Pastel tutus and under-bust corsets. Opulent animal masks, knowing hooded eyes fringed with smudged eyelashes. Soft bodies and smeared lipstick. These painted ladies, drawn by perhaps the most famous female graffiti artist, Vanessa-Alice Bensimon (a.k.a. Miss Van), are goddesses of female sexuality. I have been enamored by Miss Van and her imagined sultry beauties since the age of 17, when I first became interested in street art. Although there are few female names in the world of graffiti, I stumbled into the rabbit hole of wall painting by way of the distinctive female artists of the movement. I loved the way graffiti painters such as Miss Van, and fellow artist, Jana Joana, represented the female form. Their muses were (and continue to be) sensual, mystic and mysterious beings — all curves and dynamic movements — knowing figures, their images seeped in cultural references and symbols. Miss Van in particular — who now paints more traditionally as well as in a street art context — was one of the first women in the public eye who I took on as a body positivity role model. Like her voluptuous sketched sirens, Miss Van herself is stately and curvy in stature. In her photographed portraits, she stands proud and strong, looking straight into the camera defiantly, her large expressive eyes hinting at her emotionality. I love how her characters are equal parts elegantly vulnerable and revolutionary — sometimes pouty and radical, sometimes wistful and melancholic like a ballerina. Their bodies and their stances are sexually charged. However, despite their stylistic representation, they are not drawn "flawless." Their boobs hang naturally, their arms are soft, their legs are round. They have full abdomens and wide hips. At 17, this was the first time (with the exception of women in historical paintings) that I had seen women who were not of "model proportions" pictured as desirable.
As well as artfully showcasing fuller female figures as sensual and empowered beings, Miss Van's painted ladies have killer style. They proudly show off their plump limbs and exquisite VBO (visible belly outline) in eclectic outfits straight from the dressing up box. From circus costumes to shamanic robes made from hair, Miss Van's girls are both terrifying and sensitive.
Although they are but drawings, the whimsical warrior princess vibe captured by Miss Van in her muses' attire can be easily channeled for your real wardrobe. You just need a little imagination, a pinch of courage and a smoky eye...
The Disco Pants
"Describe the ideal woman:No ideal. There is good in all of us (and some bad)."
ASOS Curve Disco Pants in Navy, $32,
Teal Disco Pants, $17,
Make like a Miss Van doll and show off your shape in some high-waisted disco pants. Whether you have boyish hips, a round tummy or a bum Nicki Minaj would be jealous of, disco pants accentuate your gorgeous shape. Be empowered by the fierceness of Miss Van's ladies and don't be afraid to flaunt your feminine body!
The Ballet Skirt
"We all have a duality, we're multifaceted. In life, I am quite fascinated by ambiguous people. I am, myself, like most people, full of confusion... When I have an image in mind, there are always many feelings that come along with it. I choose which will dominate in the first reading, but there is always an element of confusion."
ASOS Full Midi Tulle Skirt, $47,
Ballerina Le Poof Hand Dyed Tulle Skirt, From $209, Miss Van's girlies are often depicted in a petticoat fit for a dancer. It might not be sensible to free the nipple and go bare breasted in yours outside of the privacy of your own home, but you can certainly channel their bad-ass ballerina vibes in one of these frothy pieces.
The Harlequin Print
Miss Van & Anaoana Rumbus Tee, $42,
Adult Harlequin Leggings, $35, bpdancewear.com
Harlequin Adult Tights, $18, A lover of female iconography and times past, Miss Van's work went through a distinctive Circus-inspired phase, featuring lots of harlequin patterns in her character's costumes. Add a dash of clownish fun to your ensemble with these colorful additions. To see all of Miss Van's collaborative clothing collection, visit Princesas Market. There are leggings, scarves and tees all printed with Miss Van's charming and uncanny girls.
The Hair Accessory (Literally)
"Hair is sensual, feminine and wild. It hides and it shows."
Human Hair Necklace by Lilian Yip,
Harness With Human Hair Clip-On Accessories, Inquire here
The lengthy, illustrious hair of Miss Van's ladies winds and envelops their form, creating elaborate clothing/hairstyles. Make like Lady Gaga in Charlie Le Mindu and hop on the Victorian-inspired human-hair-as-fashion trend with these uncanny adornments. If you don't quite have the stomach, try this fringed top for a similar vibe.
Black Moon Fringed Crop Top, $52,
"I'm working on feelings, emotions and femininity, so I'm working on myself... at the same time — trying to transform bad feels, or bad moments, sadness or whatever, trying to make something with this. Trying to let it out in a nice way. All the paintings, all the series are telling of my personal life too. I'm not trying to struggle now, I'm trying to accept myself the way I am. I'm oversensitive and I have to use this somehow."
Agent Provocateur Parfum, $54, Iconic, delicious and sensual — feminine with a sultry vibe — Agent Provocateur's original fragrance suits Miss Van's imagination to a tea. Exotic elements combine with old worldly European scents to create a modern classic that mirrors Miss Van's visual influences. Diverse floral notes of rose, jasmine and magnolia are warmed by saffron, amber and musk. Spritz from the exquisite vintage boudoir-inspired bottle and embrace your seductive side.
The Hair And Makeup
For a wearable version of Miss Van's girls' doll-like look, invest in some high quality individual false lashes. Ardell makes amazing knot-free lashes, which are much more easily blended with your natural lash line. Their Duo lash glue comes in clear and dark too, so once you are a practiced pro, you have the option of having an extra flawless look.
Ardell Individual Lashes In Medium, $9,
Ardell Due Clear Eyelash Adhesive, $12, Apply carefully with tweezers, waiting until the glue is tacky before dipping in each lash and placing on the lash line. Be careful not to stick the lashes to the skin, rather apply them to the base of the natural lash.For a fabulous tutorial video, watch Lisa Eldrige work her magic below:
Miss Van's girls are often drawn with candy-colored locks. Play with her iconic rainbow hair look with some hair chalk. Easy to blend and temporary, it's perfect for a one time occasion. (Best recommended for pale blondes.) If you want a more permanent fix, take a look at a Pastel Hair Guide.
L'Oreal Professional Hairchalk In Sweet Sixteen Pink, $23, So next time you need to draw on your feminine charms, embrace your natural body, get playful with some threads, put this sultry tune on and pour yourself a G&T...
Luxe, sexy and chilled with an urban feel, this subtly Jazz influenced tune by Nicholas Jaar (featuring Scout Larue) is femme with a slightly dark undertone. Perfect for channeling your inner Miss Van doll before you go out on the prowl. Meow.