100 Years of Menswear by Cally Blackman

Fashion books tend to be hit or miss with me and very often texts devolve into a series of photographs with simple captions that tells the where and who, but not the why behind the garment. 100 Years of Menswear by Cally Blackman is an exception to this trend and a lively breath of informative air that not only catalogues men’s fashion throughout the 20th century but also examines fashion in a highly accessible and absorbing manner.

The book itself is cut into two large sections, one of which deals with 1900-1939 while the second handles 1940 to the present. Within each heading are categories in which Blackman delves into the depths of men’s fashion and is able to chart the course of this particular subgroup rather than examining the evolution of men’s fashion in much more broad strokes and having the difficult chore of comparing and contrasting menswear from different fields of use.

Section one contains the subgroups Suit, Worker & Soldier, Artist & Reformer, Good Guy-Bad Guy (movies), Player (sports), and Dressing Down-Dressing Up. The latter section contains the headings Rebel, Peacock, Media Star, Culture Clubber (1980s counterculture), Stylist, and Designer.

I found this breakdown and compartmentalization of men’s fashion to be a boon for readers unaccustomed to texts dealing with fashion. Not only did each section contain lush photographs for reference, but keeping categories self contained allows for a better sense of chronology when dealing with men’s fashion.

Furthermore, each photograph contained plenty of relevant information, in the form of quick and concise captions, which was related to the garment in question rather than being a general tidbit of knowledge about fashion. This keeps things topical and focused. While some details were better than others or pretty common knowledge, enough insight and research is demonstrated by Blackman to elevate her text above other coffee table books.

The book’s closing section isn’t as informative as Blackman begins to comment on the way designers have imposed their views on fashion rather than letter fashion evolve from the bottom-up. Needless to say, contemporary fashion designers may enjoy this part more than a casual reader interested in history.

Regardless, this is an outstanding book on menswear and a highly recommended read.

 

Quidditch

Taking a sport that is supported by the concept of magic and flying brooms from a book series and turning it into playable activity outside those pages takes the dedication that only devoted fans can provide. It may sound silly to others, but then again, people in general can be pretty silly about the hobbies they love. In this case, the fans in question are those of the Harry Potter series. And the sport is Quidditch, but done in the style of Muggles!

Over the past five years, the grounded version of Quidditch has been growing in popularity in high schools and colleges. After Xander Manshel adapted the rules from the original books in 2005, it wasn’t until two years later that Alex Benepe took over for Manshel and founded the Intercollegiate Quidditch Association in 2007. And since then, over a thousand teams from high schools and colleges from thirteen different countries have joined the IQA. The sport has grown in popularity and has even pulled the Quidditch World Cup from the pages, bringing them to reality, too. Just last year, on the weekend of November 13th and 14th, the Fourth Annual Quidditch World Cup tournament was held in New York City. Seven hundred and fifty seven players divided into forty-six teams came together to compete over those two days!

While facts like grounded brooms and no magical dodge balls flying around trying to knock you out may sound like it would put a damper on the game, the Muggle version still retains the same fun and excitement as the ones from the books and movies. For example, the Golden Snitch is no longer a little flying golden orb. Instead, one person is chosen as the Snitch Runner, dressed in nothing but yellow and carries a tennis ball in a sock that hangs from the waistband of their shorts. It is the Seeker’s job to grab the sock from the Snitch Runner and the Snitch Runner has to do whatever it can to avoid it. The more creative of a show they display in evading the Seekers, the better! The point value has been changed from 150 points to 30 but it still signals the end of the game once caught. With the Beaters, they are unable to carry bats due to having to carry their brooms. However, they are allowed to both throw and kick the Bludgers at the opposing team players just as they’re supposed to.

This is only a sample of it too. You can learn more about the sport by visiting the Official International Quidditch Association Website. It is amazing just what can be accomplished when fans are truly dedicated to a fandom that they love. And as silly as it may look, that doesn’t keep anyone from having a blast either watching or participating.

And for those who live in the Houston area, here’s your chance to witness Quidditch live! During the last weekend of May, the 27th through 29th, Comicpalooza will be hosting live Quidditch matches between three IQA teams. Be sure to stop by that weekend and see for yourself!

Vintage Hairstyling: Retro Styles with Step by Step Techniques

Written by Lauren Rennells, this book offers a fresh approach to creating popular vintage hairstyles. With easy to follow technique and useful style tips, the author takes the reader on a journey through time aimed at recreating the most popular looks of the past. Intended to be a fun to read how-to book, “Vintage Hairstyling” is just that. Colorful pictures and interesting facts make the book a useful tool in creating a look and an ideal addition to any collection of coffee table books.

Basic Elements, Pin Curls, & More

Starting with basic elements on building certain hairstyles, the book then addresses specific techniques, such as the pin curl, which is paramount in creating most vintage hairstyles. Fingerwaves, pompadours, Marcel waves, and victory rolls are a few more curl techniques that can be created to make your hairstyle look authentically vintage.

Once you’ve got the basics down, it’s time to move on to the creation of many of the most popular vintage hairstyles. Broken down by hair length and textures, the author makes it easy for every reader to find the ideal style for their hair type. There are even makeup tips to complete your vintage look as well as ideas on accessories and fashion.

Hollywood Glamour and the Most Popular Styles

Throughout the book, many of Hollywood’s most famous leading ladies appear to demonstrate some of the finest vintage hairstyles ever created. Fashion icons like Rita Hayworth, Marilyn Monroe, and Elizabeth Taylor show off their style and demonstrate the best in vintage looks. Following the styles set by these icons, the author allows readers to mimic these well known looks easily.

From the retro bob made famous in the 1920s and 30s to the well known finger waves Greta Garbo often wore, vintage hair styles can be fun and easy to create with this book. Pinup girl styles Marilyn Monroe was known for and the updo made famous in the 1940s are explained in a fun and easy to read way in “Vintage Hairstyling: Retro Styles with Step by Step Techniques”. With proper techniques, anyone can create a vintage look for a special occasion or for everyday looks that are sure to turn heads.

The Magic Garment: Principles of Costume Design

Written by Rebecca Cunningham and first published in December, 1993, The Magic Garment is a remarkable book which provides a step-by-step overview of the stage costume design process. The second edition of The Magic Garment, published in June, 2009, builds on the solid and long-standing success of the outstanding first edition while including new figures and updates throughout the text. Readers will appreciate the new 16 full-color pages, as well as new examples from a wide range of stage productions. The Magic Garment incorporates material which reflects the incredible impact of technology on the entire business, most especially the use of computers in costume design. The second edition of The Magic Garment is even more versatile and practical than the first edition and an invaluable resource for any costume designer’s library.

Cunningham’s book is based upon the theory that a costume is a “magic” garment—meaning it allows an actor to become another person entirely for at least a short period of time. Cunningham states that “Like Prospero’s cape, which concentrated his supernatural powers over the wind and sea, an actor’s costume helps concentrate the powers of imagination, expression, emotion and movement into the creation and projection of a character to an audience.” Cunningham explains to the reader that theatrical costume is, in fact, the oldest art form known to humanity, a fact which may come as a surprise to many readers. Even as far back as the prehistoric age, human beings would don animal heads and skins as masks and costumes and be transformed instantly into a dancer, an actor, someone other than what they really were. Today, it remains the same; an actor dons a costume and is magically transformed—transported, really—to another place, another time, another body than his own.

The question then becomes what really constitutes an effective theatrical costume? If it engages the full attention of the audience, enhancing the production as well as the actor’s performance, then the costume has been fully effective. Cunningham states that “an effective costume speaks to the audience’s subconscious store of knowledge and experience, helping them to identify the individual characters, even before they speak and even if they are silent.” In other words, the costume will speak, on its own, to the audience, telling them many things about the character without a single word. An engaging and successful theatrical costume works in tandem with the play or film, supporting the overall theme and visually defining the character.

Ms. Cunningham’s intro to The Magic Garment goes on to discuss how a theatrical costume is used to define the character and notes that the differences between the characters must be clearly visible to the audience. The theatrical costume must set the character in time and space, meaning historical period and geographical or imaginary place. The theatrical costume must then establish the chronological age as well as gender of the actor and must show the social status and personality of the character. Finally, the costume must reflect the changes of the actor regarding time, space, age, status and personality over the course of the production in a thoroughly believable manner. Cunningham expounds beautifully on these ideas by thoroughly detailing exactly how a costume achieves each of these ideals. The Magic Garment is beautifully written and illustrated and will expose the reader to a broad range of theatrical literature; Cunningham uses references in the text as well as quotes from plays to accomplish this task.

For the would-be or new-to-the-job costume designer, a better book cannot be found than Rebecca Cunningham’s The Magic Garment, and, quite frankly, her prose can pull the reader deeply into the truly magical world of theatrical design.

Edith Head: Hollywood’s Costume Designer

If it’s a Paramount film, I probably designed it.” So said the tiny 5’ 1 ½” powerhouse long considered Hollywood’s most successful costume designer—not to mention definitely one of its most colorful personalities. Born in San Bernadino, California, to Max and Anna Posener, Edith’s exact birthdate is somewhat shrouded in mystery. Though she claimed to have been born in 1907 or 1908, she had graduated from college, married, divorced and worked as a teacher for a number of years by 1923, so those birthdates are highly improbable. Her birthdate on bios is listed as October 28, 1898. Though many tried to squeeze details out of Edith over the years, she remained vague on much of her background, and even stated that “I have in my mind a special room with iron doors. The things I don’t like I throw in there and slam the door.” Not such a bad idea!

The Designs

Following the divorce, Edith was in need of a higher-paying job so answered an ad for a costume design artist at Paramount Studios where the chief designer, Howard Greer, was incredibly impressed by her portfolio. A while after she accepted the job—which paid double her teacher’s salary—Edith confessed to Greer that she had actually “borrowed” the portfolio from another art school student. By this time Greer was impressed enough with Edith’s work that he let the deception slide. One of Edith’s first major projects was to design the gowns for Mae West in She Done Him Wrong; the extremely form-fitting outfit contributed to the film’s huge success, leading West to frequently request Head for her costume designs. In her message to Head, Mae, in her typically provocative manner said “Make the clothes loose enough to prove I’m a lady, but tight enough to show ‘em I’m a woman.” Edith was also responsible for Dorothy Lamour’s clinging sarong in The Jungle Princess, and once she began designing for Barbara Stanwyck, her success was almost a given.

In 1938 Edith’s mentor left Paramount for Universal Studios. Head was selected as his successor to run Paramount’s design department—a first for a woman. Edith created a flamboyant peacock cape for Hedy Lamar for the biblical epic Samson and Delilah in 1949 and designed the costumes for Bette Davis in All About Eve. Outfitting Elizabeth Taylor in the movie A Place in the Sun garnered Edith her third Oscar for best black and white costume design. Head would go on to design for many movies, and many stars, most notably Grace Kelly, Audrey Hepburn and Natalie Wood.

The Book

Edith Head: The Fifty-Year Career of Hollywood’s Greatest Costume Designer, is a book that will leave you visually stunned by its array of gorgeous color photographs and illustrations of the costumes Ms. Head meticulously designed throughout her career. This scrupulously-researched book is filled with more than 350 images, including never-before-seen and rare sketches done by Edith through the years as well as costume test shots and behind-the-scenes photos. A fascinating book for connoisseurs of fashion and film, the golden age of Hollywood sparkles from the pages. Background and biographical information on Ms. Head is, of course, included, however the author, Jay Jorgensen, focuses primarily on the clothing designs of Edith Head.

The Memories

What we know definitively about Edith Head is that she was nominated for 35 Academy Awards including every single year from 1948-1966–winning eight of those–and designed the costumes for over 1,100 films. In 1967 Edith’s contract at Paramount was not renewed despite 44 years of faithful service. She moved over to Universal and continued her workaholic ways until her final film, Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid, starring Steve Martin. Edith Head will long be remembered for her unusual trademark appearance which included large-framed dark glasses, severe tailored suits and long bangs. Despite her generally unorthodox appearance, Edith admitted that at night she wore wild colors and evening pants. Edith Head was a feisty, incredibly talented designer whose immense talent and witty quips ensure she will be remembered for a long time to come.

Erte: Father of the Art Deco

The Early Days of Erte’

Erte’ was born in St. Petersburg, Russia on November 23, 1892 as Romain de Tirtoff. He was a child prone to fantasy and would spend hours and hours immersed in books from his father’s library. Erte’ was fascinated by the ballet and opera at a young age, and his beautiful and stylish mother quite likely had a large influence on his later career. Erte’s father was an admiral in the Imperial Fleet and hoped his son would follow suit, but the young boy resisted. Though his father considered a career in fashion to be a disgrace for a young man, when he was 20, Erte’ moved to Paris to pursue his dream of design and illustration. Erte’ reminisced in his later years that “Of all the members of my family, it was my father who dominated my thoughts at this time. What a trial I must have been to him! Once I had staged my first rebellion against those wooden soldiers, there was no let up.”

Let the Designs Begin

After his move to Paris, it didn’t take long for Erte’ to become a well-known designer who created fashion and costume designs as well as illustrations for Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar. He began designing costumes for both the theater and the stage during this time in his life; the majority of the women Erte’ designed for were tall, slender and somewhat austere, with faces which seem so sophisticated as to be almost cold. Prior to Erte’s influence women were stuck in Victorian clothing with corsets and voluminous skirts, however he found many ways to emphasize the female form. The dresses Erte’ designed as costumes were luxurious, often dripping with jewels and pearls; his first theatrical designs were fancy dress balls, created for Paul Poiret. Although Erte’ tended to use color somewhat sparingly, it was nevertheless used quite brilliantly in his designs, oftentimes stark black backgrounds printed with red, white, gold or blue, each ensuring it became a work of art in its own right.

While a serious student of costume history, who was faithful to the style of the period, Erte’ nevertheless left his stamp of originality on every costume he designed. Although censorship was incredibly strict in the early Hollywood days, Erte’ managed to design costumes which were sexy, gorgeous and incredibly feminine at the same time. Erte’ designed costumes for some of the most beautiful and successful actresses of the time, most notably Josephine Baker, Joan Crawford, Marion Davies and Anna Pavlova–many of these creations remain unmatched to this day. Knowing how critical a designer’s participation is to the future success of the costumes, Erte’ made sure he was involved in every single detail. Throughout his career he was a meticulous designer, spending incalculable hours working on his exacting sketches. For his costumes, very fine lines were painted rather than drawn, and where he painstakingly applied minute dots of paint in multiple layers, pearls and jewels emerged. Although Erte’ designed costumes for the films Ben-Hur, The Comedian, Time, Dance Madness, La boheme and The Mystic, he had little patience for the necessary      pandering to the egos of Hollywood’s stars—something Edith Head, however, did masterfully.

Known as the Father of Art Deco, Erte’ defined Art Deco as “a fusion of the curvilinear designs of Art Nouveau of the 19th Century with the Cubist, Constructivist and geometrical designs of modernity.” In his biography Erte’ wrote that it was the duty of every human being to “make himself as attractive as possible,” and that “not many of us are born beautiful.” Erte’ was well-known for his belief that clothes could transform people into things of beauty or things of ugliness, and glamor was definitely the signature of his art. Perhaps Erte’s most well-known image is called Symphony in Black, and depicts a tall, slender woman draped in black, holding a thin black dog on a leash. A book about his career entitled Erte’ at Ninety details the man who lived in a home with no interior lighting along with his two beloved cats and was heard to say “The cat is a solitary animal, very independent, very quiet by nature…I cannot stand people visiting me when I am indisposed. I want to be left alone.” The Father of Art Deco is considered one of the most influential artists of the 20th century, with a near-limitless imagination and a career spanning nearly a century.

Experience Quintessential Fandom at a Convention

Pack your things, dig out those costumes, and leave the real world behind– you’re heading off to a convention!

For many, the idea of attending a convention brings forth cringeworthy thoughts involving sitting in a musty room, and having to listen to a monotonous speaker share his experience on how the latest software increased his company’s revenue. Luckily, there are a slew of atypical conventions for gamers, book lovers, movie and tv fanatics alike (or those who just plain enjoy  dressing up in costume) that are worth shelling out money for. These fun-filled conventions are typically held over a weekend, starting early Friday morning and ending on Sunday evening. Within a span of three days you will be running around the convention to get to panels, events, and the Dealer’s Room, all designed to please the fans who are taking time to have some fun. I would like to point out that both dressing up in costume, as well as sleeping, is purely optional.

Conventions exist for a variety of genres and media. There are conventions dedicated to a specific fandom or for a general genre altogether. The most notable are ones for science fiction (such as: Star Trek, Star Wars, and Doctor Who), or for Japanese animation (or “anime” for short), and manga series. Fans come together at these events to have fun and enjoy three days dedicated to their favorite thing in life. It is here that famous icons for the convention’s theme show up to greet their fans, engage in discussions, and sign autographs (not always free though so make sure to have extra cash on hand).

Outside of the famous guests, there are more than enough events and panels for the fans to indulge in. But the highlight of every attendee’s trip is the chance to visit the Dealer’s Room. And just as the name implies, this is a massive market filled with booths that cater to your every addiction for your favorite series including: books, figurines, and DVD collections, to say the least.

Announcements are also a key event to these conventions. In particular, the major and more popular conventions will often times release insider information for the fans. For example, at the Comic Con in San Diego, California, one can expect major movie and television show announcements; typically accompanied by trailers or video clips that debut for the very first time. Otakon and Animefest, two of the many anime conventions out there, will have announcements and video clips of the latest series coming out in both America and Japan.

Gallifrey One, a convention for Doctor Who fans, has shown sneak peaks and released information of the newest season to come to Britain that year. Even E3, a video gaming convention that allows only reviewers from magazines and websites to attend, are full of insider information for the fans. They just have to wait for the information to hit the Internet, but with Twitter and company websites these days, the wait is never for long.

Conventions continue to occur every year and will do so for as long as there are fans around to attend them. So, if you miss a particular convention one year, there’s no need to fret. After all, there’s always next year!

Harry Potter and the Ever Growing Fanbase

Harry Potter has always been known as the boy who lived. And now he is known for leading one of the biggest, most popular franchises in the history of entertainment.

What started as a seven book series has spanned out to an eight-movie collection that inspired the creation of wizard rock that includes: over 750 bands, musicals, theme park rides, books on the philosophy of it all, pod casts, role-playing games, fan sites, film documentaries, conventions, tours, even live Quidditch Matches such as the one held in New York from November 13th to the 14th of this year. Pottermania has spread throughout the world and has enchanted the fans for not just now, but for years, if not decades, to come.

And now, for over ten years already, this is a series of books that has captured our attention and entertained us as readers with the world that JK Rowling has created. But what makes this series so popular? What is it about these books that make us want to follow a teenage boy through puberty, awkward relationships, and endure the periods of emo that we’ve already gone through when we were in high school?

It’s the magic, that’s why.

These books are an escape from the ordinary and reality all together. Opening one of these books allows you, the reader, the opportunity to experience a world that lights up the imagination. While it’s no literary masterpiece, these books still manage to charm adults and children alike. There aren’t any flying pick-up trucks, chocolate frogs that jump around, or time-traveling devices in our world; although it has certainly inspired us to try and bring them to life! A number of high schools and Universities have started their own Quidditch teams and candy companies have made so many of the treats a reality they could easily open up a Honeydukes!

It’s the creativity of these tales that get us caught up in his adventures. You become so involved with the story that you become attached to, not just Harry, but his friends and the entire cast of the books. When someone passes away you shed tears, and when someone does something completely despicable you just want to reach into the book and smack them around a bit (looking at you, Umbridge).

It’s fun to get away from your life for just a little while. Books make for the perfect, not to mention inexpensive, little vacation from stress and work. So sitting back with your favorite beverage and opening up a book –or pulling up the file if you happen to use an electronic book—is ideal for one’s alone time. And with Harry Potter, you can enjoy that alone time with a good story filled with humor, drama, adventure, and entertainment. Ranking up there with CS Lewis’ “Chronicles of Narnia”, it is one the most well known fantasy book series that both parents and children have enjoyed. You know a series will stand the test of time when old hardcover copies are so worn from constant rereading that you have to go out to replace it before it falls apart.