Building that Vintage Wardrobe and Daiso-Fever

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Inside the arcade at JapanTown. They even had that crazy game where you get points based on how aggressively you flip over a dinner table. 

I’m slowly getting to that point of fashion that I have always wanted: when you look good from head to toe, without tacky “endpoints” like clunky shoes, a too-modern purse, or gloves. A good outfit is more than just the central dress or blouse - it’s everything. I’ve always had statement pieces, but for many years I was sorely lacking in accessories and shoes. I used to feel cheap, juvenile, and half-assed when I went out.  For my last few outings (they are not that common), I have truly felt beautiful because I have felt together. At last I feel that I am shedding my younger self and emerging as more of a lady. Many months (hell, years!) of patient combing and gleaning for accessories has borne fruit. 
Last week, I treated myself to a beautiful dress from the late 1950s (see top picture). Wonderfully constructed, it borders on Early-Mod and fits me beautifully. It feels like a Lolita dress, but a little more sophisticated. I adore it!

Over Thanksgiving break I visited JapanTown again for some much needed Daiso-therapy. I actually needed that stuff, I swear! Daiso is a “Dollar-Fifty” store in SF’s JapanTown mall. Rows upon rows of Japanese products for a mere buck-fifty, most of them far more aesthetically pleasing than what you’d find in American dollar stores. On that same note, shopping at Daiso doesn’t leave an unpleasant feeling in the pit of your stomach, like shopping at Wal-Mart or DollarTree does.

Boot inserts? $6 at Container Store, $1.50 at Daiso (and they’re cuter!). Adorable ruffled shower cap? $1.50 at Daiso and $12 everywhere else. Hey, I get to spend what the product is actually worth! Also picked up a facial scrubber in the shape of a rosebud, a small pink drawer organizer for the art studio, earphones to replace the ones I keep breaking during aerobic gallivanting, and some other useful goodies. I got the items I needed for $20 and left feeling satisfied.

At the museum in faux-vintage. Everything is contemporary (and purchased at thrift stores!). 

Early Halloween ~ Marie Antoinette

Monday, October 21, 2013

For the past few years, I have always celebrated Halloween early at Gaskell Ball instead of the usual 31st of October. Last Saturday, I finally achieved a minor goal of becoming Marie Antoinette, garish Rococo makeup and all.

Before the night's festivities, I spent about half an hour on makeup. To capture the over-the-top macaroni look, I used Kryolan Aquacolor white, drugstore cream blush, and "Death White" face powder from the Spirit Halloween store. I chose to take it easy with the eye shadow with only pink and violet in addition to mascara. No fancy makeup brands were used. Aside from the Kryolan white (which is becoming easier to find in specialty shops), everything could be purchased in a drug store.

Next came my beloved peach lolita dress, a lucky eBay find. No, I don't have a full Georgian gown yet, but the short length of this dress makes it perfect for dancing. It's flirty too! The wig was a rental, dressed up with some of my own flowers. I adore wigs! 

Best of all, I had my very own lascivious dandy! The coat and wig are from an old theatre company.

The ballroom put some flats of enchanting turf in the lobby, and Duke was, naturally, riveted. 

His glee was not shared by all the guests that night...

It was another heavenly night, filled with music, friends, and laughter. Danced with my favorite partners and a few new ones, and managed to have both the Sir Rogers prove exceptionally humorous. Finished it off with hot chocolate and carrot cake in Berkeley! Ah!

Sketching in Museums

Sunday, July 7, 2013

A photographer visiting the museum that day offered to take my picture! 

This past Tuesday, I returned to the California Academy of Sciences to sketch animals from their habitat dioramas in the African Hall. I will admit that I am deeply disgusted by this museum's remodel, but I believe in supporting museums and the sciences, so I purchased a student membership last September regardless. The membership also pays itself off in 3 visits and allows you to bring one free guest.

The African Hall feels like a feeble shadow of its early days before the remodel, but those dear frozen animals that I grew up with are still there, posing proudly for their viewers. I adore drawing them!
The old Simson African Hall. How I miss you and your North American counterpart! 

Tusher African Hall, after the remodel. 

Sketching in a museum is a wonderful experience, and I encourage all artists to try it at least once. Drawing from a model is far more immersive and educational than drawing a photograph. As you draw, you may be surprised by small details that you hadn't noticed before. All background chatter and noise seems to drain away as you quietly contemplate form and shape.

Curious onlookers? I have never had a problem with them. Even children rarely peer over my shoulder. Most people who want a look at my sketchbook tend to do so at a respectful distance and I'm almost never interrupted.

I should also mention that if you let your mind take little breaks to focus away from your subject, you pick up on the most humorous conversations, remarks, and attitudes from the museum visitors. My personal favorite from this last visit was "Bees are not cigarettes. I learned that from this place..."

In addition to a half-finished sketch of an oryx, and a pen study of reindeer antlers, I completed this portrait of a male Roan Antelope (Hippotragus equinus).

Roan Antelope Study by ~Stagsleap on deviantART

African Hall 03
Photo by Sinh_Phun. Click for more of his amazing photos of the dioramas!

Gaskell Ball April 2013

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

After missing the last three Gaskell Balls, it felt wonderful to finally get back on the dance floor last Saturday.
I had acquired a few new dresses from a theater sale last year, and since my first choice (a white dress) needed a new sash and some appropriate gloves, I settled upon a magenta/plum one. This particular dress doesn't stand out on the hanger, and might even be passed up as "tacky", but with a few petticoats, a good hairdoo, and a sleeve adjustment, it passes for a decent Victorian gown! It fits my torso snugly, and gives wonderful shape without a corset. The lightweight fabric makes it perfect for dancing. It's already one of my favorite dresses!

Had a great time at the ball chatting with old friends and dancing with new ones.

My friend, Ben, and I. We first met when he asked me to dance the Bohemian National Polka,  a dance that neither of us knew at the time. We pranced through the choreography filled to the brim with giggles and smiles. It was one of my favorite dances ever! 

Duke, looking dukish. 

Update, May 5th: New photos! Thank you to Anthony Argyriou for the images!

Taken during "The Galop", one of the most frightening social dances one can take part in. You rev up and gallop head-long at the other dancers, yelping, squealing, and oof-ing aplenty. 

OPI "Instinct of Color" Commercial

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Have you ever watched something that made you jump up and down like a kid and squeal - "that's me!"?

Not that it's literally YOU on the television (or magazine, or computer, etc), but that whatever you're watching seems to have boiled down the essence of what it means to be you and transformed it into mainstream media? Maybe something that so beautifully aligns your interests and passions that you feel almost as if it was designed specifically for you?

Well, that happened to me today...

The nail polish company, OPI, created a breathtaking commercial depicting a dance-off between a haute ecole dressage horse and a group of dancers. Oh. My. God.

I just about lost it when the ballerina and the horse bowed to each other.

The horse is a black thoroughbred who appears to be named "Lady in Black", but I have been unable to find any more information on the equine, except that he/she was trained by Mario Luraschi. Those who are not as familiar with horses might be surprised to know that nearly all of the horse's "dance moves" are real. You have not seen true nobility until you have seen a haute ecole-trained horse!

I think I might use this commercial to introduce myself to people. I have not spoken much about my equine-obsessed side of my life, but it's there! Perhaps I'll post some pictures in the future. :)

"Wings of the Swan", Princess Tutu Cosplay

Friday, March 15, 2013

Princess Tutu: Wings of the Swan by ~Stagsleap on deviantART

Last year at Fanime, I was able to coordinate quite a few private shoots for my various outfits, including this Princess Tutu, a Lolita, my vintage dress, and my red bustle gown. As soon as my college portfolio is finished at the end of this month, I'll be uploading lots more cosplay photos. Enjoy this teaser, photographed by Jason, AKA Gamefan23!

Homemade Pointe Shoes and Instant Gratification

Monday, March 11, 2013

"Homemade pointe shoes".
Punch that phrase into the YouTube search bar and prepare for a night of jaw-dropping stupor!

Girls (who seem to only exist from the knees down) post videos of themselves stomping around in handmade pointes created from clay, cardboard, tacky gift wrap ribbon, and ballet slippers stuffed like Hermann Goring at a smorgasbord.

Nearly all of the videos are filled with comments telling these girls to stop, but it seems to be of little use. Some YouTubers even have multiple models of their "Freedensteins" to view on their channels. In leopard print too!

I think those are Starbucks cup cozies in there?

Nearly all dedicated ballet dancers can tell you about the importance of that magical build-up towards their first real pair of pointe shoes. The months (if not years!) of patient waiting, working hard in the studio hoping for that day when the instructor will finally say, "You're ready". Then comes the celebrated first fitting followed by the first class. It can be a magical time, whether you earn your first pair at 12 or 35.

While the potential for injury with these home-made shoes is obvious, the greater (and more likely) danger comes from training the muscles of the leg and foot incorrectly. By the time you do make it to pointe, you may have a very difficult time breaking the bad habits you taught yourself.

We live in a culture of instant gratification. We don't want to wait for things anymore. We have grown lazy and entitled, and now its even spilled over into ballet. Not ready for pointe yet? Spent all your parent's money on videogames and can't afford classes? Then make your own shoes! Why not?

Not only are these girls robbing themselves of an important life experience (self discipline, patience, etc) and a moment of true magic in their lives, but the readiness and confidence with which they proudly claim "This is completely safe!" and attempt to teach others how to makes these things is astounding. Where are the parents? They need to sit their daughters down and cut them down a notch: "Honey, you are not a foot doctor. You have not studied the anatomy of the human foot, nor do possess any knowledge of shoe design. You are in no position to tell others whether your shoes are "safe" or not. You do not have that knowledge yet." I'm getting a little tired of these self-professed teenage "experts" that seem to sprout everywhere.

Folks, don't rush to be en pointe. ;)

Video - just being a pretty dancer... :P

Sunday, March 10, 2013

This was taken at Fanime last year while waiting for a photoshoot. Just a little improvisation...

I just love floating around and being pretty! This is one of my favorite dresses too - I found it at Goodwill eons ago. It seems vintage, but I'm not sure. Shoes are Gaynor Mindens, as are the tights. :)

Ohgosh, a lovely ballet shoutout!

Sunday, February 24, 2013

How can I express my happiness right now? has posted a lovely shoutout to me!
A ballet video that I posted on YouTube almost exactly one year ago has garnered over 34,000 views. The video shows various clips of me en pointe during a beginner ballet/pointe class at a local studio. I firmly believe that ballet is one of the most elegant, uplifting, noble pursuits that a human being can undertake, and I also believe that ballet should not remain only in the realm of children, but should be more accessible to adults who make the brave decision to learn ballet at a later age.
What brings me the most joy from posting videos of my ballet adventures is the inspiration and hope it can bring to adults and older teens who are under the impression that the ballet world is not open to them.

Legal Ballerina of is also chronicling her adventures in learning ballet. She has a very well put-together blog! I first discovered her blog after examining my YouTube statistics - I noticed that a decent number of my ballet video views were coming from her website. After a little digging, I found that my Adult Beginner Pointe video was linked in her sidebar! I was flattered! I quickly dropped her a note of thanks and she wrote a new blog post about me and how my video has been a source of inspiration on her own ballet journey! She writes:
"It is because of Miss Etherington (along with my teachers, fellow students and family) that I believed that it was possible to learn ballet and advance to en pointe at my age. I still like watching her video. If you take a look, notice how nice her sous-sus is and how strong her legs look. Her feet are beautiful too."

I'm all a-flutter! Thank you darling!

Colress from Pokemon in Copic Markers

Monday, December 31, 2012

Colress by ~Stagsleap on deviantART

I saw a picture of this handsome fellow on the 'net and just couldn't resist!

Apparently he's from "Pokemon Black and White II", a game that I will probably never play and have no interest to. I just saw that crazy hair and yellow eyes and fell in love! It seems he's also known as "the trainer with the Internet Explorer logo for a head...".

I threw him through my Bishie Machine, inked his fluffy locks with Sakura Micron pens, and lovingly slathered him with the ink of the Copic Marker.

I made a speedpaint video too, along with spiffy Colress battle remix music! 

First Day at Dickens - Sunday, Boystyle

Sunday, December 16, 2012

"Why don't you go in civilian clothes?"

I was tired, anxious about school, worried about my sick Beau, and unwilling to commit to anything much. I almost didn't go to Dickens Fair at all on the first weekend. My mother and I had free passes (for that first weekend only) so I pushed my worries aside and decided to head out on Sunday.  My pink gown was not finished, and I felt like I didn't have any other appropriate dress to wear, so I decided I would dress "like a secular" and forgo historical clothing. The plan was to stay at the Fair for only a short time and view the shows, which I have often missed in past years.

So, I went into my closet to find "civilian clothes" and I came out looking like this...

I completely forgot my love of dressing like a boy. Oh my, how I had forgotten that sweet, liberating feeling! I felt more giddy and powerful than I had in a long time.

I accompanied my mother around the fair, nibbled at some Bangers and Mash (the food, not the band!), danced a wee bit, and went to Saucy French Postcards. It was a low-key day, but I was delighted to see nearly all of my fair friends!

When a dancer trips...

Friday, November 30, 2012

During tonight's performance, I tripped.

Before jumping into a tour-jete, it felt as if someone had pulled the rug out from under me. I didn't fall down, but I stumbled. It felt my shoulder slump and my head look down. For one second, I was in front of hundreds of people and absolutely petrified.

When you love what you do, your body and mind can work together to pilot your struggling ship straight again. I'm wearing a beautiful white tutu with flowers; I have a crown upon my head. I am a ballerina. The effervescent, magical, powerful storyteller of the theater. The audience wants to love me. My mind did not forget the steps that came next; my body did not fail to get me right up upon my leg again. A quick port de bras and my pas de basques came large and expressive. I back on track. My smile returned.

Of course I am concerned about how I must have looked. Was the illusion lost? Did I contribute to a lower morale amongst my fellow dancers for the rest of the piece? Did my face wrench into an unpleasant expression as I flailed? Did I flail? Was I able to regain my posture decently enough?

A year or two ago, I may have been in tears. I would have been nervous and shaking. But I sit in the dressing room, happy and content. I am fine. Unbelievably, I feel great.

During the last section of the piece, when all the various characters come on stage to get into the final tableau, there is a moment when I prance into my center spotlight with a series of developpes before taking my pose in preparation for the ending. I have a moment to look into the audience, my arms outstretched and my slippers gesturing out to the top rows. Tonight, as I smiled upon them with my lips and my heart, I thought I heard a loving applause. It could have been for the others, but I would like to think they were welcoming me back - telling me "It's okay. We have your back; well done. " As I floated into my final pose, I felt happier than I had been in a long time.

When a dancer trips, remember that the audience wants you to do well. To see someone get right back up and carry on with a genuine smile may be even more thrilling than the fall itself. People love stories of individuals overcoming obstacles. When you trip or fall, it's almost like a miniature drama playing out in front of them. If you return from your "fall from grace" with strength and beauty, the audience is thrilled.

Dancers are the athletes of god. You are blessed and beautiful. You enthrall and entertain with a poise and magic that no other entertainer possesses. When you fall, don't let yourself fall down a black hole of despair. You are one of the privileged, so smile and continue your magical spell. There is a good chance the audience barely noticed anyway.

Opening Night!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

It's Opening Night!

Here I sit in the corner of the over-stuffed dressing room, surrounded by flocks of dancers, a thin mist of hairspray hanging above our manicured heads. The music and sounds from the stage filter in through a speaker. Every so often, the pitched slap of skin against the stage floor echos through - most of the dance pieces are contemporary, after all, and you how those dancers just love their sadomasochistic relationship with the floor.

My white and red tiara perches happily on my head. My tutu has been tucked away on it's skinny hanger; it will not join me in the curtain call.

The dancers on stage breathe so heavily right now that I can hear it through the speaker.

It was a wonderful opening night. I was nervous, of course, but not nearly as much as I have been for past shows. This is my first show as a real "ballerina" with a sparkling tutu, and my joy was probably quite evident on my smiling face. I had so much fun out there! I'm working on keeping my chin up, since I cast my gaze too low sometimes. My pique pirouette manage started beautifully, but I when I realized I was going farther downstage than I should have, a small hitch made its way to my feet like a hiccup. It felt like an earthquake, but I'm sure it was miniscule.

The song playing right now reminds me of droids angrily boffing each other...

In my turning balances, I felt like my feet and legs were tied in knots, and I'm sure the footwork wasn't pretty... But I am still joyful. I have done it! I have performed in a tutu, with a tiara, in front of an audience! I hope I was able to share my excitement and joy with the audience tonight. :) 

Backstage photos!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Backstage in the dressing room at the theatre! I'm playing a ballerina from a Degas painting in a dance piece  about Impressionism. Dancers portray various subjects from Impressionist paintings. I even have a little solo! No pointe shoes, though.
Tonight is our first dress rehearsal, and we are slated to remain in the theatre until 11pm tonight. Yikes!

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