go to the more I fall in love with it. The people in the community are so nice and so supportive of the girls on stage that it seems hard to have a bad performance. I got to be a part of the Model Showcase/Fashion Show. I got to model fashions from Tara to the T. This was my first show to really get to know some more of the girls which was the best part of the whole show. The contest was all in fun but I do appreciate all the votes I received to help me win. Though I think all the gals that were nominated should all deserve a trophy.
The original pin-up movement didn’t include tattoos, mainly because not many American women at the time had them. Please describe your passion or both pin-up and ink. Do you feel the two go hand in hand?
Well, my passion started with tattoos. I have worked in the shop for almost four years therefore I have lots of tats. I am the type of person if you are gonna do it you might as well do it big. So my goal is a body suit. I started out doing more glamour modeling but over the past few months have gotten into pin up. I have always had the sweet tooth for vintage, my favorite part is getting my hair done. I think that hair styling itself is an artform and I thank all the ladies that have sculpted my hair. I don’t think tats and pinup go hand in hand but I think that they do cross over quite a bit. People like variety these days so if you can throw a tattooed chick in the mix of some classic beauties in will give it a little spice.
Do you identify with the “alternative beauty” movement?
It’s hard not to be. I have my face tattooed, how can I not be an alternative beauty? Do I want to be limited to that no but I do accept the fact that I am not your normal runway fashion model or classic pin up. And if you can make it with tattoos or pink hair then bravo!
You have said that “you can have tattoos and still love designer shit”. Are their any pre-concieved notions about you that you would like to dispell? Do you feel your ink has limited the work you do?
I just hate being labeled. Just because I have tattoos doesn’t mean I have to dress a certain way, listen to a certain type of music and only be friends with other tattooed folks. I like nice clothes, I like pop music and I get along with everyone. I do think my tattoos will limit the type of work I can do, but I just consider it a hurdle I have to find my way around. I might not make it but I will at least try my hardest.
What has been your favorite shoot thus far and why?
Wow, a hard question. I think every new shoot becomes my favorite. I feel like I progress each time and I try to top the last shoot with something bigger and better. This last shoot was with Phoenix Taylor featuring the makeup artistry of Luisa “Panic” Abrego. There were a lot of models involved with the shoot along with hair and makeup gals. It seemed like a little party. Shoots that you have fun on are def the ones you remember.
Who are your favorite vixens? (women past and present who rule with their strong sex appeal)
Erin Go Braughless
Dita Von Teese
If you could work with anyone (photographers, other models, etc) who would it be and why?
I would want to work with models Raquel Reed and Mosh. I love a woman that can pose her ass off. These two women have been the ladies that I have looked up to since I got started. They know how to rock the camera! I love Mosh’s fetish work and Raquel’s electric pop style.
Ok, We can’t help it: Please describe your Cheaters experience. (For those readers who don’t know: Cheaters is a “reality” t.v. show where people get busted cheating on their boyfrends/ girlfriends/ spouses) Any regrets? Was any of the reaction staged? What was the feedback you recieved?
OH MY! No regrets, I try not to fill my life with those. If you caught my name on the show was Kelly. So, I was being a character on the show, not myself. I was filming the show with two girls I work with. It was all in fun. My “girlfriend” and I became friends with a few of the bikers at the bar we were at so they were protecting me and yelling at the other girl. I had cut myself when I broke a beer bottle and had blood running down my face. Everyone I have talked to about it said it was pretty crazy watching us girls cat fight. Someone even asked if my boyfriend knew I was cheating on him – so I guess we did a good job at making it look real.
What does the future hold for Kali-Ann?
I am starting to get everything together so I can launch my website very soon. I am planning some trips over the next year so I can go work with some awesome photographers. I plan on going out to Arizona and New York this year. But what I really want to work on is starting a burlesque career. I am getting ideas together now and going to start working on a routine. So, hopefully at the next Hot Rods and Heels I will be in the one to watch entertainer!
Hot Rods and Heels: The Largest Pin-Up Event in Texas took place in Dallas on May 16th, 2009 at Excuses. Not only a car show, or a burlesque show, Hot Rods and Heels is a hybrid festival that celebrates all things vintage. The sold out show featured a full day of activities including shopping with Texas vendors, clothing designers, artists, and crafters as well as a Classic Car Show, a pin-up model showcase, and plenty of workshops. The evening’s activities featured a 23 act burlesque show featuring the biggest names around, including special guest and featured entertainer, Angela Ryan. Hot Rods and Heels also sought to recognize the amazing local Texas talent in the areas of pin-up modeling, burlesque, photography, and make-up artistry with an award presentation that evening.
Following the success of their first show, Hot Rods and Heels has already started preperation for next years show Hot Rods and Heels 2010, May 15th at The Lakewood Theatre in Dallas featuring Cardinal Cyn. More information at HotRodsAndHeels.com
(This issue features title holders Miss Malicious, Burlesque Entertainer of the Year, and Kali- Ann who took home the newcomer award in the newcomer category. July’s issue will feature Pin-Up Model of the Year Amber DeVille and HnH Darling Glam Amour.)
Dear Pin Curl,
Many of my pictures that have been taken onstage or out with fans, my face appears to be lighter than my neck or the rest of my body. I have changes make up and nothing helps. I don’t look that way in the mirror after I apply my make-up. Please help.
Ah yes. “Ghost face” as many refer to it, is a phenomenon that occurs when the flash from a camera reflects off of your face, creating the illusion that the skin on your face is significantly paler than the rest of the neck and body. Pale or fair skinned lovelies tend to never have this issue, but those of us with freckles, color variations, or any skin type darker than pale or fair, can definitely relate to this problem. Translucent powder is also a catalyst in “ghosting”, but can be easily remedied by switching your powder to an actual shade close to the color of your skin.
The culprit, in most cases, is SPF in foundation. Yeah yeah, I know, don’t leave home without it, right? This is true unless you plan to perform on stage and be photographed in the low light or mood light of clubs or the stage. Foundation often includes some sort of SPF to protect your skin. This is a great revolution in makeup as some SPFs can sweat off or even refuse to mix with foundation. Make-up manufacturers have made it easy for us by including it in their products and giving us the benefit of a protection from skin cancer. Titanium Dioxide and Zinc Oxide are the most commonly used SPF ingredient. At their basic pure state, they are no more than thick bright white powder. Titanium Dioxide is also found in artist’s paint, the purest white an artist can purchase. Zinc Oxide has been used in SPF since Moses was a baby. Some lifeguards at pools still used it on their noses as one can always see when it has rubbed or worn off, from the bright white streak.
For stage or performance, you will need to select a completely different type of makeup, one that does not include an SPF. You should only wear this makeup indoors or in the evening, and keep using your regular foundation with an SPF during the day. Your local department or pharmacy will also carry brands that do not have an SPF included in the mixture. The makeup to stay away from for your performance should say on the container SPFxxxx. When you find makeup that does not state an SPF on its label, turn the product over and read the ingredient’s list. If the first 5 ingredients are “Titanium Dioxide” or “Zinc Oxide”, then do not buy it for this application, continue looking for another product.
Large department stores have a Make-up peddling area you can visit, try products, and learn more about the product from representatives. The employees are often make-up artists by trade and know more about the product than the manufacturer. A good make-up artist will be able to tell you, without hesitation, which make-up will work best for you in a photography environment. Be sure that you explain exactly what you are looking for and why you need the SPF free make up.
There are brands of makeup specifically designed for photography like Smashbox, MAC, and Too-Faced. Sometimes these brands come with a larger price tag than you may be used to, but offer professional discounts incentives for artists and performers. As a performer, your beauty products are investment, just like the quality of your costumes, the care of your hair and your choreography. Spending a little more on your make-up now will give you better results in your live photos, which you will want to use for promotional purposes later.
Other things that can cause undesirable reflection or glimmering are products that contain glitter, or “frost” as well as products that promise a “glow”. All will have some sort of glitter or reflective ingredient and can produce unnatural brightness or hot spots on your face in photography. Good Luck!
By Hella Goode
I remember as a girl, my mother refusing to leave the house without “putting on her face.” Who would want to see their mother without a face? I waited patiently for her to make herself into her version of beautiful.
Have red lips always been a sexy, fashionable feature? Most of us picture a healthy face as one with rosy pink cheeks and soft, red lips. Subconsciously these tones indicate a young, fertile glow. That’s right-good old animal instincts at it again. So, when did we start to add these alluring traits artificially?
One might be surprised, but it turns out we’ve been staining our silverware and shirt collars for centuries. Ancient murals depict Egyptians as having very colorful faces, thus, leading to the theory that they used makeup, including a primitive lipstick. Many centuries later, Geisha of Japan painted their faces white and made their lips into a small, bright red pout, much like a doll’s mouth in order to show their status above the everyday woman. Elizabethan times called for ladies of class to powder their faces white and then add red to their mouths.
Later, these activities became scandalous and red lips, or what was considered too much make-up became the mask of the undignified woman, or prostitutes.
Historically lipstick was made from fatty oils, dyes, and even insects. Today ingredients have changed for many reasons. Some ingredients of the past involved cruelty to animals or required animal testing to ensure safety before being allowed on market. Many women today want safe products for themselves and animals, and will only wear make-up that has not been tested on animals.
Nonetheless, make-up naysayers, and supporters of cruelty-free make-up still seem to have come to the same conclusion. A little makeup, applied the right way can be just what a girl needs to look her best.
Footnote: Dallasites can learn more about how lipstick is made by visiting the Mary Kay Cosmetics headquarters, museum, and factory located at 1330 Regal Row and I-35 to see how an everyday lady created one of today’s greatest make-up empires and made women all over the country and the world self-sufficient, proud women. Call ahead for tour times 214-638-6750.
As summer heats up, beer sales skyrocket. Here’s how we enjoy ours.
12 oz of light beer (light in color & flavor such as Corona, Budweiser, Miller High Life)
Juice of 2 limes
Pinch of black pepper
Salt the rim of your glass or stein, fill 1/2 full with ice. Pour in lime juice. Add Beer (careful not to touch salt or it will fizz uncontrollably; tilt glass so you don’t get head.) Finish with Tabasco and pepper.
The Real Mexican Michelada
12 oz Mexican beer, non-dark (Corona, Dos XX)
6 oz Motts Clamato
2 Dashes Jugo Sazonador (Maggi)
2 Dashes Premium Worcestershire
2 Dashes Hot Sauce (Tabasco)
Juice of 2 limes (non-yellow key limes)
Pinch of course black pepper
Salt the rim of your glass or stein with celery salt, add 3-5 ice cubes. Add Beer, lime juice, and clamato in that order. Finish with Jugo Sazonador, Worcestershire, hot sauce, and pepper.