Friday, February 27, 2009

An Invitation to a Mad Tea Party

I'd like to invite you to send me photos of hats. Any photo of your favourite hat will do, including a hat that you make using the origami instructions shown in yesterday's post, another hat that you make/knit/sew/craft, or your favourite hat (and hopefully are wearing).

My week seemed to be all about hats, including the Mad Hatter's Tea Party in Alice in Wonderland (which I read for Blog of a Bookworm), the exhibition on Hats at the Victoria and Albert Museum, and my washi hat creations. Tristan Robin Blakeman of Enchanted Revelry said he was going to try the origami hat instructions in his studio today. I'd love to see everyone's fanciful hat creations.

Let's have a tea party! Now the question is will I be the only one there? Please email your photos to as soon as possible, preferably in the next week or so.

Book Review: 18th Century Embroidery Techniques

"I would not be a Designer if I did not maintain (and it would not be difficult for me to prove) that Design is the basis and Foundation of Embroidery."
Charles Germain de Saint-Aubin, Designer for King Louis XV, 1770

In the 18th Century, embroidery was an essential decorative element for both men's and women's fashions. Techniques using silk, metal threads, spangles, quilting, and whitework were often all incorporated into a single garment.

Title: 18th Century Embroidery Techniques
Author: Gail Marsh
Publisher: Guild of Master Craftsman Publications Ltd., East Sussex, UK, 2006
Number of Pages: 192
Price: US$24.95, Canada $32.95
Category: Non-fiction, instructional

What it is about:
Gail Marsh compiled ten volumes of research when she did a Master of Arts degree on 18th century embroidery techniques (I wish I could do that!). This book is a culmination of that research.

Laid out like an instruction book, Marsh also provides a history of 18th century embroidery tools and techniques with accompanying photos and illustrations.

Why I Chose this Book:
I'd like to incorporate embroidery into my textile art, but I have yet another of mental block on how to get started (seems like I have a few of those LOL). Last summer, while at the Victoria and Albert Museum's giftshop, I purchased a small embroidery kit. I thought I might try it on the plane ride home, but it ended up in my suitcase since embroidery scissors are not allowed in the cabin. And wouldn't my luck be that the embroidery hoop broke in my suitcase...

After seeing Marie Antoinette's dress at the Royal Ontario Museum in the fall of 2008 (see my fashion blog for photos), I was enchanted by the exquisite embroidery on the train of the dress and my desire to learn embroidery returned. I tried to find an embroidery class in Toronto but that was a dead end!

Guess where I'll be learning embroidery? At a workshop in Paris in May. But in the meantime, I really should practice at least some of the basics and hence, I read this book very carefully.

Rating: A

The book is thoughtfully laid out with clear instructions, colour photos and simple line-drawings. The author adds interest and charm to her instructions with quotes from diaries and writings of the period, such as this:

Felix Hezecques, Souvenir d'un Page de la Cour de Louis XVI, circa 1780
"In the morning the King wore a grey coat until it was time for his toilette. Then he put on a cloth suit, often brown, with a steel or silver sword. But on Sundays and ceremonial occassions his suits were of very beautiful materials, embroidered in silks and paillettes, often, as the fashion was then, the velvet coat was entirely covered with little spangles which made it very dazzling." (page 43)

I am embarrassed to say that I have STILL not tried to embroider anything. I'm almost more intimidated than less after reading this book. The workmanship from the 18th century is so exquisite that I just know I'll never measure up.

Nevertheless, this book is a useful resource for anyone interested in historical fashion, costume design, and of course, embroidery.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Hats and Inspiration

People often ask me how I get inspiration for my artwork. My answer is that I don't really know when or how inspiration will come, but the key is to be open to the world around me.

For example, while researching the newly opened exhibition of hats at the Victoria and Albert Museum curated by Stephen Jones, I noticed this instruction sheet on the V&A website. Artist Nick Robinson lays out visuals on how to make an origami hat.

I gave it a try, first with a regular piece of paper, and then using smaller pieces of paper. After a few attempts, it started to be fun. By that point, I was confident enough in the method that I could modify his instructions to suit my vision. I used pretty Japanese handmade washi paper and applied ribbon trims. In the end, I abandoned the origami method altogether and tried a pillbox style. And this was the result. These paper hats are very tiny (the pink one is maybe an inch tall).

A trio of Party Hats
Mixed media, copyright Ingrid Mida 2009

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The Hat

This is the hat that I referred to in my post on hats on Monday. Isn't it fabulous? If only I could actually wear it! But even in the few minutes that I had it on to take my photo, I ended up with hat head.

Apparently the opening night gala for the Victoria and Albert Museum's exhibition Hats: An Anthology by Stephen Jones was the talk of today's fashion press. Almost everyone wore hats and those that did not, probably regretted it like Vogue's Plum Sykes (maybe she didn't want to get hat head!). To see a slideshow of the gala evening, check out on NY Mag's Fashion Alert.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Marie Antoinette's Dress goes to Versailles

Today I popped into the Royal Ontario Museum to see what's new in the Patricia Harris Costume and Textile Gallery. Sadly, the answer is NOTHING. They have removed Marie Antoinette's dress but left the cabinet empty.

Although there was no information in the gallery what was to come next or what happened to MA's dress, I happen to know for a fact that Marie Antoinette's dress is en-route to Versailles. It will be displayed in their upcoming exhibition called Fastes de la Cour et Ceremonies Royal or "Court Pomp and Royal Ceremony" which opens on March 31 and closes on June 28, 2009.

I will be in Versailles in May and look forward to seeing this lovely gown again. I'm fairly certain that it will look more beautiful at Versailles.

If you would like to read more about this dress, specifically its history and attribution, please see my postings from October and November 2008.

Court Pomp and Royal Ceremony, Chateau Versailles, France
March 31 - June 28, 2009

Monday, February 23, 2009

Hats: An Anthology by Stephen Jones

One of my favourite fashion haunts is the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, England. Their exhibitions are divinely inspired and innovative. Their latest exhibition Hats: An Anthology by Stephen Jones opens tomorrow (February 24, 2009 - May 31, 2009). Stephen Jones is a top-notch London milliner who has designed hats for people such as Princess Diana and Isabella Blow. He often works in collaboration with fashion designers like John Galliano and Marc Jacobs.

In this exhibition at the V&A, Jones has curated this exhibition of over 300 hats for their cultural and historical importance. "Historic hats redolent of romance and adventure are a constant source of inspiration for many milliners. Simple folded shapes such as the tricore can be reimagined, evoking the drama of a bygone age."

I won't be able to make it over to see the V&A in person for this show but I was thrilled that I could actually view many of the hats on-line. There is also a mesmerizing video of how a hat is created. Making a hat is a labour of love to be sure! And if you'd like to see Stephen Jones talk about his life and his work, check out the youtube video.

Seeing this exhibition online reminded me of a glorious hat that I bought a few years back and have tucked in the back of my closet. I've never had the nerve to wear it but the quote from French fashion editor Genevieve Dariaux seems appropo: "take the one you fall in love with, which mysteriously does something for you, which magically makes you feel more beautiful." I felt beautiful and mysterious when I tried on this hat in the shop. Maybe it is time to actually wear it!

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Marie Antoinette's Apple Green Bodice

Elisabeth at kindly provided me with this image of the apple-green bodice that I referred to in my earlier post. It is located at the Musee Galleria musee de la mode de la Ville de Paris.

The bodice does not appear to have any padding. I guess I was wrong. But I will make a point of going to the Museum of Fashion in May when I visit Paris to take a closer look (if it is on display at that time)!

Revisiting Marie Antoinette's Corset Rebellion

French iron corset, 1580-1600, collection of the Kyoto Costume Institute

When Marie Antoinette first arrived in the court of France, she was expected to wear the tightly laced grand corps. Not only was this corset very stiff and uncomfortable, it often "severely restricted its wearer's movements, especially around the arms" according to the Marquise de La Tour du Pin. Others reported side effects like "heart palpitations, asthma, vapors, and stinking breath".

With the oppressive heat of her first summer in France, Marie Antoinette abandoned her corset and went without. She was thin enough to do so but it caused outrage amongst the courtiers. This juicy gossip of MA's corset rebellion quickly circulated through the courts of Europe. It was said that: "Marie Antoinette's waist was growing misshapen, and her right shoulder out of kilter" (Comtesse de Noailles) and "one of the future queen's shoulder blades was more protruding than the other" (quote not attributed). (Source: "Queen of Fashion" by Caroline Weber, page 69).

I couldn't help but wonder whether Marie Antoinette may have had scoliosis, a curvature of the spine. With this condition, it is common for one shoulder to protrude or sit higher than the other. (I was diagnosed with scoliosis when I was 13 and it was my uneven shoulders that was the first hint of a problem. I had to wear a steel corset not nearly as beautiful as the iron one shown above. I'm pretty sure that is why I have an obsession with corsets in my artwork and writing).

I suppose there will never be a definitive answer to this question since so few MA garments survived the scourge of the French revolution. But there was an apple-green bodice belonging to Marie Antoinette that still exists somewhere.

"An English lord touring Marie Antoinette's apartments after she and her family had been sent to jail asked to examine a bodice of hers that revolutionary loots had left lying on the floor. He explained to his puzzled French companions that he had long ago heard tales of the young woman's misshapen right shoulder--attributable to her avoidance of the grand corps--and was curious to see whether her bodice was padded to disguise the deficiency". (Source: Queen of Fashion by Caroline Weber, page 69). Weber does not reveal whether or not her apple green bodice was padded or not.

I'll have to do more research to find out. If anyone knows where this bodice is, please let me know. The credit that accompanies the photo of this apple green bodice in Weber's book reports the photo is from the NY Public Library but obviously they don't own the garment itself.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Grande robe a la francaise

A little gift for all my new blogging friends...another fashion plate.

Fashion Plate #51 (partial image), copyright Ingrid Mida 2009 12x12, Mixed Media

In the second and third quarters of the 18th century, woman's court fashion was characterized by huge skirt with paniers and high coiffures. The robe a la francaise consisted of a tight fitting bodice with a stomacher, exaggerated skirt puffed out by paniers, and a sack back (two large double pleats which hung freely at the back from shoulders to hem).

While one often sees images of Marie Antoinette dressed in this manner, she, in fact disliked the discomfort of wearing a grand corps. The corsets of the French court were much stiffer than those worn in Austria and she decided to stage her own form of corset rebellion (please refer to my posting of October 13, 2008 if you'd like to read more on that).

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Lies We Tell Our Mothers....

Official Portrait of Marie Antoinette by Gautier d'Agoty (1775)

Marie Antoinette often ignored her mother's written admonitions about her dress and hair at the French court. (Who can blame Marie Antoinette given that her mother used her as a political pawn in the chessboard of Europe?) However, in two letters, she attempts to answer her mother's criticisms.

Marie Antoinette to Maria Theresa
Versailles, 17 March 1775

"It is true that I take some care of the way I dress; and, as for feathers, everyone wears them, and it would seem extraordinary not to wear them. Their height has been much curtailed since the end of the balls..."
(page 160)

Marie Antoinette to Maria Theresa
Marly, 13 June 1776

"I wasn't able to have the drawings of the coiffures before the courier left; my dear Mama must have received them through the baron de Breteuil's courier. Coiffures for women of a certain age are like all other articles of clothing and adornment, except for rouge, which old women still wear here and often more than the young ones. For the rest, after forty-five, they wear softer, less noticeable colors, the dresses are less closely fitting and heavier, the hair is less curled, and the coiffures are less high."
(page 192)

Source: Secrets of Marie Antoinette by Olivier Bernier, Doubleday & Company, NY 1985

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Marie Antoinette's Mother Warned her about Extremes in Fashion

In at least three separate letters, the Empress Maria Theresa reprimanded her daughter Marie Antoinette for her extravagant and extreme sartorial selections.

Maria Theresa to Marie Antoinette
Vienna 5 March 1775
"In the same way I can't prevent myself raising a point which many gazettes repeat all too often: it is the coiffure you use; they say that from the forehead up it is thirty-six inches high, and with so many feathers and ribbons to adorn it! You know that I always have thought that fashion should be followed moderately, without ever exaggerating them. A young and pretty Queen, who is full of attractions, doesn't need all these follies; on the contrary, the simplicity of your adornment will show you off better and is more suitable to the rank of a Queen." (page 159)

Maria Theresa to Marie Antoinette
Vienna 30 May 1776

"Madame my dear daughter, ....You have forgotten the drawings showing how you dress; we are being shown outfits so exaggerated that I cannot believe that the Queen, my daughter, should wear the like. Please also add how women of a certain age are arranged; it is not that I want to be critical, but I cannot believe that reasonable people dress as we are told over here, and I want to defend the French nation and only attribute these childish displays to the young, with whom one must be indulgent." (page 190)

Maria Theresa to Marie Antoinette
Schonbrunn, 30 June 1776

"Madame my dear daughter....I am delighted that you go on with your reading and your music; they are necessary resources, especially so for you. I must say that the drawings of the French outfits are very extraordinary; I can't believe that they are actually worn, and even less at Court." (page 194)

Source: Secrets of Marie Antoinette, by Olivier Bernier, Doubleday & Co, 1985

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Art for Bibliophiles at Diaz Contemporary Gallery

Bibliophile (noun) - one who loves or collects books.

I am, without at doubt, a bibliophile. I simply adore books and have stacks of them in my studio, in my office, and beside my bed. I also admire and collect art that celebrates books. There are three days left to see a divine show celebrating the art of books and text at Diaz Contemporary Gallery in Toronto.

Joyful Praise by Deanna Brown
Digital Inkjet Photograph at Diaz Contemporary Gallery

Treasury of Song by Deanna Brown
Digital Inkjet Photograph at Diaz Contemporary Gallery

The photos shown above are the work of a young artist by the name of Deanna Bowen, who recently graduated with her MFA from University of Toronto. In this hymnal series, she took large-format digital ink jet photographs which depict the covers of twentieth-century hymn books from south-west USA and western Canada. The titles of these hymn books such as "Joyful Praise" and "Treasury of Song" seem to offer hope and salvation. In her artist statement, Brown makes use of text "by presenting a glimpse of it, but rendering it inaccessible to the viewer".

I was immediately smitten with this peaceful and powerful work. I even considered purchasing one (very reasonable at $1500 each), but in the end was not comfortable with the religious element in my home. Nevertheless, I have to say I admire Ms. Brown's beautiful work and encourage other bibliophiles to make a trip to the gallery before the show closes on February 14, 2009.

Also worthy of note were Ricardo Cuevas work - title pages of imaginary books. Now why didn't I think of that!

Diaz Contemporary Gallery
100 Niagara Street (at Tecumseth)
Toronto, Ontario
M5V 1C5

Marie Antoinette's Schedule in 1770

Extract of Letter from Marie Antoinette to Maria Theresa
Choisy, 12 July 1770

"Your Majesty is kind enough to take an interest in me and you even want to know how I spend my days. I will tell you, therefore, that I get up at ten, or at nine, or at nine-thirty, and that, having been dressed, I say my morning prayers; then I breakfast and then go to my aunts, where I usually find the King. That goes on until ten-thirty; after that, at eleven, I go to have my hair dressed.

At twelve they call in the chamber, and then anyone can come in as long as they belong to the Court. I put on my rouge and wash my hands in front of everyone; then the men leave and the ladies stay and I dress in front of them. At noon, we have Mass. If the King is at Versailles, I accompany him, my husband, and my aunts to the Mass; if he's away, I go along with M. le Dauphin, but always at the same time. After Mass we have dinner together in public, but it is over by one-thirty because we both eat very quickly.

From there I go to M. le Dauphin's apartment and, if he's busy, I come back to mine, I read, write, or work since I am embroidering a waistcoat for the King which hasn't progressed much, but I hope that with God's grace, it will be finished in a few years. At three I go back to my aunts', whom the King visits at that time; at four the abbe comes to see me, at five, everyday, I have a singing or harpsichord teacher until six.

At six-thirty, I almost always go to my aunts' when I do not go for a walk; you must know that my husband almost always accompanies me to my aunts'. At seven we sit down to cards until nine, but when the weather is nice, I go for a walk, and then the card playing takes place not in my apartment but in my aunts'. At nine we have supper, and when the King is away, my aunts come and have supper with us, but when the King is there, we go to their apartments after supper and wait for him; he usually comes at ten forty-five, but, while waiting for him, I lie down on a large sofa and sleep until he arrives; if he's away, we go to bed by eleven. That is out whole day. As for what we do on Sundays and holidays, I will keep it for another time."

Source: "Secrets of Marie Antoinette" by Olivier Bernier, published by Doubleday (New York, 1985) pages 40-41

Marie Antoinette's Daily Schedule In Summary:

9-1030 am Wakeup, get dressed in an informal gown, say morning prayers, eat light breakfast, and go to aunts room

11 am Have hair dressed
1130 am Toilette in presence of the court

12 noon Mass

1230-130 Dinner with M. Le Dauphin in public
130-3 pm Embroidery, reading, writing

3 pm Visit with aunts, where the King visits
4 pm Visit with abbe de Vermond
5 pm Music lesson with vocal or harpsichord teacher

630 pm Walk or visit with aunts
7 pm Card playing
9 pm Supper
11 pm To bed

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Secrets of Marie Antoinette

Title: Secrets of Marie Antoinette
Author: Olivier Bernier
Publisher: Doubleday & Company Inc., New York, 1985
Category: Non-fiction, history
Price: Currently out of print
Number of Pages: 326

What it is about:
Bernier presents the translated letters of Marie Antoinette to her mother Marie Theresa, Empress of Austria, covering the period 21 April 1770 to 3 November 1780. Also included are some letters from the Austrian Ambassador, Florimond, comte de Mercy-Argenteau (often called Mercy) and some correspondence from Marie Antoinette's brother the Emperor Joseph II.

The book relies on three sources:
1. The correspondence between Maria Theresa and Marie Antoinette preserved in the Staatsarchiv, Venia (published in its entirety by George Girard, Correspondance entre Marie Therese et Marie Antoinette, Paris 1933).
2. The reports of Mercy, published by Arneth et Geffroy, Correspondance secrete entre Marie Therese et le comte de Mecry-Argenteau, Paris, 1874.
3. The letters written by the Emperor Joseph II to his brother Leopold, Grand Duke of Tuscany during his visit to Versailles in 1777 from the collection at Staatsarchiv, Vienna.

Why I Chose this book:
All of the books I have read so far are other people's research and analysis of the life of Marie Antoinette. I thought it would be fascinating to read Marie Antoinette's own words in her correspondence with her mother. It is amazing what you can find in your local public library!

Favourite Passage:
Extract from a letter from Marie Theresa to Marie Antoinette, 5 March 17775

"I can't prevent myself raising a point which many gazettes repeat all too often: it is the coiffure you use; they say that from the forehead up it is thirty-six inches high, and with so many feathers and ribbons to adorn it! You know that I always have thought that fashion should be followed moderately, without ever exaggerating them. A young and pretty Queen, who is full of attractions, doesn't need all these follies; on the contrary, the simplicity of your adornment will show you off better and is more suitable to the rank of a Queen...." (page 159)

Rating: A

How rare it is to read direct quotes (albeit translated quotes) from Marie Antoinette's correspondence with her mother. Usually by the time the "facts" are presented in a more current book, they have been distilled down to something else altogether.

It is plain that Marie Theresa was aware of the mistakes in judgment that Marie Antoinette was making in the French court, and yet in spite of her many protestations, her warnings were insufficient to change the course of history. Time and time again she was almost psychic in her predictions of doom for her youngest daughter and yet her warnings went unheeded. This book is fascinating reading if you can find it!

I will be posting extracts of this book on my fashion blog Fashion is My Muse in the coming days.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Revolutionary Fashion

Hussein Chalayan, Airmail Dress, 1999 Private Collection
From the Paper Dress Exhibition next at MOMU in Anvers (March 12 - August 16, 2009)

Yesterday as I rewrote my artist statement on my website, I was trying to figure out why I am intrigued by fashions as disparate as 18th century French gowns and 1960 paper dresses. It struck me that both were revolutionary fashions in that they mirrored times of political and social upheaval.

The paper dress phenomena of the 1960s could be considered as revolutionary a fashion step as the adoption of the muslin chemise by Marie Antoinette in 1780. They are both:
* semi-transparent
* slipped on over the head
* lightweight
* easily torn

But more importantly, these garments are representative of a huge shift in how women perceived themselves.

In the 1770s, there was literally a transformation in silhouette. The bejewelled and decorated court gown with paniers and stays gave way (over time) to the more natural shape of the soft unstructured muslin chemise. The powdered hair and rouged face was replaced by loose unpowdered hair and a natural visage. These changes in dress mirrored the growing unrest in the populace against the ancien regime, the American revolution, and the proposed ideal of a natural existence as proposed by such philosophers as Jean-Jacques Rousseau.

In the 1960s, there was a transformation of women from a highly structured girdled attire (think of the Dior look) to the more shapeless A-line shift in the form of a paper dress. This evolution in style coincided with the sexual revolution and the entry of women into the workforce.

"Souper Dress" Paper Dress (1966)
photo from The Collection of the Kyoto Costume Institute

Perhaps this is a simplistic analogy but I do find the comparison provocative.

To my 18th century fashion fans, forgive my parlay into contemporary fashions. I promise to get back to historical fashion very soon and am reading three books simultaneously to deliver more material (Madam Campan's Memoirs, The Art of Dress - Fashion in England and France 1750-1820, and Secrets of Marie Antoinette).

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Paper Dresses

Paper dresses were a huge phenomena in the mid 1960s. Initially created in 1966 by the Scott Paper Company as a marketing gimmick to promote a new type of paper, they were an instant hit.

In this era of political and social upheaval, dress codes were turned on their heads. Released from the narrow constricts of what was considered acceptable attire, women quickly adopted the freedom of these cheap and sexy paper dresses.

Other companies began to advertise their products on paper dresses and dresses sported a wide variety of patterns and images including products (like cookies, candy, soap and the Yellow Pages), political messages (Nixon, Kennedy, McCarthy and Trudeau), film and magazine promotion (Universal Studios, Time Magazine), and artistic expression (Andy Warhol, James Rausenquist). Often these dresses were free or cost no more than $1.

In the era of throwaway living, these dresses were designed only to be worn once or twice and that was a big part of their appeal. Apparently you could even chose a dress to match the cups, serviettes and tablecloths for your party. After the party was over, you could just rip off your dress and throw it in the bin along with the deleterious of the night.

Paper dresses on display at the Victoria and Albert Museum
Photo by Ingrid Mida, 2008

As the textile industry began to develop cheaper fabrics for ready-to-wear clothing, the appeal of the paper dress began to lose popularity.

There was an exhibition of paper dresses on display at The Grand Duke Jean Museum of Modern Art (MUDAM) in Luxembourg which closed this past week. The show called "RRRIPP!!! Paper Fashion" included many sixties paper dresses as well as paper fashion from contemporary fashion designers such as Hussein Chalayan's 1999 Airmail dresses (dresses made of notepaper which could be written on and then folded and sent by mail).

Currently in transit, the show will move into the Fashion Museum in Antwerp (MOMU) from March 12-August 16, 2009. The last stop will be the Design Museum in London late 2009 to early 2010.

I read an article about the show in a European art/fashion mag called nico:interviews and fashion. The interview of the show's curator Vassilis Zidianakis was written by Celine Coubray in French.

I wish I could travel to see this show. I've been making miniature paper dresses and corsets for almost two years as part of my artistic practice. To me working in paper encapsulates the inherent fragility of fashion and creating these miniature works translates them into precious objects of art. Unfortunately, I was not one of the artists asked to create or submit a work of art for this show, but it does reiterate that I am on the right track.

Suzy Q, Paper Dress and Accessories, Mixed Media (framed in a shadow box 12x12)
Copyright Ingrid Mida 2008

Friday, February 6, 2009

Red is Best! But Blue is Good Too!

Valentino Retrospective, copyright Ingrid Mida (2007)

I love red! It is a powerful and provocative colour, evoking confidence. Red is also the colour of passion and life. Wear a red dress and you will be noticed in a sea of black!

Red is a lucky colour for Chinese brides and believe it or not, red was a popular choice for European brides until the 19th century. In Russian, the word "krasnoi" means both "red" and beautiful". What a lovely way to sum up the power of red!

Yesterday new research from the University of British Columbia concluded that the colour red can boost the brain's attention to detail. As well, they found that the colour blue boosts creativity. These results were based on six studies conducted on 600 undergraduate students at UBC.

On one of those tests, students were presented with either a red or blue background on their computer screen. Those with the red background were able to more accurately recall a list of items compared to those with a blue background.

On another test of creativity involving red or blue toy parts shown on a piece of paper, those with the blue toy illustrations were able to create more creative toys.

The research coordinators, Dr. Juliet Zhu and colleague Favi Mehta, believe that the effects of blue and red are "learned associations" and may vary across cultures.

Red is typically associated with danger, and "if you're trying to avoid something, you're likely to be more vigilant and careful, so you're more mindful when you do the task that requires attention to detail" says Dr. Zhu.

The colour blue is often associated with the expansive blue sky and oceans, which may be the key to creative thinking. Dr. Zhu explains that "these things are open, free and peaceful".

While this study goes on to link potential impacts on marketing and product design, to me it reiterates what I've instinctively known. Red is best when you want to draw attention to yourself, creating the impression of power and confidence. Blue is best when you want to convey a more calm and peaceful demeanor.

And the next time I have a creative slump, I'm going to change my computer background to blue!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Noeuds d'amour

Noeuds d'amour (Fashion Plate #39) by Ingrid Mida
Mixed media, 8x10

Noeuds d'amour are the "love knots" or bows that decorate gowns. I thought it would make an appropriate title for this little mixed media work.

I will get back to writing about Rose Bertin at some point but am at the moment consumed by a blog and a book called "Petite Anglaise" by Catherine Sanderson.

Monday, February 2, 2009

French Fashion Plate Series continued

I should probably write a book about Rose Bertin because I still have so much more to write about her. But today I thought I'd treat my blogging fans to one of my latest creations avec toile.

French Fashion Plate #38
Mixed Media, 9x12 copyright Ingrid Mida, 2009

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Rose Bertin, Minister of Trinkets

At the zenith of her success as a marchand de modes, Rose Bertin worked with over 120 different suppliers, including hat makers, hosiers, lace makers, silk mercers, linen suppliers, cord makers, ribbon weavers, flower makers, feather sellers, jewelers, glove makers, furriers, button makers, fan makers, dressmakers, and embroiders. She was at the centre of the Parisian fashion trade.

However, Rose Bertin's close association with Marie Antoinette, her international success as a marchand de modes, and her status as a high profile, unmarried woman sparked considerable resentment along gender and class lines.

To make things worse, Bertin was arrogant and did not hide her feelings of superiority. Even though she was the daughter of a provincial gendarme from Abbeville, she felt her creative genius alone justified her attitude. She did not hesitate to dismiss a potential client's order if she did not feel them worthy of notice, and once refused to serve "the wife of a mere prosecutor from Bordeaux". Bertin's haughty attitude and disrespect led the Baronne d'Oberkirch from Alsace to describe Bertin as "puffed up with self-importance, behaving as if princesses were her equals."

By the 1780s, pamphlets appeared in the press describing Bertin as Marie Antoinette's Minister of Fashion and Minister of Trinkets. And not long after the Queen had pledged personal sacrifice (declaring that the nation needed new warships more than she needed new diamond jewelry), she appeared in public with her flashiest and most extravagant pouf designed by Bertin to date - a tall ship in her hair in homage to the French naval victory against the British in 1778. This sparked further public outrage.

To be continued