Friday, August 5, 2011

18th Century Costume

The Sundance Channel has been running Marie Antoinette a lot lately.  Milena Canonero designed the AMAZING costumes, which although not entirely authentic, were delightful to behold.  After making three Regency outfits, I think it's time to return to the 18th century and make myself a robe a l'anglais or a robe a la reine so that I can have an outfit for the Sleepy Hollow ball.  I have a pair of Kenneth Cole shoes from about 1995 that are perfect - a silk dupioni in black with the Louis heel and raised vamp.  The only catch is that I'd like a light gown, and that style is long discontinued.  Quite frankly I can't afford to pay $300 for a pair of Peter Fox shoes.

Thanks to other costumers on the web, there's a solution.  American Duchess is releasing another run of their authentic 18th century shoes - much more authentic than the Kenneth Cole version.

American Duchess is taking pre-orders for the shoes now...  Only $100, which is REALLY inexpensive for an authentic, limited edition run of shoes.  So if anyone else is interested in picking up a pair of these lovelies - in SILK no less - hurry, because pre-orders end on August 10th for October delivery.

And just in case you'd like inspiration for dresses to go with the shoes...

Sunday, June 26, 2011

More eye candy

I've had a pretty bad injury from a car wreck, so I can't do much of anything but look, and I have some lovely photos to share. These delicate confections are from Basia Zarzycka, who has the most amazing shop on Sloane Square in London. It's like a cross between an Aladdin's cave and Marie Antoinette's boudoir. She has a bespoke business, and these are some of her over the top creations. She started out with a stall in a burough market in London, so she gives me hope that someone who is craft minded can start small and prosper. Having said that, she does have both a Bachelors and Masters in Embroidery, Design, and Textiles so the woman has got both skills and knowledge. What separates Basia from many other bespoke designers is her baroque layering of the best of laces, beads, and beautiful fabrics. These are pieces that are truly worthy of a Princess. BTW, all images are from her web page. Go ahead and drool over her dresses, lingerie, and accessories.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Bring out the big gunns.

Had a fabulous time this past Saturday afternoon at Fashion Island. This is the shopping center where I had my first retail job at the old Robinson's department store, and later used spend all sorts of lunch hours shopping and browsing because I eventually worked at Union Bank in one of the towers behind the outdoor mall. I haven't been there in a while because it's a pain getting down there with county traffic these days, so I got surprised by changes in the mall. But I digress. The main reason I went, and was able to drag the hubby along, was a promotional fashion show hosted by THE Fashion Mentor of all mentors, Tim Gunn.

Mr. Gunn was there in his capacity as Chief Creative Officer for Liz Claiborne, with selections from Kate Spade, Lucky Brand Jeans, and Juicy Couture being featured. Loved seeing the new threads as much as anyone else, but really, I wanted to question Tim about Project Runway. They had an open forum after the runway show, and I was surprised to find myself the only person asking about the show.

I started off by saying that it had been obvious that a few of the designers hadn't fulfilled all the requirements of particular challenges (he interjected "a few?" Well, we know it's been more than a few), so I specified Emilio Sosa and Gretchen Jones. How is it that they progressed onto the next level of competition? There has been talk on the PR boards, so did the producers, judges, or both actually get together early in the season and preselect certain designers to pass no matter what?

Tim very quickly and emphatically replied "no." He explained that in the earlier iteration of the show on Bravo, the old production company (Magical Elves) had tried to impose their preference for one designer or another into the process and that Heidi "would have none of it." Heidi felt that their integrity would be spoiled if the selections weren't entirely made by the judges that we see there onscreen. Tim also mentioned that he's only asserted his opinion in the judging process once in all those seasons, when he felt that the judges were loosing the point of the challenge. He pointed out that he generally saw much more than the judges saw because of his role as workroom mentor. They haven't walked up to the runway and take a closer look. He knew what the original concepts were and he saw whether or not they've been executed successfully. He also mentioned that the lights on the runway have sometimes made a garment look better or worse than it has actually looked in the workroom.

Tim said that what we see on the runway is pretty much what the judges see, and so the judging process that viewers see on the air is a pretty fair representation of the process.

I let Tim know that I had a second related question. I said that in seasons 2 through 7 the show had emphasized that the winner was the fashion forward designer. Why the change from the avant garde to the designer who is reflecting what the market is showing now?

Tim joked that he was going to get hauled into court because he had a non-disclosure clause in his contract, but he was going to answer anyway. He started off by saying that we could all forget about Jessica Simpson's opinion having any weight in the decision. As far as Tim was concerned he didn't remember her presence, she didn't register, her opinions didn't matter. Heidi was pushing for Mondo; she asked Tim to come over and try to convince Michael Kors of the same, and that Nina also was partial to Mondo. Kors turned and looked at Nina and said, "o.k. think about the runway presentations we just saw. Gretchen took all your advice and did everything that you asked her to do. Did Mondo change what you asked him to change?"

At this point Tim imitated Nina. He got this crestfallen expression on his face and physically crumpled up, while saying, "no..." in a voice that trailed up in a question.

Tim said that Kors declared that he was tired of all the winners being fashion forward and that it was time to have a winner that represented "classic American sportswear." Tim looked at me and said, "o.k. we know that Gretchen does not represent classic sportswear, far from it." After Kors' declaration, Nina changed her vote. Tim said that although he had a great deal of respect for Michael Kors, and that he was quite canny when it came to the business, he did not agree with this decision at all.

Now let me interject that Michael Costello happened to be there, sitting off to the side of the runway in the VIP section. Tim introduced Michael to the audience of about 1,000, and said that he had mentioned this before in other forums, but he wanted to make sure that he said this in front of Michael Costello himself. He said that the judges had made decisions to keep Costello in the competition to the point where he was indeed positioned to be one of the three finalists at Fashion Week, and therefore the judges had a responsibility to send him to Fashion Week as a finalist. He felt that they dropped the ball in sending Andy, Gretchen, and Mondo. (Let me point out that Tim was a gentleman in that he did NOT say which of the three he felt to be unworthy of the third spot.)

Tim finished up his detailed answers to me by retelling an anecdote that I'd already heard on YouTube. That the day after the finale aired, a woman stopped him in his local deli and expressed her disappointment with the final verdict. She finally accepted what Tim had to say telling him that, "Mondo will be successful no matter where he goes, Gretchen needs the money."

I really appreciate Tim Gunn more than ever after having this encounter in my home county. He is refreshingly candid, and whether in front of an audience or one on one, he behaves exactly as he does on television, so his public persona is about as genuine as they come. I love his sense of humor and the fact that he doesn't talk down to the audience; he retains his pedantic persona as a former educator and uses a public vocabulary that requires more than an eight grade education. His humor is expressed in some blunt, candid ways when giving fashion advice to the audience. Two of my favorites:

On comfortable dressing (around these parts sometimes expressed by people wearing pajamas in public): " If your aim is to look as if you've just rolled out of bed? Stay in bed."

On owning your look: "If you look in the mirror and think you look like an ass, chances are you do."

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Eye candy

Well, it's been awhile - suffice to say I am in the midst of a creative block. So I've been trolling the web for inspiring images. I've included a few things I store on my external drive when I'm looking for visual stimulation...

On the left, a staff member from Kensington Palace readying a Vivienne Westwood ballgown for the Enchanted Palace overlay, which is still going on. May I say that the grand staircase to the State Apartments is spectacular on its own, so it takes a gown of grand scale to make an impression in this space. I did get to see this last September, it's a rather Disneyesque exhibition within the palace. The other garments making an impression on me were a two-piece lace evening dress worn by the late Princess Diana, which I'd never seen in any photographs before, along with a 1950's Christian Dior wool day suit once owned by Princess Margaret. They also strung up the Poltimore Tiara with translucent line over the Dior.

In the center is a Susan Rios painting from the 80's, The Dance. At the time I liked it because I'd worked for Laura Ashley and this was one of the old wedding dresses from the line, made in Wales. The model's hair also matched my highlights at the time. Shallow, I know. Now I like the juxtaposition of all the blues and whites on the canvas. BTW, she worked in acrylic, so I wonder what sort of luminosity this could have had if she'd done it in oils...

On the right is a corset designed by Monique Prudhomme and worn in the film The Imagniarium of Doctor Parnasus. Her costumes won the Oscar in 2010. The image was taken at last years FIDM Movie Costume exhibition. Film stock and photographs don't do this piece justice. There are multiple layers of fabric in the corset itself and portions have been aged to give it a well worn appearance. It's also been slightly painted, and carefully trimmed with ribbons and flowers that give it such an exuberant, feminine feeling. The chemise undergarment is a few layers of silk voile trimmed in silk ribbon. I did get to attend a panel discussion with Ms. Prudhomme as well as Ellen Mirojnick (Wall Street 2, Unfaithful, Rogers & Hammerstein's Cinderella), Ruth Carter (Malcom X, Sister Act, Amistad), and Kristin Burke (Beverly Hills Chihuahua 2, The Cooler, The Grudge 2). Since the costume sewing that I have done has all been for stage or local vintage costume events, it was fascinating to hear about the sorts of considerations that come with the difference between film camera lenses and digital camera lenses. The sorts of problem solving that has to come into play for depicting black or certain reds and blues on the screen. I've always pretty much been handed a bundle of fabric and sewn what I've been told to sew. My own problem solving has had to do with how to flatter a real body or deal with fabric that has a mind of it's own. Having the opportunity to hear about the problem solving that the big kids have to do was illuminating to say the least.

Well, having gone through my folders, I'm seeing that my inspirational images all seem to have common threads of being feminine, old fashioned, and multi-layered. I suppose that should tell me about what I need to be doing to budge myself in my own crafting...

Let's see if I can actually produce something in the next 24 hours...