Feelin’ hot, hot, hot…

In summer 2019 I had a deep need to dress up and take a bunch of new photos for the first time in far too long. The trouble is, a lot of my older clothes were falling to bits. The four-inch-heeled boots a friend had passed on to me were crumbling away (I think they were old enough to vote by that point…) and I had to get new versions of old outfits.

My attempt at updating my wardrobe ended up looking more like a trip to Torture Garden than being a secret agent…

Those crumbling boots were bloody awkward and I only ever wore them with my old fancy dress catsuit. Time to get new boots! The boots I ended up getting were gloriously cheap PVC with more manageable three inch heels. Trouble is, they were incredibly shiny and didn’t fit the catsuit. So I then got a gloriously cheap PVC catsuit to match them. The end result was like a happy, shiny version of Black Widow.

Nothing phallic about that tank at all. No, sirree.

My search for locations I hadn’t used before took me to the former mining town of Prestonpans where the Prestongrange outdoor museum contains the rusting relics of Scotland’s industrial past. The last time I’d been there it was barren and muddy and looked like the sort of ruins where Wonder Woman fought World War One. It had become quite overgrown and lush in the meantime, as nature slowly reclaimed the area. Some exhibits were so fragile they’d been fenced off, limiting the opportunity for atmospheric photos with a hint of danger to them.

*Heroic music swells* *like my chest*

Fortunately one of my friends is an accomplished photographer, and was able to find good props and figure out the best angles for epic photos. It didn’t matter that it was a fantastically sunny day instead of the usual, moody clouds. We made it work.

It was my first time in far too long wearing something so… attention-grabbing. I’m damn glad I had a photographer with me, or I’d look like some sort of weirdo or pervert with an industrial history fetish. Who else visits the mining museum, you ask? Well: retirees. And elderly dog walkers. I didn’t want them to freak out, so I bade them a cheery ‘good afternoon!’ like nothing was out of the ordinary. Maybe I didn’t speak loudly or clearly enough, because they just stared. Oh well.

Shiny – let’s be bad guys.

The downside of taking photos on the hottest, sunniest day in years, is that it’s not the best weather for wearing PVC. There is no ventilation, and nowhere for all the gallons of sweat to drain away. It looked slick and shiny on the outside, and it felt slick and shiny on the inside. My fake tits went akimbo. The 70% of water that my body usually consists of ended up between my skin and the costume.

But none of that mattered. I’d been watching my diet and exercising more and I finally had a chance to show off. I trusted my photographer to find my best angles. The torrent of sweat that poured out back home when I peeled the damn thing off was worth it!

I was so hungry I started eating my clothes from the other end.

Of course, writing this at the end of 2020 after months of lockdown and comfort eating, I look at these photos and realise I’ve got a bit of an uphill battle to get back into shape. That’s what 2021 will be for!

Girly road trip 2: by Jupiter!

Last year, (which seems about a decade ago already… hell, February seems like a decade ago), when we could still freely travel and generally enjoy ourselves, I took another couple of car-less friends on a road trip; this time we headed to a country park in West Lothian.

Jupiter Artland contains a load of art and sculpture installations on the pathways around a large private house. It’s trippy as hell.

Among the early artworks you encounter is a wood full of creepy girl statues. Each and every one is posed to look distraught or distressed. Naturally, I had to subvert this as much as possible…

Jupiter Artland: creepy girl

I tried laughing therapy with a distraught girl. It didn’t work. (Doesn’t matter – had a good laugh anyway.)

You can pick up a map of the paths, after you pay and get a sticker to reassure people you’ve been past the till. Honestly, it’s more fun exploring and getting that thrill of discovery. The map’s more use for finding out what each exhibit is called (come on, this is art – it’ll mean more to the artists than those looking at it!).

Jupiter Artland: temple

My body is a temple; it’s open on Sundays OH SHIT I DID NOT SAY THAT

The exhibits are varied: a funnel in the ground surrounded by a cage, or a classical looking bust, or a miniature temple can mingle with an empty house with a bare, uneven rock floor, or an outsized rifle leaning against the trees.

Jupiter Artland: triggered

TRIGGER WARNING: You have to cock it before use. (The gun, I mean.)

Eventually you emerge into an open section of sculpted grounds and ponds with swans, where families with kids run about and you can have fun pretending to push your friends into the water. You can make people blink by wearing a short dress and climbing up the sculptured embankments, or by wearing a black heavy metal t-shirt to provide a complete contrast to the scenery. I bloody love going out with my friends. 🙂

Jupiter Artland: reflection

Pause and reflect for a bit?

This is where the driveway from the entrance winds it way through, and by now you’re only halfway through. Jupiter Artland is huge.

There are more forested paths to walk along, with exhibits such as spiderwebs, or a boathouse filled with bottled riverwater from around Scotland, or a pit lined with expensive purple crystals (actually obsidian glass – monitored by CCTV), or an open-air church-kinda-thing (the perfect spot to take romantic pictures of your travelling companions!)…

Jupiter Artland: church

Imagine…

Being in a country park, you can expect a whole load of wildflowers. The best time to go is late spring or summer when everything’s in bloom.

Jupiter Artland: flowers

I colour co-ordinate with nature. Muthafuckaz.

The walkabout finishes next to the main buildings, including a dovecot and a garden house painted the colour of Scotland’s other national drink, Irn Bru.

Jupiter Artland: orange

You have to be very rich to own a mansion you can paint the colour of Irn Bru…

Inside this orange building is another art installation which changes every so often. On a previous visit the floor was filled with stacks of plastic cups arranged to resemble waves or sand dunes or something. On our visit, it was a … bunch of random shit thrown together to look like a tree. I think. Hell, it’s ahhhhhhht, dahlings, and what do I know about that?

Jupiter Artland: art WTF

This is a work of art! And so’s that shit behind me.

 

Girly Road Trip! 1: a stab at St Abbs

Last year I offered to take a few friends for a girly day out to a couple of places which featured in recent film series: St Abbs and Alnwick Castle.

I’d been feeling the need for something different; it had been many months since my last outing as Twist, and many months since the one before that. I needed to add a bit more colour and interest to life. I wanted to make another calendar to hand out to my various friends for Christmas – all I asked was that they helped take photos.

Having a stab at St Abbs

A stab at St Abbs…

After being given my sole instruction for the trip (“Don’t kill us”), our first stop was St Abbs, on the south-east coast of Scotland. This tiny fishing village was a location in the Marvel films, doubling as New Asgard (the nearby cliffs were used for dialogue scenes in Thor: Ragnorok, perhaps foreshadowing the concluding Avengers double bill.)

blogimagery101

There are signs dotted about proclaiming ‘ST ABBS – Twinned with NEW ASGARD’. The staff at the tourist office there instantly pegged us as nerds and gave us a portable sign to cart about to scenic spots for selfies (“Hey look! It’s Thor’s house where he plays games with Korg and drinks Irn Bru and Innes & Gunn!”). I’m reliably informed a rare virtual Pokemon thingy can be snapped in the waters near the harbour, where we perched on a sea wall for a picnic lunch.

There isn’t a hell of a lot more to the place, and rather than potter along the cliffs, we had to continue with our journey for a different kind of Potter…

Alnwick Castle

The Hogwarts sorting hat couldn’t decide about me…

Alnwick Castle in the north-east of England, doubled as Hogwarts in the Harry Potter films. And boy, do they milk that association for all it’s worth (without infringing copyright, of course…). If you are so minded, you can clench a broom stick between your legs and waddle up and down the courtyard whilst being screamed at by tour guide dressed as a wizard; this is surprisingly popular. (The girly road trippers decided unanimously against it.)

Alnwick Castle chair

In which I bring a touch of Rocky Horror to Hogwarts…

Aside from the Potter-esque references, the castle tourism department makes the most of its history, with dressing up in mediaeval costumes and other activities on offer. So we went nuts dressing up for social media photos. I attempted a ‘slutty knight’ look with a cape thrown over one shoulder and showing a bit of leg.

Next to us a family were doing the same, and a small girl was trying to persuade her dad to dress up as a princess like her.

“You get used to dressing up as a girl,” I told him (this made mum and daughter smile).

Leaping from the page

Turning over a new leaf?

You can see why the castle was chosen as a location: it has all sorts of little nooks and corners next to the sort of open spaces you’d need to accommodate a film crew. Overall, though, its current tourist theme seems to be book-related; all the signs and maps and info boards are in the shape of oversized book sculptures.

Alnwick is also home to a gigantic second-hand book shop in the former railway buildings. We popped in afterwards for a browse and a bite to eat in the cafe. For book nerds, this place is like Wonkaland. There might be another girly road trip just to return to it…

Showing a bit of spine

I’m a big book fan.

On the way back home, we stopped at the Scottish border for one last photo set (I’d been making clothing changes throughout the trip for different calendar months).

As a first big outing, it was great fun – and I’ve got a whole load more girly day trips to write about (and yet more planned for the future – stay tuned!).

Subtle Scottishness

I colour-match the Scottish border.

Little Wonder

Last year I got a bit swept up in the Wonder Woman mania, and figured I’d have a stab at doing some cosplay for a friend’s birthday party. The costume I got was… cheap. But I intended to modify it and customise it and hopefully make it look a little closer to Gil Gadot’s outfit.

First order of business was to see how the thing looked, and how much work I had ahead of me. It wasn’t completely awful; it was just… a bit too shiny and lacking detail. With a couple of cans of spray-paint (maroon and gold), black marker pens, dirt cheap heels, coloured cardboard, plastic wrap and sandpaper, I would remake the damn thing, and make it look… uh, better. Maybe.

I’d also need to figure out how to cut out all the cardboard layers to make the chest-piece, belt and headband. This was a problem-solving exercise in drafting and actually more fun than it sounds.

blogimagery94-WonderWomanCosplay

This is what I started with; I then channeled my inner ‘A-Team’ and got practical with it…

What did I think of the film? I liked it. I’m not really into superheroes, and the deadly seriousness of the DC lot put me off Batman or Superman. I needed something different, and Wonder Woman provided it. Sure, there’s some stuff I wish had been done better: it peaks too soon – the Crowning Moment Of Awesomeness is when Wonder Woman walks out alone into No Man’s Land (but of course) between the trenches amid a blaze of machine gun fire and an equally blazing electric cello riff; nothing in the latter half of the film comes even close to matching this moment. It’s also too easy to figure out who the real villain is early on; and the ending boss battle is just empty special effects – if they’d brought back some element from the start of the *plot* that had a purpose at the end, it would’ve been stronger (yes, I’m very demanding about the films I watch!).

Having said that, the cello riff is my new earworm, and whenever I hear it I feel like a big damn hero; I like films that show me stuff I’ve never seen before, and the first 20 minutes do this without needing any special effects; and that costume bloody rocks.

blogimagery95-WonderWomanCostume

It’s amazing what you can do with cardboard, plastic wrap and sandpaper (and a bit of dark chalk for weathering effects)…

Anyway, after a few weeks, I had the costume ready at last. I’d already fielded questions from curious neighbours when I was spray-painting outdoors, but there’s nothing like going out in public to properly field-test these things…

On the night of the party, I got myself kitted out and drove out from the city. It was Friday evening. Most people were going home from work. There were traffic jams. And if there’s one thing people didn’t expect, it was to find Wonder Woman stuck in a jam next to them.

It’s a damn good thing I don’t mind attention. Especially when it’s half a dozen schoolkids in the back row of the bus in front, all waving at me and taking photos on their phones. I waved back.

blog-gallery217-WonderWomanparty

At the party, the birthday girl was the only one I knew. Fortunately, there were others in costume too: Emperor Ming from Flash Gordon; Dangermouse; Adventure Time; Thor; Supergirl… and everyone else turned up dressed as themselves.  The costume brigade occupied one table, like an oasis of YO CHECK THIS OUT among so many party frocks.

The party was bloody good fun, but sadly the costume didn’t survive a trip to the toilet. The zip up the side split like a pop group, and after a few awkward minutes in which the birthday girl found some safety pins for me, I spent the rest of the party moving cautiously. Having a shield came in handy.

*

I had intended to have a second go at Edinburgh Comic Con this year (having previously turned up as Lara Croft) – but I fear the costume broke beyond my ability to fix it – not just the zip, but the inflexible cardboard, and seams on the leg pieces. I’m also beginning to wonder (hah!) if the moment has passed? Wonder Woman‘s impact might have been lessened by her appearance in Justice League (and maybe also in the aftermath of Marvel’s Black Panther?).

There’s also an element of being “Not Twist” – in other costumes, I’m obviously Twist-dressed-as-someone, but as ‘Wonder Woman’, I have to be someone else. And somehow, it feels like quite a responsibility portraying a character like that. It’s not the sort of thing I’d want to fuck up – certainly not by parading about in a broken, torn, patched-up costume.

So I think that party was my only appearance as Wonder Woman. Somehow, that makes it feel more valuable.

blog-gallery215-WonderWoman

When in doubt, add lens flares.

Shop hopping

It’s been ages since I got new clothes. I think I’ve probably got as much as I want in my wardrobe now. Maybe I’ve found my ‘look’ and I’m happy with it? Or maybe I’m not going out as much as I used to, and now I can just re-use my old favourites? (It’s always a huge relief to find I can still fit into a dress I bought four or five years ago…)

When I first started building up my wardrobe (after deciding what clothes and footwear to go for), I just went with my girlfriend and built up a modest stock of cheap underwear and basic skirts and tops from local shops. For solo shopping trips, I’d go to shops on the other side of town where there was no chance of bumping into anyone I knew. (The easiest trips were to fancy dress shops – it’s not like you have to explain yourself…)

I'm so bad at snooker, I can't even hold the cue properly...

One of my earliest and favourite purchases.

I’ve always been determined to work within a strict budget – so a large part of Twist’s wardrobe comes from second-hand charity shops. These tend to be slightly opportunistic or impulsive purchases – I’ll see something on a mannequin and think “Hell, yes!” and (assuming it’s about the right size) buy it because if it doesn’t work out, at least I haven’t blown vast amounts of money on it. More often than not, I have a ‘look’ in mind and scout around seeing if there’s anything that comes vaguely close to it.

You never know quite who’s going to be behind the till. On an early venture, I spied a slinky dress in a window that was perfect, and went inside. It was packed with little old ladies rummaging through winter coats, but I apologised my way through the crowd to the cashier and told her I wanted to buy That Dress in the window. She had a mischievous look in her eye.

She opened up the display and shouted back to me, “IS THIS THE DRESS YOU WANT, SIR?”

I was damned if I was going to let her try to out-sass me or try to make me feel foolish, even in guy mode. So I shouted back with a cheery smile and a thumbs-up.

“YEP! THAT’S THE ONE! IT’S JUST MY SIZE!”

I don’t think anyone else in the shop was paying the slightest attention to either of us.

"We're not flying; we're falling with style!"

The zipper on this dress was… eh, ‘flying low’…

On another occasion I was looking for a vintage 60’s-style dress for a photoshoot (the one in the old fashioned airliner; apart from having to avoid a children’s party, that shoot passed without incident and the photos can be seen sprinkled throughout the gallery).

I found exactly what I was after in a charity shop in a very genteel, prim, proper part of town. The sweet little old lady (Edinburgh’s second-hand shops contain no other sort) behind the till struck me as the kind of woman who was probably schooled by Miss Jean Brodie.

She rung it up and said, “There you are sir, one ladies’ dress.”

And I got to use the Eddie Izzard line, “It’s not a ladies’ dress – it’s mine!”

I thanked her and packed it into my bag. She just blinked, speechless. I think I was a bit too modern for her tastes.

(It turned out the dress was too small, so I had to figure out how to pose without showing the gaping zipper at the side.)

When it comes to charity shops, I go for the secular ones – health, animal welfare, and social support. The only shop I refuse to donate to or buy from on principle is the Salvation Army (because it’s just not a very nice organisation).

castle gardens

Splashing out…

I have splashed out occasionally. On a trip to Orlando five years back, we got an idea of the political divide between two stores.

The first was an upmarket dress shop; lots of stuff I’d love to have tried out, but the sales assistant was a middle-aged woman with big hair who struck me as the type who was Afraid Of Change and would vote accordingly.

She asked my girlfriend if she was interested in anything.

“Nah, we’re here for him.”

The saleslady laughed politely.

“No, seriously, it’s for me. I like to rock a dress from time to time,” I told her.

“Well, you don’t seem the type!”

“Don’t I? Damn. I’ll have to try harder.”

Uncertainty crossed her eyes.

“Let me know if you see anything you like,” she told my girlfriend, and left us alone. We departed about five seconds afterwards.

Instead, I found a couple of slinky purple dresses – one sparkly, one not – in American Apparel. I’m guessing it was a couple of college kids running the shop, and they were totally fine with me buying dresses. Kids today, huh?

Sing when you're whinnying?

Got milk?

Personally, I try not to buy stuff online – I like to actually see what the hell I’m getting first – but last year I succumbed to the temptations of a sale at Black Milk. Their range is of the tight’n’stretchy variety, so It takes a bit of dietary punishment to wear them confidently. I could go nuts clicking on purchases, but then a little voice has to restrain me: just when, precisely, do intend to wear a PVC skater dress?

Sometimes, the idea of wearing something is far better than the reality of it.

12592421_1274490995898212_7739707507535640322_n