Thursday, November 29, 2012

Flower Power

Remember this guy?  Matt, of the brightly-coloured trousers here and here?  He's been taking sewing lessons because he hadn't been able to find ready-made shirts that he likes.  And what he likes, is bright colours and bold patterns like those on the shirt he's wearing in the photo above, one of his own creations.  As someone whose sewing skills are limited to doing a straight seam on a sewing machine, I am very impressed that he made an entire shirt, complete with collar, cuffs and mother of pearl snaps! 

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Monobrows & Moustaches - A Facial Hair Focussed Weekend

 Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera in the studio of sculptor Ralph Stackpole, San Francisco, 1931. Photograph by Peter A. Juley & Son.

This is the life-sized photograph of Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera that greets visitors to the exhibit, Frida and Diego: Passion, Politics and Painting, currently on  display at the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto.  It was my birthday this weekend and my gift to myself was the trip to see the exhibit, which features 80 works on paper and paintings by Mexico's most famous artist couple.

A controversy erupted in the media over a three-day marketing promotion that offered visitors to the gallery a discounted ticket price if they allowed themselves to be photographed wearing a Kahlo-inspired stick-on unibrow.   Initially, this had all the makings of a sexist marketing gimmick that reduces a talented artist and fiercely intelligent woman to the sum of her eyebrow(s), but when taken into context that Kahlo herself was very proud of her gender-ambiguous image, including her heavy brows, her "moustache",  and occasional dressing in men's clothing, the tempest loses some of its force.  I was honestly surprised that it warranted a debate on CBC Radio.  If it got a few more people in to see the show, all the better.  I'm sure the promotion would have been less politically charged if  visitors had been given the option of dressing in a Diego Rivera fat suit.

"The Broken Column" by Frida Kahlo, 1944

I was familiar with much of Kahlo's work and her story prior to seeing the exhibit, but not Rivera's work outside of his large murals.  I was surprised to see what a talented portrait painter he was, and that he had worked in several painting styles including cubism and impressionism.  It is a wonderful show, consisting of works from three Mexican private collections, and I was particularly happy to see two of my favourite Kahlo paintings, "The Broken Column" (above), and"Self-Portrait With Cropped Hair" were included. 

Frida with Idol, photograph by Nikolas Muray c.1940

The exhibit included some stunning colour photographs of Kahlo by Nikolas Muray, with whom she had an on-and-off ten year relationship, that showed just what an incredibly striking woman she was.  I think she was gorgeous, with her dark hair and brows, and the indigenous Mexican clothing, jewellery, and hair adornments she favored,  I know many of my fellow bloggers are also quite taken with her art, and inspired by her style.  I had done a Frida-inspired outfit post back in the summer.

I was able to take a photograph of this ofrenda, or altar, that was commissioned by the gallery from Mexican artist Carlomagno Pedro Martinez.  Altars like this one are traditionally constructed in Mexico to honour the dearly departed and to provide a place for people to leave personal offerings to the dead.  Visitors to the Kahlo/Rivera exhibit were encouraged to write messages on paper flowers that they could then leave on the altar.  I had a small figure of the Virgin of Guadalupe that I brought with me to add to the offerings.

There were also some large paper-mache figures on display near the altar that included three very large "Judas" figures, and these Frida and Diego catrinas (well-dressed skeletons).  The figures were created by a Toronto-based theatre company, Shadowlands, that incorporates masks, puppets and live music into their productions.  As a fan of the costumed skeletons that are part of the Mexican Day of the Dead celebrations,  I had to get a photo with them. I was wishing I had worn some bright colours instead of black and grey.
The exhibit continues at the Art Gallery of Ontario until January 20th, 2013.  A personal side note - the gift shop connected to this exhibit is one of the best ones I've ever seen.  They have everything a Frida Kahlo fan could ever want, including a magnetic Frida dress-up doll that has taken over the door of my fridge.

on to the Moustaches....

Saturday night, I went to the Roller Derby game at the Western Fair Agriplex.  The theme of this particular bout was "Movember Pain", in tribute to the month where men grow moustaches to raise funds and awareness for men's health, including early detection and treatment of prostate cancer.
 There were many moustaches present, on men and woman (the stick-on kind) and there were prizes given for the best "stache".  The guy in the photo above won the prize for the men, and rightly so.

Some of the women had found rather creative ways to show their support for "Movember", including this one who had her hair stylist shave a "moustache" into the back of her hair.

One of the game's officials, in her "Sad Panda with moustache" makeup

I started out the evening with a moustache (it was the "Toulouse Letrec" model, according to the package) but everytime I spoke, it came unstuck, so it ended up on my forehead, after which I was told I looked very "Vulcan".   Live long and prosper, my friends.

faux fur vest - The Sentimentalist
leather and fabric leggings - Danier Leather
Swear brand platform boots - From Mars in the 1990's

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Hang On To My Rainbow Sleeves

My blogger friends Jean and Valerie (otherwise known as The Idiosyncratic Fashionistas) sent me these cool comic strip patterned arm warmers.  They were socks in their original incarnation, but the IF's envisioned them as funky sleeves to cover my ugly black wrist guards that I have to wear at work, so  I cut the toes off the socks and voila! (they didn't run because they are a tight-knit polyester/nylon blend)  I've been wearing them more often outside of work than at work, and I like how they add some snap to a solid colour t-shirt.
Even though I love the colour, I hadn't worn this thrifted red leather skirt for a couple of years because it was originally a very unflattering below-the-knee length.  I decided to chop it off and now it's much more "me". 
t-shirt - The Gap
man-eater necklace -  Create Beautiful Beads
leather skirt - CTS Thrift store in Toronto
striped tights - Winners
shoes - From Mars

I am wearing heels!  The pain in my right foot that has been plaguing me for months seems to be here to stay, and I have been wearing flats since it started, leaving my beloved pink ankle boots, and these El Naturalista ankle straps, to languish in the back of the closet.  I decided to live dangerously and risk possible discomfort, but was pleasantly surprised when I was able to wear them for several hours before I had to change to flats again.  They have a thickly cushioned insole and chunky rubber sole, so they are about as comfortable a heel as you can get.  I've missed my "Girl Shoes".....

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The Great Escape

This is a bit of a departure from my usual posts, but when I saw this on a walk around our building at lunch time, I had to post a photo.  The building I work in is next to the Visual Arts building and you never know what kind of crazy installation created by a budding artist that you might find outside their building.  This has to be one of my favourites...
Proving that with simple materials, a sense of humour, and a little imagination you can create something that will surprise and delight your neighbours!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

It's Recycadelic!

During one of my regular visits to the Western Fair Farmers' Market, I discovered Celeste (in the photo above).  She operates a booth on the second floor in which she sells her clothing designs under the moniker "Recyadelic".  Celeste takes apart second-hand clothing and re-fashions the fabric into one-of-a-kind designs.  Sweaters become skirts, pants become jackets.   The first thing I noticed was her dress, which is one of her own creations, incorporating pieces from different fabric into a funky, mult-patterned outfit.  

On a more recent visit, Celeste was wearing this wonderful print dress, accessorized with arm warmers and a wide knit "belt", all of her own design.  She sells the belts in her booth, and as they are made from knit fabrics, they fit snugly but have some stretch .  Behind her are some of her other creations.   I love when people have fun with posing when I ask to take their photo, and it was obvious that Celeste doesn't take herself too seriously - she's a delight to chat with!

You can find Celeste, and her latest creations at her booth in the Western Fair Farmers' Market on Saturdays, from 8 am - 3 pm.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Patchwork, a Puppy, and a Very Tiny Pocketbook - A Trifecta of Cute

I found this dress on a recent visit to Mesh, a local consignment store where I occasionally sell some of my own stuff, but more frequently end up taking home someone else's.  I liked that it combines three of my favourite colours, and the different fabrics make it kind of fancy, even though the shape is very simple.  Paired with my red tights and blue shiny New York boots, it feels a bit like a grownup version of the kind of dresses I used to wear in public school, with leotards that sagged at the knees and ankles.  Now that I look at the photo, there is something rather childlike about my pose, like I'm about to pull my dress over my head and run around.  Dare I say's actually kind of....CUTE.

With a nod to blogging pal Curtise, who is always flashing her colourful petticoats, I couldn't resist showing off the frilly skirt I wore to maintain some level of modesty, as the dress turned out to be much shorter than I expected

Yes, that is a very tiny handbag dangling from my left hand.  I found it on my last trip to Talize and aside from the fact I needed a new change purse (does anyone still use change purses?), I was completely taken with the fact that it was a perfect miniature of the snap-closured pocketbooks my mom used to carry, with a chain strap, and pretty lining inside.  The cashier who rang it in for me when I purchased it could not stop saying how incredibly cute it was, as has everyone who saw me with it.

And speaking of Cute....

This is my bestest dog pal, Emmett.  He's a Havanese who belongs to one of our students, who will occasionally bring him into our office for a visit.  Emmett loves these visits because he is showered with affection, especially from me.  I have no pets and am allergic to most dog breeds, but not him, so I take advantage of the opportunity to get my fill of puppy love!

 That is one spoiled and happy pup!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Grab Your Coat and Get Your Hat....

It's easier to leave your worries on the doorstep if you're wearing a pretty vintage coat and hat.   The coat was a gift from a friend who thought I was one of the few people he knew who would appreciate it.  The hat was purchased from the David Owens booth at the Manhattan Vintage Show

The hat is from the "DEBS" collection by Lilly Dache, a french-born American milliner who was one of the most famous hat designers in her time.   I had tried on a number of hats in bolder colours and styles, and this one seemed rather drab by comparison, but when I tried it on, I knew it was a hat that I would wear frequently because of its classic and flattering shape.

The shape and details of the coat are more overtly feminine than what I'm used to wearing, and it makes me feel rather "lady-like", at least on the outside....

The label inside the coat reads "Designed by Louis Manley Toronto" (made in Canada, Yay!!)  The lining is in perfect condition, and the fur trim on the collar and cuffs is still soft and luxurious so it was obviously well-cared for.   The buttons that were used on good quality coats of past decades were often works of art in themselves, and these ones are no exception, with a circle of black sparkly stones in the centre of each button.

A number of my fellow bloggers have been posting about wearing hats lately, including Amber, of the blog Butane Anvil and Judith over at Style Crone.  Jean and Valerie, otherwise known as The Idiosyncratic Fashionistas, have been instrumental in nurturing my affection for hats and I was fortunate enough to be able to participate in their "rotating hats" project when I was in New York.  Check out this post on their blog to see four talking heads (one of them mine) in eight different hats.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

You've Got Mail!

A couple of weeks ago, I received a package in the mail from the ever-fabulous Vix, containing a book and a cool postcard.  It was very exciting as it was my first piece of mail from another blogger.  The book, titled "A Guide to Buying and Collecting Affordable Couture" was sent by the publisher in the UK to Vix, and after posting her review, she decided to pass it on in a giveaway through her blog.  As I had just been to the Manhattan Vintage Show, it seemed rather serendipitous that my name was the one that came out of the hat!

The aforementioned book, and a cool postcard that was also tucked inside the package

The book, authored by Jemi Armstrong, a well-known fashion illustrator, and Linda Arroz, a lifestyle writer, speaker and consultant, should appeal to anyone who has an interest in collecting and wearing vintage fashion.  The word "Couture" in the title made me think that it was going to only focus on high end designer wear, but the information in the book can also be applied to purchasing less valuable vintage. 

Practical advice on how to identify whether a piece is truly quality vintage, how to care for the treasures you find, and how to find the style and size that will fit you, is presented in a clear, no-frills writing style that makes it quick and easy to read. 

The inclusion of Jemi Armstrong's stylish and sassy illustrations, in addition to the photos of couture design pieces, are welcome eye candy to accompany the text.

My favourite part of the book was the chapter that featured interviews with a number of collectors of Couture vintage.   It's fun to read about the fabulous finds of other vintage devotees, and how they incorporate their high end designer purchases with the basic pieces in their wardrobe.  The book concludes with a guide to the best places to shop for quality vintage clothing in LA, New York, Paris, Berlin, Milan, London and Tokyo.  It also acknowledges that you don't have to travel to these major cities to find some squee-worthy scores.  One of the collectors tells about finding an Hermes scarf priced at $1 in a charity shop near Austin, TX, and another found a Schiaparelli hat for $3 at a garage sale.

A Guide to Buying and Collecting Affordable Couture, by Jemi Armstrong and Linda Arroz, 208 pages, is published by Vivays Publishing, 2012 and is available at Amazon

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Graphic Underground: London Ontario's Punk Rock History in Posters

A couple of weeks ago, when I was in the midst of The Cold From Hell, I dragged my phlegm-filled carcass out of bed for an hour to attend the opening of the exhibit Graphic Underground: London 1977 - 1990.  The exhibit, curated by artist and musician Brian Lambert and presented by the McIntosh Gallery (but on view at the Forest City Gallery), consists of posters and zines created by artists who were inspired and shaped by the punk rock music scene in London during that time period.  The 300 band-gig posters in the show brought back memories of nights  I spent at Call the Office dancing to music by bands like Suffer Machine, Sheep Look Up, Conning Tower, Luddites, Lifeless Currents,  and The Crawlin' Kingsnakes.  I didn't start to take in the downtown music scene until around 1984, so I missed the first wave of London punk bands like the Zellots, NFG, and the Enemas, and as I was more into funk than punk, London legends 63 Monroe and The Black Donnellys were not on my radar until much later.  I do remember the incredible creativity that went into the making of the posters advertising gigs, and occasionally I would swipe the posters off the telephone poles (after the gig was over, of course!) just for the artwork.  As evidenced by this exhibit, it was obvious I wasn't the only person who did that....

The wall of band-gig posters, which inspired many of the people at the opening to reminisce about about specific band performances and their favourite poster art (and artists)

In addition to posters, the exhibit also featured some original paste-ups like this one for The Black Donnellys

An original paste-up advertising a show featuring the Zellots, an early London punk band

I think a number of people who attended the opening appreciated the sentiment on this woman's t-shirt.

A number of the kids whose parents were artists and musicians formed their own bands back in the 1980's, and some of them also produced some amazing artwork in the form of Zines like Mind Theatre, the brainchild of artist Charles Vincent (known as Chaz back in the day), in the photo above. 

Above is a page from an issue of Mind Theatre, featuring a comic strip drawn by Vincent in 1984

Vincent's work also appeared on posters like the one above.  He got the small symbol that appears at the bottom of the poster tattooed on his arm during the same time period that he created the poster.

Uranus, a local band led by Frank Risdale, played songs that were appreciated as much for their humour as their catchy melodies, and their irreverent attitude carried over to the posters for their gigs

James Reaney Jr., writer for the London Free Press, and fervent supporter of local arts and music

The show opening also included the London launch of artist Jamie Q's latest book, titled "The Possibilities are Endless".  Some of Jamie's art can be seen on the wall behind her.

The show also featured paintings by John Elvis Passion--a character well-known to all of us who worked in music stores in the downtown core during the 80's.  John was the biggest Elvis Presley fan I have ever met and his obsession earned him his name.  He refused to believe that "The King" had died, and every week he would make the rounds of the downtown record stores and ask, "anything new by the king this week?", and we would always respond with, "He's dead, John".  He may have been a bit off his rocker, but he was also a true folk artist and it became a badge of honour to acquire one of his Elvis paintings (I am the proud owner of one!).

The next generation surveys the relics of London's musical past

Dave O'Halloran (above) and his wife Reena founded What Wave,  magazine that celebrated rock and roll, particularly Garage bands.  Dave Clarke, die-hard Garage band fan and local record store legend, occasionally provided the cover art, and often the magazine included a cassette recording featuring some of the bands written about in that particular issue. 

Yours truly, who wouldn't think of letting the fact that she was sick keep her from dressing for the occasion

For more information, and to see more band-gig posters, visit the website for the show.  Graphic Underground: London 1977 - 1990 continues at the Forest City Gallery until December 15th

Saturday, November 3, 2012

I Heart NY

I was feeling that I needed to wear some red today.  It's a powerful, emotional colour - the colour of hearts, and blood, and the apple that is a symbol of New York city,  a place that has been near and dear to my heart since I first travelled there when I was 14.  Of all the large cities I've visited, it is the one where I have felt most at home.

While watching the scenes of the damage from Hurricane Sandy to Manhattan and the surrounding boroughs on the news,  I couldn't believe that a mere two weeks prior to the storm, I had been having a wonderful time in New York with my friends.  Fortunately, none of them (as far as I've heard) were injured or trapped by the storm, but at least 100 people lost their lives, homes and businesses were destroyed, and five days later, especially in the outlying boroughs, many are still without power, people's homes are flooded, lineups for gas stretch for miles, and public transit is minimal.  My beloved Chelsea was hit hard, and it will likely be months before gallery owners calculate the value of the art that was destroyed or damaged. 

Personally, I was glad to see that the New York Marathon had been cancelled, although I realize the decision was not made lightly, and there will be significant costs to the cancellation.  We know New York, and New Yorkers, are tough and resilient - we remember the aftermath of 9/11, so they don't need to prove anything to the rest of the world by holding the marathon in the wake of a devastating storm.  Direct those resources to the people that need them the most right now.   And all the runners, wondering what they were going to do when they couldn't do the marathon?  How about lending a hand with the cleanup?  

New York,  my heart is with you.

leather pants - The Sentimentalist
sweater - Value Village
felt flower pin - The Fairies Pajamas
shoes - by Naot from Walking on a Cloud
hat - From Mars