The Beautiful Miss Blow

Isabella Delves Broughton Blow was born on the 19th of November 1958 and died May 7th 2007. What transpired in those 48 years is a tale of creativity, betrayal and tragedy. A trendsetting prophet who loved fashion more than it loved her, she  took her life after swallowing a lethal dose of paraquat, thus banishing the painful demons that haunted her during the course of her short life. She was an original eccentric, her eye for fashion and for the designers who created them became cultural events.  Her idiosyncratic sartorial choices and how she wore them became  works of art. A woman whose talents could not be quantified. She joined the Pantheon of other ambulatory art pieces that include Daphne Guinness, Anna Piaggi and Daniel Lismore

Tarot Card XVI: Blow and McQueen running from their personal demons in this iconic image by David LaChapelle. Courtesy National Portrait Gallery London

Seeing that iconic picture of Isabella and Alexander McQueen running away from the flaming tower reminded me of the two subjects of the “Tower” Tarot having made landfall and now, like the subjects of the tarot,  are trying to runaway from their specific demons. It was like they both drove each other into madness with their symbiotic relationship. And both shared the illness of suicide; McQueen eventually took his own life a few years after she exited hers.

Isabella was just as much a product of her times as she was a product of her past: And it’s important that we study the Whole picture in order to understand this most tragic Muse. The first time I saw Isabella Blow was in a documentary about royal portrait painters. In it, they were contrasting traditional portraitist with a contemporary fashion shoot. There was one particular scene depicting the progress of a shoot of Fredrick Windsor, whose mother is non other than Princess Michael of Kent. A woman who is a very accomplished historical author, whose books I love to read. But in this scenario was living up to her nick name, “Princess Pushy”. It was no surprise then that she was trying to micromanage every detail in the annoyingly condescending way that only royals know how to do.

To the Manor Born: Isabella and her husband Detmar Blow at Hilles House. Photographed by Oberto Gili.

While everyone else in the crew  was playing “duck and cover” there was one lone voice who dared to stand up to HRH with the same socio-economic lilt. “But Ma’am doesn’t understand…” was her Third Person refrain to every suggestion put forth by the Princess. It was obvious that this girl was “to the manor born”, only their appearances couldn’t be more different; She was dressed in an outrageous hat and and an outfit to match. Her name was Isabella Blow. I was hooked. From that moment on I made it a point to follow her career and I was devastated when a few years later she took her own life. 

Isabella was the eldest daughter of a family who could trace their lineage back to a Page who fought alongside Edward the Black Prince. That’s a long time ago! Sadly, mental health was a recurring issue with her family since her grandfather Sir Henry John “Jock” Delves Broughton (try saying that name three times quickly) who was one of the subjects in the “Happy Valley Murders” a story which was to eventually become a book and then a feature film in the 1987 film: “White Mischief”. Worth watching if you ask me. Quick film synopsis: A high society love triangle ends tragically in a murder-suicide. Sorry, spoiler.

White Mischief: Izzie’s Grand-papa and her two-timing Step Granny. Here played by Joss Ackland and Greta Scaachi in the 1987 film. Courtesy of Columbia Pictures

Being that she was eldest daughter and not son, society saw her as useless since she could not inherit property. And if she couldn’t inherit property, then how could she possibly manage the family fortune? She did have a younger brother whose drowning she witnessed when she was just four years old. It was the beginning of the end for her family since she, and her other two sisters were quickly dispatched to different boarding schools. Finally when Izzie(Isabella) was fourteen, her mother walked out of the marriage and out of their lives. Her dad subsequently re-married and (no-surprise) Izzie did not get along with her new step-mama, causing life-long friction between her and her father. So much so that in the end, he cut her out of his will.

But Izzie marched on, after completing her studies at Oxford, she then moved on to New York to study Art History at NYU. After that her story gets a little hazy and no amount of research brought me clarification, just obfuscation. From what I was able to glean was that while in NYC, she fell into the orbit of the Warhol Factory Crowd. Then she apparently  married a Brit who moved to Texas in order to make it in the oil business. During this time she allegedly worked as a rep at the Dallas Apparel Mart for the French designer Guy Laroche. This one I find a little hard to wrap my head around. Being that I live in Texas and am all too familiar with its suffocating provinciality, I can’t imagine Isabella working here. But I digress. After her stint in the Lone Star State, she bolted sans husband, to either New York to work at Vogue Magazine as an assistant to Anna Wintour. OR back to England to be a Nanny for Bryan Ferry’s son, Otis. Either way, can you blame her? 

Isabella with Bryan Ferry. He would prove to be a loyal friend to the end. Courtesy of The Daily Mail, UK.

Another twist to this story was that Bryan, being friends with Wintour, secured the Vogue gig for Izzie once her nanny duties were completed. This particular story has a bit more credibility since it was recounted by her husband Detmar to a reporter for The Daily Mail newspaper. Nonetheless her friendship with Ferry lasted her entire lifetime and he was to play a pivotal role in her legacy.

Bryan Ferry remembers his longtime friendship with Isabella at  SHOWstudio

So from there, she continued her association with Vogue’s parent company Condé Nast, by moving on to work at Tatler Magazine in London. That was  where she evolved into the hat wearing eccentric we all loved. Much like her friend Daphne Guinness, she transformed herself into a walking work of art, using fashion as her medium. Taking advantage of her influential position at a major cultural platform, she went on to discover the talents of designers, models such as Philip Treacy, Sophie Dahl, Stella Tennant, Hussein Chalayan, Miucca Prada, Viktor & Rolf and most auspiciously, Alexander McQueen. A designer with whom she would embark on a creative, symbiotic relationship that ended with the ultimate betrayal.

Tragic Muse: Isabella with her beloved dog, wearing a design by Hussein Chalayan and photographed by Steven Meisel two of her many discoveries.

And as if all of this activity wasn’t enough, she also found the time to make a cameo appearance in Wes Anderson’s film: “The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou”

Like most larger than life figures, the more Isabella expanded her persona, the harder it was to fit in with the norms & conventions of the fashion industry. Because no matter how much lip service is paid to creativity, in the end, fashion is a business. So Isabella found herself floundering from one position to the next, brokering deals and staging over the top fashion shoots. A consultancy here, a styling gig there. In the end she would wind up kicked to the curb by an industry that she loved, but that did not love her back. 

Perhaps the most telling of these scenarios was her association with Alexander McQueen. After discovering him while he was still a student at Central Saint Martins in London. She picked him from the litter and nurtured his career, eventually brokering a lucrative deal between McQueen and Tom Ford of Gucci, who was looking to expand its licensing division. Obviously she assumed that she would secure a high profile position in this new endeavor. But when it came time to sign the contract, her name was not even mentioned and McQueen did not lift a finger to correct this. This was to have a devastating effect on her, spiraling into a nadir of depression and suicide attempts. As a friend observed: “Everyone got contracts, Izzie wound up with a frock”. Sadly this is not such an unusual modus operandi in an industry that ironically idolizes women while at the same time will brutally purge those who are considered irrelevant. 

Meet the Blows: Isabella & Detmar’s lavish fantasy wedding at Gloucester Cathedral. Hat designed by Philip Treacy. Otis Ferry was one of their pages. Seeking photographer’s name for credit.

Somewhere along the line Isabella married a fellow blue blood by the name of Detmar Blow, who, like Isabella was asset rich but cash poor and who’s grandfather, in the irony of ironies also died by suicide as a result of drinking paraquat (Izzie’s poison of choice). So Isabella Delves became Isabella Blow and their wedding at Gloucester Cathedral featured all the trappings of a medieval fantasy wedding complete with pageboys and Isabella wearing a medieval style helmet designed by Philip Treacy. Together she and Detmar set about to transform “Hilles”, their little “Arts & Crafts cottage” into an eccentric’s Salon where they entertained high profile creative types as well as Isabella’s protégées. But sadly, happiness would elude Isabella on the domestic front as well when it was discovered that  she could not bear children. 

To add to her aggravation, Mother in Law from Hell appeared on the scene, demanded that Izzie and Detmar relinquish the house to her whenever she felt the need to stay there. The excuse being that since the couple was childless, it needed to be made available to one of Detmar’s siblings who wasn’t (and there were a few, despite Detmar being the eldest son). This must’ve triggered ugly memories of being displaced by her father’s new step-family, because even though Detmar wanted to fight it out, Izzie did not and the couple temporarily separated.

With early protégée Philip Treacy. She is wearing one of his whimsical creations. Thanks to her society connections, his designs graced a number of royal heads. Courtesy Getty Images

Again, society rears up its ugly head to obsolesce those women who unable to serve as brood mares to the patriarchy. 

So with her marriage and career on shaky ground, Isabella sunk deeper into her funk. Electric shock therapy and hospitalization didn’t help. Her deteriorating condition  was further exposed by a highly sensational and unsuccessful suicide attempt in 2006. While stuck in traffic on a busy overpass in London, she climbed out of her taxi and thew herself to what she hoped would be her death. But no death, just two very badly broken ankles. But broken ankles or not, she flew to Dubai Fashion Week  on an imaginary expense account, passing herself as the “Elsa Klensch of Al-Jazeera” then again to Fashion Week in Bombay where she passed herself off as a Vogue representative who had flown into town in order to select the new editor of Vogue India. 

Eventually her shenanigans caught up with her and she wound up back in London broke and her reputation in tatters. But Izzie rallied, as most manic depressives are wont to do. Soon she was on her way to new adventures and projects. About a week before her passing, she posed for photographer Tim Walker, wearing a chain mail hood and mime makeup. It’s a sad picture to see; even though Isabella was not a conventional beauty, in her earlier pictures, her eyes sparkled with mischief and creativity. Here she looked like she had her life’s blood drained from her and looked much older than her 48 years on this earth. It’s a disturbing portrait, considering how her previous collaborations with Walker produced groundbreaking, iconic images. 

“All The Wine In Your Life’s All Dried Up”.  The haunting final portrait by Tim Walker

A few days before May 7, 2007, while staying at Hilles, she would take a lethal dose of Paraquat. This was her seventh suicide attempt in a little over a year and the seventh time was the deadly charm. She announced her deed to her family long after it was too late to save her from poisoning. She was hospitalized and died in her sleep a few days later. In the time that transpired between her swallowing the poison and expiring, she was busy planning her funeral. She wanted it to be as whimsical as her fashion statements. And what an event it was! The services took place in Gloucester Cathedral, where she was previously christened then married, now served as the venue for her Last Hurrah. She was brought in on a horse drawn carriage, her coffin bedecked by flowers and topped off by one of Philip Treacy’s creations.  The boys that served as pages at her wedding, where now her pallbearers. Otis Ferry (Bryan’s son and her former charge) was amount them. If Isabella Blow was over the top in life, she definitely raised the bar in death.

From Page Boy to Pallbearer:(L) Otis Ferry (far right) carries Issie’s coffin into Gloucester Cathedral. (R) Her flower bedecked coffin topped off by Treacy’s Galleon Hat. Courtesy Getty Images

Then bad news rained upon more bad news: It was announced that her family was going to have to auction off Isabella’s couture collection in order pay off her Death Tax. That’s similar to the Inheritance Tax here in the States. It’s ironic that someone who spent most of her life worrying about money was now plagued by financial obligations in death. Luckily her friends stepped in and prevented this from happening. Namely Daphne Guinness and Bryan Ferry. The Isabella Blow Foundation was created to preserve her comprehensive collection while serving as a tax shelter for her already burdened family.

Fair Weather Friend: (L)A distraught Alexander McQueen leaving the services. (R) The friends in happier days. Credits: Left: Getty Images, Right: Richard Young

It was Daphne’s brainchild to create an exhibition called Fashion Galore! honoring the memory of Isabella while showcasing her extensive wardrobe collection. Bryan Ferry contributed the song “When She Walks In the Room” which had been her favorite song of his (and my personal favorite too) to promote the event. A promotional video was created by Ruth Hogben using Bryan’s song and Isabella’s wardrobe from the exhibition. The video was shot at Doddington, her ancestral home. It’s a moving tribute and the words to the song resonate with the telling ironies of her life. “Fashion Galore!” was a tremendous success at its opening at London’s Courtauld Gallery in 2013. Then the collection went on to make the rounds of the fashion capitals of the world to tremendous fanfare. Thanks to the proceeds from the Fashion Galore exhibit, the Isabella Blow Foundation emerged; A foundation dedicated to providing educational scholarships and mental health services in the form of art therapy to those suffering from mental illness.

Daphne Guinness Interviewed by SHOWstudio discussing the “Fashion Galore” Exhibition and creation of the Isabella Blow Foundation.

Isabella managed to redeem herself in death as she was never able to in life. Perhaps in the end those “frocks” that she received as consolation prizes after getting screwed out of a deal are the keys to her immortality. Her couture collection at the Isabella Blow Foundation is now a permanent record for the study of the cultural trends of the turn of the 20/21st centuries. Her energy is palpable in the design of these confections, since she herself served as an inspiration for each and every one of them. These dresses and hats, each one a work of art in their own right, like the muse who inspired them, are forever a part of a greater legacy. 

“When She Walks In The Room” A still shot by Nick Knight from the Fashion Galore! promotional video with music by Bryan Ferry. Click on the image to watch Ruth Hogben’s moving video.

I’d like to conclude this post with the lyrics from “When She Walks In The Room” written by Bryan Ferry. Even though he composed this a prior to their acquaintance, the lyrics resonate with the ironies of her brief life. 

“When She Walks In The Room”

Lyrics by Bryan Ferry, courtesy of Universal Music Publishing

“So you talk to the walls

Always know

’cause they’ve seen it all

And heard it all before

And your fair weather friends

Fail to speak

They’re so afraid still waters run deep

And they’re don’t understand

Or perceive

That you can’t see the woods for the trees

Christmas trees you were sure

Weren’t the sort

To build up your hopes

Then sell you short

Yeah to build you up

And sell you short

All your life you were taught to believe

Then a moment of truth – you’re deceived

All the wine in your life’s all dried up

Is now the time to give up?

Like the soft paper cup that you squeeze

So you take this and that and then some more

And you make your way through the door

You make up your way through the door”

©2020 Costumes by Antonia

No portion of this article can be reproduced without the written permission of the author.

Did you enjoy this blog?

For more information about my services, please visit my website costumesbyantonia.com

 

Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Facebookpinterestyoutube

The Proper Care And Feeding of your Costume

Working on The CRÜE project involved working with lots of unconventional materials. Often times one garment consisted of different types of fabrics and trimming that are often incompatible with each other in a regular garment. I usually sew in care labels for my clients but in this case it just would have been too many labels to sew in. Case in point, one costume was made from “pleather”, covered with holographic lamé trim and embellished with metal studs. The costume was also accented with a special fabric paint for effect; How in the world would one maintain that? The rule of thumb here is to go with the most delicate fabric and use cleaning techniques compatible with that type of fabric. In this case was the lamé which requires hand washing with a delicate soap such as Dr. Bronner’s Pure Castile Soap pictured above.

Read more about the Proper Care and Feeding of your Costume:

Congratulations! You are now the proud owner of a Costume by Antonia, thank you for your support of my work. Your costume was custom made by hand, specifically to your measurements. Proper care and feeding will result in years of wearing enjoyment.

Because your costume is made from non conventional materials that are trimmed with metal, I recommend special care and maintenance be applied, which may not always comply with the manufactures suggestions.

After your performance: I recommend turning your costume inside out and spraying it with vodka. Yes, vodka! Just use the cheapest bottom shelf plain vodka  (not flavored!). Pour the vodka into a clean spray bottle and spray the inside of your costume until it is fairly well saturated. Then allow it to air out for several hours until the vodka evaporates. As the vodka is evaporating, so will the perspiration and odors. I recommend doing this after every performance or as needed. Be sure to test a small amount to make sure it does not lift the color from the fabric.

You may also occasionally hand wash your costume in cool water and mild soap (excepts for the faux leather used for your body harnesses and belts. (I’ll get to below). Even though the manufactures’ instructions say that its ok to machine wash and tumble dry, DO NOT DO THIS!

The pleather, latex etc are also covered in studs and if you put it in the washer and or dryer, I can almost guarantee that you will loose all your studs and probably your washer/dryer too!

To hand wash, just soak them in cool water for about 30 minutes, gently agitate with your hand. Use a mild soap, I recommend Dr. Bronner’s Unscented Castile Soap for best results, but any mild soap is ok. After 30 minutes, gently press out the soapy water and rinse in cool water. I usually let it soak in fresh water for about 30 minutes, again agitating gently by hand. Then press out the water from the garment. If there is still any soap residue left, let it soak again in fresh water for about another 15 minutes. Press out the water and dry flat. This keeps the garment from distorting and allows it to retain its shape. If you don’t already have one, a drying rack is a good investment to ensure the longevity of your costume. The rack allows the air to circulate through the fibers so it can dry thoroughly. Once the item is completely dry, gently rebook into shape and hang folded in a cool dry place. Avoid storing it in your tour box because the fabric tends to “shrivel up” if it’s left folded for too long. If possible keep a packet of silica gel or a small block of cedar wood wherever your costume is stored to absorb moisture/humidity. This can be a problem in Houston! 

Care of your harnesses and belts: Do not immerse in water! Spray with the vodka if needed, otherwise just let it air out after your performance. You can also wipe it down with a moist washcloth and small amount of mild soap if it gets soiled. Store flat or on a hanger. You can occasionally condition the surface with a small amount of Vaseline, Baby Oil or Murphy’s Oil Soap. Apply with a soft cloth, then buff till the luster is restored.

DO NOT DRY CLEAN YOUR COSTUMES

DO NOT IRON YOUR COSTUME

DO NOT USE BLEACH

ALWAYS TEST A SMALL PATCH BEFORE ANY TREATMENT.

Enjoy wearing your costume!

Did you enjoy this post?

Please visit my website: costumesbyantonia.com

“Custom Made Fantasies From The Historical To The Hysterical”©

Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Facebookpinterestyoutube

Meet The CRÜE!

Meet The CRÜE Tribute Band!

On Saturday January 18, 2020, The CRÜE made their debut at the BFE Club in Houston. This Mötley Crüe Tribute Band delivered a stunning performance to the delight of screaming fans. With a meticulous attention to details and a priority for authenticity, we were able to recreate the look and sounds of this iconic 80’s Glam Metal Band.

This inspired me to take a trip down Memory Lane:

Way back in 1983, in a different time, in a different world, I was a young 20 something winding down their studies at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York, when I was conscripted by the F.I.T. Job Bank to intern for a project with a well known designer. The project involved assisting in the creation of dancer’s costumes for an entirely new concept known as a “Music Video”. So novel was the concept that the lady from the job bank said that music was meant to be heard, not watched! Remember at that time, MTV was just a fledgling second tier cable station that could not even get the broadcast rights in Manhattan! The fact that Strap Hangers in the Bridge & Tunnel communities were able to enjoy this cool new station but not the Manhattan trendsetters, sparked such an outrage that it spawned that ubiquitous ad campaign starring the top musicians of the day screaming: “I WANT MY MTV!”

Blink and you’ll miss it! Those are some badass leg warmers there!

The video was for a then unknown band who went by the unlikely name of Mötley Crüe. Or at least that was the name taped to the “Ditty Bags”. I had never heard of them nor did I ever meet the band members. Even if they did walk through Mr Legaspi’s studio, costume shop protocols dictates that anyone below the status of designer, could not speak or look at the performers, unless they were spoken to first.  Remember, the “costumes” were to be for dancers that had not even been cast yet. But the band’s name stuck and from then on my fellow internee and I would refer to each other as the “The Motley Crew”. Once my week long internship was over, I collected my mere pittance of a stipend and got on with my life. Several months later, Manhattan Cable tired of hearing the screaming demands of their audience, added MTV to their lineup. That, and another curiosity called a “24 hour news channel”, CNN. So imagine my surprise when I am sitting in my living room watching the latest “Haircut 100” video, or whatever. All of the sudden a “Premiere Video” began playing called “Looks That Kill” by non other than “Mötley Crüe”! YOWZA! I began screaming at my roommate: “LISA COME DOWN HERE! IT’S THAT VIDEO I TOLD YOU ABOUT!!!”. We watched the video together and it was really quite stunning in it’s look and presentation. It was the first time I had seen a band combine Glam and Metal and hence a new genre was coined: “Glam Metal”. Oh yes and I caught some brief glimpses of the leg warmers on the dancers that were cut and sewn by yours truly. I was a part of Rock’nRoll History. How ‘bout that?

Calling Dr. Stanislavsky! We have a serious case of over-acting here!

More importantly, who knew that nearly 36 years later I would be commissioned by a representative of “The Crüe”, a Tribute Band, to recreate their iconic Glam Metal costumes for a whole new generation! It was one of my most fun and challenging projects as I collaborated with the band members to bring back the sights and sounds of a previous era. By studying early concert footage and an abundance of images provided by The CRÜE, the original costumes were brought to life. And no, I did not have to cut and sew any leg warmers this time. Like I said, the project was challenging in the sense that many of the fabrications and embellishments were difficult to source. In particular because I live in a city that is lacking the infrastructure and skilled labor pool to support this type of business. So most of the materials had to be ordered in and finding reliable contractors to assist in the completion of the project was nearly impossible. Thankfully I was blessed to find the services of “Twisted Arrow Goods”, amazing leatherworkers here in Houston, who were able to lend their assistance to the completion of the project. Thanks to their enthusiasm and the enthusiasm of the band members, the baby was delivered in good health.

The Diligent Workers at Twisted Arrow Goods

So I would like to take you on a quick journey on the making of the Mötley schemata’s based on the original designs and given a modern twist for comfort and wearability. The authenticity of the costumes served to back up the strong performance they delivered last Saturday. The CRÜE’S masterly musicianship and spot on choreography, backed by the costumes helped to nail a killer performance, bringing us all back to those heady early days of Glam Metal.

“Vince Neil”

Doppelgänger, Vince Neil Costume

Vince’s costume was perhaps one of the most challenging to recreate. What appears to be a skimpy little harness with a codpiece and tight pants is really a miracle of engineering. Watching some of the original concert footage of the actual band, it was a bit painful to see all of the wardrobe malfunctions occurring as the real Vince sang and danced onstage. I was determined to not allow that to happen on my watch, so I made it my imperative that every component of this costume was securely anchored in place. Another challenge of this costume was finding the appropriate studs and nail heads. In particular the triangular pyramids which were sourced from a supplier in New York City. Seeing the final outcome is like seeing a the original come back to life. It’s said that in life we all have a doppelgänger and I think that Vince has found his.

“Mick Mars”

Looks that Kill, Mick Mars costume

Mick’s was probably one of the easiest to recreate as you can see the design is pretty straightforward in keeping with the artistic sensibilities of the artist. The CRÜE guitarist is  an excellent musician (actually they ALL are excellent) and so comfort was the number one priority here. My goal here was to create a costume that was totally authentic but at the same time allow the wearer to apply his art on stage to the thrill of the adoring fans.

“Tommy Lee”

Cute Dimples! Tommy Lee costume

Even though, I had seen the “Looks that Kill” video hundreds of times, I was still bedazzled by the amount of work on his pectoral and the complexity of the design. My approach was to break down the design, section by section then putting it all together. Our biggest challenge here was to reproduce the “dimpled” studs along the lower row of the pectoral. Remember, these original costumes were built way back in 1983 and some of these embellishments no longer exist. By employing a technique called “peening” we were able to recreate the “dimple” effect from a regular domed stud. It’s a pity Tommy has to sit behind the drum kit because the audience is denied seeing his cool costume. But he is a solid drummer and his tight beats leads the rest of the musicians through the set with stunning precision! 

“Nikki Sixx”

Hey Nikki you’re so fine! “Nikki Sixx” costume

Who can forget can forget Nikki with his under eye black stripes? Here, we recreated his 2 epaulets and a bias strapped body harness which was anchored to a double cross belt. It was important that every aspect of this costume be balanced, in particular because the larger epaulet was extremely heavy and sat on the right shoulder of his playing hand, it was crucial that this component sit securely  on the shoulder but not interfere with his guitar playing.

Would you like to see more?

Click here to see their debut performance at the BFE Club

Click on the image above to be directed to my YouTube Channel and you can see for yourself how their excellent musicianship and attention to detail served to nail an unforgettable performance. (Plus the costumes aren’t bad either!)

The CRÜE says: Follow this link to like us on FB!

To follow The CRÜE and their upcoming concerts please click here to be directed to their Facebook Page.

Did you enjoy this post? Please visit my website: costumesbyantonia.com your place for “Custom Made Fantasies From The Historical To The Hysterical”©

 

 

 

Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Facebookpinterestyoutube

The Taurean Villain

                                                           Adam Taurus Custom Made Costume

Adam Taurus Villain

Creating a costume that has never been done before is one of my favorite challenges. That’s why I was so exited when a new client contacted me earlier this year, inquiring if it would be possible for me to create a costume based on the notorious Anime villain, Adam Taurus. Naturally I jumped at the opportunity because converting something from a one dimensional image into a three dimensional article worn by a human is always a worthy challenge. An animator’s illustration may be a beautiful work of art but it can’t always translate into a wearable garment.

Challenges like this always serve to help the costume designer hone their crafting and construction skills while at the same time respecting the integrity of the original design. This particular project reminded me of the “Bard” project that I created for another client last year. 

Adam Taurus RWBY Anime Villain

In the case of Adam Taurus, there already exist many ready made costumes that are  available online, but not surprisingly, they are lacking in quality. As for his magical mask, well, forget about it. I was going to have to really work my own magic on this puppy. My client was concerned with quality and durability since he was wanting to wear his costume over and over again. So we would have to find materials that were unusual but practical. 

The suit itself was relatively simple; think of a sort of samurai cassock only that the hemline was unusual in the sense that it was asymmetrical with a sort of a ‘mudflap’ panel attached to the front left of the suit. My concern was the selection of fabric. I did not want to select conventional men’s suit fabric because it can be hot and heavy. He was going to have to be wearing this inside convention halls where the room temperatures can get pretty high sometimes due to all the other people in costume milling about. 

I wanted something that was light weight, looked sharp and had that ‘futuristic’ sheen to it. Polished Cotton was the fabric of choice. Yes, that old throwback from the 70’s and 80’s is making a comeback in this new century. It had nice hand to it and had excellent body. But at the same time it was lightweight enough for comfort. It was an easy fabric to work with and in the areas that needed build up I used light weight wadding to give shape to the shoulders and collar. For his bright red lining, I had originally thought about using silk Habotai which is traditionally used for lining. But I opted instead for microfiber polyester because again, it was breathable and the slight gabardine weave gave the overall look of the garment a good shape. 

                                            Construction Details for Adam Taurus Costume

Once the garment was assembled, it was time to work on the appliqués. As you can see from the pictures, the design is quite complex: trying to decipher the pattern was an impossibility. So instead of trying to draw it out freehand, I captured some screenshots then put the images in photoshop where I tweaked them then enlarged them to match the dimensions of the garment. Once that step was completed, I took the jpegs over to a local printing shop that had a wide format printers to have them printed out. Voila! Instant pattern!

For the actual appliqués I chose a bright red ultra suede fabric. Another throwback from the 70’s! Ultra suede is a synthetic material with suede like qualities on one side but is actually a woven fabric on the other side. So like suede, it can take on some pretty bright colors, but it can also behave like conventional fabric in the sense that the colors won’t bleed like the real thing. Plus I liked the contrast of the textured red against the glossy black fabric. I think it worked quite well, don’t you? 

                                                       More Details for Adam Taurus Costume

As mentioned earlier, the mask was my biggest challenge of all. According to the storyline, Adam Taurus was blinded and so had to wear the mask to not only hide his face but to be able to see. My goal was to make it as close to the original as possible while still allowing the wearer to be able to retain his peripheral vision. My solution was to use a heavy mylar sheet and painting it with a translucent paint that would look opaque from the outside but still allow the wearer to see. Piñata Paints by Jacquard did the trick! The overall effect worked quite well. I purposely lightened the paint application around the eye area but from a distance the mask looks almost completely opaque. 

The same Piñata Paints were used to enhance his accessories as it gave the sword and holster a nice iridescent sheen. Overall the project turned out quite well and it gave me the chance to once again work with unconventional materials, designs and concepts. Onward and upwards! 

 Ready to create your own villainous costume?

Please visit my website: costumesbyantonia.com

Call: 832-652-9180

email: costumesbyantonia@gmail.com

 

Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Facebookpinterestyoutube

Bohemian Rapture!

When Zhandra Met Freddie

A meeting of the minds. In this blog post we will examine the creative collaborations between designer Zhandra Rhodes and the iconic rock group, Queen.

I will be completely honest: I have not yet seen the film “Bohemian Rhapsody”, the new biopic about singer Freddie Mercury and the band Queen. Having been fortunate enough to have seen Queen in concert during the mid 70’s, I know that my opinion will be clouded by preconceptions and comparisons to the real deal. When I saw them in concert, it was at a relatively small venue that accommodated maybe 500 people as opposed to the later performance venues consisting of football stadiums that could fit 100,00 plus souls. It was a time when Freddie still sported that sexy shag hairdo that gave him the air of a sensuous  Persian Prince and not the obnoxious crew cut and mustache which gave him the air of a convenience store employee working the night shift at 711 or a leather cruiser at the Catacomb Club of San Francisco.

A colorful portrait of Dame Zhandra Rhodes

But the story I am about to tell, no doubt transpired during this time; Since it was at this performance that Freddie was sporting onstage a fashion confection that was a result of a creative collaboration between himself and another product of London’s early 70’s glam scene: Fashion Designer Zhandra Rhodes.

Now a bit about Dame Zhandra first: She is one of these creative dynamos who moved back and forth seamlessly between the wearable art world and high society fashion. She was a textile artist who first came into the public consciousness by designing the engagement  dress of Princess Anne (Charles’ Sister, Prince Harry’s Aunt). This was really quite an accomplishment at the time. Zhandra Rhodes was a product of London’s Swinging 60’s, while the Princess Royal still used her Mother the Queen’s couturier. So her choice of designers  for the most important day of her life was nothing short of a youth quake and the result was an ethereal fashion fantasy which still holds up today. 

Princess Anne wearing her engagement dress designed by Zhandra Rhodes. Are those spurs on his shoes?

From there Dame Zhandra went on to design costumes for early glam rock stars like Mark Bolan, then for operas, other royalty, celebrities etc etc. On personal note, I had briefly seen Ms Rhodes at an opening night performance of ‘Giocconda’ at the San Francisco Opera in 1979. She was wearing a lampshade on her head and her hair was dyed purple. Really. Quite a sight to behold. I had also seen several years later, her costumes for the San Diego Opera’a ‘The Magic Flute’. Her use of color and texture were a feast for the eyes but in no way upstaged Mozarts beautiful music.

But I digress: thanks to Dame Zhandra’s zig zagging professional trajectory, it was only natural that her path crossed with Freddie Mercury’s. According to her, it all began when the phone rang at her studio. It was Freddie saying  that he and Queen guitarist Brian May needed costumes. They met up at her studio later that evening, where she had Freddie and Brian try on a variety of tops, having them moving about to get a feel for how the garments would translate onstage. Freddie was drawn to one particular gown which was meant to be a wedding dress for another client. He loved how the pleated fabric draped on his body as he moved. So Zhandra, in a thunderbolt of inspiration, took a pair of scissors to the waistline and Voila! The gown became a tunic and Freddie said yes to the dress!

Queen guitarist Brian May wearing one of Zhandra’s confection. I love the detail on the fabric and how the sleeves of the tunic were engineered in such a way that it did not interfere with his guitar playing.

Brian May also benefitted from Zhandra Rhodes’ sartorial creativity, she confected a very colorful custom painted tunic whose sleeves we engineered in such a way that it would not interfere with his virtuosic guitar playing. Thinking about this heady collaboration between these two iconic entities, it got me to think why she never collaborated with that other Glam Icon: David Bowie. I did a pretty extensive internet search with no results, so one can only speculate as to what might have been.

Another pleated tunic created by Zhandra Rhodes for Freddie Mercury. This time in violet!

So yes, that night in 1976, in that small crowded theater in San Francisco, I was fortunate enough to see Queen make their US debut. It was a blindingly theatrical show featuring strobe lights, special effects and of course, Freddie’s pleated tunic. Freddie had a stage presence almost like Bowie’s. According to Ms Rhodes, the tunic has since been banished into the costume food chain and is now experiencing a second life as a rental piece at an Oklahoma costume warehouse. Considering the way costumes are refurbished at those place, I fear that Freddie’s tunic is only a shadow of its former self and no longer viable.

Her sketch of the tunic.

But, Dame Zhandra did collaborate with “Bohemian Rhapsody” costume designer Julian Day, to reproduce the infamous tunic. She even reproduced several copies to be exhibited in theatre lobbies around the world. So please enjoy these images and perhaps now that I have published this post, I may actually go out and see the movie after all. Pre-conceptions optional! 

Zhandra Rhodes wears one of the reproductions of the iconic tunic that she made in collaboration with “Bohemian Rhapsody” designer Julian Day.

I hope you enjoyed reading this post. For more information about my company and services please visit my website:

www.costumesbyantonia.com

Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Facebookpinterestyoutube

Versailles Answer to the Kardashians

You may be familiar with Kim, Khloe and Kourtney

but have you heard of

Marie, Olympia and Hortense?

Quick! Can you name them all at once? L-R: Olympia Marianne, Marie, Laura, Hortense, Anna Maria, and Laure!

 

Ladies and Gentlemen: Meet Les Mazarinettes! 

We are all familiar with the ubiquitous family of reality TV. But they were not the first set of siblings whose good looks and social connections made them fodder for social commentary and scandal. Back in the 17cc there existed a brood of Franco-Italian cousins and sisters whose comings and going would give the Kardashians a run for their money.

Let’s look at the similarities first so that we can better understand the comparison: Like the Kardashians these girls and one brother were part of a large extended family. They had a patriarch who enjoyed wearing dresses, although I must point out that the 17cc patriarch’s dresses were more ecclesiastical as opposed to Caitlyn’s designer gowns. Think more Cassocks & Miters as opposed to Dolce & Gabbana. Like the Kardashians, they were ubiquitous in every sense of the word. Their lives were the subject of tabloid gossip, often times re-enacted publicly in commedia dell’arte satires for the masses to enjoy. I am sure that if the videocam had existed back then, at least one of them would have wound up on a home made sex-tape. 

The Mazarinettes, with their Southern Italian good looks made for a shift in what was considered a standard of beauty for the 17th cc. The same way that the Kardashian’s dark haired mediterranean beauty and voluptuous physiques created an impact on 21st cc sensibilities. Up until each respective clan made their appearance on the scene, the zeitgeist of both times was the frail/fair slender gamine. This brood made their impact on what was considered aesthetically acceptable centuries apart from the Kardashians. But I think that’s where the similarity ends and for my money, I think that the Mazarinettes story is much more compelling than their reality TV counter parts. 

“Uncle” Cardinal Jules Mazarin from whom the girls acquired their namesake.

The girls earned their name from their Uncle, Cardinal Jules Mazarin who was the King Regent during the minority of Louis  XIV and was later the chief counsel to the King once Louis was all grown up. Such influence made the Cardinal one of the most powerful men in France and as the cliche goes: It’s lonely at the top. So in order to address his need for companionship, the Cardinal decided to bring his family over from Italy and set his nieces up in pivotal positions throughout the royal houses of Europe, thereby increasing his sphere of influence. This was accomplished by arranging important political marriages along with sizable dowries and sometimes just downright pimping them out to important members of the Sun King’s court. 

So let’s start out with how this Italian clan got their foothold on one of the most important royal courts of Europe.

Jules Mazarin himself was no slouch;  In his early years he studied profusely at university and developed a talent for ingratiating himself to powerful and influential men. One of these being Cardinal Richelieu of France (yes, the same guy in the Monty Python skits). In those days men of modest means but noble lineage were able to climb their way up the social ladder through the church. Following the deaths of Richelieu, then Louis XIII, he proceeded to rule France through the regency of Anne of Austria, Louis XIV’s mother. 

Olympia, Marie & Hortense depicted as mythological goddesses during their time as courtiers at Versailles.

The rest, they say, is history. Cardinal Mazarin worked hard to secure his place in the French Court and as mentioned earlier, one of the means to his end was to bring in his comely nieces from Italy. The first batch to arrive were Marie, Hortense and Olympia. Followed by a few years later by Laure, Anne-Marie, Marie-Anne (not a typo) and a distant cousin Philipe-Jules. Thanks to the Cardinal being in good graces with Anne of Austria, the Queen Regent took this young brood under her wing and made sure that they were on equal footing as the Princes of the Blood. 

Alembic Malfunction: Baron Lorenzo Mancini, the girl’s father, was an astrologer, alchemist and necromancer who died under mysterious circumstances.

Each one of these individuals has their own unique story but I think that the two most compelling were Hortense and Marie Mancini. For starters, the Mancini clan was able to trace their family lineage back to the Roman Empire via the Consul Lucius Hostilus Mancinus who fought Hannibal in one of the Punic Wars. The girl’s father, Baron Lorenzo Mancini was an alchemist who practiced astrology and necromancy. The mother was the sister of the Cardinal and was the one who requested that her daughters be sent to Versailles following the death of her husband under mysterious circumstances. It brings to mind another dark magician who met a tragic demise: Jack Parsons,  but we need to save his story for another blog.

Partners in Crime. A young Hortense & Marie having a little fun reading each others palms. Who knew what fortune had in store for these two girls?

From their portraits one can see that these girls had a light in their eyes that captivates the viewer and undoubtedly had the same effect on the gentleman (and a few ladies) of the court. Marie Mancini’s story is the most poignant for having been the first “girlfriend” of a young Louis XIV. Thanks to her socializing with other Princes of the Blood, she was able to develop a “puppy love” relationship with the young Dauphin. So much so that young  Louis actually wanted to marry her. But neither her uncle the Cardinal nor Louis’ mother, Queen Regent Anne, were going to allow any of that; Both adults were interested in a more politically important alliance with another superpower at the time, so Louis wound up marrying the Infanta Maria Theresa of Spain. No matter that Marie could trace her bloodline back to Ancient Rome! Neither the Queen Regent nor the Cardinal thought that Marie’s lineage was exalted enough to marry the future King of France. And so the cookie crumbles. However, in the end Marie wound up OK. Her uncle had secured a marriage with a guy named the Duke of Colonna who on his wedding night was surprised to find that his bride was still a virgin! It appeared that even though Marie had many admirers, they were all affairs of the mind.            

Le Roi Soleil: King Louis XIV of France played a pivotal role in the lives of the Mazarinettes. Like Marie, he enjoyed dressing up in costumes of his own design so that he could perform before his court. On the left he is dressed as Apollo the Sun God but sometimes he would slum it and play Mars (right).

Louis XIV, having had his lovers crush undone by the grownups, decided to console himself by entering into a romantic relationship with Marie’s sister: Hortense. Now this girl is definitely one for the books! Hortense was a girl of many talents and misadventures. After playing holler back girl to the Dauphin, she then took up with a political refugee from England who was exiled in the French court. A guy named Charles Stuart. Like Marie with Louis, Hortense fell head over heels for this young English swain. But this time her uncle thought that this penniless guy who had no prospects, was unworthy of his niece and so forbade the union. But then the fickle finger of fate saw Charles reinstated on the English throne as Charles II and the cardinal realized he made a mistake. He made a counter offer to Charles along with a handsome dowry if he would take back Hortense. But Charles had moved on, or so it appeared.

Prince not so Charming. May I present Armand Charles de La Porte, Duc de La Meilleraye . Think of him as a cross between OJ Simpson and Ted Bundy.

The Cardinal continued to drive a hard bargain in the attempts to marry his favorite niece off to other influential heads of Europe but alas, striking out every time. The fact that Hortense was a bit of a party girl who enjoyed flirtations with both men and women did not help to bolster her cause. However, the Cardinal (and Hortense) finally managed to bag an up and coming aristocrat who was also the richest man in Europe. Enter Charles de La Porte de La Meilleraye. This mouthful was not only the richest man in France but he was also a nephew of the late Cardinal Richelieu, Cardinal Mazarin’s first mentor.

Just off the boat! An early portrait of Hortense wearing the fussy ribbons of Italian fashion.

So on the surface though it appeared to be a good match, it proved to be anything but. Eight days after her wedding, Uncle Jules died, leaving Hortense a vast chunk of the family fortune, now making HER one of the riches people in France. Unfortunately what would have looked like a fortuitous circumstance would unravel into a nightmare for poor Hortense. That’s because her husband, Armand, was conservative, repressed, reactionary and cruel. Think of someone who was a cross between OJ Simpson and Ted Bundy and you get the picture. He was a total foil to Hortense’s vivacious, popular personality. I am not even going to list here the misogynistic actions of this creep. Just google his name if you want to know more. 

But our heroine, Hortense would have none of this and immediately flew into the arms of another-woman. Can you blame her? It was another French aristocrat by the name of Sidonie de Courcelles. They were both only sixteen! So you would think her husband would find this amusing but no, he wound up locking them both up together in a convent where they continued their affair. This time wearing nun’s habits no doubt. Bad move dude on the part of De La Porte if you ask me.

Double Exposure. Our heroine Hortense continues her fashion and erotic evolution posing in a typical conceit of the French Mannerist style.

So thus began a convoluted sexual odyssey for our heroine. She escaped from France disguised as a man and would continue to rely on cross dressing whenever she needed to make a quick get away. During her exile in England, she took up again with here old flame, Charles II AND one of his daughters. Anne, Countess of Sussex was her name. Hortense’s relationship with Anne was so volatile that they actually once settled a score with a public fencing match in the middle of St James’ park wearing only their nighties! Much to the delight of the gentlemen strolling through the park. The only comparison I can think of would be if Meghan Markle and Katherine Middleton engaged in a mud wrestling match in the middle of the Serpentine at Kensington Park. That’s the level of scandal we are referring to. Hollywood where are you? 

Pretty picture. A vibrantly dressed Hortense preparing for “La Chase” with her lover Louis XIV. Her riding habit is a perfect example of the transitional nature of 17cc high fashion.

Somewhere along the way she reconnected with her other sister Marie ( who was also miserable in her marriage albeit not as badly as poor Hortense). For awhile the two sisters lived in the court of the Sun King under his protection. The girls began shuttling around between the capitals of Europe in an effort to escape the claws of psycho Hubby Armand. It should be noted that in every city where these girls sought refuge, their homes would be transformed into Salons offering a venue for popular artists and writers of the time. But alas, Mr Personality kept rearing his ugly head and making poor Hortense’s life a living hell. 

Later on Hortense would have an affair with Louis I of Monaco (yes, a Grimaldi whose descendant married Grace Kelly) and so on and so on. She lived out the rest of her years in England under the protection of subsequent monarchs and engaging in the profligate lifestyle to which she had become accustomed, until her death in 1699.  But as the saying goes, there is no rest for the wicked and upon her death, hubby from hell reappeared and had her body exhumed so that he could take it back to France. So that she could be given a proper burial? Noooo…..boys and girls. So that he could keep the decomposing corpse by his side as he traveled through France. Yep, until royal decree demanded that he finally bury her.

Some relationships are hard to shake but this is ridiculous! 

The rest of the “Mazarinettes” lived flamboyant lifestyles and also caused scandal throughout the courts of Europe. But their antics paled in comparison to those of Hortense and Marie. Thanks to their Uncle’s machinations and the sizable dowries he bequethed, the girls were able to secure some good catches. Their husband’s names reads like a history book of who’s who in the 17cc. I focused mainly on the two Mancini sisters because their lives were so unbelievable. Being that this is a costume blog, I also wanted to focus one the court costumes of Hortense. Since she was the one with the high profile lifestyle,  she became a bit of a Fashion Plate and this sensibility was obviously reflected in her style of dressing as shown in the pictures posted here.

The Early Baroque/Restoration period was a transitional one in every sense of the word. Almost every costume conceit imaginable was represented on the style of dress. And you can see the transitory nature of this period in the different styles of dress worn by Hortense. In her earlier portraits you can see here trussed up in ribbons from the late Italian Renaissance and from there she goes to exposing a nipple which was a typical conceit of the French Mannerist painting style. In Louis’ court you see her in a very elaborate riding gear ready to engage in ‘La Chase’ with the Sun King. Finally there are the later ’swooning gowns’ of the Restoration court of Charles II. These dresses gave the wearer a ‘disheveled’ appearance with the bodice pulled down to almost exposing a nipple. Yes, these gowns were engineered to fall right off the body at a moments notice in order to facilitate an intimate trust with his majesty whoever he or she may be.

“Toujours Prêt”. A more mature Hortense wearing a typical dress from the English Restoration court. She appears to be beckoning one of her many lovers into her boudoir. The disheveled wanton look was favored by Charles II.

Did you enjoy this blog?

Please visit my website:

www.costumesbyantonia.com

Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Facebookpinterestyoutube

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

Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Facebookpinterestyoutube

*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:

832-652-9180
costumesbyantonia@gmail.com

 

Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Facebookpinterestyoutube

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

 

Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Facebookpinterestyoutube

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

Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Facebookpinterestyoutube