Saturday, May 25, 2013

10 Best Jane Austen Films for a Rainy Afternoon

It's summer, and we all want to be outside frolicking in the sun. But sometimes the weather disappoints and we have to spend Saturdays cooped up in our flats watching TV.

That's a perfect time to watch some Jane Austen films. These days there are so many of them that you can easily fill several rainy days. Here is my top ten list in no particular order.

#10 Pride and Prejudice (1940)

Where DID you get that dress, my dear? It looks so modern!

What can I say? Laurence Olivier as Mr. Darcy. Many liberties taken with the plot. Fashions that are at least 20 years ahead of the time. This movie is a delight and my own personal Jane Austen guilty pleasure. It's difficult not to enjoy it, if only ironically.

#9 Clueless (1995)

Sometimes I feel like my life resembles a teen movie based on a classic novel.

This is by far my favorite adaptation of Emma. Alicia Silverstone's ditzy and spoiled Cher is our stand-in for Emma Woodhouse who takes the clueless Tai Frasier (Miss Smith) under her wing and teacher her the ropes at their Beverly Hills high school. Misunderstandings and a good deal of '90s fashions are in abundance.  

#8 Miss Austen Regrets (2007)

"Dinosaurs vs. Zombies"...Ah, this shall be my best work yet!

This is a BBC drama based on the last few years of Jane Austen's life. Though as far as biopics go, many people prefer Becoming Jane (2007), a more Hollywoodized narrative of Austen's life, I still think that BBC tells a better story. There are laughs and tears, regrets and bitterness, but it is also very touching. It is a story of an ordinary life of a woman that captured the imagination of millions over the past two centuries.      

#7 Sense and Sensibility (2008)

Oh God, I think I might be this generation's Hugh Grant. 

Though my first love will always be Ang Lee's adaptation, who can resist the charm of Dan Stevens before he became known as Mathew Crawley of Downton Abbey. The cinematography is quite beautiful and there are enough views of a cottage by the sea with waves crashing on the rocky shore to satisfy even the most demanding romantic.    

#6 Pride and Prejudice (1995)

You ever notice how whenever there's a Jane Austen list, we're always in it?

When you're feeling crummy and nothing can cheer you up, just pop in this 1995 mini-series and dive into the world of Lizzie Bennet's sparkling wit, Mr. Collins's slimy advances, Mrs. Bennet's hysterics and Mr. Darcy's wet shirt. Nothing can soothe the soul quite like this series.  

#5 Persuasion (1995)

Come on, guys, somebody say something. This is getting really awkward.   
I couldn't decide between the 1995 version and the more recent adaptation with Sally Hawkins, but finally decided that I like this one more. The 2007 is definitely worth seeing, but I think I prefer the one with Amanda Root and Ciarán Hinds. When Lady Dalrymple says, "More air than one often sees in Bath. Irish, I dare say," she is definitely talking about Ciarán Hinds. No one has more on-screen charm and charisma than he.  

#4 Bridget Jones's Diary (2001)

Well, imitation IS the sincerest form of flattery.  

This is a bit of a cheat, since technically this is not an adaptation, strictly speaking. Yet it is a truth universally acknowledged  that Bridget Jones's Diary was based on Pride and Prejudice. The love interest is called Mark DARCY. And he is played by THE Darcy - Colin Firth.    

#3 Northanger Abbey (1986)

I dream of a world that has a better adaptation of Northanger Abbey.

I kept going back and forth between 2007 and 1986 adaptation. I love them both. But for different reasons. I finally settled on the 1986 version simply because of its entertainment value. This made-for-TV film is pure '80s delight. It's got it all - terrible overacting, garish costumes and makeup, numerous gothic 'dream sequences' (which for some reason were included in the more recent adaptation); and a leading man Henry Tilney (Peter Firth) who looks more like a Bond villain than a character out of a Jane Austen novel. Yes, pure, unadulterated fun!    

#2 Bride and Prejudice (2004)

Seriously, it's like rule 34. If it exists, there is a Bollywood version of it.  
Aaaaah! I love Bollywood movies. And I love Pride and Prejudice. So this film is perfect. It's got the familiar story and characters, but they are dropped in a new setting. Many random musical numbers ensue. Fun is guaranteed.      

#1 The Lizzie Bennet Diaries (2012-2013)

Mr Darcy, I think you're a hipster.
I've absolutely fell in love with this online project by Hank Green and Bernie Su with Ashley Clements as our social media age Lizzie. The story is told through a series of vlogs, narrated by Lizzie and her nearest and dearest. It's a really fun spin on the old story told through modern media.

Do you have a favorite rainy day Austen adaptation?  

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

The Myth of the Well-dressed Past

This is an opinion post, so brace yourself.

A recent CBS article caught my attention and I just had to comment. Every once in a while an article like 'Dressing down a culture for refusing to dress up' appears to remind us how we're all turning into a bunch of unkempt slobs and how in the ye olden days it was so much better.

Very nice, ladies, but a pair of wellingtons would  be more practical.

CBS reports that Professor Linda Przybyszewski from the University of Notre Dame teaches a course on how our cultural relationship with clothes has changed over the years and how clothes have become increasing more casual.

"Up until the 1960s, gloves were considered a requirement." says Przybyszewski. "You were considered slightly undressed if you didn't have a hat on."

Once upon a time, this was considered 'undressed'. 

That is probably true, but why stop at 1950s. If we go further back, a corset  was an essential part of a woman's outfit up until the 20th century. And if you go back far enough, stolas and chitons were a requirement. Why is it that mid-20th century dress has become the paragon of good taste to us modern slobs?  My guess would be nostalgia.

The mid-20 century is a well-documented period. There are films, photographs, fashion magazines in abundance, and there are still some people living today who remember those times. So it is a past not too remote to become irrelevant, but just remote enough to acquire a little extra luster. The nostalgia goggles make everything look better than it really was. The CBS report is illustrated with clips from old Hollywood films, where glamorous movie starts wore sequin dresses and furs while having breakfast. These images have no more in common with real 1930-1950s life than Hollywood movies of our generation have with our lifestyle. For better of for worse, most of us don't look like we've just stepped off the set of Transformers.

"And next, I'll put on some pearls and scrub the floors .."

Clothes exist as part of a wider culture and are often an expression of the social, political and economic norms. The mother from Leave It To Beaver is shown as an example of how well-dressed we all were some 50 years ago. But we mustn't forget that her sparkly appearance was an expression of the idea that a woman's role was largely ornamental. This was not the clothes she wore to work at the office, or the construction site or the police station. Her job was to be a good wife and mother and her clothes were just part of that job.

Mrs Bridge strives to be the perfect housewife. Photograph: George Marks

The clothes of the past were not particularly democratic, either. A clip from Dark Victory, which CBS uses without a hint of ironically, shows Bette Davis surveying herself in a mirror as a maid is helping her dress. And don't get me started on the ladies of Downton Abbey. Most of us today don't have maids. We can't afford custom made clothes. Dinners are no longer formal affairs. We have day jobs to go to or college classes to attend or workout at the gym. Our lifestyles have changed, our society has changed, and, naturally, our attitude to clothes has changed as well.

The maid doesn't look all that glamorous. Dark Victory (1939)

I applaud anyone who puts an effort into their outfit. It's great to see people wearing lovely vintage or handmade pieces. But that doesn't mean that I expect everyone to dress like that. The democratization of fashion has given us the possibility to dress for our own personal comfort and pleasure, and that's not a bad thing. I like that on a hot, sunny day I can go to my local park and lie on the grass wearing nothing more than shorts and a T-shirt and flip through illustrations of Modes De Paris, admiring their style, but not coveting their lives.

H&M Conscious Exclusive, 2013 vs. Horrockses Fashions, 1950

So whether you prefer yoga pants and tank tops or vintage dresses and gloves, the important thing is to wear what you like. And to quote Miss Galindo from Cranford (2007), "a cap that satisfies its wearer need appeal to no one else." She may be talking about caps, but the sentiment stands for all attire. 

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Photos from Craft Fair Ofelia Market 2012

I found my photos from last year's Ofelia Market and thought I'd share them with you. For those who don't know, Ofelia Market is an annual craft fair for people who love vintage, rockabilly, lolita, kawaii, steam punk, retro and goth fashion and accessories. It's usually a one day event and there are fashion shows and dance performances. So buying or browsing, you are guaranteed a good time. There is often an overall theme for the fair. This time it was "Día de los Muertos" or Day of the Dead.

Ofelia Market promo flyer, 2012  
Sellers and performers came all dressed up. 

Some were a little shy: 

Even the customers came in their full regalia. This pretty romantic lolita was my favorite:     

These gorgeous dames from Olivia Rouge were putting on quite a show: 

The girls from Malandra are real pros with those hula hoops:

The mysterious, leather-ly goodness of House of Simone:

 Exotic glamour of bellydancing courtesy of Laura Luna:

Manly men and their manly man-fashion from Varusteleka:

My table, which I was sharing with Nellin Shoppi. She makes cute animal bookmarks, pendants and earrings from polymer clay. My stuff is on the right. I'm more of a romantic, frilly type:

That's me, trying to make a sale.

It was really fun selling at a crafts fair. I'm going to try and attend more of those next year. 

Thursday, May 16, 2013

DIY: Quick and Easy Edwardian Costume

There is a Murder Mystery event at my local library this weekend, which means we will sit in a dark room solving a ghastly murder with the help of Sherlock Holmes. Since I'm one of the hosts, I had to put together a quick and simple Edwardian-looking costume for this event.

With no time for sewing and no budget to buy/rent anything from the costume store, I just raided my closet and picked out a few items that could  pass for 'Edwardian'. Behold, the result:

Skirt-SisterS point--Blouse-thrifted, UFF--Belt-H&M--Cameo-VeroModa--Boots-Vagabond--Hat-H&M

Now, mind you, this is hardly 'authentic' Edwardian attire. But since my modest goal was to attempt a  recreation of a look that seems vaguely Edwardian, I think I managed pretty well.

Mr. & Mrs. Isaac Newton Phelps-Stokes, John Singer Sargent, 1897 

If you need a quick and easy costume for an event, Edwardian, or more specifically the Gibson Girl, is fairly easy to put together. You probably already have most of these things in your closet or could find them at your local thrift store.

Portrait of  the Spencer sisters, 1902

Look for a long A-line skirt and a button-up blouse, preferably white and frilly. Extra points if you can find one with leg o'mutton sleeves. A belt ties the whole look together (and hides the elastic band on your skirt). A hat and some simple jewellery like a string of pearls or a cameo would do nicely.

Of course, such a loose interpretation would greatly offend historical costumers, but if you just want a simple Halloween costume for Anne of the Green Gables, you can get away with cutting a few corners.  

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Dress of the Week: Blue Summer Dress

I haven't done a Dress of the Week post for a long, long while. And since May is upon us and I've been scouting out some historical fashions to incorporate into my summer wardrobe, here is a summer dress from 1905 that I long to wear for a May Day picnic.

Summer dress, 1905, UK. Source: Victoria & Albert Museum 

Place of origin: Great Britain, UK
Date: 1905
Materials and Techniques: Printed striped cotton, with a yoke neck of tucked Broderie Anglaise frills and pin-tucked collar with a tape lace frill; bodice lined with white cotton and fastened with original hooks, eyes and loops; pleated belt has five bones and a hook and eye fastening concealed by a rosette
Credit Line: Worn by Miss Heather Firbank
This pretty blue and white number belonged to the fashionable Miss Heather Firbank (1888-1954),  daughter of the MP Sir Thomas Firbank and sister of the writer Ronald Firbank.

"[Heather Firbank] had beauty, and she adorned it with exquisite clothes of a heather colour to complement her name" - Miriam J. Benkovitz, Ronald Firbank: A Biography (1970)
It's very rare for dresses to survive the test of time; and when they do survive, it's often due to some unusual circumstances. In case of Miss Firbank, who acquired her wardrobe from the leading houses of the time, in 1921 her expensive clothes were packed into trunks and put in storage for 35 years. Why did she decide to pack away her entire collection of garments instead of altering and updating or reselling them is beyond my knowledge, but in 1960 Victoria and Albert Museum got their hands on the lot, which included over 100 pieces of clothes and accessories. That's quite a treasure. The collection is a glimpse into the past showing the tastes and styles of a wealthy lady between 1905 and 1920.

Summer dress, back, 1905, UK. Source: Victoria & Albert Museum 
The skirt consists of four 28-inch pieces pleated onto a narrow waistband. The bodice is pouched in the front and is a little bloused at the back. The yoke around the neck is composed of  Broderie Anglaise frills and a pin-tucked cotton infill, with a high-boned pin-tucked collar finished with a tape lace frill. The outfit is accessorized with a dainty straw hat with a blue ribbon around it and a lovely parasol. Blue and white dresses such as this one were very popular during the early 1900s for boating and seaside wear.

Since I do own a parasol and a similar straw hat (all it needs is a ribbon), I just need to find a blue dress with lace to recreate this look.

Source: Victoria and Albert Museum 

More about Heather Firbank and her wardrobe
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...