Thursday, November 17, 2011

Brave - Pixar's New Heroine

It seems that every fairy tale or fairy tale-inspired movie of 2012 is releasing its trailer this week. Hot on the heels of Mirror, Mirror comes Pixar's new trailer for Brave.

And Fairy Inspirations on Tumblr has spotted something wonderful among the animated costumes: 

Source: Fairy Inspirations 
Look, it's the famous Lady Macbeth costume worn by Ellen Terry! And now it's on Pixar's Scottish queen in the Brave trailer!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Mirror, Mirror - The Other Snow White Movie

Mirror, Mirror is the other Snow White film coming out in 2012. Apparently, Snow White and the Huntsman was not enough for Hollywood and they decided to have another film with a very similar plot.

Snow White (Lily Collins) and the Seven Dwarfs
A dark twist on the classic fairy tale, in which Snow White and the seven dwarfs look to reclaim their destroyed kingdom.  - from IMDB

This film I am definitely going to see. Apart form the beauty of technicolor madness, it's got a great cast, hilariously outlandish costumes and the campiest performances I have seen in a while.

Julia Roberts is brilliant as the evil queen. She is doing it with so much ham and cheese that she turns a rather banal evil witch into comedic gold.

Julia Roberts as the Evil Queen with a passion for fashion

Lily Collins makes a cute and believable Snow White. She certainly looks the part, though it's hard to tell from the trailer if she is a particularly interesting character.

Skin as white as snow, hair as black as night

The dashing Prince Charming is played by Armie Hammer, which is weird, because to me he is one of the classic 'meh' actors - conventionally good looking and with as much charisma and stage presence as a cotton sock.

Armie Hammer aka Prince Andrew Alcott as the model of mediocrity 

Played by Martin Klebba, Jordan Prentice, Danny Woodburn, Ronald Lee Clark, Sebastian Saraceno, Joe Gnoffo and Mark Povinelli, the dwarfs seem a fun and diverse lot.

Snow White befriending seven tough fellas

Tarsem Singh, who has directed Mirror, Mirror, is well known for his stunning visual style. And this film doesn't disappoint. In addition to beautiful cinematography, it's got great costumes. Everything from Snow White's dorky 'swan' costume to pretty much everything worn by the 'evil' queen is absolutely magnificent.

The media is already turning this into The Great Battle of the Whites, anticipating a showdown between these film in spring/summer 2012. While I may skip Snow White and the Huntsman on account of me not caring much for a protagonist who looks either sickly or bored, I will definitely go and see Mirror, Mirror in the cinema. It may be style over substance, but at least it's got plenty of style.             

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Snow White and the Huntsman

I heard about this film a few months back. Right around the time I heard about another Snow White film coming out at the same time. What is it about Snow White that fascinates us so much that we need to rehash the story over and over and over again? Sometimes even two or three times in one year.    

To be fair, no pun intended, I'm intrigued. The trailer looks very cool and it could be a wonderful film that is bad, but also utterly enjoyable. On the other hand, it could end up like Red Ridding Hood - a confused sexy-time fairy tale that really makes no sense and is going nowhere with its convoluted plot.

Charlize Theron looks absolutely bad-ass as the evil queen and I love her costume. She just oozes sexiness and evilness.

Chris Hemsworth is reprising his role as Thor. Just look at him, slightly arrogant and gruff attitude, an axe (not hammers, but close), a stubble and old-timey clothes.

Sam Claflin plays Prince Charmant. I feel like this guy is in it just to make the Huntsman look good. He was in Pirates of the Carabean: On Stranger Tides, which makes him the poor man's Orlando Bloom.

And now for White herself. I don't hate Kristen Stewart. She's not a brilliant actress, but she's not terrible either. She seems to be very good at doing angst. But when I look at her, I just don't see Snow White.

 And why does she have the White Tree of Gondor on her shield?

I am somewhat intrigued by this film and I will probably see it when it comes out, but what bothers me is an apparent lack of imagination of the Hollywood movie factory. Snow White has been done to death and, for all its boasting of a new 'twist,' this is not as revolutionary as they want us to think.

I love retellings of fairy tales. As old as these stories are, they are part of our (at least in the western world) common experience. In fact, I love Gail Carson Levine's retelling of the Snow White story called Fairest. It is interesting precisely because it deviates from the 'original' in so many ways - the evil queen is not all that evil and she is not old, Snow White is not a beauty and the Prince is fun and down-to-earth.

I don't mind seeing more fairy tale-inspired films in the future, but I want them to be more than hot and steamy Twilight ripoffs (looking at you, Red Riding Hood) or rehashing of old themes with a bit of 'empowerment' on the side. What if the evil queen has a good reason to kill Snow White? What if she is trying to save her people  from strife and war that the girl will inadvertently cause? What if Snow White is not at all the chosen one? What if she becomes the queen's nemesis by accident? And what of the dwarves? What are their stories? Where did they come from? What are they doing in that forest? So many tales left untold....

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Umbrella Fashions of the 1950s

The weather is getting colder and wetter. The unpleasant November drizzle makes me think that I should acquire an umbrella. But where, oh, where, can I find something as lovely as these impractical models from the 1950s?

I would like the one with the huge plush spider! 

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Napoleon and the Empire of Fashion Exhibition

If you were in Milan this past summer, you are very lucky. It means you had a chance to see this breathtakingly beautiful exhibition - Napoleon and the Empire of Fashion.

Fashion has always had an interesting relationship to power. From Venetian sumptuary laws that were meant to separate courtesans from honest women to Marie Antoinette's infamous wardrobe, what people wore told those around them a lot about their social position, class and wealth. 

Napoleon and the Empire of Fashion maps out the development of fashion from the Directoire to the Burbon restoration. The restored costumes are presented with fashion plates from the period to show how the fashion ideals translated into cloth. The exhibition boasts a great variety of dresses for different occasions from marriage to motherhood to mourning. 

Photography by Jean-François Rémy-Néris
I love this walking dress! The color is beautiful and the shawl makes it so vibrant. I would love to have something like this for my morning calls in early Autumn.

Photography by Jean-François Rémy-Néris
A Simple, but elegant white ball gown. As one of Miss Austen's dashing heroes once said, "A woman can never be too fine while she is all in white."

Photography by Jean-François Rémy-Néris
I don't know what it is about this dress, but it just feels so wrong it's right. Maybe it's the pose, maybe it's the turban paired with what looks like a chemise de reine, maybe it's that huge sash or the fan that looks painfully out of place. But is it horrible that I wear something very similar during the summers?

As an extra treat, people are invited to vote for where they want the exhibition to travel next. Please help me bring it to St. Petersburg!   

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Helena Bonham Carter in a Role of a Lifetime

Just as I've finished with my Miss Havisham costume, along comes this feast for the eyes in the form of Helena Bonham Carter in a Mike Newell adaptation of Great Expectations

Helena Bonham Carter has take on a number of kooky, spooky and downright creepy roles, but certainly Miss Havisham was a part she was meant to play. Though the actress is a bit too young to play it (Dickens has written the character as a woman in her mid-fifties, and HBC is only 45). 

Interestingly, it has been suggested that Miss Havisham was not a figment of Dickens's imagination, but was inspired by real events and a real person, though scholars seem to have trouble agreeing who this real person were. 

Frederic George Kitton in The Life Of Charles Dickens suggests that Miss Havisham may have been inspired by a lady who lived near Hyde Park and who was burn to death in her house. The other possibility is that the 'real' Miss Havisham was not a lady, but a gentleman by the name of Nathaniel Bentley. Bentley was a wealthy young man whose fiancee died on the morning of their wedding day after which the wedding banquet was left to rot and the house came into disarray. Bentley himself refused to wash and was dubbed Dirty Dick. There is a pub in London named after him which heavily draws on the legend.

There is another story that says that Miss Hvaisham was inspired by a lady from Australia who wanted to marry beneath her station and whose groom disappeared on the day of the wedding. She stayed in the house and left everything as it was on the day of the wedding, hoping that he would come back.

While Miss Havisham is a wonderful Gothic character, I would hate to think that there was a real person who inspired the story. Such tragedy may be interesting in a work of fiction but it's gut-wrenchingly terrible if happens in real life.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Fancy Dress Ideas Victorian Style

Source: La Mode Illustree, France, 1890 
Music, Cleopatra and an eighteenth century Maid   

Victorian Fancy Dress: Electric Light

People during the Victorian era seemed to have had an uncanny ability to turn any abstract concept, any technological innovation or idea into a fancy dress costume. Case in point, 'Electric light' or 'Electricity'.

This is how Fancy Dress Described,1896 describes 'Electricity' fancy dress:

"Electric blue satin, covered with silver zigzag flashes; silver cords are wound about the neck,arms, and waist; to typify the electric coils. Bodice of blue satin draped with silver and crepe de chine; wings at the back; an electric light in the hair. A staff carried in the hand with coils encircling the globe which surmounts it."

Source: La Mode Illustree, France 1891
It is clear that this lovely dress has inspired the costume worn by Mrs. Alice Vanderbilt, at a fancy dress ball given by her sister-in-law, Alva Vanderbilt in 1883.

Mrs. Alice Gwynne Vanderbilt as Electric Light, March 26, 1883
With 1200 guests, $3 million dollars spent and expectations of a Communist attack, this was certainly the social event of the season. On the occasion, Mrs. Cornelius Vanderbilt wore this pale yellow and shell-pink satin dress embroidered with tinsel, gilt and silver thread. It came with a Prussian blue velvet train embroidered with gold. The lovely costume was a gift of Countess Laszlo Szechenyi. 

I couldn't find any contemporary pictures of this dress, but The Dreamstress has a whole post dedicated to it with the photos she took when visiting the Museum of the City of New York. 

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Fancy Dress Ideas Victorian Style

Source: La Mode Illustree, France 1891
Spring, the Spirit of Halloween (?) and Electricity  

Victorian Fancy Dress: Photography

Halloween - that greatest time of the year - is over, but not completely. I have another costume party to go to this week and so I will keep posting about fancy dress for a bit longer, hopefully entertaining all those who are not over Halloween just yet.

Remember that post with a Victorian fancy dress fashion plate where one of the ladies was dresses as what I dubbed a photo camera? Well, it turns out that she was not dressed as 'a photo camera' but as 'photography'.

Source: Godey’s, 1866  
This is what the 1896 edition of Fancy Dress Described has to say about a very similar costume:

"A green gauze dress; round the skirt, nestling in the bouillonnes a row of photographs; a scarf of the silk draped across the skirt. with medallion photographs at intervals, all bordered with green galon; the bertha of the low bodice fastened at the front, back, and on the shoulders with them; a cap in the form of a camera; snap shot carried in the hand."   
In fact, one brave lady chose to wear this it to a fancy dress ball and, today, we know about this thanks to that very same technological advancement celebrated by her costume. 

Source: McCord Museum

Miss Stevenson attended a ball in Montreal in 1865 at the Theater Royal dressed as 'Photography'. Since this dress is almost an exact copy of the one in the fashion plate, we can assume that it is also bright green. The lady has photographs on her skirt, bracelet, fan and eve her shoes. The crowning glory of this costume is a camera-shaped hat on her head that comes with a veil to mimic the dark cloth of a plate camera.
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