Saturday, April 10, 2010

Making and Wearing a Medieval Veil

Crown Tourney is coming to my beautiful province of Québec! Really! Now for those of you who don’t know what that is, it is a bi-annual SCA event where the new king is chosen through combat known as heavy fighting (full armour and rattan weapons). It’s a big deal! Usually it happens in the USA, but this may, it will be held in St-Hernénégilde, QC and I have every intentions of going.

Now ladies, if you do wish to go to a medieval event with a proper costume you should include a veil: it is not only period, it is practical a practical head covering. I’ve had my hat fly off in the wind more than once, but it has never happened to my veil.

First things first, you’ll need your own veil. You can buy one if you like, but they’re really easy to make. Start with one metre (100 cm) of light fabric (I prefer cotton veiling, but linen and silk are of course more historically accurate). Fabric usually comes in 115 cm width which is perfect for this project.

"Cutting Diagram for a Medieval Veil" by Gwenyver

Following the cutting diagram I lovingly made for you, cut a circle which is 100 cm in diameter; that will be your veil. You will be left with a band of fabric measuring 15 cm by 100 cm; cut it in half to get two pieces measuring 15 cm by 50 cm. These will be the headband and barbette (should you choose do wear one).

Next comes sewing. For the veil, use whatever edging technique you feel comfortable with; it could be the “foulard” point on your serger, a special edge point on your modern sewing machine, a narrow rolled edge, or my favourite, using a narrow zig zag point to satin stitch the edge.

For the head and chin bands, take one piece, fold it in half and sew the open side and one of the ends shut. Flip the piece inside out, press it and close the opened end. Repeat for the second piece.

You are now ready to put on your veil. In addition to the items you have just made, you will need some straight pins to put everything on. You can use regular pins from your trusty old pin cushion, or you can get fancier ones. Some medieval stores sell some lovely decorated extra long veil pins. Me? I use these faux pearl studded pins I got at the dollar store (50 for 1$!).

Here is how I do it:

First, if you have bangs, you should pin them back; if you have long hair, I suggest braiding it – two braids long braids on each side of your head is absolutely period for the 12th century! Now, take one of your bands of fabric and fold it in half length wise.

Folded Veil Headband

Wrap that folded band around your head horizontally, keeping it straight on your forehead.

Veil Headband - Front View

Join both ends one on top of the other and pin them together (I know it sounds dangerous, but just have be gentle and you’ll be fine).

Veil Headband - Back View

Then, grab your veil, put it over your head and bring the edge level over your eyebrows (as if you were measuring to cut your bangs). As long as it is level, it will be straight and centered. Flatten the veil over the headband and pin it to the headband at your temple. You want to insert the pin from top to bottom, at an angle, with the sharp end pointing away from your face

Pinning the Veil On

Repeat on the other side and you are done!

Medieval Veil

There you are, you look gorgeous, your veil is just the perfect size, neither too long nor too short, and are ready to pass for a Medieval lady from the 12th century.

Gwenyver as Mórag filia Scayth

But what do you do with the other band of fabric you prepared? You would normally use it as a barbette, or chin band, but it is optional. If you did choose to wear it, you would fold it length wise just like the headband and you would put it on before the headband, wrapping it around your head vertically, passing it under the chin and pinning it at the top of your head.

Of course, there are other ways to put on a veil. One great site is
Medieval Clothing Pages: Articles by Cynthia Virtue. Cynthia has a page called Simple Steps to Look Great in a Veil, or Veil-and-Circlet where she shows not only another way to wear a veil (including barbette and circlet), as well as some historical sources.

So should I expect everyone in a veil at the next Medieval event?
Nancy-Raven? Marie-Ange-the-Celt?

Friday, April 9, 2010

Harajuku's Lolitas

I was looking at my competition on Fabricville’s contest website when I came across an entry called “A Candy Pink Lolita”. This got me thinking (and researching) on the subject. I usually call this style Gothic Lolita, but I did not realise that Gothic is only one Lolita style. Apparently, there is a whole list of them!

Lolita fashion really became popular in 90’s with
Visual Kei (visual type) bands such as Malice Mizer with the performers wearing costumes similar to Lolita wear; when their fans began imitating their stage looks, the Lolita fashion went through a veritable boom.

You might have heard of Lolita fashion referred to as “
Harajuku Girls”: this name is not appropriate, but is due to Gwen Stefani’s song “Harajuku Girls”, to the line of cosmetics she created on the theme and to her four Japanese-American back-up dancers (Love, Baby, Angel and Music – named after the cosmetics, themselves named after the album Love. Angel. Music. Baby. – it’s a whole marketing concept!). Harajuku is in fact a Train Station in Tokyo near where adepts of Lolita Style meet on Sundays. The Harajuku Girls’ influence has led the way for Lolita fashion to become very popular in the western world; there are even commercial patterns for “Japanese Street Style costume” for girls (although I know this is probably seen as an insult by Lolitas everywhere).

In general, Lolita fashion is a form of rebellion against hyper sexualisation of young girls. The clothes they wear are meant to be reminiscent of Victorian children or porcelain doll; it is in a way, an attempt to return to innocence. Lolita look consists primarily of a knee length skirt or dress, headdress, blouse, petticoat, knee high socks or stockings and high heels, platform shoes or rocking horse (cork platforms). Adepts of Lolita fashion often frown upon people calling their clothes costumes, so I hope they forgive me for this post, but as I always say somebody’s clothes is another’s costume; it’s a question of context.

So let’s look at what makes each of these styles unique.

Gothic Lolita

Two Gothic Lolita girls in Harajuku, Tokyo

Gothic Lolita, or GothLoli is generally characterized by black clothes with dark colour accents such as purple, green, blue and red, although sometimes the accent can be white. Make-up is dark, with red lips and Smokey eye, but the face is kept its natural colour instead of the white tones usually associated with western gothics. As for accessories, they include the usual religious symbols in jewellery (crosses and crucifixes) and purses.

Basically, imagine everyone’s favourite Goth,
Abby Sciuto, in a frilly blouse and short poufy skirt!

Erotic Lolita

Okay, so Lolitas are not really supposed to be sexy, and yet one style of Lolita is called Erotic or Ero? That is because of their Fetishist inspiration; they use a lot of leather and pleather in their dresses, but they are as covered as your basic Lolita!

Sweet Lolita

Sweet Lolita or Ama-Loli is the opposite of GothLoli in terms of colour schemes and patterns. Highly influenced by Rococo, Victorian and Edwardian styles, it focuses on the childlike qualities of Lolita fashion with candy pastels and girly patterns. Think Alice in Wonderland, Fruits, Candy & Sweets, Fairy tales and Princesses, and wear Gingham, lace, bows, colourful prints and anything cute.

Country Lolita

Country Lolita

Derived from the Sweet Lolita, the Country Lolita resembles Dorothy more than Alice. Stick to gingham, fruit items such as strawberries and cherries, and don’t forget your straw hat and basket!

Classic Lolita

Classic Lolitas

The Classic Lolita is a more mature looking Lolita inspired by Baroque, Rococo and Regency styles. On the Lolita meter, they are between Gothic and Sweet: not too dark and not too colourful either. A more muted palette is aimed for here, as are A-line shapes and empire waists. Focus on intricate designs; this Lolita is less whimsical and more functional.

Casual Lolita

Casual Lolita

Same style but toned down; it is best described as “dressed-down Lolita”. Keep lines and accessories simple and not over the top and you should be okay.

Punk Lolita

Punk Lolita

Take your basic Lolita look and mix in typical punk style such as plaid (preferably a Royal Stewart Tartan), ties and chains: Voilà! You have a Punk Lolita. Oh, and as Punk fashion began in Britain, it is more than acceptable to throw in a Union Jack.

Wa Lolita

Wa Lolita

Wa Lolitas, or simply Wa Loli is a more “kimono-esque” look. The bell shaped petticoat is still there, but it is worn with a wrap-around top with long kimono sleeves and an obi. Fabrics and prints used here are inspired by traditional Japanese fashion, while hair accessories can include kanzashi flowers. Make-up wise, anything from natural to geisha works. Shoes can be modern platforms, or the more traditional geta, or even okobo or pokkuri.

Qi Lolita

Qi Lolita Outfit

Similar to the Wa Lolita style, Qi Loli finds it’s inspiration in traditional Chinese fashion. Chinese brocades, mandarin collar and frog closures are a must!

Hime Lolita

Hime Lolita

Hime is the Japanese word for Princess, and this Lolita style is all about European Fairy Tale princesses and Marie Antoinette. It is a very elegant look which is characterized by miniature crowns, tiaras, extravagant hair or large hair and dresses. Go for pearls and roses, and keep the make-up natural.

Sailor Lolita

Sailor Lolita

We’ve all seen Sailor Lolitas in Anime; just think of Sailor Moon! This Lolita style gets its inspiration in nautical wear: sailor collars, ties, sailor hats, and stripes, gold buttons, lots of navy and white with red accents, and of course, ships anchors and wheels patterns. As for make-up, natural is again the best way to go.

Shiro Lolita

Shiro Lolita

A Shiro Lolita or White Lolita can wear any Lolita style, as long as her entire outfit is white or cream (even shoes – black shoes on a Shiro Lolita is a terrible faux pas).

Kuro Lolita

Kuro Lolita

Kuro Lolitas or Black Lolitas are the colour spectrum opposite of Shiro Lolitas: they wear only black. But just as Shiro Lolitas, Kuro Lolitas can wear any Lolita style.

Cosplay Lolita

Cosplay Lolita

From what I’ve been reading, Lolitas don’t like Cosplay or Costume Lolitas (which is what I guess I would fit in).

Cosplay Lolita, or 'Costume Lolita,' is not a subset of Lolita fashion, but it is still important to know the difference between Cosplay Lolita and the actual fashion.

Cosplay Lolita is often looked-down upon because it's usually seen at Anime Conventions being worn by those who don't really understand Lolita fashion and are happy to throw-on a costume quality eBay dress for the weekend. A lot of the time Cosplay Lolitas believe that Lolita is a costume instead of a fashion movement.

Cosplay Lolita generally doesn't conform to the actual standards of Lolita fashion and usually includes very low quality materials, such as thin cottons or shiny fabric, synthetic Rachel lace, satin ribbon, square-dance petticoats, cat/costume-ish ears, and poorly done corset-style lacing, stompy goth boots, lace gloves, low-quality coloured wigs, leg warmers, stripper-esque high-heels, low-quality lace parasols, maid outfits, and short, un-modest skirts. Cosplay Lolita takes the lovable elements of Lolita fashion such as bows, lace, frills, and pushes them to the extreme, usually covering a dress with too many of these things, and entirely removing the classy image that most Lolita fashion tries to convey.

Make-up for this style can be anything from Mana-esque white-face, heavy eye-liner, thick Goth eye shadow and black lipstick.

(Excerpt from - Cosplay Lolita)

While I would argue that the Lolitas seen at Anime conventions are maybe emulating an anime character (and therefore not necessarily going for the proper Lolita look) and/or are perhaps on a tight budget (hence the cheap lace and accessories, and the readily available petticoats and Goth or stripper shoes), I can understand the frustration at seeing the classy image that Lolitas work so hard at portraying being perverted by neophytes, especially when it comes to skirt length and general modesty. I guess it’s like my reaction to "Halloween party quality" costumes at a Medieval fair or the use of a round crinoline under a supposed 18th century dress.

But fear not: has some suggestions to go from
Cosplay Lolita to Elegant Lolita in 7 steps.


Ōji or Kodona

Ōji, meaning “Prince”, or Kodona as is it is called in the western world, means “Boy style”. This is a dandier look which can be either laid back or extravagant.

Clothing includes pants, capris or knickerbockers with some detail to them (like lace at the hem), suspenders, ties or bowties, bowler caps and long socks (to cover the legs). The more extravagant styles can also include spats, canes, top hats, capes, etc., but it is important to keep the boyish look of the outfit.

This is the one of two “Unisex Lolita”; it is usually worn by women, but can also be used by men. Women can wear a few feminine touches in their accessories (such as high heals), but keep the make-up to a minimum (although black eyeliner is okay). Hair should be either short and boyish, or tucked away under the cap.


Aristocrat (a.k.a. Elegant Gothic Aristocrat or EGA)

Aristocrat or Elegant Gothic Aristocrat is the most mature of the Lolita looks and the other unisex (men can be Aristocrats too): there are no cutesy motifs, skits are generally worn long, but they can be short, and they are worn with high corseted ,corsets of all types, fitted jackets with tail coats, frilly shirts and cravats, top hats, veils, etc.

Hairdo should be more mature as well: buns and other up does, long, short, or even curly, though it is recommended to stay away from barrel curls. Make-up is mature and a little darker, but extreme make-up (and for that matter hair) are reserved to special occasions such as clubs, gatherings or fashion shows.

All in all, the Aristocrat has more in common with the western Goth (or Romantic Gothic to use the proper term) than with say, a Sweet Lolita.

Guro Lolita

The last Lolita style is the Guro or Gore Lolita (also known as Horror Lolita). Take your basic Lolita (although a Shiro Lolita base works best) and add bandages and blood spatter. (And now you know why I kept this for last and did not use a picture – and if you’re not a regular reader, it’s because I hate horror flicks and anything bloody and gruesome). Apparently it’s meant to look like a broken doll but… I don’t know about you but none of my dolls ever bleed when they were broken. I guess it’s a question of opinion (and mine is “Yuck!”).

Far from me to want to insult anyone by “costuming” myself as a Lolita for Otakuthon, but it would make for a great outfit. Oh! I know, I’ve wanted to make something out of sushi printed cotton for years, do you think it would work? In any case, you know that I would do my research right, keep with the knee length bell skirt and skip on the cat ears!


Thursday, April 8, 2010

Mario Davignon, Montréal based Costume Designer to the Stars

Recently, Nancy-Raven was telling me that she wondered how important Costume Designers got to where they are now. That is indeed, an excellent question for anyone interested in becoming a professional in the business. Well, it just so happens that my Mom found an article in L’Actualité about Iberville, Qc born and Montréal based Costume designer Mario Davignon, who has worked in the costume department of movies such as The Scarlet Letter (1995) and Romeo + Juliet (1996), TV series such as The Last Templar (2009) and The Pillars of the Earth (2009) and also created incredible outfits for Québec singer Diane Dufresne*.

*I guess you could equate that to Cher’s relationship with
Bob Mackie; but my comparison goes only as far as wearing crazy costumes goes. Musicaly, they are nothing alike.

Mr. Davignon, with a diploma in Theatre and Sewing started when he was Yvon Duhaime’s chauffeur, during the shooting of City on Fire (1979), staring Ava Gardner and Henry Fonda. When Duhaime died of a heart attack, Mr. Davignon was offered the job of Costume Designer (although from what I can find, he is credited as Assitant Costume Designer). Later when the Director of City on Fire, Alvin Rakoff, offered him the position again for his next movie, he asked to get an entry level job instead, to learn the profession the right way.

And so he went on to work in many different positions related to Costume department, from Extras Wardrobe Coordinator for
Ford: The Man and the Machine (1987), to Head Dresser for Black Robe (1991), working his way up to Costume designer.

His specialty? Historical costumes! As Irene Litinsky, producer of The Last Templar (2009) said, “He does not make costumes; he recreates eras”. And indeed, when at first Sergio Mimica-Gezzan, director of The Pillars of the Earth (2009) did not want his actors to wear wigs, Davignon told him the whole thing would look like a Halloween Party to the viewers who would see collarless tunics on short haired men. He won the argument: they all got wigs. Thank goodness for authenticity driven costume designers or else imagine the awful anachronisms we the costume loving viewers would have to endure!

His workshop, owned with two other friends – Renée and Fabienne April, F M R Costumes is set in Montréal, in Petite-Bourgogne. The three story building is full of dresses, shirts, pants, jackets, shoes, jewellery, etc. They rent costumes to local movie and tele producers.

You can read the article on the scan pages included in this post, or on
L’Actualité’s website: L’étoffe des héros.

Now THAT is my dream job. Do you think they might find a use for a Costumeholic (with a background in Fashion) such as me?

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Wednesday Weekly Wishlist: Comtesse de Noailles' Teal & Pearl Grey outfit

Since I'm in an 18th century mood, let's have an 18th century Wishlist entry: on today's menu, the Comtesse de Noailles' Teal & Pearl Grey outfit.

For the movie
Marie Antoinette (2006), the concept was to keep the colours very light and fresh, almost candy like, for the younger generation of the Dauphin and Dauphine, and to reserve deep saturated colours for the older characters of King Louis XV's era.

The Comtesse de Noailles belonging to the latter group, she gets to wear this gorgeous deep teal blue, long sleeved, compère front Caraco jacket with gold lace accent paired with a pearl grey skirt.

Judy Davis as The Comtesse de Noailles, Marie Antoinette (2006)

Of course, she also wears a matching hat!

Judy Davis as The Comtesse de Noailles, Marie Antoinette (2006)

Luckily enough, teal blue satin is fairly easy to find (as opposed to a specific brocade for instance). Besides, I know that colour would look beautiful on me.

Sigh! I really have too many projects for just one lifetime!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Project: Sherbet Striped English Dress - skirt fabric and trims

Ok, so you know when I said I would not make a new skirt to go with my new 18th century dress? Apparently, I was lying to myself. You see, I’ve been thinking about it and the pink skirt from my Mint Green Caraco Jacket and Pink Skirt won’t do: I want to be able to wear pocket hoops as skirt support for this dress, but that skirt was hemmed to be worn without any form of support. So you see, I have to make a new one.

Okay, I can already hear those of you who’ll say I have a pink satin skirt (from my Buffy inspired 18th century Gown) that is hemmed to fit over pocket hoops, but to you I say: satin is not a “Summer’s day in the Country” type of fabric. I want to be able to walk outside in it and not worry about snags at the hem.

So… I went to
Fabricville today, and I found this shocking pink woven linen blend which matches the pink stripe of my main dress fabric perfectly. And it was in the discount section, at a mere 4$ a metre.

Dress and skirt fabric for my Sherbet Striped English Dress

See how well it matches?

I also got some gros grain ribbon in light purple and green to make a ruffle around the neck, down the princess line of the bodice and on the edges of the dress’ skirt. I intend to place the small green trim on top of the wider purple one for added detail.

Finally, I went over to the Dollar Store and got a small straw hat.

8" Straw Hat

I’m going to tack three of the sides to make a small tricorne, add some trim and perch it on my head.

Yep! It’s all going to look awesome!

Monday, April 5, 2010

Movie Monday: La Cité

Look at what is coming out this week: a Québec made costume / war drama! La Cité (2010) is set in 1895, during the French occupation of Tunisia, and tells the story of French Doctor, Maxime Vincent, who, after spending eight years in Northern Africa, is ready to go home... until he is asked to cure a village who's inhabitants are suffering from a plague.

Gentlemen, if you are interested in late 19th century French Legionnaire costumes, you should definitely see that movie!

Claude Legault as Colonel Julien Mandel, La Cité (2010)

You could also look at what the locals wore (and still wear today in some parts of Northern Africa).

Jean-Marc Barr as Dr. Maxime Vincent, La Cité (2010)

Ah! A Kaftan is always so comfy!

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Bunny me!

Happy Easter! Today is a day of bunnies, baby chicks, eggs, chocolate, and other more serious stuff, but it concerns book religions, so I’ll leave them to it while I stick to my specialty, costumes. To go with today’s theme, I went through some photo albums at my parents to bring you a Vintage Costumeholic Moment:

Gwenyver as a Bunny for Halloween

Yes, that is me, at age three, in the fluffy bunny costumes my mom had made me for Halloween. Don’t I look cute?

Now I’d love to tell you exactly which pattern she used to make it, but I truly don’t know (although knowing my mom's preferences, it was probably a Butterick). Besides, it is probably way out of print by now. If you would like to make your own, any bunny costume from the “Classic Halloween Costumes” section of commercial pattern books will do.

Butterick 3238

Enjoy the family dinner, but be careful not to exaggerate on desert or you won’t fit in your costumes anymore (I speak from experience).