A look into the Garden City’s rockabilly culture
ROCKABILLY ENTHUSIASTS ARE KEEPING THE 1950S ALIVE
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.