Saturday, December 29, 2012

Christmas Quilting

During the Christmas Break I tucked in to complete a quilt I'd begun a year ago or so. 

An annoying neck injury prevented me from making any progress for the last five months, but as I have seemed to recover, I took full advantage of the break from scholarly computer activities to luxuriate in fabric.

Details: the front is a full-cloth Nani Iro watercolour print; the back a shot-cotton apricot by Kaffe Fassett; the binding my hand-made Liberty of London "Tatum."  All fabric was purchased at Purl Soho.

I quilted around each flower, leaf, and bird using an ivory embroidery floss and comfortable stitches; I cheerfully bid adieu to the teeny-tiny needlework that characterized my precise 20-something quilts. (That's in terms of age, not quilt quantity, BTW.)

Letting go of those meticulous stitches has freed me and, I like to think, lends a more artisan quality to my quilts (apologies to those for whom that adjective evokes the same kind of fury articulated by Annette Bening in The Kids Are Alright over "heirloom" tomatoes).

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

"Moonrise Kingdom" and Salt-Water Heroines

My first challenge is getting the film's name correct; I want to call it "Moonlit Pavillion," for no good reason.  I saw Moonrise Kingdom last night, and while the plot did not hold my attention, the set, costumes, and a good bit of the acting did. 

Suzy Bishop, above, on her little island, reminds me of this painting by Alex Colville, To Prince Edward Island, painted back when one *had* to approach my little island by ferry (if not by plane):

Like any island heroine worth her salt (water), Suzy likes to read novels.

One of her favourites, The Francine Odysseys, was turned into a clutch by Olympia Le-Tan:

Here is the "library" from which Suzy stole her novels: 

Sunday, December 9, 2012

"What Not to" v. "Why Don't You": A Mini Analysis of the Politics of Style in "Brave"

 Last night my daughters and I watched Brave. SPOILER ALERT NEXT and THROUGHOUT

On one hand, I didn't know what the big deal was; my daughters turn me into a bear on a daily basis.

But on the other hand, I couldn't help notice the remarkable physical similarity between Queen Elinor and Stacy London, our favourite makeover guru.  See the long, lusturous black hair punctuated by the chic white streak?

The connections go deeper than hair, though; indeed, Queen Elinor CONSTANTLY tells her wild-at-heart daughter WHAT TO DO and WHAT NOT TO DO.  The princess Merida wants to wear her hair tangled and free; her mother wants to tuck it neath a snug head wrap.  Merida wants to shoot arrows all day; her mother wants her to be a lady. Merida wants her freedom; her mother wants her to marry one of three unacceptable suitors from local clans.

The list goes on, and at one point Merida erupts in anger, yelling at her mother about the tyranny of this "what not to" set of rules. Sound familiar?

(And, in a tangentially connected subplot, Merida's triplet little brothers--the boys--are forever chasing after their nursemaid Maudie's cookies, or should we say that the boys chase the girls, a la London parlance?)

Anyhoo, both Merida and her mum find it unbearable to be a member of the clan Ursidae and, in a streak of epiphanies, Queen Mother Bear realizes that her daughter was right: she grants her child the freedom to marry whom and when she chooses.

In terms of style, we might see this film as a showdown between two outspoken editors: Stacy London of "What not to" and Diana Vreeland of "Why don't you." 

So is this film dissing Stacy London's rules in favour of the more eccentric Vreeland's vision? (Why don't you tie black tulle bows on your wrists?  Why don't you wear violet velvet mittens with everything?  Why don't you rinse your blond child's hair in dead champagne to keep it gold?)

Perhaps, but it doesn't hurt that Merida is utterly gorgeous and competent in her unkempt state. Rather, I'd say that the film seeks a balance.  In order to turn her mother back into a human being, Merida must stitch up a rent in a tapestry image of her family, a wound in the fabric that Merida made out of anger.  The mended tapestry eventually is used to clothe the Queen as she transforms from bear to human; it was originally something NOT TO WEAR but the Queen is certainly grateful for the cover it offers. Both mother and daughter learn not to criticize each other.

Brave, written and produced by women, rejects the rules, instead offering girls--and women--the opportunity to do what they want, while looking like they want, within reason. Even the queen, by the end of the film, has loosened her tightly bound plaits and is galloping away on horseback with her daughter. Really, it's a story about the relationships between mother and daughter.  Daughters don't need a mother who represents London or Vreeland in the extreme.

What do they need? I'm still figuring it out myself, but the film encourages me not to wear my symbolic bear ensemble, for today, at least.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Ball Skirts, Boots, and Blondie

UPDATE: Received the boots for Christmas, but determined that they were A) too short; B) too bucket-y (unflattering when combined with too short); C) way too tight across the instep.  So the perfect boots, ball skirt, and Blondie-tee combo is still eluding me.

Do you remember 1994, when Isaac Mizrahi had the cheeky good taste to pair voluminous ballskirts with simple white t-shirts and chubbies?

How about 1991, when Peter Lindbergh famously photographed what Vogue called "Wild at Heart" but I call "Models in the Hood," a bunch of supes hanging out in a foggy alley wearing Chanel ball skirts and leather?

Detail in gritty b&w

I loved that look of Edith Wharton on bottom, Brando on top, and a recent pair of boots by Coach, of all labels, has sparked my imagination.

The boots:

Engineer boots from a collaboration between Coach and Frye.  Ocelot print calf hair.

The ball skirt:

Lots of possibilities here.  I once blogged about the two J Crew beauties above, but they might be more for Carolina Herrera chic; you know--the white, buttoned sleek shirt:

I want something a little more patterned that I can clash with the ocelot and . . .

a Blondie T!

The one above is "new";

And this one above is vintage.

A little sleuthing on Etsy shows that one can order a custom-made ball skirt, and I quite like these awning stripes:

Even the chevron stripe had me at attention (I was once a sergeant in the Black Watch cadet corps mentioned in my previous post):

You can order the ball skirts here

This gorgeous vintage stripey ball skirt from the 1980s by Albert Capraro would also go nicely with Ms. Harry:

Skirt can be purchased here

I can imagine happily swanning about in the printed skirt and a rock tee (I know, I know, "The Clash" would be an unironic choice for this otherwise ironic ensemble).

And what about those ocelot engineer boots?  How much do I like them?

An ocel lot.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

The Queen of Hearts, She Wore Some . . .

Tartan, actually.  Or Black Watch, to be specific.

I wore some tartan myself, during my boarding school years in Canada.  Our school was part of the Black Watch Cadet Corps, so we were automatically enlisted and, when we went on parade, decked ourselves in Full Highland Dress, complete with a heavy, scratchy Black Watch kilt.

Black Watch did not make a stylish statement for me back then, but when I moved to Ottawa for university, I bought a Black Watch winter scarf from Roots and l.o.v.e.d. how it brought a touch of Scottish moor to my Robe di Kappa down jacket (essential for skating to class every day on the Rideau Canal).

I've gone on to buy a Black watch shirt from J Crew, which couldn't be more opposite of my original kilt.  It's made of the thinnest cotton that I'm positive will rip with every move.  So far, so good, though.

I was contemplating a Black Watch purchase just the other week; in fact, I bookmarked the shoe below at Saks, a McQ patent monk-strap with a BW inlay.  There were three sizes left, and mine was one of them. What stopped me? The *sale* price, which seemed excessive.

But I kept going back to visit, thinking I might splurge for a Christmas gift (and I could use a gift right now, as a very expensive and well-loved bag was stolen from me last week).

Then Kate wore her McQueen tartan dress to St. Andrews, bloggers blogged about McQ's other tartan items, and likethat! the shoe disappeared in my size. It's easier to mourn a loss when it wasn't yours to begin with.

Still, the shoe is available in one size up.  One does not want to flop about in sloppy monk-straps, but I wonder whether McQ shoes just might run small. Or maybe I should just eat a tart.