Saturday, February 13, 2010

Vancouver 2010 - Opening Ceremony

Last night, I was all ready and excited about watching the Opening Ceremony for the Vancouver 2010 Olympics. I had my pizza, my water and my PJ, and I started to watch the pre-show as early as 7 pm. When the actual ceremony began, I was so emotional, I was teary eyed.

And then... nothing. I kept waiting for the show to actually begin. I was so disappointed! I have rarely seen such a boring Opening Ceremony for an Olympic game. I'm not talking only from a costumer's point of view (I had a hard time finding a way to present the subject today). The visual effects were the only time I actually thought "Oh, nice" - I really liked the killer whale's swim across the floor - but other than that, all I thought was BO-RING!

Let's talk about my biggest issue (other than the place and use of French): the lack of interesting costumes. I know the organizers said they wouldn't even try to live up to the standard set by the Chinese in Beijing, but I was hoping to see something interesting for the placard bearers. What did we get to see?

Parade of Nations, Vancouver 2010 Opening Ceremony

White winter coats. Okay, apparently I was foolish to hope.

Just for the heck of it, what did other country dress their placard bearers in?

Parade of Nations, Beijing 2008 Opening Ceremony

In 2008, the Beijing Olympics Placard bearers wore lovely sleeveless red satin dresses with mandarin collar and silver embroidered flowers, over a pleated organza skirt.

Miss Italia, Edelfa Chiara Masciotta, carrying the Placard for team Italy, 2006 Winter Olympics, Torino, Italy

In Torino, in 2006, the Placard bearers wore Moschino dresses made to look like snowy mountain tops, complete with pine trees and lit-up village!

Parade of Nations, Athens 2004 Opening Ceremony

Athenian Placard holders' outfits were meant to represent antique Greek pottery.

Parade of Nations, Nagano 1998 Opening Ceremony

12 years ago, in Nagano, Placards were carried on children's back (I'm sure it wasn't too heavy). These kids' top represented the country's flag and they were accompanied by men in full regalia, including Kimono, Hakama and Haori.

So come on Canada, couldn't you have come up with something a little more visually stimulating than a white doudoune?

My only positive notes on the Parade of nations are that it happened early in the Ceremony so the Athletes got to actually watch the show, and the placard holders alternated between girl and guy, so I appreciated this symbol of equality.

The most colourful costumes seen that night were those of the Aboriginal people.

Just a side note, if you are not a North American, I feel I have to specify that if you come to Canada, there is very little chance you will in fact see any Amerindian, other than in a tourist trap, and if you do, that's not how they dress usually.

Aboriginal Dance

Amerindian Dancing

Iroquois in proper Headdress

As for costumes in the show, this is all I could come up with:


Devil and the Moon

Okay, sorry, I need to specify another point: This was supposed to represent a Quebec legend called La Chasse-Galerie. The story as I heard it growing up tells of a group of woodsmen who wish they could be home for New Year's Eve, so they make a deal with the Devil who enchants their Canoe.

So where were the woodsmen?

I did like the modern interpretation of the Devil, wearing a leather studded vest.


I don't really get how they went from La Chasse-Galerie to a bunch of leather studded and tartan clad violinists, but apparently it made sense in someone's mind.

Also, I'm not sure if it is true, but I read somewhere that the outfits for this segment were designed by Avril Lavigne. Could be just a rumor thought.

Tap Dancing

Lots of tap and lots of plaid. Again, I don't feel at all that this represents Canada (I guess the decor of red maple leaves are supposed to fill in for the role).

Can you tell how disappointed I was? I don't think I've ever written such a negative post. I did debate about whether or not I should in fact write it, but as you have just read it, I decided to go for it. After all, just because I have nothing good to say doesn't mean I can't express myself.

I hated the Opening Ceremony. I fell asleep before the end. If you liked it, good for you! Just as I am entitled to my opinion, so are you, and I respect the fact that you have no taste. (Kidding!)

Friday, February 12, 2010

R.I.P. Alexander McQueen

Yesterday, the world learned that a great designer had taken his own life; at age 40, Lee Alexander McQueen was found dead in his London home. It may have to do with the fact that his mother's funeral was set to be today, but whatever the reason, his creative genius will be missed. He was, of all the designers out there, a favourite of costumers everywhere.

To his memory, I present to you a few of his costume inspired designs.

Alexander McQueen, Spring 2001, from The Cut - Retrospective: A Decade of McQueen’s Work

Alexander McQueen, Fall 2006, from The Cut - Retrospective: A Decade of McQueen’s Work

Alexander McQueen, Fall 2006, from The Cut - Retrospective: A Decade of McQueen’s Work

Alexander McQueen, Spring 2007, from The Cut - Retrospective: A Decade of McQueen’s Work

Alexander McQueen, Fall 20067 from The Cut - Retrospective: A Decade of McQueen’s Work

Alexander McQueen, Fall 2007, from The Cut - Retrospective: A Decade of McQueen’s Work

Alexander McQueen, Spring 2008, from The Cut - Retrospective: A Decade of McQueen’s Work

Alexander McQueen, Spring 2008, from The Cut - Retrospective: A Decade of McQueen’s Work

Alexander McQueen, Fall 2008, from The Cut - Retrospective: A Decade of McQueen’s Work

Alexander McQueen, Fall 2008, from The Cut - Retrospective: A Decade of McQueen’s Work

Alexander McQueen, Fall 2009, from The Cut - Retrospective: A Decade of McQueen’s Work

Alexander McQueen, Spring 2010, from The Cut - Retrospective: A Decade of McQueen’s Work

He also designed wearable clothes. Here are two of my favourites, worn by well known Stars.

Janet Jackson at the opening of The Alexander McQueen flagship store in southern California, June 2008

(What a lovely, elegant and yet simple interpretation of a Furisode.)

Kirsten Dunst in a corseted pink-and-dove taffeta-and-chiffon ball gown by Alexander McQueen, Vogue, September 2006

It's always sad when artistic geniuses leave us, especially by choice. He will be missed.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

First Kitsuke attempt (Christmas Paisley Yukata)

Yesterday afternoon, I treated myself to a little photo shoot. It wasn't as fun as being out and about in a beautiful location and posing for a photographer, but at least now I have pictures of costumes which had never been taken in photo before or which needed new photos. Alone in a room, after moving the furniture out, I set up my tripod and my camera and I would have 10 seconds to go place myself. Obviously some pictures are better than others and some need to be cropped, but all in all, I am satisfied.

Gwenyver wearing her Christmas Paisley Yukata - Front view

One outfit I really wanted to put on and get a photo of was my Christmas Paisley Yukata and red Hanhaba Obi with gold speckles. I made the entire ensemble for Christmas 2005, but I had never worn it. So yesterday, armed with Ichiroya's Yukata Kitsuke tutorial video (see Yukata Kitsuke), I tried to dress myself. (Just when you thought I was done with the Japanese theme - don't worry, I should be back to my current 18th century self by tomorrow).

Gwenyver wearing her Christmas Paisley Yukata - Back view

As with any first tries, the result was far from stellar. One reason might be because my Yukata is a little too big for me now. As I realized yesterday when trying on other costumes, having lost 25 lbs (thank you, thank you) does make a difference in fit. Another reason might be that I don't have all the accessories needed for proper Kitsuke: all I had was my Yukata, Obi, a regular sleeveless slip, a piece of satin ribbon and a some twill tape. As soon as I have a little money, I will invest in Kitsuke items. Lastly, I didn't use towels to eliminate my curves. I figured that being round, I wouldn't need the padding, but my hips begged to differ.

Red Hanhaba Obi with Gold speckles - Closeup

So my collar was crooked, my Oshaori (fold at the waist) was frumpy and my hem wasn't straight. So what! I tried and I can only do better next time. And even if my obi wasn't perfect either, I was really proud to have tied it myself. After all, I could have used a cheat, like my pre-tied Hanhaba Obi (although, as it is hot pink, it would have clashed in an awful way), but I didn't.

Gwenyver wearing her Christmas Paisley Yukata

Still, I looked so cute! Kawaii!

By the way, kneeling in a Kimono is not at all easy. doing it gracefully and without creasing your kimono requires practice. So is bowing with an Obi that keeps your body straight the way a corset would.

Arigatô Gozaimasu!

I had a lot of fun dressing up and taking pictures. I'm sure next time my Kitsuke will look better. I'll try to finish my Valentine Yukata in time for Valentine's day this Sunday so I can have another go.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Wednesday Weekly Wishlist: Robe à la Française

I love 18th century fashion. I know it's no news to you, my faithful readers, as I have a tendency to repeat myself, but doing all that research for my Venice Carnival post last Saturday got me thinking of Georgian fashion once more.

On my ever growing
Wishlist is a Robe à la Française, staple of any noble lady of the time.

Robe à la Française, mid-18th century, French, Patterned light blue ribbed silk, brocaded in polychrome silks, metallic gold, and silver, Metropolitan Museum of Art

What is a Robe à la Française? It is a type of dress that has fabric arranged in box pleats at the shoulders, which then fall to the floor in a slight train. The skirt of the dress s opened in the front to reveal the petticoat (skirt).

For the one I wish to make, my dream would be to use light blue Dupioni silk for both the dress and petticoat. I saw one once and it was magnificent.

Mrs. Nathaniel (Sally Sayward) Barrell wears a double strand pearl necklace with a blue silk sacque gown for her 1761 portrait by Joseph Blackburn

You have to admit, it would look fabulous.

As far as trims and decoration goes, I like the look of this Yellow dress from the Royal Ontario Museum.

Yellow Robe à la Française, Silk extended tabby (Gros de Tours) with liseré self-patterning and brocading in silver lamella and filé, England (Spitalfields), Rococo, 1750s, Royal Ontario Museum, ROM2004_1034_6

It's the way the trim sways on the skirt of the dress and its glittery effect. As I have learned by reading Gail Marsh's book (see Costume Book Review: 18th Century Embroidery Techniques by Gail Marsh) sequins are period for 18th century embellishment.

Pattern wise, this is one case where I don't think I'll let my natural laziness get the best of me. You see, the commercial pattern I own for a Sack-back dress (Simplicity 3637) asks for 18.70 metres of fabric 115 cm wide (that is 20 1/2 yards of 45" wide material). Considering I can rarely find Dupioni silk for less than 20$ a metre at my local fabric store (sometimes it comes down to 10$ after Christmas, but maybe I could buy it on-line instead and save), I really doubt I could ever afford to make it. If on the other hand I drape the pattern myself (full instructions can be found on La Couturière Parisienne - How to make a Contouche), I could get away with using only 8 to 10 metres (on sale, I could budget 100$ and be okay). I still think I'll practice on muslin first.

I'll aim to make it for when I go to the Venice Carnival, how about that?

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Coming soon: The Berg Fashion Library

This promises to be a wonderful resource for all costumers: opening in May, the Berg Fashion Library will give us access documents, books, research papers and an impressive database of pictures!

This is an excerpt from the website, specifically from the About the Berg Fashion Library section:

Berg Fashion Library - a fashion portal

Available from May 2010 on a subscription basis, the Berg Fashion Library is a cross-searchable online portal that incorporates a full range of resources essential for anyone working on dress or fashion from a broad range of disciplinary bases – anthropology and material culture, art history, theatre studies, history, sociology, cultural studies, human geography, folklore, and fashion studies.

Key content available at launch is outlined below.

  • The Berg Encyclopedia of World Dress and Fashion online – updated twice a year
  • E-Book collection: full text of c.60 Berg fashion e-books with regular updates
  • E-Journals: the Berg Fashion Library will also be fully cross-searchable with Berg fashion journals (Fashion Theory, Fashion Practice, and Textile) if your institution subscribes to them
  • An extensive, colour, image bank with thumbnails that link through to enhanced content. This will include 1,600 images from the internationally renowned V&A collection and 2,000 images from the print encyclopedia
  • Extra reference resources, such as an A-Z of Fashion and a Dictionary of Key Terms

Example from the Virtual Tour presentation

Other added-value resources for future stages may include the following:

  • A regularly updated abstracting and indexing (A&I) database – covering journal articles, industry literature, books and images – this will enable users to locate relevant content with ease, and to gain access to the full text via Open URLs wherever possible
  • 200 ‘position papers’ (1.7 million words) covering the state of the art in fashion research across all fields – from curation to business
  • Specially-created materials through which key museums can be visited ‘virtually' – for example, videos of curators introducing major exhibitions and collections with links to exhibits

Another example from the Virtual Tour presentation

I can't wait to start using this resource. Just imagine the possibilities! I wonder how much the subscription will be? I hope it is affordable enough for private users. In the mean time, you can always take the Virtual Tour to get a taste of what it will be like.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Movie Monday: The Wolfman

I don't like horror flicks. They give me nightmares.

Having said that, I cannot keep silent about The Wolfman (2010) coming out this Friday, which is of course inspired Inspired by the classic film The Wolf Man (1941). After all, it is set in Victorian times, which means Costumes! (Besides, as long as there is not too much blood and gore, I'm usually okay.)

Costumes are dark to reflect the gravity of the matter, but still, they include crinolines and top hats, so what is not to like?

Benicio Del Toro as Lawrence Talbot, Emily Blunt as Gwen Conliffe, and Sir Anthony Hopkins as Sir John Talbot, The Wolfman (2010)

Isn't it a little funny that Emily blunt gets to act in a movie set in Victorian times less than a year after playing the eponymous Queen? Just a thought.

I don't know yet if I will ever watch it, but don't let my squeamishness stop you.

Costumes for this movie were designed by Milena Canonero, winner of three Best Costume Design Oscars for Barry Lyndon (1975) - which she shared with Ulla-Britt Söderlund, Chariots of Fire (1981), and Marie Antoinette (2006)

Sunday, February 7, 2010

The Lady of Shalott and friends

I saw her, I saw her! I really, really saw her!

Yesterday, Nancy-Raven, my Daughter and I went to the Musée des Beaux Arts de Montréal for the last week-end of the John William Waterhouse - Garden of Enchantment exhibit. I know, it's just like me to wait until the last minute! After all, I have known about the exhibit for quite some time; I even mentioned it here, back in October! (See Museum Exhibition: John William Waterhouse - Garden of Enchantment, posted on October 13, 2009).

As I explained to my Sweetheart last week, going to the Tate Gallery in London to see The Lady of Shalott has been on my list of things to do once in my life for about a decade; it would be dumb to miss my chance to see her while she is town. Oh sure, it's one less excuse to go to London, UK, but really, I have many more so what is one.

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

Seeing her in front of me, being able to discern details I had never noticed before, noticing how bright the colours are in real life, all of this made me want to pick up my embroidery once more and finish the cross stitch armbands I had begun years ago. As it stands now, I only have one that is completed.

Cross stitched trim for The Lady of Shalott Armbands

Come on Gwenyver, you can do it!

There was another painting that impressed me and influenced my costuming mood: Jason and Medea.

Jason and Medea, John William Waterhouse, 1907, Oil on canvas, The Rob Dickins Collection

You see, I've been wanting to make a proper Cotehardie for quite some time now, but it was never all that high on my list of priorities. It just so happens that next Wednesday (March 17), my local SCA group will have a workshop on the subject and I was debating whether or not to go. Seeing that painting suddenly makes me want to go (this should please Lady Jeanne).

One thing is for sure, I'm really happy I went. Now I can say:

"I saw her, I saw her! I really, really saw her!"