Saturday, July 27, 2013

A trip to Seoul

Since South Korea is relatively close to Nagasaki, and our classes are over, and we really wanted to visit Seoul, a friend and I made a trip there last week.
Gyeongbokgung, the big palace.
It was really interesting. Korea is very different from Japan, although there are many similarities of course. I felt like Seoul was much more lively, open, spontaneous, but also more rude and shabby than Japan. Some parts of the city were visibly poorer, the streets dirtier and the buildings deteriorated. There's more of a street culture, with stalls selling food and scooters and chaotic traffic, more like the image I have of China or South-East Asian countries. Japan seems more organized. I was shocked that people didn't neatly line up in the subway! And everyone is constantly looking at their smartphone, children and elderly included. I wonder if our country will be like that soon, too.
I don't really see what's wrong with the girl on the left picture, but I do see a lot of Photoshop on the right one...
The amount of advertisements for cosmetic surgery, and the amount of people who visibly had had surgery, was unnerving. Not having had your eyes 'done' is almost unacceptable for a young woman with ambitions. A girl we met there told us she didn't want to have surgery, but her mom had made her, so now here eyes were double-lidded. She said she had been very scared, but that her mom thought it was necessary in order to be successful. That scared me. Eyes, nose, even jawline are being changed. How can you recognize yourself after that? I can't imagine the psychological effects, let alone the disturbed self-image of Korean women... 

This guy drove away the Japanese army some centuries ago, so he got a statue. Sadly the Japanese came back a few times to ravage the country, the last time being WW2. Not nice. 
I felt like Seoul has a very shallow, consumerist side, and a rich cultural one on the other hand. We saw make-up shops lined up in the shopping walhalla Myeongdong, pretty antique shops and old houses in Insadong, and beautiful palaces like Gyeongbokgung. If you're ever going to Seoul, I really recommend those 3 places in particular.

Bukchon Hanok Village, near Insadong. 

The crowd at Gangnam station. Hellish.
If you like to party Hongdae is nice, with clubs and bars and noraebang (Korean karaoke), but apart from karaoke I'm not really fond of 'clubbing' and such so I wasn't too enthusiastic about it. Gangnam is much like Shinjuku, very, very crowded and very modern, with skyscrapers and designer shops, but I only went there shortly just to have been there. A place I recommend to avoid is Itaewon. It's apparently popular for going out but I really disliked the atmosphere. There are a lot of foreigners, which could be fun, but most of them are from the American military and that doesn't make it a friendly environment for young women (well, depends on what you want to do, but I disliked it). We went into a restaurant and got cat-called immediately by drunk American men. On the streets too, I felt uncomfortable and unsafe, and we left quickly.

All in all, I had the most fun in Insadong where I bought pretty souvenirs including a small jade Buddha for my brother, and in Myeongdong, a labyrinth of shops and stalls that's very lively at night. Most staff in the shops also spoke Japanese and Chinese, because so many tourists come there. English was more of a challenge, so I was happy I could communicate in Japanese, because I don't understand any Korean (only 'thanks', 'I love you' and 'toilet'. Still useful, I guess.). There were many stalls that sold hairclips, socks and earrings etc. for 1000 won a piece, which converts to roughly 0,70 euro (or around 0,90 US dollar). And cute, too! Needless to say, I bought a lot.
Here's my loot:

a ring, earrings, a new pencase and a wallet. 
hairthings! I love ribbons and flowers :) The floral headband is from Forever21, the only 'real' shop I bought from, but it was the first and only thing to break; it lost some flowers the first time I wore it. I've since glued them back on.
socks and a belt. 
Now I won't buy any more earrings or hairthings for a year at least!

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Historical sewing plans: inspiration

Dear readers, am I tired! The Japanese language proficiency test (日本語能力試験; nihongo nouryoku shiken) was today. I have to wait 'till September to get the results, and by then I'll be home already. I really don't know whether I made it or not. It depends on kanji I think, the other parts went okay. I did N2, which is the second-highest of a total of 6 levels. For a job in Japan you probably need N1 which is near-native, but I don't think I'll ever go that far.
However, now that this test is over, it's awfully clear that I've only got a month left in Japan! The lessons are almost finished, and in the last weeks I want to travel around a bit with friends (perhaps even to South Korea!).

After that, I'll be back home again. Back to my lovely sewing machine which I've missed so much <3
And then... I'll be sewing like mad! I've got so many plans! Mostly historical. A wonderful person gave me a wonderful book for my birthday: 'Patterns of Fashion' by Janet Arnold, the 1660-1860 version. I really want the other versions as well, but let's start with this one.

So, my wish list. I used to have Lolita Dream Dresses, but now I have historical ones. I do have sketches of the actual dresses I want to sew, but for now I'll show you my sources of inspiration. In chronological order:

1500's: Italy: Renaissance. Da Vinci & Lucrezia Borgia.
While I don't think the silhouette would look that flattering on me, I do adore the sleeves. I just love how elaborate and detailed everything is. The hairstyles, too <3 Plus, I've always had a crush on Leonardo da Vinci.

Da Vinci's Lady with an Ermine.

1600's: Holland: Baroque. Vermeer & the Dutch Golden Age. France: Louis XIV.
Again, I don't think it's very flattering, but I love it because it's my heritage. I have always loved the paintings from the Dutch Golden Age (Rembrandt and Vermeer, to name a few) and through researching fashion I've discovered even more (Ter Borch). It was the time of Louis XIV, the Sun King of France and, to me, epitome of luxury and love for arts and elegance. Holland was one of the wealthiest countries in Europe and arts like painting, music and architecture flourished. 

Ter Borch.


The Sun King, Louis XIV. Most fabulous man ever.

1700's: France: Rococo. Marie Antoinette.
Cliché, probably, but whatever. I love the decadence of this era. I really want to try to make a robe à la française, with the double pleated cape-like back. 

like this.
but this is pretty too...

1800-1820: England: Regency. Jane Austen!
A brief period of simpler, classical fashion before the hoop skirts came back in the Victorian time. I love Jane Austen's books and I love the screen versions too, particulary the BBC-series of Sense & Sensibility and Emma. My secret goal is to make dresses based on 5 of Austen's heroines; Elinor & Marianne, Emma, Jane & Elizabeth. Of course I like Fanny and Catherine and Anne as well, especially Anne, but I don't have a specific image in mind when I think of them. And it would be a bit too much otherwise... (as if it isn't already!)

BBC's Emma: Mr. Knightley & Emma.

BBC's Sense & Sensibility: Elinor and Marianne.
s Sense & Sensibility.
 1850-1870:  England: Victorian (but only a small part). American Civil War.
To be honest, I don't care much for Victorian fashion. This must be shocking because Lolita always claimes to be based on Victorian (children's) clothing, and most historical sewing blogs I've found swoon over the period, but I just don't like bustle skirts. But I suppose I can't get away with completely ignoring Queen Victoria's reign of 63 years and 7 months, so I'll post the dresses from her time that I don't find too bad (the ones with round hoop skirts instead of bustles).

The same dress, two versions: with a jacket for daily wear...

and bare shoulders for the evening!

The Young Victoria. Vic's wedding dress even has its own Wikipedia page. Quite an achievement!

Speaking about wedding dresses, wouldn't this one be marvellous?
 1900-1920: French Belle Epoque, English Edwardian, and a little later: Downton Abbey.
I've discoverd this era through Downton Abbey, although the series begins when the Edwardian era stops, and flows into the roaring 20's (which I love as well, but won't cover today). There are lots of pretty dresses to be seen on the Crawley sisters, so I've added many more to my wishlist.

 Next time I'll post some drawings of dresses I'm planning to make. I do fear that most of them will continue to be Dream Dresses instead of Real ones for a long while, 'cause I really won't have time to sew a lot... :(

Monday, July 1, 2013

More rain...

The rainy season, although apparently not as heavy as normal, continues to pour water down on Nagasaki almost every day. Even if the day seems to start sunny, sooner or later you'll be caught in a downpour. Therefore, I never go out without rainboots. 

I liked my first outfit with them, but patterned tights make everything better, don't you agree? They certainly cheer me up on gloomy days like these!

First try.
New version!
As you may have noticed, butterflies are a favourite of mine. I like them because they're colourful and playful, and the symbol of Psyche, the Greek mythological girl who became the lover of Eros/Amor. He symbolizes the heart and she the soul. So butterflies are not only pretty but also symbolic; all the more reason to like them :)

More butterflies, this time in the belt. It's a vintage one my mother found. When I was little I played Mary Magdalene in the musical Jesus Christ Superstar (though it's a bit embarrassing to remember) and we wore clothing from the 70's. I had a green dress with wide bell sleeves (and, if I remember correctly, shiny sequins too), and a belt with a butterfly as clasp. I think my mother bought me this belt because she remembered how much I loved that outfit (even though it probably looked ridiculous. I just loved big dresses!).
So, to continue the hippie-style:

Actually I don't think the boots look so good with this skirt so I cropped them off. 
And now for something completely different! Uniqlo has collaborated with Laduree (the macaron shop from Paris, as all of you probably know) and the T-shirts they've brought out are really nice and cheap.
So I dressed up as a pink cloud and a piece of candy.


These socks have polkadots and ribbons on the back and were not even 300 yen :3

Well, I'm going to leave you with this. The first version of my final paper on persecuted Japanese christians in the 16th and 17th century is finished, but I have a proficiency-test coming up that requires more studying...