Behind the Curtain

Hannah Nara, also known as @misshannahharlow to her followers, is a VCU Arts student with a passion for vintage. As a one-woman-show, she creates retro content on multiple platforms, transporting her followers back in time. I sat down with her on the floor of her glowing 70’s style bedroom to discuss her love of theater, vintage fashion, and Kate Bush.

Sydney: Okay, let’s begin. Introduce yourself, your major, etc.

Hannah: My name is Hannah Nara. My major currently is Fashion Merchandising but I’m trying to switch to a Theater degree with a concentration in Costume Design. I’m a transfer student from Northern Virginia Community College. 

Sydney: I feel like we’re both similar in that way. We’re both from Warrenton, Virginia, we both went to NOVA, we both transferred. I want to talk about that. What was growing up in Warrenton like for you?

Hannah: I was born in Fairfax. My first few years of life were spent in Leesburg, but then we moved to Warrenton. All I know is Warrenton; it’s a quaint little town. I like it. Now that I’ve grown into myself and I have all these different creative outlets, it’s definitely hard being a very creative person there. It’s interesting…

Corners of Hannah’s room.

Sydney: I agree. I moved around a little bit when I was younger and then moved to Virginia when I was in fourth grade. Then I lived in Fairfax for so long and moved to Warrenton right before junior year. It was such a weird contrast of being in Fairfax and seeing so many diverse people and then moving to Warrenton and it’s just…

Hannah: It’s just like, “yeehaw!” 

Sydney: And then just dressing differently and having different interests, things like that.

Hannah: I would go with my mom in Old Town Warrenton over the summers and whatnot and do photoshoots. I would be dressing up in wigs and outrageous outfits. I did a whole David Bowie look one time and I got a lot of looks. Probably of confusion; a lot of confused looks.

Sydney: I relate, especially feeling like you stick out in high school too. 

Why are you switching from fashion merchandising to a theater major? What is the difference between the two in your eyes? 

Hannah: I picked Fashion Merchandising because I didn’t really know what else to pick and I didn’t have a portfolio ready for anything else within the School of Arts. For Fashion Merchandising, you don’t need a portfolio because it’s essentially a business degree with a concentration in fashion. I realize now that I’m not a business person. I feel lost in this degree. I’ve gotten better with sewing and I’ve made my own costumes – I did costuming all four years of high school. I figured, “why not try the costume design major?” It seems like it’s way more up my alley, specifically with the way I dress styled around different decades. I feel like that is very costume branded, in a way.

Corners of Hannah’s room.

Sydney: Did you know about the Costume Design major before you came to VCU? Or did you find out about it after?

Hannah: I’ve known about it since high school. Senior year, I originally planned on going into costume design, but I just didn’t think I was good enough to get into the program. I kind of put myself down and didn’t think I was good enough. But friends told me, “If you already knew how to do that, then you wouldn’t need to get a degree in costume design.” I was like, they have a good point. I’ve gotten more confident with myself and my abilities with costuming and fashion, so I’ve realized that I don’t have to be a professional before I get a college degree. 

Sydney: I feel the same way. I’m going to start my minor in Theater with a concentration in Costume Design next semester. When I heard about it, something sort-of clicked. I’ve always been interested in fashion, vintage, and thrifting. When I found out about costume design I was like, “that’s a thing?” 

Hannah: Back in October, I had just finished making a replica costume of what Kate Bush wore in her “Babooshka” music video. After the trials and tribulations of that, I realized that this is basically costume design. There was the fabric part of the costume, as well as a headpiece; I made jewelry parts and boots. I like to work with so many different materials. With Fashion Merchandising, I don’t really get to design or create in that way.

Sydney: I know you did theater in high school. What has it taught you in life? Is there a reason you want to switch to a theater major? Is there something you feel it fulfilled for you in the past and want to get back?

Hannah: Back in high school, I wasn’t originally planning on doing anything with theater. My mom really pushed me to. She was like, “You’re gonna do great at this. I think you’re really gonna love it,” so I took it. I really loved it. But the thing is, I was so shy that I barely even talked in the class. I was just kind of, like, awkward and everyone already knew each other. I was just like, “I’m here and I’m anxious.” I guess if I could go back to high school, I feel like I would’ve definitely auditioned for more things and have gotten more involved. I was very involved with costuming and make-up, but that was backstage. I loved it, but I also really appreciate the acting side too. So yeah, just being exposed to theater, drama, and so many different people has helped me come into my own and come out of my shell.

Corners of Hannah’s room.

Sydney: Do you feel like you’d always wanted to do more performing but were too anxious to do it? Does switching to the Theater major feel like a redemption in a way?

Hannah: Yeah, definitely. There was just a lot going through my head in high school. A lot of anxiety and other mental-health problems and I just wasn’t sure of what to do and who I was. That was also the time I started to get into vintage fashion as well, so the two kind-of coincided. 

Sydney: I want to focus on the content you create now. When did you start @misshannahharlow and why?

Hannah: I started posting vintage clothing content back in high school, maybe 2017? My original tag was @small_town_vintage. Right before the pandemic, I really started getting into posting stuff surrounding the 1960s, 70s, and 80s on my @small_town_vintage account. I was torn because I mainly stuck to posting stuff within the 1900s to 1950s timeframe and felt like the 60s, 70s, and 80s was a whole other thing to tackle. Then I was like, I’ll just start another account to focus on that: @misshannahharlow.

I kept these two pages going but eventually started incorporating earlier fashion styles onto my @misshannahharlow account. I was like, I don’t know what I’m doing but I wanted it to feel authentically me. I like to dress from all the decades. It’s just whatever I feel. Eventually I discovered there’s no rules. You don’t have to just post these specific decades on this page, and then post these specific decades on another page. Now I just want to post what I want to post. It’s just kind of everything. It’s still mainly 60s, 70s, 80s, but this week I’ve done three 1930s/40s/50s looks, so I’m like, why restrict myself to a few specific decades?

Sydney: I really enjoy the variety of stuff you post. I don’t ever know what to expect with your content.

Hannah: Me either.

Sydney: Do you consider yourself a “content creator?”

Hannah: I don’t really know, that’s a really good question. I do some collaborations with brands sometimes, so I guess I am. It’s not a full-time thing. I’m not being paid for anything. I’m just trying to make people smile and be myself.

Sydney: Where do you source your clothing and props for your content?

Hannah: Mainly thrift stores and antique stores. Some of it has been given to me by family. Some has been given to me by random people who have old stuff but no use for it. Mainly, though, thrift stores and antique stores. Sometimes Etsy and Depop, but I don’t like to spend a whole lot of money on a singular item. 

Sydney: Do you have any help with the content you create? I know you mentioned that your mom has helped in the past.

Hannah: It’s pretty much all me. Like you said, other than when my mom and I would go into Old Town Warrenton, I set-up the scene, I put the outfit together, etc. I never really plan ahead.  I just get an idea and I’m like, “I have to do this right now.” I’ll set it all up and make do with what I have, which usually works out pretty well. I’m kind-of used to doing that, especially during lockdown. I would take photos in any part of the house but I would transform it to be a whole other scene. I kind of just put my phone or camera on a 10-second timer and then run into position and try not to fall or tear my clothes. It can be tricky with the self-timer, but it’s just what I’m used to. 

Sydney: How do you plan out your content?

Hannah: I rarely plan out photoshoots unless it’s for a special event or a holiday. When I plan, though, it’s just planning what I’m gonna wear. That’s it. Most things are just like, “Hey, I’m gonna do this.” I do most things on a whim. 

Sydney: In terms of your everyday wear, do you plan those outfits out? 

Hannah:  I never plan the night before. I wake up and just grab, grab, grab. I’m very inspired by music, I listen to it a lot. Sometimes I wake up with a song in my head and base an outfit around that. It’s all very in the present.

Sydney: What is your favorite decade to recreate?

Hannah: Oh, that’s a good question! It changes a lot. I have an equal amount of love for the 60s, 70s, and 80s because those are the eras of music I listen to. I have a soft spot for the 1920s. I love the 20s vamp style, silent actresses, etc. But I think I like the 60s, 70s, and 80s equally. I can’t choose between the three. 

Sydney: Do you feel like you mix styles a lot in your outfits? Or do you fully commit to one specific style at a time?

Hannah: I do sometimes. Mainly I’ll do that specifically with accessories. For example, sometimes I’ll do a 1920s ghost look, but I’ll be wearing Victorian boots and a 1960s necklace. In terms of outfits, I usually just choose a decade but focus on a specific subculture. For instance, an 80s Trad goth look or a 50s teddy boy look.

Sydney: You dress up a lot in both your everyday life and your content. Do you consider yourself a drag artist? 

Hannah: That’s a very good question and I’m really happy you asked that. I got into drag during the pandemic and started doing drag makeup. I learned how to do eyebrow blocking and stuff like that. I’d love to perform lip-syncs in the future and have some songs that I low-key practice. I haven’t done it in so long but I would love to get back into it. 

For me, and it’s different for everyone, drag is a lot more work than what I do now. I would need to be more dressed up in a wig with a lot more dramatic make-up, maybe a corset. Again, it’s different for everyone. You don’t need to dress or have your makeup look a specific way to be a drag artist. That’s just what I like for myself. 

Sydney: Your instagram name is @misshannahharlow. Why did you choose that name? Do you consider “Miss Hannah Harlow” to be your stage/drag name? 

Hannah: Good question again! I think about this a lot. I came up with it back when I was in chorus in high school. My teacher wanted us to introduce ourselves and told us to say our name and then a word that starts with the same letter, so I said “Hannah Harlow,” like Jean Harlow, the actress from the 1930s. I would consider that my stage name. 

Sydney: I really like it, I feel like it fits well. What do you get out of posting on your instagram?

Hannah: Sometimes I receive comments or DMs where people say I’ve inspired them to dress how they want or have artistically inspired them. That’s one of the reasons I post and try to be my most authentic self. I love to inspire people. It makes me happy and everyone needs more happiness and art in their lives. 

Sydney: You definitely inspire me too. The way you dress in your everyday life is cool to see. 

We discussed your interest in theater; do you feel like your content is a performance of sorts?

Hanah: I think so, that’s what my parents tell me sometimes. For the theater program they were like, “if you need a portfolio just show them your Instagram page.” Acting isn’t always spoken. I like to create a character and even think of a backstory in my head that also inspires the outfit. As the character, I think about what I’m wearing, what I’m doing, what music I would be listening to, etc. For example, I’ll think “what would I wear if I were grocery shopping in 1976?” Like, really random scenarios. It feels more real to me rather than putting an outfit together similar to one’s I see in magazines or movies- thinking about the everyday person. 

Sydney: Okay, now some random questions: What’s your favorite and least favorite fashion trend right now?

Hannah: I do really love the cottage-core style, a lot of that is very historically inspired by the 18th and 19th century. I also like how mom jeans came back in style. It’s funny, they came back in style when I was in high school and at that time I was wearing my mom’s jeans from the 1980s. I thought it was funny because I was wearing mom jeans because they’re literally my mom’s mom jeans. 

Sydney: Who do you consider an ICON in your eyes?

Hannah: Kate Bush. She’s really cool. When I first listened to her music I was like, woah! Then I watched her music videos that were dance and mime-inspired and it looked so  similar to my style of dancing- I do a lot of improv dancing. I turn a song on and just move to the music. She’s my favorite artist, I’m very inspired by her and her discography. 

Sydney: What brand do you get most excited to find at the thrift store?

Hannah: 70s or 80s Gunne Sax. 

Sydney: What’s your favorite thing you’ve ever thrifted? 

Hannah: A glass beaded dress from the 1920’s. I got it at an antique store for under $100. 

Sydney: If you had to pick one decade to dress like for the rest of your life, which would you pick?

Hannah: Maybe the late 1960s? 

Sydney: Is there a certain item you’re currently looking for at the thrift?

Hannah: I’m always looking for vintage 80s leather pieces. There’s a designer named Michael Hoban who designed for North Beach leather. I’m always looking for his stuff. 

Sydney: Lace or leather?

Hannah: Leather. 

Sydney: Goth or disco?

Hannah: Goth.

Sydney: Favorite Kate Bush song?

Hannah: “Hello Earth”. It’s so ethereal, it makes me feel like I’m floating. 

View the photoshoot here