Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Dracula's Daughter Review

"Thank you, I never drink... wine."
- Countess Marya Zaleska, Dracula's Daughter 

It's officially Halloween season! Which means I will be writing about all things ghoulish and frightful.  

There are some disagreements as to who is the most iconic mistress of darkness out there. Morticia Addams, Vampira, Elvira and Lily Munster are all fan favorites. But my heart belongs to Countess Marya Zaleska, Dracula's Daughter.

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Played by Gloria Holden in the 1936 Dracula's Daughter, she is equal parts mysterious, deadly and vulnerable. The film has it share of cheese and the human characters are somewhat on the bland side, but Countess Zaleska is mesmerizing.    
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Plot (with spoilers): Being a squeal, the film picks up from where Dracula (1931) left off. Countess Zaleska and her manservant Sandor steal Dracula's body and burn it. The Countess hopes that this would rid her of vampirism. But it does not work and she gives in to the blood lust. She meats Dr. Jeffrey Garth (Otto Kruger), a psychologist and one of Von Helsing's foremer pupils, and after a conversation with him becomes hopeful that he could help her overcome her urges through psychoanalysis. But when she encounters a beautiful model Lili (Nan Grey), she cannot resist and drinks her blood. Countess Zaleska gives up any hope of becoming human again and lures Dr. Garth to Transylvania. Her attempts to make him her undead companion fail and she is destroyed by her manservant. 

I think this film and the character are often, sadly, overlooked when people think of the Universal Studios monster line up. The film has very striking visuals and atmosphere. Its treatment of vampirism is also somewhat different from what we are used to today. The lust for blood is framed not as physiological need, but as a psychological affliction. There is no indication that Countess Zaleska needs to drink blood to survive. She drinks blood becasue she cannot help herself. And she expresses remorse and disgust at what she does. Consequently, the suggested cure is not a blood transfusion or any other antidote one could take, but rather psychoanalysis. Gloria Holden is superb as Countess Zaleska, equal parts poised, commanding and tragic. Her line delivery is always on point and she possess that magnetism that makes her dominate every scene.  

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If you want to know more about the film and its production history, check out a wonderful three part article over at Women Write About Comics or see the film, which you can sometimes find on YouTube.   

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Top 5 Vintage Shops in York

This autumn I am planning a short trip to the UK. I will be going to York again and, naturally, I'm very excited to visit my old haunts. So I decided to post these lists of my favorite places to shop for vintage in York.

Bowler Vintage 
52 Fossgate
This is by far my favorite store of the lot. Not becasue it has the best wares, but becasue how stylish it is. Every time I'm there I just feel instantly glamorous. Even if I hadn't washed my hair and I'm wearing my lazy day jean, when I step over the threshold, I become Bette Davis or Norma Shearer. There are two floors to the store, first one is dedicated to men's fashions, and the second has a collection of modern repro clothing (they've got all the usual suspects with Hell Bunny, Collectif and Dancing Days by Banned) as well as vintage pieces. And the atmosphere is lovely - the store is bright, with a lovely old display that contains accessories, wooden chairs, low hanging lampshades and bag-scarf-hat combos decorating the shelves.

Dog & Bone Vintage 
28 Castlegate
While I love Bowler Vintage for the atmosphere, I love Dog & Bone for the stuff. And, boy, do they have some nice stuff! It's also two floors of shopping delight. The ground floor has men's clothes and lifestyle things - cards, games, cups and books. You need to go into the basement to see the women's clothes, and they have plenty. The lights are low and it's a lot more crammed, but they do have some of the best vintage dresses I have ever seen from blue chiffon prom dresses (perfect for cosplaying 1950s Cinderella) to delightful novelty prints cotton frocks that seem to be from the days of rationing.

The Flax & Twine 
20 Shambles
This is what I would call a bric-à-brac store. It has an assortment of the most wonderful things from old typewriters to parasols, from hats and purses to little brushes to remove crumbs from your dining table. I cannot recommend this place enough! You can spend your whole day there looking at little treasures and once you're tired of that, you can head to the second floor and take some tea with cake in their cafe. I am still very sad that I bough nothing there since the things were either too big or too brittle to transport them back home with me.


Expressions 
12 Walmgate
This store was on my regular to-visit list since it was right next to the bus stop that took me to the University. They mostly have the usual rockabilly stuff, which did not strike my fancy. I did, however, feel very drawn to an assortment of sweaters, which had been made by the owner's wife based on authentic 1940s patterns.
   
Sue Ryder Care 
28 Goodramgate

I loved this thrift store (or as they call it in the UK - a charity shop). Unlike most other thrift stores in town that had a pretty indifferent collection of old Marks & Spencer sweaters and ugly shows from the early 2000s, Sue Ryder had a vintage section on the second floor and some of the things there were divine. I have come across some really beautiful hairbrush and mirror sets that were in good condition and cost a fraction of what you would have paid for them in the vintage stores. I bought a pair of cream colored embroidered gloves there. I would have bought a hat, but I had no way of transporting it back home.    

Hope you liked this post. In my next one, I will list my favorite York cafes.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Tarot Cards Photo Shoot


Finally, the photos from our summer Tarot Cards themed photo shoot are here. It was a lot of fun and I'm very happy that I can share the photos here with you.

My first costume was The Star
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It's the 17th card of the Major Arcana. It tends to show a naked woman kneeling next to a pond or a river and pouring out water from two jugs. There is usually one or more stars above the woman.
 

In divination, The Star signifies spirituality, hope, inspiration and serenity.



I had my own interpretation of the card and was very much inspired by the beautiful Hedy Lamarr and her star dress. More on that here. I picked a really lovely spot next to a small fountain with the bay behind me. However, the day was very windy and my hair lost most of the curl and the dress was a little hard to manage. Still, I am quite happy with how the photos turned out.


For my second costume, my friend and I went for Two of Cups

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It's a card of the Minor Arcana. It usually depicts a man and a woman standing face to face and holding cups as if they are toasting each other.

Nicoletta Ceccoli Tarot
In divination, The Two of Cups means relationship, attraction, unified love and bonds of friendship.


We decided to create two shield maiden characters, who are drinking from goblets at the end of a long day's fighting.


I am particularly proud of my tunic which I made from a bed sheet and then embroidered. I used my woven belt that I had bought during a Times & Epochs historical reenactment festival in Moscow a few years back. The gold medallion was something I'd found at a thrift store and the sheep skin vest was a souvenir from Greece. My friend made her tunic out of a dark blue crimped material and trimmed it with faux fur. She's wearing an old Kalevala necklace and a pair of men's boots she'd picked up at the Opera flea market.        


I still wish we had more time to work on the costumes. And the weather was a little grey and indifferent. I have learnt a valuable lesson, though, if you use body glitter, be prepared to find specks of it everywhere for the rest of your life.

 
Photos by Salomon Marttila 

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Retro Photo Session with Shipr

My aunt gave me a wonderful birthday present - a photo session with the retro studio "ШИПР" (Pronounced shipr). These guys are amazing. It's a studio in Moscow where they take pictures using equipment from the early 20th century.

There is no photoshopping involved. Instead, you have a very old camera and a makeshift dark room. They develop the photos right in front of you, in dishes full of chemicals. You can also see them at festivals doing street photography and you can hire them to do events.
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My sister took the pictures of the process. I had two outfits, one that was more 1950s and the other a very 1940s look.


Outfit notes:
Dress - Olivia Rogue 
Gloves - thrifted 
Shoes - Miss L Fire
Stockings - H&M


Outfit notes:
Blouse - Collectif
Trousers - Indiska, from a few years ago
Shoes - Keds

The photo record of the process by Maria K.



The results were delightful! I feel just like an actress from the Golden Age of Hollywood.





 

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Visiting the French Gardens at Kuskovo

My sister and I have been making the rounds of all the manors around Moscow for the past couple of years. This year we decided to visit Kuskovo, a little green paradise in eastern Moscow. One of its main attractions is the only French formal garden left in Moscow.

The French garden at Kuskovo
A formal French garden is characterized by symmetry and order; it's nature brought under human control. This type of garden was particularly popular in the 17th century. In the 18th century the English landscape garden emerged which is all about the picturesque and creating the illusion of wild, untamed nature.              

French garden on the left, all order. English garden on the right, all wilderness. Source
Well, you get the picture.

Kuskovo was the summer estate of the very wealthy and powerful Sheremetev family. They owned large chunks of land around Moscow (their name may be familiar to you from the Sheremetyevo Airport, where they owned a village and its inhabitants), owned a large number of people and were patrons of the arts and theater. I very much recommend reading about them - TV shows like the White Queen will look pretty tame in comparison to their lives.

Kuskovo manor and church, view from the pond 
Apart from the palace, which is just a very large manor house beautifully decorated, the park has a grotto, a hermitage, the Dutch house, the Italian house, the Swiss house, the menageries for the waterfowl, the remnants of a summer theater, and two orangeries.  

The Grotto
The Italian house
The orangery 
The hermitage
After a tour of the park, it is essential to take a little rest in the shade with a good book.

Barely visible roof of the Swiss house

The Dutch house in the background
There was also an English landscape garden, wild and romantic.
 
And some semi-wild cats everywhere.

After getting enough fresh air and sunshine, we decided to take a turn around the manor house.



The dinning room

The tiled oven in the reception room, typical of Russian interior design of this period  
The reception room

The dancing room
While we were there, we got to see the French Elegance exhibition. Different rooms of the manor housed a collection of dresses and outfits, recreations of the the French 18th century fashions.

My favorite gown was in the dinning room.
 More outfits from the dinning room.

A beautiful formal gown from the reception room.

I found this replica of the famous Madame de Pompadour dress delightful.

Some less formal fashions and wigs from the dressing room.

And finally, in the last room of the manor house there was a small exhibition of shell art from the grotto. The grotto is undergoing some restoration work, so they moved some of the pieces from there into the main house. I did not know that you can make such beautiful art with shells. Now I do!

   
Well, that's all from the beautiful Kuskovo. Until next time!

Outfit notes:
Dress - originally Lindex, thrifted
Wrap - KappAhl
Belt - thrifted
Bag - borrowed from Mom
Hat - farmers market in Porvoo
Shoes - Keds from Shooz

All images by my sister Maria K. 
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