Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Choosing a Corset

While corsets are used in all sorts of dress, no one rocks the corset quite like goths do in my opinion. Maybe because it combines the sex appeal, vintage influences and dark decadence that inspires goth fashion all into one garment, or maybe because of the "beauty is pain" mantra that demands we pluck our eyebrows to within an inch of their lives, pierce our flesh and tattoo it to death. Kidding, of course! But it remains that corsets are a fantastic addition to goth wardrobes, no matter what style you're interested in. Still, it's not enough to wander into a costume shop and find the nearest garment advertised as a corset! Here are some things to consider before you take the corseted plunge:

Pick your usage
Why are you buying a corset in the first place? For a special occasion, for everyday wear, for underwear, for clubbing, or for something else? This is going to determine the material you pick for your corset, the shape of it, the length, the amount of decoration and the price you intend to pay. For example, if you're selecting a corset for clubbing and you know you're going to dance in it, you might not want to select a long-line corset made of silk because it will impede your movement and be difficult to wash if someone spills their drink on you. Likewise, if you want a corset for underwear, you might not want one with a lot of lace or other decorations on it, as this will show through your clothes as odd lumps.

Pick your shape

In shopping for a corset, you'll be presented with a few different shapes of corsets to pick from. Try to imagine the corset without the details, straps, etc. and just get down to the basic shape. You are most likely going to find that they boil down to two categories: underbust and overbust. Underbust corsets fall directly under the bust line. while overbust corsets rise over it. Overbust and underbust corsets can have any number of shapes, such as an underbust corset with a point between the breasts or an overbust corset with straps, but those are the two basic shapes.

Pick your length

Now that you know whether you want an overbust or an underbust, you're going to have to decide the length of corset you want. You're going to be given three options: waist cincher (blue), average (red) and long-line (green.) The waist cincher is more like a wide, boned belt than anything, and sits at the waist (imagine that!) and, thus, is not available in an overbust option. The average corset is going to end right above your hips in most cases. These two styles of corsets are great for not squashing petticoat-enhanced skirts out of shape and for increased mobility. However, long-line corsets end past the hips, which decreases mobility slightly but looks fantastic with slimmer skirts and pants. The average and long-line corsets can come in underbust and overbust shapes.

Mannequin image source:
Note: I used underbust measurements for the top line of the average and long line corsets, but overbust corsets in these two lengths can have any number of shapes.

Pick your Material

Corsets can be made of many different materials. Vinyl, PVC, leather, cotton, silk, velvet, corduroy, satin, rubber, ribbon (yes, really!), pleather, muslin, or anything else you can imagine. This is the fun part, really, because you get to match your corset to your outfit or your entire wardrobe. (Or not at all, if you're using it for underwear. Just remember that a white undergarment will show through black clothing under some lights!) But it's not all about fabrics. Consider the other materials that the corset is made of. To get good quality corsets, you're probably going to want to stay away from plastic corset parts (boning, busks, grommets, etc.) because they will not last as long. A good corset will usually have flat or spiral steel boning and busking. Also consider the lacing ribbon. If your ribbon comes with satiny ribbon, you will probably have to replace it at some point because it will wear out. Good quality corset ribbons can come from anywhere, but you should look for those that look and feel something like shoe laces: thick, cottony, sturdy. These will not wear through as easily.

Pick your sizing

Now that you've found the perfect corset, how do you go about sizing yourself for it? The rule of thumb to buying a corset is that they should not close entirely when you lace them, so take your waist measurements and subtract three or four inches. Some corset makers recommend that ladies with waists larger than 34 inches should subtract up to five or six inches since there is a little more wiggle room there, but for your first corset you don't have to do quite that much. At many conventions and Renaissance fairs there are corset sellers who are happy to take your measurements and assign you a corset size, so take advantage of that if you find them! Just remember to double check when buying online because online retailers might have alternate sizing and sizing suggestions. If you have a chance to try on the corset in person, try getting help with the sizing. The corset should not gap at the top or bottom when you move around, so watch for that.

Not all corsets are created equal

So, what about those $30 corsets you can find in costume shops? Are they worth it? No. A cheap corset is going to skimp on materials, meaning that they will not line the corset, the fabric they use will be cheap, the construction is more apt to be shoddy, the bones of the corset are probably going to be plastic and will bend more easily than metal ones, and all the decorations on the corset are probably substandard. Of course, this is fine if you need the corset for a costume party where it could get damaged, or if you don't plan on keeping it on for very long (there is a reason that model is wearing matching panties), but a good quality corset that you plan on keeping around for a good long while is probably not going to come from a costume shop. No matter how much lace they put on it. For a more in-depth guide to spotting fake corsets, visit this guide from Fairy Goth Mother.

Where to buy:

Here are a few links to reputable corset sellers that I know of:

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Review: Poe's Midnight Blend Tea

Do you ever get sucked into buying something just because it is stamped with the visage of a musician, author, character, iconic figure or what-have-you that you enjoy? I know I have. I've been trying to be more cynical about it though, just because something is stamped with Bela Lugosi's name or face does not mean that it's better and that I can justify spending twice the amount that I would for a plain version of the piece on it. However, I was captivated by Steep Show Tea's "Poe's Midnight Blend" tea as soon as I saw it.

The tea is described as being "a smooth licorice spice herbal tea with a tell-tale hint of sweetness. A full-bodied cup of seductive mystery without the macabre." You can even see here that they are catering to Poe's fanbase, I mean, even without his name on it when I see the phrase "tell-tale" I am apt to think of "The Tell-Tale Heart." I even smiled at the nod to Poe's association with Absinthe through the use of a licorice flavored tea. They definitely did their research. However, their packaging is a bit misleading. You get 2.25oz of tea in your bag but that bag is almost twice as big as it needs to be. The tea inside goes up to just below Mr. Poe's nose there, so be aware if you were expecting something more full.

However, the beautiful presentation ends there. When I was looking at the tea in the bag I thought that they'd made a mistake and sent me a bag of saw dust. It's not the prettiest tea to photograph, even with a camera that takes less blurry photos than mine, but the smell is beautiful: woody and a little nutty but with an overlying sweetness. I took my tea out of the decorative bag and put it into a more air-tight canister and it has retained that beautiful smell for over a month now. The bag is currently hanging on my "inspiration board" for me to admire happily.

And the taste? At first I didn't taste any licorice and just had a lovely herbal black tea in my cup but then, just in true licorice fashion, I got that hint of bitter sweetness in my mouth afterwards. It's definitely a tea that lingers in your mouth after you drink it, and because I'm a big fan of the way that licorice tastes I didn't mind that at all. The tea itself is actually a little sweet without sugar which is always pleasant and it takes milk well, if you're so inclined. I don't have tea with lemon or other non-sugar sweeteners though, so I can't speak to how well it tastes with those. However, if you're looking for a tea-time snack that goes well with this, I can recommend thin green apple slices on nutty crackers with cream cheese. Really, anything that tastes earthy and a bit bitter and sweet at the same time will go well with this tea.

So, overall? I definitely recommend this tea, but for special occasions only (or, if you're like me and find things with Poe's face on them irresistible.) I'll definitely be hoarding mine, and I had better since it costs almost 13USD for 2.25oz. So, if you're interested in having a cup of delightful licorice-flavored herbal tea, stop on over to Victorian Trading Co. and pick up your bag for 12.95 USD. For the interested, they also have Jane Emily Dickinson and Jane Austen flavored teas (pictured above.)

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Shallow Wants: Jackets, Capelets and Coats

Wow, I can't believe the change that a few days can make. It's really feeling like Autumn now. The leaves are turning at the edges, the weather has dropped to the low sixties, the sky is overcast and the flowers are dying. It's absolutely beautiful here, and luckily I'm able to enjoy it with my walks. Still, the faster the weather descends into my preferred cold and windy days, the more I realize that my wardrobe is rather unsuited to the weather. Lots of knee-length skirts and short sleeved blouses, it seems. This is especially apparent to me because I do not have a Winter coat, which seems a tragedy in considering the Snowpocalypse we had last year. So here, have a shallow and jumbled collection of Autumn/Winter jackets, capelets and coats that I like.



Lady Obsidian Jacket from Modcloth - No longer avaliable (but I will continue to search eBay for it.)


And there you have it. Now I just need to win the lottery and/or find a patron to support my silly shopping whims.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

My Makeup Routine

I'm really being loaded up with homework right now, so doing actual posts is kind of draining. I decided to do a makeup routine post just because I could just take the pictures while doing my makeup in the morning and have the post be a complete breeze. I have more exciting content next Wednesday when I'm finished with all of the weekend load of homework that my teachers like to spring on me.

1. Start with clean face, brushed teeth, sunscreen applied and hair pulled back.

2. Fill in eyebrows
I fill in my brows with N.Y.C.'s "925A" which is a grayish-brown that I chose because a black eyebrows look incredibly harsh on my face, even with my dyed black hair, but brown eyebrows are much too light. The gray in this one manages to keep my brows looking consistent with my hair while the brown helps it from being too unnatural.

3. Apply an eye primer all over the lid
I use Urban Decay primer potion, which does help my makeup not to crease, but I'm running out and I was thinking about looking for another brand to try, but we'll see.

4. Apply a white eyeshadow all over the lid,
However, I keep it more concentrated in the inner corners since I'll be covering the outer edges anyway. For this, I cheat and don't actually use an eyeshadow! I cant seem to find a good pay-off white matte eyeshadow, so I use "White heat" face powder by Bloody Mary cosmetics. That stuff is so useful, especially to use as eyeshadow and for lightening powders that are just a touch too dark for your skin.

5. Apply black eyeshadow in the outer corner and crease
What I do is first use a flat brush and put the matte black eyeshadow (I use MAC's "Carbon") in the crease, then slowly smudge it down onto the lid to create a more natural shade that emphasizes the size of my eyes.

6. Use liquid eyeliner to line the eye from inner corner to outer corner
And keep it thin and close to the lash line. Sometimes I do a small wing at the corners, but usually I just do a solid line. The eyeliner I use is dirt cheap (from the local drug store), and it's called "Black Radiance" though I can't find the brand name on the tiny bottle.

7. Apply mascara
If you're a ditz like me, sometimes you forget to apply mascara until the very last minute, which is what happened in this case. However, I use Maybelline's "XXL Pro" which is a really nice, reliable mascara. It doesn't clump or flake, which are really the only two things I require, since I hate having to fix my makeup during the day.

8. Clean out any fallen eyeshadow from underneath your eyes
Moisten the q-tip and sweep out any eyeshadow or smudged eyeliner from under your eyes. See, this is why we do our eye makeup before any face products. If you waited to clean out that fallen shadow until after you had applied concealer and powder, you'd have to worry about reapplying them when you inevitably take off some of the face products with your q-tip.

9. Apply Concealer
I use a MAC Studio Finish concealer (with SPF 35!) in the lightest shade and it works like a dream at getting rid of under eye darkness and blemishes all over my face. I apply it with a (clean) finger simply because brushes seem to make the concealer look streaky. Just blend blend blend!

10. Apply powder
I use a big fluffy brush and apply L'oreal Paris's "Airwear" (which has an additional SPF 17!) in circular motions on my skin and then blend it down to below my jaw line to make sure that I don't have any pancake face syndrome.

11. Apply Blush
Gasp! A goth wear's blush?! Well, not in the traditional way, I suppose. The key here is not to use a bright pink blush on the apples of your cheeks, but to use a dusty rose color under your cheekbones to contour them and create the image of higher, more defined cheekbones. You can see this look down with purple eyeshadows in some goth looks, but I think that's a bit too dramatic for day wear. I use Estee Lauder's "Nude Rose" for my blush.

12. Line your lips
I use a cheap hot topic eyeliner pencil for lining my lips, and I have no idea if it has a name or not. It's the mauve, pinky-purple color though, and it is sheer enough to go on my lips without showing from under my lipstick. However, if you are going to use an eyeliner pencil for lipliner, do NOT use the same pencil that you use on your eyes. You will swap germs and possibly give yourself a bad eye infection. Have a separate pencil for each or at least sanitize them between uses.

13. Apply lipstick
Or lipgloss, if you're that type of person. However, I prefer lipstick so that my hair doesn't get caught on it. My favorite and most used color is Estee Lauder's "Edgy" which is a dark pinky-purple with slight shimmer. It might be too intense for some people, but I looove dark lips, even when I'm using a lot of deeper shades in my eyes.

14. Take hair down and adjust bangs
And then you're good to go!

Also, do you like my nails? I seem to change up my nailpolish every week or so, leaving my nails unpainted over the weekends, and for this week's I followed Jillian Venter's instructions for Blood Splatter manicures and I think it's tons of fun. The polishes that I used are:

Neutral - O.P.I's "Polar Bare"
Medium red - Longer & Stronger's "Take Charge"
Dark red - Sally Hansen's "Glossy"
Black - Essence's "Fabuless"
Top coat - Wild And Crazy's "Iceland"

Now, what to do this coming week? Gray with black tips? Sparkly black? We'll see!