• Mae

The Taiga: Introducing Margaret

Updated: Nov 20, 2018



Lena Vani as Margaret in the Taiga


Before I forget! I also wanted to document the first photo shoot that kicked off the Taiga Project. As some of you may know, the project was originally inspired by the Decemberist’s 2009 album “The Hazards of Love”. I wanted to create a character who represented Margaret, the heroine of the “Hazards of Love” Story.


Margaret begins the story in the “real world” outside of the forest, and is riding near the edge of the forest when she stumbles upon a wounded faun. She dismounts and attempts to help the poor creature but at dusk, the faun turns into a young man - William. They fall in love and the rest of the story is their tragic tale of ill-fated love. The story is based on a few different folk tales, with archetypes reaching back to ancient days and nature-worshipping traditions told in what writer Colin Meloy refers to as a “folk opera” in the same sort of sense as a rock opera, but using folk-inspired music.


Anyways, the first of two costumes I created for our Margaret character was made using lots of bird imagery, partially from the lyrics. The jacket is based on the style I debuted in my “Hamlet” series, but for the first time fitted for a woman. I draped this jacket by hand (I find flat patterns less easy to manipulate, and I wanted these costumes to be very expressive!) and it has elements of a tailored jacket - shoulder pads and interfacing as well as the hand-cut feather details. Each feather had to be cut separately as I wanted none of them to be exactly the same. My hands HURT after that day!



Margaret's Jacket in Progress

For the gown underneath I was originally going to go with a white gown, but was tired of seeing women in these stories as a symbol of purity with white as a symbol of that. Both Margaret and her love William are young and naive and sweet, but she becomes part of this very dark tale and I didn’t want to leave her defenseless to this world. So I lined the jacket in brown and used autumn-inspired auburn as the color of the gown underneath.

If this were a theatrical production, I would have Margaret change into this outfit when she first returns to the forest in search of her true love. It represents her becoming a part of the Taiga and choosing to be part of the tale.


As the first signs of autumn began to appear, the brisk air in the mornings, the edges of leaves hinting at yellow or red, I started experimenting with fabric dyes to recreate the beautiful auburn tones I saw the world around me becoming. Fall is my favorite season and having grown up in New England and I always feel like I miss it, that it passes too quickly. Getting to do these shoots in nature this autumn have been such a treat, and documenting this time of year has been very meaningful.



Hand dyed cotton, silk and feathers


All of the feathers, silk and cotton under structure on this dress was hand dyed in shades of auburn by me! I especially had fun dyeing the feathers and blow-drying them! Such an odd sensation. The shoulders are stitched with silk and amber beads and skirt is silk, sprayed with darker browns for variation.


For this photo I worked with actress Lena Vani, who I have known for years and have worked with in the past (She modeled as Gertrude in my Hamlet series). Lena lives with her partner in Puerto Rico, but was visiting the states to take part in Sudbina Theater Company’s production of Refugee, which was rehearsing to perform in Serbia! Very cool, and you can check them out here: https://www.facebook.com/SudbinaTheaterCo/



Behind the Scenes


Lena and I woke up early after a night at a Subdina Theater Company show and set to work doing makeup, hair and trying on the costume for the first time! Despite our attempts to reach the natural fog before the air warmed up too much and it disappeared, we mostly relied on the smoke machine for the fog. Special thanks to her Zack for assisting, and especially getting super good at the smoke machine and both of them for being a good sport in general. Most of these shoots are the opposite of glamorous, and I ended up soaking wet and covered in mud and leaves.


I’ve just got some new fabric and materials to create the costume for the William character, and so Lena will be back as Margaret when we do a shoot together this spring. Mostly I just wanted to capture her as Margaret while she was here, and to create an outfit inspired by the colors of autumn. I look forward to shooting this outfit again as well as the eventual second outfit I have planned for her character.




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