Student, stylist, writer in UK Rock magazine and self-made pin-up model Bethan Soanes, or Bettina Scarlett in front of the camera, reflects on how she believes the rockabilly lifestyle is a product of her upbringing. “It’s what I’ve grown up with as my dad was and still is a Teddy Boy,” the 21 year-old explained. “My gran was also a style icon in our family…even as she got older she always took pride in her appearance.” Despite being the granddaughter of a lady who remained sharply dressed through to her golden years, raised amongst her father’s biker jackets and overly greased hair, Bethan longs to be seen as a creative individual who isn’t making a copy cat attempt to be a cover girl. “Fashion annoys me sometimes,” she protests, “It can be quite pretentious…everyone’s always trying to move a million miles faster then the last person.”
Fascination with the pin-up girl began in 1942 when Betty Grable posed in a one-piece bathing suit and mischievous smile. Mirroring the progression of music from the 40s to 50s, the somewhat wholesome image of the wartime pin-up transformed into a sultry figure as rock rebellion began to influence everyone who dared it to. Bethan joins fellow enthusiasts to celebrate the later edition of the trend through her everyday wear, as well as posing for photos with a Bettie Page meets Paloma Faith vibe. Bettina Scarlett has become a 21st century representation of the phenomenon. She has been chosen as the face of rockabilly-inspired clothing boutiques such as Outerlimitz and LadyK Loves, but despite how much she thrives on it today, being in front of a camera lens wasn’t a long-term ambition or at the forefront of her plans. “In college my friend who did photography took some Dita Von Teese inspired photos of me and I went from there,” she explains. “I wasn’t sure if I was cut out for it but I love it now!” Not only does she offer her look to a number of online alternative fashion retailers, but many of her personally arranged photo shoots are entirely self-styled. She works alongside photographers to ensure her vision and concept for each shoot is clear in the final outcome.
This modern day rocker certainly doesn’t hesitate in involving herself in outside projects to show her flair for styling. In the summer of 2010 she put together looks for a photo shoot with blogger Miss Dollface Darling, who reports and discusses the alternative scene in her hometown of Norwich. “Me and Dollface got on like a house on fire at a shoot we did at the East Anglian Transport Museum,” she says.
“Her inital idea was a colourful cupcake-style shoot so I researched a few kitsch ideas. I worked in a delightful seaside café then so I managed to pick up sticks of rock, a hula-hoop and lollies.” It’s the little details that make photos stand out for Soanes, who adds that props can make or break a concept.
“The colours of everything we used worked really well with what Dollface was wearing…I think I chose well if I may say so myself!”
The archetypal Sailor Jerry’s image of a lady relaxing in an oversized martini glass or posing cheekily in a polka dot playsuit carries an undeniable edge and playfulness, but there’s a prominent reason why this young go-getter is particularly captivated by the Burlesque-inspired form. “Any woman can do it and feel sexy without taking all of their clothes off,” she claims and goes on to explain why she is smitten with 50s fashion. “The outfits were just so classy back then. A figure-hugging dress was all they needed…it makes me feel super feminine when I wear those clothes.” As she said, being brought up around the trend lead to it becoming second nature – never failing to look “extra glam on a night out.”
There’s another striking feature on Miss Soanes that requires a subtle twist of the head to get a clearer view of. Actually, there’s six of them. Tattoos. A classic attribute of any dedicated rock chick. Many people discuss their ink work with reluctance, but Bethan instantly lit up as the subject arose. “I have a gorgeous back piece which is Lilies going from my left shoulder to my right hip.” she explains. You’d think marking your body for life wouldn’t be a decision you’d take lightly or without some serious thought, but she seems to have a somewhat relaxed attitude towards the idea. “I designed the half sleeve on my left arm when I got bored at college a few years back.” Perhaps the laid-back approach is the key to true inspiration. Years later she has no regrets regarding any of her body art. Her others include small pack of cards and her personal favourite, a Vince Ray pin-up girl. “Even though it’s tiny, she’s a beaut!” she squeals, sweetly. Piercings however, no matter how much of a rock and roll connotation they may hold, aren’t really Bethan’s cup of tea. “I have my nose, belly and ears pierced…not too many as I’m a bit of a wuss,” she reveals.
The heavily inked young lady spends much of her time rubbing shoulders with other followers of country rock at gigs and 50s themed club nights across London. As she tightens the curls in her hair and undertakes a quick make-up check with a petite compact, she tells of her enjoyment attending the 25th anniversary of Dingwalls in Camden where American country boogie group Big Sandy & His Fly-Rite Boys played into the early hours. “Being a big fan of the big man for quite some time and only seeing him once, I had a lot of catching up to do. He pulled the crowd in when he started singing his big hits. They loved it and so did I!” In addition to hitting up alt-rock music venues and hotspots, styling photo shoots and slipping into Bettina Scarlett mode, Bethan currently studies fashion promotion and believe it or not, she tries to keep her everyday influences away from university projects. “I’d see it as playing it safe and want to be able to explore what else I can do as well as vintage inspired,” she says, sternly. “Most of my work consists of alternative fashion instead of mainstream because that gives it a bit more of a twist.” At college, she tried her hand at fashion design but soon realised that pattern cutting and garment construction isn’t her forte. “That definitely wasn’t for me!” she says. “I found that I was more interested in the photo shoot and styling side of it so I thought I’d give it a go.” Three years and several rolls of film later, she is flourishing in her chosen pathway and constantly on the lookout for new and exciting opportunities. . “As summer is approaching I’ll be getting as many shoots under my belt as possible” she insists. “And I’d definitely like to focus more on writing and styling.”
With an extensive list of accomplishments and blossoming talents, deciding which path to pursue can be daunting. Since April 2010 she has been the writer of a column in monthly UK Rock magazine which has been the perfect opportunity to display her interests and ongoing attraction to the genre.
Working for an alternative fashion publication has seemingly become a likely career choice rather than a just a hobby. “I’m still in two minds at the moment,” the second-year student declares. “I’m waiting for my final year of university to help me decide what I’m best at.” Whether she chooses to develop her ability to pick out a statement pencil dress and Mary Janes or writing about the newest upcoming talents in rock music, she says she’ll always be up for unleashing her inner pin-up as Bettina Scarlett but is more than happy to leave her future up to fate. “Everything happens for a reason,” she smiles. “I really believe that.”