Re: Getting Phryne’s Style

Inspired by Miss Fisher’s Mysteries? Want to dress more like Phryne? Luckily, adding a 1920s flare to your modern wardrobe has never been easier.

Phryne's Black and White Coat

Inspector Jack Robinson (Nathan Page) and Phryne Fisher (Essie Davis) in a black and white coat with an Oriental design.

Add a jacket or cardigan. One of the things that immediately strikes the viewer is Phryne’s wardrobe of eye-catching jackets. The jacket, duster, or cardigan frequently functions as the statement piece with the rest of the outfit solid-colored and simple. Jackets are very in fashion nowadays, but you’ll have to use a number of different search terms to find them. Use “kimono”, “jacket”, “shrug”, “cardigan”, and “duster” and see what you can pull up.

Another option is to create your own shrug or jacket from a long, rectangular scarf, shawl, or stole. Fold the stole in half length-ways and knot the short ends together to form sleeves. If the shrug is falling off your shoulders, tie another knot about 6-12 inches away from the first one, further down the arm of the jacket. Slip your arms through the sleeves and voila! instant shrug. When I was a young dancer, we would use small veils (about 72″ long and 36″ wide) to make shrugs for our bellydance costumes. You can also sew the sleeves partway closed in order to form a more permanent jacket.

Phryne's Cream Cardigan

Phryne (Essie Davis) sports a scarf made of assuit, a vintage Egyptian textile very popular in the 1920s, over her cardigan.

Add a scarf. Indoors or out, Phryne is often seen wearing scarves, usually long rectangular ones. If your local department store isn’t carrying anything you like, try the on-line shops of major museums (e.g. the Metropolitan Museum of Art). Museums often sell smart scarves as part of their revenue-generating efforts.

Use your costume jewelry in innovative ways.  One of Phryne’s brooches, for example, will appear variously as a hat decoration, scarf pin, and robe closure.

Phryne's Embroidered Black Coat

Phryne in another one of her fabulous coats, this time a long black duster with embroidered trim.

Experiment with ethnic designs and textiles. In the 1920s, there was a lot of fascination with the Far and Near East on the part of the general public and the fashions and accessories of the time reflect that. This was the era in which King Tut’s tomb was discovered among other things. Today, there is a similar vogue for ethnic designs so take the opportunity to add a print blouse (or scarf) to your wardrobe.

Go for a clean, streamlined look with strong, intense colors. Although Phryne can and does wear pastels, more often than not, she favors deep colors such as navy blue, black, and winter winter. Black and white together is a favorite color combination for her. When she wears prints, they tend to be simple geometric designs such as circles. And while we see her wearing fancy ballgowns from time to time, mostly she wears very non-fussy pieces–wide leg pants, sleeveless blouses, short jackets, tear drop earrings.



Re: Baba Yaga

Baba Yaga

Inspired by Take Back Halloween’s Baba Yaga page, I’ve decided to make a Baba Yaga costume to greet trick-or-treaters in this Halloween. (Yes, I am multi-costuming this year :-). My first step was to find out more about Baba Yaga. I had some idea of who she was–a Russian witch who lived in a house with chicken legs–but I thought I would see if she had any distinctive characteristics or props that I might replicate.

The bad news is that Baba Yaga is generally described and depicted as an old Russian peasant woman. Which lead to my first question: what are the main characteristics of Russian peasant dress?  The good news is that the Internet largely exists to answer these questions for the costumer.

Below is a picture of a Russian woman’s costume from 19th century Moscow. I’m not looking to be authentic, but I do want my costume to say “Russian” to the on-lookers.

Russian Woman's Outfit from Etsy

The peasant costume of a Russian woman appears to consist of a blouse, sarafan (a jumper-like dress), skirt, and a headscarf or tiara-like headress.

Peasant blouse:  I have a peasant blouse-style dress so I’m going to use that as my top and underskirt. However, if you don’t have a peasant blouse, they are readily available these days so shop around, either on-line or at a used clothing store. You may even be able to get one with some embroidery on the arms and/or neck which will look even more Russian.

Sarafan: The sarafan is a jumper or pinafore like dress worn over the blouse. In summer time, the sarafan is worn on its own as a summer dress. This is the item of clothing that had me the most worried. Was I going to have to sew this, I wondered? But after reading Roman K.’s description of a sarafan as essentially an A-line skirt with straps (on the blog Folk Costume and Embroidery), I realized that I had the perfect solution. I already had an old Indian-style gypsy skirt with a bad waistband. All I had to do was add two straps and possibly some trim and voila!–a sarafan.

Skirt: I already had a full skirt from another costume. However, if you don’t, full peasant (broomstick-style, no pun intended) skirts are very much in fashion these days and relatively easy to obtain.  Don’t worry if it doesn’t match. The more the pieces conflict, the more peasant-y you will appear.

Headscarf: I opted to go with a headscarf since that’s usually what Baba Yaga is portrayed as wearing. I have a Turkish print scarf in my stash, but if you don’t, opt for something with flowers (ideally big cabbage patch roses) on it or go with a solid color.

In addition to the basic elements listed above, I wanted to add a few of my own touches:

Shawl: I have a flowered, fringed hip scarf that a friend made me to throw over my shoulders. Baba Yaga is sometimes shown wearing a short, loose jacket so if you have one of those, you can use that.

Skull necklace: Taking a tip from the Take Back Halloween website, I picked up a garland of skulls which should make a nice necklace. However, if you have skull or skeleton jewelry of any kind, now is definitely the time to bring it out.

Baba Yaga Matchbox House Craftster

Matchbox Baba Yaga hut posted on Craftster in 2012 by cackle.

Chicken-footed hut: I applaud the idea of using chicken-footed socks for the Baba Yaga costume. However, I didn’t want to go that route myself. Picked up a small wooden birdhouse (strangely appropriate) which I plan to paint and add chicken feet to in order to create a prop house that I can carry around in my skull planter. Not sure if I’m going to be able to get this done by Halloween.

Skull-decorated planter:  I have one of those plastic skull bowls on a pedestal which I thought would do for Baba Yaga’s mortar. No, it’s not big enough to ride in.

I’ve opted not to wear a wig. Although Baba Yaga is generally depicted as an old woman, there are stories in which she appears as three sisters–young, middle aged, and old. This is would also make a fun family or group costuming option.

Re: Patty, Goddess of Hamburgers

Francis J.  Cura as Hamblor, God of Hamburgers.

The first time I saw the Carl’s Jr. commercial featuring Hamblor, God of Hamburgers, and his ..uh…devoted female acolytes, all I could think was “that should be Goddess of Hamburgers. And her name should be Patty.” So, inspired by Take Back Halloween’s goddess page, I have decided to create a costume for my new deity.

Searching for costume inspiration, I discovered that another artist had created a Hamburger goddess. Ariyana Suvarnsuddhi created her Goddess of Hamburgers as part of a four part series for her senior graduation thesis in 2010. See her blog here.

Her creation draws more on Indian/Buddhist imagery. Hamblor’s costume and temple has a Summerian/Bablyonian feel to it so I looked to Sumer, Babylon, Assyria, and Minoa for my images.

Queen Shub-Ad Summerian Reconstruction

Re-constructed Summerian head gear and necklaces British Museum

After considerable searching, I found my inspiration in the headdresses and jewelry of these two high-ranking Summerian women (see above). Patty, Goddess of Hamburgers, would wear Summerian finery, but translated into hamburger-related fixings. A lettuce leaf fringed with small onion rings would form her headress, tomato slices would be her side-bun hairstyle. Her dress would be either light beige with sesame-seed sequins or a dark brown suggesting leather/steak and fringed with french fries. In her hands, she would carry the Sacred Spatula and  the Skillet of Justice to smite unbelievers.  Handmaids would follow behind with the tray of Sacred Condiments–ketchup, mustard, and mayo.

Aren’t you hungry for Goddess time now? 🙂

Re: Dance of Thrones

At this year’s big spring dance recital that just took place this past Friday, I danced a Persian fusion number to the main theme from “Game of Thrones”. I had initially hoped to do a Dothraki- inspired piece, but couldn’t find the drum music used in the series.

An exhibit of costumes from Game of Thrones. Cersei’s gown in front, Melisandre’s dress in background.

Listening to the main theme, I decided that the haunting violins with the underlying drumbeat really had more of a Persian/Northern India sound so I planned my performance piece around that.  While the court gowns we see in the series have a kimono/Medieval look to them, other courtiers such as Master Varys have garb that is more Central Asian-inspired. The capitol of King’s Landing itself is very old, has a hot, dry climate, and has a very Mughal Court vibe to me so I wanted a costume that read as Persian, but could conceivably be worn by a court dancer at King’s Landing.

Here’s a Persian painting showing a dancer and a musician. The dancer is wearing a long, belted gown.

Persian dancer with a short coat, Qajar dynasty.

As you can see from the pictures above, I had a couple of options in terms of Persian dance wear. I opted to go with my long Turkish coat worn over a full skirt with black leggings underneath. It was a compromise between historical and modern Persian dancer costumes.  I considered adding a sash, but found that it limited the skirt and the robe from billowing out as I spun.

Sansa (Sophie Turner ) modeling the court hairstyle at King’s Landing (Game of Thrones, Season 1).

I considered doing up my hair a la Sansa, but finally opted to keep it simple, pulling it up at the sides, letting it fall down the back, and then adding flowers around the crown, tribal bellydance style. That turned out to be a good call as the theater where the recital took place was very hot and stuffy.

If you know something about Persian dance, you know that dancers oft mime feminine activities such as putting on their jewelry and makeup. With Queen Cersei as my muse, I mimed poisoning a goblet, slicing throats, and fighting with a sword and shield. At the end, the lights went to red, suggesting a pool of blood.

The whole number was well received. Next year, I’m hoping to dress up one of my fellow dancers and myself as priestesses of R’hllor (aka Melisandre) and do a candle duet.

Re: I See Dead People

Vanina dressed as Frida Kahlo. Image from Skull-a-Day. Click here for the full post.

Happy Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead)! I really love the skeleton heads that are associated with this Mexican celebration. Simply put, Dia de la Muertos is a time for families to honor the souls of loved ones who have passed on. Click here to learn more about the holiday and the traditions associated with it.

This holiday originated in Mexico, but has since crossed the border and is celebrated in many Southwestern (and non-Southwestern) states. Click here to see photos from a Day of the Dead parade in Austin, TX in 2008. Your costuming can be very simple (street clothes, regular dress up clothes, or Mexican garb) or you can dress as a skeleton. However, the face painting is critical.

Basically, you are trying to make your face look like a skull. The simplest kind of skull face is to make black hollows around your eyes (put color all over the lid, eye socket, and under the eye), a black triangle on the end of your nose, and blacken your lips. Some people add black blusher under the cheekbones for that hollow look.

A more advanced look is to imitate the designs that appear on Mexican sugar skulls. This includes flower shapes around the eyes and hearts and curlicues on your forehead and cheeks. While you can have your face professionally painted, my preference is always for folks who do it themselves. A half skull is a more modern look, but still acceptable. Some people go further and paint in neckbones or other skeletal features as well.

I have collected a selection of images from Flickr that you might enjoy using for inspiration. See below:

Simple black and white makeup, black clothing with colorful accents, great group costume

Black and white skull with red flower, makeup design by Erin Alexander. The model’s tattoo reads “only God can judge me.”

Minimalist makeup, no white base

Day of the Dead meets American Tribal Style Bellydance–the ultimate mashup. Model (and makeup): Libby Bulloff. Photo: Annie Wright. She is using bindis as part of her skull designs. Yes, those are real flowers in her hair. Click on her other photos to see the full costume.

Re: Alice in Wonderland

Moviemakers, take note. THIS is the kind of video costumers want to see, with plenty of close-ups on the costume details.

If you are looking for an interesting Halloween costume this year, I suggest taking a look at Tim Burton’s “Alice in Wonderland”, recently out on DVD. The combination of Burton’s Gothic outlook and Colleen Atwood’s inspired costume design has resulted in the creation of a number of excellent character costumes. However, don’t limit yourself to the movie alone. The “Alice” story lends itself to a number of fresh interpretations as you will see.

First up, however, let’s take a look at the Burton/Atwood creations.

Johnny Depp as the Mad Hatter and Helen Bonham-Carter as the Red Queen.

The costumes of the  Red Queen, the Mad Hatter, and Alice herself are probably the most popular designs from this movie. Since the playing cards are a major motif of the Red Court, those old card tabard costumes one sees around Halloween can be given new life and new relevance as retainers to the Queen.

I would also urge potential Wonderlanders to give some thought to re-creating the White Queen’s costume.  Looking at it, I think that an old prom gown or thrift store wedding gown could be easily re-purposed. Couple the white dress with dark lipstick and nail polish and a white wig and you can be Mirana.

Anne Hathaway as Mirana, the White Queen.

The Mad Hatter has a great ensemble and one that has inspired several how-to vids currently up on the ‘Net. The hat is critical to the look. You can get by without the other pieces, but not without the hat. I would also suggest cannibalizing several of those mini-sewing kits to get the spools for his thread bandolier.

Photo from the Alice in Wonderland Exhibit at the El Capitan Theatre in Hollywood, CA. Taken by Jason in Hollywood on 4/26/10 and posted to his blog. See the full post here.

Every hip, young Goth girl wants to re-create the dresses Alice wore in the movie. I confess to be very fond of her long blue traveling coat myself. However, if you like her embroidered blue dress, but are too old for the her young adult look, may I suggest the blue, embroidered gown her mother, Helen Kingsley (Lindsay Duncan) wears? It’s hard to find pictures of it apart from the film so I was happy to find the above exhibit photo.  Matching embroidered dresses would also be a good choice for mother and daughter costumes.

“Alice in Wonderland” is always ripe for new interpretations. I particularly like Futuregirl Leah Riley’s Steampunk Alice” costumes seen here on Flickr. Check out the apron. The pocket detail is particularly nice. “Alice” lends itself very readily to Steampunk, being partly Victorian and partly fantastical. Kanira, another Flickerite, put together this set of Steampunk Alice costumes here. The stocking mask she uses for the Hatter is particularly sinister looking.

Other ideas: the Mad Catter (a mashup of the Chesire Cat and Hatter characters) would be fun. I would also suggest doing Tweedledee/Tweedledum–twins co-joined or otherwise would make a great two-some costume.

Re: Yoicks and Away!

“But really and for true, I am Robin Hood.” Daffy Duck as Robin Hood in the classic Looney Tunes cartoon, “Robin Hood Daffy”.

Admit it–you want to dress up like Robin Hood. Trust me, if Sherwood-mania hasn’t taken root now, it probably will by the time the Ridley Scott’s latest epic hits movie screens this May.

But what’s not to love about that famous outlaw of Sherwood? Indeed there are so many ways to dress like Robin that your main problem will be deciding on your approach.

Errol Flynn (center) as the title character in the 1938 film, “Robin Hood”.

If you want to be immediately recognized as Robin Hood, I recommend dressing in some variant of the following–the hat with a feather, bow and arrow, green tights or leggings, and a green tunic. That particular ensemble, immortalized by Errol Flynn, has come to symbolize Robin Hood in the public mind.

The film actually had some wonderful costumes in it (see a gallery of them by clicking here).  I thought the Sheriff of Nottingham’s was particularly striking, but Maid Marian also wears some lovely gowns in the picture.

Women go crazy for a sharp dressed man. That’s Basil Rathbone (standing), holding a fallen Errol Flynn at swordpoint.

Olivia de Havilland as Maid Marian shows off her elegant gown.  “Medieval-style” accessories enjoyed a revival in the 1930s.

Enid Bennett as Maid Marian and Douglas Fairbanks as Robin Hood in the 1922 film of the same name.

Robin Hood and Little John’s classic quarterstaff fight on the bridge. Illustration from Howard Pyle’s “Robin Hood”.

You could re-create a vintage Robin Hood costume from one of the older films or from an illustration. The beauty of a vintage-style costume is that it gives a little extra punch to what has become a stereotypical “Robin Hood”-like outfit.

The Robin Hood legend has been animated several times so you could dress as Robin Hood Daffy or as Robin Hood the fox from the Disney version of the tale. A fox mask could substitute if you didn’t want to do a fur or styrofoam suit.

The number one reason why the men of Sherwood were always merry.

Of course, the “sexy Robin Hood” costume is never far away from any dress up occasion.  Unlike most other “come hither” character outfits, the sassy wench dressed in Lincoln green actually has historical precedent to recommend her.  In English pantomimes, in addition to the bloke-in-the-dress character, there was usually an attractive young woman dressed as a boy–often as Robin Hood incidentally.

Back in black. Richard Armitage as Guy of Gisbourne from the BBC television series, “Robin Hood”. Designer Tempest drew on race car driver/biker imagery to design his black leather outfit.

Unlike many modern Sherwood producers, the creators of the BBC series “Robin Hood” encouraged costume designer Frances Tempest (read an interview with her) to give a deliberate 21st century-tone to the character costumes. The reason: the producers were aiming for a teen audience and, at one point, hoped to develop a line of ready-to-wear clothing based on the series.

Speaking strictly from an audience point of view, the effect is mixed. Sometimes the clothes, while “mod”, seem believably period, but at other times they seem anachronistically out of place, particularly some of Marian’s second season outfits. Historically, using TV and film productions to influence fashion is not new and, in fact, dates back to at least the 1940s (if not earlier) when studios used to market actual patterns of the actors’ on-film clothes to home sewers.

Sean Connery as Robin and Audrey Hepburn as Marian in the 1976 film, “Robin and Marian”. If you are interested in doing a movie costume, the Connery/Hepburn duo would be a good choice for an older couple.

Russell Crowe as Robin Hood (due out May 2010).

Modern incarnations of Robin Hood on the big or small screen go in for grungy medieval realness. While that does wonders for the audience’s suspension of disbelief, it lends a certain sameness to the costumes. My advice here is that if you want to re-create “modern” Robin Hood costumes, you should look for the most distinctive outfit possible and try to copy that one.

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