Friday, October 12, 2018

Eugenie knocks it out of the park!

 People I have made 1,000+ wedding outfits in my time. I got married in purple velvet. I am not judging on anyone's taste; as far as I am concerned, what you wear to your wedding is your call, you do you. As a designer and maker, it was my job to go through the impacts of designs with a bride and sometimes suggest an alternative approach. I've troubleshot dresses that don't work front to back, for example. That you can't move in, or breathe in, or that won't stay up! But also it was part of my job to get them to consider the impacts of the venue/s, photos, all kinds of factors. And together we would incorporate all of this into a dress that really expressed the bride's personality, and that PERFORMED. There's never any need to trade these off against each other.
Royal wedding dresses have a lot more performance considerations than commoner ones. Those huge venues, long shots, eternal scrutiny on display in a museum etc etc. There is absolutely no reason why these constraints should stop a royal bride from having a dress that delights her.
Well as far as I am concerned, I think Princess Eugenie nailed it. Her dress is simple, but majestic and beautfiully executed. Unlike her Aunt Diana and her Cousin Meg, both of whose dresses were made poorly. And like her Mother's dress and Cousin Kate's it fits perfectly, and the back is a nod to the back of Sarah's dress but executed in an up to date way.
I also loved her choice not to wear a veil, although I have nothing against veils at all. It was her choice and good on her for doing what she wanted. What I LOVE is that her dress looks good close up and far away, its scale suits the venue and occasion, I cannot say enough how well made it is - OMG that collar is a nightmare to get perfect and it really is. The underpinnings are perfect!

See how that skirt springs directly from her waist and then gracefully falls. That's magic!

Enough train to look good from all those wacky camera angles in the Chapel. Gorgeous from front AND back.
Look at the shape of that skirt! Honestly it is SO GOOD. And that collar is staying put - not easy with a V front and back and a heavy collar to work with. Technically this dress is the hardest one yet.
 I'd never knock the wearer for the quality of the product - and who knows why certain calls were allowed to get a pass, like Meg's short stubby train that just looked stupid under the hugely long veil from the overhead shots, when another 1.5m would have nailed it. And as for Di's, well I am sure they were all coked up or high on hair spray after all it was the 80's and who knows why the sleeves had to be so huge they enveloped a good half of the bodice? But to see a dress that truly realises the vision of the wearer (she was obviously very happy!) and the occasion, well that makes my designer heart very happy indeed!

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Getting to the UK one Frida at a time

Hi all, I am on a plane in 14 sleeps and the big old whiteboard is covered in things to do! I arrive at Heathrow on 24 October and will be back in New Zealand by 16 November.
I am broke, cassé, skint, and in order to be able to eat, travel and have somewhere to stay while I am there, I've been fundraising. The gigs I have do pay, and for that I am grateful, but to raise the balance I have been making and selling Frida and Mary jacket patches. Frida outsells Mary by about 10 to one but that's to be expected!
It's actually really satisfying to be able to raise money by making things myself. And with these sales, sales of false drag lashes and performance fees I've raised enough to get by without having to rely on my credit card too much!
Other than that, I'm doing some free lance work, sewing for myself and others, and dealing with three massive things going totally wrong in my life all at once.  Two of them could be sorted by me getting a full time job or a longer term contract, and the third will probably come right faster if I did as well, because the stress of the situation would diminish a lot.
I don't want to go into details about any of them here, sorry to be vague but I'm in that weird place where pretending everything is OK is just not possible because it isn't, yet sharing the details is not a thing I can do right now either. Suffice to say that corporate greed and earthquakes are behind the troubles. One day I'll tell all.
In the meantime, I am blown away by the kindness of people!!! Friends and family who through small and huge acts of kindness just keep reminding me that life is worth persisting with.
On my to-do list is Fabricabrac this Saturday. The bi annual huge destash market that started in Wellington and is now happening all over NZ. I decided to use it as  chance to clear out my ridiculous stash of fabric in the shop store room and today Penny and I hauled out boxes and bins full of it!
This is a FRACTION of what we unearthed. It was crazy. I found stuff I forgot I had, had bought again, and generally realised that I am a HOARDER.
Anyway it's sorted more or less, scraps in colour themed bags, size and value sorted, everything. And I tell you I am not bringing stuff back. I kept back about a binful at most, the rest if it doesn't sell is going to a charity. But I think I'll be seeing lots of happy people walk out with it.
And thus will I make just a little bit more for my trip. :) In full knowledge of the money wasted on buying it in the first place. But to be honest I've not really added to my hoards much in the past few years, I've just dragged the stuff around after me. So by getting rid of it, it is an end of yet another era!
If you are in Wellington and love fabric, come to Fabricabrac - at St Anne's Hall, Emmett Street, Newtown 10am-2pm this Saturday 13 October. There's a huge car park and the church collects a gold coin donation for it. You can do your fruit and vege shopping next door too!
Update after Fabricabrac: I went with five boxes and came back with one small box! WIN!

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Test run!

Hello all! Last night at my favourite little bar S&Ms,* I tried out the wee show that I'll be doing in Glasgow on 10 November. A group of diverse and devoted friends and fans turned up, and it was lovely to look down upon such a warm room, as we say.
It's been quite a week. It started on Monday with a funeral of a friend from the Burlesque community who died suddenly of a stroke. She was only a year older than me and we are all heartbroken. I had the privilege of speaking on behalf of our community, and at her husband's request, we formed an ostrich feather fan of honour over her coffin as it was carried out. Sober times, but as is so often the case at a funeral, the sheer goodness of people is also moving.
I spent Friday afternoon/evening and Saturday with my darling sis Jo and a bunch of other quilters at a retreat. It was SO GOOD to hang out with these wonderful women, and churn out a whole range of things! I love binge sewing and retreats are heaven - no interruptions, no cooking, just sewing.
Because I was performing in a fundraiser in the afternoon as well as the evening show, I went home late on Saturday. I had also reached an impasse with the quilt project I was working on, as one does.
The things that happened in the rest of the week I can' share about but they are huge. When some kind of way forward is found, I will share.
For today, getting my passport updated before I leave in three weeks is a priority!

*Stands for Scotty and Mal the owners, not something else!

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Our value as Women - or lack thereof.

I realise that I don't write much about the tumultuous side of my life; but THIS is something on my mind. Be warned - the curve from rhinestoning to this post is a steep one. But it's been brewing.
The above is me. I am 53, about a size 26, 5' 10". I love what I see in the mirror, because it is what I have to work with. I didn't get to be this way because one day when I was super modelling I thought, "eh this sucks, I'm eating all the pies." I was born and have always been a fat person.
For MANY people, this means I am less than human. I am a drain on the tax payer, lazy, unmotivated blah blah blah. For someone who is clearly MORE than, I am LESS than.
I live with this and am fairly inured to it as a result, however from time to time it cross-ignites with other things in life and I get angry.
Women readers, do you understand and relate to the experience that men make so many decisions about women based on how f*ckable we are? Men reading, please hang in there because this is important.
The woman above is unf*ckable. She is too old now to breed and she's fat so basically, she's almost invisible. Not to those who know her but walking down the street, in the supermarket, just not there.
THIS woman is f*ckable:
Yeah, right...
THIS woman gets hit on all the time. This is by men of all ages and types too. Mostly younger than me. It is not even remotely flattering; really, being hit on by someone who can't see past thick makeup, fake hair and eyebrows and sparkly clothes is like being attacked by a magpie.

SO here's what I am beginning to work out. When I was fertile, I was not every guy's idea of being f*ckable. Fat women or women who prefer to dress and groom in a masculine way (I'm going to use the word "butch" for this), have taken themselves out of trying to be as f*ckable as possible and are treated as LESS all the time. I know a disturbing number of butch women who have been beaten up, I have been threatened myself. From the oiks hanging out car windows driving past shouting out insults just so I am absolutely sure that I am unf*ckable to them, to the physical menacing that can also happen.
HOW DARE a woman of fertile age take themselves out of the game like that?
Since I hit menopause and got old and invisible, I don't get this any more. Age is something that clearly we can't help. Women who colour their hair, get face lifts or whatever and try to push back on age - they risk being judged as having failed in their attempts, although I notice this is a BIG driver for many women. I didn't realise how anxious I was not to be seen as a woman trying to push back, but it appears that I occur like that when I am Constance. Because men hit on me, women want makeup tips and I get told off when I do makeup looks that are not pretty. Like this:
It's not about looking pretty, people!
So where did this all come from? Well, on another blog I read, this image was posted, and the commenters went to town judging and speculating among themselves the relative value of the model Tess Holliday (not that anyone gave her her name as a human being) and WHY the magazine did this.

For me, this is a great example of the purpose of modelling being accurate for once. Fat women find it hard to work out if RTW clothes will fit and suit them if they cannot see them on a model who represents them. Cosmo is helping to market a product to a demographic of women that is underrepresented in fashion publications, to the detriment of the industry.
But what most people see is something quite different. They see an unf*ckable on the cover of a mag and they are affronted. Because obviously a women's magazine cover is there to appeal to men, right?
SO much judgement about "The Obese" about Tess, about Cosmopolitan.
FFS people, it's a magazine cover, not an invitation for sex. WHY oh WHY must everything be about whether men want to f*ck us, how appalling it is to present as unf*ckable, how worthless we are if we are no longer f*ckable, how hopeless we are if we cannnot maintain a level of f*ckability.

I'm not sure I've nailed how I feel about this or the issue at all, but the women I have talked to about it are not at all surprised by this theory. They often hadn't thought of it quite that way but it lands as very real when they do.
To the men in the world, you have a 0.03 second moment when you decide if you would f*ck a woman or not, you can't help it but you are not animals, you can choose how you respond. Please consider that we may not care, we may not be interested, we may have other things on our minds and other intentions. PLEASE mind your own business.

Saturday, September 1, 2018

How to Rhinestone

This is the costume I've been working on forever. Today I started the back of the skirt
I refer to rhinestoning as just stoning, and given the need to heat things in spoons on elements and little plastic baggies, frankly the whole set up is a bit Stoner!

This is how I do it. It works really, really well, does not involve toxic glues and doesn't take very long. I took photos as I went, hopefully these will illuminate the process!
You need:
My menu of rhinestones - AB Rosaline and AB Rose, AB Peridot, Peridot and Emerald. These wee baggies are worth nearly as much as I imagine they would be if they contained an illicit substance ;-) These are from
  • Something to Rhinestone (my robe as shown above)
  • Flatback rhinestones - I use Arabesques because I am a cheapskate - they are fifth of the price of Swarovskis and not quite as good, but on this costume it's all about the quantity. 
  • Beeswax
  • A wooden skewer
  • A teaspoon with a heatproof handle
  • Aleene's Tacky Glue - it is by far the best glue as it holds its shape really well and dries fast. For stretch fabrics or things you will need to wash, use Aleene's Flexible and Stretchable, which isn't quite as thick but holds a blob well.
  • Silicone baking paper - pretty much essential for thin fabrics or areas like sleeves where you have to have one layer of a costume over the other.
 To make an applicator stick, first cut a sliver off a block of beeswax. Pop this into the bowl of the teaspoon and put on an element to soften/melt.
 You only need a little bit of beeswax for this - you can use the rest for sniffing!
 When it is soft enough to mash up with the end of the skewer, gather up some and form a  knob of it on the skewer end. Let it get a bit firmer before using.
 I am starting with the dark green stones. I tip enough to do the job onto a lid, so I can move them around easily while working.
 While my beeswax is cooling, I turned all of the stones up this way.
I spread the gown on the kitchen bench return, over a layer of the silicon paper.
 Now squeeze out wee blobs of the glue where you want the stones to go. With these deep green stones, I am working on the darkest branches of foliage in the pattern.
See how many blobs I can do in advance! You can do more than this too. The glue stays wet for plenty of time, though I wouldn't wander off halfway through to take a long phone call. I use the wax stick to gently catch the top of a rhinestone and transfer it to a blob of glue. Gently press it in.
  This is the whole branch completed. See all that white glue showing? It's a good thing! It dries clear but the ring of glue means the stone is held well in place.
This shows the second round of stoning - once I completed the first branch (top of pic) I then glued up two more.
Here's the finished area after I've gone over it again with the other colours of stones. Because this is the back, I've been pretty light-handed - the fronts have about three times as many stones. But I have found the hard way that backs of costumes get a hard time with sitting etc, so this is just about it not being obviously not done!

Top tips:
  • Your beeswax applicator my get less effective if it is cold.  I use my fingers to soften it back up again. Remember you need only the lightest pressure to lift the stone and transfer. It should release, really easily as a result.
  •  Aleene's dries enough to peel the fabric off the paper in about an hour. Gently peel it off - it will be stuck but it will still lift. It is not dry enough to wear until at least the next day but preferably a good week of curing is best. But with a huge job like this neverending robe, I need to shift the completed stuff so I can do the next section
  • Of course you can follow a pattern - I do this too but it is far easier to follow the pattern of a piece of lace, a print or a brocade design. Same principles apply.
  • If you can't find non-hot fix in your colour, get the hot fix ones and stick them on this way. It's no biggie.
  • ALWAYS stretch out garments that are worn stretched, before you do them. 
  • ALWAYS use a thick, tacky glue like Aleenes - if you are working on a foam cup bra or some other surface that is not flat, it won't dribble down the slope like GemTac or Tiger Grip. Not all PVA based glues are the same!
Good luck and let me know how it goes!

Monday, August 20, 2018

A Perfect Wedding

The perfect wedding is one where the couple feel truly like their love is expressed in their own unique way. Whether it's a picnic or a banquet; if that's who they are then that's perfect.
On Saturday evening Clever Hansel and I had the incredible honour of entertaining guests at a beautiful, unique wedding. A couple who had been together for 23 years.
The venue was the Wellesley Hotel -the closest thing Wellington has to a proper old style hotel.
 This is the foyer, photo found in a Google search that doesn't do it justice. My job was to come down those stairs at the back sing Diamonds Are Forever, segueing into Diamonds are a Boy's Best Friend dressed to the nines!
These are the Nines to which I was dressed! I dropped the amazing organza coat on the landing to much whooping. Thanks to Amanduh La for the lend of coat and much blingy jewellery!

This is the reception room photo from the Hotel's website. 
An actual photo in the reception room of Clever Hansel, using the auto setting on his phone as I was wearing gloves and no glasses, so no photo taking for me! So suave. Clever sang Putting on the Ritz straight after my number. It was fun!

Later, we entertained during the reception (after I changed into something more comfortable, also covered in sequins!) with a rewrite of our song about food intolerances, renamed the Catering Song, and then a song we wrote especially for the happy couple.
It was a beautiful wedding and the couple were over the moon about the whole thing. Tons of floral arrangements, candles, handmade chocolate favours, black tie and sequins on the guests and the couple themselves looking immaculate in tuxedos. Magical.

After, I was hyped and decided to go to the Southern Cross to catch High Society's late night spot. I love this jazz band and I love Nicole their singer forever.
 Here we are being silly! Naturally I didn't change as there's nothing quite like arriving at someone else's gig in head to toe sequins ;-)

I do so love my night job!

Thursday, August 16, 2018

What am I doing

I am sitting on the couch with "Live at the Apollo" blaring in the background with this gunk in my hair. Thus shall Nature's Free Frosting (TM)  aka my grey hairs, be turned a strange pink.
This has nothing to do with denying my age - I LOVE going grey. It's just a bit of fun! And at $6 why not!
I have a wedding gig on Saturday and it's taken a fair bit of preparation. My outfits are 1. Black and nude and blingy and 2. red and blingy. The pink hair won't go with either. YAY!!!!
I dislike coordinating. I blame growing up in Laura Ashley's heyday.
nuff said