Saturday, March 29, 2014

"Here Come Da Judge"*

*with thanks to Dewey "Pigmeat" Markham and Sammy Davis Jr.

I had the pleasure of serving as one of the judges for the Fanshawe College Fashion Merchandising Program's Wearable Art Fashion Show on March 27th.  I had attended the show last year and was very impressed with the creativity shown by the first year Merchandising students who create the garments for the show using recyclable materials, so when I was asked if I could step in at the last minute as a "replacement judge" I readily agreed.   The theme of this year's show, titled "Weightless" was Outer Space.  I expected to see a lot of silver and other reflective surfaces, and I was hoping for some weird alien/planets/sci-fi inspired outfits.  There was a lot of the first, but not so much of the second.

The Judges Table:  (from left) Jennifer Lofthouse, a fashion blogger and graduate of the Fashion Merchandising program, Carol Toop, a retired long-time instructor in the Fashion Design Program at Fanshawe College, and yours truly.  It was my first time acting as a judge at a fashion show where you have very little time to examine the clothing and assign a score before the next outfit is already on the runway.  Fortunately, Carol was a veteran at this and providing some helpful hints.   Designs were scored on three criteria:  overall look/presentation, creativity, and workmanship/fabrication.  As my judging duties took priority over blogging, I knew I wouldn't be able to take many photos during the show but I did manage to get a few of some of my favourite outfits.

This was the first outfit that really grabbed me, designed by Claire Conway and Sarah Deme.  While other students had incorporated bubble wrap into their designs, this was the first one that had an other-worldly feel to it, and even though the shape wasn't particularly flattering to the model, it felt more like "Wearable Art" than some of the other designs.  We awarded this one first prize.

I liked the idea of this dress, designed by Jennifer Noun and Daniela Navas.  I loved the giant metal neckpiece; it was one of the most interesting accessories in the show.

For the last several years, the proceeds from The Wearable Art Fashion Show have supported Itsy, an organization that assists parents of premature babies in the NICU at Children's Hospital in London.  The funds help with the costs of accommodation, gas, food, baby supplies, etc. incurred by parents of the premature babies until they can bring their little one home.  Several of the former "preemies" whose parents have been helped by Itsy take a turn on the runway during the show.  I wasn't sure if they were supposed to be planets or pizzas, but they were adorable nonetheless.

Images of life in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit were projected on the screen at the rear of the stage while the little ones walked the runway, assisted by Grace Jenken. Some of them, like this little guy, were less impressed by the experience than others.

 The mix of materials used in this dress, including soft drink can pull tabs and melted and painted pieces of plastic water bottles, was very creative.  The dress was designed by Athena Rainville and Kelly Ranata.

More silver, this time paired with pink tissue flowers in a design by Laura Gordon and Kelsey McGraw.

The screen on the back wall was put to good use as the projections of space-related images added  visual atmosphere to the show.  I thought this outfit, designed by Sydnie Blaskievich and Samantha Distefano, was very pretty but seemed more "fairy princess" than "outer space".  This was also an example of a good outfit with the wrong shoes.   The black heeled ankle boots worn by the model did nothing to enhance the dress.  All the models wore shoes with very high heels and in most cases this detracted from, rather than added to, the overall presentation.  Considering the theme, I thought combat boots, colourful converse, knee high boots with some "space" themed additions like foil or plastic shields, or even a colourful pair of heels, would have been much more effective.

Another outfit using reflective materials, designed by Alexandra Neely and Kathryn Parkes

A few of the designers added headpieces which contributed to a more complete overall look, as opposed to just "a dress".

We selected this outfit, designed by Erica Evora and Tianna Brown as one of the three prize winners

The structure and fit of this pop can tab dress designed by Gabrielle Gitman and Lorelei Newton was amazing, and earned them third prize.  The headpiece added a cool space warrior vibe.

The three winning designs took a last turn on the runway

There was some sparkle off the runway too.

On my way out of the show I ran into Amber, of Jackpot Vintage (r), and her sister, each rocking their own distinct styles.  Amber found her funky poodle jacket at a Vintage show in Toronto last weekend.

Thanks very much to Linda Jenken of the Fashion Merchandising Program for the opportunity to be a judge for the show.  The students did a very professional job of organizing and presenting the show, and I enjoyed it tremendously.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Read My Lips

About a month ago I was contacted by a representative from to see if I was interested in doing a product review.  I was familiar with the company, and had seen their products reviewed by other bloggers.  eShakti offers women's dresses, skirts, tops, and jackets that can be customized both in size and style.  The shape of necklines can be changed, sleeves shortened or removed, and skirt lengths raised or lowered.  After browsing the selections that were set aside for bloggers, I was concerned I wouldn't find anything that suited my personal style.  I prefer separates over dresses, and most of the items set aside for bloggers to review were dresses.....very feminine and pretty cotton dresses, in retro-inspired shapes like the sheath, and snug-fitting bodice with a full skirt.  Then I saw this skirt, and I knew I'd found my match.

After selecting the item I wanted to review, I entered my measurements into a form on the website, including waist, hips, and height.  The skirt has a high waist with a side zip, and a removable fabric belt, and to my delight, it fit perfectly.  You can read about their customer service and custom sizing and styling here.

Now y'all know how I love black and red together, and this full circle skirt with its 50's shape and lip-print overlay makes a fun addition to my wardrobe.   Worn with a sleeveless top or an embellished jacket, sheer stockings and heels, it would make a great "fancy party" outfit, but I chose to make it casual, with a cardigan sweater, plaid tights, and clunky boots.  I decided to wear my "Madge" glasses in keeping with the retro feel of the skirt.

The underskirt is a cotton/poly blend, and in the description of the skirt on the website, the sheer overlay was said to be made of tulle.  In my experience, tulle has more stiffness to it than the sheer nylon fabric the overlay is actually made of.  The care instructions state that the skirt can be washed by machine, but I would be concerned about whether the nylon overlay would survive.  

 I added my trusty red crinoline underneath to add the required floofiness.

All that fabric and those ruby red lips inspired me to blow a few kisses...

and of course, I had to do a twirl or two

The skirt has lovely deep pockets, which is always a plus for any item of clothing!   My red carved bakelite bangle matches the red of my belt and the lip-print perfectly.
lip-print skirt - courtesy of eShakti
vintage cashmere sweater - Mesh Consignment boutique
belt - thrifted
plaid tights and boots - retail
arm party - my favourite silver bracelets and bakelite bangle from Phantastica

Overall, my experience with eShakti was a positive one.  The ordering and size customization was very straightforward and the shipping efficient.  Other than some disappointment about the fabric of the embroidered overlay, I was very happy with the look and the fit of my skirt, and I received dozens of compliments  over the course of the day, and when I wore it to the Wearable Technology and Made Clothing Show at Museum London that night.  If you have difficulty finding dresses that fit all of your body, instead of just your bust, waist, or hips, eShakti could be the solution.  Enter the code 'fcfes' in the "promotional code box"to get 10% off your purchase until April 18th.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Celebrating Maker Culture at Museum London

On Thursday, March 20th, Museum London  teamed up with DHMakerBus for The MAKE London Wearable Technology and Made Clothing Fashion Show.  The purpose of the show was to "showcase fashions that are created from unconventional or upcycled materials, and those that involve technology and wearable computing."  The show included booths with items for sale, a bar, DJ and three craft-making stations where participants could get creative with items such as coffee cup lids and Fringe Festival t-shirts.

The first person I saw when I arrived at the event was Linda, who I run into at many arts and culture  events and she is always wearing something wonderful.  This particular night she was wearing a quilted circle skirt she had purchased in Kensington Market, accessorized by a very cool "clock purse".  I didn't get a chance to ask her where she found the purse.

The man on the left is Ryan Consell, who made the masks at his booth, some of which were in the fashion show.  You can see more of his work on his Etsy shop .

Two of the masks created by Ryan Consell that appeared the fashion show

Kimberley Martin and Beth Compton, co-founders of the MakerBus, make jewellery from found materials, including LEGO pieces.  I love the cufflinks, but as I don't have the appropriate shirts to wear them with, I purchased a necklace made from LEGO pieces.

Kim looked adorable in the balloon dress she made for the event

Usually at events like this, the majority of the guests opt for wearing black, but I was happy to see there were some bright splashes of colour amongst the guests.

The woman in the photo above was wearing one of the coolest accessories of the night.  Her boyfriend purchased the "dragon-scale" fingerless glove from a seller on Etsy for her.  I didn't know people were making such things, but you can find them in elbow length, and many different colours.

Toronto artist Paula John's Celluloid Dress was one of the most interesting displays at the event.  The dress combines the two technologies that John uses in her art practice - sewing and film making.  The dress, which is in the style of a 1950's cocktail dress, is made of approximately 250 feet of 16mm celluloid film and nylon mesh.  Battery pack operated LEDS are sewn into the dress's underskirt to light up sections of film.  In the display, John's film, "Becoming Marilyn" (of which the dress is constructed)  follows a large loop through the projector,  across the ceiling to feed down into the sewing machine, and then back across to the projector.  The film, which depicts the artist making herself up to look like Marilyn Monroe,  is projected onto a white wall positioned behind the sewing machine.

Agnes Niewiadomski makes custom order cakes, costumes that she wears to Anime North in Toronto, and makes props, costumes and designs sets for her local community theatre in Ancaster.  Little wonder her website is titled agnesmakes.  For the MakerBus event she brought her Cupcake Head costume.  She also made the cracked eggs headpiece worn by another model in the show (lower right photo).

One of the actresses from Evil Dead: The Musical, which will be presented at the McManus Theatre from April 1 - 12th, participated in the Fashion show wearing a costume piece from the show.  There was a table at the event with some of the other props from the show on display.

One of the most elaborate costumes was created and worn by Laura Briscoe, a teacher at Oakridge Secondary School.   Her submission was titled "Miss Communication".  I spoke with her after the show and asked how long it took to put together the costume.  "It took hours and hours.  The hardest part was prying the keys off the keyboards and then fusing them together with a blowtorch".

One of Laura Briscoe's students at Oakridge, Jamie Smith (far left in left hand photo above) submitted two outfits for the show, which were worn by fellow students.  On the right is a detail shot of the train on the student in the center, which is made of flower shapes cut from magazine pages.

Randi Aiken created, and modelled, the walking chair, which was constructed so that when she sat down on a piece of the wood frame in the back, the upholstered pieces came together to form a completed chair.

 LED sculptures created by Kitchener LED tech installation artist Bernie Rohde and K La Luna, modelled by La Luna (left) and friend.

Another artist using LED lights as a medium was Leslie Birch from Philadelphia.  Her Bladerunner-inspired FLORAbrella uses 144 LED lights and a colour sensor which enables the umbrella to create light patterns to match the user's clothing.  In the photo above left, Birch walks with the model carrying her FLORAbrella in the fashion show, and in the lower right photo, is illuminated by her creation.

Another creative use of LED lighting was demonstrated by Paul Graham, whose kilt was lit from below with LED lighting.  He offered to create  customized LED lighting I could attach to the crinoline I was wearing, and I was tempted to take him up on his offer; it would give a new meaning to the the word "flashing".

After the fashion show I wandered over to the "Maker" area where tables were set up and people were letting their inner crafter loose.  Alison, who works with the London Fringe Festival, modelled one of the bags that were being made from recycled Fringe Festival T-shirts.

It was an excellent night out - was able to see interesting things that people made, talk to some of the people who made them (and discovered that Leslie Birch and I share a love of the 1980's clothing shapes and colours), and was home by 10 pm.  That's my idea of good time!

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Cheap and Cheerful

Sometimes, you've just got to be your own flower garden, especially when there is little chance that any real ones will be blooming any time soon.  I'm envious of my friends over in the UK, who have green grass AND daffodils!

I had seen this 1980's blouse at The Sentimentalist a couple of months ago and tried it on, but it wasn't doing anything for me at the time, as much as I loved the colours.   Then I saw it on the sale rack, marked down to $5, and I decided to try it again.  This time, it clicked - maybe it was what I was wearing on the bottom when I tried it on that changed my mind.  Anyway, it's mine now, in all it's floral patterned, shoulder-padded glory.

Pretty simple outfit, but the blouse got lots of compliments.  And, I tallied up what I spent on the entire outfit and it was just under $35 for the blouse, pants and boots.  Cheap, and cheerful!
Blouse - The Sentimentalist
jeans - Mexx
The frequently seen blue boots - thrifted

And speaking of being your own garden....

Just look at those marvelous patterns and colours, the jewellery (especially the crazy metal hand adornment), and the hair bun.  For some serious male eye-candy, check out:  Fuck Yeah, Men With Buns

Sunday, March 16, 2014

It's The Little Things

The birds have been noisier in the mornings, which have been dark since our switch to Daylight Savings Time last weekend.  However, that also means that it also stays light outside until at least 7 pm, which means I get to experience some daylight after I leave work.  I've been making a point of doing at least one thing each week to help me feel more positive and engaged with the world.

I had an appointment to get my hair coloured this week - a fresh 'do always makes me feel better.  
Every time I see Melanie at Salon Cyan, she is wearing a great outfit and the day of my appointment was no exception.  She was all "glam" in black and gold metal and I made sure I got a photo of the two of us after she was done with my hair.

Melanie has a deft hand at making my long chunk of hair do all sorts of fun things, including this cool swirl, which lasted for about three days with only minimal upkeep.

Saturday means a trip to the Western Fair Farmers and Artisans Market to get coffee, and possibly a dog biscuit for Fred, jalepeno cheddar filler-free sausages from the Hungary Butcher, or maybe a mushroom and swiss cheese Scone from the London Edible Arts.  

For the past several weeks, the trip has also included a visit with the delightful Anwen, in the photo above.  She makes the adorable dolls, hats, mittens and cowls that she sells under the name Humble Home.  Anwen, who lives up in my old stomping ground near Wingham, Ontario, is usually accompanied to the market by her husband and three daughters, who amuse themselves while she looks after her booth.  Soon she will have a new baby to occupy her so she won't be at the market after the end of March.  I encourage you to stop by and take a look at the wonderful, colourful, fantastical things she makes.  You can also see them on her etsy site.  After purchasing a couple of things from her,  I had asked if she could make me a couple of custom things, one being a doll inspired by the character of Myrtle from American Horror Story to whom I devoted a post here.

The result, shown above, is hanging on my wall above my desk.  She is wearing a super cool sparkly purple jumpsuit under her skirt, blouse and vest. 

 The sight and smell of all that food at the market left us ready for lunch...

I had heard good reports about a new Taco restaurant that opened downtown on Talbot Street, so I suggested to Heather that we give it our own taste test on Saturday.  Rock Au Taco is the latest brainchild of brothers Justin and Gregg Wolfe, owners of the Early Bird Diner, which is next door to Rock Au Taco.  The menu features only tacos, and the tacos they serve are as far from the Taco Bell version of tacos as can possibly be imagined.  The restaurant offers counter service (cash only), or you can order from the Taco menu while sitting next door at the Early Bird.  If you're thirsty, there are a number of tequila and whisky-based cocktails available to accompany the tacos.

We decided to sit by the Tiki Bar at the Early Bird so we could pay by debit.  The first fish tacos I ever had were from a little food stand at the San Diego Zoo, of all places, and they were delicious.  I've been searching for a repeat fish taco experience since that time, with limited success.  The Pescado (fish) tacos at Rock Au Taco come pretty close, with crispy fish, slaw, radish, guacamole and a creamy sauce.  Other taco offerings include Cachete (beef cheek), Lengua (beef tongue), Panceta de Cerdo (pork belly), Papa (potato), and Rock Au Taco (bean).  I also tried the pork belly, which came with a mango and corn chutney and Heather tried the beef cheek.  Both were judged to be delicious.  The tacos are priced at $3 - $3.50 each and we found that three made for a satisfying light lunch.   The verdict?  Two thumbs up from the Forest City Fashionista and Derby Girl Torquemada.

Patiently waiting for my tacos in my David Bowie t-shirt and funky collar that Anwen at Humble Home had made for me this week. 

Some of the Tiki-themed kitsch on the shelf next to our table

Derby Girl Vs. Piranha - perhaps this may be the inspiration for a new movie on the Space (SyFy) Channel.  After all, if Sharknado can be a hit....

We parted company to do our respective errands, and before I knew it, it was Saturday night, which doesn't have the same thrill it did when I was in my 20's and 30's.  Now it's an excuse to settle in and watch movies, and wonder how I got to be so old and boring.... 

Turner Classic Movies was having a 1970's pre-plastic surgery Goldie Hawn film fest, and I indulged in a double bill of The Sugarland Express (Steven Spielberg's directing debut), which I had never seen, and Butterflies are Free, which I remember being quite taken with as a teenager.  Actually, I was probably more taken with star Edward Albert than the movie.  I almost got sucked into watching Shampoo, starring Warren Beatty as the sexy hairdresser George ("George?" Yeah, George is great...") but the fluffy-haired, tight-jeans-wearing Beatty never did much for me, and it was waaaay past my bedtime.

In the end, it's the little things that make life more than just a succession of days, make the hours spent at a job that leaves you more tired than inspired worth the effort, and can turn an otherwise dull day into an adventure.  A few more hours of daylight, lunch with a good friend, a new accessory or a fun hair colour, and a movie that brings back memories of a naive, teen-aged self - these are things to be experienced, enjoyed, and not taken for granted.

What are the little things that you enjoyed this weekend?