Saturday, October 3, 2009

Reminiscing: Con*Cept 2004

This week-end is Con*Cept - Montreal's Annual Science Fiction and Fantasy Convention. I only went once, back in 2004, but I had a lot of fun and I got to meet the members of l'Alliance Impériale, the first costumer's group I got to join.

It was my first convention, so I only wore a costume for the Masquerade. I was planning to wear an
Arwen's Angel Dress costume, but I ran out of trim and time to finish it (and to this day, it still isn't finished, because I know more about sewing and constructions and I see too many imperfections in my old work), so I went with the nicest costume I owned (and it is still one of my nicest nowadays), my Arwen's Dying Gown (also known as Beach Blond Arwen).

Gwenyver's Arwen Dying Gown, Con*Cept 2004

Beach Blond Arwen striking the pose, Con*Cept 2004

I wasn't the only LOTR character present (although I didn't know any of them prior to the Masquerade):

Louise as Legolas, the Christmas Elf, Daniel as Frodo and Gwenyver, Con*Cept 2004

Group Picture of the Masquerade Entrants, Con*Cept 2004

The funny thing about this picture is I am amongst members of l'Alliance Impériale, whom I got to know months later. On my left is Marianne Solav, on my right, CPL. Dom, and the Bounty Hunter is Tionniel.

I had two favorite costumes at that Masquerade. The first was a girl dressed as the Eye of Sauron atop Barad-dûr:

Julie Scott as The Eye of Sauron, Con*Cept 2004

How cool is that? A prom dress transformed into a building! I was really impressed and told her so abundantly.

The next was Maral Agnerian a.k.a. Sarcasm Hime; her costume was simply breathtaking.

Maral Agnerian a.k.a. Sarcasm Hime's Lily Faerie, Con*Cept 2004

That is an impressive use of Organza! Maral, along with Dawn McKechnie, a.k.a. Kaijugal, and Heather Morton were a sweet trio of flower faeries.

Maral Agnerian, Dawn McKechnie and Heather Morton, Con*Cept 2004

I was truly impressed by their costumes. I absolutely loved them. You can't tell from the picture, but, for instance, there are rows of seed beads down the petals of Maral's costume. I though they should win, but apparently, the judges thought their costumes were bought, or so Maral told me when I met her at Otakuthon last year, where she and Dawn were judging the Masquerade. It should be mentioned that two of Con*Cept's Masquerade judges were Stargate SG-1 (1997) Peter Williams (Apophis) and Douglas Arthurs (Heru'ur). They didn't know much about costume making, but the skits that made people laugh won (including, surprisingly, one about a Jaffa and an SGC soldier). Also, Masquerades usually follow the International Costumers' Guild Competition Guidelines, but they just gave first, second and third places.

But that's OK. I was happy to be there, I enjoyed my first experience at a convention, I made friends and got to see gorgeous costumes.

Note: All pictures shown here were taken by Charles Mohapel and can be found on this page.

Friday, October 2, 2009

2009 Most Popular Halloween Costumes

According to this article found on Yahoo! Finance, this year's most popular Halloween costume is... [drum roll]... Michael Jackson!

You read it right. According to Jalem Getz, president and CEO of
Buyseasons Inc., the parent company of, searches for the costume, which generally includes tight black pants, a leather jacket and, of course, a glittering glove, have gone up more than a 1000% (or so says the aforementioned article).

The 80's are definitely back. What I mean is, it is kind of funny that we are seeing so many 80's trends in fashion nowadays AND one must remember that Michael Jackson was the most influential artist of that decade. His red "
Thriller / Beat it" leather jacket was probably the most copied jacket ever. OK, I know it has more to do with him dying this year, but still, it is kind of a funny relation (not funny "Ha ha", but you know, interesting).

By the way, I was a great Michael Jackson fan as a kid.

Back to the article: according to Mr. Getz, other popular dead celebrity costumes will include Farrah Fawcett, Ed McMahon and infomercial pitchman Billy Mays. (How do you pull off this one? Do you try and sell Oxy Clean to other party guests?)

More costumes that expected to be popular include:

  • Vampire - it's a classic, but books and movies such as Twilight have brought up this costume's popularity a notch.
  • The Joker, preferably the Heath Ledger / The Dark Knight (2008) version. (I believe that. You wouldn't believe the number of requests I get for custom made Joker costumes. So for the last time, I charge 350$ minimum for a custom made tailcoat, and the price will go up depending on the fabric you choose.)

Reno as the Joker - Tailcoat by Gwenyver. Unknown Harley Quinn.

  • And Jon and Kate Gosselin of Jon & Kate Plus Eight. Yeah, I don't get that one either, but it's apparently true:

Eight Is Too Much Adult Wig

Funny, I had expected Cleopatra costumes to be more of a hit this year, considering how fashionable bib and pectoral necklaces are this season.

Gia Collar Necklace by Forever21

Another popular thing this Halloween, considering the economical factor, is to make your own costume from things you own instead of spending 40$-50$ on a pre-packaged costume. To all of you who choose to follow this trend, kudos to you. I despise pre-packaged costumes. In my opinion, they are low quality, cheap looking and often way too revealing. If you're going to spend that much money on your Halloween costume, get some fabric and a pattern and make it yourself: it might be cheaper, but it will definitely look better.

Or you can get your friendly blogger / Costume designer to make you a custom costume!*

*But that will have to wait until next year because I'm already booked for this year!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Dark Maiden Costume

It's October 1st. You do know what that means, right? Halloween is less than a month away so we all need to start planning costumes! (Haven't you noticed the decorations, the cheap ready made kids costumes and the pumpkins creeping into the stores?)

I have a secret to share. It's a big one. One mighty confession. You won't have seen it coming, I tell you. You'd better sit down first. Ready? Are you sure?

OK. Here it is: I hate Halloween. (I can here you gasping!) Well let me re-phrase that: I hate how All Hallow's Eve has become a commercial festival about Gruesome Bloody Gore (remember, I hate the Horror Genre). As I have previously clued, I am Pagan (oh, all right, Neo-pagan, if you want to be specific) and to me, Samhain is the Celtic New Year, so I really mind this perversion of my Holiday. (Last year a friend told me she didn't get why I hated the whole horror/scary show, considering I call myself a witch - of course, she had no idea how rude she was being.)

(I have a point in there somewhere. And, it relates to costumes too!)

Instead of shutting my eyes and ears and going La-la-la to try to ignore the wave, I fight it all alone in my corner by having my Halloween party and decor themed more around Autumn and Harvest. I set up a bonfire (in an outdoor fireplace) and an altar, I make Witches Brew (ask Nancy-Raven, it is yummy!), I ring a bell and I ride around the front lawn on my broom, dressed up as... a witch of course!

For Halloween 2003, I decided to make myself a really cool Witch’s costume, one I could keep for years to come and wear again and again (if such a thing is possible for me). I found a really neat pattern that really inspired me and decided to make it. Guess what I was doing at 4 A.M. on October 31st of that year? Rushing to finish at the last minute of course!

The pattern I used is McCall’s 4089, view A, and I made only one tiny modification: instead of having a jewelled cord bridging the opened sides of the upper sleeve, I made sewed them together every four inches or so.

Dark Maiden (McCall’s 4089, view A)

Here is a list of the fabrics and notions I used:

  • The main dress is made of black stretch paned velvet.
  • The vest and sleeves are made of thick spandex with a hematite coloured glitter design.
  • The vest is lined with black polyester.
  • The accents on the vest and sleeves are made with black sequin string.
  • The dress' neckline is drawstring, for which I used ¼ inch black satin ribbon.
  • The vest is decorated by a silver coloured clasp that also serves to close it.
My Dark Maiden Dress, Halloween 2003

When I made this costume, I promised my Mom it was going to be my Halloween costume for years to come.

OK, so I make a new one every year for the office and other parties, but I always wear my Witch's costume on Halloween night, when I'm the host of the party.

My Dark Maiden Dress, Halloween 2007

I look better with Bangs, don't you think? Oh, and a funny story, when I first wore that costume, a women came to me and said: "Wow, a blond witch! Are those your real hair?". Why I know long hair are rare (they were down to the small of my back), but what kind of a question is that?

Anyways, last year, I didn't get to wear it because Nancy-Raven held her party on the 31st. But this year, I'm doing the 31st! (It has been reserved for a year.)

Yet, I'm not sure I'll get to wear it because I was thinking of going for a Harry Potter theme. We'll see!

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Wednesday Weekly Wishlist: Mina's Red Bustle Gown

Right now I have Bustle Gowns on my mind. It must be from watching Say Yes To The Dress; it makes me think I want a Bustle Gown as a wedding dress (when my princess/bride day comes - *Hint Sweetheart*). As Bustle Gowns go, it is my opinion that the most impressive one is Mina's Red Bustle Gown from Bram Stoker's Dracula (1992).

Mina's Red Bustle Gown

Seriously, I think I'm pretty good at figuring out how any garment is made just by looking at it, but this dress puzzles me. It is no longer sewing or draping, it is architecture and art (this is probably why I love Bustle Gowns so much - finally a challenge!). I am especially impressed by the way Costume Designer Eiko Ishioka arrived at this asymmetrical waterfall of fabric to the side of the dress.

Winona Ryder as Mina Murray, Bram Stoker's Dracula (1992)

I think this is one dress many costumers dream of recreating. Some of the best reproductions I know of include Tracie L. Arnold's from Past & Present Creations (although technically, she is a costume seamstress and seller and not a costumer per se) and Traci's from Crimson Vision.

Who knows, maybe one day I'll make it in white (as, say, a wedding dress maybe?)

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Irish Dancing and Costumes

It's Tuesday. For the past seven years, Tuesdays have been associated with one thing for me: Irish Dancing. Like many, I was awed by Riverdance, so when, before the start of my second year of University, I decided to find an activity to get in shape, I though of Irish Dancing.

At first, I thought I would only do it for fun and never be serious enough about it to need a costume (after all, I was 20, I wasn't really going to compete seriously? After all, I had no chance of going to the Worlds one day, so what was the point?...)

But then, I learnt that adults could compete. And I started to compete with the teens. And to this day, I compete with 15 year olds who think I'm 17 (which is, like, Great!). So what If it's taken me all of this time to make it to Novice, I have fun doing it! (I should mention that for almost half of the seven years, I couldn't attend my dance classes: there where a couple of semesters when school was on the same night as dance, then there was the semester I had to stop to let my tendinitis heal, and of course, last year I was pregnant, which was followed by mommy separation anxiety, etc.)

But enough about my story as a dancer, I know what you really want to know and see are the costumes!

My first Feis - Albany, 2003

When you first start competing, the costume you wear is either your school's dress (and my school doesn't have one), or a green skirt with a white blouse (cape/shawl is optional).

You can also wear a black top with your green skirt. This is the costume you must wear for the Beginner and Advance Beginner categories.

This picture, taken last year, is of me getting ready to dance my Light Jig, the dance I hate the most. It was on that day that I finally managed to place and move up this dance, my last Advance Beginner dance, into Novice. Oh yeah! After years of placing 12th out of 13, I got a second place (out of 6). I was going around saying "The pregnant lady beat four 12 year olds!" (well, yes, because I was three month pregnant, and the oldest age group for Advance Beginner is 12 & Over - whereas it is 15 & Over for Novice).

OK, I know, enough already. You want costumes!

Toe Stand - School Recital, February 2007

This is a variation on the green skirt. It was made by some of my classmates for our School Recital back in 2007. The skirt is a wrap-around (I always make mine full circle), and the design was painted on the front part.

You might have noticed a few things I haven't mentioned by now. First, the traditional foot wear is Poodle Socks, but black tights are acceptable too (and slimming).

Second, there are two types of shoes: Ghillies, also called Soft Shoe, and Hard Shoe, which are similar to tap shoe, but with fiberglass tips and heels (makes it a lot harder to make noise with them, but, as the front taps are filed off, we are able to stand on our toes).

Lastly, what is with the curly hair? It is a wig. It is the fashion in Irish Dancing that dancers (girls) wear their hair in curls. This has led to the use of ringlet wigs. Mine is just a bun cover bought for 15$ in a Hair Salon supply store, but wigs can get very big and expensive. I have even seen girls stuff a pair of socks under their wig to make the top seem bigger and fuller.

My first dress - Ville-Marie Feis, 2004

This was my first attempt at a dress. I used Irish Threads Dance Dress Pattern to make it. It was far from stellar (just look at how the hem of the skirt is rolling inwards), but mistakes let you learn, and then you make something way better:

My first Solo Dress

I am so proud of this dress. I made it for my School Recital back in 2005, and as per my habit, I did it at the last minute, which in this case means I started it eight days before said Recital. I don't know if you can see it, but it takes forever (well, 12 hours really) to cut all the quilted design parts. I remember I was making one skirt panel a night, after coming home from work, and I practically had a nervous breakdown when I ran out of needles (because the little buggers tend to break when you are satin stitching over sequins). But my Sweetheart was kind enough to ask what he could do to help and he actually went to the store to buy me more needles. (I love you honey!)

Now in this picture, the skirt panels are starting to curl, but that is because it was taken last year, and I haven't properly stored it. It is always on a hanger, when I should have kept it lying flat. I'll know for the next one! But see how nice it looked when it was new:

Réal Morel Residence, St. Patrick 2005

So what is my next dress going to be? I'm thinking about it. A lot. And I change my mind often. Last year, I was interviewed by Irish Dancing Magazine about making your own dress and I had presented this as my next dress:

And by the way, this is the interview as it appeared in the August 2008 edition of IDM:

But now... Well I've had an inspiration for a Peacock Dress... (who, me?)

For some reason, the colours are all wrong now. The light turquoise should be more of a Teal Blue, the green should be darker and the purple redder, but you still get the idea.

My next Feis is in December, and it will be my first since August 2008, so expect to read more about my new dress in the coming month.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Movie Monday: Bright Star

I saw this trailer last night, while watching Tout le monde en parle (Fabrice Luchini was a guest and he was -*sigh* - enticing):

Bright Star (2009) was coming out last Friday in english and this Friday in french. The costumes are all about Empire Waist dresses of the early 19th century, as seen in many Jane Austen inspired movies. I personaly love Fanny Brawne's red striped Spencer Jacket.

Abbie Cornish as Fanny Brawne, Bright Star (2009)

For costume pictures, visit The Costumer's Guide to Movie Costumes - Bright Star Photobucket Album.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Edwardian London on Film

I was going through my bookmarks and I rediscovered this:

Lost film footage of Edwardian London discovered (Published: 23 Oct 2008)

As sources go for historical costumes, film is a wonderful tool. Think about it: you get to see what we now consider to be a costume as it was worn back then, on real live people! This footage is especially brilliant because it is filmed as a "documentary" (and not a fiction). It was was shot in 1904 as a Travelogue.

I know, the quality isn't all that great, but come on, the reels where "lost" for over a century.

If you look around on YouTube, there are more historic films for one to dream about bygone eras.