Saturday, August 18, 2012

Fall Fashion

With the fall semester about to start my mind starts to get excited.  Fall!  Once upon a time fall semester meant back-to-school shopping, the weather starting to turn ever so slightly, and getting excited for the upcoming holiday season.

Then I moved to Arizona.

It may be mid-August but fall is still lightyears away.  Our highs are still in or near triple digits (it's upper 90s right now, we're having a cold spell) and it's just too hot to think about lovely things like boots, cozy sweaters, coats and mittens.  A recent trip to the mall was nearly torturous as all the stores were showcasing wonderful fall and winter items that it will still be at least 4 months before those of us in Arizona can wear them.  Most of the fall semester is spent wearing summer clothes because ASU is an oven and if you try walking around campus in anything heavier than a t-shirt you will die.

Ok, maybe you won't die, but you will show up to class a hot, sweaty mess, and that's not pretty.  At all.

So how do we Arizonan's stay keep up with the changing fall trends while not dying of heat exhaustion in the middle of October?  Accessories.  Here are my favorite ways to try to look like I'm acknowledging the changing seasons while still staying cool in the never ending heat:

1) Color palette - I always try to keep an eye open for lightweight clothing in nice fall colors.  T-shirts, lightweight cardigans for layering (AC keeps it cool inside so laying is good even in the middle of summer), cotton or linen button down shirts, skirts, etc. can all be found in great colors right now that match the season but still allow me to stay as cool and comfortable as possible.

2) Scarves/Shawls - Even in the middle of summer I'm never without a large scarf or shawl I can wrap around my neck and shoulders if the AC gets a little too frigid.  Movie theatres, restaurants, and ASU classrooms are notorious for being quite chilly, even when it's 110*+ outside.  I have shawls in just about every color so that I can try to match the season.  When I'm outside and it's too hot to wear it, I can loop it through the handle of my handbag.

3) Handbags and Shoes - Texture is key, there's something about suede, velvet, corduroy, etc that says fall/winter.  Prints are good too, plaid especially.  These materials are too heavy to carry off in clothing until around December, but can be worn easily in shoes and handbags.  Closed-toed shoes or boots are still a bit warm to wear right now, but shoes with straps that let my feet breath a bit in great materials or colors are perfect, and a suede or plaid bag is wonderful.

4) Accessories - Jewelry, hair accessories, nail polish, makeup, etc. are great and simple ways to incorporate the feel of fall without killing yourself.  This is the time of year when I start switching from light shades on my nails to something darker, pull out more of my gold-toned and/or heavier pieces of jewelry, or add a little something extra to my hair like a headband or a decorative hair pin.

Overall, with all of these ideas I can stick to a pretty basic uniform of jeans or a skirt, with a plain t-shirt but still look like I've put "some effort" into my outfit and stay as cool as possible, while also taking minimal time to get ready in the morning, which is great when I have to be out of my house by 8am to make it to my 9am class.  Even though the school where I teach is not so formal, I don't want to come dressed looking like me students, so I like to look at least a little bit "pulled together" if you know what I mean.  But I'm so not a morning person, so if I can get ready in 30 mins or less so that I can sleep a little bit longer, I'm all for that!

In the mean time, I can at least dream of when the temperatures finally dip low enough that I can get away with wearing warmer clothing and start planning my wardrobe for my trip to London this winter. Here are a few things I'm currently dreaming of:

To see more of my fall faves check out my "My Style" board on Pinterest here.

Photo credits: all photos from Pinterest.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

A music artist you really need to know about (if you don't already).

I love music.  I can't sing to save my life and I've never been good at any instrument, but I love music and have something playing almost constantly.  In my car, at home, when I'm working, seriously, if I could have a soundtrack playing over my life I totally would.

So when I find a new artist that I like, it makes me so happy.  And when that artist is truly amazing, and not just another packaged singer, I'm downright giddy.  Right now, I'm very giddy indeed.

If you don't know Emeli Sandé, you should.  For those of you who watched the Opening or Closing Ceremonies of the 2012 London Summer Olympics you've seen this amazing singer from Scotland.  She's unlike any artist I've seen lately, her voice is amazing and her sound is unique, which is so refreshing when looking at the landscape of female pop stars.  

After hearing her sing "Abide With Me" at the Opening Ceremony, and then "Read All About It" at the Closing Ceremony, I was hooked.  I had seen her perform "Next To Me" from her album "Our Version of Events" on the Graham Norton show months ago after the album's UK release but had put her out of my mind because every time I saw a great British artist on that show I could never find their music available here in the States.  But after her Olympic performances I was very hopeful and then thrilled to find her on the US iTunes store.

Trust me, with the new semester starting, my stress levels are extra high.  I need good music to calm me down and make me happy.  And I've been listening to her album almost non-stop.  If you like Adele or Alicia Keys, I think you'll love Emeli, personally I think I like her music better than the other two.  

Funny bit of trivia, Emeli's real name is Adele, but obviously that name was already taken.  And the academic in me loves that Emeli is a former med student, I love this video where she discusses school and music.  It's so nice to hear a music artist talk about the importance of going to school and saying she's glad she took the time to do it.

So you can get a sense of why I'm loving her music so much check out her performance of "Next To Me" on The Graham Norton show.

This is the song she sang for the Opening.  Just stunning.

And this is the song she sang for the Closing.

I also love "Wonder," "Clown," and "Maybe".  Ok, who am I kidding, I really love every song on the album.  If you download or purchase "Our Version of Events" it will have every song but "Abide With Me," but you can find that one separately on the soundtrack for the Opening Ceremonies.

You can purchase her music through iTunes (which has the deluxe version) or Amazon, or listen for free if you're on Spotify.  For more information on her music and to see more videos, check out her website here or view her YouTube channel here.  I hope you do, and I hope you enjoy her music as much as I am right now.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Book Review: FilmCraft: Costume Design

As a costume designer and scholar I'm always on the lookout for new and interesting costume design or history books.  And while books filled with pretty pictures are always fun, I'm especially interested in ones that give a voice to the designers and go "behind the scenes" of their design process.

So, I was really happy when a new book was released earlier this summer.  The book, FilmCraft: Costume Design, is part of the FilmCraft series that highlights different elements of the filmmaking craft.  Written by Deborah Nadoolman Landis, this wonderful book covers a wide range of films through interviews with 16 current designers and 5 tributes to great designers of the past.  Designers such as Jenny Beavan (Sherlock Holmes), Mark Bridges (The Artist) , Lindy Hemming (Casino Royale), Michael Kaplan (Star Trek), Penny Rose (all four Pirates of the Caribbean films), Janty Yates (Prometheus) and more take readers through their careers and and share stories and highlights of films along the way.

FYI, I would list more of their films, but there are too many to mention, so those are just the ones that I'm sure you've at least heard of.  And I think that's what I love so much about this book.  The interviews show just how much effort goes into a production.  I would recommend this book to anyone interested in film, even if not specifically in costume design.  Costume design has long been incredibly underrated and under appreciated in academic studies, so it's nice to find such an informative book that's still tons of fun to look through.

Which brings me to the next part.  I was interested in seeing this book ever since Deborah mentioned it to me when she was in town last March to talk for the Arizona Costume Institute. (In case you missed that, check it out here.)  What piqued my interest wasn't just all the interviews and more pictures to pour over but that the book would also be released in electronic format.  So at first chance I downloaded it from Amazon onto my Kindle app for iPad.  The cool part is that you can tap on the pictures and zoom in on any area you want.  Great for being able to see some of the costume details up close.

I'm excited because a few of the designers have connection to the James Bond franchise so their interviews will be helpful in terms of my thesis research and unlike other costume books I own, this one I can actually highlight (I would never go near any of my other books with a highlighter!) and make annotations just like any other e-book.

I would highly recommend this book to any students who are interested in costume design as you can't beat getting information and advice straight from the people who are at the top of their field.

If you check it out, I hope you enjoy it as much as I am. :)

If you're interested, click here for the regular physical version and here for the Kindle version.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

The Vogue Archive - now available at the Phoenix Art Museum

Earlier this summer a great new fashion resource was made available here in Phoenix.  So far it's been a bit of a well-kept secret but it's time to change that!  Thanks to the generosity of the Arizona Costume Institute, the Lemon Art Research Library at the Phoenix Art Museum was able to subscribe to the Vogue Archive and the archive is now available on the computers in the library. 

This is a fabulous addition to the library and to the community.  Whether your interest is professional, personal, or academic there is something in the archive for you.  So, where do you find it?  What exactly IS it?  How do you use it?   Let me lay it out for you.

Where do you find the Library and the Vogue Archive?

The Lemon Art Research Library is located in the Administration Building on the Museum Campus.  Any staff member would be able to point you in the right direction, so don't be afraid to ask.  They're all really friendly.  (But to give you an idea, the Admin building is located across the garden courtyard from Phoenix Theatre.)  When you go through the front doors, you'll see a reception desk and if you look to the left you'll see a large set of double doors with a sign above, that's it.  I told you I'd lay it out for you.  But if you still get a little turned around, just ask the person sitting at the reception desk, they'll show you, and they're also really friendly.

Once in the library, you'll sign in, and make sure you indicate that you're there for the Vogue Archive, the more people that use it the more likely the subscription will be renewed.  You know what they say, use it or lose it.  From the front desk if you walk straight back you'll see a table with some computers.  You'll probably see signs like this one:

Again, if you have any trouble, just ask the kind people at the front desk.  They're really friendly too...are you noticing a trend in how friendly and helpful everyone is?

Best part?  It's free and open to the public!

For more information on the Library, including hours see here.

What exactly IS the Vogue Archive?
I'm glad you asked.  The Vogue Archive is an incredible digital project that digitized and organized every issue of Vogue Magazine from it's first issue in 1892 to the current month's issue.  And that's not an exaggeration, it really is EVERY single issue.  Every page, every issue, every picture, article and advertisement, from 1892 to right now.  This is an incredible resource for designers, students, historians, and every lover of fashion.

For a small taste check out this video:

To learn more about the Vogue Archive, click here.

How to you use it?
A very important question indeed.  Once you get to the library, and are in front of the computer, what do you do?  Trust me, if you aren't going in with something specific you're looking up it can be very overwhelming.  I mean, more than 100 years of Vogue to browse through?  That's intense.  When I was playing around with it I definitely got intimidated until I thought to start looking up items that might help my thesis project that I'll be starting this semester.

First things first, when you sit down, go to the desk top screen, if it's not there already.  There will be an icon somewhere on the desktop labeled "Vogue archive".  Once you click that it will launch the archive.

So here's a couple ways you can search/use the archive.

1) Browse an individual issue.  You can look up any of the issues and then browse each page.  This is fun if you just want to see what Vogue was like in the past.  It's also fun to look up particular years and months and see how Vogue was reflecting events and societal issues.  This is also good if you're doing fashion research and simply want to see what the styles and trends were for a particular month or year.  I'll definitely be using it for costume research for the plays I design this season.

2) Search for a specific person or item.  You can search terms or people and the archive will pull up any instance in the archive where that term or person is mentioned.  You can do an advanced search to filter and refine your search further.  If you just want to look up every time your favorite designer or actor was featured, a general search is fine, but if you're doing more detailed research the advanced search is great.  Within the advanced search you can specify a date range, limit the search to advertisements, photo shoots, articles, etc, and search multiple terms/people to help find exactly what you want.  It's definitely worth it to play around with the search feature. 

I had fun searching for articles related to James Bond and Bond Girls for my thesis that I'll be starting this semester.

The most important thing is to have fun with it, it can get a bit addictive with so much material to look through and you'll probably find yourself wanting to come back again.  I certainly did.

Once you've overloaded your brain and can't stare at the screen any longer, step away from the computer and step into the Fashion Design Library.  It will be to the left hand side as you're facing back to the front doors of the main library.

Inside this room is every fashion design and history book you could ever want.  There are also some vintage Vogue magazines.  So if looking at the digitized scans made you want to hold the real thing, here's your chance!

Also housed in the library are a second collection of fashion design and history books as part of the main collection.  There are also complete collections of Vogue and Harpers Bazaar magazines as hard copies in both the Fashion Special Collection and the library's Special Collection.  And by complete collection I mean all the way back to 1892 for Vogue and the 1860s for Harpers!  They also have a selection of GQ, Godey's Ladies Book, and more.  The collections are available for viewings for research purposes by appointment with the librarian.  She's also super nice. 

Between the Vogue Archive and the Fashion Design Library, the Lemon Art Research Library has a multitude of research resources for every design student and professional.  And again, it's completely free and open to the public!  You can't beat that.  Please stop by for a visit and let them know what you think.  While I'm kicking myself for not knowing about this sooner, I'm looking forward to using it this year on my various research projects.

A version of this blog appeared in a post I wrote for the ACI Nouveau blog here.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Today the postman brought a parcel.

This story begins on Pinterest, my newest time wasting addiction.  If you haven't gotten hooked on it yet, you might want to think twice, but if you're at all into any sort of visual or design field or hobby, you have to start up on there.

While searching through some of the popular pins I stumbled upon a really cute laptop sleeve from the website Modcloth (check them out here).  Designed like an old-fashioned, brown paper wrapped parcel, it looked cute enough to carry tucked under my arm rather than buried in my bag.

When I went to the link for the bag from Pinterest I was saddened to discover it out of stock. However, there was an option to submit your name and email to be contacted once it was back in.  I thought it would take some time for it to be restocked but I submitted my information just the same, and then promptly forgot about it.  Until I got an email a few days later saying it was back!  Joy!  Naturally I quickly went to the site and ordered it.  I was a little worried about the dimensions, based on the measurements it was going to either fit perfectly or be just barely too small.

Well, it arrived today and it fits my 13" Macbook Pro like a glove.  It appeared at first like it would be too small but it stretches over it and fits beautifully, even with my hardshell case snapped on.

And since Modcloth offers free shipping on $50 or more orders I couldn't help ordering a little something extra to tip me over.  Since I have a large and growing collection of rings I thought a little ring holder would be perfect and found a darling little one in the shape of an upside down umbrella.  It's called the "Storm of Sparkles Ring Holder."  Love it!  Here in Phoenix it's the only umbrella I get to use on a daily basis.

Overall I was pretty impressed with this site and would definitely order from them again.  They have a wide range of products.  Clothing, accessories, home accessories, and all with a really fun and quirky style.  Ordering was easy and the free shipping came within the promised amount of time.  There are already several other items I'm looking at and with the holiday season just moments away I'd definitely recommend this site as a place to do some of your holiday shopping, especially for friends who appreciate a little something different.

If you'd like your own parcel laptop sleeve or umbrella ring holder click here and here.  Below are pictures of what the postman brought me today.

I just love getting stuff in the mail!  Especially boxes with fun stuff inside like this.  I also love when companies play with the design of their boxes so that even from the outside you start to get excited, like you just know there's something fun inside.

The twine and crinkle effect are all part of the print, but definitely add to the effect, especially the look of brown wrapping paper.

I'm not sure the secrets of success are contained on my computer but I love the details on the faux stamps.

The designs continue on the back.

Anyone who knows me, knows I'm a bit obsessed with the London and the UK, so I'm happy to see London represented in one of the stamps.  (This product is from Disaster Designs, a UK company.)

My "Storm of Sparkles" ring holder.  And ok, I guess I have to admit I'm more than just a "bit" obsessed with the UK, as evidneced by with phone booth tin and the KCaCO card. :)

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Rambling: My weekend without Facebook.

I've been a fan and advocate of the positive sides of Facebook and other social networking sites from the beginning.  I feel like I need to start off with that, like it's important for you to know that I don't hate Facebook, far from it.  After growing up in the Army and moving so much, plus all the different colleges I've attended, I love that there is a place where all my friends and family, classmates, work friends, and professors (past and present) are all available for me to chat and share information with.  Seriously, my childhood would have been much happier if such things existed.  Each Army move would have certainly been less traumatic if I'd had Facebook (and Skype).

But lately (and by lately I mean, pretty much the past couple of years) I've been getting this nagging feeling like maybe Facebook has taken over my life.  As a modern, independent woman of at least average intelligence, I'd like to think that I can live without something like Facebook, but I was starting to have my doubts.  I mean, it's so easy.  Between computers, smartphones, tablets, it's everywhere!  As long as you have Internet connection, you have Facebook connection.  Even when I went to London, a year and a half ago, I thought for sure I'd be out of touch for two weeks, until I was able to connect to my friend's wi-fi at her flat.  I was in London for goodness sakes!!!  I was in one of the coolest cities in the world, and a personal favorite, and I was still updating my status nearly every night.  Now, at the time I was thinking I was just staying connected and keeping people back home updated.  But really, if being in a foreign country isn't an excuse to send postcards snail mail, I don't know when else you get to do that.

It all hit a boiling point when some discussions in various threads started getting a little heated and I started taking things personally.  To me, that's sign #1 that you're having problems.  Facebook discussions shouldn't be taken personally.  You should be able to say, "it's just the Internet, it's not that important."  Or another favorite, "First world problems."  I mean really, boo hoo, something on the Internet offends me or hurts my feelings.  There are worse things that could be happening.  Now, this isn't to say that the Internet doesn't possess the power to hurt, anyone who was paying attention to the Internet violence against Anita Sarkeesian knows just how much damage the Internet and it's users can do.  But in my case it was simply that people didn't agree with me.  Not a big deal.  At all.

I clearly needed to get over it and, as much as it embarrasses me to admit, get over myself.

So, I did what any sensible person would do.  I logged off Facebook.  I posted a "See ya!" status and I logged out of Facebook on my laptop.  I closed it on my iPad.  I turned off push notifications and moved the Facebook icon on my iPhone to the farthest home screen so that I wouldn't see it.  And really, the fact that I had to do all that just proved to me how accessible I'd made Facebook to my life, and just how addicted I'd become.  Sad.

Early on it was hard.  I wasn't banning myself from the Internet, just Facebook.  But the first place my finger moved the cursor to was the shortcut on my shortcut bar.  It wasn't even a conscious decision!  That's a sign #2 you've got a problem.  You don't even THINK about it!

At first it was definitely hard.  Wondering what people were saying, feeling disconnected.  My parents were out of town and I had the house to myself.  There was plenty I could be doing instead of sitting around wondering what cool things I was missing on Facebook.  Because let's face it, while it's definitely fun to see what's going on with everybody, I don't need to spend half my time each day scouring Facebook for new details about all my friends.

So, what did I do with all this extra time I had over the weekend?  A lot.  After taking my parents to the airport on Friday I went to IKEA to get a new bookcase so that I could start reorganizing my room before school starts.  In the evening (my first without Facebook) I watched all four hours of North & South, one of my favorite movies and ate gelato that I had brought home from my trip to Frost the night before.  It was delightful.

Saturday was cleaning day.  I took half my furniture out of my room and then built the new bookcase and brought everything back in.  There's something about rearranging furniture that just makes things feel all new and fresh.  After a long day of cleaning I watched a couple more movies, enjoyed more gelato, and didn't miss Facebook one bit.

Sunday I picked up Mom and Dad, and didn't get home until later, had to run some errands, and was thinking I could live without Facebook indefinitely.  Alas, some people apparently had started to worry, I guess my farewell status gave people the impression that something was more seriously wrong so I felt I should log back on to make sure people knew all was well.  (Sidenote:  If you don't already know, I was a theatre major, once upon a time, and am definitely prone to melodramatics.  What is worrying is when I DON'T say something.)  So I enjoyed one more night without Facebook and then on Monday morning logged back on.

In the end, it was only one weekend away, which is nothing that amazing, but it was eye opening and refreshing for me.  I'm definitely more conscious of how much I use it and have tried to occupy my time with other things.  Like writing syllabi and lesson plans, getting ready for a new semester, cleaning the mess that has buried my desk, and playing on Pinterest (a girl has to have her priorities).

And I now have an awesome new bookcase that makes my room feel just a bit more organized. :)  See below for pictures of the build process.

Cleared out the bed and old shelves to make space for the new bookcase.  Luna thinks she's being helpful but she's right in the way of where I need to work. Poor puppy.
All the pieces laid out.  Let's build this.

40 minutes later.  I love this bookcase.  You can lay it horizontally or vertically and it fits so much stuff.  I also have the larger 4x4 one that I use as a room divider between my bed and my desk.  The shelves are deep enough that I can have school stuff on my desk side and personal stuff on the other side.  For this case I needed something to hold the books and DVDs that didn't fit on my other case, as well as my TV and media equipment.

All finished with stuff loaded on the shelves.  SO much better that what used to be there!

Monday, August 6, 2012

Rambling: My life...the three ring circus.

Step right up, ladies and gentlemen!  It's the wild and crazy, three-ring adventure that life.

So, last year saw a lot of changes for me.  I went back to grad school, continued working as an adjunct instructor, and added in a lot of volunteer hours as Programming Coordinator for the Arizona Costume Institute.  Easy peasy, no problem.  Yeah, right.  All year was a constant scramble to keep at least one step ahead of everything, and at least a couple steps ahead of my students.  Seriously, give them an inch and they're take a million miles!

This year promises to be just as much of a high adventure.  So, to catch some of you up and give you the tour of the circus and some of the changes step into ring number one with me.

In the first ring...grad school.

I'll be entering my second year as an MA candidate in Rhetoric and Composition in the English Dept. at Arizona State University.  My first year went far better than I could have expected, though there were definitely a few intellectual meltdowns along the way.  This year I'll be finishing my coursework requirements and writing my thesis.  Fortunately I know what my thesis will be about, so for the moment I'm a half step ahead of the game.  My classes this semester are varied and seem interesting, and (yay!) I've managed to make some new friends in the program so when the semester starts I'm not totally alone.  Yay for friends!

In the second ring...teaching.

Last year was so much fun, I love my students and know that teaching is what I want to do.  So nice to feel like I have a purpose!  The spring got a little crazy when I taught three classes instead of my usual two, but it went well.  This year there will be some changes.  I'll now be teaching at a different community college and am really excited by the opportunities ahead of me.  This semester I'll be teaching Introduction to Theatre and Modern Drama (if I can get at least one more student, fingers crossed!).  I'm excited for the change of scene and to teach a class I haven't taught before, even though that means I need to get to work developing that class, yikes!

In the third ring...ACI Programming.

Last year was awesome.  Seriously awesome.  I still can't believe I met Deborah Landis! :)  This year will be pretty amazing as well.  I'm still serving as Programming Coordinator for the Arizona Costume Institute.  Though it's a lot of work, I love this group and the work they are doing in support of the Fashion Collection at the Phoenix Art Museum.  This year I'm lucky to have three wonderful women helping me.  I'm excited about the speakers we're going to be welcoming this year.  More details on that once they're made public.

But wait folks, that's not all.  There's a couple side shows going on outside the Big Top.

Side show #1...Costume Design!

As some of you know, I designed The Scarlet Pimpernel for Paradise Valley Community College.  That show was the first of several that I'll be designing this season.  It's going to be a lot of work but I'm excited to be designing again.

Side show #2...PhD applications!

It seems I've only just gone back to school but now it's time to start the application process all over again.  Joy.  Deadlines will be this winter so I'm trying to get them done before I go to London after Christmas.  (More about that later.)

So, overall, it's going to be a busy year, just as busy, if not more so, than last year.  But I'm excited.  If I drop off the Internet periodically this year just assume it's because of all of the above.

Alrighty, there's your update.  Now you know what's going on and why I might sometimes have a slightly crazed look on my face.