THE LADY BEHIND THE HARNESS
Posted: Nov 03 2015
KISSKILL chats to the creator of eclectic and unique leather outerwear label, Lady Bellentina.
Heavyweight in Melbourne's lingerie scene, creative genius Lady Bellentina has built an impressive repertoire. With years of styling under her belt, the young and fabulous Lady B is more than just your everyday lingerie collector and blogger. Try adding designer and model to the mix, and you've reached just the tip of the ice berg. After creating a vast collection of harnesses, she is expecting her latest collection to drop by the end of 2015.
Where did your name come from?
I used to be a model when I first moved to Melbourne. I didn't want to use my real name. I wanted an alias. My dog was called Bella, and my cat was called Tina, so I just combined the two pets that I had into Bellentina and it just worked.
When did you start making harnesses?
2013, Spring fashion week. I was working at fashion week as a stylist (I style for Tina Arena) and I went to go and pick some pieces for her. I thought, well, I’m going by myself this year, so I want to make something really nice to wear. I made a skirt harness and on the night hundreds of people were like 'tell me, tell me, tell me [where you got your harness from]'. Maybe not hundreds, but tens of people . So all these people kept asking me. I just said, 'oh I made it'. So they asked what my label was, and just assumed I had one. I was like, 'oh, Bellentina'! It just rolled from there. Then I started making them for other people. I went to Passionfruit’s Valentine's night and I wore two of them. They asked if they could stock my brand, so I started making them to stock at Passionfruit. Then it became this thing! It was very organic.
Do you make anything else?
Yes, I make skirts. I had my first label when I was about nineteen making clothes in a vintage style out of recycled fabrics and things I’d buy at op shops. I’d make a lot of skirts. I stuck with that for a really long time, making children’s clothing for my nieces. And what else.. a lot of cooking, making food.
I make Syrian lingerie as well. Syrian lingerie is lingerie that’s really cooky and out there. It might have speakers in the bra, or light up. You know, like amazing feathers and all these trinkets hanging off it. The religion is quite modest on the exterior, but their lingerie is extremely elaborate. Some of the panties are edible and it's all really, really out there! The most religious women wear the most outrageous lingerie because it's a big belief that it keeps their husband happy. So they buy all this crazy lingerie that men design. I make it as well just for shits and giggles.
Apart from KISSKILL, what are some of your favourite lingerie brands and pieces?
I love Bordelle, I love La Perla Black Label. La Perla in itself is beautiful, but I prefer the Black Label brand just because it seems to be a bit more innovative with the designs, whereas La Perla is always quite classic. Black Label mixes up fabrics and textures, adding in different cutaways. They always make prints really interesting. But they are no longer making Black Label.
My favourite pieces? I guess are the sentimental ones. I’ve got a nightgown that my Nona had for her hysterectomy to go to hospital in. I’ve got a 1920s peignoir that was a wedding night piece. I have my La Perla Black Label cage corset, which is another one of my big favourites. I’ve got sets that family have bought for me. My Mum buys me lingerie and they are always quite nice. Sets wise, I guess I love all my pieces. In my collection I’ve got my collectable pieces that I really love. I’ve got the metal suspender belt by La Perla Black Label which I’ve never worn. I had to have it, I paid a lot of money for it, but it was just that piece I really wanted. Things that are really unwearable but collectable. For my sets, I don't really have many favourites because I love them all quite equally, like my children!
What made you start collecting lingerie?
I have psychoanalysed this quite a lot. So many factors go into my addiction. Basically, I come from a family of seamstresses, my Nan was a seamstress. She really appreciated and loved well made garments, and I guess that’s what she passed onto us because a lot of our clothes were hand made when we were younger. We didn't have a major sense of style (we grew up on a farm) but I was always appreciative. I think when you don't have a lot of fancy things, you appreciate them more.
I also grew up without television, so I wasn't subjected to a lot of media. We had a TV and VRC. We had no television as we lived on a mountain so there was no reception. I grew up watching a lot of really old movies, and in the movies I remember being obsessed with the nightgowns and corsets these women were wearing. They were my Nan's old movies, so they were really, really old, and I just became obsessed looking at these beautiful nightgowns.
I was a tom boy growing up, and I got to a certain age when I was about 16 I had to start wearing lingerie. I kind of thought, this is something I can wear that no one else has to see and no one else has to experience. It's all mine, so I don't have to have a boyish piece. I just loved the idea of having something really beautiful and elaborate, no matter what your exterior was. It was all for you, it was all about you wearing things.
So when I got to about 16, my Mum picked out my first bra (which was just disgusting), but you get through life and move on... But when we would start going op shopping, vintage nightgowns were something we would find. We were Op- Shop kids. We would grow up going into op shops and buying our clothes. I'm the youngest of technically six children, so we didn’t have a lot of money. My step father, who was money earning in our family, was a tree faller (not a massive income), so Op Shops were a thing. Going in there you would find nightgowns, and that was something that was beautiful and I loved and that I could buy because it was vintage. I would always just say to Mum, 'I don't want to wear it, I just want to own it; it's just really pretty'. It would just be something in my bedroom I would pop on and swan around feeling extremely glamorous. No one had to know about it.
When I moved to the city it was this kind of awakening. I was 21 and I could just buy whatever I wanted. I didn't have parents to do my washing. I lived by myself, so nobody knew. That started this actual addiction of going and buying beautiful pieces of lingerie. I was still able to dress however I wanted on the outside (how society wanted me to see me on the outside) but I could have beautiful things underneath. Then after I did my postgrad, I was 25 and I had a bit of money so I started collecting high end Lingerie. It has just grown. It has just slowly progressed over the years from being a tomboy with a lingerie fetish and kind of having to hide that from six brothers and sisters. You just get there. I have been in the city now for seven or eight years so it’s rubbed off on me, but I am still very much a farm girl.
So you're a blogger. What is the main focus of your blog?
The main focus of the blog is basically to get other women interested in lingerie.
I was actually in a bar once and a guy recognised me from my blog. I do have men that follow me, that’s undeniable. He came up to me and asked why I don't look at the camera. 'What’s with the face' was his expression. I asked him what he meant, and he said my photos are a different because I don't look at the camera. I was like, 'because I’m not trying to seduce you'! I think when women are shooting lingerie and they’re looking directly at the camera and they've got their "bedroom eyes" on, it’s distracting. I always tend to look at the ground or look down on the side, so you can't really see my face and it’s not a focus. Men find the images beautiful, not sexy.
I’m trying to take the photos from a female perspective. I want women to look at it and feel comfortable looking at it, and feel inspired to try something. So that's the whole process behind the blog. I guess lingerie is something- I call it my anti depressant. It makes me feel really beautiful. It makes me feel confident. It makes me feel powerful. It has a whole range of emotions that are always really positive when I put on something beautiful, and I want to share that. I want other women to find something that makes them feel special, beautiful, confident, and powerful, that no one else has to see. We put on makeup and do our hair to kind of please others, I guess. It makes us feel beautiful as well, but it's always showing off to other people. Your clothing is to appeal to other people. You have a style that's all very visual, but lingerie is just for you and that's what I love about it. That's what I want to kind of share. No other game but that.
Do you have any other great blogs to follow that we should know about?
I guess I like blogs in the sense if they’re accessible and Instagram is a great forum for that. Having a photographic blog that is all visual. There are a lot of blogs that debate on fit and sizing and comfort levels, but I think that's really subjective. You cant really pinpoint that and go "this is the most comfortable bra ever", because somebody else could find it extremely uncomfortable. Not everything is going to sit right, and everyone’s chests, ribcages, and shoulders are different. There's a whole basic science to it. You can’t universally say what is right. Visually is what I go off. If I like the style of the set, I will go and try it on, or I'll buy it without trying it on and just see how it works for me. Sometimes they are extremely uncomfortable, sometimes they fit beautifully, so I think Instagram is great for that.
On Instagram there is a beautiful blog, Flankenfinish, she’s more of a stylist. Dullife Lingerie has a beautiful photography style and beautiful lingerie. The Blushing Fox is another one. My Lingerie Addiction has a beautiful photographic blog, and she also writes little captions. For actual blogs there’s The Lingerie Addict, she's based in the States. There is Karolina Laskowska , (I can't pronounce her name), A Bra That Fits and Lingerie Addiction- Reddit, so on there you can kind of find a whole bunch of little bits and pieces.
Lady Bellentina harnesses are now available online and in store at KISSKILL. Shop the collection here.