Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Penny Dreadful review

So when Kerry reads this at some point, he's going to probably be upset because I had said we could watch this together. Then I got engrossed, cheated, and watched the whole season.

Penny Dreadful is a brand new series from Showtime that blends together the mysterious macabre, unearthly gothic, and classic literature into a fast-paced drama full of mystery and suspense.
Eva Green as Vanessa Ives from Penny Dreadful
Although the cast is large, much of the story centers around Vanessa Ives, played by the enigmatic Eva Green (Dark Shadows and Camelot). A young woman with a clouded past, she lives with Sir Malcolm Murray - played by Timothy Dalton of 1983's Jane Eyre - an explorer with and equally peculiar story. As the season unfolds, we learn of their relationship and connection. Sir Malcolm's daughter, Mina Murrary, was a childhood friend to Vanessa who disappeared a few years prior and is now being held by a creature.
Reeve Carney as Dorian Gray - Image via IMDB
The steady introduction of characters that follows only adds to depths of the story. To aid in their hunt, Vanessa and Sir Malcolm employ American gunslinger Ethan Chandler (played by Josh Hartnett, who has aged quite well I might add) and Dr. Victor Frankenstein (Harry Treadaway of The Lone Ranger). Add into the mix the dark and brooding Dorian Gray (Reeve Carney), and the literary mix starts to come to light. And of course there's Billie Piper for any Doctor Who fans.
Image via IMDB
Now if you're expecting classic Dracula and Frankenstein from Bram Stoker and Mary Shelley, then you'll be in for a bit of a surprise. This story is very different, delving into the supernatural and the sensational that the original penny dreadfuls were known for.

Given the lurid content of these same originals, the show also has some rather graphic content, including its fair share of gore, sex, and language. This is not your typical Victorian gothic gaslight. So definitely not a recommended show for younger audiences or those who are aren't into blood.
Image via IMDB
The script and characters is what ultimately drives the show though (and what kept me wanting to keep going after the premier). With each new episode, a new layer of each player in the mystery is peeled back and the story gains one more puzzle that viewer must muse upon. By the end of the season (between sewing and work, I finished in about 5 days), I had figured out a few of the underlying story plots, but so many new ones had been opened up that all I wanted to do was watch next season. Like everyone else who found this spectacular new gaslight mystery though, I'll have to wait until next year.
Image via IMDB
So like any costume drama I watch, I have to do a quick review of the costumes. Penny Dreadful starts off in 1891, the tail end of the Victorian Era known as the Belle Epoque. Many of the designs fit within the design concepts that were notable for this period; the diminished bustle as it died away, and the start of the hourglass silhouette with its more tailored look. Most of Vanessa's costumes are spot on with the exception of minor details (Did high, pointed lace collars really exist?) and wardrobe choices for finishing off an outfit (Okay, we all know women wore some type of hat or head covering when out in public). For me, I'll pick at the small details like this, but it's not enough to totally kill my interest in the show.
What kind of collar is that?
The men's clothing is what intrigued me though since there was such a wide variety of it; the old explorer, the African manservant, the American gunslinger, the poor medical student. These were just a few of the varying costumes presented and each matched the character who donned it within the multiple scene settings that were presented.

For a Victorian supernatural thriller, this really is as the title presents - a Penny Dreadful that is certain to intrigue and cause sensation as it spins a new story of some classic literature's well-known stories. After all, with the tagline "There's some thing within us all," you'll definitely be in for a thrill ride.

Overall review - 4.5 out of 5
Costumes - 4.5 out of 5

Monday, September 15, 2014

Short History of Can-can

As I've been working on my dresses, my interest has been piqued in where the original dance came from, so I've been doing a bit of research.
Modern can-can dancers via Pinterest
The can-can first appeared around the 1830s, originating from a form of the galop dance, which was actually danced by couples. The galop is a fast dance. Named after the gait of a horse, it is done in a fast 2/4 time. During the dance, couples would perform high kicks and gestures with their arms and legs. Because of this, couples were brought in close contact with each other - closer than what was deemed "acceptable" by Victorian standards - lending to its scandalous origins.
Originally, the dance was done by large numbers of men at dance halls. As performers of the dance became more skilled, the can-can graduated from being a dance performed by couples, to a participatory form of entertainment done in dance halls. It wasn't until the 1860s to 1870s however, that it became more popularized by women and was developed into a dance for a single chorus line.

Many of these women were middle-class courtesans and semi-professional entertainers during these early years. During the 1890s though, professionals emerged, such as Jane Avril and La Goulue, who were well paid for performances at particular venues. The most well-known of these venues is the Moulin Rouge.
Moulin Rouge 1900 via Wikipedia
Established in 1889, the Moulin Rouge is best known for being the birthplace of the modern can-can dance. The Moulin had many visitors, including the Prince of Wales (future King Edward VII) in 1890 and the artist Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec.

Toulouse-Lautrec was a frequent visitor to the Moulin, and created paintings and posters for the dance hall and of the dancers who worked there.
Moulin Rouge: La Goulue (1891)
Jane Avril Dancing (1892)
Much of what we know about the can-can, with it's highly choreographed dance steps and high kicks, was developed more recently. This highly stylized French version of the can-can lasts about ten minutes and involves the high kick or battement, the ronde de jambe (quick rotary movements of the lower leg with the knee raised and the skirt held up), the port d'armes (turning on one leg while grasping the other), the cartwheel, and the grand ecart (the flying or jump splits). The authentic quadrille-based can-can is very demanding in its moves and performers must have good stamina, rhythm, and balance.
The dancer La Goulue
Part of the can-can's erotic history (aside from Victorian couples standing WAY to close together) stems from the attire the women wore. The most popular costume of the can-can dancer was the wide, circular skirt with layers of frilled ruffles underneath. These ruffles were supposed to simulate the layers of petticoats usually seen underneath women's dresses and skirts of the time period. Underneath, the dancers would wear black stockings and shorter drawers.

The high kicks and dance steps would require the dancers to lift their skirts and then flashes of leg in the contrasting stockings could be seen underneath. Some of the dancers would even bend over and throw their skirts over their backs, presenting their bottom to the audience.
Image via Pinterest
*           *           *
This short history is conglomerated together through different Websites I read through while trying to find more info. I do not know how much is fact vs. fiction, but I hope this provides a little enlightenment on the subject.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Alice Dress Update #2

Last post I put up this preview pic of some fabric:
Jenna is also doing a can-can style skirt (TV 280) for her wedding dress and to help make it her own, she decided to pick a different fabric for each ruffle. Because we had to shorten it for height and preference, we ended up with six different fabrics. After picking up these and a white satin to go on the outside, I started work on the skirt.

Like the first skirt, there was a lot of wedge cutting and line transfer. I also made a different pattern piece since we had to shorten the hem several inches.
Then more fabric strip cutting.

One change I made though was rather than cut and sew my ruffle strips as I needed them, I cut all of them and sewed them at once. 
Like the diamond fabric for my skirt, I had to piece one of the fabrics for this skirt. I'm not sure how but the repeat on the pattern worked out that I only had to shorten the actual length of the ruffle by 2" and there was no repeat.
Can you spot the seam?
Having the strips all cut, sewed, and ready to go cut down on the work time immensely and I managed to get about four of the strips attached in one day (one is halfway pinned).
I have another day off this Tuesday so armed with a bunch of pins, I'll finish the last two rows.