Friday, October 31, 2014

New York Stories - Dance And Fashion Make Fine Bedfellows

One of the things I was looking forward to seeing in New York was the current exhibit at the Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology, titled "Dance and Fashion".  The exhibit explores the connection between costumes worn in performance dance, and fashion designs, and the inspiration that flows between the two.  In conjunction with the exhibit, the museum held a two day symposium that featured speakers from the dance and fashion world.   If you require proof there are lots of fun and inexpensive things to do in New York, entrance to the symposium was free - you just had to register ahead of time.  I had limited time so was only able to attend the Thursday morning session with the delightful Debra Rapoport.

Yours truly and Debra, who was wearing another one of her amazing hats made from Viva paper towels.   Three young women sitting behind us asked to take our photo so we got them to take one one with my camera as well.
After an introduction by the museum's director, Dr. Valerie Steele, dancer Wendy Whelan and fashion designer Narciso Rodriguez took the stage.  Whelan had recently retired from The New York City Ballet after 30 years with the company.  Rodriguez has designed costumes for the New York City Ballet, and discussed the challenges faced in designing clothing to be worn by people who will be leaping, turning, and otherwise contorting their limbs into seemingly impossible positions.  There was time for questions afterwards, and for some unknown reason, many people were quite interested to know if any serious costume malfunctions had happened on stage.

Marc Happel, director of costumes at the New York City Ballet, spoke about the various designers who have worked with the company including award-winning costume designer, Barbara Karinska.  Karinska designed the costume worn by the female dancer in the photo on the screen.

The costume above was designed by Sarah Burton, currently the Creative Director of the brand Alexander McQueen.

After the morning session, Debra and I had lunch with the three lovely young women who were sitting behind us during the session.  From left to right:  Michelle, Nina and Caroline.  Michelle and Caroline are in their first year of a two year master's program at Parsons, and Nina was visiting from England.  They were wonderful lunch companions and amazingly enough, I ran into Michelle and Caroline later in the weekend. 

It was great to see Debra again, and marvel at the creativity she incorporates into every outfit; she made all of her accessories, including a funky necklace made from a metal cheese grater.

I had yet to see the actual exhibit, so when Debra went back to the symposium, I headed to the Museum.  The exhibit, organized by Dr. Valerie Steele, features close to 100 dance costumes (some created by fashion designers), and fashion designs inspired by dance costumes,  In many cases it is difficult to tell which is which.  Traditionally, dance costumes were designed by the dancers themselves, by artists such as Leon Bakst and Christian Berard, who were hired by The Ballet Russes to design for a specific ballet, or by costume designers like Barbara Karinska.   When a fashion designer takes on the job of creating costumes for ballet or modern dance they must remember they are designing for an athlete, and allow for freedom of movement, and any embellishment must be placed so as not to interfere with any lifts by a partner.  Some of the successful collaborations between designer and dance company have been Jean Paul Gaultier's costumes for dance performances choreographed by Regine Chopinot in the 80's and 90's, and Halston's costumes for Martha Graham.

The exhibit is arranged in four sections, with the oldest ballet costumes grouped together.  Above left is a costume designed for George Balanchine's "Cotillon" based on a 1932 Christian Berard design.  The costume is paired with a Balenciaga dress with a skirt in a shape and fabric that echoes that of the the ballet costume.  Christian Dior's "New Look" silhouette was inspired by the longer ballet skirts of that time period.

There was a display devoted to costumes on loan from the Martha Graham Dance Company, some of which were designed and worn by Graham herself, others a result of a collaboration between Graham and designers such as Calvin Klein, Halston and Donna Karan.  The costume on the left was designed by Halston for a dance titled "Tangled Nights".

Some dancers were very stylish dressers off the stage.  The dress in the photo above belonged to ballerina Margot Fonteyn, and was designed by Hardy Ames.

Ballet dancers' toe shoes have inspired a number of contemporary shoe designers; the pink and black shoes above were part of Rei Kawakubo's Biker Ballerina Collection from 2005.

And then there are pointe shoes taken to the extreme - designed by Noritaka Tatehana for Lady Gaga

The tutu above was one of my favourite pieces in the exhibit, for the design and the colours.  It was designed by Valentino for the New York City Ballet in 2012.

The dresses above were inspired by the ruffled dresses worn by Spanish Flamenco dancers.  The one on the left was designed by the recently departed Oscar de la Renta, and the one on the right, by Ralph Lauren.

A simple pale blue evening dress by Elsa Schiaparelli from the 1930's reveals a multi-layered and multi-coloured underskirt that was also inspired by the dresses worn by Spanish flamencas.

Men's dance costumes were also represented in the exhibit.  Left to right:  Horsehair and organza skirt by Ralph Rucci, Stella McCartney's punk-inspired tattoo costume with spiked headpiece for Ocean's Kingdom (a ballet set to music by McCartney's father, Paul), bodysuit by Jean Paul Gaultier for "Facade, un divertissment", and a sheer costume with embroidery by Ricardo Tisci for Opera National de Paris.

A costume from the New York City Ballet's 2013 production of Benjamin Millepied's Neverwhere, designed by Iris Van Herpen, is composed of hundreds of pieces of plastic.  The dress, and matching boot/shoes, were featured in the poster for the exhibit (see first photo in this post) and it was very cool to see it up close.  It would have been interesting to see this dress worn on stage, as I would imagine it would be noisy.  The dress does appear in a series of short (silent )videos of dance performances that is part of the exhibit.

One of the introductions to the exhibit is photographer David Michalek's hypnotic, slow-motion video of wife Wendy Whelan, which was created for a Dries Van Noten retrospective. I stood in front of the screen for quite a while, mesmerized by the image of Ms. Whelan's slow spiral, dress billowing around her.  As much as it was a special treat to see the details of the costumes, which would not be visible to a member of the audience from the stage, some of them cried out to be in motion and lost some of their magic when displayed on a mannequin.  Still, the exhibit is a visual feast that should not be missed.

Dance and Fashion continues at the Museum at FIT until January 3rd, 2015

Monday, October 27, 2014

Partying With the Renegades

I just returned yesterday from a whirlwind four days in New York City so until I get my bearings, and upload and edit the pile of photos from my trip, I offer some photos from the Grand Opening party at Renegade that I attended last weekend.  You may recall a previous post I wrote about the store for plus size women that opened in August here in London.  Owner Christine Gionet wanted to have a party to celebrate her new business venture, which has been doing quite well, and on October 18, she threw a shindig that included a fashion show, drinks, snacks, a dashing doorman, and a comedienne.

As soon as I arrived I spotted former London City Councillor Judy Bryant (R), and Tanya Park, who is running for Councillor in Bryant's ward.  Park was one of a group of women who were modelling clothing from the store throughout the evening.

These two women looked party-ready in their red/black/white outfits.  The woman on the right purchased her dress at Renegade.

Arica, above, plays Roller Derby, and is a huge Michael Jackson fan.  In 2003, she was able to get Jackson to autograph her chest and then she had the signature tattooed on her skin.

This woman made the poncho she was wearing, and it looked amazing with her beautiful white hair

It was a lively group of women who knew how to have a good time, including the woman above, who made the bite-sized cupcakes she's showing off, for the event.

It was obvious that the models really enjoyed wearing the clothes; these two were more than willing to strike a pose for the camera.

Store owner Christine Gionet (in red) poses with some of the models

 Writer Vanessa Brown was looking fabulous in a black and white print dress

This woman said she felt amazing in this Renegade dress.  It was great to see larger-sized, curvy women modelling pretty dresses in bright colours, and the big smiles and sassy attitude showed they felt attractive and sexy in what they were wearing.   And really, isn't that what every woman wants?

The marvelous models for the evening

comedienne Carrie Anne Stephenson provided some laughs later in the evening

What I wore - my favourite zebra-ish print dress from H & M topped with a vintage suede and leather blazer from Jackpot Vintage

My New York stories will commence later this week, but in the meantime, you can see some photos from my trip on The Idiosyncratic Fashionistas blog.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

If We Could Talk To The Animals, Just Imagine It

 *Warning - in addition to photos of cute furry critters, this post also has photos of a boa constrictor, so if you're snake-phobic, skip to the dogs and cats at the end

This weekend was the London Pet Show, which included the Purina National Dog Show, and the PAWSitive PAWS Cat show.  My heart turns to mush over most animals, so even though the results of my recent allergy tests confirmed that I am allergic to pretty much anything with fur, I decided to load up on antihistamines, pack my inhaler and camera and head to the show.  Heather, a pet owner and animal softy, came too, and we were psyched to pet all the things!

Our first stop was the London Humane Society cat adoption area - there were probably close to 25 cats in cages looking for homes, and while the show is a good venue to attract people who want to adopt a pet, it was sad to see all the beautiful cats that need a home.  I'm sure the Humane Society deliberately chooses the most calm, socialized cats to bring to the show, as they were all very chill - either sleeping, or happy to be taken out of their cage and snuggled by a potential new owner like the one in the photo above.   I like cats very much, and have had a few in my adult life, but I am very allergic to them.  Heather figured that if she could resist the uber-cute polydactyl kitten from the Farmer's Market, she could resist anything.

People were not allowed to bring their pets to the show, but many people who were showing their dogs were taking them for walks through the venue, which meant opportunities to get a bit of puppy love.  This little bull terrier was teething so he was more interested in finding something to chew on than being petted.  I loved his white racing stripe.

The Ultimutts Stunt Dog Dog Show had several performances scheduled over the weekend and we managed to walk by just as one of them was starting.    Sheldon (top and left), a lab/sheltie cross demonstrated his stellar basketball and barrel-rolling skills while Sophia and Bella wait their turn.

Ultimutts also featured a stunt cat, a gorgeous Bengal.  As we all know, cats are NOT fond of doing tricks on command, even for treats, and this one was no exception.  It did walk all around the railing that enclosed the performance area and honestly, it looked so pretty, it really didn't need to do anything else.

There were critters with scales and shells too.  Little Ray's Reptile Zoo was there with some snakes, lizards, and a turtle, and there was another booth that sold reptile tanks and other enclosures that had some very interesting creatures you could interact with..... 

This little guy wasn't getting much attention and was just crawling around his fenced-in area until Heather and I showed up.  He came right over to the bars of the enclosure and tried to get our fingers as we stroked his scale-covered front legs.  I have no idea what kind of tortoise he was (I neglected to ask), but he was obviously quite social.

I don't know about you, but I can't imagine I would be as comfortable holding Clifford, a male Red Tegu lizard, as his handler is.   She's holding him like you or I would hold a baby, or a cat.  He may have a lovely personality, and he was certainly patient with the kids who were petting him after I took this photo, but he has got a face (and the rest of him, for that matter) that only a mother could love.

I was very excited to be able to hold Seth, the 50 lb., 10 foot boa constrictor.  While I would not want to unexpectedly find a snake in my house (or outside it either), in controlled circumstances I find them fascinating and quite beautiful.  Seth is the largest boa constrictor I've ever handled, and you can feel every one of those 50 pounds across your shoulders.  He is 18 years old, and has a very calm temperament (no doubt because he is well-fed).  Of course, someone in group of people who had gathered to watch had to ask what he eats and I had to plug my ears so as not to hear the answer (rats, sigh).

That is the face of a happy woman.  Perhaps I was a snake-charmer in a former life?  It's an added bonus when the snake you're holding coordinates with your outfit.

5 points to anyone who can guess correctly what this is.  Hint:  It's not a prickly tribble

After the snake, this little guy was a bit of an anti-climax, but I had always wanted to see a hedgehog up close.  He was a little freaked out by all the noise and smells so he spent most of the time curled up in a ball on his owner's lap.  That nose!!

This little doll, a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, is named Audrey.  She was part of the "Breeders' Row" where you could learn about different breeds of dogs.  If I was going to get a dog, my first choice would be to rescue one from a shelter.  The downside of that is you don't know what you're getting, and when allegies are a major consideration, that can be a deciding factor.   I fell in love with a Barbet, a medium-sized breed I had never heard of, that has a woolly coat that doesn't shed, making it a good choice for people with allergies.  The female Barbet at the show was very friendly and loved being snuggled.  

The Purina National, an annual dog show that takes place in partnership with Canadian kennels,  offered the opportunity for some entertaining photos behind the scenes of dogs being washed, dried and fluffed before taking their turn in the ring....


Dry (the dog seemed to really be enjoying this)

...and Fluff.  I would hang my head too if I was forced to wear a plastic Babushka

in the Ring

There were plenty of fancy cats to be ogled at the PAWSitive PAWS Cat Show, also happening over the weekend.   My favourites were the Rag Dolls, with their distinctive blue eyes and laid-back temperament.   Unfortunately, they are also very expensive, and if I was going to adopt a cat, there are all kinds of cute ones waiting to be rescued at the Humane Society.

This Devon Rex was all worn out from his turn on the catwalk

Toe Beans!

The show was loads of fun, and the Reactine did its job (although I was very sleepy by the time we left the show).   I miss my little rat, so it was very therapeutic to snuggle some critters. 

Tuesday, October 14, 2014


“But then fall comes, kicking summer out on its treacherous ass as it always does one day sometime after the midpoint of September, it stays awhile like an old friend that you have missed. It settles in the way an old friend will settle into your favorite chair and take out his pipe and light it and then fill the afternoon with stories of places he has been and things he has done since last he saw you.”
Stephen King, 'Salem's Lot 

"Autumn is a scene of blazing red that brings down leaves upon your head"
(line from a poem written by me in grade school)

I've always liked fall -  cooler temperatures allow for layering of a jacket and scarf, and an open window at night; the red/orange/yellow leaves that litter the sidewalk and beckon you to shuffle your feet through them like you did when you were a child; flannel sheets on the bed and a stew or chili in the crock pot.   October is also one of my favourite months because of my annual trip to New York to visit friends, check out the amazing eye candy at the Manhattan Vintage Clothing Show and Sale, and fill my soul with creative energy and inspiration.   To keep me going in the meantime,  I am finding small things to enjoy about Autumn here at home.

I've been able to put together "outfits" again, like this one, that includes layers and "bastard massive" (thank you Vix for this useful descriptor) jewellery.  That's Sam and Ralph guarding my front door behind me.
knit dress - thrifted
leopard leggings - Forever 21 
(sadly, it's one of the few places you can find inexpensive cotton leggings )
hand-beaded necklace purchased from my friend Debra in New York
leopard headpiece purchased from the Style Crone

This weekend was our Thanksgiving, and what better time to get out the Halloween decorations.  Most years I don't bother, but I stumbled across a goldmine of spookiness at a local Dollar store last week, and my porch is now festooned with giant sparkly skulls, and there's a little tombstone in my flower bed.

The End of Summer Roundup of Photos that Didn't Get Their Own Blog Post...

There's nothing like a sign that says "Free Kittens" to set a cat lover's heart racing.  A couple of weeks ago Heather and I arrived at Western Fair Farmers' and Artisans' Market for our regular Saturday morning browse to find, to our delight (and dismay), a carrier full of tabby kittens free for the taking.  And these were not any ordinary tabby kittens - they were polydactyl kittens (extra toes!) .  Heather scooped up the one in the photo above when I pointed out that she had 6 toes on all four feet, which is very rare.  Her feet were positively gigantic, and she was a snuggly bundle of fuzzy love. We reluctantly dragged ourselves away from the pile of kittens, reminding ourselves of all the reasons why it was a bad idea to take one home.

And speaking of cats, one of the neighbourhood felines drew my attention to this cicada who had obviously buzzed his last buzz (I'm assuming he's male).  I rescued him from the cat and then had to photograph him.  According to Wikipedia (so it must be true), this is what is referred to as an "annual cicada".  He's the length of half of my index finger, and I found him equal parts gross and fascinating.

I picked up this button on my last visit to Toronto as it sums up my feelings about being in my 50's quite nicely.

I re-discovered my fabulous silver "fork" ring which is perfect for the days when I feel like I need to wear full armour.

One of the things I miss about summer is being able to enjoy a meal on a patio.  Something about eating outside on a sunny day that is warm, but not hot, makes everything taste better.   The roasted beet salad with steak was from The Church Key restaurant, enjoyed on a late summer afternoon in the company of my best pal.   The weather was still warm enough in late September to eat outside, but the hoards of wasps/hornets/yellow jackets that fought to share your meal were a definite turnoff.
What will you miss most about Summer, and what do you like about Fall?