1910 Pink Evening Gown with Black Lace and Cream Sash and Gloves based on The Intrusion of Jimmy by P.G. Wodehouse

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I just finished listening to The Intrusion of Jimmy by P.G. Wodehouse. I’ve mentioned it before on this blog, but I love listening to Wodehouse, because his stories are light and simple enough that I can miss parts if I get distracted by housework or chatter, but engaging enough that they keep my mind from dwelling on the dullness of dishwashing. Anyways, I’m always up for a story where boy meets girl, everything that can possibly cause boy maximum humiliation and trouble happens, but all comes right in the end.

The thing I liked best about this book was Jimmy’s character, because although a lot of Wodehouse’s heroes are rather more like Jimmy’s friend, Lord Dreever – the kind of laid-back fellow who pre-empts criticism by describing himself as “a bit of an ass” – Jimmy himself was curious, capable and generous. Now, the first two of those are rare enough, but he also seemed to have a darker side than any of the other Wodehouse heroes I can recall. At the beginning of the book, Jimmy makes a bet that he can break into someone’s house, and later that night a burglar happens to break into his own apartment; Jimmy disarms him, convinces him that he’s an infamous European jewel thief and gets the man to take him along on a burglary, all without turning a hair. It’s not like he views it as a lark; rather, he takes the whole thing quite seriously, breaking into someone else’s house almost as much out of curiosity as he did from the desire to win the bet. I guess his background as a reporter made his ability to keep so calm plausible, but still, that’s all pretty cold-blooded. Things like that made me feel that, as much as I liked him for his curiosity and wit, there was something about him that wasn’t quite right, and even though he never expressed the desire to steal so much as a rhinestone brooch, there was something about him that gave me the feeling that he very well could go in for a life of crime if it was interesting enough. It turns out that in the original story that the book was based on, Jimmy really had been a jewel thief! I somehow feel like he makes more sense to me now, although I can’t really hold his past incarnation against him.

Jimmy falls for a lovely girl named Molly, and taking the standard meet-cute love-at-first-sight Wodehouse pattern to new heights, he doesn’t ever actually talk to her during this process, but just admires her over the course of a five-day trans-Atlantic trip. I always figure that the Wodehouse heroines have the most marvelous, flattering, feminine clothes possibly available to humans, because eligible young men are always falling instantly in love with them, so it’s a disappointment for me that Wodehouse seldom describes dresses in detail. The book is from 1910, so here we have a 1910-style gown, with black lace over a pink dress. I do like the dresses I’ve seen from this year – the shape seems like a nice balance between the Edwardian shape and the straight-up-and-down lines that are coming.

By the way, I’ve never thought to look up what P.G. stood for; it turns out to be “Pelham Grenville.” Might have to swipe that one for our firstborn.

Prismacolors used: Kelp Green, Pale Sage, White, French Grey 10%, 20%, 50%, 70%, Light Umber, Dark Umber, Tuscan Red, Black, Cream, Pink Rose, Clay Rose

Princesses of Sweet Rhyme and Pure Reason’s White Gown and Crown from The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster

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I reread one of my favorite books,The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster, the other day. I love it because I always notice something new every time I read it. This time around it was the bells on the Soundkeeper’s dress — I should like to paperdoll her outfit now, but I’m not really in the mood to draw a million little bells tonight. As you see, I was in the mood for something much easier, which is the dress that Rhyme and Reason wear. Since they wear about the same thing, the dress can be for either of them. Make Sylvia Rhyme and Iris Reason, or the other way around, as you please.

Don’t forget, I’m liveblogging (or as Eleanor has it, live-dolling) the Oscars this Sunday. I figure that will consist of drawing red carpet dresses until my fingers drop off. To get everyone in an Oscar mood, let’s have an Oscar poll. Check out the oscar.com Costume Design nomination information if you need a refresher.

Halloween Costume Series Day 14: Christine Daae’s Star Princess Masquerade Costume In Black, Blue and White with Black Domino Mask

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Kathleen asked, earlier this month, that I do one of Christine Daae’s outfits from the Phantom of the Opera, which was a timely request because I recently got the musical soundtrack from the library. (One of the sad things about the times when I am not drawing is that I must mourn the Outfits which Could Have Been. I listened to the original text many months ago, and then I forced Brian to sit with the recent movie version with me. That he endured as a proof of his love, but he was much more enthusastiac about the next Phantom spinoff we watched, The Phantom of the Paradise. Tagline: “He sold his soul for rock’n’roll.” Anyways, I do regret that I didn’t do a paperdoll series of these Phantoms and Christines. But I digress.)

So since I got the soundtrack, I’ve been singing along — portions of my brain which went on strike during geometry class apparently devoted themselves thoroughly to memorizing the whole musical, it seems — even getting Brian in on the fun, singing Phantom duets along with him to which we make up the words. He’s joined in with me a couple times as I trilled “Music of the Night” in the shower, scaring the living daylights out of me each time (“didn’t you ever see Psycho?” I asked) and gamely followed along with Raoul’s part to “All I Ask Of You.” (“How can anyone LISTEN to this? No one will FIND you? Your fears are far BEHIND you?” he asks. “Just be quiet and sing it,” I reply perfectly logically and reasonably.)

Of course, for Halloween I must do a Masquerade dress, the first step of which was blithely breaking the “no research” rule once again. The movie dress was a pink concoction; I read somewhere it was supposed to represent the influence of the scarlet-garbed Phantom, but I personally didn’t think it quite worked that way — I thought it just looked too conventional, kind of like “Totally Ingenue Barbie!” although certainly it was very beautiful. The stage outfit was rather more what I would prefer, for a masquerade ball — a blue and pink silver-starred ballet outfit, referred to as her “Star Princess” dress. Here you can see a picture of the costume design sketch, some images from the stage and a fan’s reproduction of the dress, and this forum post includes a discussion of the dress and links to pictures of it from different productions. I liked the shape, but didn’t want to just copy one of them, and so looked to the original text for further inspiration. Now, the thing I should have quite liked to paperdoll from the original text was the Phantom’s “immense red-velvet cloak, which trailed along the floor like a king’s train; and on this cloak was embroidered, in gold letters, which every one read and repeated aloud, ‘Don’t touch me! I am Red Death stalking abroad!'” But as for Christine, the only thing described is her black domino mask, and re-reading that scene, it is such a very dark time for her… So here she is, as my Star Princess for the masquerade, but not the stars giving way to dawn as on the stage; the night has laid claim to this Christine.

We are coming to the end of the zombie slaughter poll, so vote…

Lily Bart’s White Edwardian Tea Gown with Pink Rose Sash from The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton

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Now that I’m done with The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, I do think it’s time for another depressing period piece. This time I’m listening to The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton, read for Librivox by Elizabeth Klett. I’ve read it before, but I’m actually preferring audiobooks lately because I don’t skim so much and get more of the details, and I’ve been thinking of this book since I read this New York Times article about Lily’s fate

So far there hasn’t been much description of individual dresses, but there’s so much about the culture that those dresses form such a part of. Here’s Lily Bart talking about marriage with Lawrence Selden: “Your coat’s a little shabby–but who cares? It doesn’t keep people from asking you to dine. If I were shabby no one would have me: a woman is asked out as much for her clothes as for herself. The clothes are the background, the frame, if you like: they don’t make success, but they are a part of it. Who wants a dingy woman? We are expected to be pretty and well-dressed till we drop–and if we can’t keep it up alone, we have to go into partnership.”

Well, even if the book does promise to be melancholy, there is a silver lining: the dresses from the Belle Époque are beautiful, even if Sylvia isn’t quite the desired S-shape. I remember later on she wears some form of white dress, but there’s not a lot of physical description in the book so it’s based more on vintage gowns from 1904 and 1905 I’ve been looking at, particularly this one.