Saturday, 29 September 2012

New Blog Layout

I've redesigned the Showtime Stitches blog - I hope you like it! I think it's much clearer and easier to navigate now - I've still got a few additions to make, to introduce categories to make searching for content quicker. Also, I'm getting round to creating a domain website so that every part of Showtime Stitches is available in one place! Watch this space!

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Susannah Buxton: Downton Abbey Costume Designer, V&A Talk

Yesterday evening I attended a member's talk at the V&A Museum, London. Here are my notes from the insightful lecture:

It was great to hear such an experienced and knowledgeable designer discuss her creative process, and to learn where she gets her inspiration from. The talk also referenced a collection of clothes donated to the museum, that originally belonged to Heather Firbank in the 1910s/20s. Her clothes, as well as her biography, have many similarities with those of the fictional Mary Crawley and clearly conveyed the idea of how life events dictate what we wear. I'm looking forward to the book soon to be published, documenting her massive collection of clothes and accessories.

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Downton Abbey Is Back!

'Downton Abbey', the much loved ITV production that made costume dramas cool again has finally returned to our screens! The first episode of Series 3 aired last Sunday, introduced us to the new post-war setting of 1920, bringing us to a time of social as well as financial change, and of course, new fashions!

As the series begins in Spring 1920, the stereotypical 20s clothing fashions have yet to catch on - only the upper classes have the means to buy these new trendy clothes! So look out for changing waist lines and rising hemlines on Mary, Edith and Sybil's costumes.

Martha Levinson, mother to the Countess of Grantham, is a modern American lady - suggested by her arrival in a state-of-the-art motor vehicle, wearing fantastic 20s-style fur coats and shift-style dresses. Lady Grantham, on the other hand, wears dresses in the last decade's styles, reminding us of her traditional British, and Victorian, upbringing.

Next Monday I will be attending a talk by the costume designer working on Downton Abbey - I'll post a few notes on here next week! To be notified when the post is published, follow Showtime Stitches on Bloglovin, or 'Like' us on Facebook.

In the meantime, catch 'Downton Abbey' on ITV 1, Sundays at 9PM.

Monday, 17 September 2012

Burberry Prorsum SS13 Womenswear - London Fashion Week

I was lucky enough to be given a ticket to the Burberry Prorsum Womenswear show at London Fashion Week, one of the most anticipated shows of the season, this year attended by Anna Wintour, Andy Murray, Harry Styles to name but a few. It was my first time at a Fashion Week show - and what a fantastic name to start off with!

Rather than taking place in the official showspaces at Somerset House, Christopher Bailey staged his catwalk in Kensington Gardens. Starting off in the dark, the space slowly lit up to start the show. The blinds descending off the clear roof, creating a light, fresh environment perfect for this Spring/Summer showcase.

This season, Bailey worked predominantly with jewel-like metallic colours: we saw plenty of bright, bold fuschias, maroon, gold and azure blue, standing out against the beige surroundings. Gone are the pastels of past seasons, this year we need powerful, statement colours!

It was all about the shoulders at Burberry this year - huge puff sleeves and structured capes paired with hot pant shorts exaggerate the shoulders and lengthen the legs. Not forgetting the typical spring/summer weather in Britain, Christopher Bailey also focussed heavily on outerwear - I particularly like this shimmering silver caped shoulder worn with an ombre green/turquoise dress - wonderfully simplistic and smoothly shaped, but still modern, with a strong and sharp edge.

And how could we forget that signature Burberry trench coat?! For the finale, the models walked out in a rainbow of bright metallic ones - my favourite colour would have to be the dustier metallic red, I'm not sure I could pull off the bright pink myself...
At first, I was a little disappointed with the lack of crazy set or scenery - the beige catwalk didn't  have much wow-factor compared to the magical snow at the last season's Burberry show. But, in keeping with brand's signature simple and elegant British style, the design was in fact very successful: it allowed the fantastically bright pieces to stand out, the clean white light highlighting every shimmer and every texture on every luxurious fabric.
What do you think of the show? Any pieces you can't wait to wear yourself? (Well, I mean the highstreet alternatives of course!) Personally, I'm impatiently awaiting next Fashion Week - I can't wait for my next show!
You can see what I wore to the show here: "What I Wore: Burberry Prorsum @ London Fashion Week"

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Kimono Costumes in 'Memoirs of a Geisha'

This week I watched 'Memoirs of a Geisha' (2005). I read the book back in 2008, and the story has kept with me since then. It is a fantastically written novel, and film director Rob Marshall did a great job of recreating the settings and scenes I had imagined.
The film ‘Memoirs of a Geisha’, based on the novel by Arthur Golden, won 3 Oscars (alongside 21 other wins and 29 nominations) when it was released in 2005. These Oscars, won for Best Art Direction, Best Cinematography and Best Costume Design are richly deserved by a creative team that constructed an incredible 1930s Japanese world that captivates its audience. Here are some stills of my favourite Kimonos – each one unique and informative.

The narrative follows Chiyo's life as she grows from a poor fisherman's daughter to the most popular Geisha in the city. Colleen Atwood's costume designs reflect this transformation - the grey, rough fabrics of childhood kimonos signify Chiyo's status and insignificance. Once a Geisha, Chiyo (now known as Sayuri) wears silks and luxurious pastel colours.
In contrast, Hatsumomo's kimonos are dark, rich colours. Often in shades of red, they highlight her fiery temper and passion. Mameha's costumes display her calm and accomplished character. The silks they are made of are graceful, while the choice of toned-down browns and greys connote experience, sincerity and wisdom.
Not only do the colours of the kimonos change, but their style does to. With the invasion of the Western culture during WWII, many geishas, Pumpkin for example, are forced to change the way the act and dress to please their new American clients. Pumpkin's clothing and hairstyle pictured above is very different to the conservative, traditional Japanese costumes. The cut of the dress, the curled hair and simplistic make-up mimics the popular style in 1940s England and America. This transition in costume is sad - it signifies the end of an era: an era of decadence, art, and beauty.
Although some compromises were made in terms of authenticity of kimono design, these are understandable. Atwood noted “the subtlety of an actual geisha dress wouldn’t have the right impact on film...We were taking an art form that is a huge part of Japanese culture but it was important to remember that we were making a movie based on a book of fiction, written by a guy, about a geisha. It is not a documentary film.” Instead, the shapes of these kimonos suit a modern audience better - they are a little more revealing in some places, have a little more figure to them. As a "glammed-up" version, these costumes are fantastic for a modern, Western audience - think of them as an 'introduction' to Japanese kimonos!

Friday, 7 September 2012

Fashion's Night Out - London's Burlington Arcade

Yesterday was Vogue's Fashion's Night Out, a glamorous evening of late-night shopping, new collection launches, celebrity appearances and general celebration of fashion! I headed down to Bond Street, to mingle in the designer stores, passing through Burlington Arcade on the way from Piccadilly. The luxury landmark of London played host to a wild concoction of circus themed acts from a marching band to reptile handlers. Being the costume lover I am, I couldn't help but be enchanted by the wonderful costumes of the 'conjoined twins'!

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

New Inspiration Moodboard

I've made myself a new collage for my inspiration pinboard that hangs over my desk - here it is!

I used magazine cut outs from year old collection of Vogues and Elles, as well as a few other photos I love. Have a look at my virtual pin boards on Pinterest too, for similar inspiring and beautiful images!

Monday, 3 September 2012

The iPad as a new art medium?

(This is a guest post by Yolanda Shamash of Not All About Boys.)

David Hockney’s iPad drawing of a flower-filled vase!
All famous artists have a favourite medium with which they create their art. Van Gogh liked his oil paints, Andy Warhol was a fan of silkscreen prints, and David Hockney... uses an iPad for his art.

In his most recent exhibition at the Royal Academy, Hockney put his iPad drawings on show.
And despite some cynics claiming that it’s not really art, the exhibition was actually very popular.
Well, I figured if Hockney could do it, so could I- so I borrowed my brother’s iPad, downloaded a very simple art app, and started drawing. Here’s what I ended up with...
After downloading the app ‘Art Set’ for a very reasonable £0.69, I started out by drawing a relatively simple wine bottle using the medium of oil pastel. Shading was really easy with the colours it gave me, as there were about 10 shades of each colour, as well as some crazy neon ones thrown in for fun!

Here’s my first ever iPad drawing! Not quite a ‘Hockney’, I’ll grant you, but I thought it was good for a first attempt!
And here’s my second attempt. I call it... RED LAMP!
This time I used the medium of paint, which was much easier to use. I enjoyed doing this one much more, as I preferred the look of the brush strokes- very free and loose, which gives it quite a cute style, I think.
Also, it was really fun to experiment with the strokes that make. Actually, this is one of the biggest reasons that Hockney has started using iPads in his art- he can get a different artistic effect when he uses his left hand to paint on iPad than when he uses his right!
I got quite into using the paint medium in the app, so my next drawing was this candle stick in paint. I’m most proud of this one, because I really liked the shading, which I created by swiping the iPad screen in thin, defined strokes, and I think that made it look quite 3D.
I most loved the simplicity of the drawing on the iPad. It’s art, but with no mess! No cleaning up, it’s easy to erase mistakes, and it’s actually very satisfying to draw something you’re proud of!
In short, I’ve completely fallen for getting arty on the iPad! It’s definitely an art form that’s here to stay, and I’m definitely going to keep on doing my little ‘Art Set’ paintings!
I’ve really enjoyed guest blogging for Megan - sadly, this is my last blog post on Showtime Stitches! However, if you’d like to read more from me, check out my blog Not All About Boys!

Sunday, 2 September 2012

Before the London 2012 Olympics...

(This is a guest blog post by Yolanda Shamash of NotAllAboutBoys!)

It’s patriotism gone mad on the high street!
Think back to a time before the London 2012 Olympics, and try to imagine a Union Jack. Most likely, you’re picturing a flag of some kind- outside an embassy, or in the bedroom window of a mad BNP member. It’s distasteful, right? Or maybe you’re remembering the Union Jack badges from the 1960s ‘I’m backing Britain’ campaign which aimed to improve the British economy by promoting nationalism- but then again, that brief boost to patriotism didn’t really last too long. Perhaps you’re thinking of Geri Halliwell’s famous Union Jack dress- but after millions of cheap reproductions, even that dress is considered rather retro and outdated.
Well, that was how people felt before the Olympics! Now, with the London 2012 Olympics over and Paralympic games in full swing, Britain is one massive Union Jack waving parade- and of course, fashion designers are taking huge advantage of this.
Union Jack underwear- the patriotic spirit
even extends to the bedroom!
Take high street clothes shop Topshop: in their shops there are currently over 23 Union Jack related products being sold! That’s everything from knitted jumpers, leggings, socks, sweatshirts, rucksacks, jackets, rights, bags, knickers, boxers, nail wraps- even insoles for your shoes!

It’s simply patriotism gone mad. The funny thing is, people are really getting into this ‘British and Proud’ trend.

But hey, it could be a good thing. Maybe the sheer success of this trend shows how much we, as a nation, are getting into the Olympic spirit and supporting team GB with pride?

Perhaps. And maybe this nationalism madness will last more than just a few months. But personally, I can’t see being much of a long-term craze.

I can only see this particular phase dying a very painful death within the next month or so. Most likely, as soon as the Olympics and Paralympics end, those Union Jack jumpers will be going straight into a box in the attic, alongside other fashion regrets such as Crocs and flared jeans. Within a few months the Union Jack clothing will, once again, become a craze reserved only for racists and BNP voters, and this whole embarrassing trend will be forgotten.

Oh and here’s me with my Special Edition Ryvita - clearly the trend extends to food as well!
Well now you know what I think of this whole Union Jack madness, I want to hear what you think! Maybe you own some British-themed jumpers or something similar, and you really like the trend- if so, comment below!
And if you liked this, check out more of my writing on my own blog, NotAllAboutBoys, where Megan is guest-blogging for me!

Saturday, 1 September 2012

Costumes for Turn of the Screw the Opera

Hello! My name is Yolanda Shamash, and I’m going to be taking over Megan’s blog for the next three days, whilst she guest blogs over on at my site, NotAllAboutBoys.

Just so you know a little about me, I’m a teenage blogger based in North London, with a keen interest in writing, politics and music. That’s basically all you need to know, so let’s get started!

This year, I was in a professional production of the Britten opera ‘’The Turn of the Screw’. For anyone not familiar with the opera, it’s about two children who live in an old country house with a governess and housekeeper, and it’s all about how the children become possessed by the ghosts of the ex-staff who worked at the house. In the show, I played the young girl, Flora- who gets possessed by the ghost of the old governess and goes mad.
Our production was all set in the 30s, and as ’The Turn of the Screw’ is known to be very typically British (which is partially why it’s so popular in European countries), we were in very school-like costumes, to exaggerate the extreme British-ness of the opera. You know the kind of thing- all pinafores and collars and trouser braces!

This is a photo from the second scene, ‘The Welcome’ - the first scene with the children. We (the kids) are wearing our pyjamas- a light blue flowery nightie for me, and a rather dashing set of light blue stripy PJs for Miles (played by the lovely Kaisun Raj). At this point in the show, the children appear very sweet, if a little naughty, so we look a tad scruffy- our socks all bunched up around our ankles, our un-ironed pyjamas, my hair down etc. This, I think, was meant to endear the audience, and also shows just how young the children are.

The second costume we had to wear was the childrens’ day clothes- for this Flora wore a pleated blue skirt which came in at the waist; stopped just above the knees and was held up by two blue braces, shin-length white socks, shiny black school shoes, and a white shirt. The look was meant to convey the idea of innocence and doll-like perfection before the darker side of the children is shown later on in the opera. We look very prim and proper, with our cuffs done up and our socks pulled high, which makes it all the more surprising to the audience that Miles and Flora turn out to be such little horrors, and that the story of the house is so scary and tragic.
In this photo, it’s the end scene of the first act, ‘At Night’, and we’re into our third costume change- back into our PJs for bedtime. In this particular scene, our director wanted us to be moving around the bed in response to the movements of the ghosts, so the costumes couldn’t be quite as covered up as our long, baggy pyjamas in the first scene. In order to show our movements as clearly as possible, we wore simple vests and little white bloomers/boxers. The white of our costumes also created a strong contrast with the ghosts, who were both dressed in sheer black- the symbolism of white (perfection, peace, goodness, etc) and black (evil/danger) being very obvious here.

The fourth costumes that Flora and Miles don for the show were their church outfits for the scene, ‘The Bells’ in the second act. Really no different to the day clothes, except that we’re now wearing jackets.

By this point in the show, I was wearing 5 layers- a weird flattening bra (because I was 15 and playing a 12 year old), a vest, the white shirt, a blue tabard-type-thing which I can only describe as a sort of a backwards waistcoat, and the thick jacket on top! Needless to say, it was VERY hot in those five layers- even more so underneath the bright stage lights!
So there you have it: costume design from the perspective of the actress. If you enjoyed this blog post, don’t worry, because I’m not going anywhere- I’ll be back tomorrow!