In the beginning, Dream Wife was meant to be more of an experiment than a band — a way of exploring femininity, women in music and feminist communities through the guise of a girl group. Parodying tropes found in manufactured pop music, each member — Rakel Mjoll, Isabella Podpadec and Alice Go — embodied a different type of feminine style. While there were no Spice Girl style attributions, their individuality shone through even when the band consciously dressed similarly, trying to evoke the image of uniformity in a feminist context. It’s easy to imagine their younger fans arguing over who gets to be who’s favourite, but no such conflicts exist within the band’s harmonious lyrics, attitudes or outfits.
In fact, it’s hard to imagine that these young women didn’t grow up together — singing into hairbrushes in each other’s bedrooms, taking carefully organised pictures of their shoes in a line and humming melodies since the beginnings of puberty. As friends and as each other’s support, their passion for each other is palpable.
As part of our What Makes Me series in collaboration with Converse, the band speak to Polyester’s Editor in Chief Ione Gamble about their very different perspectives on personal style, and how their differing perspectives manage to come together to create a community — both within the realms of Dream Wife and in the larger London scene. This unity isn’t found in their shared style commonalities, but their active individuality that sets them and their friends apart. There’s a sense of, “I wouldn’t wear that, but I love that you are.”
For fans of Polyester, Dream Wife are the URL alternative to a household name. Collaborating with us regularly on shoots and launch performances, it feels as though Mjoll, Podpadec and Go provide the go-to soundtrack to listen to as you flick through the pages of our latest issue. In this interview, it’s clear to see why all three femmes fit in so perfectly with the Polyester perspective.
You formed as a band in Brighton. But how do you think moving to London has changed your personal style?
Alice Go: It’s a very expansive scene where how you present and how you dress is a part of your social community. To see that amongst your peers, it encourages you to feel like you can do that more and more with clothes in a way that you haven’t explored as much before. There’s definitely a common ground in how people dress. There is a real coming together of people here in London now, actually.
Isabella Podpadec: I feel less worried about what other people will think about what I’m wearing. Just because of the people we’re surrounded by, that kind of wear what they want to wear — and these are all quite different, varying styles. You don’t have to worry so much about something not suiting your body shape so much, or not being allowed to wear certain colours together. It frees things up a bit.
And why, despite the difficulties of living in this city, is London still an exciting place for you all?
Rakel Mjoll: Because it’s exciting. I’m more on my toes in the city and your relaxation time becomes more valuable too. So many things are happening.
Alice Go: We exist in a kind of bubble, it’s so privileged in terms of being able to express ourselves in this way and feel free to do so. When we started out we didn’t know what this was going to become. There’s been challenges. And we’ve come through them and I feel stronger for it, in terms of camaraderie between us as well. It’s like these challenges do shape things in a very, solidifying way, amongst people. People coming together to fight for these causes together.
What did your first pair of Converse symbolise to you?
Alice Go: My first pair of Converse were just plain white. And I’d never had a pair of plain white shoes before and I just drew all these patterns all over them in marker pens. I just remember drawing on them and it was really exciting to explore that side of myself through a pair of shoes.
Isabella Podpadec: I was thirteen and my best friend’s mum’s and were too narrow for her so she gave them to me. They were bright pink and I put orange laces in them and I wore them every single day for five years until they completely fell apart. And I was still walking around in them! And they went light grey and they were more holes than shoes and my feet could kind of flap around in them, it was really horrible actually by the end. That was my first pair of shoes that were my shoes and were something that I wanted to wear. I’ve only ever had one other pair of shoes that were really my pair of shoes since then and that was the start of that.
Alice Go: It’s so true as well, in terms of that thing where they felt like yours. They felt like something I could express myself with somehow.
So would you say that you can see clothing as a way of anchoring your place in the world? Especially when you’re performing?
Alice Go: Absolutely. With Dream Wife we try to project the attitude that if you want to do something then do that thing, and don’t feel like because you’re a woman you have to be held back. In terms of how we choose to present, it’s definitely a thing of confidence and assertion. But also flamboyance and playfulness, and it’s all of these things where we definitely choose to present in this way.
Isabella Podpadec: As a band and with how we look we’re definitely feminine and aggressive as well, those are two ideas we still play with definitely, but it feels less conscious now.
You often talk about Dream Wife being something that on one level can be interpreted as a subversion of traditional femininity. That’s a very conscious decision that you’ve made within the music — but how does that get projected in how you all look?
Alice Go: For me musicians like Marc Bolan, Iggy Pop or David Bowie are my biggest inspiration above any. It’s interesting that I’m drawing from a male icon sense of fashion and iconography of rock and roll really. It’s the re-appropriation of that in its current relevance is something that I’m not consciously thinking of all the time, it’s just a part of the way I choose to present in the band.
Rakel Mjoll: There was a time where that was considered feminine. They were being proud of their femininity.
Isabella Podpadec: This did start out as an art school band with a conscious decision to try and use pastel colours, and ultra feminine clothes — kind of playing with the traditional ‘girl band’ image. Then we ended up all taking it on ourselves, and the lines between what was us and what we were doing in a subverted way blurred, and we found this middle ground where we weren’t performing femininity anymore. It stopped being conceptual and started being real.
Moving away from teenagehood towards adulthood, often you want to shed your skin and start again style wise. Why is Converse a shoe you’ve been able to carry through to your current wardrobe?
Alice Go: It’s like when people would put all their feet in the middle and take pictures of their pair, that actually means something to people and that nostalgia for an item of clothing sticks with you. Memories like that make Converse more than just a pair of shoes — it’s about solidarity and finding peers that are on the same page as you.
Isabella Podpadec: For me it’s to do with growing up in a really rural place where not much interesting stuff is happening. In that respect Converse being really became my introduction in some ways to counter culture. I still have a respect for that. I have a really big soft spot for the shoes.
What are some of the pieces of clothing you own that have the most sentimental value to you and why?
Isabella Podpadec: I spent a semester of my degree studying at a university in South Korea and that was a really formative time for me. It was when I broke out of a lot of these boxes that I’d built for myself growing up. During my time there my whole class got varsity-style jackets printed. I completely changed my whole life when I was there and I wouldn’t be doing this band if I didn’t go to Korea, I wouldn’t be living in London, it really changed everything. That coat is massively important to me, but it’s falling apart.
Rakel Mjoll: I think that’s the natural thing to happen to something you love so much though. It’s just like, I love this item and I’m going to wear it to DEATH.
Photography by Rachel Hodgson. GIFs by Meg Lavender. Words by Ione Gamble.