Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Help! Vintage Swimwear

My friends and I have planned a very last minute trip to Daylesford/Hepburn Springs - the spa capital of Victoria and the highest concentration of mineral springs in Australia! Being winter, I hadn't even begun to think of buying swimwear but it's become clear I'm going to need one, and fast!

The white bikini I had my eye on has sold out in my size :( so now I need to quickly find something else that's just as lovely and put an order on yesterday to make sure it arrives here in time! It needs to be something I can actually swim in (as I make regular beach holidays with my family) so I'm looking at reproduction/vintage inspired sites only.

My shortlist looks a little like this so far (but if you have suggestions for any other sites or styles I'd love to hear them!):

Bathing Beauty One Piece in Emmy from Modcloth

This kind of gold/mustard colour is really flattering on redheads... I just hope it will look nice on my pale skintone! If only there was a way to try it on over the net...

Zen Garden Two Piece from Modcloth

I have such a weakness for Japanese inspired prints!

Beach Blanket Bingo Two Piece from Modcloth

This one is super cute, but I already have a romper in exactly the same pattern and colourway, so it feels a little too much like doubling up for some reason! The black colourway is calling to me, however...

Red Retro Swimsuit from For Luna

So classic! But is the red too bright? Will it clash with my hair? My mother always told me that redheads can't wear red, which is a way of thinking I'm trying to deprogram myself from (but it is always in the back of my mind when I want to buy something red).

Black Retro Bikini from For Luna

This one is lovely, and I know for certain that black looks great on me (how very Melbournian I will be if I buy this! The in-joke here, for my overseas readers, is that black is the only colour worn in Melbourne, ever. I'll even take it to the beach!) It's just not as high waisted as the modcloth ones, and as I'm pretty insecure about my tummy that's a point against it... However, it's the same style as the white one I wanted so it is currently topping my list.

Other things I'm taking into consideration are Modcloth's more expensive shipping, and the fact that they don't give an estimate of the time it would take to send out my suit (if any Australian readers have experience with how long it takes their packages to arrive, please let me know!)

Please help me out by commenting below!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Tutorial: The Half Moon Manicure

Today I thought I'd share the products and process I use when recreating a classic vintage look - the half moon manicure. It's a beautiful way to polish off (no pun intended) your outfits, but can be messy, time consuming, and frustrating. I have a few tips and tricks that have helped me out both with freehanding the moon and making a long lasting manicure, which I'm going to outline here. I should have taken more pictures, but I decided to make a tutorial only when I was halfway through painting my nails! Oops!

It generally takes me roughly an hour to paint my nails - now this may seem extreme, but it's only because I like to wait 10~15 minutes between coats to allow them to dry properly. If you don't let each coat dry, you risk getting bubbles, bald spots and a soft manicure that dents easily. Oh, and if you don't let your manicure fully dry before applying topcoat, the colour that you used will mix with the clear polish and contaminate your bottle. I like to pop on a DVD and sit at my computer so I don't get bored while waiting. Taking time and care with your manicure can actually make the process really relaxing and calming (or maybe that is just the fumes speaking).

1. The Tools

From left to right, top to bottom:
  • OPI Chip Skip
  • China Glaze Strong Adhesion Base Coat
  • The Colour - (for this manicure I used OPI Dating A Royal)
  • Revlon Colourstay Top Coat
  • Acetone Free Nail Polish Remover
  • Manicare Nail Enamel Corrector Pen
  • Orange Sticks
  • Nail File
  • Q-tip
It's important to use good quality polish. I used to wear a lot of Revlon but found it chipped very easily, often bubbled and many colours had problems with balding. Using better quality polish like China Glaze or OPI means a longer lasting manicure for your efforts. That said, I do like Revlon's Colourstay Topcoat. It's nice and cheap too, which is great as I go through a lot.

While reds and pinks may have been the traditional colour of choice for this kind of manicure, there's no reason to limit yourself! As you can see from the advertisements and articles over at Tea with the Vintage Baroness and Casey's Elegant Musings (who I hope doesn't mind me pinching that picture...) the spectrum of polish colours available in the past was in fact a lot greater than we may think! I find that dark or jewel toned colour look best as they give the greatest contrast with the bare nail.

I'll mention the other products and what I use them for throughout the tutorial.

2. Prep the Nail

With your nail file, file from the outer edge of your nail towards the centre to get that oval shape. Never file back and forth! This leads to splintering at the tip of your nail. After you are done, wash your hands to get rid of any powdery residue.

Next, push back your cuticles with the orange stick. I'm too lazy to bother with cuticle removal, but this step does help if you have short nails - by giving you a larger surface area to paint on, it makes them look larger.

Now, I use OPI Chip Skip to remove any oily residues (either natural or from things like hand creams) from my nails. I think you can just use plain alcohol to do the same job, but if you've ever had problems with entire nails just peeling off, I would really recommend this product. Nail polish won't adhere properly if there is gunk between it and your nail.

I use one thin layer of China Glaze Strong Adhesion Base Coat, which I personally find to be one of the best. Anything with "sticky" or "tacky" in the name I gravitate to, because I've had such problems with my nail polish just peeling off in sheets. A lot of the base coats that claim to be strengthening or full of nutrients often don't hold as well, so if I feel the need to use something like that I'll use it, and only it, for something like a week as they chip and ruin your hard work way too easily. (If you don't use a base coat, your polish will stain your nails! This is an important step!)

3. Paint the Moon

I freehand this step. I know a lot of people like to use stickers to create guides, but I feel like nail polish seeps under that too easily and if you forget to take it off in time it can peel your polish off with it. This takes a bit of practice to get right, but keep at it! I don't have a natural moon, but if you have one you can use it as a guide as to where to paint. If you have a moon that is very small, you'll get a double moon effect - you might like to paint one coat of nude polish or white polish before you start to disguise this, but it will make cleanup if you mess up the painting of the moon impossible.

Wipe one side of your brush so that you have less polish on it and thus more control over where you paint. Start in the middle of your nail. If you have shaky hands, a good way to get a neat line is to put the brush a little above where you'd like the top of your moon to be and slowly push down until you reach the place where you want. With your next stroke, move to the left of the middle and angle the brush a little outwards so that you are creating a round shape. Do the same on the other side. I then repeat this step again, angling my brush a little more outwards and just touching at the corners to create a more rounded moon (each nail is then done with a total of five strokes, but if you want a less rounded effect you can do it in three).

Outlined in red are the three strokes I use to create the rough moon shape.

If you make any mistakes while painting, you can use a finger to wipe it away while the polish is still wet, or a q-tip dipped in remover. Don't worry if your line doesn't look quite smooth at this point; we'll be neatening it up on the second coat. If you use too many strokes to get it perfect on the first coat, you'll end up dragging all the nail polish to the tip. Just put the brush down, wait and correct it next layer! The second coat will also cover any patchy spots and deepen your colour (sheerer polishes may need three layers). Once it is completely dry, you can put your topcoat on.

The manicure so far - the moon shape looks good, but clearly the edges need some tidying up.

I don't wrap the tip (mostly because I'm too messy) but I know it can extend the life of your manicure. All Lacqured Up has a really great tutorial on this.

Hint - Don't put your nails near a lamp to speed up drying time. Nail polishes don't react well to heat; they can bubble or thicken.

4. Cleanup

This is where your orange sticks, corrector pens and q-tips will come in handy - because the technique that I use involves angling your brush out, the skin around your nails will more often than not get polish on it. You can use your orange stick to trace around the edge of your nail while the polish is still wet. This is a good technique if you just like to get in the shower and let the excess polish fall off naturally because it doesn't adhere to skin well. If you don't do this and the excess is connected to your manicure, the polish on your skin will lift and cause the rest of it to peel.

Using an orange stick to remove the excess polish.

Corrector pens and q-tips dipped in remover do basically the same job, but you get more control over the corrector pens when cleaning around the edges. Q-tips are good for neatening up your moon shape, but make sure to do this step before you put on topcoat!

The completed, neatened manicure.

5. Bonus Level

I love to use a two polish effect when doing my half moon nails. A foil or metallic nail polish finish in a light shade like silver, gold, or champagne looks great and you can create really interesting contrasts with your main polish colour. To create this effect, paint your entire nail in the colour that you want your moon to be before using your darker shade to create the moon shape.

These hands belong to Dita herself, and as you can see she's used a light, frosty colour for her moon.

Sally Jupiter from Watchmen is rocking the same silvery moons!

Glitter polishes aren't great to use for this look; they tend to be gritty and give the overcoat colour on your nail a bumpy look.

However, a glitter for the nail and a creme for the moon will overcome this problem!

In addition, if you're using two polishes to paint your moon and your nail, you can use lighter colours for the nail if you use dark colours in the moon because you retain that contrast effect.

I don't remember where I got this picture from - it's been sitting in my 'inspiration' folder so I'm sorry if it belongs to anyone reading this!

I hope this long and picture heavy post was helpful for some of you out there! The half-moon manicure is a great look, but even when you know all the tips and tricks it is a very time consuming process :/ it's not an everyday manicure, that's for sure! Hopefully Kiss Nails will release the press on prepainted nails that they created for Dita's use, however until then I hope this guide helps you out!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

I dream of...Emmi!

Dun dun dun... it is... complete!

It was a mad rush, but I finished my Jeannie costume just in time for the toy sale (my poor fingers need a break - time constraints and hand sewing do not mix!) I'm overall really happy with how it turned out, and it was a really fun costume to wear - people kept asking if I was cold, but the heating is up so high where I work (plus I was on my feet dealing with crowds non-stop for 10 hours) so I was actually overheating! I wish I could show you a picture of one of my coworkers - he painted himself blue and went as a Navi from Avatar! 4 showers later and it still isn't coming off, apparently!

The crop top was a disaster the first time around, as the simple boob-tube I made was far too saggy and loose. I eventually bought a cheap bra, added cotton and interfacing to give myself more coverage and covered the whole thing in pink chiffon. While that worked much better, I'm still not 100% happy with the end result as it hangs down at the back and the bolero is too short to cover it. This might be a consequence of the halterneck straps I chose for the support, so when Halloween rolls around I think I'll play around with them a little to see if anything can be done.

As you can see it's a bit of a mess from this angle - I'm not quite sure what I can do so any suggestions for fixes would be much appreciated! Hey, at least I looked damn fine from the front!


A lot of young kids actually recognized me, which was a pleasant surprise - I wasn't sure if many people still watched the show! I was able to use my genie magic to solve a few tricky problems for some customers. I was serving a woman who was complaining about how she couldn't find one particular toy - just as she finished describing it to me, a coworker passed me by carrying a trolley of items to be returned to the sales from, and lo and behold, one of them was exactly what she wanted! I plucked it off the top and passed it to her, folded my arms and nodded, and she immediately broke out into laughter. (Besides being entertaining, getting in character is a great way to defuse some potentially volatile situations where things are not going right and shoppers are not happy!)

Looking at these pictures, I think I also need a wig that better matches the colour of the braid I used on the hat... Anyway, sorry about the picspam. I'm just pink with happiness about what I did manage to achieve, regardless of all the flaws. Hopefully I'll have fixed these minor quibbles by Halloween, when my Major Nelson will be ready to hit the town with me!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Guess who?

Take a guess what this pile of odds and ends is going to become...

If you picked Jeannie from "I dream of Jeannie", then you'd be correct!

What do I need a costume for, you may ask? Don't worry, I'm not getting over-excited about Halloween. Rather, every year at my job they ask staff to dress up for midnight opening of the toy sale. It's a nice way to make what is generally the most stressful and busy shift of the year a little more fun. Given that my not-so-secret other passion is costume making, I love to get all dressed up! Last year I was Belle from "Beauty and the Beast" - it was so much fun I stopped to weigh up whether moving to America and becoming a Disney Princess was a viable career option (it probably isn't ;_; ).

For more of my costumes feel free to take a look here - as you can see, I'm not kidding when I say in my profile that I'm a big nerd! Regardless of what other people may think of such a hobby, I enjoy it (although I'm taking a break this year because the scene is getting waaaay too competitive and snarky) and I relish the challenge of transforming something from the screen into real life. Amazingly, I still don't really know how to sew properly or follow a pattern - I would make most of my costumes freehand and cut so many corners that I don't know how to make something last longer than a day! It's been really hard to break the bad habits that I made as a cosplayer (never finishing seams, not reading patterns, using cheap fabrics), but part of learning to sew vintage patterns has been an enforced 'retraining' of myself in sewing! I hope this new project goes well - be certain that I'll be giving you all updates and photos as soon as it is complete!