Sunday, August 22, 2010

Tea at The Village Tea Room

A couple of weeks ago, I visited a friend in New Paltz, NY, a historic little town with plenty of antiques and thrift shops. We went to The Village Tea Room and had a lovely brunch:
The dishes and tableware were a hodgepodge of delightful earthenware and glazed ceramic, similar to what you would imagine in a farmhouse. They even gave us a miniature hourglass timer so we would know when our tea was perfectly steeped.
I chose the Pumpkin Spice tea, which was delicious. I've been looking forward to fall all summer so it was the obvious choice. :3
Then I was served the scrumptious Cheddar Cheese & Herb Fritatta, along with Potato Pancake with Sour Cream & Chives:
We ended up leaving with enormous cream puffs that I didn't get a chance to photograph, but they were excellent.

Overall, I think I could live in this tea room. It had such a haphazardly charming, farmhouse atmosphere, and the layout was cozy with all the wooden beams and natural touches. The Village Tea Room also procures most of their ingredients from local farmers and producers, which is always a plus. You can taste the freshness.

That whole morning was charming. We saw a giant moth larger than my palm (no exaggeration) on the sidewalk:
It looked so soft and velvety.

Friday, August 20, 2010

The Quirky Side of Kaneko Isao

If you're like me, you've been busy swooning over the Pink House 2010 Autumn Collection:
I want that coat.

But Pink House and other natural kei brands don't always release such refined, elegant clothes. Some of the older prints are downright... strange. I confess that browsing for old Kaneko Isao prints especially (whether they're from Pink House, Wonderful World, Ingeborg, or the eponymous brand "Kaneko Isao") has become an obsession of mine. Here are a few of the most unique ones I've found lately...

1. The Kewpie Doll print: I've seen this Kewpie Doll motif many times in many different colors in older Pink House designs.
2. The Pineapple print: pineapples are the traditional fruit of hospitality... and Pink House, apparently.
So festive!
3. Speaking of festive, here's the Santa Print: Kaneko Isao created a disturbing number of Santa prints, but this version from Wonderful World takes the cake (the Christmas cake, that is).
This under-dress, jumperskirt, and kerchief set is overwhelmingly jolly.
4. The Christmas Tree print: I sense a theme. This Pink House print is a little more sedate than the Wonderful World print above, but still bursting with Christmas spirit.
5. Finally, we have the Kangaroo print: here Pink House-- ever the purveyor of interesting animal prints-- takes a trip down under with a khaki vest and skirt set.
You can see a joey or two peeking out inquisitively.
As random and odd as these prints seem, perhaps the prevalence of these iconic Western symbols demonstrates the romantic view of Western culture that is still a big part of natural kei fashion. Other than that, all I can say is Kaneko Isao must have a fantastic sense of whimsy. :D

If you're curious to see more vintage prints, you can browse auction sites like Yahoo!Japan Auctions and Mbok as well as used clothing sites like Alice + Fururun and Cotton Garden.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Brothers Grimm series, part 2: Spindle, Shuttle, and Needle

Here's part two of my Brothers Grimm series (this time a shorter tale, but one of my favorites)!

Spindle, Shuttle, and Needle

Once upon a time there was a girl whose father and mother died when she was still a little child. Her godmother lived all alone at the end of the village in a little house, and earned her living with spinning, weaving, and sewing. The old woman took the orphaned child into service and gave her a pious upbringing.

When the girl was fifteen years old the godmother took ill, called the child to her bedside, and said, "My dear daughter, I feel that my end is near. I leave to you this little house, that will protect you from wind and weather; and also a spindle, a shuttle, and a needle, with which you can earn your living."

She then laid her hands on the girl's head and blessed her, saying, "Keep God in your heart, and it will go well with you." With that she closed her eyes. When she was laid to rest in the earth, the girl walked behind the coffin crying, and paid her last respects.

The girl now lived all alone in the little house. She was industrious. She span, wove, and sewed; and everything she did was touched by the good old woman's blessing. It was as though the flax multiplied itself in her kitchen, and whenever she wove a piece of cloth or a carpet, or sewed a shirt, she always immediately found a buyer who paid so well that she was never in need and always had something to share with others.

At this time the king's son was traveling throughout the country in search of a bride. He wanted neither a poor one nor a rich one. He said, "My wife shall be the girl who is at the same time the poorest and the richest."

When he came to the village where the girl lived he asked, as he had done everywhere, who was the richest girl and the poorest girl. First of all they named for him the richest girl, and then said that the poorest girl was the one who lived in the little house at the end of the village.

The rich girl sat in her doorway in all her finery, and when the prince approached she bowed before him. He looked at her, said not a word, and rode on.

When he arrived at the poor girl's house she was not standing in the doorway, but instead was sitting in her little kitchen. He stopped his horse and looked into the window, through which the bright sun was shining, and saw the girl, sitting at her spinning wheel and diligently spinning. She looked up, and when she saw the prince looking in she blushed all over, closed her eyes, and continued to spin. I do not know if the thread was entirely even at this time, but she continued to spin until the prince had ridden away.

Then she stepped to the window and opened it, saying, "It is so hot in the kitchen," but she continued to follow him with her eyes as long as she could recognize the white feathers on his hat.

The girl sat back down in the kitchen and continued to work at her spinning. Then a saying came to her that the old woman had sometimes said while she was at work, and she sang it thus:
Spindle, spindle, go on out,
And bring a suitor to my house.

What happened? The spindled immediately jumped out of her hand and out the door. Amazed, she stood up and watched it as it danced merrily across the field, pulling along a glistening golden thread behind it. Before long it had disappeared from her eyes.

Because the girl no longer had a spindle, she picked up her shuttle, seated herself at her loom, and began to weave.

Now the spindle danced ever onward, and just as the thread came to an end it reached the prince.

"What do I see?" he cried. "Is this spindle showing me the way?"

He turned his horse around and followed the golden thread back.

The girl was seated at her work singing:
Shuttle, shuttle, weave so fine,
Lead a suitor here to me.

Just then the shuttle jumped from her hand and out the door. However, it began to weave a carpet before the threshold, a more beautiful one than anyone had ever seen before. At its sides blossomed roses and lilies. In its middle, against a golden background, there were rows of green upon which hares and rabbits were jumping about. In between, stags and deer stuck out their heads. Colorful birds sat above in the branches. The only thing missing was their singing. The shuttle jumped back and forth. It was as though everything was growing by itself.

Because her shuttle had run away, the girl now sat down to sew. She held her needle in her hand and sang:
Needle, needle, sharp and fine,
Clean up the house for the suitor of mine.

Then the needle jumped out of her fingers and flew about in the kitchen as quick as lightning. It was as though invisible spirits were at work. The table and benches were soon covered with green cloth, the chairs with velvet; and silk curtains hung at the windows.

The needle had scarcely made its last stitch when the girl looked through the window and saw the white feathers on the prince's hat. The spindle had brought him here with its golden thread. He dismounted and walked across the carpet into the house. When he stepped into the kitchen she was standing there in her simple dress, but she was glowing in it like a rose in a bush.

"You are the poorest, but also the richest," he said to her. "Come with me. You shall be my bride."

She said nothing, but reached out her hand to him. Then he gave her a kiss and led her outside, lifted her onto his horse, and took her to the royal palace where their wedding was celebrated with great joy.

The spindle, shuttle, and needle were secured in the treasure chamber, where they were kept in great honor.

Silk ribbon embroidery, also known as rococo embroidery, was popularized in mid-18th century France. It was used to embellish gowns, frock coats, and accessories, and was the pastime of elegant ladies everywhere.
I recently bought a book called Silk Ribbon Embroidery by Sheena Cable, so I could learn a few basic stitches. It has clear instructions, illustrations, and photos as well as both simple and elaborate embroidery projects.
Some of the projects are really lovely, so I'll post pictures of things I'm working on in the future. For now, here's some leaves I've been stitching on scraps of velvet to help me practice the basic stitches:
I need more practice, but I'm going to keep trying on scrap material before I try embroidering something like a cardigan. :3

Thursday, August 12, 2010

One Dress Many Ways

Have you ever tried to see how many different coordinates you can make with one dress? Beware, it can be addictive. :3 And it's a godsend for people with limited wardrobes who don't want to wear the same look over and over again. For example, here are a few coordinates I created with my Metamorphose Revival Bouquet pinafore jumperskirt and just the items in my wardrobe! I'll use each outfit to illustrate a coordination tip.
The most basic way to create a jumperskirt coordinate-- besides wearing it plain-- is to wear a blouse underneath it...
... or wear a bolero or cardigan over it. Both these options, besides being simple and comfortable, present a look with very clean lines. Plus, you can always switch blouses or cardigans if you want some variety.
Mixing whites is not a crime-- don't let anyone tell you otherwise. Even though the main white tone in the Revival Bouquet fabric is antique white, wearing a true white blouse can create an interesting look.
Simply adding or switching accessories is an easy way to give a coordinate a different feel. Here the white blouse coordinate has gone from simple to lavish just by adding a lace shawl and bonnet.
If you wear a buttoned-up jacket with a jumperskirt, it will look like a jacket and skirt. This trick works especially well in winter because the extra layer means extra warmth.
Add some black. Black lends sophistication to almost any outfit. This coordinate had a 1920's vibe, so I accentuated it with pearls.
Don't be afraid to mix prints and patterns! When done right, the result can be astonishingly pretty. Here I've mixed the floral print jumperskirt with an embroidered floral cardigan, but separated the two patterns with a chiffon camisole so it's not too overwhelming.
Try a color that compliments rather than matches the color scheme of the base garment. For instance, there are no peachy-pink tones in this colorway of the Revival Bouquet print, but nevertheless this cardigan works because the peach tone compliments the blue.
Not all the outfits I've created here are lolita, which brings me to my final point: do use lolita clothes for non-lolita outfits. Try a natural kei look, a morigirl look, or a dolly kei look using your lolita jumperskirts and dresses and you'll be surprised by how your view of your closet will change. Fashion is about creativity and experimentation, so try something different!

Monday, August 9, 2010

Otakon Coordinates and Business Cards

Otakon was a real delight this year! I saw old friends, presented a panel, and got to see the amazing fashion shows. Plus, my inner nerd was very happy to be back at a convention. :3

For my panel on Friday, I wore this coordinate:
The only brand items I'm wearing here are the Baby the Stars Shine Bright parasol and the Metamorphose ruffled underskirt. Everything else is either handmade or from Target, Walmart, Forever 21, and thrift stores, so it was a relatively inexpensive outfit to put together. You might recognize the straw bag from my last post! It proved invaluable at the comvention because it holds so much stuff.

Here's a closer shot of the headdress I made using a Hot Topic hair fascinator as the base and adding a fox head skin, some velvet ribbon, feathers, and a Victorian Maiden hair corsage:
The vintage fox head skin came from an eBay estate sale auction and cost only $9. I was calling him Bernard by the end of the weekend. haha

On Saturday, I wore a more gothic coordinate in honor of the h.Naoto show that took place that morning:
The tunic dress is h.Naoto GRAMM (see the stock photo here in my flickr wardrobe), the ruffled underskirt is Black Peace Now, the rose hair corsage is Victorian Maiden, the hair jewelry is Forever 21, the necklace is handmade, and the furs and leather pouch are from the dealers room. The bag is actually from Walmart and I decorated it with a vintage doily. I use it every day for work, but it coordinated well with the outfit.

I tried to make the outfit as GRAMM-like as possible using only one GRAMM item, so I went for something more Old World fairy tale, backwoods gothic. It was so comfortable!

Finally, on Sunday, I wore classic lolita:

This photo was taken in a gorgeous hotel we visited right before we left Baltimore. I wish it were a few blocks closer to the Baltimore Convention Center so we could stay there instead. ;o;
The jsk is Baby the Stars Shine Bright, the bolero, necklace, and hairpin are Innocent World, the hat was a gift, the shoes are Payless, and the tights are Anthropologie.

In an unrelated note, I finally got business cards for this blog! I found some cute rounded-edged blank business cards and some stamps on Etsy that I liked, so I decided to make them hand-stamped. Here's the finished product:
The cards are made from recycled paper and came in a variety of cream tones. I had a customized stamp created with the blog information and was lucky enough to find the bunny and lace stamps elsewhere on Etsy. Here's a photo showing the card variety created by the mixed tone cards and hand-stamping:
They're cute! And I like the handmade look. ♥