Thursday, August 30, 2007

Vogue Hits Rock Bottom (Hopefully)

One reason a lot of women may be sewing now is the contents of the latest mega-Vogue, a monstrous 840 pages that hurts your arms to hold it. Out of all of these pages--longer than Gone with the Wind--I found exactly 12 items that I would wear (assuming a perfect body and any age I might want to be). That is a whoppping 1 percent!!!! The trend in Vogue over the last year is not that women should project beauty or grace but power and ugliness. Sodomy also seemed to get a lot of play in the latest Vogue, with plenty of bare bottoms on both men and women. Power is the name that includes this outfit and charming hairdo (part of Vogue articles not advertising).

Do you find this a bit intimidating?

Then there is the highly popular gladiator look. Note the large metallic belt. This belt, which may be in leather or metal, is considered "flattering." Note the other theme I mentioned above.

Something terrible has happened at Burberry akin to the 1929 Stock Market Crash. Note the gladiator belt on the right.

The Addams family as lesbians...

Feeling like General Custer in the throes of a nervous breakdown awash with guilt about the Indians, then this is the outfit for you.

Or, if the Lady MacBeth in Akiro Kurosawa's Throne of Blood is your role model, then this is your outfit... especially if you are of Scots heritage.

Am I missing something?

Should it be any surprise that all of this noxious ugliness celebrates the flapper era, when women were first turned into scarecrows and fashion was created so that instead of beauty and grace, women would project ugliness and ready availability? The damp vamp, compliments of Vogue, is immediately below.

Now here is a dress that might have some potential but all the extensive detailing in the top and bottom has the effect of adding body armour, and the effect is not any flowing or clear line but encrustation. Feeling like a bug, are you?

There were other dresses, like these, with nice fabrics or a nice line but that came the length of a tennis skirt... Tennis anyone, anywhere?

Here is what I liked:
Beautiful coat, love the color of the gloves with it. I would love to wear this. (Please X out the ugly shoes, slouch, and expression of the model.)

I like this coat also, although in winter it would need a scarf. Nice line.

The coat on the left is gorgeous. Soft and lovely. (Note the lesbian connotation though in the Vogue photo set-up.)

Nice, simple dresses I would be very happy to wear.

This is from an advertisement for what are labeled as "retro" shoes. The whole outfit looks great to me. I would wear it all in a minute.

I like this dress, and as far as I can see, it doesn't have a tennis skirt. This is a 1930s kind of dress, not 1920s, and in the 1930s, women were again allowed to be feminine after the masculine ravaging of the 1920s, when women were referred to as "la garconne"--that is, the feminine boy. The jewelry, the hat, and the pose of the model are not in keeping with the dress.

Sadly, I have not had the occasion to wear a formal gown since I was in 12th grade, but if I did and if I had a perfect figure, I would be very happy to wear one of these.

And that is the end of what I found in the latest 840-page Vogue that I would enjoy wearing.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

35 Million Sewing Hobbyists in the USA

According to the Home Sewing Association, the number of sewing hobbyists in the USA is up 17 percent from the year 2000 and now stands at 35 million. This is great news--along with the revival of the apron and retro apparel that is now filtering its way into the mainstream (always the last to know) media. There are so many wonderful sewing blogs for inspiration, such as Purlbee, Pleasant View Schoolhouse, Sew Retro, Sister's Choice for quilting, Turkey Feathers, Granny Along, SouleMama, Anna Maria Horner, and many others. Check the links to other blogs from these blogs for an infinite amount of sewing (and other) inspiration. I am working on my first quilt, a four-square baby quilt, and have ideas for about three more. Very relaxing but I am having trouble matching all the seams as I sew together the rows. It will all work out though, I hope, with some patience. Also there are problems in the design, but I am hoping it qualifies as a decent first attempt. Sewing offers an enormous range of satisfaction and projects--from making a quick shift dress in 2 hours or making a uniquely gorgeous heirloom quilt that takes many months. Have fun!

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Saint Margaret of Antioch

A friend sent me this painting of Saint Margaret of Antioch and asked me to write about it, and also had this to say: "I love everything about it, from her braided handbag to her hat and clothes, to the fact that she is holding her place in her book with her finger, to the fact that she's barefoot, to the fact that she seems completely nonplussed by the dragon at her feet. In fact, in this image, I think that the dragon looks much more like a wild but tamed/submissive pet; not in any danger of devouring Saint Margaret."
Saint Margaret of Antioch is the patron saint of childbirth, pregnant women, falsely accused people, dying people, peasants, and exiles. Hers was one of the earliest voices heard by the great Saint Joan of Arc. Her cult was extremely popular among the laity in England, perhaps because, like Saint George, the English patron saint, she also was victorious over a dragaon. It is likely that Saint Margaret of Scotland was named for her.
According to the Golden Legend, the only source of information for this Saint Margaret, she was the daughter of a pagan priest in Antioch but was herself converted to Christianity. When her father found out, he drove her out of the house and she fled to the countryside where she became a shepherdess. She spurned the advances of a Roman prefect named Olybrius, who was smitten by her beauty. In his wrath at her scorn, he had her imprisoned, where she fought with the devil which came to her cell in the form of a dragon. According to the legend, the dragon swallowed her, but the cross she carried in her hand so irritated his throat that he was forced to disgorge her. Her incarcerators then tried to kill her by drowning and by fire, all to no avail. In the course of surviving these ordeals, she converted thousands to Christianity, the legend tells us. Finally, she was executed by beheading.
This martyr-saint is one of the Catholic Fourteen Holy Helpers, who are invoked against disease. Her feast day is July 20.
This portrait of Saint Margaret was painted in 1630-35 by the great Spanish artist, Francisco de Zurbaran (1598-1664), one of my favorite painters. It can be found in the National Gallery in London. Zurbaran has heightened all of the ironies of Saint Margaret's life, showing her dressed as a shepherdess with her barefeet and staff, also in imitation of the Lord as Shepherd. However, her demeanor, the stylization of her clothes, the detailed beauty of her bag, her jewelery, and her ability to read--she is holding her place with her finger--tells us that this is no ordinary shepherdess but a lady, who has been humbled in station and in attitude (her head is slightly lowered) by Christianity. At the same time, the strength of her faith has enabled her to vanquish a dragon, who we see lat her feet, and that also challenges us, the viewers, with an expression that seems to quietly say, "Let's see you do this."
I love how Zurburan has portrayed the saint in contemporary dress--a constant ruse in Medieval and Renaissance art to emphasize the relevance of Christianity to contemporary life. This occurs in a different way in the painting of Saint Margaret by the French Renaissance painter Jean Fouquet (1415-1480), in his miniature Book of Hours for Etienne Chevalier now in the Louvre in Paris.

In this painting, Saint Marguerite, second from the right with a nimbus around her head, is portrayed as an ordinary peasant. The painting seems more ominous and also perhaps more political. We are seeing Saint Margaret just before she is arrested by the powers that be for her Christianity. Fouquet counterpoints the black and white of the soldiers' horses with the black and white of Saint Margaret's sheep and contrasts the soldiers' physical might with the demure image of Saint Margaret as a young slip of a girl, prepared through faith to submit to God's plan for her.
Lastly, this page from an illuminated manuscript shows Saint Margaret sans political or contemporary connotation. The illustrator focuses on the saint as she is in prayer to God against the devil.

Monday, August 13, 2007

The Blessed Virgin Mary is the Solution

It is the Blessed Virgin Mary that is the solution to the paradox posed by the story of Saints Mary and Martha, as this beautiful painting by Rembrandt (1645) of the reading Virgin rocking Jesus in His cradle, suggests.

Another painting that suggests this is the Master of Flemalle's Annunciation in the Cloisters in New York. Here, in the central panel of the triptych, Mary is reading in the main room of her home, a scene that shows an ordered domestic life with an iconography (the lily and water) that point to the purity of soul of the Blessed Virgin. In this state of contemplation after work is done, the Archangel Gabriel comes and the Holy Spirit descends upon her for the miracle of the Incarnation. The combination seems to offer a state in which we are open to God's message.

Tea at Trianon quotes from Saint Teresa Benedicta (Edith Stein) also points the way to the solution to the problem of women's many roles by pointing to the Blessed Virgin; "Whether she is a mother in the home, or occupies a place in the limelight of public life, or lives behind quiet cloister walls, she must be the handmaid of the Lord everywhere. So had the Mother of God been in all the circumstances of her life....Were each woman an image of the Mother of God, a Spouse of Christ, an apostle of the Divine Heart, then would each fulfill her feminine vocation no matter what conditions she lived in and what worldly activity absorbed her life. (Collected Works, Vol 2)."

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Saint Teresa Benedicta (Edith Stein)

Tea at Trianon has a remembrance of Saint Teresa Benedicta, Edith Stein. This saint, killed in Auschwitz, wrote extensively on the role of women in life and society. Her first premise was that a woman must fashion herself and live her life as made in the image of God. She was writing on this topic during the 1930s in Germany, when many women were forced by the severe economic depression of the times to work to put food on the table for their children. She writes extensively on the issue of the difficult balance of work and being a wife and a mother--among her many fascinating writings. One of her first works was an exploration of the human capacity for empathy, written during her time as a student of Husserl, before she became a Catholic. Tea at Trianon has more on this extraordinary saint.