Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Costume Fever

On a side note...

           This semester, I decided to take a theater makeup and costume class.  For the last few weeks I've been designing costumes and applying stage makeup and, though I love my library technology, I have a chance to exercise another level of creativity that I am not always able to tap into. 

            Sometimes it ends up that I have to take a creative class, even if it's critical thinking, just to keep those juices flowing; it's a bit like taking an exercise course each semester simply because you know you won't have the time to work out in between classes and/or work unless you have a specific time allotted for it. Creatively, that's often how it works for me.  As for this class specifically, it's got a bit of everything that I love: machine and hand sewing, a strange theater makeup kit that includes a "bruises and abrasions" palette (oddly something I've always wanted to learn to apply), a little fashion history, some sketching and designing, and we get to read, analyze and research beautiful plays.

The amazing Edith Head, famous for her impeccable fashion and film costume designs.  

         This class is so fun! I have always been the kind of person who LOVES visually arresting costumes in films, plays, opera, and ballet (you may remember my previous posts The Look and The Look Part IIand over time I've even developed a habit of doodling "costume ideas" a little here and there based on what I'm currently reading, usually in place of serious chemistry notes.  I heard about this class about a year ago and I finally gave in to my secret desire to enroll.  The makeup aspect isn't really my forte but I'm finding that it is like nothing I've ever done, so every class lesson is a fresh new learning experience.  This is especially true when the makeup is based on something that seems simple but becomes a humorous challenge (i.e. applying old age makeup), I really love that.  Even better, my classmates are all just as excited as I am.  

Late Victorian fashion plate

           Right now we're working on Oscar Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest, I love this play and have read it a few times already so coming up with ideas has been very interesting.  Because the content is so familiar, it's like putting together an outfit for a friend or sibling.  Next, however, is a play I've never read before, Blood Wedding by Frederico Garcia Lorca.  I already enjoy reading his poetry but only recently have I learned that he was a playwright as well.  I'm taking my time reading through most of his plays, partly out of enjoyment and curiosity but also to get acquainted with his style.  His plays have a strikingly tragic, musical quality and the language is complex and a bit mesmerizing. There is a lot to imagine and, of course, use to design.  I can't wait to finish Blood Wedding and find out how the play ends. We will see...

            If I get my beginner's (emphasis on "beginner" ;) design sketches done soon, I'll try to share a few pictures of my "plans" for The Importance of Being Earnest in an upcoming post.

            For now, here is a picture of one of my all-time favourite film costumes.  Katharine Hepburn wore this crazy gown in "Bringing Up Baby" (also one of my favourite films of the 1930's).  This costume has stuck with me since the first time I watched the film on VHS, I must have been 9 years old.  For one thing, it's hilarious.   The veil is partly made of metallic wire ribbon which swings around with her every move.   The whole outfit is supposed to reflect her character's airy personality; all her other costumes are similiar,  ridiculously puffy and over the top.  The best part of the scene in which she wears this is an exasperated Cary Grant trying desperately to be serious (and, of course, the inevitable wardrobe malfunctions).  Check it out if you haven't seen it, you just might love it.

(Costume design by Howard Greer)

Here's the scene (might as well, right?):



Saturday, September 14, 2013

On Movie Sirens and Ponchos...

             I feel that loving yourself involves accepting and growing and groovin with all the different facets of who you are.  One facet that often seems to take over is the physical.  That is, the skin you live in and present to the world.  But, it really is only skin draped over personality over a lot of inner challenges and strengths.  I've been thinking about this for a while, just tossing this and similar thoughts about in my mind.

And let me tell you, it's been both humorous and sobering. 

Or rather, the nucleus...

I think back to my own childhood and teen years and all of the pre/pubescent crap that we all go through.  

For my part, this was the experience. 

When I was just a little kid watching old movies late into the night, this is what I thought/dreamed/believed I would look like as an adult:

Jane Russell
Cyd Charisse

Instead, for a long time—and I mean long—I looked sort of like this:

Ugly Betty (Want to hear something totally gross? I actually own a pair of Dansko shoes identical to the ones she's wearing.)
            As a little girl, I thought that I would develop sophisticated high cheekbones, jet black hair and really long Cyd Charisse legs (forgetting that the rest of the women in my family are 5' and shorter) and so I waited in quiet, hopeful suspense for the day I would look into the mirror and be transformed.  Well, things didn't quite turn out that way.  Over the years I stopped waiting and slowly settled into the brown sweats of disappointment.  How dramatic!  No hourglass figure, no smoldering gaze...I didn't even have the self-esteem to catch on to a little reality.  Now I look back at those years as mostly confusing and transitional: the "frump years", if you will. 

I have to say, though, I really love that poncho and right now I'm having a hard time understanding what's wrong with it...

              But that is what I've been thinking about. A while ago, in the middle of class one day, I thought, "You know, I really like who I am.  I love the way I look.  I want to be happy with who I am!"  Such an enormously positive thought for me.  Who cares if I wear brown sweats (girl's gotta be comfortable).  The real point is whether I value myself enough to feel amazing within and let everything else come from there.  I just so happen to embrace comfort in all its healthy forms.  And there you have it, the sweats are moot (FYI, I don't actually own a pair of brown sweats, but I think the concept is good for the point I'm trying to make).  At the end of the day I really do love what I've got even on this one level of who I am.  My eyes, nose, my hair that fights the fog, especially my soccer player’s calves and broad shoulders are all straight from where I come from.  What could be any more exciting than that?  

              In fact, I take those gorgeous women that I used to want to look like more as fashion inspiration, if anything.  I don't have to look like them to feel comfortable in my own skin.  Why should I devalue myself by comparing who I am with women that were rarely photographed in colour?  Can you imagine mentally punching yourself in the gut every time you pass a mirror or watch a music video?  I had to realize that all the good or bad I carry within becomes the energy I project out to the world.  We must be easier on ourselves and others.  I'm learning to take a deep breath and relax, remembering that some of the most beautiful people I know have an inner joy that touches on everything they do and everyone they meet feels their warmth.  That is the beauty that lasts.  


P.S. For those that are interested to know what happened with that fabric class I took ages ago, I chose The Great Gatsby costumes to present.  It was a combination of "very little time left" and "I just love them suits" that led to this decision and, honestly, by the time I gave my 4 minute presentation (with visuals!) I almost went overtime.  Everyone could sense my enthusiasm, if you know what I mean.