Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Vintage Inspirations: Is 2011 the year of the vintage style wedding dress?

So I’ll admit in posting this I am slightly bias… (okay I’m very bias) given that I’m planning a wedding myself but while researching wedding things it has become apparent to me that the trend of having a ‘vintage wedding’ is on the rise.

Vintage weddings have always been popular, as evidenced by websites like Rock N’ Roll Bride and consistent wedding features in VintageLife Magazine. But these days it seems that even the more main-stream wedding has been leaning towards the more vintage-y feel.

In Spring 2011 the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton was seen by millions of people in the UK alone. The event was celebrated with street parties and pub parties, in-fact many shops shut during the ceremony so staff could watch!

While the day was not exactly vintage, the day was steeped in tradition and had a very old fashioned feel to it. In particular Kate’s dress:

The very traditional dress designed by award winning designer Sarah Burton at Alexander McQueen and had a distinct vintage flair- with many parallels drawn between this dress and Grace Kelly’s:

Kate with Grace

Image source: eonline

My favourite aspects of the dress are the beautifully fitted lace sleeves and the sweetheart bodice that shows a small amount of decolletage while still remaining very classy- perfect in a wedding dress. Overall the gown managed to look traditional without looking frumpy and is steeped in sumptuous detail. I get the impression people will be asking for replicas of this dress for many years to come!

Speaking of replica gowns the dress was kept under wraps until the moment the future Princess stepped out of the car! However replica dresses have sprung up form several places including high-street store Peacocks. My favourite of the ‘inspired by Kate dresses’ are the shortened versions like The Cambridge sold by Dolly Couture- for the bride aiming for a more 50s swing dress look.

Of course William and Kate was not the only big wedding this year!

The other wedding I am referring to is that of vampire Edward Cullen and Bella Swan from this years Twilight franchise film Breaking Dawn Part 1. Twi-hard fans have been waiting to see Bella’s wedding dress since the books release in 2008. The dress is very well described in the book as a 1900s vintage dress with lace features and modern twists and the final design for the film was kept just as secret as Kate’s!

Bella’s Caroline Herrera designer gown was recently valued at $35 000 and made with satin and Chantilly lace. The dress had a distinctive 20s feel to it, with the plain front, deco lines and again, lace features:

Beautiful lace details
 Image source: HeyUGuys

Although the wedding itself was very quaint its strong rustic feel and use of flowers help to give the ceremony the traditional feeling. However the wedding was filled with some quirky touches that made it seem a little bit different, my favourite of these being Bella’s decision to wear her white sneakers under the dress.

Several replicas of Bella’s dress have surfaced already- in particular this version by Alfred Angelo.

Now I’m not the first to draw parallels between these two weddings, I even found one article suggesting that Pippa Middleton’s dress was the inspiration for Bella’s! However I feel that the similarities in the retro choices of the brides reflect a greater general trend towards vintage styling, as seen in the high-street with 40s tea-dresses, 70s colours and 90s jumpers, but that’s just my humble opinion…

…and in case you were wondering vintage styling will be something I will be considering with my choice of wedding dress ;) but I can’t share details on that yet!

So for now,
Happy Dresscapades!

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Vintage Outfits: Flapping Around...


As you know, I recently visited an event in Brighton called Blind Pig (click here to see what I thought of it). The theme of this event was 1920s speakeasy with an electroswing style, which of course means only one thing at Fancy Dresscapades... Flappers!

Flapper is the name given to the Charleston dancing girls that wore drop waisted satin and lace dresses, feathers in their hair, cloche hats and seamed silk stockings that were very popular in the roaring 1920s.

The finest of Flappers

Anyone who knows me a little will know that I am a keen lindyhopper and have picked up a fair amount of charleston skill during my time performing with Sussex Swing under the careful instruction of Lizzie Abrahams a few years ago. So this event seemed like a perfect oppertunity to dress the part and put on my dancing shoes again!

Basic costume design

 I have been to a few different events of this type and have worn mainly the more characature style charleston dress that is a box shape and often has some fringing to it. For a change this time I wanted to wear something a little different and went with a navy lace number I picked up at Frock Me in Brighton last year- for a meer £5 I may hasten to add! The dress itself is actually from the 80s, but after pinning in the sleeves I felt it had quite a 20s shape.

 For hair and make up I curled my hair by pinning it up an a pseudo-victory roll style- a hot tip I picked up from my friend Sadie Doherty (reporter extraordinaire for the Vintage News and the former head of the University of Sussex Swing Dance Society) and took them out just before the evening. This meant my hair was lovely and curly and sat underneath my cloche hat rather nicely.

My makeup was a very toned down version of the 20s look with silvery metallic eyes, dark eyeliner and lipstick. I might have pushed this a little further had I had a bit more time to get dressed- woops!

I feel as a costume it worked quite well

Let me know what you think

I’ll have a gallery of some of my former flappers up in the new year too if you’re looking for some more inspiration on the look.

Monday, 21 November 2011

Vintage Events: Blind Pig - Brighton's Fabulous Fundrasing Speakeasy

Held at the beautiful and chic Proud Brighton Ballroom the Blind Pig is an event that mixes burlesque cabaret and dancing to the tunes of an electro-swing speakeasy.

Blind Pig takes its name from the prohibition era Speakeasy where owners of bars and clubs would charge guests to see a novelty animal while serving a complimentary alcoholic beverage- thus exploiting loopholes in the anti-liquor laws.

This piggy however was created for a different purpose. The night was conceived as a fundraiser for students at Brighton University studying Textile Design, their aim being to provide funds for their end of year degree show.

When asked about creating the night, Carolyn, one of Blind Pigs organisers stated:

“Many other year groups/disciplines hold fundraising nights and I wanted ours to be different, appeal not just to the student market and also be something I could continue with after graduation. Burlesque and dance is all I know and I wouldn't know how to put on another type of night! I wanted to make it accessible to a younger audience who may not have been to such an event before and have a mixed audience of all ages and backgrounds.”

Photo Source: 1 and 2 Lucid Photography and Blind Pig. 3 FD.
Some of the acts
I felt that this attitude of the organisers was certainly reflected in the wide range of attendees. The opulence of the Brighton Ballroom provides a perfect back drop for the speakeasy stylings of this event, with its deco mirrors, trendy bar serving sumptuous cocktails and its beautiful domed ceiling.

The event itself started quietly with most guests seated around the bar and table areas, but as the place filled up the acts came thick and fast! The show sessions consisted of around four or five different burlesque based acts- ranging from a male pole dancer (correct terminology?) to a pasties sporting fire eater. The acts themselves came in two blocks and began almost as the doors opened so DON’T BE LATE! Numbers were announced by compere Kat Frost and separated by perfectly selected and mashed electro-swing songs by DJ Gareth Jones.

Compere Kat and DJ Gareth
After the show portion of the night had finished the dance floor opened for a fine selection of tunes playing until the wee hours of the morning.

All in all the night ran very smoothly, with rapid turn around of acts, a vibrant buzz of attendees and still enough room to Charleston (…just!).

Photo Source: Lucid Photography and Blind Pig
Well dressed attendees!
My favourite act of the night was a lovely fan dance by Cherry Bella with seemless movement and a beautiful traditional performance.

Cherry Bella
Many of the organisers of the event were also performers at the show, and their enthusiasm for their art was clearly evident. This is the 4th event that they have held at the Brighton Ballroom and hopefully they will keep Blind Pig going long after they graduate!

In my time as a lindy hopper I have had the opportunity to attend and even perform at a few Speakeasy type events, and always enjoy dressing for the part. With this in mind I asked Carolyn about Blind Pig's attitude to costumes:

“I think people love to dress up, with this sort of theme it's quite easy as well. You don't have to go all out, just a few accessories can make you feel the part. It is always great when people do go all the way of course! It definitely helps with the mood and atmosphere, if people put the effort in before the night starts then you know they are up for a good night!”

Photo Source: Lucid Photography and Blind Pig
The era of the feathered headband
Just looking around the venue you could see that many people shared this sentiment, the popularity of the feathered headband and dicky bow-tie was clear although some extra special outfits were also seen. My personal favourite costumes were a couple dressed as and RAF officer and a 20s siren.

Photo Source: Lucid Photography and Blind Pig
Dressing Fancy indeed!
It was exceptionally difficult however to get many good photographs at the event as the lighting and quick movement was simply more than my little camera could handle. However their resident photographer Simon Callaghan at Lucid Photography more than made up for my incompetence, taking some fantastic shots during the evening (they can be found here)!

Photo Source: Lucid Photography and Blind Pig
My fiance and I
The Blind Pig will return in the new year, but the exact date is still hush hush- you never know who may be watching!

But you can find out more here or follow on @BlindPig1920 on twitter for the latest updates.

There'll be another post on my costume for this event following shortly...

Happy Dresscapades!

Monday, 14 November 2011

Casual Cosplay: The Theory of The Big Bang's T-Shirts

I felt like mentioning something a little different today. I am a fan of The Big Bang Theory, and whether you like the shows content or not, I feel it does something for costuming and fashion that few shows do:

Championing the geeky t-shirt!

From the earliest blossom of the ‘emo’ trend back in the early naughties to the current (or teenies…?) trends for late 80s and 90s styling- the nerdy t-shirt is something that has been rapidly pushed to the forefront.

Clark Kent- the original geeky t-shirt?

Of course being a bit of a comic fiend I certainly appreciate the many shirts of the lead character Sheldon Cooper, played by fan favourite Jim Parsons.  Sheldon, a theoretical physicist, is the definitive geek and this is reflected in his wardrobe. The shirts range from regularly occurring portraits of heroes The Flash and Green Lantern to geometry themed, science fiction references and retro gaming. In fact the cult of the Sheldon tee has even spawned several websites Sheldonshirts is particularly nice as it provides many links to vendors selling similar tees so you can buy your own.

The shows use of geeky shirts has also lead to the creation of a large franchise of Big Bang Theory t-shirts so that the Sheldons among us can share the love. A particularly iconic/ironic choice is the ‘Bazinga!’ shirt often featuring variations in colours and styles (my favourites are those that replicate The Flash t-shirts Sheldon wears so often) and sometimes even featuring Sheldon’s face (available here).

Other than t-shirts the show is a haven for alternatives to traditional costuming, the five main characters are very stylised, Leonard Hofstader (Johnny Galeck) is a typical casual geek, Rajesh Koothrappali (Kunal Nayyar) has his track jackets and patterned jumpers, Penny’s (Kaley Cuoco) preppy casuals and Howard Wolowitz’s (Simon Helberg) has a constant 70s vibe. Even the more recent additions to the cast, Amy Farrah Fowler and Bernadette Rostenkowski, have very distinctive styles and there is excellent potential for group costumes.

An extra added bonus for this programme is that they love cosplay (especially as the Justice League) from the episode where they all dress as The Flash for Halloween to the ‘The Justice League Recombination’ where they dress as the full team for the comic shop cosplay competition, and as a molecular biologist I appreciate the use of the word recombination! (I also mentioned Penny’s Wonder Woman outfit here).

So quick he can be in several places at once!

A particular favourite moment features Sheldon dressed as the Doppler effect and miming noises at confused party guests who think he’s a zebra.

On the whole, even though the show is filled with stereotypes and gimmicks I find that the portrayal of geeks is handled with a particular affection that I can’t help but appreciate (even my extremely nerdy fiancĂ© finds the show amusing!) so I assume they must be doing something right.

The Big Bang Theory season 5 can be found on channel4 OD now and airs on CBS in the United States.

Just to finish I though I’d recommend a few places where you can find some geeky t-shirts of your own: Snorg TeesThink Geek and Cafe Press

Happy Dresscapades!

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Cosplay Costume: Black Canary (Or my day having more fun as a blonde…)

Last week I made the trip to London to attend the MCMexpo. Advertised as London’s comic con and the largest cosplay event in the UK, I had decided that after a rather conservative effort as Victoria Hand last MCM that I was going to go for something a little more adventurous this time.

The event was held over Halloween weekend too so it seemed an even better time to flex those fancy dresscapade muscles.

For the Saturday I had decided to dress as Black Canary, the fishnet clad fighter with the sonic scream. She is featured prominently in several DC books, a member of the Justice League, ex-wife of Green Arrow and most famously known for her role in the Birds of Prey. Although I do particularly like the art of Ed Bene's in BoP but I decided to go for the more classic Canary look as seen in Green Arrow and Black Canary.

Canary Kick!
The main parts of her look are the blond hair, fishnets and boots combo with the black bodysuit and jacket.

This presented me with two challenges that I have never faced before:
1: Going Blonde
2:Getting to London in little more than a pair of fishnets and then walking around wearing only them...

The first was easy to address, I searched on eBay and found a Chinese shop selling cosplay wigs for around £12 with free postage. They had 1000s of positive feedback so I decided to risk it- personally I think the wig I received was excellent value for money, it completely covered all of my hair, was easy to de-tangle and surprisingly comfortable! Although it did take two weeks to arrive…

The second challenge was something that required simple nerves of steel. To get to London I wore a skirt over the ensemble but I found that once I arrived at the Excel centre seeing so many people in thousands of different types of cosplay that no matter what I would survive. 

(Interestingly glamorous people of a different inclination were also attending the Excel for UK’s Top Model I’m not entirely sure they appreciated the slightly strange attire of those of us at the Expo, although one lady did compliment me on my 'fabulous wig')

So here is the final look of the costume, I think it went fairly well :D

Most of the purchases for this outfit came from eBay, with the wig, biker jacket, gloves etc. The bodysuit is an altered swimming costume and the boots were my own. All-in-all it cost around £30 but it is mainly made up of items that I can wear again so I didn’t mind. Something I feel is important to add about this outfit is that I was actually wearing two pairs of tights. One pair of thick opaque beige tights from BHs to cover my legs and then the fishnets over the top- it made me much more comfortable and hides the sins much better than just wearing the fishnets!

Rather interestingly for me, one of my favourite comic authors Gail Simone was appearing as a guest at the MCMexpo on her first trip to London Comic-con. Simone is known for several runs on comics-including, most recently, Barbara Gordon's return as Batgirl in the DCnU52. But she was also the author for a long and famous run on Birds of Prey- the very comic my character was prominently featured in!

As a result of this I was reduced to utterly useless fangirl…

I met Simone at a signing table and asked her to sign my comics. I was incredibly nervous for no particular reason but I felt much better when she told me that I looked amazing and posed for a picture with me.

I noticed later that she had tweeted about a Black Canary cosplayer and replied to one of my tweets.

‘Also there was a fantastic, adorable Black Alice cosplayer and a tremendous Black Canary cosplayer...both incredibly lovely. So fun!’ and ‘@JennieWhitwood Aw, you looked phenomenal! But I didn't get a picture of you! :('

I think that given this reaction I can judge my costume to have been a success (I hope :S). It was a real honour to get such a comment from a comic superstar- couldn't have been any better :D
During the day I was even asked by a few people to pose for photos, hopefully I won't end up on any of those bad costume blogs...

During the second day I dressed as a 60s style Catwoman (very loosely based on Julie Newmar) and I’ll post on that soon, until then…

Happy Dresscapades!

Saturday, 5 November 2011

Cosplay: A EuroCosplay Gallery

There won't be many words in this post, I thought I'd add some photos of the other entrants of the EuroCosplay at the MCM expo in London. I've not included and of the winners as the can be found here. (There are a few entries I couldn't get pictures for but there are videos of all entrants on Batale's youtube channel).

Who's you're favourite?

Slovakia:  Mephisto Pheles from Ao no Exorcist

Finland: Male Scout from Granado Espada

Belgium: Claus Haine from Scissors Crown

Latvia: Gundam Exia from Gundam 00

Norway: Joker from Kuroshitsuji

Poland: Azriel from Castle Age

Portugal: Chun Li from Street Fighter

Lithuania: Araghast from Dawn of War

Denmark:  Hikaru from Magic Knight Rayearth

Ireland: Ultimecia from Final Fantasy 8

Italy: Zhen Ji from Dynasty Warriors 7

Bulgaria: Blaster Blade from Cardfight Vanguard
Switzerland: Hizaki from the Versailles.
Portugal: Hera from Saint Seiya

Estonia: Chii from Chobits

The Czech Republic: Welkin Gunther from Valkyria Chronicles

France: Female Musketeer from Granado Espada

 UK: Priss from Bubblegum Crisis 2040.

Austria: Buggy from One Piece

Hungary: Queen Esther from Trinity Blood

Belgium: Mateus from Final Fantasy XII

Netherlands: Kefka from Final FantasyVI

And that's all I have... I hope you were as impressed as I was!

For now, Happy Dresscapades!

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Cosplay: EuroCosplay Finals at the MCMexpo London

A few months ago I wrote and article for Den of Geek about the GB EuroCosplay qualifiers at May’s MCMexpo. Well this time I was lucky enough to get a ticket to the grand finale held at the October event (28th-30th of October 2011) and given the quality of the entrants, I really did feel privileged!

With competitors representing 23 European countries- 35 entrants were chosen from various conventions and events around Europe. Special EuroCosplay tickets were available across, presumably as demand for seats was so high- and to help provide a diverse audience.
If the glorious camp fun of The Eurovision Song Contest was not an inspiration to the organisers when setting up the show, it certainly seemed that way, from the Danish group sitting in front of us waving tiny flags to the vocal Dutch with their giant Netherlands banner. It was also great to see that so many members of the audience had made the effort to dress up for the show, with costumes as varied as furry cats, anime characters and Disney Princesses. Although running a little late the crowds were well warmed by the presenters and TokyoToys mascot, the Pocky Ninja, giving away prizes like a 3DS.

Competition judges were assembled from around the world; Pandy, from Brazil, former World Cosplay Champion. Sushi Monster from the USA a leading cosplay stylist and photoshoot veteran and finally Japanese Goldy- the master of the Mecha cosplay! Contestants were judged based on their costume detail, quality of construction, performance on-stage and characterisation. All entrants provided a music track to accompany their parade walk, and some even provided videos to go with the performance.
Judges are judging...

 I don’t have space to outline all of the entrants, but here are some if my favourites along with some lessons about cosplay I have learned from the show:

Cosplay is not just for Japan-o-philes (not that there’s anything wrong with that...)
Gianluca from Italy cosplayed as War Machine from Iron Man, as one of the few entrants from western culture this costume was a welcome change, amazingly executed with working lights etc. there was also a video showing clips from the movie and great moment when the guitar riff from AC/DC’s War Machine kicked in.
And feed your war... War Machine...

Choose your music wisely
John Kennedy, who represented Ireland, made a musical effort too with Jareth from Labyrinth dancing to David Bowie’s classic Magic Dance from the movie.

You remind me of the Babe!

Bring your own props
One of France’s two entries cosplaying as Lilith from Trinity Blood brought her own decorated garden furniture as part of her act, beginning in a white dress, then transforming magically on stage to a winged version before our very eyes- well with some careful prop placement.

Are those French flag colours a co-incidence?

My favourite use of props was a Danish entry portraying Sailor Moon’s Princess Serenity, featuring a very cheeky Tuxedo Kamen pillow! It was a very funny performance and perfectly brought the character to life.

For all those girls who wanted to see Mamo-chan naked...

A quick word of warning about props- While so called ‘prop ninjas’ did excellent jobs at handling the costume paraphernalia provided by the contestants, there were occasions where prop malfunctions occured- at one point the end of a lance flew off and hit the judges table, while another contestant's sword broke apart and hit an audience member! Thankfully no one was hurt, except perhaps the contestant's chances…

It’s all in the details
The polish entry Grenado Espada as the Elementalist was a delight, casting a spell in her cauldron and removing her cloak to reveal she had summoned wings. The beauty of this entry came with the reveal of the wings, as she shook the cloak free and revealed one wing, then the other- Gorgeous!

My what lovely wings you have!

And now for the winners:
In third place
Spanish entrant Estela with her portrayal of Pocco from Sweet Dreams; this entry was so cute! Her wings worked individually and provided a simple yet very effective twist on her costume. Her performance was lovely, going into a brief power down, only to wake again, wings independently of her body.

Subtle, yet beautiful...

Second Place
Went to Ronald Boom as Brother Matthaios from Trinity Blood it was very hard to get a good picture of the full costume because of the lighting, but the design of this costume was amazing, with full armour and shielding.

A simplified version for the prize giving

And the winner is
Great Britain! Doing the host nation proud was Xaerael as the Skeksil Chamberlin from Dark Crystal. I was lucky enough to see the qualifier that saw Xaerael through to the final of EuroCosplay, and seeing the costume again did not dampen the impact. The simple craftsmanship that went in the costume, along with the movement detailing in the working head/arms and blinking eyes was something that no-one else could really match. It seems the judges also agreed!
Xaereal was the luck winner of a trip to Japan, the home of Cosplay, and a place in the EuroCosplay history books.

A fine piece of craftmanship!

I think it is really important to emphasise at this point that all cosplay competition entrants are completely home made or built. Including all peripherals and props- with this in mind I think it is even more impressive just what the contestants here have achieved!

I for one don’t come close to this standard, but they certainly inspire to me to work harder at my costumes, and maybe to try different things. I’ll write soon about my fancy dress effort at the October MCMexpo.

Happy Dresscapades!

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