Superhero Saturday: ‘Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog’

I’m a big Joss Whedon fan. We all know this. So obviously when Felicia Day posted this picture on Twitter I got all excited. And then realised that there are probably some people that haven’t seen Dr Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog (2008). Personally, I don’t understand how this could happen but apparently…

‘Dr Horrible Reunion’

Whedon has always commented on his love of musicals and to date has worked on/created three: Buffy the Vampire Slayer‘s musical episode ‘Once More, With Feeling’, he directed an episode of Glee ‘Dream On’, and he directed and co-wrote Dr Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog. (He has also composed the score for Much Ado About Nothing but technically that’s not a musical but still involves working with music…pulling at straws? Ok, I’ll stop.)

For those that don’t know very much about Dr Horrible the story is linked to that of the Writer’s Strike. During the strike in America from November 2007 – February 2008. Whedon along with his brothers Zach Whedon, Jed Whedon and Maurissa Tanchareon (regular co-writer with Jed and his wife as of April 2009) wrote Dr Horrible as a way of creating “something small and inexpensive, yet professionally done, in a way that would circumvent the issues that were being protested during the strike”.

The story revolves around Dr Horrible who is an aspiring supervillain with a web blog (played by Neil Patrick Harris) fighting against arrogant hero Captain Hammer (Nathan Fillion), while they both share the love interest of nice girl Penny (Felicia Day). Yes, two of these actors are regular Whedon contributors but, if you were financing your own project wouldn’t you get good actors that you enjoy working with? Yes. You would. There are also some great additional characters such as Moist (SImon Helburg – that’s right, Howard Wolowitz), the groupies (including Maurissa Tanchareon), Bad Horse Chorus (Whedon brothers) and News Anchors (Buffy/Angel writers and producers David Fury and Marti Noxon).

It comprises three acts that are each approximately 14 minutes long. The series is able to download on iTunes, buy on DVD or Blu-Ray (only via America so far as I can tell) or, you know, on YouTube. I will include the YouTube link but I encourage you to download the show or the songs on iTunes – big companies aren’t always needed to create success. The show was successful due to the fans and the wonderfulness of the show – let’s keep that going!

Dr Horrible has become so popular that a comic has been created, there is a sung Commentary! on the DVD/Blu-Ray release and Comic-Con regularly sees Dr Horrible, Captain Hammer and Penny on cosplayers. There is news of a sequel in the works but this has been mentioned for years! This time it seems to be true and should appear within the next few years – as long as Whedon doesn’t get distracted by twenty thousand other things. *cough* don’t forget about Avengers 2 though Joss *cough*

S x

Saw This And Thought It Was Cool

I’m a sucker for pretty things in pretty containers.

So when I saw (via Vogue) that MAC are releasing a Marilyn Monroe collection I’m worried. Because I WANT IT ALL. Even if I wouldn’t wear it. Just cos Marilyn’s on the packaging. I understand that this is insane and I need help. I intend to be…wary/intelligent/careful about it all but who knows! Here’s a pic of some of the collection. I’m in love:

And, on top of that, I just saw that OPI have launched a James Bond range. I was informed by @LydiarghGrace that this was announced ‘forever ago’ but….Vogue only told me yesterday. Or, they told me while I was away and internet-less. (And by told me I mean their Twitter feed obviously.) Here’s the collection – we all at DTSFT are in lust:

(Marilyn collection released in October, James Bond collection released 23rd October.)

S x

Style Icon: Hayley Atwell

I adore Hayley Atwell. It was Captain America: The First Avenger that did it – I loved her as Peggy Carter. (Was it accurate/faithful to the comics? I don’t know. Do I care? Not really.) The attitude, the red lips, the costumes, the figure. Heaven. Before Captain America I’d only seen her in Brideshead Revisited after which I vaguely remember coming out and bemoaning the fact that the costumes had made her look fat. I haven’t brought myself to watch it again cos I didn’t enjoy the film. Regardless of “fat” costumes. Following that, there was The Duchess. I just remember her being majorly busty, especially compared to Keira Knightley – but then, who isn’t?

I will definitely consider catching up on stuff she has made, like Any Human Heart as I recently read the book and enjoyed it, and am looking forward to Restless, again I read the book fairly recently. Not The Sweeney though. I just can’t bring myself to watch it.

But, moving away from that, here are some of her amazing red carpet choices from the last two years or so.

So Hayley’s rocking a bright yellow polka dot, seriously figure-hugging Dolce and Gabbana dress at the 2010 GQ Men of the Year Awards. I wasn’t sure if I liked this dress at first but now, I love it. It’s very fifties inspired, which is great for her shape, but the colour and the fit is also fairly contemporary. And red nails and lipstick.

This Dolce and Gabbana dress was worn for the Visa Signature screening of Captain America in New York in 2011. I can’t tell if this dress is polka dots or tiny little stars. Either way, I want it. It just drapes beautifully over her curves and she lets that dress take power over everything – but without her in it, it would be nothing.

This custom made L’Wren Scott dress worn for the Los Angeles Captain America premiere in 2011 is in serious competition with Peggy’s red dress. They both fit beautifully and do the job they should do. And the accessories and make-up are toned down to let the power of that red dress hold centre. If anyone was going to steal attention at that premiere from Captain America himself it would be Hayley.

The Costume Institute Gala (otherwise known as the Met Ball) in 2011. This dress was custom made for Hayley by Bally. I think it’s a really striking dress for Hayley to choose, especially with the tan leather panelling down the sides. It had mixed views but I love it.

Another unexpected dress from Hayley. Never one to be pinned down to a particular shape, this Antonio Barardi dress that she wore to the 2011 British Academy Television Awards is a little unexpected. But it works. It’s streamlined, well cut, it fits her well and…I love it.

Roksanda Ilincic at the 2012 Empire Film Awards. I’m always a fan of bright colours. Especially bright colours on shoes and I love the turquoise dress with the orange heels. The dress is softly fitted but still smooths over the right curves.

Wearing Emilio Pucci at the London Premiere of The Sweeney in 2012. With red lipstick. I love the Charlotte Olympia shoes with the bright blue of the dress. And the beautiful beading and embroidery on the front panel. It’s another interesting, different dress for Hayley to choose.

This Jexika dress Hayley wore to the Olivier Awards in 2012 is a stunner. A nude shade that almost gives the impression that she has nothing on. Saucy. It hugs her completely and the flow of the fishtail section shows the shine of the fabric and the beautiful draping. This may be my favourite of her dresses – particularly for its classic simplicity.

S x

Saw This And Thought It Was Cool

A while back I wrote one of these on Rosie Huntington-Whiteley’s lingerie collection for Marks and Spencer. Now it turns out – there’s MORE! Including nightwear. I knew there was a reason my nightwear collection needed updating. Serendipity. (Or foolishness given the predicted price of some of these items.) My favourites: They launch on the 29th September, after a planned mid-October launch but the range has been too popular. You bet it has. S x

Dressing Downton: A Talk by Costume Designer Susannah Buxton

It’s been regularly commented on this blog that I have a particular interest in costume design. I’m happy to say that more and more attention has been given to the art of costume design and fewer people associate costume with fashion. (And I will shout at anyone who says I have a degree in fashion. Be warned.) And with this interest comes more exhibitions and talks relating to costume design. The Victoria and Albert Museum in London’s autumn exhibition will be Hollywood Costume and concentrates on the role costume design takes in film making. The exhibition is guest curated by Deborah Nadoolman Landis who is a brilliant costume designer in her own right (responsible for Michael Jackson’s Thriller video costumes, Indiana Jones’s iconic look in Raiders of the Lost Ark, The Blues Brothers and more) was also a two term president of the Costume Designer’s Guild and responsible for a number of books on the subject of costume design. But, this post isn’t about her. That’s for later. This post is about a vaguely connected V&A talk I attended that, in my opinion, wouldn’t have come about were it not for the upcoming Hollywood Costume exhibition.

The talk I attended (due to my Mother’s membership at the V&A) was about the costume design in Downton Abbey and was “held” by the Emmy-award winning costume designer of Series’ 1 and 2, Susannah Buxton. (Series 3 was designed by Caroline McCall. I’m ashamed to say that I didn’t know there had been a change in designer until the talk.)

The talk itself lasted only an hour and also involved comparisons with Heather Firbank. Not heard of her? Me either. She was a very wealthy woman born in 1888 who lived a similar life to that of Lady Mary. But the main reason she was used as a comparison was that the V&A have a large number of her clothes either in store or on display. Some of her dresses are in such poor condition that they cannot be safely put on display but are currently being photographed for a new book about the V&A’s vast collection.

Heather Firbank (1888 – 1954) by Cecil Beaton.

As the talk was just that – a talk and not a lecture there is a fair amount of to-ing and fro-ing and my post will probably follow a similar tack as I’m following my slightly muddles notes, so I apologise in advance!

One of the first things that Buxton said was that costumes are intended to “engage the audience, introduce the characters and are aesthetically interesting and historically accurate.” (Or as close to that as I could write.) This is a very important statement and as I will probably write further posts on costume design I will discuss those opinions of other designers and possible even myself(!) But it is this statement that includes the word ‘characters’ that is so important in differentiating costume from fashion.

Some of the points that Buxton made I was already aware of but as a number of people are unsure of the relationship between costume design and film I’ll try to put in as many helpful notes as possible.

Buxton said that after an actor or actress is cast in a role the first person that they are likely to see is the costume designer. For the artist it is so important to be able to get a feel of their character – especially as pre-production time gets shorter and shorter. Buxton noted that she had about 7 weeks of pre-production and when you think of the casting and the size of the show you realise how short that time is.

There is a mixture of costume design practice from those designers that must draw designs first and those, like Buxton and Jenny Beavan (Gosford Park, Sherlock Holmes and The King’s Speech) who held a talk at my university a few years ago, who go to a costume house and pull a rail of costumes for the actors to try on. When I was in my final year and working on my final major project I was able to go to Cosprop (one of London’s biggest costume hire houses) to look at one of their costumes. When you sign in you can casually glance at other names. And back in 2011 I saw the name Dan Stevens written for the previous day. This was either whilst series 1 was still on the air or had just finished – fittings were starting for Series 2. ‘Pulling a rail’ means gathering together costumes of certain fabrics, patterns, shapes and styles so that you can see what works on an actor. You don’t want to have a beautiful dress made and then find that the cut is unflattering on the actress or that the colour doesn’t suit their skin tone/hair colour. Beavan showed us some sneaky photos of this process for Sherlock Holmes and stated that a lot of the feel of the character comes from those moments and that that was particularly true of Robert Downey Jr. So, my point was to mention costume houses. For any film or show nowadays unless you have an unlimited budget (and I mean that) you will have to hire costumes. A lot was made of this in the newspapers when it was “discovered” that Downton had done this – my favourite being the Daily Mail’s article of course. I stand by my opinion that if Downton had had the money available to make all the costumes there’d be more hoo-ha about that. And it would be led by the Daily Mail. But moving on from that.

Buxton then talked through various characters so I’ll try to do the same…

The Countess of Grantham (Cora) played by Elizabeth McGovern

Buxton was clear that where Cora was concerned she wanted to always design with the idea of an American woman living in the English aristocracy and being much more interested in fashion than her English equivalents – and wearing much more outlandish and colourful items.

This dress was mentioned as an example of how some costumes for the show were created. The panel for the bodice was found and loved and the rest of the dress was constructed around it. Buxton was happy to note (as I had previously commented to my Mum) that the dress had appeared in the previous night’s episode. Downton even recycles their own costumes. Do you hear that, Daily Mail?

The Earl of Grantham (Robert) played by Hugh Bonneville

All of Robert’s costumes were made to measure for Bonneville. All of them. But Buxton defends this because he is the Earl and such an important character that everything needs to fit perfectly. And, although he has numerous changes, he still has one black tie costume, one white tie, compared to at least ten evening gowns needed for each series for each female character.

Buxton also told a story of how Huntsmen in Savile Row were desperate to make for Downton and, in series 2, made one suit for Bonneville. However, they had problems adjusting their modern tailoring brains to the period tailoring techniques and positioning of things like shoulder seams. Bonneville’s other suits were made by tailors at Cosprop – trained in period tailoring.

Lady Mary Crawley played by Michelle Dockery

Numerous comparisons were made here between Mary’s clothes and those of Heather and there were striking similarities between them. Comparisons were also made between their personal lives and how that (mostly scandal) affected wardrobe choices:

Clothing is fundamental to and constitutive of both the woman and her biography

Sophie Woodward Why Women Wear What They Wear

The image of Mary’s ‘seduction’ dress is an example of costume leading the way for an important plot point – even if it is a little pre-emptive. The visual point is made, whether you consciously pick up on it or not.

Matthew Crawley played by Dan Stevens

(This image received a large number of gasps from the shockingly(!) largely female audience.)

Sadly, all my notes have on Matthew was that Stevens ‘wasn’t a hat man’. I think that most of his costumes were hired and one particular suit had been reused from a previous film.

The Crawley Sisters

Here they’re seen wearing purple shortly after the announcement of the sinking of the Titanic. This was to symbolise half-mourning. After death they would be expected to wear black but then move into purple. This was a lesson for me. (I think it’s also interesting to note that Edith is wearing more black as she is the one who mourns the death of their cousin the most.)

Lady Edith Crawley played by Laura Carmichael

In the script Edith is written as a plain Jane but Buxton didn’t want that to carry through quite so much in the costume (except for specific scenes such as the garden party in Series 1) as that is too much of a cliché. Carmichael’s performance gives across the ‘overlooked’ middle sister and dowdy costumes would make her look too out of place within her aristocratic family.

Lady Sybil Crawley played by Jessica Brown Findlay

Sybil has always been my favourite of the Crawley sisters and a lot of that is to do with her more bohemian style costumes.

Sybil’s most famous costume is her pantaloons from Series 1. They were shocking at the time and came about because of the Ballet Russes – who were also responsible for bringing more vibrant colours to the wardrobes of the aristocracy before World War One.

There was also discussion of this costume from Series 1 when Sybil attended a political rally. Due to the nature of the scene doubles needed to be made of the costume, just in case of any external damage to the costume – especially as eggs were being thrown in the scene.

The Dowager Countess of Grantham (Violet) played by Maggie Smith

Everyone loves the Dowager. Everyone. One moment from the last episode had my entire family in hysterics. I still find it hilarious. And always will I feel. All I can give you is this picture because I can’t find a YouTube clip. 😦

The costumes for the Dowager are intended to reflect a strong personality and the colours are probably a little stronger than historically accurate but could you imagine Smith in pastel colours?

The Dowager’s costumes were based on those of Queen Mary – a woman who stuck to pretty much the same shape regardless of fashions. This was true of a lot of older women who don’t instantly follow changes in fashion.

ALL of the costumes were made for Smith. ALL OF THEM. Would you try to put Smith in clothes made for and worn by someone else? If so you’re a braver person than I am.

Mr Carson played by Jim Carter

Carson’s jackets were all made for Carter mostly due to the actor’s size but also to help with his performance as Carson. As the butler he is the head of the servants (along with Mrs Hughes) so he would have a more expensive uniform and the jacket would help with his stature and posture.

(Sarah) O’Brien played by Siobhan Finneran

As a lady’s maid O’Brien’s uniform is one of the most expensive – and this marks out how importance particularly compared to the other maids. Her dress is made from silk fabric and, I presume, Anna’s uniform will be similarly “upgraded” following her new role as lady’s maid for Mary (now that she’s married).

Anna Bates played Joanne Froggatt

The aprons worn by the maids were all original aprons from a costume house. The little hats they wear were based on original hats but with the most flattering shape for modern audiences. The hats were then made for the maids.

Thomas Barrow played by Rob James-Collier (and William Mason played by Thomas Howes)

The suits for the footmen were hired from costume houses, fitted to the actors and refitted with Grantham buttons. The biggest problems came from the evening shirts. The starched fronts were very difficult to get dry cleaned. They ended up being cared for by the Queen’s dry cleaners. Obviously.

Mrs Patmore played by Lesley Nicol

The clichéd cook is fussy but the costume for Mrs Patmore is much simpler.

Daisy Mason played by Sophie McShera

Daisy’s main dress was an original cotton dress bought for the show. Although it was expensive, the purchase cost sort of evened out with hiring costs – and the dress lasted for at least two series’.

Servants

The servants generally have a day uniform, an evening uniform and one “civilian” outfit and outer coat.

Isobel Crawley played by Penelope Wilton

Isobel’s costumes at the beginning were intended to show her more working-class background and to emphasise the feeling of being out of place at Downton. Later on her costumes moved more towards the aristocracy so that she could hold her place more against the Dowager – particularly as they are always at loggerheads.

Lavinia Swire played by Zoe Boyle

When Lavinia made her first entrance it was a very important costume point. She needed to make a big impression as she is essentially competing with Mary.

We ended with the image of the cast at the declaration of World War One. Buxton wanted to drain all the colour so the cast are all dressed in white, cream and black.

The talk ended with some questions but the most interesting one was related to the budget of the show – which I was surprised that Buxton even answered. The budget that Buxton was given was £19,000 per episode while she worked towards £25,000. She thinks that she managed somewhere between the two. A lot of people were shocked but, to me, I can really see the difficulties of this size budget with the cast size of the show and the number of costumes needed for each character for each episode.

I hope this “little” post has been interesting to you and please let me know if I need to be clearer about things or answer some questions – I’d love any feedback!

And, in October, I will (finally!) be attending the V&A’s Ballgowns: British Glamour since the 1950s exhibition, a talk with Deborah Nadoolman Landis about the Hollywood Costume exhibition (I’ll try not to swoon or get too excited and actually take sensible notes) and then a one day advance visit to the Hollywood Costume exhibition – I WISH it was earlier! So hopefully if you’ve enjoyed this post you’ll enjoy those.

S x

Emmys 2012: Best Dressed Men

Unlike last year, this year’s Emmys brought a lot of variety in terms of suits, and fortunately there were a lot more hits than misses – which is what DTSFT like to see.

Here are some of the men who scrubbed up rather well on the red carpet:

Aaron Paul (Breaking Bad) in Prada

The boy did good with this one. Who would have thought that brown would work so well on a tuxedo? And the patterned tie and matching pocket square add a nice little flourish. This is no longer just a tuxedo. This is an award-winning tuxedo. Congrats on the Emmy win!

Jon Hamm (Mad Men) in Giorgio Armani

Unfortunately Jon Hamm walked away empty-handed on Sunday, but if there was a ‘Best  Dressed Male’ category, he would win it. But would you expect anything less from Don Dapper Draper?

Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad) in John Varvatos

Love Bryan Cranston. Love the suit. Love Bryan Cranston in the suit. I think the winner for ‘Best Dressed Male’ is a draw between him and Mr. Hamm. They were my favourites.

Zachary Quinto

Like Aaron Paul, Zachary Quinto has proven that tuxedos don’t always have to be black. This shade of grey (shade of grey – that wasn’t intentional) is perfect for the event; anything lighter would have looked too casual.

Damien Lewis (Homeland)

Damien Lewis did it for his home territory by picking up the award for Best Actor in a Drama Series, and he did it stylishly in this classic tux (with a cummerbund, which unfortunately can’t be seen here) and hairstyle…and look, he’s also got a pocket square! He can use it to polish his trophy…the Emmy award, I mean! You guise!

Jimmy Fallon (Late Night with Jimmy Fallon) in Lanvin

I haven’t got much to say except he looks fantastic and the tux fits him really well. He looks confident wearing it, too, which is very sexy indeed. I see you, Jimmy!

Jared Harris (Mad Men) in Brooks Brothers

Even more proof that not all tuxedos need to be black. I love this colour; it suits him very well. His partner/wife’s dress is a little distracting, though!

Vincent Kartheiser (Mad Men)

Yet another Mad Man in a great suit! Isn’t he gorgeous? However, my only qualms are the jacket (looks a bit too big and long) and that beard – it could do with a trim.

Kiefer Sutherland (Touch)

Three words: Lucky. Lucy. Liu. Not only did she get to stand next to him, but she also got to hear him speak (with that sexy, SEXY voice). His hair, however…he needs to get rid of the ‘just got out of a hedge’ look and stick a comb through it a couple of times. As I said before – if you’re going to do it, do it properly! OK, now that’s 70 words.

Jimmy Kimmel (Jimmy Kimmel Live)

As the host of the show, Jimmy Kimmel needed to look his best, and he most certainly did. My fellow DTSFT’er Sarah even wants him as a Christmas present he looks that good! And there’s not a single crease on that tux, not a crease. See what I mean by ‘scrubbing up well’?

Hannah

Emmys 2012: Best Dressed Women

The 64th Primetime Emmy Awards took place on Sunday night (and was shown last night on 5USA at 10pm in jolly old England) and the dresses were out in full force. I managed to watch Live from the Red Carpet on E! late on Sunday (but only for an hour because, unlike these ladies, I had a desk job to go to) and I was really impressed with how everyone turned out. There were way too many gorgeous gowns to choose from, but I have chosen ten – yes, ten! – of the girls who had their red carpet game cranked up to 11.

Jane Levy (Suburgatory) in Pamella Roland

I love the colour of this dress, it looks great with her porcelain skin tone and really brings out the colour of her eyes. And because it’s such a bold colour she’s kept her hair and accessories simple.

Ginnifer Goodwin (Once Upon A Time) in Monique Lhuillier

My absolute favourite dress of the night. And I love Ginnifer Goodwin, she’s yummy. As I said before, orange isn’t worn that often but it definitely works with this dress. Her shoes are cute too, but I reckon they would kill me if I wore them!

Nicole Kidman in Antonio Berardi

This dress is pure elegance. The pattern is something that I didn’t think she would go for, but it’s great that she did because it looks amazing on her. I also love that she’s kept her hair and earrings simple so that the focus is on the gown. Seriously sophisticated.

Emily VanCamp (Revenge) in J. Mendel

She looks so cute in this dress! I think that grey is a tricky colour to wear in terms of red carpet dresses, but she has definitely pulled it off with this one. I love her earrings too, they sort of lift the grey shade and add a bit of sparkle. And check out the Van Cleef bow bracelet. Love it.

Tina Fey (30 Rock) in Vivienne Westwood

Gorgeous, classy and understated. And check out those killer curves! She looks ay-may-zing. However, even though I’m feeling the upswept hairstyle, I’d like to see her do something completely different with it next time.

Leslie Mann in Naeem Khan

Such a pretty dress. The skirt is a lovely, bright colour and the turquoise jewellery is a good contrast. I kind of like the fact that it has pockets, too; but if I was wearing something like that I’d stash all sorts of crap in there, like chocolate wrappers, expired train tickets and loose change.

Elisabeth Moss (Mad Men) in Dolce & Gabbana

The style of this dress is really interesting, and she made a great choice with the pattern. Flowery dresses are at the risk of looking too fussy, but because the design is on a black background and she’s worn black shoes, it looks very elegant and formal. I’m loving the new hairdo, too!

Sarah Paulson (American Horror Story) in Reem Acra

Just like Anna Faris, Sarah Paulson (who was in American Gothic – “It’s mah burfday”) is looking reem in Reem Acra. The pattern and the midnight blue colour gives the dress an ethereal and princess-y look. I think her hair would have looked better if it was up, but she still looks gorgeous.

Zosia Mamet (Girls) in Bihbu Mahopatra

From what I’ve been reading online today, not many people were fans of this dress, but personally I love it. I think it’s really unique. Her slicked back hair and accessories look great with it too: she’s kept them simple and sophisticated to stop everything looking OTT.

Kiernan Shipka (Mad Men) in Zac Posen

People are too quick to turn little girls into women these days, but everything about this look is dainty, girly and very age-appropriate, and the full skirt makes her look like a princess. What a little cutie!

Hannah