Theatre: It's On Our Heads

Thursday, July 27, 2017

On until the 12th of August, Theater: It's On Our Heads, is the latest exhibition at The Opera Gallery - a small gallery situated in the wing of Warsaw's National Opera.

As soon as word got to me about the opening of this exhibition, I was determined to go and relieved that it was on during the summer - when I am home from university. Were I to be unable to see it, I would be breaking my attendance record at their fashion related exhibitions! Having previously focused on dress and footwear it seemed only natural that the next area of interest will be millinery. And so, I walked into a room full of headdresses, bonnets, horns, wreaths and even full-on animal heads. All were gathered together to portray the variety of hats held and produced in one of the country's most prominent wardrobe departments.

Above: Fascinators worn by the choir in Franz Lehar's The Merry Widow.
Dir. Maciej Wojtyszko, 2002. Designed by Izabela Chelkowska.

By dividing their exhibitions into the aforementioned categories one is able to focus solely on particular elements, which, when seen on stage, become part of a complete costume. It is easy to forget that hats are often produced by specialist milliners and long-time masters of their craft, rather than by the general costume designer, and because of this are entitled to an exhibition of their own. The attention to detail in the objects portrayed was exemplary, however, at the same time, one could tell that these were one-of-a-kind pieces; fashioned, re-fashioned, cleaned and mended to meet the specific measurements and survive the long, tiring hours on stage, atop actors' and dancers' heads.

Although the purpose of the exhibition is to draw attention to the meticulous craftsmanship of the individual artists working backstage, it also serves as a reminder of the collaborative nature of theatrical productions. It is not unheard of for commercial fashion designers to lend their talents to theatre costume departments. For the former it is an exciting new challenge, while the latter view it as a way of appealing to contemporary trends and an opportunity to welcome a fresh viewpoint on designs and productions which often run annually for decades. In my photos below you can notice designs by Joanna Klimas as well as, perhaps the better now known internationally, Gosia Baczynska (ever since Kate Middleton wore one of her gowns during her July 2017 visit to Poland). One look at the silver bejewelled slinky gown and feathered fascinator, which Baczynska created for the protagonist in Verdi's La Traviata (Warsaw National Opera, M. Trelinski, 2010), and you will not stop wondering why this designer is not yet famous around the world.

Theater: It's On Our Heads is a peek behind the curtain into the studios of those who rarely recieve due appreciation for their work. Along with previous exhibitions about dresses and shoes, it is a symbol of gratitude and acknowledgement for the work that can be difficult to fully appreciate when seated far away from the stage, surrounded by gleaming lights. Seldom do we thank these artists and creators at the end of a production and therefore I feel it is our duty to do so by visiting The Opera Gallery - especially since the entrance is free!     

Entry to the exhibition (entrance from the theatre lobby, 2nd floor).
The title hat features the design of Warsaw's National Opera/Grand Theatre by Antonio Corrazi and Bohdan Pniewski.

The staircase leading to the exhibition (entrance from the street).

Headdresses from Stravinsky's Rite of Spring. Choreography adapted, from Waclaw Nizynski's original, by Millicent Hodson, 2011. Designed by Nikolaj Roerich / Kenneth Archer.

Wreaths from Karol Kurpinski's Krakovians and Mountaineers, dir. Janusz Jozefowicz, 2007, designs by Maria Balcerek AND from Wladyslaw Zelenski's Goplana, dir. Janusz Wisniewski, 2016, designs by Janusz Wisniewski.  

Hanna's wreath from Franz Lehar's The Merry Widow. Dir. Maciej Wojtyszko, 2002. Designed by Izabela Chelkowska.

Costume and fascinator with feather plumes belonging to Violetta Valery in Guiseppe Verdi's La Traviata. Dir. Mariusz Trelinski, 2010. Designed by Gosia Baczynska. 

Kokoshnik's from Tchaikovsky's Mazeppa. Choreography by Jurij Grigorowicz, 2011. Designs by Andrzej Kreutz Majewski.

Detail from above.

Middle design by Joanna Klimas for Tchaikovsky's Onegin, dir. Mariusz Trelinski, 2002.

Headband from Franz Lehar's The Merry Widow, dir. Maciej Wojtyszko, 2002. Designed by Izabela Chelkowska.

Cloistress cornette from Mozart's Don Giovanni, dir. Mariusz Trelinski, 2002. Designed by Arkadius. 

Nun's cornette from Nino Rota's La Dolce Vita. Choreography by Zofia Rudnicka, 2000. Designed by Izabela Chelkowska. 

Masks from Hector Berlioz's La damnation de Faust. Dir. Achim Freier, 2003. Designs by Achim Freier and Axel Aust. 

Theatre: It's On Our Heads is on view at The Opera Gallery from 16.05.2017 - 12.08.2017
in Warsaw, Poland.

Classic Coach Bags - An Ode To Timeless Simplicity

Friday, July 7, 2017

Today I would like to talk about the original range of Coach handbags. For me, the ideal bag is one that is simple, durable, versatile and timeless. The Coach Classics line, as these handbags are generally referred to, fulfil all these requirements perfectly. Founded in New York City in 1941, Coach thrived on their leather-handling expertise and became known for creating finely-crafted but practical accessories. Regarded today as a distinctly American brand, with a national tie similar to Tommy Hilfiger or Michael Kors, Coach remains up-to-date with changing fashions and advertising strategies (remember their Fall 2013 campaign with Karlie Kloss and Liu Wen - I loved it... but maybe that's because I was born in NYC!).

However, as much as I value the Coach brand and wish it continued success, I cannot help but notice that the designs which capture my heart most, are no longer available. A proud possession in the 80s and 90s, these simple, undecorated, classic bags were believed not to appeal to the more frivolous styles of the early 2000s and were substituted for accessories made of combined materials monogramed with the letter "C". While these new designs did become fashion favourites themselves, let's not forget that fashion is cyclical and less is (always) more. After a decade and a half, demand for timeless simplicity and designs that last unsurprisingly returned. Coach has since attempted to create an updated version of its classic line and launch models which borrow design features from the originals. Although some of Coach's modern bags do occasionally tempt me, it is the vintage ones that are forever etched in my memory!

My own first acquisition from the Coach Classics line was the Willis bag and then the Regina model. Pictured in the title photograph, they are both made from black cowhide leather and were purchased online -- the former on Asos Marketplace and the latter through Ebay. I filmed a video (below) featuring additional information as well as reviews of both bags for anyone considering acquiring one. The full range of classic bags contained more than the five models pictured in the photograph below and I often stumble upon alternative versions that fit seamlessly into the line. It truly must have been a very popular bag.

Below: An excerpt from a catalogue advertising the Shoulder Purse.

Above: A photo from an outfit post by Blair, writer of the blog Atlantic-Pacific, from August 2011 - the bags made a brief comeback around this time and they have been on my radar ever since.

The Mesh Bag Is Back

Monday, June 19, 2017

A few years ago I bought a netted, crotchet, mesh, fishing, whatever-you-want-to-call-it bag. I saw it out of the corner of my eye in a boutique in Warsaw and although it was a bright fuchsia colour, and I usually go for versatile blacks or browns, I bought it! And I remember why too. There were a couple of reasons. Firstly, I knew it was an accessory worn in the past that would fit my vintage-style outfits, and secondly, it was an item I distinctly remember my grandmother talk about using. I never, however, imagined it would become such a trendy accessory within the next few years. And boy do I love it when items used daily in the past become desirable and fashionable again - which seems to be the case here!

Above: A newspaper advert for the crotchet bag, c. late 1930s - early 1940s.

The bag itself was already in use in the 1930s, especially for everyday food shops or visits to fruit and vegetable markets. It was also a typical summer accessory, used to carry towels and a few bits to the beach. One of the bags advantages is its ability to significantly expand and shrink in size. The way it is designed allows it to widen, a bit like stretching out a fishing net, to accommodate bulky items or awkwardly shaped fruits. It actually has a particularly nostalgic connotation in Poland, which is where I live, because it was a type of bag often carried by people throughout the communist regime (i.e. the 1950s to 1980s) - which is why I remember my grandma talking about it. She fondly recalled the peculiar little bag that that accompanied her on grocery trips to stores with not enough stock (not such a fond memory). I love to reminisce about stories my grandma told me and the fact that this style of bag reminds me of them is heartwarming. That's what I like about old items - they carry a story. So if you want to bring back a bit of the past, all the while keeping up with the latest trends, then I think this practical purchase is one to make.

I saw versions of the bag appear in stores such as H&M and recently noticed it on Instagram too. This really is proof that a great invention never ceases to amaze, even if it's as simple as a cotton (or 100% recycled polyester - it's nice you are trying to care for the environment H&M) crotchet bag. 

An H&M (Summer 2017 collection) mesh shopper bag, made from 100% recycled polyester.
Accessed on 9/06/2017.

A post shared by meganellaby (@meganellaby) on

A post shared by JESSICA ALIZZI (@jessalizzi) on

Vintage Fashion Competition, Summer 2015

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

As some may know, one of my favourite things to do is to recreate style from the past. Since summer vacation is (fairly) fast approaching I wanted to share this video I found, from a competition I took part in two years ago. Hopefully I can do something similar again this year!

The event was part of a wider commemorative celebration of the June 6th 1944 landing of Allied forces in Normandy, France. Included in the week-long happening was a 1940s fashion show, 1940s open-to-the-public fashion competition (which I took part in), jazz music concerts, dioramas, reenactments of battles and much more.

So take a look at the short video below and catch a glimpse of my outfit at 1:50 minutes - events like these might convince you to visit the beautiful Polish peninsula!


Latest Instagrams

© Krystyna Spark. Design by FCD.