Friday, April 29, 2011

Make it McQueen Times Two

The Duchess of Cambridge and The Duchess of Cornwall before the Wedding Supper

One McQueen was not enough. The Duchess of Cambridge chose to change into another exquisite McQueen gown for the wedding supper. With her hair down, a jewel encrusted belt and an angora bolero sweater, she looks like a happy bride ready to party.
While neither gown really looks like the avant-garde stuff of a McQueen runway show, no doubt both gowns have the details of workmanship and tailoring that define the McQueen label.
Sarah Burton must be ready to collapse with exhaustion. She only has a few days to recover before the Costume Institute gala and the official opening of the McQueen exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art  on Wednesday. The Met blog is up and running if you want a sneak peak before my review. Check it out here.

Make it McQueen

Sarah Burton adjusting the dress

It was elegant, it was tasteful and it was McQueen.

According to the official press release, "Miss Middleton chose British brand Alexander McQueen for the beauty of its craftsmanship and its respect for traditional workmanship and the technical construction of clothing.  Miss Middleton wished for her dress to combine tradition and modernity with the artistic vision that characterises Alexander McQueen’s work.  Miss Middleton worked closely with Sarah Burton in formulating the design of her dress."

The happy couple
I have to applaud Miss Catherine Middleton,  not only for her choice of gown but also for her incredible grace, poise and elegance. While she seemed to be channeling Grace Kelly, she clearly is a modern woman who knows her mind and I look forward to watching her bring a fresh sensibility to the royal family.

The royal bride's choice of McQueen sets the stage for next week's upcoming McQueen retrospective at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. I'll be attending the press preview of Savage Beauty on Monday morning and filing my review for Fashion Projects soon thereafter. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Drawing Lab

Given that I've spent many, many hours in figure drawing classes, it might seem odd that I am even reading a book called Drawing Lab for Mixed-Media Artists. I know how to draw but I feel like I needed something to help get me back to the drawing board after the many months I've spent  doing research. Plus it feels like time to infuse some whimsy into my work. The charming cover of this book by Carla Sonheim was enough to sell me on it.

The aim of Drawing Lab is to make drawing fun. Divided into a series of 52 creative exercises, the book relieves the pressure of how to get started and what to draw. Although it is divided into thematic sections of inspiration (animals, people, nature, imagination etcetera), you can start anywhere in the book and find your fearless and creative inner child again.  Charming quotes in each section are gentle reminders to have fun, such as this quote by Carl Jung on page 82: "What did you do as a child that made the hours pass like minutes? Here is the key to your earthly pursuits."

Carla Sonheim, the author of Drawing Lab, is a painter, illustrator and workshop facilitator. Check out her lovely blog here. She writes with a clarity that any author would admire and adds an array of examples to each page. In fact, the book is so thoughtfully designed that it would work for almost any age group.

One exercise that I found surprisingly freeing was drawing with my wrong hand (my left hand). After a couple tries at that, I also drew this portrait in pencil with my wrong hand using a single unbroken line. Like Carla says "It's a paradox: when you have complete freedom, you often "freeze up" and do nothing." I was so sure it would just go straight into the bin but there is something that appeals to me about this not-so-perfect portrait - even though the eyes are a bit wonky and the proportions are slightly off. It didn't scan very well but it was fun!

Wrong-hand, continuous line portrait exercise by Ingrid Mida

Title: Drawing Lab for Mixed Media Artists
Author: Carla Sonheim
Publisher: Quarry Books, USA 2010
Category: Non-fiction, art
Number of Pages: 144

Monday, April 25, 2011

Eye Candy at the Opera: Opera Atelier's La Clemenza di Tito

Photo: Bruce Zinger / Artists: Michael Maniaci as Sesto; Curtis Sullivan as Publio; Kresimir Spicer as Emperor Tito; Measha Brueggergosman as Vitellia; Mireille Lebel as Annio and Mireille Asselin as Servillia along with Artists of Atelier Ballet
As a visual artist, I drink with my eyes so to speak. There have been times when I've attended an opera  and had to close my eyes because of the discontinuity between what I see on stage and what I'm listening to. But my eyes were wide open at Friday's opening night performance of Opera Atelier's La Clemenza di Tito and rarely have I enjoyed an opera so completely.

Designer Gerard Gauci created exquisite backdrops that created grand illusions of Imperial Rome in 79 AD as it might have been imagined by artists in Mozart's time. His beautiful costumes also bridged the two periods with a harmonious colour palette and silhouettes evocative of the 18th century. I was especially captivated by Measha Brueggergosman's black gown trimmed with a jaunty striped bow. The gown was lined in red, perhaps referencing her blood-thirsty quest for revenge. She also carried a lace shawl that appeared to be attached to a ring and which magnified every hand gesture. (I think I need one of those!) 

With Opera Atelier's strong cast of talented vocalists, I didn't need to read the subtitles to follow this complicated tale of revenge and redemption. With spectacular voices, each cast member conveyed the emotion of their character with both grace and vigor. But what was a particular treat was to hear the male soprano Michael Maniaci sing the role of Sesto.  I had never heard a man sing in this range and it was a rare gift.

There are four performances left at the Elgin Theatre on April 26, 27 and 30 and May 1, 2011. For more information, visit the Opera Atelier website.

P.S. Although I was invited to attend as media, I bought my own tickets just in case I did not want to write about it. But this production was so extraordinary that I just could not keep it to myself.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Bill Cunningham New York

"The best fashion show is on the street" said Bill Cunningham. This charming 82 year old photographer is the original Sartorialist, capturing New York street style and society parties for the New York Times. His  two weekly columns called "On the Street" and "Evening Hours" have been fixtures in the Sunday paper for nearly 50 years.

Originally opening in New York on March 16, this documentary by Richard Press and Philip Gefter  finally arrived in Toronto and I attended the pre-screening last night at the Varsity Theatre as a guest of Fashion Television.

The movie celebrates Bill Cunningham's work as a "fashion anthropologist". Not interested in celebrities, Bill uses his Nikon camera and Kodak film to document what people are wearing on the street. Out in all types of weather, he says "I let the street speak to me". Stalking his fashionable prey like a hunter, he wears the uniform of a French garbageman and rides his Schwinn bicycle around the city looking for creative dressers to photograph. Many of his photographs have never been published and he keeps the archives of his negatives in rows of filing cabinets that dominate his apartment.

It is clear that this man loves his work. Living a monastic existence in a tiny studio apartment with a shared bathroom, he works day and night. His bicycle is his main mode of transport even at night when he attends an array of gala benefits where he photographs pretty party-goers and philanthropists. Seeming at ease with everyone, he refuses to accept even a glass of water at any of the events he attends,  fearing that to do so might compromise his independence.

"We all get dressed for Bill" said Anna Wintour who went on to add that it was a bad day when Bill declined to photograph her. Interviews with other style makers like Harold Koda, Patrick Macdonald, and Iris Apfel  give evidence to how much this man is loved. In 2008, Bill Cunningham was awarded the title chevalier de l'ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French Ministry of Culture which was pinned onto his blue garbageman smock. He also worked the event saying it was "too much fun not to".

I sat through the movie with a big smile on my face and laughed out loud at Cunningham's sharp wit and fierce sense of independence. Although there are some awkward moments in the movie, like when Bill is asked about his religion and relationships, the movie paints a colourful picture of a man that has been a fixture on the New York fashion scene for decades. Plus I couldn't help but admire someone who says "If you don't take money, they can't tell you what to do".

Monday, April 18, 2011

Apollo's Angels: A History of Ballet

The New York Times proclaimed Apollo's Angels by Jennifer Homans to be one of the ten best books of 2010 and some have described it as the definitive work on the history of ballet. I'm only four chapters in and I'm utterly enchanted. This book was clearly a labour of love for the author who was once a professional dancer with the American Ballet Theatre.

Tracing ballet to its roots in the as the dance of kings and courtiers in the 16th century, Homans follows the development of ballet over the centuries into its current form. Although the book is dense and requires careful reading, true lovers of ballet won't mind devoting time to this exquisite work.

Every chapter provides evidence of the author's painstaking research over ten years.  One example of her attention to detail is evident in this passage about Marie Antoinette:

"In these painterly tableaux the dancers often froze in a snapshot image before moving on, and Noverre even thought to introduce pauses into his ballets to focus attention on "all the details" of these "pictures". 
It was not an original idea: tableaux figured prominently in Diderot's ideas for a new dramatic theater, and Parisian lawyers had also taken to using dramatic poses and tableaux as rhetorical tools to strengthen the presentation of an argument. Nor did the persuasive power of these techniques go unnoticed in high circles: when the dauphin married Marie Antoinette in 1770, the celebrations featured set pieces in which actors froze in prearranged painterly scenes, each marking an important symbolic moment in the festivities. Fashion followed suit, and staging "live paintings" became a popular salon activity in the late eighteenth century from Paris to Naples, especially for women." (page 75)

This book is an important work that defines the cultural history of dance and is an absolute must read for true balletomanes.

Title: Apollo's Angels, A History of Ballet
Author: Jennifer Homans
Publisher: Random House, New York
Category: Non-fiction, history, ballet
Number of pages: 643

Sunday, April 17, 2011

The Goddess of Fashion

There is a fickle, teasing Goddess
Fantastic in her tastes, playful in adornment,
Who at every season seems to flee, return and rise again.
Proteus was her father, her name was Fashion

The Goddess of Fashion, Fashion Magazine Sculpture by Ingrid Mida 2010

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Roaring Twenties at the Bata Shoe Museum

Between sips of cocktails and entertainment by jazz legend Liberty Silver, everyone was talking about heels, hemlines and high spirits last night at the Bata Shoe Museum in Toronto. It was the opening night party for The Roaring Twenties exhibition curated by Elizabeth Semmelhack.

Beaded 1920s dresses at the Bata Shoe Museum
Photo by Ingrid Mida 2011
The 1920s was a period of post-war exuberance and women stepped away from their domestic duties and into the public sphere. These social changes were mirrored by a revolution in fashion. Not only did women forgo their corsets, they cut their hair, raised their hemlines, and began playing sports, driving cars, and kicking up their heels while they danced. In fact, the T-strap shoe was designed to keep women's shoes on their feet while doing the Charleston!

Now on display at the Bata Shoe Museum are a gorgeous selection of beautiful 1920s women's shoes along with film clips and a selection of dresses and accessories. Seeing these shoes made me want to dance!

1920s Shoes at the Bata Shoe Museum
Photo by Ingrid Mida 2011
Without exception, all the 1920s shoes on display are beautiful and wearable. I had to wonder why I cannot find shoes like this today instead of only ankle-breaker heels or paper thin flats. I'm hoping that a few shoe designers might just make their way into this tightly edited show and give us a pretty shoe that we can actually dance in!

Boshevik Revolution Inspired 1920s shoes at the Bata Shoe Museum
Photo by Ingrid Mida 2011

Menswear inspired oxford style 1920s shoes at the Bata Shoe Museum
Photo by Ingrid Mida 2011

Monday, April 11, 2011

Interview with Canadian Fashion Designer Angela Chen

Angela Chen F/W 2011
Photo by George Pimmentel
When I saw Canadian fashion designer's Angela Chen's Fall-Winter 2011 presentation at LG Fashion Week, I was struck by her bold combination of chunky knitwear with delicate fabrics like tulle. It was paradoxically cozy and delicate at the same time and reminded me of ballerina dancers in rehearsal with their sweaters and knitwear piled on for warmth. It was this successful pairing of hard and soft elements that led me to seek out an interview with Angela.

Ingrid: It seems to me that you took bigger risks with this collection in moving beyond classical elements into more daring and bolder design work. Would that be an accurate assessment?
Angela: Yes. This season I was really inspired by contemporary artist Jonathan Lasker and his brushstroke technique. Jonathan likes to play with form and this influenced my decision to knit.  With knits I can incorporate both thick and thin yarns to create unique shapes that are heavily texturized. My collection captures bright white against black to achieve a bold contrast similar to Jonathan’s use of pop colours against neutral backdrops. I love his artistic technique and his ability to use erratic brush strokes to play with shape. I drew on his use of repetition and freehanded lines when I knit my Fall collection. This season my collection is titled Sleep & Poetry, which is also a partial title of a Lasker book of drawings and poems, and a poem by John Keats.

Ingrid: Almost all the pieces in this collection seem to have a knitwear element. Was this a conscious decision to move to focus your strengths and something that you enjoy?
Angela: Knitting has become one of my signature styles. I love the art of knitting because it allows me to manipulate yarn so I can play with different silhouettes, create repetition and weave abstract lines, similar to what Jonathan is able to accomplish with his sporadic brushstrokes and use of abstract forms in his artwork. 
Angela Chen FW Collection 2011
Photo by George Pimmentel

Ingrid: How did you begin your design process for this particular collection? Did you sketch it out first or just pick up the knitting needles?

Angela: I knew that I wanted to incorporate a lot of knits into my FW2011 collection. I sketched dozens of knitwear ideas down on paper before I picked up the knitting needles. When it came time to pick up the knitting needles I didn’t put them down until right before the show!  

Ingrid: I was particularly drawn to your tulle skirts. Is this the first time you've worked with tulle?
Angela: This was my first time incorporating tulle tutus into a collection. I decided to use tulle because I enjoyed how the chunky knit mixed with the tulle to create a hard and soft contrast, similar to Jonathan’s paintings.  Tulle and yarn allowed me to create texturized layers and shapes, which is why I incorporated them both into my collection. Jonathan really inspired me to play with form and contrast. The wool yarn I used had hints of mohair in it, which is a light-weight yarn; my outfits had to appear big and chunky but be light enough to wear and I think incorporating the tulle skirts emphasizes the weightlessness of the collection. 

Ingrid: In our previous interview, you mentioned that you hand-knit all the chunky sweaters yourself. Was that also true this time? If so, how do you envision this going into production?
Angela: It’s true! All the knits in my FW2011 collection were hand-knit by me. For the production of my knitwear I contacted a fashion office in Hong Kong that connected me to a factory in Shenzhen that specializes in knits. While most of my production is based in Vancouver, Shenzhen handles my knitwear pieces. I believe that building connections overseas is the first step in establishing OR as a global brand. 

Angela Chen FW 2011
Photo by George Pimmentel
Ingrid: Almost all the pieces were in black and white, except perhaps for the tulle skirt and the purple bustier. Why weren't they also in black or white? (I loved them in gold but just found it interesting that they weren't black or white).
Angela: I choose gold because I wanted to incorporate a pop of colour within my collection. I was influenced by Jonathan’s use of bright colours against a neutral backdrop in his paintings. Also, it is important for me to create a collection that is timeless; I chose to incorporate gold within my colour palette because gold will never go out of style.  

Ingrid: Please update me on where you are selling your collection now.
Angela: I am currently in talks with some stores in Toronto which I am very excited about. I also have OR selling in British Columbia and in Taiwan. Online my line is available at Moxsie Online Boutique and Etsy

Ingrid: What's next?
Angela: I would like to open a flagship OR by Angela Chen store in countries all over the world, starting with Canada of course! 

Angela Chen at LG Fashion Week 2011
Photo by George Pimmentel
Photos provided courtesy of Angela Chen via lotus leaf communications

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Opera Atelier's Versailles Gala 2011

Opera Atelier Versailles Gala Fashion Show
Photo by Ingrid Mida 2011
I am a huge fan of Opera Atelier. Their productions of 18th century operas are unlike any other I've ever seen, combining the best of opera and ballet with costumes and sets that are both beautiful and true to the period.

This past week, Opera Atelier celebrated their 25th anniversary with a Versailles Gala. Having donated one of my photographs from my All is Vanity series in which I am wearing a gown from an Opera Atelier production of The Coronation of Poppea, I was thrilled to be part of this event. And what made it even more special for me was my seating placement beside Opera Atelier's ever-so-talented costume and set designer Gerard Gauci. (Gerard also happens to be an incredible artist who is known for his exquisitely beautiful oil paintings of rooms from great palaces and homes. He is represented by Leo Kamen Gallery and Galerie de Bellefeuille). 

As you might imagine, the event was an elegant affair from beginning to end. The evening began with a fashion show featuring some of the costumes from the Opera Atelier archive. With only a tiny point and shoot camera tucked into my evening bag, my photo taking ability was limited, but I think these out-takes convey the regal deportment of the dancers who were in the show.
Opera Atelier Versailles Gala Fashion Show
Photo by Ingrid Mida 2011
Another highlight was a performance by Canadian operatic superstar Measha Brueggergosman who sang a selection from her upcoming role in Opera Atelier's La Clemenza di Tito by Mozart. Although I was enchanted by her glorious voice, I have to say I also was impressed by her choice of gown. Brueggergosman wore this black ruched dress with aplomb, conveying the confidence of a woman that knows she is beautiful and talented.
Measha Brueggergosman at the Opera Atelier Versailles Gala
Photo by Ingrid Mida 2011
In case you are wondering what I wore to this event, I chose a black lace top and long black skirt with a train by Canadian designer David Finley. And no I don't have any photos of myself.

Opera Atelier's production of La Clemenza di Tito by Mozart begins on Friday, April 22 and runs through to May 1, 2011. Tickets can be purchased at Ticketmaster or at the Elgin Theatre box office.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

What Will She Wear?

Alexander McQueen by Sarah Burton, F/W 2011
THE question that is on everyone's lips is What will she wear? She refers,  of course, to the bride of the decade, Miss Catherine Middleton. Speculation is running high that this Cinderella fairy princess story will have the bride of Prince William walking down the aisle in a gown by Sarah Burton for Alexander McQueen. 

I'm not normally a gal that takes a bet, but given the queenly inspiration of the Fall/Winter 2011 McQueen show, it seems like a sure thing. And it would be a such a fitting tribute to the man, the label, Sarah Burton and British fashion. But I guess I'll have to wait until the morning of April 29th to find out if I'm right.
What will she wear?
Courtesy of the Fashion Museum in Bath, England
What will she wear? is also the title of an exhibition in celebration of wedding fashion at The Fashion Museum in Bath, England. Thirty exquisite white, cream, and ivory wedding dresses were selected from the museum's extensive collection are currently on display. Although many of the gowns are over 100 years old, there is a white lace wedding dress with an asymmetric hem by Alexander McQueen which was worn in Summer 2010.

Rosemary Harden, Manager of the Fashion Museum said "we are aiming to show the richness and variety of the white wedding dress down the ages, as well as the enduring romance of the traditional style." Also on display are a selection of framed sepia photographs of wedding couture dresses, which are part of a previously unseen archive by the Paris House of Worth.

What will she wear?
Courtesy of the Fashion Museum in Bath, England

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Cartes des Visite and Fashion History

White has been the choice of most brides since the time of Queen Victoria's wedding to Prince Albert in 1840. But surprisingly other colours such as black, blue or brown were also worn in the 19th century by brides who favoured a more practical choice of gown to be worn again. 

From the Halmrash studio, 529 Washington Avenue South, Minneapolis

In this particular photograph, the bride is wearing a dark gown, probably dark blue or black silk. Undated, it took a bit of sleuthing to date this photograph.  

In the Victorian era, collecting cartes de visite of friends, family and prominent persons was a popular pastime. These small  2⅛ × 3½ photographs were supplanted in the early 1870s by the larger sized "cabinet cards" which measured  4½ by 6½ inches. Cabinet cards remained popular into the early 20th century when Kodak introduced the Brownie camera. When I see a tray of cartes de visite or cabinet cards in an antique market, I am compelled to bring them home. Once I bought so many that the vendor asked me if I was buying a family. What I'm actually buying is a bit of fashion history. 

The bride is wearing a black, blue, or brown dress with long sleeves and a high collar with white piping detail and white buttons for the collar opening. The bodice is slim fitting and appears to be a type of corset overlay with two rows of white buttons. The skirt seems to be softly draped across the front and has a small ruffled hem. Her white veil is sheer and to the floor with flowers or other ornament as a type of tiara. 

How would a historian date this dress?

The image is a larger cabinet card for a starting point of at least 1870. But the absence of a bustle suggests that it must be later than 1880. And since the sleeves are not overly extreme in shape as was common in in the mid-1890s, I'm guessing that this dress would be dated somewhere between 1898-1903.

To check, I went to the Victoria and Albert Museum website which offers a treasure trove of information on historical dress and discovered that they have a database of wedding photos. There is a similar style of dress worn by Sarah Poortvliet in her marriage to Fobbe William Hoekstra dated February 14, 1901. How cool is that?

Saturday, April 2, 2011

What is in a Name?

It seemed like a cruel April Fool's joke when I woke up yesterday morning to discover that my name had been misspelled in The Toronto Star, one of Canada's largest daily newspapers. I had become Ingrid Mada within the body of the article and also under my photo credit. Although the online version was soon corrected, the print edition had the incorrect spelling and that is what my family saw.

It got me thinking about what is in a name, especially when our name is chosen for us. This topic also surfaced in the article "My name is Amen" from  The Globe and Mail.

As a girl, I remember wishing I was a Jennifer, Juliet or Elizabeth instead of being named after my mother's favourite actress, Ingrid Bergman. Of course when I was nicknamed Muffy in university, I was secretly thrilled. That worked for a time until I went into the workforce and now, I think Ingrid suits me quite well.

The second half of my name became an issue relatively recently. Even after getting married, I was fairly certain I had no reason to change my name but I got worn down by the confusion of having a different last name than my children. The compromise was the double whammy name of Masak Mida which worked for a time. But then September 11th happened and the rigor with which the passport office checked documents took on a new meaning. Even though I had cheques, credit cards and business cards with Masak Mida, the passport officer said that I had no proof that I had adopted that name in the community because my driver's license was Ingrid Masak. Guess who lost the argument?

From that point, every time I traveled I had to explain my identity especially when long-held air travel reservations had been made under the name of “Ingrid Masak Mida”.  Notarized documents were required when I traveled alone with the children proving that I was their mother and had permission to travel with them alone. My passport would be scrutinized closely and confusion followed me everywhere.  My husband would regularly ask “What is your name today?

The clincher was when I lost our passports in Paris several years ago and the nightmare of trying to travel home without any documents changed everything.  Proving who you are and why your children do not have the same last name with high school French in a police station is something that I never want to repeat.  Suffice to say, once I got home, I dealt with the name issue once and for all.  It seemed easier to just go with “Ingrid Mida” across the board.  I also thought it would make my website address shorter and people might actually know what to call me.

I've been Ingrid Mida for a few years now, and even though I inwardly cringe when I hear it pronouned Meeda instead of M-ii-da, I answer with a smile. But Ingrid Mada just makes me mad-da.