Thursday, September 30, 2010

Blog Update and Halloween

Dear Readers,

Bear with me, I promise there's some more interesting stuff after some administrative stuff... which might just be interesting to you as well!

Not much of a costume, but still adorable!

You may have noticed some changes to the layout of the blog. If not, here's a basic low-down of what's different:

1) I've added a link gadget specifically for my segments to the left sidebar, as well as the Human Calendar. Click on the link to find out more - very interesting project, if you ask me.

2) You'll notice a new "Share" gadget at the bottom of each post. I like this one better because of the shortcuts to Facebook and Twitter. With this gadget you can also share my blog posts on almost 300 different websites - feel free to test this feature out as many times as you'd like!

3) Finally, the right sidebar also has some changes - I've updated the links list as well as the "Friends of the Blog" list, and added a list of books I've read or am currently reading. Below that is the latest Blogger gadget, "Popular Posts".

Kids: Don't be like Snow White!
Never take apples from a witch... even a pretty one!

Now, on to the interesting portion of this post! I have a big announcement regarding October (which starts tomorrow, if you didn't know). In honor of Halloween, I've decided to feature a new costume idea every day until the 31st! Music Mondays and my Project Runway reviews will still remain throughout the week, on top of the costume posts, but as usual, there will be no posts on Sundays.

Don't worry, my costumes will be much more modern than these...
Unless you don't want them to be?

I'm trying to arrange these chronologically in descending order of complexity, so as to allow enough time for each costume. Next week will also be couples week, where I hope to feature some more original ideas for couples costumes - don't worry single readers, you can always use these costumes as separates.

I personally highly recommend against cliche and "type" costumes in general.
These are culpable of double Joepardy.

I'm also trying to balance the ratio of male to female costumes, as well as the ratio of costumes referring to current events to those that are a bit more nostalgic in appeal. I also welcome any and all suggestions to my e-mail at

...They got a rock.

Can't wait to see what I come up with? Subscribe or follow to get updated on all my costume ideas throughout the month. You can also follow me on Twitter to get instant updates and extra thoughts on just about anything!

Only one of these folks planned ahead.
The rest show you what happens when you wait 'til the last minute.

Happy Halloween!
Nostalgically Yours

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The Young Victoria - Nostalgic Film Review

I don't consider this review to contain "spoilers" because the historical people and events this film is based on are common knowledge. If you do not wish to know what happens in the movie, you can skip the synopsis.

I have only recently discovered the wonders of Netflix, and I've created a sizable dent in their classic film collection since I joined a few nights ago. The first film I watched was "The Young Victoria".

Emily Blunt plays Alexandrina Victoria

Unlike the young, inexperienced queen seen in this film, most probably remember HRM Victoria as the dowdy and somewhat cross-looking widow Queen of England, whom you learned about in history class:

HRM Queen Victoria on her Golden Jubilee

The story begins with an overview of Victoria's youth, oppressed by her position as the only living heir to the throne. Her day-to-day life is completely controlled by a set of strict rules - called the "Kensington System" - designed to keep her safe but ultimately extreme in nature. The young heiress presumptive was not even allowed to go up or down stairs without holding the hand of a servant or companion.

Victoria exchanges sideways glances with Sir John Conroy (Mark Strong), who helped her mother, The Duchess of Kent (Miranda Richardson, in green) develop the Kensington System. He was also allegedly her lover.

Victoria's 18th birthday arrives and a Regency is avoided, just in time for the death of King William IV a few short months later. Just like that, the young woman found herself queen. In the midst of political intrigue involving questionable advice from Lord Melbourne (then Prime Minister of Parliament), and her family vying for political favor, she is introduced to Prince Albert of Germany. The connection was almost instant, and historically genuine, which makes this film all the more compelling.

Blunt and Friend as the infectiously charming Royal Couple.

Both Emily Blunt ("The Devil Wears Prada", "Sunshine Cleaning") and Rupert Friend (The hunky military officer from "Pride and Prejudice") did an excellent job portraying the Royal couple. The entire cast played out the time period very well, avoiding the somewhat contrived period settings in some movies. Screenwriter Julian Fellows is known for creating authentic but natural period dialog - he also wrote the screenplays for "Gosford Park" and "Vanity Fair". My only complaint regarding the authenticity of the film has to do with the scene in which Victoria goes to inspect the "newly-built" Buckingham Palace. Well, the palace looked pretty much as it does today. I would have liked to see some digital magic to make the stone walls look new.

Blunt wears a fabulous suit in this scene. I also love the top hat!

Needless to say, the costumes were phenomenal. Sandy Powell ("The Other Boleyn Girl", "The Aviator", "Shakespeare in Love") won a BAFTA award for her designs - I've found rare concept art for the costumes in the film. Finding these is always one of my favorite things. I've shared some of them below.

All credit for this work goes to Sandy Powell and/or her illustrators. These images are not my work and are used here for educational purposes and not for profit.

The character of Queen Victoria is an easy subject to lend interest to, since she has so much draw already. Aside from her role as Queen, Victoria singlehandedly shaped the fashions of the later 19th century. When she married Albert in 1840, she wore a white gown. This seems quite normal to us, but at this time the white wedding gown was not the norm. Women wore a variety of colors to their weddings. Victoria's choice of color, though, suddenly became the most popular choice for the nobility and now is the traditional wedding color.

Victoria and Albert's wedding, painted by Sir George Hayter

She and the Prince Regent worked to draw attention to the working and living conditions of the lower classes, and the more "sober" fashions of the 1840s onward reflect this move from romantic idealism to realism. Hemlines dropped back to the floor and long sleeves and high collars became commonplace. Furthermore, when Albert died in 1861, she entered a state of mourning that she would keep until her death. Her black, modest wardrobe influenced Victorian English fashions and lifestyles. If you think the English are sober now, imagine what they were like under a widowed queen.

Victoria with three of her grand-daughters. I can't imagine spending time with her as a child would have been much fun...

I highly recommend this movie to anyone who is a fan of the costume drama genre. It is also a greatly romantic film, but without the excess of mush that some of these period films have. The story and dialog are light and genuine, despite the often tense political and relational conflicts going on on-screen. A+!

From left to right: Paul Bettany as Lord Melbourne, Richardson, Blunt, Friend, and Jim Broadbent as King William IV

God save the Emily Blunt!
Nostalgically Yours
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Monday, September 27, 2010

Music Mondays - Ok Go "White Knuckles"

This video follows my post from last week in that it fits into the style I call the 80s non sequitor music video. MTV was vastly populated with videos that had little if anything to do with the song they featured.

Also, I happen to adore this band and their videos. I higly recommend all of their albums. More on OKGO later.

Nostalgically Yours

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Hindsight - Not Your Momma's Platform Heels!

“Fashion is a form of ugliness so intolerable that we have to alter it every six months.” -Oscar Wilde

Today I introduce yet another segment. As you may have deduced from the quote featured above, I will use "Hindsight" to discuss the amazing and peculiar trends of days gone by which, in retrospect, might seem a bit silly.

As I'm sure many of you know, Lady Gaga has had mixed reviews about her wardrobe for this year's MTV Video Music Awards, including a dress made of raw meat (not pictured) and a pair of Alexander McQueen's signature "Armadillo" shoes:

I've heard many complaints about these heels - though I quite honestly think she deserves praise for putting on these babies - but let's take a trip back in time and explore the history of the chopine.

Chopines (or Zoccoli, as they were called in olden days) were platformed over-shoes that became popular towards the end of the Dark Ages in Renaissance Europe. Originally intended to keep the hem of a lady's dress from dragging in the mud, the chopine (and the added height given by it) became a status symbol. They were most popular in Spain and parts of Italy - Venice and Florence, specifically - and hit their highest in the 17th century.

For all intents and purposes, you might be wondering exactly why these are a trend we would look back upon and ridicule, especially when compared to McQueen's "Armadillos". Here is why:

These zoccoli are around 20 inches tall! To say that these over-(the top)-shoes were impractical would be a gross understatement. In fact, the women who wore these gargantuan things needed attendants to walk with them in order to keep their balance. The fashion was often ridiculed in literature of the time, as evidenced by this "smutty" caricature:

Contrary to what this drawing presents, there is some conjecture as to whether or not a lady's skirts would have covered the chopines... Here's an example of women who showed off their zoccoli:

Notice how these Spanish women all leave their chopines clearly visible beneath their ringed "verdugado" skirts (to clarify, these women are fully clothed - these earliest known ancestors to the hoop skirt and cage crinoline featured the wooden hoops in the outermost skirt). Clearly different women chose to wear them in different ways. I think the most  obvious way to tell if a certain zoccoli was covered or not is to look at how ornate the decoration is. Of the following two examples, the first would probably have been covered by the skirt whereas the second, more delicate example may have been worn to a ball or party and might have been proudly displayed - after all, they were a status symbol.

Of course, the fact that it was a status symbol is also a matter of debate amongst experts. Some say that only Venetian courtesans wore these high over-shoes to make themselves more visible to clients. Others say that zoccoli were reserved for the most prominent female Venetians. Much like Francis Classe, I believe that both women would have worn these shoes, considering the lavish gifts Venetian men would have had to lay upon their courtesans to keep their interest, and then on their wives to keep them quiet. It's not too difficult to imagine a great social battle between the Ladies and Mistresses of Venice... Female competition is the only logical explanation I can think of that might lead to 20-inch chopines.

Hope this was insightful and entertaining - and hey, maybe next time you complain about the four-inch heels you wore to go clubbing you'll remember what these women endured for fashion!

Hoping sincerely that none of your are ever subjected to such tremendous heels,
Nostalgically Yours

Thanks to the following sources for information and pictures:
Francis Classe
Museum of Fine Arts Boston
Metropolitan Museum of Art New York
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Friday, September 24, 2010

Project Runway Review

Once again, this review contains spoilers. If you have not seen last night's episode of Project Runway, please do so here.

Here again is my caricature of Tim and Heidi

Okay, so Michael Drummond is gone. I'm already bummed at the beginning of the episode... **sigh**.

The challenge this week was to create a head-to-toe couture look. The winner will be featured in a L'Oreal "advertorial" and receive $20,000! The looks have to be inspired by the finishes of L'Oreal eyeshadow: matte, bright, metallic, crystal, and velvet. Naturally, since the look has to be at a couture level, the budget was upped to $300, and the time limit was extended to two days.

The cash prize for a non-finalist winner is completely unprecedented in all the seasons of Project Runway. This challenge, however, is not. Flashback to Season 3: the designers were taken on a surprise trip to Paris, France, and were asked to create couture gowns. I can't find any pictures of this episode, or I would have shared them with you.

Moving on. Since the designers were given a whole extra day, many of them lollygagged and really took their time, something April was quick to point out. She herself was really working quickly saying, "You never know" in a way we'll later understand was foreboding...

Day 1 goes off with only a few minor hitches. Mondo's bodice apparently dramatically changed sizes after his first fitting when he tried to insert the boning. "Wretchen" and Michael Costello exchanged catty remarks because they both (once again) picked Burgundy/Bordeaux as their main color. Here's all I have to say on the issue of this repetitive color choice:

For those of you who don't know, that's from the movie Kinky Boots. Yes, I know, the color isn't the same, but the sentiment still fits for me.

Day 2 began with the designers still seemingly moving at a snail's pace - all expect April that is - but lo and behold, in floats Tim. I can hardly say he walks. He's never really walked, in my opinion. Tim has a greatly irritating announcement: the designers will be required to create a second, Ready-to-Wear look to compliment the main couture design. I thought this was an excellent addition to the challenge. What Tim said is very true. Designers do not make money off of Haute Couture; they make money off of RTW.

Cue designer drama! Everyone had something nasty to say about this addition to the challenge, except April, who was probably really happy she didn't dawdle like the others. Valerie had a complete meltdown and escaped to the restroom. I was actually really glad to see Wretchen and Ivy go to comfort her. Though my faith in the collective talent of this group is waning more and more quickly, it's interesting to see that time and time again the designers seem to bond despite the competition.

The runway was ultimately unimpressive, and it was really anyone's guess who would be in the top and bottom three. You can rate the runway for yourself here. My picks for bottom were Ivy, Christopher and Valerie. I very much disliked Wretchen's as well, but it was well-made so I wouldn't have put her in the bottom. The other three had either questionable concepts or bad execution. Valerie had all three, and I would have booted her. Instead, it was Ivy who went home.

Mondo won the challenge. I suppose it was because his look was the most outlandish. Though I did love his RTW look, and despite being a self-proclaimed member of Team Mondo, I personally would have chosen Andy as the winner. I thought his warrior idea was the most cohesive.

Here's my look for this challenge:

The Haute Couture piece is a gown with a button-down Minoan bodice in crepe with bright blue accents and a delicate chiffon front-piece for modesty. The skirt is asymmetrically layered chiffon. The Ready-to-Wear look is an elegant suit with open Minoan jacket and a bias satin blouse. The look is made for the "matte" finish of L'Oreal eyeshadow. If you're curious about my inspiration, you can read yesterday's post on Theseus and the Minotaur.

The preview for next week showed Tim introducing some guests that sent the designers into joyous hysterics. I'm going to go ahead and predict that members of the designer's families are these secret guests - let's see if I'm right!

On a side note, I've finally understood the point of Twitter. It's not about following someone so you can read about every detail of their lives. It really is a global conversation. I was logged in and posting all throughout the show last night and it was quite an experience. I was literally conversing with people all across the United States who were watching the same show as I. The wonders of technology do still occasionally impress me, despite being a child of Technological Age.

Thanks for reading,
Nostalgically Yours

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Thursday, September 23, 2010

Mythology or Fact?

The Bull-leaping Fresco from the palace at Knossos, Crete

This week in my Art History class I learned about the Aegean Civilizations of the Bronze Age. The Aegean were the civilizations that populated modern day mainland Greece (Mycenaean), modern day Crete (Minoan), and the islands in between (Cycladic). Of course, Greek Mythology is a vivid source of inspiration for writers, designers, and artists of all types, but more and more discoveries in archeology point to the fact that many myths have a basis in fact.

For instance, most everyone knows the myth of the Trojan Horse, but archeologists have discovered a city that matches the descriptions of the Homeric Epic.

The Minoans were a relatively peaceful, seafaring people. Their palaces were lavishly decorated with beautiful frescoes (such as the one pictured above) and ornate sculptures and pottery (pictured below).

As is clear from the sculpture above and an artist's rendering below, the Minoan woman's wardrobe consisted of an open-fronted bodice and a layered skirt in many bright colors. Upper class Minoan women were women of leisure, and lived in the lap of luxury. Women enjoyed many rights rarely seen in other cultures of the time, including serving as priestesses. Their open bodices indicate the liberal views towards them, and the respect held for their life-giving properties.

Minoan Palace Scene by Thomas Baker

One of the many entertainments offered the Minoan court at Knossos would have been athletic events such as those pictured in the Bull-leaping Fresco. There were different types of bull-leaping, but the one pictured above is seen in the diagram below. The athlete would face the charging bull, grab onto the horns and - as the bull reared its head - would perform a somersault, leap off the bull's back, and finally land behind the bull. Pretty damn impressive, if you ask me. It has been suggested that many modern men's gymnastic events, such as the pommel horse, the vault, and the still rings have their origins in this ancient art.

If you're aware of the myth of Theseus and the Minotaur, you might be thinking this seems like a bit of a coincidence. Remember, King Minos (for whom the Minoan Civilization was named) did have his palace at Knossos. Though a labyrinth has never been discovered anywhere on or near the sight, take a look at this plan of the ruins and an artist's reconstruction:

Some archeologists have suggested that Homer's mythological labyrinth may have been inspired by the Palace itself. That courtyard you see in the pictures was where the Bull-leaping was held. Perhaps the legend of Theseus battling the Minotaur were, in fact, an exaggeration of a real boy's trials to travel from Athens to Crete to compete against the Minoan Bull-leapers.

Ultimately, it is widely believed that the Minoans met their demise after a major volcanic eruption on Santorini. Apparently this was one of the biggest eruptions in recorded history. This eventual demise is also considered one of the inspirations for the Atlantis myth.

I find these sorts of things absolutely fascinating. It is no small leap of faith to think that myths could be based on actual facts. In the years that go by, and in an era where people fully believed in magic and a whole Pantheon of vengeful gods, stories are naturally misinterpreted and purposefully exaggerated to glorify or vilify historical figures or people. Also, in an era where kings ruled without the reigns of a parliament, parables and myths would have been the only way for people to speak their minds about the misdoings of royalty.

It's also not hard to believe that we ourselves may have misinterpreted certain things about these cultures and their stories. Some of these cultures have words that mean both "king" and "god". Many cultures worshiped their leaders as deities, so perhaps the entire pantheon of gods and all of those myths are based on real kings and queens of yore. I would be completely fascinated to learn about these people. History is one of my greatest passions. I'd be an archeologist I weren't so lazy...!

"Historical sense and poetic sense should not, in the end, be contradictory, for if poetry is the little myth we make, history is the big myth we live, and in our living, constantly remake."
-Robert Penn Warren

Nostalgically Yours

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Mad Men

No, it's not a post about the hit television series. Today I've decided to take it easy and post some of my favorite vintage television advertisements.

Golly! Sugar from sugar cane?? This is an old advertisement!

Let Dove cream your face...

If it doesn't give her power and punch, it might at least destroy the ozone...

Before the Kool-Aid guy became a dangerous criminal. In fact, this was before he even grew legs... Why is the pitcher talking to me, mommy? Don't drink the Kool-Aid, kids!

Don't you miss the days when children's cartoons could be spokespeople for tobacco?

This commercial was actually filmed in the early 1970s. The gag being that all the cars featured in the ad (save the Volkswagen) had since been discontinued.

Why do British people sound so much more genuine when reading a script? I, too, love rubbing dish liquid all over my hands to prove to my daughter how soft my hands are.

Finally, why living in the "Nuclear Age" wasn't that great for your skin.

Use Dorothy Cosmetics in your next Nuclear Fallout emergency!

Thanks to The Hair Hall of Fame for inspiring this post!

Nostalgically Yours

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Talk Like Jane Austen Day!

I'm sure many of you Readers have heard about the dual rallies being held on the 30th of October by both Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert. If you haven't, you can click on their respective names to learn more about their shows or on the links under the posters to learn about their individual rallies.

Stephen Colbert's Rally
Jon Stewart's Rally

I'm sure you're wondering exactly how this relates to Nostalgia and to my blog - well, I'll tell you. The thirtieth of October also happens to be "Talk Like Jane Austen Day"! Just like other novelty days, "TLJAD" asks participants to step back in time and invoke the language of her novels. Austen only published four novels during her lifetime: Sense and Sensibility (which was published on October 30th - thus the date of the event), Pride and Prejudice, Mansfield Park, and Emma. Her other novels, Northanger Abbey and Persuasion were published posthumously.

Our tragic heroine, Jane Austen (1775-1817)

In any case, "TLJAD" be a great opportunity to host that Jane Austen party you've always wanted to throw! You can have period-appropriate party games and dancing, or have a Jane Austen film marathon. Some might even opt to dress with a Regency flair on that day - for which I refer you to my previous post on my Regency Portrait for some more information on Regency garb.
The "TLJAD" official website has some helpful hints on speaking the way she would have 200 years ago. It features definitions such as "Nice: fussy, over particular, affected" and reminds us how they would have spoken "Numbers: Not 'twenty-four', but 'four-and-twenty'". They say the list will grow as the day approaches and also offer the resource of Dr. Johnson's Dictionary of the English Language. Published in 1822, it gives an approximate idea of how Jane Austen would have spoken.

On a similar note, there's a new episode of "Sex and the Austen Girl" out this week. I've included it below. If you'd like to read my previous post and review on the subject, click here.

[Insert Austenian Remark Here]
Nostalgically Yours

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Monday, September 20, 2010

Music Mondays - La Roux "Bulletproof"

Let's start off the week with the recent hit by the British singer/producer duo La Roux:

I first heard this song through my mother, believe it or not. It was her and my sister's new favorite song, and has since become mine. Of course, this song and its music video simply ooze the 1980s, but if you're still not convinced just check out the album cover:

Seeing her perform on a great deal of variety daytime shows has really given me insight into the mindset that predominated that time period. I quite frankly used to hate the eighties. I felt the music was bad, the clothing was worse and I saw it as awkward transition between the seventies and the nineties. Recently, though, I've come to the conclusion that the opposite is true. The eighties were the iconic time whilst the seventies and nineties (though they did have their own distinct styles) were more transitional.

New Romantics such as Boy George incorporated 19th century clothing into their wardrobe, inspiring designers such as Vivienne Westwood to do the same.

The 1980s saw many great cultural changes across the globe. Calvin Klein began featuring racy clothing and underwear commercials in gigantic public billboards. Synthetic music was invented and exploded into pop culture. The punks of the 1970s would dovetail into the New Romantics and the Goths. Rap, Hip-Hop, Techno, and Rave were all subcultures that have their origins in the 1980s. Globalization began taking jobs from the United States and stores like Walmart and Kmart began to flourish under a stream of cheap products from Asian countries. The movie "Wall Street" epitomized the no-holds-barred attitude held, not only towards the economy, but also to almost every aspect of life.

Apparently Brooke Shields says she can still fit into the jeans from that controversial ad - Shields was 15 years old at the time.

When I saw La Roux perform on the Ellen Degeneres show, I was taken aback by how amazing this all seemed. I was also hypnotized by that drummer; the way he danced while he played. For a teenager coming of age in the 1980s, it must have been absolutely breathtaking... Nothing like this sort of music had ever been seen. Of course, synthesizers were used in disco, but this was not just about the music. It was a lifestyle. The music videos featured bizarre non sequitors. The bands wore crazy outfits and did crazy things. Imagine a pop culture permeated with Lady Gagas. That was the 1980s.
In retrospect, it's no wonder we all have this stigma with the shoulder pad and synthesizer culture. However, many signs indicate that the 80s are coming back. Music and fashion have reflected this, and I think the arrival of Lady Gaga has opened the doorway for other artists to help push the envelope in artistic expression.
Christina Aguilera is already getting flack for her video "I'm Not Myself Tonight" (Not Safe for Work), but she was already trying to push limits with her video for "Dirrty" (NSFW). She was completely bashed for being so hyper sexual in the 90s, but now she's following Lady G's lead and letting her hair down a bit.

Perhaps this means that we are, in fact, entering a new period like the 80s, where we will see behavior and statements that we could never have imagined. If a raw meat dress at the VMAs isn't enough to give that general impression, then I'm not sure what is. Hopefully, though, we'll learn our lessons from the past and avoid running the economy further into the ground through the near complete deregulation of Wall Street - but I promised I wouldn't get political, so I won't. In short: I'm excited for the coming decade - I hope you are, too!

Thanks for reading,
Nostalgically Yours