Saturday, August 22, 2009

Costume Inspiration: Medieval Fantasy Gowns in the art of Jonathon Earl Bowser

I've already said it, I like to find inspiration for costumes anywhere: on the runways, in the streets, in stores, in art...

A few years ago,
Nancy-Raven introduced me to a wonderful artist, Jonathon Earl Bowser. He is a Canadian artist who's paintings often represents myths and divine (feminine) beauty. One could almost consider him a modern Pre-Raphaelite painter.

Many of his paintings represent beautiful women dressed in sumptuous Medieval-Fantasy Gowns and there are many I would like to make for myself. Presented here are a few of my favorites.

Cathedral of Illusion, Oil on Linen, 48" x 30", 2000

I've always loved that image. How the trees become arches, and what should be misty sunlight is in fact a stained glass window. Plus, I have a gorgeous green antique satin that is just waiting to be made into that dress.

Forest Light, Oil on Linen, 42" x 26", 1999

I generally look good in red, plus, I already have a belt I could use...

Regeneration, Oil on Canvas, 36" x 24", 1991

Look at this one closely: see the details, the cut of the dress? It looks a lot like another dress I admire...

OK, so maybe it's not that easy to see, but I've seen the dress in person, and the green and purple overdress is cut exactly like the pink dress of the painting. See how you can find inspiration anywhere?

Note: I actually believe that Marie-Ange-The-Celt had never seen the painting before making her dress and that the resemblance is pure coincidence, but maybe she can comment on this.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Project: Tudor Initial Pendant

Lately, the Tudors have been all over the small and silver screen; whether it's The Tudors (2007), The Other Boleyn Girl (2008) or Elizabeth: The Virgin Queen (1998) or Elizabeth: The Golden Age (2007), we can't seem to get enough of them. So naturally, I wanted a piece of the costuming action, and what better way to wear costumes everyday than in jewelry! Since initial pendants are so In, and since I found a tutorial that showed how to make polymer clay look like old cast bronze, I went ahead and made my own Tudor Initial Pendant.

Anne Boleyn by unknown artist, c. 1525

The tutorial I had found on DIY Network no longer seems to exist on the web, but it was by Jennifer Parrish of Parrish Relics, famous for creating Ugly Betty's version of the Anne Boleyn necklace.

America Ferrera as Betty Suarez, Ugly Betty (2006)

Natalie Dormer as Anne Boleyn, The Tudors (2007)

Natalie Portman as Anne Boleyn, The Other Boleyn Girl (2008)

To make my necklace, I used black Fimo that I formed into the shape of a “G”, using both my hands and clay working tools. Once I was satisfied with the shape, I used different imprinting “tools” (a few of my “Celtic” rings, an interesting brooch, a metal appliqué) to give the surface a nicely chiseled texture. Once I was satisfied with the look, I cut and inserted four wire hooks into the clay so that once finished, I could hang my pendant from the pearl necklace as well as hang drop pearls from it. It then went into the oven to be cooked.

After the clay had cooked and cooled, I proceeded to sanding the dried clay lightly where it needed it before giving it a first coat of gold paint. I used four coats of gold acrylic craft paint instead of spray paint to get a richer effect. Then, I used diluted black acrylic craft paint to fake the oxidation effect. I put a coat of black paint on, let it dry a little and the wiped it off to leave black paint only in the crevasses made during the imprinting step. I had to repeat the process a few time to achieve a satisfactory effect. Finally, I varnished the piece with a satin finish varnish to give it a realistic shine.

As the piece had shrunk a little during the cooking process, the wire hooks were now loose in their holes, so I took them out with pliers, I put a drop of crazy glue in each hole and I reinserted the wire hooks.

Once all was dry, I hanged the pearl drops, threaded the pearls and pendant into necklace using four strands of nylon thread and I added the closure. I put a drop of crazy glue at the closure to make sure the knots would hold. I tried to keep the length of my necklace short enough so that it would hang close to my neck, just like in Anne Boleyn’s portrait.

Gwenyver's Tudor Initial Pendant

I also made one for Sciath, my Domina (the head of my SCA Household, Household of the Busy Bees)

In the 16th century, such a necklace would have been made out of gold and fresh water pearls. I used Fimo, gold paint and faux pearls to achieve the right look. This way, I managed to recreate a period look with modern materials and I now wear this necklace often, to work and school, with a V-Neck Tee or my teal velvet doublet jacket. That's my way of wearing costumes everyday!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Fashion Forward: Futuristic looks from the 1930's

I've always loved the Horizon ride at Epcot Center (Walt Disney World): it showed a utopian vision of the future in all it's technological glory. I do love to re-visit an era's vision of the future (think Back to the Future Part II), I think it tells us more about that era than the concepters originally imagined.

I have here a video of what a group of American Fashion Designers from the 1930's thought the modern woman of the year 2000 would wear. Some of the comments are actually dead-on: "transparent net" (net was all the rage on the catwalks in 2001/2002), "skirts will disappear entirely" (ok, they haven't really disappeared, but a lot of us girls wear pants most of the time for practical reasons), "atmosphere scientifically kept to the right temperature" (pretty much true, we have central heating systems and air conditioning), "fitted with telephone, radio,..." (Cell Phones, iPods,...). Crazy, right?

Ok, sure most of these look more like Sci-Fi costumes, the man even looks like an original Star Trek (1966) alien, but I find all this fascinating.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Wednesday Weekly Wishlist: Astérix Characters

The suspense is now over. I will now present the project I hope to do for Montréal Comic-Con (if I can afford time and material).

Growing up, the comic strips I read were the French Bandes Dessinées, and of course, one of the most important is Astérix. My idea for Montréal Comic-Con would there fore be to go as Bonemine, the chief's wife.

I've already got the curves and the blond hair for the braids. It would be a fairly easy costume to make. I'll I'd need is a light pink sleeveless top with a peplum, a dark pink trumpet skirt and the rolling pin from the kitchen.

If I do decide to make this costume, my Sweetheart said he would accompany me as chief Abraracourcix, Bonemine's husband. That costume would require a little more work. The green shirt is easy enough to make and so is the red cape, but I probably would have to make my own black and blue striped fabric for the braies (cutting strips of fabric and assembling them together), and I'm not sure how to make the belt closure. The helmet and shield he would have to make himself, and we would also need to buy him a red wig and mustache.

A friend of mine (she wants this to be a surprise, so I won't name her) said that if we did these costumes, she would go as Madame Agecanonix, the village elder's trophy wife. I would love that. I know we would have a lot of fun together.

Statuette of Bonemine et Madame Agecanonix by Leblon Delienne

Oh yeah, I can see the scene from here!

So let's cross our fingers and hope for the best!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009


My brain is melting. Apparently, humidity and lack of sleep (remember: teething baby!) will do that to you. Hence, today, I'll be lazy and I'll just present to you some of the best pieces from my Kimono collection. What, did you think this was going to be all about historical or movie costumes? Have I taught you nothing about the vast world and meaning of the word "costume"?

A few years back, I started doing research on Kimono with a Geisha costume in mind (that was before Memoirs of a Geisha was made into a movie). This led to a veritable Japanese craze on my part and I began a love affair with Kimono. I then spent hundreds of dollars (not that many, but I've lost count - of course, I had no mortgage or child at the time) on gorgeous vintage pieces and I even made myself a few Yukata (cotton Kimono for summer, very informal).

Kimono, although associated with the traditional Japanese garment, actually means "thing to wear", so I will refer to each picture by the correct term and, considering that I have your constant education at heart, I'll even tell you what they mean!

Note: All of the Kimono presented here were bought from Yamatoku (the pictures are from either the eBay sales page or the store's website - I don't have an appropriate set-up to take such great pictures of my collection).

Purple Haori with Country Landscape

Haori: a Kimono jacket, meant to be worn over a Kimono. (I personally like to wear mine over jeans and a neutral top - so what if I look strange to Western Eyes, I'm a Costumeholic!)

Orange Houmongi

Houmongi: Literally means "Visiting dress". It is considered to be pre-formal and can be worn to functions or other formal occasions. A Houmongi is the most flamboyant Kimono a married woman can wear.

Autumn Flower Kurotomesode

Kurotomesode: Meaning Black Tomesode. A Kurotomesode is the most formal Kimono a married woman can wear. It is patterned only below the waist line and will usually have five Kamon (family crest) printed on the sleeves, chest and back. (The more Kamon there are - up to five - the more formal the Kimono!)

Teal Hanayome Kakeshita

Kakeshita: A wedding Furisode (long hanging sleeves), worn by the bride under an Uchikake (long bridal coat).

The story of how I got this Kimono is a lovely one. Do you care to know it? (If you don't, just scroll down to the next picture, 'cause I'm telling it anyways!)

A month before Christmas 2006, I was looking at all the pretty pictures of Furisode on Yamatoku's website when I spotted that one. It was named Superb Hanayome Kakeshita and it was just breathtaking. I looked at the price tag, sighed and said to my Sweetheart that I was going to be good and wait until after the Holidays to buy it. But I couldn't stop staring at it, going back to the page often just to look at it. And then, 48 hours after I had first spotted it, it was sold. I felt miserable, regretting my decision to wait. I still went to the page to stare at it. I hoped and dreamed like crazy that maybe, just maybe, it had been bought for me for Christmas, like it happens in the movies. But who was I kidding... Then, on Christmas morning, we are opening presents and I get this large box. I unwrap it and I notice the stamps. No... It could not be possible! I opened the box, untied the rice paper tatoshi with shaking hands, and there it was! The Kimono of my dreams.

Apparently, right after I had shown it to my Sweetheart, he had ordered it for me. To this day, it is probably the best present I have ever had. Since it's a wedding Kimono, I've often joked that it was sort of, but not really an engagement ring (still waiting on that one).

Back to the collection: we are moving on to Obi.

Green Phoenix Fukuro Obi

Fukuro Obi: An Obi is the sash worn over a Kimono. A Fukuro Obi is the second most formal type of Obi for women (and the most formal used today), surpassed only by the Maru Obi.

I usually match this Obi with my Orange Houmongi.

Orange Hexagon Fukuro Obi

This Obi reminded me a lot of my parent's Special Occasion China, which they got as a wedding present when they got married in the '70s. It's white with a two-tone orange circle and a black dot in the center. Apparently, it was the latest fashion in dinnerware, seen in all the decoration magazine. (Considering how my brother and I have always taunted my parents for their "lack" of taste in choosing this China, my dad was very touched when I told him about my reasons for getting this Obi. If he's reading this he probably doesn't remember, but he did, at the time!)

I'd love to one day pair this Obi with either a Green, Teal or Light Blue Silk Kimono.

Iridescent Fukuro Obi

This Obi just made me think of Christmas. I want to one day get a Green or Red silk Kimono to wear it with.

All of the pieces I've presented are made of silk and are vintage pieces from the '70s. Although I've already mentioned I've spent a lot on all these pieces, the most expensive one cost 150$ USD, whereas a new Kimono can be many thousands of dollars, so all in all, it's a good deal. I don't really wear these out because I don't have all of the items needed for a proper Kitsuke (the art of Kimono wearing).

One day, I have to invest in all those little things I'm missing to be able to wear them (and one day, I'll list them for you). I would love to see an event where a group of costumers dressed up in proper Kitsuke to go visit a Japanese Garden and enjoy a Tea Ceremony. In the mean time, I'll just keep all these beautiful silks away from harm.

Note: Whew! For someone who wanted to be lazy, I've written a lot!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Movie Monday: The Young Victoria

By now you must know that I love Victorian Fashion. So imagine, a movie about the Lady herself! The Young Victoria, directed by Quebecer Jean-Marc Vallée, will be closing the Toronto International Film Festival this year. It will the go on to be released in the US on November 13, 2009 (even though it's been out since March in the UK and it's already in DVD over there).

Did I mention the costumes? It's a great show of the evolution from Romantic period to what we know as early Victorian, and I have to say, both Men and Women's costumes are well made, representing perfectly the look of the time (I know, I'm usually more of a girly-girl, big dresses costume type). If you are interested in reproducing one, or just get inspired, I strongly suggest you visit The Young Victoria's page at The Costumer's Guide to Movie Costumes (by Maggie, creator of The Padawan's Guide). My personal favorite? Definitely the Green Gown.

Rupert Friend and Emily Blunt as Prince Albert and Queen Victoria, The Young Victoria (2009)

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Buffy's 18th Century Halloween Costume

I recently learned, through l'Alliance Impériale, that there is another event coming up in Montréal with costuming possibilities, the Montreal Comic-Con (it's nothing like San Diego, but give it time to grow). Naturally, the first thing I thought was: "What shall I wear?" And the answer I arrived to while pondering on that question one night was a Super Hero costume of course! Now, I've already stated my position on spandex for me, but it just so happens that I have an almost completed Buffy costume. "A Buffy costume?" I hear you think. Bare with me.

Last year, when I was still making the costumes for the Fantasia Theatre Troupe (I made the costumes for their production
Le Tzigane au Croissant d'Or), they convinced me to appear on-stage as an extra during the Ball scene. An occasion to make a new 18th century dress? How could I refuse! I looked around on the Internet for some inspiration on colour combinations when I suddenly remembered a Halloween Buffy episode (Season 2, Episode 6, Halloween) when Buffy wears this gorgeous Ball Gown, to supposedly look like the noble women from the time when Angel was young (there's a crinoline instead of panniers, which makes no sense to me).

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Season 2, Episode 6, Halloween

I managed to find some fabric in the right colours on sale (of course it is a raspberry imitation Shantung and pink Satin, all of it 100% polyester, so it is hot and it doesn't breath, but one must make some sacrifices for the right look), so the dress was a go.

Gwenyver as Baronne Isabelle de Beaumarchais, Le Tzigane au Croissant d'Or, May 2008

As this was all done at the last minute (the night before, when else!), there are a few things that need adjusting. The main thing is the bodice: I had then asked my Sweetheart to adjust it on me, but it really isn't his forte, so as you can tell on from the following picture, it pulls weirdly. That means ripping out the bodice lining, getting my mom to do the adjustments and then hoping I don't have to take the entire dress apart.

A close-up of Gwenyver as Baronne Isabelle de Beaumarchais, Le Tzigane au Croissant d'Or, May 2008

Then all that will be left for me to do is add the trim, bows and roses which I already have, I've just never taken the time to properly finish the dress.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Season 2, Episode 6, Halloween

I do own a long brown-haired wig, to wear with my Arwen costumes, so I could go as Buffy under the spell. All I'd be missing the proper necklace.

Of course, this is only a back-up plan, in case I can't afford or find the time to make my other project... (which you will learn about next Wednesday on Wednesday Weekly Wishlist - stay tuned!)