Monday, August 22, 2016

The Costumes of "The Adventures of Robin Hood"

I've been wanting to discuss the costumes in this film for quite some time, but unfortunately there are no screen captures readily available online, so I had to wait to have the time to take them myself!

I'm a huge Robin Hood fan, but I tend to be very old-style. I love the Disney version, and adore the Roger Lancelyn Green book, but really my favorite incarnation of this hero has to be the Errol Flynn film from the 30's. I love it all, from the fantastic cast, the traditional plotline, and the crazy colorful costumes.

Speaking of color! Did you know this was one of the first films to be completely in technicolor? I did not! In fact, for a long time I thought this film was originally done in B&W, mostly because so many of the old stills are in B&W! But this was one of the first really good technicolor films, and the costumes were obviously designed to really highlight the new technology. It makes for a crazy anachronistic style, but hey, Robin Hood is a legend and doesn't really belong to any one time period.

First off, some background! The Film Spectrum gives some great history on the movie, as does Roger Ebert. The gist of these articles is that this is one of Flynn and Olivia de Havilland's earliest films, Flynn did most of his own stunts, and the director was replaced partway through.

I wish I had some really good quality stills, but alas, we're working with a very old film here. Still, the colors are distinct precisely because of this lack of quality, so we manage to see all the details anyhow!

I love the jewel tones (however ridiculous), the slight art deco influence in the pattern of Marian's dress... and of course, adoring every close-up of her face. So gorgeous! (Did you know that in the old days they would put a silk stocking over the lens when filming a close-up for a female lead? That's why in shots such as these there is a slightly hazy, dreamy quality.)

The Merry Men get fun costumes here. Definitely a trend for the woods colors, but there are distinctions, like Little John's lovely blue tunic and red cap (and gold tights, though you can't see them here!)

It's not Robin Hood without tons of metal studs everywhere, right? Not even close to accurate, but tremendously fun embellishment!

One of my favorite parts of this film is Will Scarlet. Other films like to eliminate him, or cast him as an antagonistic character... but I love good old fashioned Will, who is Robin's right hand man, and properly dressed in scarlet. In this film he appears to have been somewhat blended with Alan a Dale, who makes no appearance.

I love the leather tunic that appears for Robin here! (No one is wearing anywhere near enough layers for England of this period, which makes sense considering that they were filming in California!)

This is not in any way a shade of purple that I like, but it weirdly works very well on Marian, despite the crazy synthetic silver.

It is difficult to make out the detail on all of the costumes, but I love the leather binding around the edge here.

And here is a good shot of the hat detail!

Here is a good look at the crazy pleats in Marian's sleeves.

I love the high/low belt contrast that prevails in the film. Such a flattering style, and necessary in an era before tightly fitted clothes were constructed.

Ah, chemistry!

And let's not forget the ridiculousness.... Guy of Gisbourne and the Sheriff of Nottingham in DAISY CHAINS!!! Bwhahaha

I love how ridiculous Prince John's metal studs are here. Just.... so military and perfect but completely impractical.

Here, enjoy Robin hamming it up in his 'disguise'.

Some more Marian eye-candy.

This is the first scene where Marian has fully transitioned to Robin's side, and she breaks from wearing rich colors to don something innocent and white (and very evocative of her saintly namesake).

The hat detail. The quirky eye! Flynn is just so great in this film.

I enjoy how the costumes of Prince John take perfection to a ridiculous level. Everything is balanced, even, straight lines, squares... it ought to be 'the height of art' but it just looks ridiculous.

I do enjoy Gisbourne's period appropriate neck slit here.

Let's enjoy that lovely contrast stitching on the sleeve, shall we?

Back to Marian! Here you can see some detail on the sleeves. They are just gorgeous and sparkly (and Elsa is envious!)

More sleeve detail! Crosshatched embroidery and beading all the way down. Also, an amazingly sparkly belt.

Here you can see the lovely ombre effect of the skirt.

We once again get an almost art deco trim, as Marian wears a very simple gown. The maroon velvet matches the maroon in Robin's outfit, so one can visually connect them.

Very hard to see this gown in full length, but here you can see the high/low belt combo and some of the sleeve lining.

I hate hate hate this dress so much. It is like she is trying to visually wear a sort of armor on her 'rescue mission' but it looks so modern and awful!

The embellishment on the cloak is gorgeous, but it cannot save the disaster that is the weird diamond pattern and awful puke green/silver combo. And what is with the creepy hand clasps? Why why why?

I didn't want to waste more space on this dress, but I had to point out that her skirt is actually an entirely different silver fabric, very similar to her wimple.

Including this photo to show Will Scarlet's "outlaw" outfit. Still boasting scarlet, but with a lot more Lincoln green.

Okay, I lied. I hate this dress too. How did anyone thing a) this was attractive and b) it looked medieval???

The belt is pretty. Also Gisbourne's outfit is pretty rocking except for that collar. WHAT IS THAT COLLAR???

There is nothing accurate about this Juliet-Wanna-Be dress, but it is so pretty! And I love her braids so much!

The braids! The sleeves! The collar is so not historical at all but it looks gorgeous on her!

And a rare backview of a gown!

Evil trio. Prince John wears his uniform rows of studs again, and you can kind of see a pattern in the velvet.

I don't hate this gown as much as the others... in fact I like how Hufflepuff it looks. Unfortunately the trim reminds me of rick rack, which I hate with a passion. But man, Olivia de Havilland can really rock silver!

Full length view of the gown.

Closer view...

Marian has nothing but disgust for Prince John.

Once again Prince John wins at taking something that should be beautiful and making it look prissy. But I do think this is my favorite of his pieces.

It's a little sad that we never got to see Marian in a wedding dress or a Lincoln Green "woodswoman" gown, but that really wouldn't have suited de Havilland at all.  And it's really weird because I love this film so much, and I always forget just how ugly many of Marian's dresses are, probably because Olivia de Havilland is SO beautiful, that she can actually make the ugliest dress ever seem beautiful just because she is amaaazing.

Anyhow, if I ever recreated one of her gowns, I would either do the silver-and-magenta one, or the lovely ice-blue-and-silver one.

Which is your favorite?

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Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Dress Designs for my First Published Novel

If you happen to follow my personal blog, you have probably read that Monday was the release of my first novel. It's a Catholic Urban Fantasy set in Paris, and I had a ton of fun writing it.

Overall I was pretty restrained (for me) in describing the clothing. However, that doesn't mean I haven't thought about what the characters were wearing!!! In honor of announcing the release news here on my sewing blog, I thought I would draw some of the designs in my head.

First off, a non-new picture. This is a watercolor I did awhile back of my heroine, Daphne, wearing the one fancy dress she gets in the book. It is a homage piece to "Enchanted Forests" by Meredith Dillman, which is a gorgeous work of art that I love.

A pivotal character in the book is nightclub owner Amelia Fontaine. I had a lot of fun writing Amelia, and even more fun envisioning what she wears! Hands down, she has the most gorgeous dresses of anyone in the book. Her nightclub has a very art deco vibe, so I envision her wearing a lot of gorgeous evening dresses with influences from the 20's and 30's.

For the rest of the designs, I chose to illustrate the dresses I envision my characters wearing to the opera (an outing which takes place in chapter 24). Daphne's roommate is Madelaine Thibodeau, a spunky southern gal with a strong sense of style. She's definitely the most fashionable character in the book, and she knows how to mix current trends with timeless style.

Abby Woo doesn't have quite the same delusions of grandeur, gravitating towards a more simple and classic style. For her, a gold dress off the rack from Target is perfectly adequate for the occasion.

Kate Alexander, a spunky Scottish girl with a strong side of practicality, was one of my favorite side characters to write (and will be starring in book 2). For her, dressing up is something to be managed with efficiency. With her red hair, she's not one to be daring, so she likes to stick to a basic black dress that serves as the perfect backdrop for her athletic physique and family tartan.

(Fun fact - when I went to Europe, our group included two guys who wore proper tartan kilts to the theatrical performance we attended. It was epic.)

Danielle Grossman is the oldest of the band of friends, and is an English major who appreciates the romance of past style. She's not showy, but picks a look of understated elegance.

For those of you who have read the book... what outfits did I miss that you'd like to see me do?

Saturday, July 30, 2016

I do Science Fiction Costuming

Earlier this week, I wrote a bit about my thoughts on science fiction costuming. Today, I thought I'd put my money where my mouth is and show you some designs I have actually done. Granted, they are Star Wars, so it's slightly cheating because it is more historically inspired than futuristically imagined, but still. Science Fiction.

If you've been following my instagram or my personal blog, you've probably seen a few of these before, or seen me blog about my RPG group. Basically, a group of friends come to our house every week and my husband narrates our journey through space and we use dice and improv acting to have adventures. It rocks. We're a crew (rather like Firefly, but in Star Wars), a band of renegades carrying out missions and jobs on the edge of the empire. 

My character is a Chiss named Aliyah. Those of you familiar with Star Wars EU will recognized this intelligent and secretive blue skinned race by it's most popular son - Admiral Thrawn. Little is known about their mysterious homeworld, the ice planet Csilla, so I have had a lot of freedom to develop Aliyah's backstory and culture. I decided that her part of the planet, at least, would be inspired by Indian culture, customs, and costume. When I originally designed these dresses for her, I was thinking a) it was cool to show off the blue skin, and b) that, going by Indian custom, bare bellies would be okay, but cleavage not so much. I also theorized that she could be from a colder climate, so that the spaceship, set to human temperatures, would feel warm to her. It was only later that I realized that she was indeed from an ice planet, therefore this reasoning made perfect, ironic, sense!

(And yes, designing is always hit and miss. While I love the gold gown as it is, I would put a higher neckline on the red gown, and probably nix the white gown or really revamp it if I were costuming a hypothetical movie).

My initial motive in drawing these dresses was so that when we finally got done running around jungles and garbage planets, and went to a ball, I'd have something in mind to wear. Sure enough, my husband finally capitulated to my pleadings and we had a right fancy shindig to attend. I chose to send Aliyah in the gold gown, which I got to draw again when I decided to capture a rather iconic moment from that session. (Orange dreadlocks guy is my husband's in-game character.)

Typically, however, my character is not wearing pretty dresses (alas). We are, after all, a bunch of outlaws on the run, and generally she wears the white outfit above. The lightsaber is a recent aquisition.

(Hits and misses again - I love the white and red outfits, not so keen on the green.)

After awhile, I figured I'd better start drawing some other crew members, or my fellow gamers were going to get rather annoyed. First up, I drew some dresses for human crew member, Sasha. Sasha is human, from Alderaan... and she's been in cryogenics for the past 20 years. The dresses here are not what she wears nowadays, but what she would have been forced to wear on formal occasions in her youth. I deliberately evoked an '80's style here, so that it would appear dated to our 21st century eyes (just about the only decade that still looks very dated to us).

(Yeah, the middle dress doesn't really work for her - it'd be good for Aliyah but not Sasha)

But Sasha IS a real tomboy (mountineer, scout and bounty hunter!) so I had to draw her something a bit more adventurous too, which you can see here next to another outfit for Aliyah.

THEN things got more interesting for Sasha, when a secret marriage was revealed and we found out she was pregnant. HAHA. So, here is Sasha, dressed up for some adventures on Tatooine. Space maternity style!!!

(I'm pretty happy with all of these - and the player really likes two of the three, so yay!)

Next on the crew was Nella! Nella is our badass fighter chick - her backstory is very similar to Mulan, which is why you see a bit of a Mulan look to her middle dress. Most of the time she doesn't wear sparkly dresses, but she did grow up high class the way Aliyah did, so there were balls in her background. :)

(The one on the right is probably much more Aliyah than Nella)

Around this time, everyone in our crew hopped onto a Star Wars dollmaker app and put together how they visualized their characters. This definitely helped me in terms of understanding how each of the players saw their characters. A few were NOT AT ALL how I expected! But it was really fun to see what clothing choices each of them made for their personalities. I'll give brief bios here, if it interests you to analyze such things, but you can skip past if this post is already getting too long for you!

(Top Left to Bottom right)

Ze'ev - High-born Alderaanean, faked his death, bounty hunter, captain of our ship. Extremely protective of the crew.
Aliyah - high born half Chiss half human, also faked her death, ship's medic and computer expert. Highly analytical and always likes to prove her intelligence. 
Nella - oh look, ANOTHER high born (human) who faked her death! Hired gun, LOVES guns. Would rather punch someone than negotiate.
Perth - a lovable young scamp from the desert of Tatooine, can charm anyone into doing anything and has the weirdest combination of luck and misfortune. Survives despite all odds. Oh, and he is a Bothan, but they weren't in the app so he's portrayed as a human here. Trust me, we make every possible joke about "Many Bothan's died..."
Sasha - Ze'ev's aunt who was frozen for 20 years. Best shot on the crew, married a guy who turned out to be working for the Empire. Quiet, mysterious, and overly protective of Ze'ev.
Kybur - a charming 'surfer-dude' human/cyborg mechanic. Very much along for the ride. Was raised by Wookies.
Hogan - former Imperial guard, human, rather obsessed with protecting Nella. The first on the crew to become a Jedi, and thus a bit of a mentor to the rest of us. (That is, Ze'ev, Aliyah and Nella, who all recently discovered Force powers).
Malia - (not pictured, newest crew member), Aliyah's younger sister, hotheaded pilot who prefers negotiations with lightsabers. Played by my actual younger sister, which is too fun.

After seeing the character designs by the players, I got a better sense of where to go. I whipped up something new for Sasha (she totally needed a long coat to rock) and another BA outfit for Nella. Plus something that I figure Aliyah wore back at University.

Hogan and Nella are played by a real-life engaged couple. I drew them this picture as an engagement present. Too fun!

Remember that fancy ball I mentioned earlier? In the midst of it, a dark Force user showed up! and she was another Chiss! I quickly sketched out a costume for her, which I later rendered in more detail in this photo. On the left is Hogan, in an outfit that his player designed, and on the right is Ze'ev, wearing a sort of servant's uniform (he was undercover). Very Downton-Abbey inspired here, haha.

I asked my husband what he wanted me to draw him, and he picked a scene we did with our characters, right after Aliyah had been practicing her Tai Chi. 

Most recently we are on Tatooine, and I drew a few outfits for Aliyah to reflect that. The white one isn't Tatooine really, I just like trying new styles of white on her, since it's her preferred color to wear.

And THEN, since my sister joined the game as Malia, I had to draw some stuff for her! Malia is a lighter blue than Aliyah, to show their half-human heritage, so she needed another color palatte.

(The one on the right is much more true to the character than the one on the left. It's funny how you get a better grasp of character... but then some things go so horribly wrong that you never show anyone, like the one I cropped off the edge of this page!)

We also recently rescued Aliyah and Malia's mother (an Ambassador from Naboo), so I had to draw all three of them, including the first outfit that I designed for Aliyah to wear out on the Ice Fields of Csilla. (Neomara is her birth name, Aliyah is the alias she took after faking her death.)

So. As you can see. I've been quite immersed in one form of Science Fiction Fashion for quite some time. Who knows, as I watch more Star Trek, I may become inspired to experiment in another form!

Oh! And if you are interested in starting your own Star Wars RPG group, I HIGHLY recommend the system developed by Fantasy Flight Games. The dice are a bit unique, but they work very well and it is great fun!