Saturday, September 12, 2009

Bretagne Costumes

My parents traveled to Bretagne (France) last year and took pictures of historic costumes presented in an exhibition at Château de Suscinio. I get to present them to you now because my Mom just sent them to me. (Isn't it lovely to have a family who knows you so well, they take pictures of their vacation with you in mind?)

Men and Women Costumes from the first half of the 19th century

Men and Women Costumes from the second half of the 19th century

Men and Women Costumes from the 19th century

The Château also has some historical animation; as the castle dates from the 13th to the 15th century, their focus is mostly Medieval History.

Two Women doing the laundry

This last picture is of a collection of Coiffes Bretonnes. Unfortunately, the picture is a little fuzzy and I don't have a date (according to my mother, they are "classical Breton coifs from the Middle Ages", but - and no offense Mom - she has difficulty with the difference between Medieval and 18th century costumes, so I doubt it), but I'm guessing from the dresses that it is 19th century. Also, I believe they might be from different regions of Bretagne because I can make out names under each pictures, such as Pays de Saint-Pol-de-Léon, but again, I'm just guessing.

Coiffes de Bretagne

Pretty impressive if you ask me!

Friday, September 11, 2009

Rive-Nord High School Dance Troupe

Lets end this week of High School memories with my main affiliation back then (other than Teacher's Pet and Weird Goth/Witch Girl), the Rive-Nord High School Dance Troupe!

Think about it: Dance Shows = Costumes!

As I've already said, we had no Cheerleaders (and no band, drama club or any of the usual - this is a Quebec French Canadian school, not an American High), so the dance troupe was the group which performed at School Galas. When our school hosted the annual regional Cross Country Run, we were the entertainment for the opening and closing ceremonies. I had a lot of fun with everyone from the troupe.

Following are pictures of every costume I wore for the two years I was in the troupe (Secondary IV and V or grade 10 and 11, depending on your system). To help you find me, there is a big red arrow pointing at my head in every picture. You should know that all of the costumes were provided by each dancer, which is why there are so many differences in style and colour.

Grease (1997-1998)

What school hasn't had it's own version of the famous musical Grease (1978)!

Our costumes were simple: white short sleeved blouse or polo shirt, long skirt, white socks and white canvas shoes for girls; white t-shirt, black jeans, black leather jacket, white socks and black sneakers for boys (we actually only had two boys that year in the troupe, so many "boys" were played by girls).

My skirt was apple green. It was originally my mom's and it was pink, but back then, pink was not a cool colour for girls (for some strange reason really; Ah, Fashion!). Besides, it looked a lot like what the waitresses at Nickels wore at the time, so I dyed it with a box of Tintex.

Already back then I loved costumes and I was beginning to learn to make them. For the role of Sandy, we had three yellow skirts that were being passed from girl to girl, depending who played Sandy in the dance number. Guess who made the skirts? Yours truly of course (and I never played Sandy; I played Rizzo at the PJ party, Lip Syncing to "Look at me, I'm Sandra Dee" in my one piece Pyjama with feet). The teacher in charge of the troupe had bought this horrible cheap poplin that was thin and full of static. You know the one, it's the cheapest fabric at WalMart, there's a rack with every colour of the rainbow. I get chills just thinking of my nails on this fabric. Ghaw!

Ciné-Danse (1998-99)

The principle behind Ciné-Danse is simple: choose a song from a movie, make a choreography to go with it, and if possible, let it have something to do with the movie. Here are all the choreographies I was in, with the song, movie it came from and a description of the costumes.

MOVIE: Batman (1989)
SONG: Batdance (Prince)
COSTUME: We all wore black leggings, black turtlenecks, black plastic masks, and what you can't see very well on the picture is the "wings": one plain triangle of cheap black poplin pinned to our sleeves and neck (and all of them cut and hemmed by yours truly!).

MOVIE: Forrest Gump (1994)
SONG: California Dreamin' (The Mamas & The Papas) & Hound Dog (Elvis)
COSTUME: For the first half of the choreography (to the sound of California Dreamin'), we're all wearing army and camouflage print vests (half of which I had to rent from my brother), the "guys" are wearing white t-shirts and black jeans, and the "girls" wear white polo shirts and Boho skirts. During the song, we slowly striped off the army vest and threw it away. Then, the lights went out for a few seconds during which time the "girls" took off their Boho skirts to reveal 50's skirts and the "guys" put on their leather jackets and we were ready to rock n' roll to Elvis! (Basically, our Grease costumes.)

MOVIE: Spiceworld (1997)
SONG: Spice up your Life (Spice Girls)
COSTUME: There were 12 of us in the choreography (one girl missed the photo shoot), so there were 2 or 3 girls dressed up as each of the Spice Girls. I was one of the Baby Spice. You might not know it by looking at my picture, but that is because I made my outfit from a poster I had in my bedroom at the time that showed her in this outfit:

Emma Bunton aka Baby Spice

I bought a black tank top from WalMart and glued, then sewed, sequins to spell BABY and drew a heart underneath (my first recreation - and I still have it to this day, although I've never worn it since). I wore black leggings that I turned up to my knees (on my poster, you couldn't see her legs very well, so I supposed that she was wearing Capri), and I had white platform sneakers, which were very much in fashion back then, due to the group's influence. I wanted to wear my hair in pigtails, but we had to have a french braid that we wore throughout the whole show.

MOVIE: I Still Know What You Did Last Summer (1998)
SONG: I Will Survive (Gloria Gaynor)
COSTUME: Since we were all "on vacation", we wore tied sleeveless shirts and shorts, except for the murderous fisherman with a hook who was dressed all in black (trench and rain hat).

MOVIE: Men In Black (1997)

SONG: M.I.B. Main Theme
COSTUME: M.I.B. agents, such as myself, wore a black suit, white shirt, black tie, black shoes and black sunglasses; aliens wore colourful sweatshirts and pants.

MOVIE: 54 (1998)
SONG: If you could read my mind (Stars on 54)
COSTUME: Glitter! Seriously, that was the only instruction we received for that costume. At the time, I was watching old reruns of Star Trek: The Original Series (1966). I was brought up by a family of Trekkies! Looking for glitter dress inspiration, I was struck by the gorgeous green dress worn by Maggie Thrett in the episode "Mudd's Women".

Karen Steele, left, as Eve McHuron with Maggie Thrett as Ruth Bonaventure, center, and Susan Denberg as Magda Kovacs, Star Trek: The Original Series , "Mudd's Women", originally aired October 13, 1966.

So I went to WalMart looking for green glitter fabric, but finding none, I bought light blue glitterdot fabric (close enough to turquoise!) and made myself a dress using Butterick 5540, view D.

MOVIE: Ghost Busters (1984)
SONG: Ghostbusters (Ray Parker, Jr.)
Ghost Busters wore mechanics jumpsuits with "Proton Packs" made from cereal boxes covered in aluminum foil with isolation foam tubing glued all around (they were not very solid; I'm the one who made them and they were horrible); our ghosts wore white Judogi without the belt.

MOVIE: Dirty Dancing (1987)
SONG: Do you love me (The Contours)
COSTUME: We had one "Johnny", who's role was to be all that and all of us girls were supposed to have the hots for "him". So "he" wore a Zoot suit, and we wore white tied shirts and 50's skirts.

Now, by then I hated my apple green skirt from the previous year (see the first picture from Grease) - it could have something to do with my boyfriend nicknaming me New York - The Big Apple - for wearing a raincoat the same colour - so I gave it to the girl in front of me in the line and my Mom was nice enough to make me a full circle skirt with some blue denim she had and did not need.

MOVIE: Les Boys (1997) - Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit (1993)
SONG: Les Boys (Éric Lapointe) - The Greatest Medley Ever Told (Whoopi Goldberg)
COSTUME: This was the show's finale. The second to last piece was from Les Boys so we all walked in wearing Jeans and Hockey Jerseys. Then the Nun walked on (our teacher in real life) and we all took off our Jerseys, revealing white t-shirts, and tying them around our waist.

Whew, what a trip down memory lane. You might think it's crazy that I remember so many details about what I thought and did, but that's just me, I have a great memory!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

What not to wear to your High School reunion (Funky Feather Fascinator)

Big day today: the 10 year High School reunion! What shall I wear!? I've been wondering about that for a while now, and the answer is, my Alfred Sung Orange and Hot Pink Summer Dress:

Of course, I bought mine on special, so I only paid 20$ for it (*proudly grinning*). I really like it, I feel like a 60's well dressed housewife in it. Did I say 60's? Does that mean... COSTUME!
Something I miss from the 60's (mind you I was born in the 80's) and the earlier decades is everyone dressing up nicely to go outside the house and people wearing hats.

A couple of months ago, I found a tutorial to make a Fabulous Feather Fascinator. I decided to make a Funky Feather Fascinator with pink tulle and Orange and Hot Pink feathers to match my dress.

See how good it looks with my dress? You can't deny me my Costumeholic nature...

Gwenyver wearing her Funky Feather Fascinator

Of course, I made it the night before, only to realize that the feathers I had were too long to do what the tutorial shows. It still looks great (and funky!), but my Sweetheart, after saying it was cool, was sort of horrified at the idea of being seen with me in public, in a non-costume event, with "a dead parrot" on my head.
So I didn't dare wear it to the pub where the reunion took place.

Nancy-Raven and Gwenyver at their 10 year High School reunion

Where as Nancy-Raven dressed-up as the "Wicked Witch of the North Shore"*, I went as a successful Costume Designer (complete with Gladiator Sandals - originally bought to be worn at a LARP event).

*And thank you so much Sweetie for telling everyone we were going to sacrifice a goat as we left for the restaurant!

As Shakespeare put it, "All the world is a stage and all the men and women merely players": every actor wears a costume on stage, therefore, whatever we choose to wear is a costume, especially since we often plan our clothes according to the impression we want to give. That is Gwenyver the Costumeholic's philosophy!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Wednesday Weekly Wishlist: Cheerleader

One day before the big 10 year reunion, so lets go with a High School themed costume from the wishlist, the infamous Cheerleader costume. Everyone knows, in every American teen movie, the cheerleaders are the b*tches everyone loves to hate, while we all secretly wish we could be one of them. Well, there were no Cheerleaders in my High School, so I never got the chance to be rejected by them (I did try out in University and was not accepted, but at least I tried and I was proud of myself for that). That also means I never got the chance to wear one of those cute little outfits. What's a girl to do...

Well I don't know about a regular girl, but a costumer can always find a way! I could either make one up, or use one from a movie or TV show.

Two come to mind from the Sci Fi world:

Starship Troopers (1997)

At the beginning of the movie, in the Jumpball scene, both schools have cheerleaders with their own uniforms.

The Buenos Aires Tigers Cheerleader Uniform

The Tesla Giants Cheerleader Uniform

(Pictures from StarshipTroopers.Net)

Heroes (2006)

In the series Heroes, the character of Claire Benet is a cheerleader for the Trojans of Union Wells High School who has self-healing abilities (must come in handy with sprained ankles and such).

If you're interested in making this costume, just type "Claire Bennet Cheerleader Costume" in Google and you'll find plenty of resources and tutorials.

Of course, there are plenty more examples out there (I didn't mention movies such as Bring It On (2000) and Sugar & Spice (2001); I preferred keeping it Sci Fi) but you get the idea.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Medieval: History vs Fantasy

Lets get something clear about what Medieval Costuming is and is not. Seriously, There are so many misconceptions, it drives me crazy (especially considering what I saw at Fête médiévale de Saint-Colomban!) . So today I'm going to rant a little.

For instance:

Question: How to make your dress poof, like in the medieval times?*
Answer: I don't know in your alternate reality what the middle ages looked like, but in mine, there was no such thing as poofy dresses.

Question: Where can I find authentic medieval elf clothing?*
Answer: There is no such thing as an elf (we are not getting into a metaphysical debate here), so there is no way you can find "authentic medieval elf clothing".

*These questions were really asked on
Yahoo! Answers; I did not make them up for the sake of argument.

Another misconception is that any natural fabric is fine. One of my teachers, for a Fibres class, actually told us Cotton was for the poor and Linen was for the rich. WRONG! Cotton, in medieval Europe, was almost unknown and exceedingly expensive. It only became cheap and accessible when it started being mass produced in the Americas. Before then, Cotton was used to describe a type of fabric (like flannel) and not a fibre.

Linen, Flax and Wool were accessible to all in the Middle Ages. Anyone could grow Linen or Flax in their garden and wool grew on sheep. The Silk market was an important one, so Silk could also be obtained, but for a price!

And once and for all, "Medieval" or "Middle Ages" generally refers to the time period between the Fall of the Western Roman Empire (5th century C.E.) and the Fall of Constantinople (1453). Are we clear on that? (That means no more telling me that Middle Ages lasted until the French Revolution - you should have paid attention in school!)

Having said that, Medieval fantasy costumes are really cool, and I like them too, I just like to be specific and clear about Semantics.

Here are some examples of Historical Medieval costume sources:

From extant medieval clothing:

Pourpoint of Charles de Blois (1364), Musée des Tissus de Lyon

From mortuary statues:

Jeanne d'Armagnac, died 1387

From period Artwork:

Bayeux Tapestry (11th century)

Manesse Codex (1304)

For Medieval-Fantasy costumes (including LARP, Fairytale, Pre-Raphaelite, etc.), the sky is the limit. Use your imagination, be creative, but know that what you are making is Fantasy, not Historical. Here are some examples of Medieval-Fantasy costume sources:

From Pre-Raphaelite paintings:

The Lady of Shalott, John William Waterhouse, 1888, Oil on canvas, 153 cm × 200 cm, Tate Gallery, London.

Spring (The Flower Picker), John William Waterhouse, c. 1900, Watercolour, 46.2 x 29.2 cm, Private Collection.

From Video Games:

From Movies:

Liv Tyler as Arwen (Green Coronation Gown), The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003)

Kristanna Loken as Brunnhild and Alicia Witt as Kriemhild, Ring of the Nibelungs (2004)

Kristin Kreuk as Tenar, Earthsea (2004)

Now that you have read "Gwenyver's guide to differentiate Medieval-History from Medieval-Fantasy", you have no more excuses to get it wrong!

Monday, September 7, 2009

Movie Monday: Romy and Michele's High School Reunion

This week's movie is: Romy and Michele's High School Reunion. What??? But that's like, from the 90's?! Yes it is! 1997 to be exact. But you see, this Thursday is mine and Nancy-Raven's 10 year High School reunion (yes, we're that old), and back then, we were the ones at the bottom of the social pyramid on which even nerd picked on. We used to both love that movie and think: "Just you wait! When our 10 year High School reunion, we'll be successful, have boyfriends, look awesome...".

In the movie, the two main characters try to get boyfriends, get better jobs (one of them is a cashier, the other one is unemployed), and lose weight before their Reunion. So let's compare ourselves to this list, shall we?

  • Boyfriends: Both Nancy-Raven and I are in long lasting relationships and we both live with our respective boyfriends (I even have a baby with mine). Check!

  • Jobs: Nancy-Raven is a baker and chocolatier (everyone should have a best friend who feeds you croissants and chocolate) and I'm a costumer. Check!
  • Loose weight: Well, isn't that every girl's constant wish? For my part, I am currently about 15 pounds heavier than on my graduation day, but heck, I have a 6 month od baby! (And to tell you the truth, I've lost 20 pounds in the last year and a half- yeah me! - so, Check!)
I guess we're good to go...

Oh wait, I forgot the most important question: What shall I wear?

Lisa Kudrow as Michele Weinberger and Mira Sorvino as Romy White, Romy and Michele's High School Reunion (1997)

As cool and funky as their outfits were, I am NOT wearing that to my reunion* (one must always look appropriate even if one is a Costumeholic!).

*More on my outfit coming soon to a Blog near you.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Costumes seen at Fête médiévale de Saint-Colomban

You know me. I love costumes, any costume (except maybe for Zombies - they give me nightmares - and horror stuff). So obviously, when I go to a costumes event, such as Fête médiévale de Saint-Colomban, I look at what everyone is wearing! If you have Ren Faires where you live, you know that you can expect both great historical costumes, such as Elizabethan gowns, and fairies at such events. We don't have Ren Faires in Québec, but Medieval events get both great historical costumes and fairies. So, as promised yesterday, let's see what me an my camera brought back from Saint-Colomban; costumes go from hand made, woolen, historical dresses, to commercial Medieval dresses (what you can find at "Medieval" stores), to "Elvish" inspired (by this I mean LOTR inspired). Basically, they go from great, to good, to acceptable, to awful.

Having said that, I think it's great that people dress-up to go (not everyone does), even if it's in a pink princess dress. So, kudos for trying and participating.

Note: For the pictures where I am making what could be considered negative remarks on the costumes, I have been kind enough to blur the faces as I am mocking the garb, not the people.

The Good (great historical costumes)

Two Viking Women

These, ladies and gentlemen, are Viking Apron Dresses. They are historically accurate for C. 900 C.E. Learn to love them: they are easy to make and quite comfortable.

15th Century Reenactors

15th Century Lady

This lady is also wearing a historically accurate 15th century dress called a Gothic Fitted Dress (GFD), a proper hood and typical 15th century black head band with loop.

The Acceptable (or "what I usually go for")

Burgundian Dress

This lady's dress is a nice imitation of a Burgundian dress. Out of courtesy, I have blurred her face because she was very camera shy and was worried what her clients might think if they saw her dressed like that. (But your dress is fine, really!)

Royal Blue Bliaut-like dress

This is what one expects to find at a Medieval event: a girl with long, loose hair, wearing a 12th century bliaut inspired dresses with long hanging sleeves, made of linen or silk noil, trimmed with "Celtic" knot ribbon. It is not historically accurate, but it doesn't scream modern or break the illusion of being in a Medieval world (hence the "acceptable" classification). I love these types of dresses!

(Here I blurred the girl's face not because her dress is bad, but because the braces gave her away as a teen, and I do oh so try to keep parents from suing me.)

The Queen

This woman is the Queen of a group who say that they do historical reenactment (and I'll keep their name from you out of pagan charity), but really, they don't know half a thing about history. (The worst thing is, they'll put people down for dressing in "acceptable" garb when they do it themselves, and what they consider "historical" is really more often then not misconceptions.)

Cream Bliaut-like dress

Pretty, but more pre-raphaelite than historical.

The Bad (more Fantasy than historical)

Blue Medieval-Fantasy Dress

That one is still pretty, but we are slowly getting to the really bad garb.

Vikings and Pirates?

Let's get something straight guys: lacing and fur does not a Medieval costume make.

"I have my mother's thighs..."

Of course, nothing says Medieval Fair like a Faun with obese legs! (It's a cool costume, but SO not Medieval!)

Pink Disco Medieval Dress

Do I really need to explain this? OK, I guess I do: Wearing lamé or glitterdot fabric doesn't fool ANYONE into believing you are wearing chain mail. (Otherwise, this dress could be classified as "acceptable").

Gothik Girl

No comment.

Fairy Family

This trio was the worst. I'm sorry, I'm sure the mom worked real hard to make three dresses, and the dark green one could be made somewhat OK, and the light green one is very "Elvish" and reminds me of Arwen's Green Coronation Gown (I actually like it, it's just not Medieval), but mom's blue one? Butterfly printed quilters cotton? Seriously?

All I can say is: Oh Boy!