Sunday, 22 December 2013

Baileys Christmas Nutcraker 2013

This year Christmas adverts have taken over - thirty second videos are no longer enough, and many companies are paying millions for actual short films to promote their Christmas spirit. Advertising is becoming a real art form in itself!

My favourite advert of the 2013 Christmas season (actually, my favourite advert ever!) has to be the Baileys Nutcracker - it is just so beautiful!!! Graceful ballerinas, beautiful dresses, fairies, princes, pirates, ice queens, what could be prettier?!

The two-minute piece directed by Ringan Ledwidge features choreography by Benjamin Millepied and stars dancers from the Royal Ballet, in a romantic reworking of Tchaikovsky's traditional festive ballet. The stunning visuals were created by amazing designers and craftspeople with celebrated histories in film: set by Sarah Greenwood (Pride and Prejudice, Atonement), costumes by Rosa Dias (who has worked on many beautiful commercials!)

Luckily for us behind-the-scenes people, there's a 'making-of' feature!

This advert reminds me of the collaboration between Vivienne Westwood and the English National Ballet to rebrand the ballet company. It is great to see ballet coming into the glamorous and artistic spotlight of fashion, film and editorial photography. The beautiful, fantasy quality of all these art forms combined is magical!
“What I like about the chance of making these short films is you have a very short period of time, a very focused period of time, to be able to tell a story and make everything work, which is an incredible challenge” - Benjamin Millepied
It is in short films and adverts that visuals are so important - they must convey character and narrative swiftly, to ensure that the audience grasps the concept as quickly as possible. For this Nutcracker piece, this meant using iconic costumes, for example the Nutcracker's red and white suit, but with a modern twist to bring it all together and into the 21st century.

Behind the scenes photography by Will Morgan, see more at 'Creative Review'.

Sunday, 15 December 2013

Initial Inspiration and Themes - "Les Liaisons Dangereuses" Ballet Design

A few weeks ago I posted photos of my finished 18th Century man's costume, that I made as part of this term's project at London College of Fashion. On the BA Costume for Performance course, we do not only make but design as well, and I chose to design the text of "Les Liaisons Dangereuses" as a ballet.

For our final hand-in we had to condense our research, drawing and investigation from the ten week term into a mazimum of ten A2 pages. Here are the first three pages of my portfolio, illustrating my influences and the images that I found most inspiring.

PAGE 1 - Initial inspiration 
*"The Kiss" - Georges Barbier
*"The Swing" - Jean-Honoré Fragonard = pleasure gardens, dressing/undressing
*"The Orgies" - William Hogarth = moral decline, 18th century underwear

PAGE 2 - Ballet
*"Jane Eyre" - Shanghai Ballet
*"Sleeping Beauty"  - Birmingham Royal Ballet 
*Sparkling fabrics, layering to create depth and lavish look under stage lighting

PAGE 3 - Set Design
*The pleasure gardens - secretive and mysterious places of 18th century entertainment and socialising, day and night, with a reputation for immorality
*"Sleeping Beauty" - Matthew Bourne, Lez Brotherston
*18th Century architectural and interior design, Rococo style
*The boudoir/dressing room
My concept for the set wood be a woodland clearing pleasure garden, with the lanterns, chandeliers and mirrors of a lady's dressing room

More of my research and design work soon!

Saturday, 7 December 2013

Masterpieces of Chinese Painting 700-1900 @ V&A

I am officially on Christmas break! Finally! The last couple of weeks have been strange, because although i didn't have any classes, or costume work, I still had an essay to write. But after handing that in yesterday morning, my first term of second year at LCF was completely finished. And that meant I was free to get started on my super long list of exhibitions that I need to see this month! So many fantastic things are on in London this December!

First off, the V&A. I've been neglecting my membership recently so yesterday was the perfect opportunity to have a look at the wonderful exhibitions they are running - 'Chinese Painting' and 'Pearls'. In this post, i'll share my favourite pieces from 'Chinese Painting', and i'll write about 'Pearls' at a later date...

V&A hosts a wonderfully varied programme of large-scale exhibitions, which is great. I had never encountered Chinese painting before and since working with Meg Andrews, an antique textile dealer with an interest in Chinese textiles, I have been keen to discover the world of art outside Western culture. I've realised recently how close-minded we often are in the Western world when it comes to costume history - there is so much more out there to be discovered! It is not all about corsets and petticoats!!!

'Masterpieces of Chinese Painting' opens with an introduction to the technique, with a video demonstration. Two brushes are used at the same time, to create colour washes over a black ink outline. The colour is built up layer by layer until the right tone is achieved. Then everything is outlined again and any details added.

'Court Ladies Preparing Newly Woven Silk' 1101-25, attributed to Emperor Huizong (MFA, Boston):

I really like the really thin ink outline that is used here - and all the detail put into recreating the dazzlingly beautiful silk textile patterns. Interestingly, many aspects of Chinese painting point to silk painting originating from embroidery. The frame used to stretch silk closely resembles an embroidery frame, and both crafts are called 'hui' in Chinese.

"High-minded artists painted only when inspired, therefore their works are treasured during the succeeding generations."  - Tu Long, 1592

The vibrant colours of the costumes against a brown background is stunning. Incredible attention to detail was paid to depicting the valued costumes of court ladies and men, and in many examples in the exhibition, a landscape may be painted in greys and blacks, but the costumes will still be vibrantly coloured.

The delicate and crisp draping of the robes is also captured in detail by each artist. The highlighting of dress in a scene serves to tell the viewer about the characters, but also show off the skill of the painter!

Detail of 'Court Ladies in the Inner Palace' by Du Jin (1465-1509):

The delicate and crisp draping of the robes is captured in detail by each artist. Dress is often given prominence in a scene, telling the viewer about the characters and also about the skill of the painter.

I would really recommend this exhibition to anyone looking for an introduction to Chinese painting, and a very particular style of illustration. It has definitely inspired me to do more drawing, especially observational drawings of new types of costume.

'Masterpieces of Chinese Painting 700–1900' runs until 19 January 2014 at the Victoria & Albert Museum, London. For more information, click here.

Monday, 25 November 2013

18th Century Menswear Costume - Danceny, "Les Liaisons Dangereuses"

Today was the hand-in of our first project of second year Costume for Performance at London College of Fashion - we have spent the last couple of months working from the text "Les Liaisons Dangereuses" (1782) by Pierre Choderlos de Laclos and realising one male character. I chose to make Danceny's costume, for a ballet production. 

My concept drew upon the steady moral decay that drives the narrative - as the integrity of society disintegrates so does the costume, revealing excess, extravagance and debauchery beneath. Danceny, a young Chevalier, starts the story as a sweet music tutor in love with the innocent Cecile. He is coached by the scheming Vicomte de Valmont, who corrupts him into a selfish and proud person with destructive consequences. This costume would be for Act I (of III), Scene iii - the beginning of the relationship with Valmont and the licentious pre-Revolution French aristocracy.

Underneath the coat is a waistcoat that looks relatively plain from the front, but portrays the lavish nature of 1770s French aristocracy at the back. It was inspired by my visit to see ballet costumes from the Birmingham Royal Ballet's 'Sleeping Beauty' and seeing the use of layered nets, lace and glittering fabrics to wonderful effect on stage. 

I cannot believe that I managed to make a full man's costume in about 4 weeks of making time - a shirt, breeches, waistcoat and coat. A year ago, I would never have thought that possible! I am so happy with the results. Of course, there are many things I would do differently next time, but for now I'm just going to appreciate what I have achieved today! A big big THANK YOU!!! to my wonderful brother for being my model, putting up with my surprise 11pm "YOU NEED TO TRY THIS ON RIGHT NOW!!!"s and "HURRY UP AND STRIKE A BALLET POSE!!!". I am so grateful for your patience and help.

I will share some of my design work as soon as I get my portfolio back. Expect plenty more blog posts now that I am not absolutely snowed under at uni!

Friday, 15 November 2013

Costumes for "Jewels" by the Royal Ballet

We are getting very close to the hand-in of our 18th Century Menswear and "Dangerous Liaisons" project for the first term of this year at LCF, so I apologise for not posting for two weeks! I have barely had a minute to sit down with my laptop, let alone write anything of substance... on top of school work I was working on costumes for the Sir John Soanes Museum with Sanya (see her blog here) and as a wardrobe assistant for "Grease" by Green Room Productions. At London College of Fashion we have also been preparing for our placements next term, and I am so excited to say that I will be going to New York for five weeks, to spend some time at the Metropolitan Opera! I have also been planning with the Much Hadham Forge Museum and I will soon start making the Tudor man's costume to go with the woman's costume I finished in the summer, inspired by original 16th century wall-paintings at the museum... clearly I won't be getting bored any time soon!

After these next two weeks at LCF, I will be filling my Christmas break with exhibitions - there are so many fantastic ones just opened! At the RA, V&A, National Galleries... I have also booked to see Matthew Bourne's "Swan Lake" at Sadler's Wells at the beginning of December, and "Jewels" at the Royal Opera House at the end of this year.

I have wanted to see "Jewels" for a long time, so I am really looking forward to it. It is the perfect New Year's ballet, with its beautifully opulent, shining costumes. Here is a peak at the three jewel variations:


"Jewels" is being staged at the Royal Opera House throughout December and into January - more info here.

I look forward to sharing everything from my projects from last week, as well as my upcoming adventures. For now, I have at 18th century man's coat to finish...

Monday, 28 October 2013

Soane Museum Gothick Party - Waiting Staff Costume Design

On the 7th of November, the Soane Museum in London will host a haunting and spectactular 'Gothick' party - and the twenty waiting staff will be wearing my design!

The museum, situated in the magnificent Lincoln's Inn Fields (going there is like stepping back in time - it's crazy!) is known for its Sarcophagus Parties. These extravagant annual candle-lit evenings of the unusual and unexpected take place within the museum itself: a house filled with Sir John Soane's collected curiosities. The house in absolutely unique in its decor: the hundreds of books, ancient sculptures and even a sarcophagus in the basement served as inspiration for a collaboration project between the museum and London College of Fashion performance design courses.

We were given a brief, to design something to be added to a waiter's uniform, that embodies the museum's unique character and atmosphere and would fit in perfectly for a night of macabre and eerie Gothick fun. The project started with a competition to choose a design - one make-up/hair and one costume - and I am so happy to say that my design was chosen as the winner for costume!

My concept is inspired by the Gothic architecture carving pieces on the walls of the museum, the hundreds of crumbling paper books in the front room and Soane's own obsession with mirrors, of all shapes and sizes! The skeletal and delicate translucent paper with a 'crumbling' foil texture are meant to convey a macabre atmosphere focusing on decay, aging and fragility.

Sanya (who also has a blog, have a look here!) is helping me realise my design. For 20 people, there are loads of leaves (almost a thousand!!) that need to be made, but so far we are doing well! Have a look at Sanya's blog for her interpretation of the brief - I love her use of mirrors and silhouette.

Have a peek at the paper leaves in progress...next week I'll post photos of the complete pieces at the party itself! I can't wait to see them in situ!

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Les Liaisons Dangereuses: Finding Fabrics

This autumn, Term 1 of Year 2 (already!) at London College of Fashion, our unit is Period and Contemporary Menswear, with a focus on 18th century tailoring. The text we are designing for, which we will then realise one male character from, is Pierre de Laclos' "Les Liaisons Dangereuses" 1782. This costume design work has been keeping me very busy, here is a peek at my designing for the character of Danceny - a sweet and romantic, twenty year old music tutor who descends into moral chaos at the hands of the heartless Marquise de Merteuil and Vicomte de Valmont.

At the moment, I am trying to choose fabrics for Danceny's three piece suit. I have fallen in love with the deep blue wool, so I am trying to base the colour palette around that, while incorporating the excess of pattern and colour adopted by the uber-fashionable and wealthy Macaronis.

Thursday, 3 October 2013

Sketches: 18th Century Costume at the Museum of London

Our focus this term at London College of Fashion is 18th century costume - we will be designing for the novel "Les Liaisons Dangereuses" written in 1782 by Pierre Choderlos de Laclos, and we'll also be making a full man's suit: coat, waistcoat, breeches and shirt. It's set to be a jam-packed ten weeks, so I'm trying my very best to be organised from the start. Earlier this week I went to the Museum of London to study the 18th century clothing in their 'Pleasure Gardens' exhibit:

Sunday, 29 September 2013

Paris Haute Couture @ Hotel de Ville, Paris

I have plenty that I am ready to share from my research and sketchbook work for my last unit project from Year 1 at London College of Fashion - a collaboration between the BA Hair, Make-Up and Prosthetics course and BA Costume for Performance. We worked on the text 'The Madwoman of Chaillot', designing and realising our characters in groups of 5/6.

You can see my finished costume here - Irma in 'The Madwoman of Chaillot' - but it's also great to share the design process and inspiration, and I had so much fun researching for this project! To kick start our term we spent a few art-packed days in Paris, full of fantastic exhibitions and visits, the highlight of which would have to be 'Paris Haute Couture', supported by Swarovski, at the beautiful Hotel de Ville.

Set against the incredible backdrop of the one of the most impressive Neo-Renaissance buildings in Paris, this exhibition was everything I could have wanted and much, much more! Every piece displayed was striking and engaging, and the range of dresses from the 19th to 21st century meant there was something for everyone; in fact funnily, after looking at the fantastic 19th Century dresses for the costume of the Madwoman in my project, my friend and I bumped into all four of our tutors, and proceeded to have an impromptu lesson on bias cut 1920s gowns and the draping of dramatically pleated 50s Dior dresses!

Entering the exhibition you were greeted by an introductory display of photos and drawings telling the story of Haute Couture in Paris, it's origins in the 19th Century with Worth's renowned gowns to the present day and the iconic Parisian fashion houses such as Chanel and Yves Saint Laurent, and the behind-the-scenes process of making these fabulous garments.

Chanel is one of my most loved fashion brands - the collections have a beautiful historical theatricality (my favourite collection, the Marie-Antoinette themed Resort S/S12, was shown at Versailles). To begin the display of glamorous gowns, sponsored by Swarovski, with a shining jewel-encrusted Chanel S/S12 piece was, in my eyes, perfect!

The second and main part of the exhibition featured over 100 pieces from the late-1800s to the present day. I wasn't able to take any photos of these, but I did sketch those that stood out to me: two being the amazing pleated frill Worth cape and Christian Dior 1952 "Palmyre" dress with it's mind-boggling pleats and panels under beautiful jewel embellishment.

The pieces here were almost all from the Musée Galliera collection, used while the Musée was being refurbished. I'm sorry that I didn't share this earlier - it was such a fantastic exhibition that I found myself almost shouting at people that they had to go and see this! Sadly, it was only open March-June 2013, however the Musée Galliera reopened yesterday, and I am sure these fantastic fashion treasures will feature prominently in their future exhibitions and displays.

Monday, 23 September 2013

In Fine Style @ The Queen's Gallery

Back in the spring when I first learnt about the "In Fine Style" exhibition on Tudor and Stuart fashion at the Queen's Gallery, I was so excited that I proclaimed I would HAVE to visit opening week, if not the opening day. With a ticket that you can use unlimited times, I would probably end up spending my summer there - it's not every day there is an exhibition dedicated to the art of dress.

An endless list of things to do and five months later, I still had not been. Frankly, that's quite embarrassing.

I finally managed to get organised and visited the exhibition last week. The exhibition opens with an introduction to Tudor style through painted portraits, alongside illustrated diagrams of full costumes. It was very busy when I visited, which was a shame because it is a lot more pleasant to view portraits without loads of people in front of you, but I guess with such a popular exhibition this is difficult to avoid...
The exhibition also features sculptures and most impressively, real examples of Tudor and Stuart clothing. These are almost all in fantastic condition, which I was not expecting at all, although some pieces have been reconstructed. My favourite piece would have to be the 1620's man's doublet, drawn below. The whole surface of it was delicately embroidered in bold teal and brown.
Overall, the exhibition is a good overview of Stuart fashion, with a bit of Tudor in there too. I learnt a lot in my short visit, I'm sure any visitor would. I will definitely be buying the catalogue soon, as it is makes a good collection of reference material, excellently presented and explained.
"In Fine Style" is on at The Queen's Gallery, London until Sunday, 6th October 2013. Click here for more details and to book your tickets.
As a preview for those who haven't yet been, here are my notes and drawings from my visit:

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Maria Grachvogel SS14 @ London Fashion Week

Yesterday was the last day of Fashion Week in London, and I attended the Maria Grachvogel Spring/Summer '14 show at the iconic Somerset House.

There had been many fantastic shows over the previous days (my favourites being Burberry, Mulberry and Alice Temperley so far, which I will post about later this week) so I was looking forward to seeing what Maria Grachvogel had to offer. Her show was the last at the BFC Courtyard Show Space, starting at 4PM, just in time for us to be in and seated before the rain started! This time last year, I was lucky enough to go to the Burberry SS13 show. I wasn't quite VIP enough for a seat there, but for this show we were on the third row with a very good view!

As the lights went down everyone fell silent, and a sweet bird twittering opened the show.

The collection is meant as an "expression of youthful innocence and creative freedom". Through soft flowing silks and abstract painted prints, Grachvogel "celebrates that sense of innocence and naivety." A feeling of girliness is conveyed through the skirts and flowing, rose-tinted, translucent silks, however masculine tailoring techniques hold back any idea of frivolous romanticism.

A "relaxed modern glamour is captured by wrapping the body". The soft drape of silk crepe and Egyptian cotton fabric is left uninterrupted by heavy embellishment; instead, abstract floral impressions are given centre stage. Some pieces featured light sequinning to "add a sense of rawness that is a perfect counterpart to the unembellished purity of the collection." In this sense, the collection is very balanced: there is minimal embellishment, but the drape and wrapping of the printed fabric provides shape and detail enough.

The floor length dresses were regal and strong, especially the closing 'Rose tint Artist Garden print' dress with it's billowing organza train. Throughout the collection were developing silhouettes, getting ever-more striking.

And finally, a photo of most of my favourite pieces from the collection together for the finale. I particularly liked the simple, shapely, draped sleeves and naturally subtle "aqua, plaster, putty and clay" colour scheme.
Thank you to Anoushka for inviting me to come along with her to this show. Quotes are from the show notes. Photos by me, Megan Doyle - please credit with a link back if you publish them elsewhere.

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Coming to the End of Summer...

This weekend in London we experienced an overnight season switch. The lovely sunshine we (very surprisingly!) had throughout July and August has been replaced by annoyingly persistent light rain, grey clouds and puddles.

But it's not all bad! Minus the rain, autumn is actually my favourite season. The return of knitwear, coats, scarves and cosiness...nature's beautiful warm colours...everything to do with this season is comforting and inspiring. Autumn and September bring around a natural time for transition and growth. With the new academic year comes a time to reflect on the achievements of the previous twelve months (which we so easily overlook in the moment), a chance to re-evaluate direction and set new goals with a renewed sense of motivation.

This past year has been the most exciting so far for my career. Finally I am studying the course I have dreamed of being on since the age of 13, surrounded by the most inspiring and motivating tutors and fellow students. I have learnt so much there already, with my love for costume becoming stronger every day. Since last September I have worked on three musicals, made a full Tudor costume for a museum, worked at the Royal Ballet School and with a professional tutu-maker from the Royal Opera House. My design work for Showtime Stitches has been noticed by a number of local businesses: my handmade items were stocked in Love 13, a beautiful local shop, and I was commissioned by The N21 Festival to create a bespoke print for their Christmas Fair merchandise and advertising. I don't often take the time to sit and think about what HAS been, but I realise now that it is important to take in and acknowledge openly what you achieve. Congratulate yourself for your hard work and the amazing results that come from it, because it is you who put in the effort and took the necessary steps to make these things happen. Seeing your dreams come true is the most wonderful feeling, and to think that all of these projects happened in my first year of university, most when I was just 18 years old, makes me so excited for the opportunities my second and third years, and life in the big wide world as a graduate, will bring. On a personal note, after a frightening week involving a family member suffering potentially life-threatening illness, I am reminded of the value of life and the importance of thankfulness and gratitude. Embrace every minute of every day, every opportunity, every chance to share your passion and positive energy with others, because you have no idea where it could take you.

My second year at London College of Fashion is already set to be filled with engaging and challenging academic projects alongside many insightful and rewarding internships. I am currently working as an intern for Meg Andrews, Antique Costume and Textiles - I have only been there two days, yet I have learnt tonnes and developed my skills already.

I will continue to update my blog with the work I do and the inspiration I find. I have plenty of costume-related things to share from my fun-filled summer, including:

- 'La Rondine' at the Royal Opera House
- 'The Sound of Music' at the Open Air Theatre
- Shopping for antiquities in the French "brocantes"
- Treasure hunting in a Victorian haberdasher hoarder's house
- Visiting museums in London

...amongst many other things!

I very much look forward to sharing, in the meantime I hope you all have a fantastic end to the summer. Take the time to appreciate your achievements and work of the past year and choose your goals for the next.

In another 365 days, you could be anywhere you set your mind on.

Saturday, 31 August 2013

Preview of the Tudor Costume Photoshoot with David Calvert

David Calvert, of David Calvert Photography in Much Hadham very kindly offered to photograph the finished Tudor dress that I recently created for the Much Hadham Forge Museum. David is a portrait photographer who has won over 50 awards and 5 national titles for his fantastic work, and I am so grateful that he was able to photograph my costume!

Here is a preview of yesterday's shoot!

I can't wait to see the final photos from our session, and for you to see all of the finished costume, front and back. David captured the detail of the fabrics and embroidery detail so well, I'm in awe!

To see more of David's photography, have a look at his website: www.calvert.biz/

And if you'd like to read about the creation of this costume, here are the posts to have a look at!

Sunday, 18 August 2013

The Discovery of Paris, Watercolours @ The Wallace Collection

Yesterday I spent a few hours at the Wallace Collection, to do a bit of preliminary research for next term's project (18th Century Menswear/'Les Liaisons Dangereuses') and also to have a look round the temporary exhibition: 'The Discovery of Paris: Watercolours by Early Nineteenth-Century British Artists'.

There is no arguing that the architecture of Paris is beautiful, so there was no doubt that I would love this exhibition for the delicate and intricate pencil drawings of the city's oldest buildings. However, I was taken aback by the detail given by the artists, many of whom were primarily architects, to the people in their scenes and the costumes they were wearing. Although the exhibition is small, it paints such a strong and immersive picture of early 19th Century Paris, offering a new perspective on the city from the eyes of the people on the streets.

Many of the artworks featured were painted for British audiences - before the advent of photography, these sketches were used to show those across the channel what the famous city really looked like. Their observatory and descriptive nature make them incredibly valuable sources of costume history reference, in particular for scenes of the working class people. As objective images, they are not skewed by the interests of the wealthy, as many formal portraits are.

Here are a few of my favourite images from the exhibition:

Works by H.A. Baker, R.P. Bonington and T.S. Boys, respectively, showing the architecture of Paris with incredible detail and atmosphere. I particularly like the river scene by Boys, with the buildings (houses or washhouses?!) on the water and washing hung out to dry on the banks.

This painting by John Scarlett Davis, entitled "Porte Saint-Martin" 1831 was my favourite of the exhibition - the attention it pays to the clothing of the working poor is wonderful! I love the bright primary colours and the 'candy cane' red/white stiped skirts. This painting confused me a little though... there seems to be an almost uniform look with the tall white bonnets and shoulder coverings?  Was this a fashion, or work uniform? Or religiously symbolic? And also the skirt lengths are much shorter than I would have imagined - mid-calf to just under the knee on some women? I think I need to do a bit more research to understand properly - my first stop will be the V&A, as this painting is part of their collection.

Great costume detail, with a variety of styles and type of people, in this scene by Thomas Shotter Boys ("The Boulevard des Capucines" 1833)

These candid studies were what took me by surprise - they provide so much information on the everyday clothing of the average people living in the city. Thanks to their simplistic, observational style, we can easily see the colour, pattern and cut of the clothing, as well as any accessories. These are by Ambrose Poynter, an architect, and were painted c.1835.
He also painted the picture below - characters like those in the street scene would have been based on character studies like those above.
I really recommend this exhibition - I will be returning myself very soon! It is on at the Wallace Collection in London until 15th September 2013, and it's free! More information here.