Buxom beauty Lady Lou Lou Bell tells Natasha Francois how discovering pinup has helped her live her best retro life.
A leopard never changes its spots. Just ask Emma Holden, aka Lady Lou Lou Bell. The Christchurch pinup is addicted to leopard print and her wardrobe boasts at least 20 items which walk on the wild side, however, she also has a love for green and classic black.
Lady Lou Lou Bell cuts a colourful figure on the streets of North Canterbury with her feline-esque winged eyeliner, her ever-changing hues of brightly coloured hair (right now it’s a tantalising tangerine shade, and before that, electric blue), and her bright vermilion lipstick.
The mum-of-two proudly, who works as a hearing equipment technician, proudly describes herself as ‘fat, freckly and fabulous’. She’s even coined her own hashtag with the phrase. After her birthday in a few week’s time, she can add another ‘f’ to the list– forty!
“I grew up being teased for my freckles but now I embrace them, it cracks me up that they’ve become trendy so that people tattoo them on or draw them on with makeup.”
“It just goes to show the old adage stands that you always want what you haven’t got.”
Emma fell into the Christchurch pinup scene several years ago after having her hair styled at one of the local car shows and being invited to meet some local pinups. She was instantly hooked. Now she’s a fixture at hot rod and vintage events and a member of the Southern Pinup Belles– a group of Christchurch pinups who put on events to fundraise for charities.
“The New Zealand pin-up scene is so accepting and varied,” she says. “I’m incredibly proud to have been a finalist of Miss Pin Up NZ 2018 and especially for walking away with the title of Miss Picture Perfect,” she says.
Dying to for a peek inside her wardrobe? Read on to see more!
You seem to have a great wardrobe. Wanna take us on a tour of your closet?
Nobody is going to be surprised when I say leopard print, leopard print and more leopard print. I honestly have to have at least 20 separate pieces with differing leopard/animal pattern. But there’s also lots of black and green. I also have quite an extensive collection of cardigans.
How would you describe your style?
It depends on the day. Some days I feel more vintage 1940s, some days rockabilly 1950s, then there the other days when I’m in track pants and T-shirts at home with my kids and dogs. That’s part of the fun of dressing the way we do, do what you feel like on the day, there are no rules. You do you.
Do you prefer reproduction or true vintage, why?
Both, the accessibility and the inclusiveness of size in reproduction is fantastic, but there is something very special about vintage pieces that may have survived several decades. I love to know the history behind pieces, who did it belong to, was it made for a specific event etc.
As a plus size lady, what are your thoughts on finding and wearing true vintage pieces?
I adore true vintage; the fabrics and the quality are always amazing. But when I can find pieces in my sizes, they are very rarely in my price range! Etsy is always my go-to for true vintage. If you find it and it fits, it should be worn!
Which are the most size inclusive labels?
Vixen and la Femme en Noir by Micheline Pitt. My wardrobe is very slowly filling up with more formal and casual pieces from those ranges. My only gripe is that I often have to look overseas to get my hands on the pieces that I lust after.
What are some of your most prized pieces in your collection?
My most prized possessions are my heirloom accessories that previously belonged to both of my great grandmothers. You can buy another reproduction piece, but once an heirloom is gone its gone forever.
Any noteworthy recent purchases?
My Collectif Leopard trench coat that was a birthday present last year and my Vixen leather circle skirt are on high rotation at the moment.
How did you first become interested in vintage style?
I have always loved vintage. I have a vivid memory of trying on my grandmothers vintage cocktail dresses when I was about 11 (sadly I didn’t inherit any when she passed). My 6th form formal dress was a purchase from Tete e’ Tete from pre earthquake Christchurch. I felt like it was as close to being Scarlett O’Hara as I was ever going to get.
Lots of gold and green – and Kaye from Kabella Baby suspects that it may have been originally made for a theatre production. Needless to say Im pretty sure that I was the only one wearing vintage in a sea of shiny, short late 90’s dresses
What is it about vintage style that appeals to you the most?
Not looking like everyone else. Putting effort into creating outfits from top to toe.
What are your favourite eras when it comes to vintage clothes?
True vintage 40s appeals to me the most. I especially love the look of classic vintage when paired with the edge of tattoos.
Where are your favourite shopping haunts?
I’m one of those horrible people that shop online. But the world is an international market, and I’m fully prepared to buy from overseas if it means that I get a better deal or something that isn’t stocked locally. Of course the government is probably going to curtail that with the taxes etc that they keep bringing in, but maybe it will mean I’m more selective with my purchases. Maybe.
What are your holy-grail pieces? Fave labels/ fabrics/ outfit types?
A true vintage leopard fur coat in my size is my ultimate holy grail piece. I know where there’s a few hiding, but I haven’t managed to have a play in Natasha’s wardrobe yet!
Whose closet do you envy and why?
Definitely The Glambassador for her classic vintage style, her wardrobe (including the hats, bags and accessories) must be immense!
Who are some of your style icons and influences?
So so many – isn’t Instagram a wonderful thing to be able to find inspiration! First people that come to mind would NZ’s own Soda Fontaine, and internationally would be Lady Kitty Hawk, Cherry Dollface and Mariza Seita.
Does your vintage obsession extend into other areas too such as home décor, car, accessories and other collections?
I have 2 young children and 2 large dogs, so that’s why I cant have anything nice in my house lol. But my dream home is a 2 storey art deco house. One day it will be mine.
Anything that you’d never be caught dead wearing?
Never say never but I’m not a huge fan of 1960s and 70s style.