Re: Mata Hari

Dancer Sarah Skinner models her reproduction Mata Hari costume.

Generally speaking, most Middle Eastern dancers (aka bellydancers) don’t try to create characters when we dance. Our time slot is short, we’re dancing in an informal venue (e.g. restaurant or private home), and we’re just trying to interpret the mood of the music and make sure that the audience has a good time. Our costumes are chosen for their color and flash. Middle Eastern dancers and dance shows typically try to create a Near Eastern (or a Western idea of what the Near East is like) atmosphere.

But every now and then we do get the opportunity to create a stage piece, a dance that tells a story.

Most of us know or have heard of Mata Hari–a dancer, femme fatale, and spy who seduced men for information and was subsequently executed as a traitor. Sarah Skinner became fascinated with Mata Hari (actually Margaretha Zelle’s) story ¬†and was determined to re-create not only the costume, but the dance performance that made her a star. Orientalism–the West’s fascination by and distrust of the “exotic” East–was a driving force in Mata Hari’s career as a dancer just as it shapes Middle Eastern dance today.

On her blog, ShakeMyDay , Sarah discusses the process of creating the costume and the dance. Unfortunately, while there are many great costume pictures, there are no clips of Sarah actually doing the dance. I may have to break down and buy Gothic Bellydance 2 in order to see it.

Sarah’s costume blog also details her other costumes and performances.

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Re: I Heart Steampunk

What the well-dressed steampunk vampire hunter is wearing this year. Posted on Craftster.org by Gothfox.

I heart steampunk. What is steampunk you ask? Essentially, “steampunk” refers to the blending of 19th and 21st century technology and fashion. Imagine the Jetsons reinterpreted by Jules Verne and you’ll have the general idea.

I’m generally not a fan of Victorian anything–too frou-frou, too fussy, too many dresses that make the wearer look upholstered–but I like steampunk in large part, I think, because it breaks the rules. It says here’s the Victorian mode AND here’s how we’ll smash it.

When you think about it, science fiction/fantasy and Victorian/Edwardian elements are actually a good blend. The 19th century was one in which people’s lives were being changed by new technologies in a way that hadn’t really happened up ’til then. It was a time when the first real science fiction stories (called scientific romances) were being published e.g. Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Jules Verne’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. And it was also a time when people were looking back to an idealized past for a way of life that they felt was being lost to increased mass production e.g. Arts and Crafts Movement. In short, it was a time much like our own which perhaps counts for steampunk’s rising popularity.

Check out the Steampunk Fashion Flickr group to get a better idea of the aesthetic. Aviator goggles and cogs or gears are popular motifs. I also highly recommend the Aether Emporium wiki. If you follow their Clothes and Costumes link under Links & Resources, you will come upon a whole list of suppliers, some British, some American.

Here are a couple of cool photos I liked:

Flickr, Steampunk Fashion pool, posted by Rivkasmom

Neat outfit, something I would wear myself. You can tell I’m a librarian, can’t you?

Steampunk apron designed by Wyldfire

And, of course, who wouldn’t want this apron? Check out Wyldfire’s blog here.

Re: Welcome to Clothesmonaut!

Hi, everyone, and welcome to Clothesmnonaut, the blog for the discussion of the psychology of clothing and costumes and also for the posting of cool pictures! The clothes we wear–whether we are donning work attire or a fancy dress costume–say so much about us. They telegraph to others our class status, our occupation, our moods, our political opinions, and, most tellingly, how we want to be perceived by the rest of society. Performers and costumers use the language of clothes to convey information about characters in a film or theatrical production to the audience. The black-hatted villain/white-hatted hero of matinee Westerns is a very obvious example. I hope that this blog will become a forum for clothing and costume analaysis as well as a place to discuss cool projects.

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