Thursday, April 21, 2011

Fire on the dance floor!

...or at least thats what I want to be when I dance latin, but have not yet achieved. This is my first official latin dress however, after long deliberations with my coaches about color and design I finally chose one. When I chose the fabric, the crepe back satin was a bit heavier than what I was looking for but it was the perfect color: looks red but in the light gives off a orangy fire tint. It actually turned out to work better than I expected. The best part about it is the wide skirt combined with the heavier fabric that makes the spin quality of this dress a 10. Fabric bought, this was my first open style dress so I wanted to rhinestone it, ordered expensive Swarovski stones, no sense doing the cheap way if you are going to put so much effort in it in the first place. I wanted the sides to be see through lace but the store did not have the right kind or color that I wanted. (About a year later I did find the lace I wanted in a different store and still have plans to replace the sheer material the dress has now, because it is beginning to tear.

My inspiration for the dress: Karina Smirnoff and Slavik Kryklyvyy Rumba

Saturday, April 9, 2011

I need a standard dress: Take #2

After realizing that dark purple is not really my shade or color nor a very vibrant exciting color for ballroom dancing I decided it was time for a new standard dress. The reason I focused on standard designs throughout college is because latin outfits and dresses are easier to come by and put together. I went to the fabric store and picked out a light breezy delicate pink fabric, that I though would suit my needs. Slightly altering a pattern by widening the panels near the bottom to a final diameter of about 10 meters and creating a lower back, I soon encountered problems with the light weave of the fabric and the non-stretchiness of it. It required me to put in a double under layer for the bust since the fabric was slightly see through, and also to install boob cups for support which I had never done before in any of my projects. I also had to put in the straps across the back to hold the dress on. At the end I created white shiny disattachable floats for versatility and attached white pearlescent appliques. Since this dress was supposed to be a transitional dress between syllabus and open levels and also between Smooth and Standard styles I did not stone it but made do with non sparkly elements and made it very versatile. It lasted me maybe a year of competition before I moved on to my next project due again to the lack of color brilliance in this piece, and progression to upper level dancing. I still really like the softness of the dress and the extremely flared skirt. These pictures show only one option of float attachment. There are two, and one can position them whatever the preference.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Awesomeness of Japan

So many people may know that Japanese people love miniaturized things. And I have to add that I have always had a thing for Japanese art and drawings. One absolutely cool thing that I observed in Japan was the manicures! They are literelly miniaturized pieces of art on each nail! Rhinestones, flowers, pearls, sparkles, sequins and more can be seen decorating a woman's nails, and its totally awesome. Each manicurist is an artist and craftswoman. They go anywhere from cute and subtle and pretty to outrageously, uncomfortably excessive. Ive never seen anything like in in America for sure. Its sooo amazing!

Ill let the pictures speak for themselves. and I chose the more everyday looking ones for the most part. If you want to see more just type in Japanese nail art in google image search and be wowed!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The oddities continue...

Another thing that shocked me and I couldn't quite get over when coming to Japan is the ability of green vegetation to survive and prosper in the winter. Even though Southern Japan area in the state of Okayama does not get too cold for too long (aka there were no more than 5-10 days of less that 32F degree weather), I was still shocked to see the combination of the occasional snow on the ground and cabbages and other vegetables growing in all the house's gardens, and the occasional orange tree. Bamboo is still seen green along the mountain sides and palm trees still reach their unique shillouetes toward the sky, and some trees and shrubs, that are not evergreens, seem to stay green all the way through winter. Of course, most trees do shed their autumn foliage and reveal their scraggly grey arms. It was such a shock to me who has lived in the winterwonderland of Michigan her whole life, where snow falls several feet a winter and temperatures stay below 0C for months at a time while the sky is a murky grey color for almost the entire season. Here in Japan the weather hit 60s in february, though now it is back down to 40s and 50s, I cant complain. The plum trees are in bloom and other flowers are starting. I absolutely relish the sunshine and the relative warmth of the region, and dread going back to Michigania for winters ahead, even though I do admit I missed the snow a bit.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Pleasant Oddities in a foreign Country

Ive been living in Japan for almost 2 months now and even though I have gotten used to many of the people's quirks and the country's oddities and niceties there are some that I found so fascinating that I still rejoice every time I come across one. Im afraid Im going to have to talk about toilets for a bit here. Now, I've never been to another Asian country so I dont know if others have this notion of heated toilet seats that are popular in Japan. Before coming I was warned that most japanese toilets are "squattie potties" meaning a kind of hole in the ground you pee into, and that I dreaded very much. On the contrary, however, toilets in japan are not all squatties, there is a good mix of both western style toilets and eastern "holes". But I was not as prepared for the unexpected pleasure of a heated normal western toilet. You may or may not know it but when u sit on a toilet seat on a cold day your body braces itself for a cold seat; when, however, you sit and your exposed flesh meets perfectly warmed ceramic or plastic the pleasure is very primally indescribable. Lucky for me both the apartments Alex and I stay at have these heated seats that I discovered about a month after arriving. Since most japanese home do not have central heating or any sort of good insulation here, the pleasure of a heated seat is doubled when everything else is cold and you dread pulling your pants down at all. I do still guess and get my hopes up whenever we are somewhere public. I always wonder if the place wil have a hole or a seat. Ive come to the conclusion that most "nice places" like big department stores have western public toilets, which are sometimes heated. When you are in a random little restaurant do not get your hopes up...still I have been surprised. This is definitely not a rule but more of a generalization. When I was at a community center in the middle of nowhere I expected a hole, instead there was a respectable toilet. One dance studio I was at was equipped with a pretty decorated toilet with heated seat and all. Another studio, no less nice, had a hole.

One thing that is a bit annoying and uniting in all these toilets is the fact that you have to change your slippers, when you go in. Almost every toilet has a special designated pair of toilet slippers, so you leave your house slippers at the door and put on the toilet ones, do your business and before you leave change your slippers back. (Many places you enter in Japan you have to take your street shoes off and put on the slippers provided, or your own.) So this works fine when you have slippers on but when you have dance shoes on, for example, that take about 30 seconds each to fasten and unfasten, it becomes a bit inconvenient. I shouldnt complain though. Its really a high degree of etiquette.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Faux Fur

I thought it would be the coolest thing ever to try and make a fur (albiet faux) fur coat. It was a complete bitch to work with though, especially as one of my first sewing projects. I always have these grand cool ideas only to realize how hard it actually is to materialize them. The fabric I choose is a pain to work with, or doesn't act the way you expected it to with the particular pattern or you find that as nice as your product actually turned out, there really is no practical use for it, etc. This coat for example. Its always too cold to wear a short coat like that in the middle of winter, but when it gets warmer outside, it is way too warm to wear! This photo shoot (if you look at the previous photos you will see the connection) is probably one of the only times Ive actually worn this coat out. It kept me warm in the walks between locations. I am, however, very proud of myself that I made this coat. The fur ate at least 3 machine needles and Im sure Ive lost more than a few pins in the seams somewhere. But! Its reversible!... Which is pretty cool if I may say so myself. I made this project, along with a recycled pair of jeans turned into a skirt in my 12th grade fashion design class, the only formal (if you want to call what we did formal) fashion design instruction I've ever had. It was definitely one of the most fun classes I've taken. This coat along with the skirt was featured for a semester in a display case in my high school, which is probably one of my proudest achievements in high school. Got me at least a little bit noticed, but probably not at all. Thats ok though, I don't mind at all. I had fun and I liked the work.

Monday, January 17, 2011

I need a standard dress: Take #1

As my dancing was progressing in collegiate ballroom I realized that it is very hard to find a proper standard dance dress in stores and way too expensive to buy one that is proper. I decided to make one, naturally. I found the fabric and it was gorgeous, like deep purple satiny liquid in your hands. beautiful!! I even got a stunning pearl necklace to go with the white accents. Too bad I later was made to understand that color is probably the most important thing in a ballroom dress. Color and rhinestones. Being in syllabus and not allowed to have rhinestones it wasn't in question but the deep purple even with white, is not a color to wear in competitions. The brighter, the blingier, the better. I am not sure how I feel about the white inserts anymore but I do still like the dress as a whole, mostly because I cant get over the beauty of the purple fabric probably... Despite that, the dress turned out wonderfully and I wore it maybe for 2-3 comps before retiring it into evening wear, due to its actual dullness out on the dance floor. I have worn it to 1-2 weddings though after.