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!

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