Thursday, 29 July 2010

Illustration Friday - Double

This week's Illustration Friday topic is "Double". I did this pen and ink drawing a couple of years ago, and it's one of the few older drawings of mine that I still like.

Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Dead Girls

I love love love this series of Dead Girls by Melbourne artist Rik Lee, especially as they all have super cheesy names - Elle A, Frankie Stein, Boneita, and Dee Rowned!

There are a couple of other girls in the series, you can see them all at Rik Lee's blog, and you can buy prints of them at his Etsy store.

I think Boneita is my favourite.

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Nice Day for a White Wedding

On the weekend, Georgia had another of her fabulous birthday parties, this one was wedding themed. It was beautifully decorated, with pink fabric bunting hanging up everywhere, balloons, little pink cupcakes, etc.

Georgia was dressed as a wedding bouquet, with all these fabric flowers she had made and real huge leaves stuck to the back of her, and green stalk leaves! Very amusing.

Her sister Camilla had made the best cake outfit I've ever seen, complete with a wedding topper with the bride and groom under a heart-shaped archway on her head!

I decided the day before to go as the Corpse Bride from the Tim Burton movie of the same name. I managed to cobble together a passable outfit from an old wedding dress, two white cheesecloth curtains (for the skirt), a net curtain (for the veil), an old black wig and some fake flowers, plus a lot of blue spraypaint.

Here's a closeup of the bodice, which I made by cutting down the bodice of an old long-sleeved wedding dress, sewing a bra into it, sewing in some corset boning, and adding some pearls. Finally I painted the whole thing with watered-down acrylic paint.

The whole outfit (sorry it's a bit blurry, was using autotimer on my camera). I wish I'd had time to paint a skeleton arm on, but by that stage I was getting a bit over the whole thing. It was a lot of work to do in two evenings.

There were lots of good costumes, but I did like this man's confetti suit. So simple yet effective. I think they were actually sticky dots.

Here's Alice from WAMP Nation spinning some cool tunes...

Monday, 12 July 2010


Ah, winter has finally arrived, and I can dig out my stockings and suspenders (garter belts for you Americans). I had my stocking revelation last winter, and I've never looked back. For years I struggled with the awful "webbed crotch" of tights and pantyhose, where they start sliding down, and one has to surreptitiously yank them up without looking like one is adjusting one's underwear . Even when I bought Talls (and I'm a very average height, 5'5"), I would have to cut the feet off so the legs would be long enough.

With my adoption of the Vintage Look, came the idea of stockings. At first they seemed so exotic and confusing. Where was I meant to get them from? How did I stop my suspender belt from falling down? And how did anyone manage to keep their seams straight?

Firstly a little bit of history. Nylon stockings didn't come onto the market until 1939. In the 20s and 30s, stockings were made of silk, or its cheaper alternative, rayon. Nylon was invented by DuPont in the US, and nylon stockings quickly became the most popular choice, presumably because they were cheaper than silk, and finer than rayon (which also takes quite a while to dry once washed). Above you can see the crowd in a department store in the US of women waiting to buy the first nylon stockings. 72,000 pairs were sold in the first day alone!

Unfortunately, WWII broke out, and governments commandeered supplies of nylon for the war effort, to make parachutes and tents. If was considered completely unladylike to go out without stockings, so the ingenious (though slightly bizarre) solution was to paint one's legs with some sort of makeup to simulate stockings, and then draw a seam up the back with an eyeliner pencil.

After the war, stockings were once again in production, although demand for them was so great, that manufacturers couldn't meet the demand. In Pittsburg in 1945, 40,000 women queued up to try and get one of the 13,000 pairs of stockings on sale, and fighting broke out. Stockings were very popular throughout the 1950s, and they were available in a multitude of different colours and shades, with or without seams. As skirts became shorter in the 60s, pantyhose were invented, and stockings became rather old-fashioned.

My mother, who is in her sixties, remembers wearing stockings and suspenders, and in the cold English winter they also wore woolen hot-pants called Passion Killers (!) to stop the tops of their thighs getting cold. She said it was a relief when tights were invented. My father said girls in Hungary were always asking if they could borrow a 2 fillér coin (the smallest coin in circulation) to stick through the loop of their suspender clasp when the rubber part broke.

The most 'vintage' looking stocking is of course the fully-fashioned seamed stocking. Fully-fashioned (or FF) means that they are made flat in one piece, then sewn up the back, hence the distinctive seam and keyhole. Made from 100% nylon, they have very little stretch in them, and are also shaped like a human leg, with a distinct foot, calf and thigh. FF stockings are sized by foot size, but it's not your shoe size, it's the length of your foot in inches (how sensible!). You can just measure your inside forearm from wrist to elbow, because thanks to Pretty Woman, we all know that your forearm and foot are the same length.

Fully fashioned stockings also have reinforced soles and heels, which come in several different shapes, as illustrated above. The choice of heel is a matter of personal preference, although I believe that the Manhattan heel was reserved for evening wear, being rather fancy.

The Worker-Dandyist International has a nice post on the wear and care of FF stockings, including an explanation of denier and gauge, and how to wash them. I usually just wash them in cold water with a bit of wool wash, swoosh them around a bit, rinse in cold water, blot on a towel and hang up to dry (don't use pegs, they tend to snag).

This is a selection of the brand new FF stockings (seamed and unseamed) I have found in second hand shops, still in their boxes and packaging, and never worn. You do have to hunt around a bit, and it's worth going to the sort of shops that specialise in vintage clothing. There are some deadstock stockings on eBay, but they tend to be quite expensive, and you have to hope that some will come up in your size.

What Katy Did has FF seamed stockings made on original vintage machinery in France, which come in three colours, and either point or cuban heels (point heels are on the 'luxury' stockings, and cost an arm and a leg). They also have thicker rayon and nylon seamed stockings that are from a company that supplies the film and television industry, and are similar to those worn in the 1940s.

For serious choice in stockings, Stockings HQ seems like a good place to go, although I haven't bought anything from them yet. They have a large range of FF and stretch seamed stockings, a wide range of prices, and lots of different colours, including baby pink with black seams and black with red seams! They carry the top three brands in stockings, Eleganti, Gio and Cervin. There are stockings from France and England that are made on vintage machinery, as well as cheaper stretch nylon stockings that look like vintage ones (they have seams and reinforced heels) but are stretchy. They also have XXXL stockings for the more generous figure.

It really does help to invest in a decent suspender belt if you are going to wear stockings more than occasionally. The tarting-round-the-bedroom types which are for sale in most lingerie shops are not meant for daily wear. They sit too low on the hips to stay up properly, and the straps are too thin and can't be shortened enough. What one really needs is a suspender belt that sits on the waist, preferably with six straps if you are going to wear seamed stockings (more straps keep the stockings from sliding around the leg and keep the seam straight).

I love my Van Doren suspender belts from Kiss Me Deadly. They are made from a silky, stretchy fabric which is incredibly comfortable to wear, and have six fairly broad straps with lovely silver-tone metal hardware. I wore my black one all last winter, three or four times a week, and it still looks new.

I find that because they don't stretch, fully-fashioned stockings seem to last longer and be more resistant to runs than modern stockingsem, if you treat them with care. In the 40s and 50s, stockings were quite expensive, about $25 a pair, so women would have looked after them a lot better than we do with modern pantyhose. That said, it does take a little time to get used to wearing them. Some days I just can't be bothered with seamed stockings because I have to keep checking that the seam is straight, so I wear seamless ones, or modern stretch nylon stockings. Wearing stockings should be fun, not a chore.

I'll leave you with this charming little list that I found when I opened a packet of vintage Schiaparelli stockings the other day!

Friday, 9 July 2010

Kitty, Daisy and Lewis

Aren't these guys the cutest? And even better, they are a three-piece band of siblings from London! Daisy is 21, Lewis is 19 and Kitty is only 17. They play all their own instruments, and record in their home studio on original 40s and 50s recording equipment, such as old 8-tracks and vintage BBC microphones, without using any computers or digital equipment.

Their music is mostly covers of swing, rock 'n' roll and blues songs from the 50s, except "Bugging Blues" which was written by Lewis. I especially love their cover of "Mean Son of a Gun", originally by Johnny Horton, and "Polly Put the Kettle On". Their outfits and hairstyles are so spot on, they look amazing. You can find their MySpace page here.

Monday, 5 July 2010

Székely Family

Here's a drawing I did for my father's birthday last week, of a girl listening to her father read her a story. I used to love my father reading Hungarian folktales from a big book we had of them. They were in Hungarian, so he would translate them into English as he read, and I liked the slightly stilted way it came out.

I was trying to stay in the sort of Hungarian folk style that I used for this drawing, but this time I made them Székely, because my father's father came from a Székely family. The Székely (pronounced Say-kay) are a subgroup of Hungarians, who mostly live in Transylvania. One of their most distinctive folk-crafts are their beautiful carved and painted wooden gates

I took this photo in Transylvania a couple of years ago. The gates are set into a wall that runs along the street, and they open into the yard of the house. The gates always have a door in the side for people, and a larger gate for big things like horses and carts, and they have a little shingled roof on the top. Usually the family's name is carved into the gate, and also other decorations, and sometimes the carvings are painted too.
Here's another gate, from a collection at the Mikó Castle in Csíkszereda (Miercurea-Ciuc to give it its Romanian name).. Above the main gate, you can see the sun and moon cut-outs, which are Székely symbols, and originally represented pre-Christian Hungarian gods, although since the 11th century (when Hungary became Christian) they have become purely decorative.

Thursday, 1 July 2010

I've been meaning to post these pictures for a couple of weeks now. They are of the cardigan I finally knitted for the baby of a friend from work. She has the rather amazing name of Valentine Zsuzsu Barron, and is one of the prettiest babies I have ever seen.

Pattern: Heirloom Yarn 4ply Round Neck Cardigan
Yarn: 2 balls of Patons Dreamtime 4ply in Lemon
Modifications: None, but it seemed a little short in the body, I'd add another repeat of eyelets next time

I found the buttons at the Camberwell Market, and they were just the right size, and I think they work with the old-fashioned style of the cardigan. It was a fairly easy patt to knit, once I memoirised the lace pattern.

Sometimes I Like to Wear a Turban...