Monday, January 31, 2011

Good News, But Bad News Too

Good news first: I'm moving to Lexington! I will officially begin earning my Masters Degree in Library Science at the Graduate School of the University of Kentucky this fall! I just got the acceptance letter. This has been my dream for some time (becoming a research librarian or archivist), so I'm pretty elated! :-D

Bad news: my laptop officially died. A lot. It was going going gone though. I am in the process of getting a new one in the next week or so, but until then updates will be scarcer. I'm currently at a PC hub at my local library. It's not so bad--I 've been wanting an Acer plus Marmie is donating her old Dell desktop to me and my techie friends so they can remake it and install Linux.

How cute is that?

You will hear from me soon, sorry for this impromptu hiatus!


Sunday, January 30, 2011

New BTSSB Print on Reserve: "Chained Berry Memoir"

I love the little printed ribbons and daisies!

This is the new print from Baby the Stars Shine Bright called "Chained Berry Memoir"--isn't it too cute?! It reminds me of another print by AP, but BTSSB's is simpler with a more fitted design (in my op). It's perfect for country lolita, n'est-ce pas? Reservations open February 4th on Baby's online shop.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Being an Individual versus Hating the Mainstream: A Brief Editorial

This is unfortunately how many people think about non-conformism (as well as being part of subcultures).

Today's post is more of an opinion essay/rant than anything else, but I felt like I hadn't seen anyone else really discussing this issue within the lolita fashion bloggersphere. After watching youtuber Meekakitty's vlog on the subject I was compelled to write the following entry. This post is about people who hate on stuff simply because it is popular. You've seen them, you've heard them--they are especially prevalent in subcultures. For instance, when I was in middle school, I followed gothic fashion and music. I enjoyed the romantic, dark style and the sounds of Bauhaus, Malice Mizer (I'm counting them even though they're jrock) and the Cure.
But I also had a horrible secret: In addition, I LOVED Nsync and Backstreet Boys. I could sing along to Just Like Heaven, She's In Parties and Beast of Blood, but I also knew all the words to Backstreet's Back and Pop!. I didn't think anything of it because--hey--people like different kinds of music, so what? But when I took out my Black and Blue CD one day and a "friend" saw, I was hopelessly harangued. "You're not a real goth--you're a conformist because you like POPULAR music!" Now that was back in middle school--I have plenty of acquaintances in the goth subculture now who would call that behavior a crock of bull. But for awhile, I pretended to hate anything popular just to fit in, until I lost it and basically said, "You know what--I like what I like, I don't change for other people, deal with it!"
Why is it some people instinctively hate something because it's popular/the current trend? And why do they seem to feel free to make judgments about others who just happen to like these things regardless of their popularity? Read the whole body of this discussion under the cut:More...
It's as if being successful in the mainstream poisons something in their eyes. But do you ever see them give a good solid reason for their veering away in disdain? I haven't once. A good example is the Twilight Saga--now, I don't like Twilight, but I have good, critical reasons for that: I didn't enjoy the book series, I find the heroine boring and passive, the relationships don't interest me--real reasons based on observation and reflection. But some people simply pass up the series because "Robert Pattinson fangirls are annoying!" or "I hate that I have to see it EVERYWHERE." That makes no sense--an actor's popularity isn't a plausible reason for disliking a book series, nor does having a large fanbase always correlate with a movie series' being bad. Do you maybe dislike that actor's previous body of work? Are you just not interested in the melodrama of a tweenage gothic romance? Give a good reason, and don't hate on those who do like something. I have three close friends who love Twilight even if I can't stand it, and that's fine with me because I don't pick friends based solely on whether they like what I like.

Now, I'm going to share something with you--you've all probably seen the various movies that have come up for discussion on my blog: Ingmar Bergman's Seventh Seal, Greta Garbo oldies, German silent pictures like Murnau's Faust--all very artsy, acclaimed and esoteric. You might even say I have very critical, sophisticated taste in film--some of my personal favorites are indeed cult classics (like Tod Browning's Freaks or Dracula's Daughter) and film critic favorites like Battleship Potemkin and Citizen Kane. But did you know some people automatically assume I have ZERO TASTE in movies right when they hear which film is my all-time favorite?

Yeah, well--my heart will go on, haters.

That's right--my favorite movie is James Cameron's 1997 hit Titanic. I love it for a number of reasons--I like the characters, the plot, the visuals, the music, the historical details and the depth of the story which deals with gender/class inequality and man's hubris. The Academy seems to agree--it won 11 Oscars including Best Picture, but for some reason people just love to HATE this movie. "Oh, everyone had a crush on Leonardo DiCaprio,and it put me off the film." So you judged a MOVIE based on how sexually attracted other women were to an ACTOR in it? Does their admiration for him somehow create a plothole out of nowhere, or magically re-edit footage? No, their crush on him has NOTHING to do with the motion picture. Fangirls exist--it's okay! But mainly the reason I'm given for why Titanic is a "dumb movie" is Titanic is a popular movie. "Oh, yeah, all the girls in my class saw it eleven times and I was just sick of hearing about it." But you never saw it or judged it for yourself? Just throw away a motion picture experience because other people, in fact, enjoyed it? That doesn't make it a bad movie--I personally don't care for Gone with the Wind but I think it's a VERY good movie. I don't hate it/try to lessen it because it's popular (I grew up in the South: it's everywhere)--it just doesn't fit my personal tastes.

An old lolita secret image I found stereotyping girls who wear OTT Sweet and Angelic Pretty as "clones" or "disciples" who can't stop spending money. I recall a time when anyone who dressed in OTT sweet lolita--specifically AP-- faced being called a trend-following clone with no originality. Must we assume things like this?

I think the number one reason people say they hate something simply because it's popular is to appear "unique" and "non-conformist," but that doesn't make sense. That's just an inversion of conformist people liking something simply because it's popular or the current trend--how is strictly limiting one's own preferences to what's not popular not a form of conformism? I say if you like something, just like it--be a REAL individual and stop caring how others will react. Do you enjoy wearing OTT sweet lolita (which is popular)? Then do it--I won't call you an "AP clone" or say you're just following a trend or are unoriginal. Maybe you love expressing yourself with all the deco accessories or adore how the cotton candy colors look--maybe you didn't even consider its popularity! One of the most annoying things I hear people say is "I would hate it if lolita fashion became popular" because I love so many different styles that have become popular! I love Boho, for instance, but it's constantly associated with the Olsen Twins and Nicole Richie and other celebs I don't much care for. If I like Boho chic and suddenly everyone else likes it because some celeb made it popular, am I required to relinquish my love of it in order to be "special" or "unique"? Why should I be? Besides--nothing stays mainstream forever: trends come and go, popularity rises and falls.

We have to stop judging each other as "sell-outs" or "conformists" for liking what is/isn't popular: If something interests you, don't let fear of being labeled keep you from a new style, band, movie or favorite thing. Because if your definition of nonconformism is liking/not liking something based solely on what other people think, you may need a dictionary.


Monday, January 24, 2011

Monday at The Movies: "Felicity: An American Girl Adventure", 2005

Felicity in all her breeches-wearing, horseback-riding awesomeness.

I apologize that this post is backposted--I've been having some health issues the past two days (probably due to the snow/weather we've had to endure in my neck of the wood), so I haven't been super active online. This week's movie is--as mentioned in the update--Felicity: An American Girl Adventure. The made-for-tv-movie is based off the Felicity: An American Girl doll and childrens' book series. I actually am the proud owner of Felicity and her book series since age 13 (at that age because: we were broke, I was learning fiscal responsibility, took me over two years to save the 190 something dollars I needed. Glad I did though--Felicity is my favorite :-D).

Felicity Merriman is the Colonial American doll of the series, and she loves horses and being outside in the Williamsburg, Virginia countryside. At the age of ten, she is just reaching adolescence when the American Revolution is at its start. Her father encourages her to have her own opinions while her mother wishes for her to find her place in society. The slightly older but in no way mature apprentice at her father's shop, Benjamin Davidson, is eager to join up with the patriots (perhaps too eager) and fight for liberty. All the while, Felicity struggles to manage a new friendship with Elizabeth Cole, a girl whose family are Loyalists and have the opposite views of her own family. And to top it off, there is a bitter, violent old man who has come into possession of a magnificent copper-colored thouroughbred who Felicity wishes to befriend and ride more than anything in the world...

Review/Breakdown under the cut: click for More...

Marcia Gay Harden's role as Mrs. Merriman was a perfect 10 on the casting director's part.
1. Casting for this movie was excellent. They not only got two extremely renown actors to play Felicity's parents (John Schneider and Marcia Gay Harden) and adorable heartthrob of Transamerica fame Kevin Zegers to play Ben, but also launched the career of a young Shailene Woodley who shined in the role of Felicity--she truly looked and played the character perfectly. Woodley has gone on to star in the critically-acclaimed ABC Family original series Secret Life of the American Teenager as Amy Juergen, a demanding role in which Woodley conveys the trials and revelations of being a teenage mother. To sum up, this movie gets 5/5 for its cast.

Felicity in a summer dress on her grandfather's plantation.
2. Costume and Set was specific to the time period, and the sets were wonderfully put together in Colonial Williamsburg, making it all seem very authentic and natural. Seeing Felicity's gorgeous blue dancing gown for the Governor's ball and all the clothes I had read about or dressed my doll in suddenly appear on the screen in living color and vibrant textiles was a real treat. I should add that props, furniture and even the items in Mr. Merriman's shop were treated very historically--while this is a made-for-tv-movie targeted to young girls, the design crew didn't slack off. They did their research, which I appreciate since the AG books really center around education about history and the like. FYI: If you are an enthusiast of period costume or 18th century fashion elements (as in, you enjoy the more Rococo-inspired side of lolita fashion for example), you will love it. 5/5

The movie touches on--as does the book--gender issues in Colonial America, as well as political issues.
3. Adaptation I'm giving 4/5, which is more than I would give the Samantha film and here's why: Samantha's movie, while wonderful and heartwarming, chose to focus on the books Meet Samantha, Samantha's Surprise, and Changes for Samantha, all of which are low on the action side, making her movie a bit slow and its script a bit forced whereas Felicity's movie is based on scenarios from all of her books, with a focus on those containing the most action like Felicity Saves the Day, hence Samantha's movie was An American Girl Holiday while Felicity's is an Adventure. This made it so much more flowing and allowed the action to rise and fall much nicer. The one issue I had with the movie literally covering ALL the books is it tends to go too fast at points, cutting rapidly from season to season and plot point to plot point which is why I give it 4/5 overall. Their choices, however, did allow us to see Felicity grow as a character, working through expressing political opinions, family tragedies, and various social situations.

Miss Manderly (younger in the film than in the books) teaches Felicity the art of being a gracious hostess and homemaker--including tea ceremony, formal dance, as well as sewing and embroidery.
4. Music was period and appropriate for the place and time, particular noticeable during the dance lessons at Miss Manderly's and at the Governor's Ball later on. Incidental music and score was also very fitting and used sparingly as it should have been. 5/5

Felicity hears the hard facts of life from her wise father. She often faces personal tragedies and turmoils beyond her years.
5. The Message: since this movie is based off a book series that seeks to educate and empower young women, it's only fitting that I should hold the film to the same standard. In my opinion, the film adaptation (while rushed a tad) does pick out the key "moral" scenarios from the book and plays them through without excessive melodrama as is common in movies for younger audiences. Felicity is still a wonderfully balanced heroine--she isn't totally a tomboy and she isn't a total girly-girl: she is a pleasant mix of cheerful determination and exuberance alongside dignity and grace. She can be selfish but ultimately puts what is right above what is easy--even if she has to borrow Ben's breeches and run off in drag to do it. Furthermore, the movie retains the messages that mercy is more important than revenge, friendship more important than war, and that being true to yourself is far more important than following decorum. If these important messages from the books failed to surface, I'd be pretty upset. Since they are there, 5/5.
Total Score: 24/25

Final Verdict: Though Samantha's movie was first and quite well-done as well, I would say Felicity's movie was much more effective in its narrative and its emotional realism. It's the kind of kid's movie an adult would also enjoy without enduring the feeling their intelligence was being insulted. For those who babysit or have young kids, this movie is age appropriate while not placing its audience in a comfort bubble (i.e., deals with real issues, but is tons of fun). While I wished the movie jumped around less (I would've easily welcomed another whole 30 minutes of movie over the rapidity), I am very pleased at that adaptation of my favorite AG doll's books to film. Fun, heartfelt and charming, this one's definitely a winner.

---------quick sidenote! I made LJ/forum user-icons from stills of the movie, free usage. Just credit me (beata-beatrixx) in the "comments" part of where the icon posts on your lj-user image page:

(All 159 here on my old photobucket).

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Update: New Layout!

Sorry to anyone whose been accessing the blog the past ten minutes or so--I've been tinkering with the layout and I just now am happy with it. I use Paint Shop Pro 5 to make my graphics, an oldie but a good one. The layout code is from Pyzam of course, hence my leaving the big ole credit link.

The green-eyed, red-headed young lady wearing the straw hat in the layout banner is indeed yours truly. That's what I look like! It's a little weird seeing my face since I'm terribly camera shy normally--Hello face! XD

Anyway, I hope you all like the new layout since it's more personalized and features all my favorite things (pink, green, gingham and roses and a bit of Victoriana thrown in).

I'm not sure what's going to be tomorrow's movie feature--I've actually been reading Tarzan of the Apes and watching the Baden-Baden Festspielhaus' production of Wagner's Lohengrin, so I'm short on film ideas at present, lol. Someone posted a wardrobe post on egl with an image of their Felicity AG doll, so perhaps I'll talk about Felicity: An American Girl Adventure? American colonial backdrop, a feisty redhead and a horse with a copper-penny coat--I think it could be fun! Anyway, I'm off to things in the real world---


EDIT: I'm not sure why, but Blogger is screwing up my post date/times every time I post O_o
Sorry for the confusion if you saw/see an obviously later post placed before an earlier one, although I do think I've straightened it out. I think it's because I back-posted a couple entries back and Blogger is all "waahahaaaah--time warp!"

Country Lolita, Old School Part 2: Back to Now

This post is a follow-up to my previous look at sweet/classic lolita fashion's use of "country" motifs in earlier years. I thought I should continue the discussion by showing how new trends have given today's lolita additional options when it comes to country style. To sum up from my last post, country lolita began as a trend in sweet/classic lolita where the person dressed as if going on a picnic in the country--straw hats/bonnets and bags, garden-themed accessories with berries and flowers, and prints of berries, florals and ginghams. While this is still the heart of the country aesthetic, I've picked up on some new trends I absolutely adore:

Top: IW's "Forest Friends" JSK, AP's "Milky-chan" JSK, ETC's "Bunny" JSK; Bottom: IW's "Bambi" skirt, JetJ's "La Pièce du Petit Créature" skirt and a close-up of ETC's "Rabbit School" print--I could think of TONS more examples because forest critter prints are pretty hot right now..
1. Forest Animals are a huge new trend in both sweet and classic lolita, particularly deer but often squirrels and bunnies and bears are prevalent. I really like these prints because they bring to mind a fairytale princess living in an enchanted wood amidst all these creatures. Because they are nature-related and outdoorsy, I think they fit country lolita very well.

Top: Meta's "Honey Picnic," "Teddy Garden" and "Blooming Garden" prints; Bottom: Bodyline Picnic JSK, close-up of IW's "Strawberry Field" OP and IW's "Strawberry Rose Garden" JSK. IW and Meta have been the major producers of many of these garden/picnic-themed original prints.
2. Garden/Picnic-Themed Prints both from official brands, Bodyline and indie brands. These are prints specifically tailored to the "picnic" or gardening aesthetic of country lolita. Often these prints incorporate the forest animal trend (think Honey Picnic from Meta or Strawberry Fields from IW).

And possibly my favorite trend:

Top : Annette JSK from IW, Surface Spell's "Blue Dutch Lady" JSK, IW's "Rose Panel" JSK; Bottom: Surface Spell's "Opera Floral" JSK and two illustrations of traditional East European kroje. I can see a LOT of folk influence in these designs, can't you?
3. JSKs and OPs Inspired by Traditional European Folk Attire such as Austrian dirndls, Russian sarafan and Czech kroje have popped up both in indie brands and from brands such as Innocent World (in the form of my most-coveted Annette JSK). It's not the print or fabric that distinguishes these dresses as "country style" so much as the cut,embellishments and overall design that relates to the regular everyday folk attire of European cultures, which inevitably brings to mind romantic images of pastoral landscapes and country maids. In sum: It kind of makes you want to twirl around in a field singing "The Hills are Alive with the Sound of Music." (With sooongs they have sung for a thousand yeeeeeeeeaars! Sorry, I'll stop now.) There's also an element of romantic nationalism playing in here, with nostalgia for traditional elements that possess unique histories and cultures--perhaps I love my calico prairie-style dresses so much because I'm American and they remind me of the Old West and Laura Ingalls Wilder? Could be. Anyway, I love folk costume and gladly welcome lolita's incorporating design elements from it.

Two modern couture takes on the dirndl from Sportalm--the look is so wonderful, I thought I'd conclude with it.

So those are the more recent trends to round off our discussion of country lolita. Hope this was comprehensive enough to supply a good overview, while specific enough to pinpoint the differences between regular sweet/classic lolita and the country lolita subset.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Country Lolita, Old School: Looking Back at Some Basics

The egl livejournal community's monthly theme for January is "old school," which means looking back on lolita's earlier periods as a fashion (late 80s through the early 2000s) and revisiting some of the aesthetics and trends popular way back when. I thought this would be a great opportunity to look back on country lolita (back when it was more about coordinating sweet lolita a certain way than its own little subset). As I looked at old Gothic and Lolita Bible pics, Kera snaps and brand ads, I made a few notes about the recurring themes and elements within the outfits. Here we go, *cues Dr. Who theme music*:

Click on the image to see the larger version.

1. Frizzy Hair and Pigtails, especially with curls or bangs. Pigtails are a very casual hairstyle, but very cute overall. They can be worn plain or poofed up/frizzy or in ringlets or braided with flowers or berries in them. Even wear them in "Gretel" style like the Angelic Pretty model in 4th image in.

2. Straw Bags, Totes, Picnic Baskets, Boaters, Mini-Hats and Bonnets are the most common ways of accessorizing a country outfit even today, but the straw bonnet and mini-hat seem to be the chosen accessories of yesteryear. These were decorated particularly with small flowers or berries, and might fasten on the head with pins or with neck-ties. A straw/wicker bag or basket really completes the look.

3. Gingham, Berries, and Pastoral Pastel Florals are the prints of choice. Popular berries are strawberries and cherries, popular ginghams are red, blue and pink. The "old school" dresses are mostly puffy sleeved with bell-sleeve extensions and front ribbon "corset" detail, not to mention a LOT of lace, ribbons and even embroidered appliques as seen in image 3.

4. Grab Your Parasol and Capelet, but Let Your Legs Hang Out because bare knees and calves are common in the country stylings of yesteryear and in the country subset of classic/sweet lolita today. Since the aesthetic conveys the sense of being outdoors, elegant stockings with lacey motifs don't quite fit. The most common socks worn (as seen in many of the examples) are plain white knee socks and ankle socks--often decked out in little crocheted and embroidered berries, keeping with the outdoorsy motif. The most common shoes back then? Red, white or pink platform mary janes, usually that lace up the leg partway or that have one small strap at the ankle. I didn't see a lot of "country" examples rocking the black platform mary janes that were popular back then, nor did I see any boots which I personally like with country loli.

5. Neutral Make-up Palette with a Rosey Cheek is your weapon of choice, as seen in image 8 on the second row. A nice rosey blush on the apples of your cheeks fits in with the idea of being outdoors, as opposed to the pale, porcelain make-up of other lolita styles. But contrary to the sometimes very made-up look of today's sweet lolita, country make-up has remained neutral--minimal eye makeup, blush, and light-hued glossy lips are pretty much all that's needed. Your main color palette should be browns,pinks, light pastels and soft sunny gold tones--maybe a kiss of berry red.

Thanks for joining me in a walk down memory lane. I made up a little coordinate inspired by old-school country style in honor of this little time trip (Below the cut):

Straw mini-hat and basket, muted pastel florals, white knee socks with white mary janes, front corseting on the skirt, long poofy sleeves, minimal makeup, pink lips, rosey cheeks and frizzy, curly hair with bangs (you can't really see in the photo too well, but my hair is falling in loose, wavy ringlets). Plus my trusty parasol of course ;-)

Monday, January 17, 2011

Monday at The Movies: "The Seventh Seal"

Since I found the dvd of this Ingmar Bergman film at my local library the other day while browsing, I thought it would make a nice break from the princess-y movies I've discussed lately to talk a little bit about one of my favorite films of all time: The Seventh Seal (in Swedish: Sjunde Inseglet), starring Max von Sydow of later Exorcist fame. Seventh Seal is considered one of the masterpieces of modern cinema. Premiering in 1957 in Sweden and quickly rising to popularity across global cinema, the scenes of this extraordinary tale blend Medieval allegory with modern existentialist dilemmas about faith, life, and more importantly, death. Indeed, Death is himself personified in the film and is one of the main characters. Similar to Faust, this is a perfect film for those interested in Gothic and allegorical motifs, but if you are a lover of film in general, I would urge you to see this movie. It is a triumph.

Note: Some images taken from this fan site for the film.

Iconic scene: Antonius Block plays chess with Death.

Because of the vast amount of critical material regarding this film, I'm only going to briefly synopsize and save you the elaborate commentary: The story follows Antonius Block, a knight who decides to try and cheat Death by playing him in a chess game for his life. Block does not fear Death, but he wants to know whether or not there is something after, if the Paradise promised him for his Crusades is real or not. Traveling with him is his more worldly squire, Jöns, whose way of getting around the death surrounding them (the story is set during the middle of the Bubonic Plague) seems to be through hedonistic pleasures (drinking, brawling and women). Along their travels they encounter a troupe of Medieval players (a manager, an actor and actress, and the latter two's young son), and Jöns "rescues" a young maiden from certain peril (I put the "rescue" in parentheses due to the fact that he acts quite like he owns her afterward--more happy in his vengeance against her attacker--an old rival--than in her newfound safety). Images of life and abundance--visions of the Holy Mother, theatre and merriment, sex and leisure--are constantly being juxtaposed with the bleak reality of ever-present death. His figure appears literally, in Medieval artwork, in the faces of those killed by the plague, and in the horrifying pageantry of the Flagellants (a fanatical religious movement whose members would whip and torture themselves in contrition, seeing the plague as punishment from God):

The Flagellants arrive with the promise of Death to all sinners.

I won't give away anymore about the film or the characters since I'd like you all to go and see it for yourselves, but I will discuss the history of the famous motif--the Dance of Death--used in the Seventh Seal. The film has made this motif and that of the knight playing chess with Death well-known (so much so that Bill and Ted engage in the same chess game in their Bogus Journey). The Dance of Death in Medieval art depicted a personified Death leading a troupe of dancers from all ages and walks of life (a king, a monk, a peasant, a child, etc.), symbolizing Death's ultimate power to end any person's life at any time regardless of their youth, wealth or spirituality. This certainly fits well with modern existentialist views of the irrational man and chaos that Bergman explores throughout the film. Here is the Dance of Death in the film and its Medieval counterpart, a nice juxtaposition of modern and antique media:

Former: Dance of Death in The Seventh Seal, Latter: Dance of Death from a Medieval cathedral in Tallin, Estonia.

Hope you enjoyed this little homage to a modern classic, and if you like this film I recommend seeing some of Bergman's other works (I ADORE his Magic Flute, as one suggestion).

Sunday, January 9, 2011

"If it were up to you" meme from EGL

Lolita meme time! Keep in mind these are my own personal preferences as to what I would/would not wear (you might hate some of the ones I like and love the ones I hate, lol). This is just for fun!

If it were up to you, what trend would you:

1. Perpetuate forever: Rectangular headdresses. I just love them and the nostalgia of wearing them. I don't even pay attention to the "maxi pad" comments.

2. Kill off immediately: Leopard/zebra/any "see it on a Safari" animal print. Don't care if it's in style, I think it looks ridiculous. I would never wear a faux print of an animal whose fur is never worn (legally) in real life--I like faux fox, rabbit, mink and ermine fur, for example, because they have been worn quite frequently historically. Zebra and leopard not so much methinks.

3. Raise like a zombie: Bare legs with lolita. As long as the skirt is long enough or it's appropriate, I say go for it. It's one of the reasons I love country loli so much XD

4. Dance on the grave of: OTT sweet prints of pastries and cakes. I like fruits and berries, but all of these ice cream macaron parfait puppy jsks are WAY too much for me--I like simple prints moreso than the ones that appear to have been attacked by the patisserie.

5. Jump on in a heartbeat: Calico print prairie-style dresses in lolita! This huge gunne sax fan would have a field day (no pun intended).