Announcements + Grab yourself a Gravatar

First, I’m being all self reliant and naughty and beating my web designer to updating the Costume Portfolio page.  So bear with me while it gets all prettified.

Second, (and this one is the BIG announcement), I’m giving the Pompeii to Paris talk again – this time as part of the Massey University Blow Creative Arts Festival.  So check out the details on the Events page, and book your tickets to Wellington!

Oh, and this time, its free!

Last, I have finally figured out how to use Gravatar, which means I now have an image to represent me whenever I respond to your comments, and to travel with me to lots of other sites!

It’s super easy.  Just go to, click on “Get your Gravatar Today”, sign up (it’s two tiny steps) and upload an image for your computer, or put in the html address for a (non-copyright protected) image you like off the internet.  Then crop it to the size you like, and whenever you use the e-mail you have chosen to leave a comment on a website, your avatar will come up!

How easy is that?

And then, whenever you comment on this site, everyone will be able to see “you”.

Here is some avatar worthy inspiration images:

Textiles: where technology meets “you’ve got to be kidding me”

Due to the courses I teach, I’ve been doing a lot of reading up on technologically innovative textiles.

A lot of it is really neat, but also somewhat expected: making textiles lighter, stronger, or better at keeping you warm or cool.

Some of it is just neat, like invisibility cloaks, and knitted heart valves.

And then there is the stuff that is just…weird.

Like the Ebbra – an ‘emergency bra’ that doubles as a face mask in the event that you get caught in a sandstorm, develop an infectious cough in a matter of minutes, find yourself surrounded by people with infectious coughs, or forget to leave your building when the exterminator tents it.

And the best part is, you have a second half to give to a friend.

The bra in action

It goes from this... this - in a matter of minutes!

Then there is the Hug Shirt – a wired shirt that uses electronic impulses to give the sensation of a ‘hug’ whenever a friend with a bluetooth or an iphone uses their ‘Hug Shirt’ app to send you one.

The best/worst part?  It was voted one of the “Best Inventions of 2006″ by Time Magazine.  Seriously?  The best thing anyone managed to invent in 2006 was another way to communicate without actually touching?!?

All this technology makes me feel like I need to retreat into my Luddite cave and do some hand sewing.

Rate the Dress: Maria Alexandranova in double

No one could agree on anything from last week’s Rate the Dress.  Some loved the colours, some didn’t.  Some thought the sleeves too big, others adored them.  The low neckline and high camisa were popular with some readers, and deemed awkward by others.  And while some of you thought the model looked astonishingly modern and real, others found her a bit, well, red-eyed vampirish.  All in all, Bronzini’s Lady in Green rated an 8.4 out of 10.

This week I present something entirely unprecedented: one woman, in one ensemble, as portrayed by two different artists.  You already know the artists and the model as you have rated Maria Alexandrovna in the past (she got a 6.5).

Both Winterhalter and Ivan Makarov painted Maria Alexandrovna (yes, the Victorian Kristen Stewart) in a muted ensemble, lavishly trimmed in lace, and draped in pearls.

I haven’t been able to determine if one portrait was taken from the other, or if both painters painted Maria from life (and if so, at the same time?). Certainly the poses and fall of the draperies are suspiciously similar, though Winterhalter’s portrait implies the dress has a skirt of full tiers of lace, and Makarov’s portrait implies that the silk satin of the dress is blue-grey in colour.

Franz Xaver Winterhalter, Portrait of Empress Maria Alexandrovna, 1857, Hermitage

Ivan Makarov, Portrait of Empress Maria Alexandrovna, ca 1857

So, a challenge for you dear readers! You have already rated Maria Alexandrovna once. Now you get the opportunity to see her in a whole new light. Or lights. How do you feel about the dress now that you can see how two different artists saw and painted it? Would you have liked one version, but not the other?  Will she rate better than she did in the past?

And how do you Rate the Dress on a scale of 1 to 10 based on the combined effect?

Meet the Dreamstress

Leimomi Oakes is the Dreamstress, a textile historian, seamstress, designer, speaker and museum professional. Leimomi is available for educational and entertaining presentations, textile and fashion advice, special commissions and events. Click to learn more

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