Lessons We Can Learn From Maxine Sanders

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Maxine Sanders
The Initiation of Janet FarrarPhotography by Stewart Farrar

We explore the wardrobe of the Alexandrian High Priestess who paired innocent lace robes with ritual orgies

In the 1960s and 70s, Cheshire-born Maxine Sanders and her husband Alex were household names. After spending her childhood exploring the planes of astral projection, by 15 Maxine was a member of an Egypyian Magical Cult and, by 19, was initiated into husband-to-be Alex Sanders' coven. The couple's Wiccan practice – complete with the sort of scandalous nudity and rituals that tabloid dreams are made of – made headlines and propelled their version of witchcraft into the global consciousness and, as Maxine proclaims, "fashioned a lineage of Witchcraft that has since spread throughout the world."

Although their relationship and spiritual practice were filled with controversy (which one can discover through an assortment of wonderfully-titled blogs, biographies and diaries; we particularly favour autobiography Firechild: The Life and Magic of Maxine Sanders Witch Queen), instead of exploring the rumours we are choosing to examine Maxine's expertly-styled ensembles. The perfect unison of 70s style with Wicker Man paganism, here are five lessons that we can learn from the wardrobe of the Alexandrian High Priestess.

1. Sometimes less is more
Nudity seems to be a recurrent feature within the rituals of the Alexandrian practice of wicca and, for a period, it was speculated that Maxine had the most-documented backside in Britain. While her disposition towards naturism may have been part of her spiritual practice, her inclination may also have been tempered by her extraordinary beauty. In Maxine's case, understandably, less was more – and the risqué nature of so much of her faith's documentation is unquestionably one of the elements that drove its appeal.

2. Blondes have more fun
Maxine's long blonde hair is a defining characteristic of her aesthetic, with the sort of soft, loose waves that even mermaids aspire to and a purity of tone that avoids even the faintest hint of artificiality. The colour and style adds an innocence to even her most suggestive ensembles, making their impact more Earth Mother than Gothic Witch.

3. Add lip colour for maximum impact
Although so much of Maxine's style seems to focus around the natural and organic, here her application of a lip colour adds further impact to what is already a fairly dramatic situation. Giving the illusion of a sensuously bloodied mouth, even while holding a large knife in front of her, one's eyes are immediately drawn to her face. It's an impressive tactic.

4. Lace, lace, lace
Lace is a key feature within Maxine's wardrobe. Always white, often transparent, her assortment of robes have her rivalling Cristobal Balenciaga's vaunted title as Magician of Lace and make her the most stylist Priestess that we have ever seen. Key inclusions of accessories – here, silver bangles and a beaded necklace – give a casual, hippie approach to what could have become an overly formal look.

5. Lighting is key
Something that dominates throughout Maxine's photographs is the presence of dramatic lighting. Here, a ritual cauldron filled with flames offers an intense visual impact, illuminating her body with a sacred glow that perfectly correlates with her empowered posturing. The resulting image is undeniably powerful, providing the sort of gravitas that befits a woman holding the title of High Priestess.