Mermaid Monday #11: White Mermaid Ball Gown with Embroidered Choli Top and Aquamarine Overskirt

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Mermaids are not universally welcome at human balls. In most kingdoms near the sea their presence is unremarkable, but the further inland one goes the less mermaids visit, and the appearance of one at a ball can be a serious disruption. It’s not surprising that they cause annoyance and envy among the human women and prompt duels and inconvenient attachments among the human men, but besides that they are difficult to feed, not always aware of proper deportment and their air of superiority and condescension is often a little hard to take for humans of either sex. One insecure queen went so far as to ban them from all events given during her reign. (Mermaids mostly stay out of human politics, but stung by this, the equally insecure empress of the nearest mermaid empire ensured that said reign would be a short one by secretly inciting treason and eventually civil war in that kingdom. The loss of life and damage to the kingdom was incalculable, but the mermaids got their dances back.)

A mermaid choosing a gown for a ball thrown by humans generally wants to outdo every other woman there, human and mermaid alike, because the most common fault among them is vanity, followed closely by pride. Some of them do it by going with human fashions, thereby beating the human women at their own game, and some prefer to go with gowns designed for mermaids, which tend to evoke the sea, be less formal and hide the legs. (Most mermaids are self-conscious about having legs, as the vast majority of cheap mystics really don’t have the skill or knowledge of anatomy to form perfect ones for very long, so mermaid skirts are inevitably long and loose. The mermaid wearing a miniskirt is the one who gave up her firstborn.) This dress is definitely a mermaid gown; the human women at the ball where this will be worn will all be wearing more elaborate gowns, closer to what I think of as stereotypical princess gowns: tight bodices, poofy skirts. (Although some human women near the sea, where mermaids are more likely to show up to balls, have taken to wearing things mermaids can’t: shorter dresses, gowns slit up the side, tight skirts.) The choli-style top, the lotus and wave pattern, the fluttery aquamarine overskirt all make this gown arresting and otherworldly: just the thing for toying with the hearts of humans, leaving them crushed like a shellfish dropped onto a rock by a seagull. Later the human women will gossip about how revealing and tacky the top was, how unfashionable the whole savage getup was compared to their gowns, but the target of their ire will be already safely back under the sea with new stories to tell.

Red and Yellow Raas Outfit with Mirror Embroidery and Red Dupatta

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Yesterday Brian and I went to see Dandia Dhamaka, which was an intercollegiate raas dance competition. Raas is a folk dance from the Gujarat region in western India, and it’s great, very high-energy and fun to watch. (Here’s a video of the University of Michigan group from 2007.) I say “folk” dance but it was a competition between ten college teams, so a lot of the groups worked in cute themes with their introduction videos — one had a Willy Wonka theme, there were two circus themes (probably a source of some consternation) and a couple I couldn’t figure out what precisely the teams were going for because I couldn’t hear very much over the clown with drums leading the “Go Blue!” chant a few rows over. (I was grateful to the group that subtitled their video.) I haven’t found out who won yet, but I really liked the University of Miami’s overall energy, Michigan State University’s choreography and University of Michigan’s costumes.

Of course I loved the costumes in general, which were all brightly colored and dripping with mirror embroidery, bold designs and metallic fabrics. From our balcony seats I couldn’t get a great look at the details (specifically I’m a little sketchy on how the dupatta is fastened to the top of the skirt) but the overall effect was dazzling, especially for the moves where the girls get flipped over the guys, which fans out their skirts. I liked Michigan’s costumes best because they looked sophisticated and very nicely done. The skirts had a huge amount of shiny decoration covering the front, and then the back was only lightly decorated, so the audience saw both the front pattern and the rich-colored fabric as the dancers moved. They kept to just maize and blue, too, but with the guys in mostly maize and the girls in mostly blue there was enough contrast to be interesting. MSU’s group, to me, went over the edge in the costume department: their costumes looked to be the most sumptuous with rich jewel tones and gold accents, but from where I was sitting the men and women looked to be wearing the same thing cut differently, and it was just a little too busy. Still, I liked their dancing best, so let it not be said I’m biased against Spartans!

Anyways, this is my version of a raas dancing costume, although it may not be accurate. The dupatta (the red veil part) was, I think, for most of the girls fastened at the waist, but I can’t really figure out how it works in real life and how to make it work for a paperdoll, so I’m afraid this version is just loose. (Cut it on the black dotted line, below the silver part.)

Anyways! Yeah, hello. Brian says that’s why he never makes New Year’s resolutions, because then you never do them anyways. So I decided to make a New February resolution, which was not to take any guff from my husband. In entirely unrelated news, here’s a paperdoll outfit.

Tribal Belly Dance Costume with Green Gold-Trimmed Choli, Red and Gold Hipscarf with Gold Coins and Full Black Gold-Trimmed Skirt

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So I started a belly dance class (beledi, to be precise) a few weeks back. Unsurprisingly, it’s always been something that appealed to me (fancy veils! shiny coins! etc.) but I’m ridiculously uncoordinated, disconnected from my body, overweight, quite self-conscious, can’t tell my right from my left, and in every way am the type of person who should stay well away from dance classes. But once I got over the abject terror involved in stepping into the studio and completing the first class, I was hooked. Hip shimmies are a lot of fun if you’ve got plenty of hip to put into them, for one thing, and the movements are something I can usually do once I watch closely and practice for a bit. Of course I’ll never be a “dancer” in any way; people say “just let go” and “just follow the music” and “don’t think about it” and apparently I walk around in a near constant state of tenseness because all that is impossible for me. In class I feel like I’m translating everything the teacher does into a flowchart for me to follow and when I do something with my body that I can’t explain with words, like pivoting or this one veil move, it’s really quite unsettling for me.

Anyways, as far as I know (and keep in mind I’m a total noob) there are two styles of costumes, cabaret and tribal, cabaret being the highly beaded bra and skirt look and tribal going for a more ethnic, fantasy look. I really like the tribal look, so that’s what I went with for this paper doll. She’s got a green choli, a red hipscarf and a black full skirt, all trimmed with gold and gold coins. I covet the choli I drew for my doll, but I’m not so sure I’d have the courage to wear it!

At the moment, the vampire has pulled ahead… there’s still time for the Good Queen to come back ahead though.