Sunday, September 7, 2014

Renaissance Faire Costume, and Some Other Things.

Hey everyone! Er... sorry for the absence. Between moving and starting law school and all that jazz, I've been super busy and have neglected updating. I'm terrible, I know.

But, as a special "I'm sorry" gift, I have a special post on the outfit I made for the Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire that I attended two-or-so weeks ago with my mom, sister, and brother. I don't have any pictures from the faire itself, but I do have my outfit in my closet, so I can take pics and show you!

Base Layer: The Chemise
The chemise was the hardest part of the costume to make. I (roughly) followed the fantastic instructions from Diary of a Renaissance Seamstress. I didn't follow the instructions exactly, because I'm a terrible instruction follower, and as such probably made the process a little more difficult than I should have. But... here it is.
Basically, a chemise is just a very long nightgown/underdress. It has two long sleeves, and is supposed to hit the ankles. I gave mine a slit on a side to facilitate movement. It's not terribly period-accurate, but I'll take movement over accuracy.

Here is a terrible picture of me in the chemise. Like I said, it's a long nightgown. I also gave mine ridiculously long and wide sleeves, even though I dressed up as a peasant. I really liked the sleeves, and they added extra ventilation, which is nice when you're wearing long clothing in 80+ degree Fahrenheit weather.

Next layer: Outer Skirt

This layer was easy to make. I bought two yards of a cotton fabric that was on sale at Joann's, cut out a strip so that way it was a nearly-floor-hitting skirt, sewed one seam down the side to make a tube, and then sewed in a waistband and added an elastic waistband. It's actually a little too big for me, because I lost weight (the exercise/being healthy things is working out-- heh, punny-- really well for me.)

(Yes, I did take the picture upside down.)

And here is a picture of me with the skirt on over the chemise. I don't have a full-length mirror in my apartment, nor am I inclined to buy one, so You'll have to suffer through pictures that don't show my whole torso.

And yes, a view of my bedroom as well. The downside to a drawstring/elastic waistband skirt is that if you lose weight, it sags, and it's not terribly good at staying put. Ah well. Such is life. 

Next layer: shirt/bodice

So I had every intention of making a period-somewhat-accurate bodice. Or a kirtle. I wasn't sure which I wanted to make. A bodice is what you see most women wearing at Renaissance faires. They serve as both a shirt and a corset and makes the outfit really streamlined. However, due to a lack of time (work, packing, moving, etc), I had to make do with a gorgeous renaissance-style tank-top that my mum got me as a gift. It doesn't give that streamlined look that the bodice does, but the color is gorgeous, and the outfit actually looks semi-period.

Such a pretty shade of blue!

And that's with an added belt, because no proper lady went without a belt. Yes, it's terribly unperiod, but the brown looked better with the colors than black and it kept the skirt up, as it was falling off of me.

The final piece: A Hat

All people in the Renaissance wore hats. If a woman went without a hat, she was called a harlot. True story. I was going to go without a hat, but as chance would have it, when I was at the faire, I found this gorgeous hat that happened to almost perfectly match my outfit. It was a sign. And I bought it. It actually really added something to the outfit, and I want to giggle every time I wear it because it's so "foofy" for lack of a real word.

And that's my Ren. Faire outfit!

I had a lot of fun, and would love to have a chance to go back.

Other Things
I will try to keep doing posts, but they might be rather infrequent. I'm currently making a skirt out of red felt, so I just need to take pictures, and once I'm finished I'l try to post that up.

I'm also making a Thor cosplay for Halloween. It'll be a prototype for Comic Con next year. I'll take pictures as I go, and explain the process. Since this is a prototype, this is really more about me getting to know how to work with certain materials like Craft Foam! I've never made armor before, so this Halloween really gives me the chance to practice my technique. I can already tell that the hardest part will be the helmet and the breastplate, which is why I'll be making a super easy version of both for Halloween. The picture below is an early release of Marvel's redesigned new Thor. And yes, Thor is a woman now. No I don't know how. All I know is that I'm excited to make this costume. I'll be making a headpiece that's more less helmet-like and more like Wonder Woman's tiara. Yeah. Should be fun. And the breastplate... well, you'll see. :P

(Property of Marvel)

Speaking of Comic Con, I went to Boston Comic Con this past summer with my sister. We went as DC characters. She was Harley Quinn (a la Batman: Arkham City), and I was Zatanna Zatara, a member of the justice league. Here's a picture that my brother was kind enough to take of us before we left the house for the day.

Aren't we cute? 

I'll probably put a hiatus on book reviews, because most of what I'm reading are... law books. Not very fun. Hopefully I can do one or two, because I'm planning on not spending 100% of my waking time dedicated to studying. All work and no play makes Nicolette a very unhappy person. 

That's all I've got for now, I'm afraid. It's time to hit the books some more!


Sunday, July 13, 2014

Dune Review

Hello lovely people! Yes, here is my review for Dune, by Frank Herbert I know, I know. It took a while. This week was kind of an off one for me, hard to make a post when I'm swamped with other things.

But, here it is.


Buy it here at Barnes and Noble

Plot: The story follows the life of Paul Atreides, the son of Dule Atreides and his consort, Jessica. The story begins with the Atreides family moving to Arrakis-- a desert planet valuable only for what is called "the spice", a substance known as Melange, which gives the user a longer lifespan, greater vitality, and, in some people, prescience. (It is, however, a drug that is highly addictive and fatal for those who try to quit their habit) The Atreides' ancient enemies, the Harkonnens, have allied with the Paddishah Emperor Shaddam IV to bring down the Atreides family. Jessica's Mother Superior, the head of the Bene Gesserit order (a quasi-religious sect), predicts that Paul will revolutionize not only Arrakis, but the entire empire. Treachery leads Paul and Jessica to the Fremen, the native people of Arrakis, after the death of the Duke. While living with the Fremen, Paul becomes Maud'Dib, which is the Fremen words for the evolved kangaroo-mouse which lives on the desert world. Maud'Dib, in Arabic, also means "educator," or "he who teaches civilization," which makes Paul's role as world-changer on Arrakis even more dramatic. With the Fremen, Paul leads a revolution against Harkonnen and Imperial tyranny, leading to the downfall of the old system.

 This story is absolutely amazing. The sheer breath and depth of the characters and cultures portrayed in Dune is startling and awe-inspiring. With every passing page, I kept hoping that I would develop the magical power to jump into stories so that I could see this beautifully stark and dangerous world that Herbert created first-hand. Herbert is able to create cultures that are similar enough to those that exist today, but has made them alien enough to us to imply that 21,000 years has indeed gone by and is showing us the next stage of human culture.
Dune is so spectacular because it carries such powerful imagery (his detailed descriptions of people and environments is comparable to Tolkien's), and because of its equally powerful messages. Dune is first and foremost an ecological book. It was actually inspired by an article that Herbert never finished while studying a US Department of Agriculture experiment to stabilize the Oregon Dunes using "poverty plants." The dunes could "swallow whole cities, lakes, rivers, [and] highways." Herbert thus wrote Dune as a way of subtly encouraging people to be more mindful of their environment, as well as to respect the earth that we live on as a living thing.
Final thoughts? I loved reading this book. I would absolutely 100% recommend it to anyone who was looking for a thoughtful, intelligent science-fiction book. I only have two problems with it: first, is the fact that I think the book doesn't handle the "time jumps" in it well. I found it rather confusing to first see 14 year old Paul, and then see 18+ year old Maud'Dib with little-to-no warning that this would happen. The other problem is that I wish Herbert had done more time "world building"-- that is, I wish he had explained the evolution of human-kind, to see how people got to Arrakis, where the Bene Gesserit came from, the evolution of Mentat's, etc. I'm a historian by nature, an I like knowing what's going on before I dive into a situation.

Rating: 4.5/5 stars

Workout News:

I am still working out and eating healthy-ish. I admit, this week has been not as great with the eating healthy, because there was a family birthday (an exception to the no junk-food rule), and a "mandatory" family trip to get ice cream last night. It happens. But, I still feel really good about exercising and eating healthy foods, which makes me happy.

Other News:
Costuming! I'm slowly working on making myself a Renaissance costume for a Ren Faire that my family and I will be attending before I go away to school. I also might attend Boston Comic Con, which means I'm pulling out my old Poison Ivy costume that I started two years ago and never got around to finishing... I want to finish it by the time of the con. Much to do! So little time!

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Book Review: Finishing School Series

Hello, dear readers. As promised, here is the book review for Gail Carriger's YA series. As you know, I absolutely love Gail Carriger, and am a big fan of her fashion blog, Retro Rack. And with no further ado... onto the review!


Plot Summary:
 The Finishing School Series takes place in the same universe as Carriger's Parasol Protectorate series... but 20 years earlier, in the 1850s. The series follows Sophronia (which, I might add, was an extremely popular name in the 1850s!) Temmenick, a young woman who has absolutely no interest in becoming a proper lady, much to her mother's dismay. She is covertly recruited to the well-known Mademoiselle Geraldine's Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality. However, Mademoiselle Geraldine's is not just the kind of finishing school where young ladies learn to curtsy properly. They learn to finish...everything and anything that needs finishing. Sophronia quickly gets caught between the dastardly Picklemen (the very conservative, anti-supernatural group) and various vampire contingents. Sophronia must use every lesson that she learns at Mademoiselle Geraldine's in order to not only survive, but win at the game of "intelligencing."

As you all know, my dear readers, I loved the Parasol Protectorate. And I love this series just as much. It's even more ridiculous, in some ways, than Parasol, but that makes it even better. Carriger has managed to paint a very detailed and wonderful cast of characters, including some whom we got to know in Parasol, such as a much younger Genevieve Lefoux, and her aunt Beatrice, and my all-time favorite Lord Akeldama even makes a cameo!
Carriger does a wonderful job at portraying the importance of manners in this society, like in Parasol, and the lessons that the girls learn at the finishing school are to die for (oh la! Aren't I droll?)
There are also some VERY interesting differences between the Victorian world in 1850 and 1870 (the time frames of the two series). The Victorian world that Sophronia lives in is far more mechanized than the one that Alexia lives in. Sophronia has an adorable (and illegal) "mechanimal" dog named Bumbersnoot. All of the servants at the Academy are robots of a sort that run on tracks and coal. Mechanical equipment is highly praised and relied upon in Finishing School, while in Parasol, there seems to be almost no mechanical influence at all (hmm... perhaps reflecting the vampires' distaste for mechanicals?). It's interesting to see the evolution of this world that Carriger has created (albeit in a somewhat backwards manner... going from 1870 to 1850), and I can't wait to read book the third, Waistcoats and Weaponry, which comes out this November!

Rating: 5/5 stars.

Other Thoughts unrelated to the book: 
I will hopefully have my review for Dune up in a couple of days, and maybe some more fashion-related posts after that. I'm thinking about doing a mini-series inspired by APairandASpare: "Four Ways to Wear..." I'll take interesting bits and bobs from my wardrobe (hats, blouses, jackets, etc) and show you 4 ways to wear them! It's also a good exercise for me, because I need to start cleaning up my wardrobe. Things I showcase are things that I need to find four ways to wear, otherwise it goes. Oh boy. This should be interesting.

Well, that's all I've got for now, readers. Farewell!