A look into the Gar­den City’s rock­a­billy cul­ture

ROCK­A­BILLY EN­THU­SI­ASTS ARE KEEP­ING THE 1950S ALIVE

Style Magazine - - Contents - BY LEANDRI VAN STADEN

Alana Wilkie looks like she stepped out of a 1950s pho­to­graph. She has deep red lips and per­fectly pinned-back and curled hair. Her eyes are em­pha­sised by fanned-out lashes and she has trendy cat eyes painted on her up­per lash-lines.

She re­sem­bles a dark-haired mix­ture of Brigitte Bar­dot, Doris Day and Mar­i­lyn Mon­roe, sit­ting with me in her clas­sic en­sem­ble.

Grow­ing up in Toowoomba in a fam­ily of car en­thu­si­asts, Alana said she’d al­ways been around cars and car shows.

Her fam­ily owns Toowoomba Rod and Cus­tom Shop and has pro­duced nu­mer­ous hot rods and cus­tom builds over the years, ev­ery one of them a favourite of Alana’s.

At car shows and in her fam­ily’s shop, she had an early in­tro­duc­tion to vin­tage cars and 1950s fash­ion, two pil­lars of the Rock­a­billy scene.

Rock­a­billy is a mu­sic genre from the ’50s, pop­u­larised by artists like Wanda Jack­son, Elvis Pres­ley and Johnny Cash.

It is a mix be­tween coun­try mu­sic and blues, and has given rise to a whole sub-cul­ture, wherein peo­ple mimic the fash­ions, dance style, home decor (and more) of the ’50s.

Alana has ex­plored sev­eral ar­eas within the Rock­a­billy cul­ture, in­clud­ing the danc­ing scene.

“I’ve done some swing danc­ing, but I’d like to get into Rock­a­billy danc­ing more; it’s a bit faster,” she said.

While study­ing art in Mel­bourne, Alana com­pleted a hair and make-up course and is now toy­ing with the idea of pre­sent­ing a vin­tage hair and make-up styling work­shop in Toowoomba.

“Styling your hair and make-up is a big thing,” she said, adding that there are many pin-up girls on In­sta­gram and Youtube, of­fer­ing ‘How To’ tu­to­ri­als for free and cov­er­ing ev­ery­thing from styling your hair, to do­ing make-up, and pos­ing for photos.

Ac­cord­ing to Alana, vin­tage shop­ping is also very pop­u­lar among Rock­a­billy fol­low­ers.

“Peo­ple like go­ing to op shops or vin­tage sales,” she said, adding that this helps al­le­vi­ate pres­sure on the en­vi­ron­ment.

“Be­ing eth­i­cal in fash­ion is a huge thing at the mo­ment, so a lot of girls are go­ing out to vin­tage sales, sav­ing dresses, mending them and wear­ing them again,” she said.

The Rock­a­billy sub-cul­ture in­cor­po­rates many dif­fer­ent as­pects, but Alana says she’s more fo­cussed on the fash­ion side of things.

“I used to be very care­ful with how I spent my money. When I’d go shop­ping, I’d want to buy some­thing which wouldn’t go out of style, so I’d look for some­thing clas­sic. The ’50s re­ally stood out for me as be­ing clas­sic and time­less,” she said.

Alana be­lieves fall­ing in love with 1950s fash­ion and dress­ing in this way, is a grad­ual process for many peo­ple.

She ex­plained that dress­ing in the Rock­a­billy fash­ion at­tracts at­ten­tion and some peo­ple might need to get com­fort­able with that.

“I think it takes time while you build con­fi­dence and get com­fort­able with your style as you go. It was grad­ual for me too, be­cause I’m pretty shy. It gave me con­fi­dence dress­ing in the fem­i­nine style of the ’50s,” she con­cluded.

Alana en­joys watch­ing clas­sic films and said her style is in­flu­enced by Hol­ly­wood ac­tresses of the ’50s.

“I love the big fash­ion se­quence in How

to Marry a Mil­lion­aire. The cos­tumes were re­ally beau­ti­ful,” she re­marked.

She makes some of her own clothes, but be­lieves noth­ing beats a vin­tage dress.

“A lot of fash­ion items these days seem cheap and badly made. Vin­tage cloth­ing has all this in­ner struc­ture and lin­ing. They re­ally knew how to sew,” she said, adding that she’s self-taught and be­lieves sewing is a good skill to have, even in 2018.

For Alana, dress­ing in the Rock­a­billy style is fun and ex­cit­ing, bring­ing a mod­ern touch to clas­sic fash­ion.

“I like dress­ing up. It’s beau­ti­ful and fun, and lots of old ladies have come up to me say­ing how they love it,” she added.

Ac­cord­ing to her, the Aus­tralian Rock­a­billy scene has grown a lot over the last cou­ple of years and is get­ting big­ger.

“It used to be more about go­ing to mo­tor­ing events and it would be all about the cars. Now, it’s more about the whole cul­ture,” said Alana, adding that fash­ion and danc­ing play a more prominent role now, than in the past.

At this year’s Greaze­fest Kus­tom Kul­ture Fes­ti­val, Alana par­tic­i­pated in the Miss Tiki Wahini Pinup Pa­rade.

She wore a green Hawai­ian out­fit for the pageant, which she had made her­self.

“I was in­spired by Tiki pinup il­lus­tra­tions and Al­fred Sha­heen, who was a fa­mous de­signer of Hawai­ian dresses and fab­rics in the fifties,” she ex­plained.

She said this event was her first big one and that she was ner­vous in the time lead­ing up to the pa­rade. “I just hoped I wouldn’t fall over,” she joked.

She was the run­ner-up at the end of the day, a re­sult she was very pleased with.

Alana said she mainly en­tered this com­pe­ti­tion to make new friends, af­ter mov­ing back to Toowoomba, and en­joys the so­cial as­pect of these events.

She said she’s plan­ning on mov­ing to Bris­bane at some point in the near fu­ture, but will take her fam­ily’s hot rods and her Hol­ly­wood style with her.

As I said good­bye to Alana, I couldn’t help but hear I Got A Woman play­ing in my head.

The King is alive af­ter all and can be found wher­ever Rockabillies call home.

PHOTOS: MARK GREENMANTLE PHO­TOG­RA­PHY

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