Friday, September 9, 2016

Roman fashion still on trend more than 2,000 years later

This week sees the release of Paramount Pictures’ new adaptation of Lew Wallace’s 1880 novel Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ. This epic tale is guaranteed to set pulses racing – not least for the sight of Jack Huston at the reins of a chariot. The ancient world has, however, inspired some equally epic fashion so take your cue from our favourite Greco-Roman influenced looks and prepare to do battle for tickets.

The sandal

What were you wearing on your feet in the summer of 2015? It may well have been a gladiator sandal. The catwalks of Milan and Paris saw to that. French designer Isabel Marant sent out earthy warriors in tightly pleated minis paired with buckled ankle height sandals while Valentino’s Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pierpaolo Piccioli offered a more romantic take, with finely braided knee-high versions teamed with macramé woven dresses resembling delicate armour. Alexander McQueen’s Sarah Burton, however, created structured affairs with platform soles – showing them with tunics that had the appearance of designer breastplates.

The tunic

The Boho movement of the Noughties provided ample opportunity for channelling ancient civilisations. And spearheading the decade’s aesthetic were supermodel Kate Moss and actor Sienna Miller who made the look their own, taking it from music festival to the city streets. Remember Kate in that supersized coin belt slung around a khaki shift and Sienna Miller at Glastonbury working the battle-scarred centurion look with studded belt and distressed tunic? Halle Berry went a step further in a white dress by Rachel Roy cinched with a rope tie. Just the thing for a trip to the agora in Ancient Athens.

The MET Gala

The MET Gala, the celebrity-packed ball held annually in New York to benefit the Metropolitan Museum of Art, is ever an eminently stylish affair, with the red carpet becoming an unofficial runway for celebrities wearing designer gowns. This year pop sensation Taylor Swift donned bespoke Louis Vuitton – a fierce silver tunic with sandals that laced up to the knee while actor Emma Stone opted for a metallic harness worn atop a flowing white Grecian style gown by Miuccia Prada.

The ancient world also proved inspirational for Rosie Huntington-Whiteley who chose a Balmain tunic of pleated leather and leopard print calf hair (above) for the event’s 2014 incarnation.

The armour

Jean Paul Gaultier’s SS10 tribal-inspired collection featured one look particularly worthy of a gladiatorial contest in the Colosseum with asymmetric body jewellery worn with a blue Grecian-inspired gown. Nicolas Ghesquière’s grommeted epaulettes of Resort 16 had the look of armour and Valentino’s SS16 collection saw leather breastplates that would make your fellow charioteers green with envy.

The boys

Rather more sober of late, there were a couple of seasons where Donatella Versace’s menswear collections were utterly immersed in the Greco-Roman zone. SS13 represented peak phalanx with her contemporary pugilists giving more than a nod to their ancient forebears, while SS15’s beach-ready boys sported towels in the manner of togas (below).

The (amphi) theatre

The American Superbowl of 2012 provided the perfect forum for a sartorial trip back in time to the ancient world. Madonna let rip in custom-made Givenchy worthy of a warrior queen while MIA’s look resembled that of a bellicose Cleopatra. In other news, Beyoncé prefers to leave historical costume to her backing dancers.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Ban on a Morris Dance tradition splits opinion in England

SHROPSHIRE, England — A row has erupted after the organisers of the Shrewsbury Folk Festival (SFF) decided to ban morris dancers from wearing blackface at this year’s event. The annual festival is one of the biggest of its kind in England, and it celebrates folk music and traditions from across the UK and farther afield. A morris dancing contingent is customary.  However, this year’s costuming tradition must be changed due to the ban precipitated by an equality campaign group, Fairness and Racial Equality in Shropshire (FRESh).
Morris Dancers at Bewdley Wassail 2012 [Photo Credit: P. Dixon]

Festival director Sandra Sutrees said, “After last year’s festival, the event was accused of racial harassment and threatened with legal action by FRESh, following performances by morris sides wearing full-face black make-up in the town centre.” In a statement, the organisers of SFF further stressed, “The festival finds itself caught between two sides of this opposing argument and believe that this is a national issue that should not be focused solely on SFF.”
Morris is a traditional English dance, others of which include sword and clog dancing. Some Morris sides, especially what is known as border morris, (so called as it is a dancing style that originates from the Welsh border counties of Herefordshire, Worcestershire and Shropshire) paint their faces black. In other words, the dancer appears with all or most of the face covered in black make-up as part of the costume or guise.

There are many theories on the origin of this tradition in morris. One is that it was a form of Moorish dance, which inspired its name. Another is that it is from an ancient folk custom known as guising, which was used at various festival times, such as Hallowe’en and while dancing to protect oneself from malevolent spirits. As it was common during festival periods, it has also been used in mummers plays, which are often performed around Easter or Christmas, and they often incorporate aspects of Pagan traditions.
Morris Dancers at Bewdley Wassail 2012 [Photo Credit: P. Dixon]

Guising also had a more practical application of protecting the identity of beggars during a time when it was still illegal in England and Wales. They often hid their faces under a layer of soot or coal dust. As Sutrees explained: “The use of full-face black make-up is an age old tradition, particularly within border morris. The morris movement has always evolved over time and some sides have made their own decisions to move away from using full-face black make-up towards other forms of colour and disguise.
“In the past 18 months, of the three sides we booked for this year’s festival, two have already moved away from wearing full-face black make up of their own volition.”

The stressing of blackface as an ancient tradition is a sentiment echoed by Adam Garland. The outgoing Ring Squire (leader) of the Morris Ring states: “All over the world, one finds traditional folk customs for which costume and face paint are integral parts; for example, certain tribal dancers in Africa white their faces for the performance. In England, the Morris world is no different; many morris clubs use face paint as part of their costume.”

The ban was welcomed by FRESh leader Jonathan Hyams, who applauded the change as representing sensitivity to “a changed social climate”.

In a public statement, Hyams said: “From FRESh’s perspective, it is good news. We entirely understand the argument from morris dancing communities that this is something that goes back to tradition. However, there are other ways of celebrating this other than “blacking up,” which has very strong connotations of racism.”

Morris Dancers at Bewdley Wassail 2012 [Photo Credit: P. Dixon]

However, the ban has provoked anger from some parts of the morris community. Garland responded, “The theory of the tradition originating as a form of disguise through the use of soot has been well documented. These days within the three organisations – The Morris Ring, the Morris Federation, and The Open Morris – a whole range of different colours can be seen in many places around the country. The use of one particular colour within these costumes is in no way a statement against one particular societal group and the morris community refutes the accusation of racism most strongly.”
One aspect that has complicated the issue is the guising tradition being conflated with the more modern version of blackface coming from American customs, such as the old minstrel shows that were still being televised in the UK as late as the 1970s. The Morris Ring of the UK is keen to stress the differences between the two customs.

The ban has divided dancers and locals alike. Joseph Healy, secretary of the Britannia Coco-Nut Dancers, who are a clog dancing side from Lancashire in the North West of England and who traditionally used coconuts on their clogs to make a distinctive sound, told LBC radio that for his side, the tradition came from the mining heritage of the area. He added: “We will always dance in blackface because that is the complete and full costume we turn out in.”

Richard Day told to BBC Radio Shropshire, “Just because we have done something for a long time does not necessarily mean we should continue it – unless you want to bring back the burning of witches, maybe?” Shropshire County Council has decided that from 2017, they will not book any troupes that still use blackface.
Morris Dancers at Bewdley Wassail 2012 [Photo Credit: P. Dixon]

Meanwhile, the Morris Federation is attempting to move the debate forward and open up a dialogue about the issue. It said in a statement: “Blacking up in morris is a very sensitive and emotive subject and we are truly saddened by the division it has caused among morris dancers. We would like to reiterate that the Morris Federation is currently seeking legal advice on the impact of blacking up in morris and chairing an open discussion with our membership at our AGM on September 24th.”
It looks like this debate is set to continue.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Ancient Egypt (Exploring The Nile Civilization)

The ancient race of the Nile proved a civilization that was ahead of their times in creativity concerning every aspect of life. The mysterious culture of the Egyptians displayed their knowledge through so many art forms that have become a source of inspiration for the modern world. The article explores the concepts of beauty and fashion in the ancient race of Egypt.

The concept of beauty and fashion through Egyptian era was an integral part of their daily lives; the idea of looking good prevailed like many ancient civilizations. The exotic blend of color and materials, forms and motifs took ancient race of the Egyptians to extreme heights of style and fashion for their times. The knowledge of their limited resources could never become a hindrance to making of masterpieces of excellence.

Their concept of fashion and costumes had a strong binding with their religious beliefs. The dry and sunny weather conditions restricted Egyptians to experiment much and restricted them to adopt styles that helped them stay comfortable. The choice of materials represent the perfect selection depicting their knowledge of understanding environment conditions and adopting what was the best for them to survive with style.

Egyptian men and women were concerned with their appearance; they opted for whatever could make them look attractive. The early Egyptians believed the abundance of hair in certain areas of the body to be the sign of impurity and uncleanness, men rarely wore more than a mustache or a goatee. Most of the men preferred their faces to be clean.

Many a men shaved their heads and wore a wig; most of them opted this primarily for religious ceremonial purposes.

Women also followed the same belief but their primary concern was to look good and attractive. Women and men both of the race used creams and oils to protect their skin from the dry weather and to kill the odor as it was considered unholy. These oils and creams were of such importance that at times the workers often accepted them for their wages.

The Egyptians discovered the art of using milk and honey regularly as they believed in those ancient times that it would make their skin smooth and silky. Facial masks, made from ant eggs and face paints were sometimes used to unclog pores and even out the overall skin tones. Butter and barley mixed together was used to treat pimples and rashes. The removal of heavy makeup was done by applying a mixture of chalk and oils.

Throughout the Egyptian age oils made from scented woods and flowers mixed with fats or oils were rubbed not only to smell nice but also as a protection shield against the dry weather. These oils also served as an additional beauty enhancement for religious ceremonies, parties and feasts by the rich Egyptian upper class.

Egyptian queens and upper class Women extensively used heavy eye makeup usually in gold, indigo blue, black and green color to enhance the beauty along with the high headdress which usually were scented with oils and decorated with jewel.

Bathing practice was one of the important rituals carried out daily by visiting the river with a concept of cleansing. The rich Egyptians carried out this ritual in a separate room, servant poured water on masters. Cleansing creams made out from lime, oils and perfumes were used during the bath.

Egyptians loved ornaments; jewelry was used in daily life throughout the Pharaonic era until the Roman times, all forms of jewelry including necklaces, rings, anklets, and bracelets were popular fashion accessories. A unique type of jewelry that never appeared in other cultures was the vest, which was born around the chest. It was usually made of gold or of gold plated metal. The lower class used this vest made out of cheap material, but painting it with golden color to give it the look of gold. Jewelry in Egyptian era decorated the lives of people giving them the style and meaning to enhance their beauty and look special.

Textile manufacturing and dress making were the areas where women effectively worked in workshops, spinning and weaving fabrics. The ancient Egyptians wore light clothes made from linen. Linen was made from flax, a plant that grows along the river Nile. The flax was soaked in water until soft, the soften flex then was separated into fibers which were beaten and spun into threads. Weaving was done on horizontal looms that were often just pegs rammed into the ground. Dress making tools include knives made first from stone and in later ages made of bronze and iron.

The basic garments in Egyptian era did not change much. Style and fashion made Egyptians a source of inspiration for the modern world. Their efforts in time showed the creative and practical application of knowledge acquired through experience.

Monday, November 16, 2015

The Evolution of Ancient Clothing

The toga was a unique sort of garb traditional in the Roman Empire by citizens of the Roman Republic. Non-citizens and the exiled were not permitted to wear it. The garb measured approximately six meters in length and was fabricated from wool. Togas were single pieces of material, open from the waist up and worn as an external garment.

They may be unique to Ancient Rome, but it's certainly came back to the modeling stages of the modern world. The contemporary toga ensembles have a bold, youthful appearance with vivid colors and high hemlines.

Spring is coming and the modern style toga moves extremely well into the new season transmitting grace and a feminine mystique to the garb. The favorite toga dress gets a younger look with a smaller hem. The dressed down look is achieved by combing the ensemble with Jerusalem cruisers to transform it into suitable holiday garb.

These dresses have a lot going for them; they transform easily into evening outfits; plenty of bodice and other minor mode shifts have given togas the classic A-line outline and highly high-end look. The colors are bold if one were to describe them; eye-catching yellows, wonderful blues, astonishing oranges and greens give the right amount of sex appeal to toga dresses.

Top designers Celine or Chloe are all in on creating gown-like masterpieces. Colors range from vivid reds to gold, metallic silvers, bronze and astounding oranges in mini toga dresses. Classic black and white Greco-Romanesque style is available from other top names in the fashion industry.

One of the tremendous benefits of the modern toga dress is that the ensemble won't empty your wallet. From maxis with lots of drapery to toga tunics and minis, the outfits motivated by the fashion runways lend panache to any event. There's another benefit in being clothed in a modern toga dress, it compliments the one who donned it and flattens the belly! The tunic is at once versatile and relaxing, generally donned with a pair of jeans.

For the bold and the sexy out there that want the toga much shorter, class jewelry and strapped heels can really dress it up. Combining the dress with flat sandals gives a more realistic appearance.

Fashion is largely seasonal; trends come and they go. But, togas are still one of the rare, forever choices given the Romanesque classic never falls out of vogue. Hems shift up and they move down; shades get more blinding and the cut more daring, but the modern toga dress continues to remain a fast choice. Toga dresses in common shades that are draped in traditional vogue will overcome the seasonal changes in the work of fashion.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Court Dress in Qing Dynasty

Dragon robes
Winter court hats of empress dowagers and empresses were made of fumed marten and sewn with red wefts. Their hats adorned with pearl, gold pheasant patterns, gems and jade ornaments had protective collar behind the neck with drooping bright yellow ribbons. Summer court hats were made of cyan velvet.

Empress dowagers, queens and high-ranked imperial concubines used cyan sheets with gold-wrapped metal trims to decorate their court costumes; images of dragons and Chinese charactersFu(blessing) andShou(longevity) were embroidered on the clothes. The winter court robes of empress dowagers, queens and high-ranked imperial concubines were bright yellow, and also decorated with images of dragon patterns. Necklines of dresses of empress dowagers and queens were made of golden filament and decorated with pearls, turquoises and jade ornaments. Three sets of necklaces were hung on the chest when empress dowagers and queens wore court robes. When an empress dowager or queen was in auspicious clothing, she always wore one set of necklace made of pearls, jade and other top-grade materials. Court necklaces of imperial concubines were decorated with ambers, each having 108 beads in four parts divided by three big ones.

In the Qing Dynasty only Emperors had the privilege of wearing the dragon robes decorative of the dragons with 12 insignia badges, whose designing include circular collar,big front,right border(opening),narrow and comprehensive sleeves with sleeve end of horse shoes shape.The demy front and back of the robe was sumptuously embroidered 9 dragons and embellished with gold, pearls and precious stones. In the front of the robe collar was embroidered with one front dragon each and at the joining of the left and right borders have decorative dragons each, while there is a front dragon at the end of horseheel-shaped sleeves. The collar and sleeves were brimmed with azurite gold satins. The clothing materials could be changed according to seasons, for instance, cotton, gauge, sandwich blend, or fur, etc.

Emperor's court crowns fall into two categories:winter and summer crowns.

The appearance of winter court crown is a slope-shaped round top edged with an upward brim.It is made of fur or black fox skin topped with jewel crown including golden screws carved golden dragons and clouds and embedded with oriental jewel. The jewel top is divided into three tiers:the bottom is a base decorated with 4 front dragons around 4 oriental pearls; the second and the third tiers was decorated with 4 rising dragons around 4 oriental pearls respectively; while each tiers has one oriental pearl connect. The jewel top decorated with 15 oriental pearls in total while a big oriental pearl was embedded on the top. 

Empress court crown

Empress winter court crown was made of black fur and whose appearance is in semi-conical shape embellished a red weft and a brim around it. The crown top is similar in appearance of a pagoda, which was divided into three tiers with one oriental peal and one phoenix decorated 3 big oriental pearls each and at each holding a big oriental pearl in the upper mouth.The red weft-knitting was embellished with 7 golden phoenixes while each phoenix was decorated with 9 oriental pearls and a cat's eye, while there were 21 pearls on each phoenix tail. The back of the crown was decorated with golden pheasants hanging down to the pearl knot with 5 pendant strings of 64 beads, which meant’the five elements, mental, wood, water, fire and earth, held by ancient to compose the physical universe’and two achievements. A collar protector shaped in bottle gourd hanging down from the brim lining in the back of the crown while under the collar protector hanging down two yellow silk ribbons without any jewel decoration. The left and right sides of the court crown was made of blue and green cotton flannel. Other moldings are similar to that of winter court crown.