Woman’s Work

Welcome to the Dinner Party
Welcome to the Dinner Party

 

“The Dinner Party” by Judy Chicago

An overview of the complete Dinner Party installation by Judy Chicago. Each panel represents women who history has forgotten. Beginning with the mythical and ending with the contemporary
An overview of the complete Dinner Party installation by Judy Chicago. Each panel represents women who history has forgotten. Beginning with the mythical and ending with the contemporary

Another highlight of my visit to the David Bowie Is exhibit was the fact that the Brooklyn Museum is also home to the iconic installation by Judy Chicago called ‘The Dinner Party’. This groundbreaking example of feminist art had been on my bucket list since its debut in 1979. Since it’s premiere, the art piece made the rounds of all the famous museums of the world and somehow I would always keep missing it. In 2002, the installation finally found a permanent home at the Brooklyn Museum, so being that it coincided with the DBI exhibition I was doubly motivated to attend.

Artemisia Gentilleschi, Renaissance Manerist artists whose hands where broken by the Inquisition. Once they healed she resumed painting.
Artemisia Gentileschi, Renaissance Manerist artists whose hands where broken by the Inquisition. Once they healed she resumed painting.

This is one of those installations that is so spiritual and so moving, it felt like I was visiting the Sistine Chapel or some other holy place of great importance. The story of this work is virtual dinner party attended by important women who had been overlooked by history. Each setting represented one of these women and on the tiled floor where written in swirling letters the names of other women who were somehow related to the invitee. For example below the place setting for the author Mary Wollstonecraft was the name of her daughter Mary Shelley.

Mary Wollstonecraft, 18th cc feminist and author of "Vindication of the Rights of Women".
Mary Wollstonecraft, 18c feminist and author of “Vindication of the Rights of Women”.

Although Judy Chicago was a classically trained artist with an MFA from UCLA, she desired that this particular work of art be created using materials and techniques traditionally and condescendingly referred to as “Women’s Work”. Sewing, embroidery, pottery, weaving were used to create each place setting in a beautiful presentation. Ironically, these skills are still looked down upon by the patriarchal mindset of the art world and it is something that I have personally experienced in my career as a designer. Its always been my opinion that if women were mechanics and men were seamstresses, a pair of jeans would set you back 30k while an automobile would be sold for clearance at Walmart for $19.99! So kudos to Judy for elevating these skills to a high art form that is respected and appreciated. The irony was not lost on me as I took in the exhibit that in another room in the same building they were honoring the costume makers who helped to create the persona of David Bowie.

Eleanor of Aquitaine, Queen of France and England, Warrior, Mother of Richard Couer de Lyon. Also invented the fireplace.
Eleanor of Aquitaine, Queen of France and England, Warrior, Mother of Richard Couer de Lyon. Also invented the fireplace. Busy Lady!

This opus started as a labor of love for Judy, she was inspired to create art that would not only honor the memory of these forgotten women but to also, as mentioned previously, elevate women’s skills that had been relegated to the category of ‘crafts’, to the realm of fine art. It was a process that took years to create, thanks to the efforts of 400 volunteers who worked tirelessly to create this epic. When it finally premiered in 1979, it was universally panned: one misogynistic wind bag (who also happened to be a well known art critic whose name will not be mentioned) crudely dismissed it as “vaginas on a plate”. After the show closed she was $30,000 in debt and the laughing stock of the art world. But out of every crucifixion comes a great resurrection and over time the installation began to tour all over the world to mounting critical acclaim. Until it finally found a permanent home at the Brooklyn Museum.

Hypatia of Alexandria. Neoplatonist philosopher, mathematician, astronomer and the last librarian at the Library of Alexandria. She was murdered by a christian mob before the library was destroyed.
Hypatia of Alexandria. Neoplatonist philosopher, mathematician, astronomer and the last librarian at the Library of Alexandria. She was murdered by a christian mob and the library destroyed.

Each dinner setting features the name of the guest and her plate is in the shape of a vulva. Like the vulva, each plate is unique and no two are alike as are the richly embroidered table cloths underneath. The guests include actual historical figures like Eleanor of Aquitaine and Margaret Sanger, but also mythical ones such as the Primordial Goddess and Kali. I honestly wish that I could show pictures of each and every one of those place settings because of their unique beauty and detail, but alas, after my altercation with the security guards and the Bowie exhibit, I was trying to stay on my best behavior.

Margaret Sanger, sex educator and founder of Planned Parenthood
Margaret Sanger, sex educator and founder of Planned Parenthood.

I have highlighted some of guests who resonated with me personally. But I encourage all of those reading this to take the time to see this exhibit and bring a daughter, a sister, a mother. They will thank you for it. In the mean time you can find out more about the exhibit by clicking the link here.

A few more guests:

Empress Theodora of Byzantium. Started here career as a circus performer and wound up Empress of the Byzantine Empire. Way to go!
Empress Theodora of Byzantium. Started her public career as a circus performer and wound up Empress of the Byzantine Empire. She advocated women rights that were codiciled into the Justinian Code. 
Snake Goddess of Crete. Well, we all know how I feel about snakes. it was only fitting.
Snake Goddess of Crete. Well, we all know how I feel about snakes. it was only fitting.
Primordial Goddess, honoring our original Mother.
Primordial Goddess, honoring our original Mother.

I hope that you enjoyed this post. For more information about my costume services. Please visit my website www.costumesbyantonia.com

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*David Bowie Is Everywhere!*

Costumes by Antonia visits David Bowie Is at the Brooklyn Museum NY

Finally made to the Holy Grail for all Bowie fans. The closing week of the ‘David Bowie Is’ exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum. This all encompassing exhibit has been touring the world since its premiere at the Victoria & Albert Museum 5 years ago. The fact that it only made two pit stops in the United States speaks volumes to The Thin White Duke’s worldwide appeal. This particular blog entry is of such a deeply personal nature, that I have procrastinated forever in posting this. 

David’s measurements! From one of his designer’s fitting books.

In spite of the fact that the presentation was disorganized and overcrowded, it was the content of the exhibit that overcame any drawbacks resulting from the ineptitude of the Brooklyn Museum. After all, we are talking Bowie here, and we all know that he was a ‘Mortal with potential of a Superman’. And I don’t want to totally trash the museum either; to their credit they did resolve some of my concerns. But according to one of my sources at the museum, even they acknowledged that they had gotten in over their heads with this exhibit. 

Like some cat from Japan: Designer Kansai Yamamoto discusses his collaboration with Bowie.

David surrounded himself with the best talent: the best designers, the best directors, the best musicians. Talent that matched, but never surpassed his own. The show was a comprehensive overview of his collaborations as a performer, artist, writer, painter. Bowie the Artist. The shear breadth of his artistic accomplishments is overwhelming. Since this is a costume blog, the main focus will be his costumes. However I am including samples of his other facets because otherwise it would not do him justice.

Portraits by David of Yukio Mishima & Iggy Pop
David’s portraits of Yukio Mishima & Iggy Pop

I should start out with this caveat: there where no photos allowed in the exhibit so these pictures where taken clandestinely and at great personal risk. My apologies in advance for the poor quality of some of the images. In fact at one point when I was attempting to take a picture, a hand appeared in front of the lens belonging to an angry security guard who demanded that I stop on pain of banishment from the museum and confiscation of my pictures. So there was A LOT I could not capture: His costume from when he appeared on Broadway in “Elephant Man”, the Bauhaus costume from his “Saturday Night Live” appearance, the Kabuki cape designed by Kansai Yamamoto. And so on.

Photo Interuptus! The hand of an irate museum security guard photo bombs by pictures.
Photo Interuptus! The hand of an irate museum security guard photo bombs by pictures.

My attempt here is to present his costumes and how they would have been worn within the context of his performance. As mentioned earlier, David collaborated with the top creative talent and as a costumer and technician myself, I was in awe over the beauty and detail of his clothing. The delicacy of the tailoring conceits and the detail of the embellishments are incredible. It’s hard to believe that the enormity of the effort that went into creating a garment that was often times intended to be worn only once.

From the 1980 Floor Show. Costumes worn by David & Mick Ronson.
From the 1980 Floor Show. Costumes worn by David & Mick Ronson.

The first time I saw Bowie perform was in the “1980 Floor Show” which was broadcast in the USA on the “Midnight Special” TV series. It was a Rock’n’Roll cabaret with dancers, costumes, a guest appearance by singer Marianne Faithful and everyone’s favorite trans model Amanda Lear, who took time away from her duties as Salvador Dali’s muse in order to serve as MC for the show. Not a bad line up.

Storyboard from the 1980 Floor Show
Storyboard from the 1980 Floor Show

This production was the most blindingly theatrical presentation that my 16 year old eyes had ever seen. The originality of the costumes inspired me to grab a pencil and sketch pad. Aladdin Sane’s Thunderbolt of Enlightenment struck my brain causing a deluge of creative juices to start flowing and as I result I was sketching costumes furiously through the entire show. How’s that for inspiration?

The infamous 'Third Hand' costume with the missing hand, thanks to the TV censors!
The infamous ‘Third Hand’ costume without the third hand, thanks to the TV censors!

The costumes for this show were showcased in their own particular vitrine. They now only had David’s costume but the one worn by guitarist Mick Ronson. Mick is often overshadowed by Bowie’s supernova, but let’s not forget that he had a hand in the creation of the man, before Ziggy broke up the band. 

Some exquisitely tailored suits by designed by Ola Hudson and a later creation by Alexander McQueen for his 50th Birthday concert.
Some exquisitely tailored suits by designed by Ola Hudson for the album “Pin-Ups” and a later creation by Alexander McQueen for his 50th Birthday concert.

The first time I actually saw Bowie perform live onstage, in the flesh, was for the ’Thin White Duke Tour’ also called the ‘Isolar Tour’ on February 6, 1976 in San Francisco. To say that it was an out of body experience would be an understatement because I was completely consumed by  his presence. I am not the first person to say this. The energy and charisma he exuded onstage was something every performer can only dream of achieving. It was a true out of body experience. Un-psychotropically enhanced.

Thin White Duke: The draping on the sleeve lent grace and fluidity to his movement when he performed  on stage.
Thin White Duke: The draping on the sleeve lent grace and fluidity to his movement when he performed on stage.

The concert began with a screening of the surrealist film ‘Un Chien Andalou’. The cinematic collaboration between Salvador Dali and Luis Buñuel best known for the close up of a girl’s eye being sliced open by a razor blade. When this happened the screams of horror from the audience was deafening! As the film came to its conclusion, the projection screen rose and the band began to play the intro to ‘Station to Station’, eventually a spotlight popped on our guy as the sang the lyrics about his return. Not knowing what kind of fashion statement he would make, he was dressed in black and white which went well with the stark fluorescent lighting.

The "unexpurgated" artwork for the "Diamond Dogs" album cover by Guy Peellaert
The “unexpurgated” artwork for the “Diamond Dogs” album cover by Guy Peellaert

The ‘Thin White Duke Tour’ was the most amazing piece of theatre I had ever seen up until then. Having out done the ‘The 1980 Floor Show’. 

"Ashes to Ashes" Pierrot/Major Tom costume designed by long time collaborator Natasha Korniloff. The pictures do not do this costume justice. Behind is the lesser known 'Screaming Lord Byron' from "Blue Jean" video.
“Ashes to Ashes” Pierrot/Major Tom costume designed by long time collaborator Natasha Korniloff. The pictures do not do this costume justice. Behind is the lesser known ‘Screaming Lord Byron’ from the “Blue Jean” video.

Feeling fully recovered from my out of Bowie-body experience, I decided that this concert was something that must be repeated’.  So I hoped into my Ford Pinto (don’t laugh, it WAS 1976) and drove down to L.A. to catch the show again at the venerable L.A. Forum. This time I was able to relax and enjoy the show. Gloating with delight hearing the audience’s shrieks when the girl’s eye was slashed in the opening film. No more out of body experiences this time. I was just an observer. As expected Bowie delivered another out of this world performance.

From the "Elephant Man" Playbill
From the “Elephant Man” Playbill.

So fast forward to the 80’s and by now I was a college student living in New York. ’Scary Monsters’ was constantly spinning on my turn table (kids, if you don’t know what that is, Google it). The third and last time I saw Bowie perform live was on Broadway in ‘Elephant Man’ and needless to say, it was the most amazing piece of theatre I had seen up until then. Only Bowie can out do Bowie., so all his previous opera.  What a performance! He opted out on the prosthetic makeup and chose to use his body language and voice to convey the pathos of the lead character. 

Periodic Table of Bowie. Click on the link to learn more about this alchemical egregore.
Periodic Table of Bowie. Click on the link to learn more about this alchemical egregore. His widow, Iman, is listed as one of the “Noble Metals”.

My college and my apartment were both located in the Chelsea district of Manhattan and in a stroke of Kafkaesque synchronicity, so was Bowie’s. According to a friend who had it on good authority that our Hero had a loft somewhere south of West 23rd St, so we took it upon ourselves to case every single single building in the vicinity until we came upon one building around West 20th @ 9th avenue that yielded results. We were reading the names on the mailboxes and one of the tenants went by the name: “Bewley Brothers Music”. Ya Think?! Eureka! 

Pencil drawing by a young David. Foreshadowing early incarnations of characters that would manifest as characters later on in his career.
Pencil drawing by a young David. Foreshadowing early incarnations of characters that would manifest as characters later on in his career.

We stood in front of the mailbox pondering our next move: Should we ring the door bell? What if he answers? What if he invites us up? What do we say to him? This reverie of ‘what ifs’ was rudely interrupted by the booming voice of a very irate doorman: “Had it ever occurred to you kids that he may be going in and out the back door?!” Well, these two junior stalkers in training made a dash out the door to the back alleyway of the building but to no avail; we were unequivocally asked to leave the premises by the same irate doorman. 

David being assisted into his 'Dark Angel' costume by Angela and (perhaps) Coco Schwab.
David being assisted into his ‘Dark Angel’ costume by Angela and (perhaps) Coco Schwab.

I lived in the Chelsea district for several more years and as time passed I became one of those blasé jaded New Yorkers who is not impressed by celebrity. Yes, I did spot him once or twice in passing and my heart would jump ever so slightly. But I was determined to stay in ‘Blasé New Yorker Mode’.  To the point where one day I was grocery shopping at the local A&P supermarket and as I was browsing the produce department, I could see out of the corner of my eye that someone was trying to take my shopping cart. Without turning my head I grabbed the cart away from the interloper and shouted in my most nasally Manhattanese “That’s MY cart”. I heard a crisp British accented male voice mutter “Oh sorry” as he slipped away. Yes, The Thin White Duke was a grocery cart thief! 

All roads lead to Bowie: Nikola Tesla corner on 40th & 6th Ave. Bowie played Tesla in his last film appearance "The Prestige".
All roads lead to Bowie: Nikola Tesla corner on 40th & 6th Ave. Bowie played Tesla in his last film role in “The Prestige”.

As time progressed, I moved on to other musical styles and to other cities. I hadn’t purchased a Bowie album or even listened to his music in years. I was vaguely amused by my younger relatives fascination with him and was pleasantly surprised to find one of my nieces apartment covered with Bowie poster when I visited her one Thanksgiving. But when I heard the news of his transition on January 10, 2016, it all came flashing back to me. The Stars did look very different after that. Tears would not stop flowing. Every time his name was mentioned, my eyes would water up. In fact I’m in a bit of a ‘Weepy Devotchka’ mode right now as I type this.  The impact that he had on my life, my choices and values was something that cannot be quantified. In many ways he saved my life, lifting me out of the mundane and the cruel to a realm that was both sacred and sublime. 

For more information regarding my costumes services please visit my website: www.costumesbyantonia.com 

 

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She’s a Hit!

Jessica Harper Miss Hooters of Houston 2018

Beautiful Jessica Harper, Miss Hooters of Houston 2018 scores a home run in her sexy costume at the Hooters International Pageant in Charlotte, NC.

Batter Up!

Jessica contacted me after she found my website through an organic search. She had just been awarded the Miss Hooters of Houston Title and was all set to go and represent our fair city at the headquarters of the well known sports bar. Jessica already had a great idea that her costume should represent the beauty and resiliency of the city and I am grateful that she let me run with her idea!

Hooters Color Branding

As mentioned, her costume was to represent the strong points of the city. In particular the survival of the city in the aftermath of the terrible flooding from Hurricane Harvey and the silver lining of the Astros baseball team winning the World Series over the LA Dodgers. In addition, since this was to be a corporate event, I needed to be mindful of the selection of colors and specifications as it relates to corporate branding.

Hooters Owl in the making.

So as you can see from the picture, there were specific guidelines as far as the dimensions for both the Hooters and Astros logos. Both organizations were very generous in their furnishing the official specs for my personal use in reproduction. The original intent was to manipulate in photoshop to create a pattern. But alas, there were challenges ahead: My late model high end Mac decided that this would be a great time to crash and burn and unfortunately there was not enough time to take it into the Apple store to be revived at the Genius Bar. This meant that all of the corporate branding needed to be created manually. Thank goodness  for my Art degree!  

Astros back details

It’s all good and in the end her costume was completed on time and under budget, The MacBook was able to be revived by a Genius and Jessica was a star at the International Pageant. Please enjoy the rest of the pictures showing Jessica during her fittings and hanging out backstage with some of the other contestants.

Front Detail of costume showing the “Houston Strong” logo in memory of the Hurricane Harvey catastrophe.
Back view of Costume
Front view
Nice side view
Back stage with a friend!

Are you interested in having  your very own costume designed just for you?

Please contact me at 832-652-9180 or by email: costumesbyantonia@gmail.com

Visit my website: www.costumesbyantonia.com

 

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And the Winners Are…2018 Edition

And The Winners Are…..

Well it’s THAT time of the year again. So on the Eve of Oscar Night, I would like to present the Nominees for the Best Achievement in Costume Design.

‘Beauty and the Beast’
Jacqueline Durran

This year, Designer Jacqueline Durran is a double nominee for her designs in both this film and for ‘Darkest Hour’. Busy lady! For ‘Beauty’ she does not disappoint; The colors and textures of the costume are absolutely stunning and a real treat for the eyes. Here designs are sharp and varied whether its the gothic depths of the Beast’s castle to the color riot of the French peasants costumes. Well done!

‘Darkest Hour’
Jacqueline Durran

Again, Jackie Durran. I am so sorry to have missed this one being that Gary Oldman is one of my favorite actors and Kristen Scott Thomas looks classy no matter what she is wearing. If anything this film should be awarded Best Achievement in Hair and Makeup for the amazing transformation of Gary Oldman.

‘Phantom Thread’
Mark Bridges

This film should be praised for its authenticity in all respects. Real stitchers were hired to play stitchers (really) and in order to prepare for his role, Daniel Day Lewis took sewing lessons from the afore mentioned stitchers. All that hard work paid off because he actually held the sewing needles and scissors correctly. Believe me I am really anal about stuff like that. The designs themselves where a bit dowdy. But this is understandable since his character is based loosely on Hardy Amies the designer for the likes of Queen Elizabeth etc. Not exactly on the ‘cutting edge’ of fashion. However, there where some interesting scenes depicting a fitting which showed the underpinnings needed to create ‘The New Look’ silhouette which was popular at the time and other tailoring conceits such as sewing hidden messages into a dress. Good job!

‘The Shape of Water’
Luis Sequeira

Obviously the Oscar nomination was for that ‘hide the sausage’ amphibious costume. (Whoops spoiler alert, sorry!) It was truly an amazing job on that costume that was years in the making. A minimum of CGI was used and instead the movements where enabled by a mechanically rigged radio hub embedded within the costume which allowed the actor to control is facial and body movements. A real challenge, being that the character was underwater during most of the film and electrocution could be a real problem. I also liked the murky aqua color palate as it was used in the costumes of the human characters. For more information about what went into the making of this aquatic shmata, read the L.A. Times article here.

Victoria and Abdul
Consolata Boyle

As always, Connie Boyle did a bang up job on the costumes and in my heart I hope she gets the prize since I felt that she was passed over last year for her whimsical costumes in ‘Florence Foster Jenkins’. In this film she applies her sense of whimsey once again by giving Queen Victoria’s dreary widow weeds an interesting twist with some curious little crocheted embellishments to her weeping veil and the over the top uniform worn by Abdul, her manservant. The Victorian era for me, is one of the most unattractive, unflattering historical periods for woman’s fashion. So anyone who can make it look pretty and interesting gets my seal of approval. A+.

THEY WERE ROBBED!

Why wasn’t this film nominated?

Tulip Fever, that quirky little movie about the Tulip Wars in 17cc Holland was completely passed over in the costume category and this is an effrontery on all levels. Michael O’ Conners sumptuous costumes reflect the over the top wealth of the Dutch merchants and their obsession with all things rare and beautiful. Apparently this movie was stuck in ‘Development Hell’ for many years and maybe this is the reason the omission. But if you are able to, catch it if you can, it’s worth watching.

Congratulations guys, whether you were nominated or not, You are ALL Winners.
Make sure to watch the Oscars on Sunday March 4rth and root for your favorite!

www.costumesbyantonia.com

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Who Wants To Go To Hell With Madam Satan?

Kay Johnson as Madam Satan

Cecil B De Mille’s Diabolical Musical

‘Who wants to go to hell with Madam Satan? Was the catch word for this peculiar cult classic of pre-code Hollywood. Up until the early 1930’s Hollywood movies where pretty racy in their depictions of sex and violence. Cecil B De Mille’s film musical ’Madam Satan’ was one of those and it does not disappoint. Now DeMille is usually remembered for his religious and historical epics such as ‘The Ten Commandments’, ‘Cleopatra’ and ‘The Greatest Show on Earth’. So for him to direct a racy, quirky, musical was a bit out of character for him. But remember that a talking pictures were all the rage at that time and like many of his colleagues he jumped on the ‘bandwagon’ because it was the lucrative thing to do. I suppose for the same reason that The Rolling Stones and Kiss recorded Disco songs in the 70’s .

C.B. and friend

But lucky for De Mille he had a ‘Dream Team’ of creative talent as collaborators both in front and behind the camera: Jeannie MacPherson screenwriter, Cedric Gibbons Art Director, Theodore Kosloff featured dancer and of course, costumes by the legendary Adrian (inventor of the shoulder pads). Just to name a few. These names may not mean much today but believe me back then, they did some heavy lifting.

A ‘Dream Team’ of Hollywood talent

So the premise of this movie is about a husband and wife whose marriage is on the rocks. He winds up leaving her for another woman but she connives to win him back by co-hosting a costume party on a zeppelin over Central Park which of course becomes and over-the- top musical number showcasing the dancing talents of Kosloff and of course Adrian’s uniquely original designs. As zeppelins are wont to do, it malfunctions and all the guests must bail out in parachutes to save their lives. But not before the audience is exposed to lots of upshots of scantily clad women flailing the legs and flashing their panties as they descend back to earth. Oh, the humanity!

This near death experience makes the husband realize what a jerk he had been to his wife and so he goes running back to her loving arms. All is forgiven.

Madam Satan Costume full view

In spite of the superficial sounding plot, the story does have a dose of realism not found in post code Hollywood. For starters , the couple sleeps in the same bed, something that was not allowed post Breen Code. There’s infidelity, lots of sexual innuendo, a gay sub-plot with some of the characters and then of course there are this lovely, sexy costumes by Adrian. Sometimes I wish that Adrain had made more technicolor movies. The two that come to mind are ‘Wizard of Oz’ and ’The Women’. And even those where partially in color, the culprit being ‘Gone With The Wind’ whose production had swallowed up all the technicolor film in Lotus Land.

Legendary costume designer Adrian Greenburg

 

In my opinion, the back & white film doesn’t do Adrian’s costumes justice. I finally had the chance to see Adrian’s designs for Madame Satan at an A.M.P.A.S retrospective highlighting former Oscar winners/nominees for best achievement in Costume Design. There in its own showcase was the black velvet ‘Madam Satan’ costume with the embellished cape. WOW! The colors were so vivid and the detailed workmanship was absolutely exquisite.

Adrian’s original artwork
Madam Satan from the Metropolitan Museum Costume Institute Exhibit
Embellishment detail

Another bone that I have to pick with ‘Madam Satan’ is that the choreography is at times a bit sloppy. I wonder of this is due to De Mille’s lack of understanding of the genre. One wishes for the military precision of a Busby Berkley number that would have pirouetted in lockstep with Adrians costumes and Kosloff’s athletic physique. But alas, Busby was under contract with a different studio so it was not meant to be.

Theodore Kosloff full view
Kosloff costume detail

Adrian’s creations for ‘Madam Satan’ have proved to be extremely influential over the years. Spawning a multitude of costumes inspired by his original designs. The most recent being Eiko Ishioka’s designs for the ill fated Broadway musical version of ’Spider Man’. Imitation still is the best form of flattery.

Eiko Ishioka’s designs for ‘Spiderman’ inspired by Ardian’s original designs.

Please enjoy these pictures and if the reader gets a chance to see ‘Madam Satan’, please do. It’s campy and a bit dated but still worth watching. I truly wish that Adrian’s costumes for the film would go on tour again. They are beautiful and have withstood the test of time tangibly and intangibly.

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It’s Good to be King!

~It’s Good to be King!~

~Holy Roman Emperor Leopold I in theatrical costume~

The Austro-Hungarian Empire gave the world so much to enjoy: music, literature, food, Lippizaner Stallions, Sigmund Freud and the Von Trapp Family. But who would have thought that other major contribution would have been those beautiful, over the top costumes of the royal court? Of course, I had always been vaguely familiar with that genre, in particular having caught a glimpse of the late ‘Heini’ Von Thyssen traipsing about in full Austro-Hungarian drag at some sort of cultural event or other in Madrid back in the 90’s. Heini’s ensemble echoes the  splendor of an era lost in time. Like the Hapsburgs, Heini was a voracious art collector and his extensive compilation is on view at the museum which bears his name: Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza in Madrid. In an ironic twist of fate, his eldest daughter Francesca, wound up marrying a Hapsburg.

~Baron Hans Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza (a/k/a ‘Heini’) ~

My costume designs for a recent production of ‘The Sound of Music’ notwithstanding, it wasn’t until I saw the ‘Hapsburg Splendor’ exhibit at the MFAH that I was able to really appreciate the richness and luxuriousness of their court costumes. Now, I know that some of you cynics about there are saying: That exhibit happened two years ago. Why are you blogging about it now? Well, why not. It was a great exhibit that not only featured some beautiful costumes but a lot of important art as well. As mentioned earlier, the Hapsburgs, like my buddy Heini, were prolific art collectors and this exhibit, in particular the costumes merit a belated blog. Besides, now I can finally delete the exhibit pictures from my iPhone!

~Leopold I and his horse in matching costumes~

~(more about that later)~

The exhibit begins with an overall view of the Hapsburg Dynasties then segues into their very extensive art collection with examples from Caravaggio, Velásquez, Holbein and on and on. Finally the last hall is the one that features the costumes and it showcases examples of court dress, couture, military uniforms, heck, even the horses got into the act! I will cover the fine art towards the end of the post, but being that this IS a costume blog after all, we will begin there.


~Crown Prince Otto alighting from his carriage~

Let’s begin with this painting depicting a young prince alighting from his carriage because it serves as a good reference point for the costumes featured throughout the exhibit; Study the painting closely and you will see each one of those costumes was represented in the exhibit. It’s interesting to see how the Empire, being a mix of different cultures and ethnicities, also displayed this diversity in the clothing. As you view the details of their attire, one can also see elements of the various kingdoms which comprised this multi-cultural nation.

~Cuteness Overlord~

A ceremonial velvet tunic trimmed in ermine with the matching hat and shoes. Up until the early 20th Century most children of a certain socio-economic class were dressed as ‘little adults’. It’s interesting to see the shift begin towards more ‘child appropriate’ attire. This precious costume was worthy of a little prince!
Sadly, little Otto was never to inherit the title of Emperor due to the dissolution of the Austro-Hungarian Empire after WW1. But like most of his namesakes he had the talent for making lemonade out lemons and went on reinvent himself in other ways. Otto actually worked for a living as a businessman and writer. He even dabbled in politics by being an early supporter of the EU and served in the European Parliament. Bonus trivia: It was Otto’s son, Karl, who married Heini’s daughter Francesca.

~Hussar Uniform with Pelisse overcoat and Dragoon hat~

Keeping the ‘light’ in Light Calvary. The amount of gold in the bullion stitch embroidery would probably break a horse’s back. But I am assuming this is more of a ceremonial garment than an actual military uniform. Still, the detail and workmanship is lovely and I am sure that the wearer would have looked dashing on his horse. The pelisse over coat is usually worn over the left shoulder and it served to prevent swords cuts during battle. I’m curious as to why the curators of this exhibit chose to not show it worn in this fashion. Perhaps an oversight?

~Court Costume for a member of the Emperor’s Privy Council~

Looking at the hardware on this get-up, I can totally see this serving as an influence for a cosplay step punk costume. Couldn’t you? ‘A League of Extraordinary Austro-Hungarian Gentlemen’ perhaps? Unfortunately, time has faded the color of the brocaded inner tunic. But I would imaging it would have been a rich burgundy red just like the one shown in the painting.

~Footman’s everyday work uniform, yes really!~

This footman’s liveried uniform is in excellent condition and is exactly as represented in the painting. You can see him holding the door open as our little prince alights from the carriage.There was no description of the fabric but I am assuming that it is some type of wool melton and I am more than willing to assume that underneath the fancy braided livery embellishment is there is a dolman sleeve. I say this because the majority of the men’s costume feature a dolman sleeve as opposed to a traditional set in sleeve that was seen in other European court costumes. A dolman sleeve is actually of Turkish origin, and being that Austria-Hungary and the Ottoman Turks had a long history together (not always nice), it serves to prove how their clothing reflected the many cultures under their rule.

~‘Sissi’s’ ball gown designed by Charles Frederick Worth~

Seeing this elegant ball gown brought many bittersweet emotions because of the tragic legacy of its wearer. Empress Elisabeth of Austria also known as ‘Sissi’ can only be described as the 19th centuries answer to Princess Diana. Sissi was a free spirited and progressive thinker who wrote poetry and believed in the benefits of  diet and exercise. At a time when women were constricted by their corsets, Sissi believed that one maintained their figure through proper diet and calisthenics. So much so that she had a special gymnasium built at the Hofburg palace where she would work out daily. And one can appreciate the results of these work outs from the tiny waistline of this design by Charles Frederick Worth. Like Diana, she chafed under the stifling formality of the Austro-Hungarian court which caused her to suffer from bouts of depression and bulimia. Like Diana she was interested in couture like those of the aforementioned designer. And like Diana, she died a tragic and unnecessary death, having been assassinated during a visit to Switzerland by an anarchist who confused her for someone else!

~Ball Gown belonging to Princess Kinski~

I have no idea who Princess Kinski was and that was all that the information that the museum offered regarding the gown’s provenance. Googling her name was no help either. But please enjoy this beautiful ball gown of Peau de Soie satin and exquisite bullion stitching. If anyone reading this knows anything about Princess Kinski and her dress, feel free to contact me directly. costumesbyantonia@gmail.com

~Front View of Princess Kinski’s gown~

~Another back view of Princess Kinski’s beautiful gown~

~Even the horses wore costumes~

~It’s Good to be King!~

~The Hapsburg Art Collection~

The Hapsburgs were prolific art collectors and the exhibit did not disappoint. The works ranged from Roman antiquities to renaissance and baroque masters. Here is a sampling of the artworks beginning with the portrait above of Jane Seymour by Holbein. You might ask how a painting that was commissioned by Henry VIII of England wound up in Vienna? The answer is a long and convoluted one having to do with Master Holbein selling his works to the highest bidder. Obviously, the Hapsburgs had deeper pockets than the Tudors.

~Enjoy the rest of the collection!~

~Nymph and Satyr by P.P. Rubens~

~Danae by Titian~

~The Death of Cleopatra by Cagnacci~

~Infanta Maria Teresa by Velázquez~

~Wolfgirl, Artist Unknown~

~The high point of the collection ‘Crown of Thorns’~

~by the Master of dark and light: Caravaggio~

The exhibit has returned to the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna.

For more information visit their website: https://www.khm.at/en/

For more information on how to create your own royal splendor of a costume please visit my website www.costumesbyantonia.com call 832-652-9180 or email costumesbyantonia@gmail.com

 

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Will The Real Passe Partout Please Sit Down?

Will the real Passe Partout please sit down?

A passe partout is a poly synonymic term that has at times been applied to: a character in the Jules Verne novel ‘Around the World in 80 Days’, a layer of matte cardboard inserted into a picture frame and the title of a French TV children’s show. A ‘Passe-Partout’ was also used to define a particular type of Victorian crinoline hoop worn during the 1860’s that has also been described as the ‘The Carriage Collapsible Caged Crinoline’. Let’s stick with the French term, it’s less wordy.

‘Passe Partout’ literally translates as ‘pass through anything’ and that was the purpose of this device; it allowed the wearer to gently squeeze their skirt with their arms, therefore collapsing the crinoline, which allowed them to safely step into a carriage, pass through a narrow doorway or just sit down comfortably without risking a broken neck.


At the beginning of the 19cc, women’s fashion had experienced a token liberation through the ‘Empire’ silhouettes that were made popular as a result of the French Revolution of the previous century. In an effort to purge all social and cultural affectations of the’ ‘Ancienne Regime’ that had been recently decapitated by this political upheaval. The new sensibility was to return to the ‘purist’ style of the Greeks and so ladies dresses began to resemble the diaphanous draped styles of the Greek and Roman statues discovered by Napoleon as he pillaged and plundered his way around Europe and the Middle East.


Unfortunately this ‘natural style was to be short-lived and eventually, as the 19cc progressed, skirts once again began to get ridiculously wider and wider. So much in fact that they posed a risk not only to the wearer but to the public at large. There were several well documented cases of ladies suffering a loss of their lives as a result of them tripping over their hoop skirts in an attempt to board a coach or use the stairs. Ironically, these extra wide hoop skirts were referred to as ‘cage crinolines’ and they definitely lived up to their namesake because they really did confine the movements of the wearer to the point that one careless move could kill them!


Sometime around the mid 1860’s some enterprising individual created a hoop which was rigged in such a way that enabled the wearer to ‘squeeze’ their shirt thereby allowing an ease of movement without endangering their lives. And thus, the ‘Jupon Passe Partout’ came into being.


This concept of the ‘rigged’ undergarment continued to experience popularity throughout the 19cc even as the silhouettes morphed into the ‘bustle’ and ‘tournure’ silhouettes of the late 19 and early 20th century Edwardian fashions.


Thankfully these confining symbols of female oppression began to wane and female silhouettes began to be liberated. Due in part to the Woman’s Suffrage Movement and World War 1 that included more women into the workplace, one began to see the development of the simple casual styles of the ‘Gibson Girl’ and eventually the complete liberation of the Flappers in the 1920’s.

 

One interesting trivia about this era was Coco Chanel, whose suits also liberated women from the confinement of the corset, was also, at the beginning of her career, adopted the styles of a ‘Gibson Girl’.

Coco Chanel, YES Coco Chanel at the beginning of her career, as a ‘Gibson Girl’.
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And the Winners Are!

May I have the Correct Envelope Please?

 

Congratulations to Colleen Atwood Oscar Winner for

Best Achievement in Costume Design

 ‘Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them’

 

I must confess that to being a bit disappointed in the award going to Ms Atwood. Don’t misunderstand, I am a big fan of her body of work, just that I was hoping that the awards would have gone to a newcomer instead of someone who has been perennially nominated and won the gold statuette five times. Considering the Best Picture debacle at the end of the ceremony, I am wondering if the tweeting accountant from Price Waterhouse handed the incorrect envelope more than once.

Let’s honor the efforts of the other nominees:

 

Joanna Johnston-Allied * Consolata Boyle-Florence Foster Jenkins

Madeline Fontaine-Jackie * Mary Zophres-La La Land

It was also disappointing that ‘Dr. Strange’ was not nominated in that category. But there’s always next year. Till then I will see you at the movies!

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Costume Drama!

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Costume Drama 2016!

Well who knew? 2016 is almost a memory and the Awards Season is just around the corner. That can only mean that its time for the studios to release their ‘Oscar Worthy’ films and that of course means plenty of Costume Dramas for us to sink our teeth into. Let’s start by reviewing some of the major releases although there are tons more that time or space won’t allow me to cover. That will just have to wait for my annual newsletter ‘And the Winners Are..’ which is usually released right after the nominations.

So let’s begin with:

Magnificent Seven
Magnificent Seven

‘The Magnificent 7’
OK, so how many times are they going to recycle ‘7 Samurai’? Personally I prefer Akiro Kurosawa’s original but anything starring Denzel Washington deserves my attention. So here I would like to address the costumes designed by veteran Sharen Davis. Share already has some western cowboy credits having worked with Tarantino in ‘Django Unchained’, and in ‘Magnificent 7’ she does not disappoint; I liked how her use of muted colors to highlight the gang of seven was much like the samurai costumes in the original, but at the same time giving each character their own individual costuming conceit. For example, the Vincent D’Onofrio character’s almost elizabethan looking vest and Denzel’s black on black ensemble. Sharen Davies received an Oscar nomination for her costumes in ‘Django’, so let’s see if the fates smile down on her this awards season.

The Handmaiden

 

‘The Handmaiden’
WOW! This is on my ‘must see’ list and I wish the film would hurry up and make its way out here. It’s not in general release yet, so I may have to drive out to Austin just to see it. ‘The Handmaiden’ is based on a novel by the same name and the story revolves around the relationship between a wealthy heiress and her personal maid. Ok so the story has been told before but not as it’s interpreted by Director Park Chan-woo. This erotic thriller is set in 1930’s Korea and presents luscious sets and costume combining western and eastern aesthetics. Costume Designer Sang-gyeong Jo creates the most exquisite ‘costume porn’ that I have ever seen since ‘The Cell’. So far, Jo has only collaborated on a few previous project with Park and I hope that this breakthrough movie serves as a stepping stone to bigger and greater things. The Envelope Please!

Dr Strange
Dr Strange

‘Dr. Strange’
So far of all the films presented here, this has to be my personal favorite. Of course not having seen ‘The Handmaiden’, so that may change. In spite of the obnoxiously bad 3D, this movie was fun to watch and featured so many occult allusions that after the movie ended, I had to run home and brush up on my ‘Key of Solomon.’ But the costumes by Alexandra Byrne are what make the movie shine.Dr Strange’s Magical Cape alone is worth the price of admission and should get a nomination for ‘Best Actor in a Supporting Role’. It’ll be the first time an article of clothing would receive that recognition and deservedly so. Bad puns aside, the Magic Cape is a ‘stand alone’ performance. Ms. Byrne is a veteran of the Marvel franchise, having designed costumes for ‘Avengers: Age of Ultron’, ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ and ‘Thor’. Good Job!

Fantastic Serafina

‘Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them’
The Harry Potter franchise returns and perennial Oscar nominee/winner Designer Colleen Atwood is in charge of the Costumes once again. Being that this is such a moneymaker for Warner Brothers, Ms. Atwood plays it safe in the wardrobe interpretation but there are some standouts like Seraphina Picquery’s lovely tunic pictured here. There is no doubt in my mind that Colleen Atwood will receive another Oscar nomination but whether she actually gets it is another story. I am keeping my fingers crossed for ‘The Handmaiden’ or ‘Dr. Strange’.

Assassins Creed

‘The Assassins Creed’
Welcome to the Spanish Inquisition! NOT! Finally, the video games make it to the big screen and like they used to say before the ‘Auto de Fe’, you can’t keep a good Borgia down. Costume designer Sammy Sheldon is a bit of a newcomer here, having started her career in showbiz as an actress but shifted her efforts to working behind the camera. I did a quick IMDB search for her and discovered that her first design effort was for ‘V for Vendetta’ which ostensibly makes her the mother of the Guy Fawkes mask! Who’da thunk it? Well, this broad has just earned my total RESPECT! Unfortunately no amount of string pulling with my contacts in the industry was able to get me a preview of ‘Assassins Creed’ so I guess that I will have to stand in line with all of the lesser mortals when this film goes into general release of December 21st.

Jackie

“Jackie”

This film is a parable on a ‘Post Dallas’ Jackie. Natalie Portman rocks the ‘Locust Valley Lockjaw’ accent playing the widowed First Lady trying to put her life in order following the assignation of her husband. First time designer for a major American film is French costume designer Madeline Fontaine who’s previous credits include ‘Amelie’ and ‘ Asterix at the Olympics’ (really). To her credit she did a good job replicating Jackie’s pink suit worn in Dallas, her widow’s weed’s for the Presidential funeral, telling Jackie’s story through her wardrobe. For the record, I would just like to clarify one thing here and now: Contemporary fashion pundits are saying that the pink suit she wore in Dallas was designed by Chanel. That is WRONG! The suit was actually a Chanel knock off designed by American Designer (and FIT professor emeritus, Pauline Trigere).
The actual worn by JKO is now locked away in the National archives where it will stay out of the public eye until the year 2103.

Silence

“Silence”
In this new release from Martin Scorcese, veteran production crew member Dante Ferretti, pulls double duty as both Production Designer AND Costume Designer. This is quite an undertaking for the average mortal. But he has done so in the past for other Scorsese projects such as ‘Kundun’. Looking at the publicity image provided by Paramount Studios, it’s safe to say that only an Italian can manage to make a Jesuit priest look sexy!

Do I smell an Oscar for any of these efforts?

We’ll see when the AMPAS nominations are announced on

January 24, 2017!

Till then, Happy Viewing!

But wait, there’s more!

Give the Gift of Creativity!

Everyday is Cyber Monday at Costumes by Antonia. Until December 31st anyway. Give your loved one (or yourself) the ‘Gift of Creativity’ by downloading a Gift Certificate for a series of 4 or 8 private sewing lessons. Be sure to enter the code ’sewcooltenpercent’ at check out to receive your 10 percent discount.

Please contact me directly at 832-652-9180 or visit our partner site 

To download a Gift Certificate:

http://www.learnhow2sew.com/gift-certificates.html

 

Wishing all of you and yours a very Happy Holiday Season and Peaceful 2017!

With Love!

Antonia

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Sewing Boot Camp Halloween Special Edition!

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The Sewing Boot Camp returns Saturday October 8th

with a VERY Special Halloween Edition

Stuck for new ideas for your Halloween Costume? Do you feel challenged by your current Halloween costume project? Don’t despair! The Sewing Boot Camp Halloween Special Edition is your go to place for all of your costume needs. Bring you projects, your questions and your imagination for a day of fun and creativity.

When: Saturday October 8th 2016 10:00 am to 2:00 pm

Where: Costumes by Antonia Studio in the Oak Forest Neighborhood of Houston

Cost: $55.00 per person advanced registration only via credit card or PayPal.

What was that number again? 832-652-9180

or visit my website:

http://www.learnhow2sew.com/Sewing-Bootcamp-2016-flier.pdf

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