The Mythic Ball, Part 4: Kitsune’s (Japanese Fox Spirit) Wa-Lolita Dress

A knee-length teal green dress with a fox mask and nine fox tails fanning out from underneath the skirt. The mask and tails are in a golden brown color with white accents. The dress has Japanese touches, with a subtle rice sheaf pattern woven into the fabric and dyed red, orange and yellow maple leaves arranged on the skirt and on the sleeves, with a couple at the shoulders. On the skirt and sleeves, they look as if they're falling, with a few near the top of the sleeves and skirt and most at the hem or the base. The sleeve isn't sewn at the sides, but is rather tied with a yellow bow underneath the wrist, and the lining of the fabric is bright red. The collar is folded over on one side and is edged with a wide black field, then a smaller white collar near the neck is lined with a row of black lace. There's a black obi, or wide belt, with a pattern of golden leaves and abstract flowers, with a red obi sash puffed out over the top. The obi sash is decorated with a pattern of tie-dyed dots creating diamond shapes. Around the obi is a silver cord, on which is mounted a shining blue fire-shaped jewel. Although the top part of the dress mostly looks like a traditional kimono, the skirt is full and knee-length, puffing out to the sides in an exaggerated way, as if there's a crinoline underneath it. There are four rows of sea-green silk with a subtle interlocking circle pattern on them, arranged so that they drape in overlapping ruffles from the obi to the hem of the skirt. They're edged with black lace. The skirt is also edged with black lace, and there's a bright red petticoat visible underneath the skirt. The black stockings and black boots are mostly covered by the fox tails.Kitsune, a Japanese fox spirit known for shapeshifting, cleverness and a love of deep-fried tofu, has enjoyed such tremendous, enduring popularity in her home country that she has long reigned unofficially over the little clique of Japanese archetypes. The recent rise in popularity of anime, manga and Japanese culture in other parts of the world has raised her stature, and she’s spending more and more time outside of her little group of monsters and ghosts. This has caused somewhat of a re-evaluation of her persona, as she would like to impress the big shots of the English-speaking world — the ones with the near-lock on Hollywood movies. Kitsune would quite like a movie or two. The first one doesn’t have to win an Oscar; she’s not picky. She’s thinking rom-com, at least to start with.

She always used to wear kimono to the ball, thinking that they make her look more refined and more in touch with her roots than the foreign archetypes in their showy gowns, but in recent years she’s tried out some masquerade dresses herself. The other archetypes in her old clique, who haven’t enjoyed quite the same popularity, felt threatened by this. Last year Kappa (another Japanese archetype) picked a big fight with her, mocking her Western-style gowns and accusing her of feeling superior to the rest of them. (Kappa has never quite recovered from reading the Harry Potter books; she was thrilled to hear that kappas were mentioned in one, and absolutely crushed when she found out that Professor Snape claimed that kappas were found in Mongolia.)

She doesn’t want to lose their good will, but she was really rather enjoying her forays into the world of fancy dress, so this year she opted for a daring new look: a wa-lolita dress. (Wa-lolita is a subset of a Japanese fashion subculture called “lolita” which emphasizes frilly, hyper-feminine clothes based on fairy-tale Victorian styles. Wa-lolita makes use of Japanese design elements like wide obi-style belts, kimono sleeves and Japanese patterns. To see examples of lolita and wa-lolita outfits, check out my Pinterest “Lolita style” board.)

Kappa, Oni and the others still think she’s putting on airs, but somehow it’s not quite as galling as seeing her in a knockoff of whatever Dragon wore last year. They’ll forgive her, Kitsune thinks, when she gets her rom-com and gives them all parts in it. (Little parts, of course.)

A couple little cultural notes about the dress! The blue ornament over the obi is a kitsune-bi (狐火), which are mysterious lights said to be associated with kitsune. The color of the fur is “kitsune-iro” (きつね色), or “fox color” — an actual color word in Japanese, often used to refer to things like the color of nicely cooked bread. The leaf pattern is based on Japanese maple leaves, “momiji” (紅葉); you don’t have to be a Japanese studies major to guess that it’s a fall-themed design element. Also, the fur brush I used was created by CoyoteMange and is extremely useful even for a fur beginner like me!

Next week will be our final guest at the Mythic Ball, Phoenix, and an opportunity to vote on this year’s Queen of the Mythic Ball. In the meantime, you can download combined color and black and white PDFs of all of my 2014 dolls and outfits for free! Also follow me on Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest for sneak previews, paperdoll thoughts and the occasional lolita dress. If you enjoy my work, I’d also appreciate your support through Patreon.


The Mythic Ball, Part 3: The Glow Cloud’s Gown with Third Eye Mask

A strapless white gown. The skirt is made of puffy, multicolored clouds, lit from behind by a bright light source. The clouds are various shades of purple edged with bright blue or green, and there are bright spots of vivid yellow within the clouds. There's a white mask that goes with it that covers the whole face and has no decoration except for a large third eye drawn in glowing purple tones.A newcomer’s arrival always causes excitement in a gathering populated by archetypes that may be hundreds, even thousands of years old. Those that have endured over the years can’t help but judge the newer ones whose sudden popularity or unexpected flexibility brings them to the ball. They may retain their appeal and get used in new ways in new stories, turning into a true archetype, something greater than their original form… or they’ll wind up with the sorry lot that hangs out on the fringes of the party. Those poor creatures sneak strawberries from the snack table as if they don’t deserve to eat good things and trade stories about whatever triumph first won them an invitation to the party — while stringently avoiding any mention of the present day. If any of the organizers should notice that they haven’t made that jump from potential archetype to true archetype, and probably won’t, there may not be another invitation the next year…

The Glow Cloud is new; furthermore, she’s a creation popularized by the Internet, not by ballads, storybooks or rumors. So the others regard her with a certain amount of skepticism until she drifts by, and…

All hail the mighty Glow Cloud.

All hail.

The old-timers discuss the Glow Cloud in whispers, several minutes after she passes.
“Rather specialized, don’t you think?” Dragon says, her expression thoughtful.
“Do you really see an archetype like that getting popular in *other* stories?” asks Fairy disdainfully.
“It’s basically just a cloud,” agrees Kitsune.
“There’s some precursors, you know. Like the Airborne Toxic Event. And Lakitu, that almost counts,” Robot says. (Robot has more sympathy for newcomers than the other, older archetypes.)
“True,” says Dragon. “Well, we’ll see if there’s staying power there.”
“We’ll see,” echoes Fairy.

The dismissive words are intended to mask how shaken they are.

For those of you who may not be familiar with the Glow Cloud, it’s from a popular podcast called Welcome to Night Vale, which is a story built around fictional news from a town where weird things are a feature of daily life. I used this cloud tutorial and brush, in case anyone else wants to try some digital clouds! Next week we’ll be meeting Kitsune, a popular Japanese fox spirit archetype and the winner of my poll. In the meantime, you can download combined color and black and white PDFs of all of my 2014 dolls and outfits for free! Also follow me on Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest for sneak previews, paperdoll thoughts and eye-centric teaser pictures. If you enjoy my work, I’d also appreciate your support through Patreon.


The Mythic Ball, Part 2: Kraken’s Purple and Silver Gown with Tentacles

An off-the-shoulder dress with fin-like webbing on the upper arms, a corset top, a tight, sparkly silver skirt edged with more fin-like webbing and several tentacles coming from the skirt and spilling over the floor. The corset is patterned with an abstract tentacle pattern and is a deep purple. It's made of shiny fabric which is nearly pink where the light hits it, and the top of the corset is covered in sparkly silver glitter. The fin-like webbing is done in garish shades of yellow, orange and magenta. The skirt is gathered at the back and drapes over the front from the waist to the knees in graceful folds, and the entire skirt is covered in silver sequins that glitter as they catch the light. The silhouette suggests a late 1800s gown, although the colors, glitter and tentacles don't. There are about ten tentacles, shiny and colored in shades of purple, with large suckers on them. They fall towards the ground, where they spill out and curl around on the floor. There's also a shiny silver mask to go with the outfit.

Kraken had been a favorite in the Victorian era, then airplanes came along, things went poorly for her and she had slunk around the edges of the party for some time. But these days, she’s trendy again. Downright hip, in a way that ever-popular Dragon can’t be: a t-shirt screenprinted with a dragon runs the risk of being cliché and laughable, but Kraken-themed accessories have creepy steampunk style. She suggests mystery, complexity, and a hint of the taboo (as the Great Old Ones are pointedly not invited to the festivities).

Her habit of arriving at the ball with a gleeful cry of “Release the Kraken!” is getting a little old, but no one’s had the nerve to suggest a more subtle entrance to her; Kraken simply doesn’t do subtle, as her flashy dress might suggest. Plus, she has a theatrical streak a mile wide: when Vampire gave her a disdainful look and told her that her ensemble was “very Ursula” Kraken just grinned and started belting out “Poor Unfortunate Souls” right there. Can there be anything better, Kraken thought to herself, than showing off a popular sea-monster themed show tune and mortifying Vampire in the same night? She can think of a few things, but it’s enough of a triumph for this particular quarter of an hour.

Help me out — I have plans to introduce three more guests this month, and I know who two of them are but I’m not sold on the third…

Who comes next? I’ll give you a hint: if you recognize next week’s archetype you can congratulate yourself for being hip to Internet pop culture. In the meantime, don’t forget that you can now download combined color and black and white PDFs of all of my 2014 dolls and outfits for free! Also follow me on Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest for sneak previews, paperdoll thoughts and drawing tutorials I think might be useful. If you enjoy my work, I’d also appreciate your support through Patreon.


The Mythic Ball, Part 1: Dragon’s Blue, Black and Gold Masquerade Gown with Flame Underskirt

A black velvet masquerade gown with a square neckline, long sleeves and a large, bell-shaped skirt. At the neckline is a gold band in a stylized flame pattern, with a large fire opal surrounded by rhinestones set in the middle. The sleeves have blue ruffles at the shoulders and at the wrists, with iridescent blue-green highlights and shades of purple in the shaded areas. There's a bit of golden lace above each ruffle. A pattern of golden scrolls runs down the length of the sleeve. The bodice has a long, triangle-shaped area from the neckline to the waist patterned with shiny blue and purple dragon scales and bordered with delicate gold lace. At the waist is a gold band with a stylized flame pattern, set with three fire opals surrounded by rhinestones. The overskirt is open at the front and edged with a blue iridescent ruffle and golden lace. A golden pattern of a stylized dragon breathing flames is on the edge of the skirt. The underskirt appears to be made of fire. There's a light blue tail curling over the edge of the skirt and light blue wings at the shoulders, tipped with golden horns, and there's a small black velvet mask decorated with golden scrolls.Every year on Halloween, a certain kind of idea or story takes form, gets dressed up and throws a great party, called the mythic ball. These ideas prefer to be called “archetypes” (and you use the term “monster” at your own peril). For example, Dragon here isn’t a particular dragon; she didn’t make Saint George a legend, she’s never guarded the vaults in Gringotts and she doesn’t make a habit of burninating anything. Rather, she exists as the idea of a dragon, a force created by human culture and called upon when someone needs something large, reptilian and powerful for a particular creation.

It’s the night of the mythic ball; Dragon is holding court in her glorious dress. She was the queen of the monsters’ ball last year; those rare times she doesn’t win, she’s quite gracious about it, knowing as she does that the title will pass back to her sooner rather than later. Certain parties are known to hum “Puff, the Magic Dragon” behind her back, and there was a great fuss last year when Kraken made a snippy remark about her archetype being based on majestic giant squids and Dragon’s being based on cute little frill-necked lizards.

“I suppose you’re all just as popular as ever?” Dragon asks the group of archetypes surrounding her. She’s trying, without success, to keep from looking smug. Her courteous nature doesn’t allow her to directly bring up her own triumphs, but should someone happen to return the question to her, she would bring up how very pleased she was by that handsome and very popular young man voicing one of her newer representations, and how she had actually figured in several very popular cultural works lately. As a matter of fact, these days representing her archetype could be said to constitute its own industry. Not that she had calculated the salary of all the CG renderers, motion capture specialists, character designers and fantasy artists and authors who made up her most devoted fanbase, but she was sure it would be a most pleasing number. They feed their families and expand their portfolios thanks to the world’s desire for her; she grows as if nourished not by a hoard of gold but by a wealth of stories and artistic works.

Incidentally, there’s a second dragon archetype enjoying the party; this one is older than she is, and, she knows, more powerful. How much of her desire to be the center of this event stems from her jealousy, I can’t say.

Happy October, a month which you may know I like to celebrate as the most important time of the paperdoll year since it includes Halloween, a holiday that just begs for fanciful costumes. Those of you who have been reading for a while may remember this dragon-themed masquerade gown from 2010, and the promise of similar dresses to come. It never happened, because I finished that dress — still one of my favorites — and realized I’d never top it in time. (I think that’s also when I first noticed my wrists having problems.) Well, now that I’m doing digital coloring and shooting for one dress a week, it’s time to revisit the mythic ball…

Who will we meet next? The contentious Kraken mentioned in this installment, perhaps? Or another of the many archetypes attending the ball? Come back next week to find out! In the meantime, don’t forget that you can now download combined color and black and white PDFs of all of my 2014 dolls and outfits for free! Also follow me on Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest for sneak previews, paperdoll thoughts and fun reference images of dresses. If you enjoy my work, I’d also appreciate your support through Patreon.